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	As a mature adult, I feel an obligation to help the younger
generation, just as the mother fish guards her unhatched eggs, keeping
her lonely vigil day after day, never leaving her post, not even to go
to the bathroom, until her tiny babies emerge and she is able, at last,
to eat them. ``She may be your mom, but she's still a fish,'' is a
wisdom nugget that I would pass along to any fish eggs reading this
	But today I want to talk about dating. This subject was raised in a
letter to me from a young person named Eric Knott, who writes:
	``I have got a big problem. There's this girl in my English class who
is really good looking. However, I don't think she knows I exist. I want
to ask her out, but I'm afraid she will say no, and I will be the freak
of the week. What should I do?''
	Eric, you have sent your question to the right mature adult, because
as a young person I spent a lot of time thinking about this very
problem. Starting in about eighth grade, my time was divided as follows:
	Academic Pursuits: 2 percent.
	Zits: 16 percent
	Trying to Figure Out How to Ask Girls Out: 82 percent.
	The most sensible way to ask a girl out is to walk directly up to her
on foot and say, ``So, you want to go out? Or what?'' I never did this.
I knew, as Eric Knott knows, that there was always the possibility that
the girl would say no, thereby leaving me with no viable option but to
leave Harold C. Crittenden Junior High School forever and go into the
woods and become a bark-eating hermit whose only companions would be the
gentle and understanding woodland creatures.
	``Hey, ZITFACE!'' the woodland creatures would shriek in cute little
Chip 'n' Dale voices while raining acorns down upon my head. ``You wanna
	So the first rule of dating is: Never risk direct contact with the
girl in question. Your role model should be the nuclear submarine,
gliding silently beneath the ocean surface, tracking an enemy target
that does not even begin to suspect that the submarine would like to
date it. I spent the vast majority of 1960 keeping a girl named Judy
under surveillance, maintaining a minimum distance of 50 lockers to
avoid the danger that I might somehow get into a conversation with her,
which could have led to disaster:
	Judy: Hi.
	Me: Hi.
	Judy: Just in case you have ever thought about having a date with me,
the answer is no.
	Woodland Creatures: HAHAHAHAHAHA.
	The only problem with the nuclear-submarine technique is that it's
difficult to get a date with a girl who has never, technically, been
asked. This is why you need Phil Grant. Phil was a friend of mine who
had the ability to talk to girls. It was a mysterious superhuman power
he had, comparable to X-ray vision. So, after several thousand hours of
intense discussion and planning with me, Phil approached a girl he knew
named Nancy, who approached a girl named Sandy, who was a direct
personal friend of Judy's and who passed the word back to Phil via Nancy
that Judy would be willing to go on a date with me. This procedure
protected me from direct humiliation, similar to the way President
Reagan was protected from direct involvement in the Iran-contra scandal
by a complex White House chain of command that at one point,
investigators now believe, included his horse.
	Thus it was that, finally, Judy and I went on an actual date, to see
a movie in White Plains, N.Y. If I were to sum up the romantic ambience
of this date in four words, those words would be: ``My mother was
driving.'' This made for an extremely quiet drive, because my mother,
realizing that her presence was hideously embarrassing, had to pretend
she wasn't there. If it had been legal, I think she would have got out
and sprinted alongside the car, steering through the window. Judy and I,
sitting in the back seat about 75 feet apart, were also silent, unable
to communicate without the assistance of Phil, Nancy and Sandy.
	After what seemed like several years we got to the movie theater,
where my mother went off to sit in the Parents and Lepers Section. The
movie was called ``North to Alaska,'' but I can tell you nothing else
about it because I spent the whole time wondering whether it would be
necessary to amputate my right arm, which was not getting any blood flow
as a result of being perched for two hours like a petrified snake on the
back of Judy's seat exactly one molecule away from physical contact.
	So it was definitely a fun first date, featuring all the relaxed
spontaneity of a real-estate closing, and in later years I did regain
some feeling in my arm. My point, Eric Knott, is that the key to
successful dating is self-confidence. I bet that good-looking girl in
your English class would LOVE to go out with you. But YOU have to make
the first move. So just do it! Pick up that phone! Call Phil Grant.
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