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Trimming the lunatic fringe

Q: I am a recently divorced man of 31, who's re-entering the dating pool after six years. I'm finding that most of the women I'm meeting are either psychotic freaks or flashy on the surface but uninteresting. All I want is an intelligent woman who doesn't play games. There is one other problem — I find that I judge all the women I meet based on the lessons I learned after being screwed over in my previous relationship. Am I too quick to make assumptions? —Dining Alone

A: "Lady, you're a psychotic freak and we have no chance for a future together, so why don't I throw this drink in your face and get it over with?" That probably isn't the most winning of opening lines. Even if you don't say what's on your mind, you'll probably squint it — narrow your eyes as if you're waiting for Cinderella to fall off her barstool at a quarter to twelve and stumble home to take her medication. Women have built-in sensors to help them avoid getting involved with men who think like you do. Some don't have the things turned on, and others (generally women in their 20s) "mute for cute" — turn down the volume so they can chase after McJobless slacker studs who treat them like dirt. But, most women worth having will have your excess baggage weighed and ejected before you start in on paragraph two of small talk. This leaves you with the likes of nut-jobs who accuse you of using your "psychic powers" to off them on the first date (true story), and gaudy dull-ettes who appear to spend 90 percent of their waking hours umbilically connected to the television. You must have spent an entire year of logic class out in the parking lot smoking a doobie. You're a master of faulty reasoning: My ex-wife was a psycho. My ex-wife was a woman. All women are psychos. Take a break from leapfrogging to conclusions and glance back at your marriage. Now, since sane, healthy people do not wake up one morning and go nutso, either you closed your eyes while you were marrying a wacky woman or you had a hand in making one. Or maybe a little of both. Accept a little (or a lot of) blame for your life in wedded wackyland and set about mending your ways. Then, maybe you'll be a little less likely to paste your ex-wife's head over that of every woman you meet. This, in turn, should make the women you meet a little less likely to paste the head of their raging, plate-tossing ex-husband or ex-boyfriend over yours. Finally, train yourself to look beyond the bobbling 38 DD's for the signs that a woman you've just met is unbalanced. Uncontrollable twitching is a dead giveaway, as are unprovoked fistfights. In lieu of physical clues, listen for turmoil-revealing key words and phrases, such as "restraining order," "getting caught shoplifting again," and "I have (fill in the blank) issues." When a woman you're trying to pick up utters one of these phrases, or one of its cousins, drop your glass and run. The world is a big place, filled with millions and millions of single women. Most of them will probably not appeal to you. Still, the fewer wrongheaded nut-jobs you waste your time on, the more likely you are to meet a nut-job who's just perfect for you.

Calling all crazy date stories:

Remember those dates you'd rather forget? Well, it's time to put your misery to good use — to entertain the rest of us. Write me about the times you were tempted to make a dash for the emergency exit, or take the waiter aside and beg him to "speed the plow." Try to top these:

Sign of the Golden Arches: "My date got incensed when I told her that I had to get up from the table to use the rest room. She accused me of abandoning her. I protested that I really had to go, and she said, 'If you had to go that bad, you wouldn't be able to sit here and argue with me.'"

Death Becomes Him: A woman got fixed up with a guy who works in a funeral home. "I noticed that he had little dark reddish-brown spots all over his shirt and pants," she said. "When I pointed this out to him, he replied, 'Yeah, I know. This may sound gross, but I had to embalm a body, and sometimes the fluid from the arteries squirts out. I didn't have time to change my clothes before I came to pick you up.'"

There's that old adage, "laughter is the best medicine." Sometimes it's also the best way to avoid being strapped down and rolled away screaming. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com

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