Book excerpt

Menu Dating

Taste-Test Your Way to the Main Course

Tristan Coopersmith and Todd Johnson

St. Martin's Press

phase 1 >>

Cleansing Your Palate . . .

jumping aboard the MENu Dating program

MENU DATING IS THE practice of dating in small bites with great abundance, great purpose, and great variety. It is about flavorful, short-term experiences that offer long-term lessons . . . and even longer-term results. It is about tasting all that "like" and "love" have to offer in an effort to make a solid life-partner decision—rooted in meaningful experiences and subsequent confidence.

Just as you change your food habits when you want to lose weight, you need to change your dating habits when you want to lose the losers and gain true love. MENu Dating is just like any other lifestyle change in that it takes a relatively strict regimen to garner results. Unlike dieting, though, this program demands that instead of depriving yourself, you consume as much as you can! With this regimen, however, it’s men, not food, that you order up and practically gorge yourself on! As many men as possible will become your mission, and your mantra will be "More is more!" Lots and lots of filling, delectable men. In fact, this program demands that you pig out on men!

As with any successful lifestyle change, your regimen requires focused commitment and must be enacted methodically, not recklessly. Furthermore, just like with a great diet, the thorough adoption of the MENu Dating Program’s philosophy and techniques will allow you to reap multiple benefits beyond the primary goal, inside and out, from your head to your heart.

This book is organized similarly to a diet book whereby you will graduate from phase to phase. While this program doesn’t have a time line per se, many women who have been through it report that they stick with it for approximately half the time that they were in their last relationship. Whether you are just emerging from a long-term relationship, have had a string of bad dates, or just feel unlucky in love, MENu Dating, executed with diligence and dedication, will get you in the mental shape needed to live up to your dating potential. That’s right; it’s much more about your mental state than it is about having the cutest outfit or the right flirting techniques. While those elements are indeed a part of dating success and will certainly be addressed in MENu Dating, being in great mental shape is the umbrella that will cover all your tactical skills.

The goal of phase 1 is for you to cleanse your mental palate and to convince yourself that you do not want a boyfriend. Yes, you read it correctly. In order to be successful on the MENu Dating Program, you need to wholeheartedly subscribe to the theory that your current dating methods, or lack thereof, are not getting you to your happily-ever-after. That’s why you picked up this book! Freeing yourself from the mindset that you need a boyfriend will be a mission critical to your dating success. I know, it may sound counterintuitive, but it is not. Trust me. Now, repeat after me—I do not want a boyfriend. And again, I do not want a boyfriend. OK, now in front of a mirror—I do not want a boyfriend!!! If self-hypnosis through verbal repetition doesn’t do the trick, let me spell it out for you, plain and simple, with one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine reasons why you absolutely should not want a boyfriend right now and, instead, why you need to indulge in a buffet of men, through the practice of MENu Dating.

1>>dating is a game of numbers

"All the good guys are taken or are gay." Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . I’ve heard it a million times, but the truth is that there are infinite numbers of single guys out there for you to date.

Here are the facts: There are roughly twenty million single men in the age range of twenty to thirty-nine in the United States. Twenty million! With a population so big, how could you ever feel as if there are no single guys out there? If you can’t find them, either you aren’t looking in the right places, you don’t know how to spot them, or you just aren’t trying. After all, they don’t just walk up with a sign that says: I’M THE ONE. SIGN UP HERE.

The point here is two-fold. First is, to wake you up to the plain and simple facts! If you’ve been in a funk thinking that there aren’t any single guys out there, you need to snap out of it, because you couldn’t be more wrong! Second, and perhaps more important, is to make you realize that because there are so many single guys out there, there is absolutely no reason to settle for anything less than the absolute very best match for you. Figuring out what you want is what MENu Dating is all about, and this book provides you with the smarts, the techniques, and the attitude to get there—and it just so happens to take a lot of tries to get it right. Dating success is very much a matter of odds—the more you play, the better your odds of winning. I mean, come on, whoever got a bull’s-eye on the first shot? No one! Whoever hit the jackpot on the first roll? No one! Whoever found the perfect pair of jeans on the first try? No one! Bottom line, ladies, is that you may need to kiss a lot of freaking toads and a few princes, too, before you find your king! It’s as simple as that.

2>>dating is an exercise of trial and error

It’s a basic statistical formula: The more you (fill in any verb here), the better your odds are of achieving success at (fill in same verb here, add "ing"). I challenge you to find a flaw in this philosophy. No matter what aspect of your life you apply it to, whether it’s snowboarding, learning calculus, mastering the art of the smoky eye—even something as trivial as trying to determine your favorite ice cream flavor, or something as serious as committing to a life partner—experience is the only thing that gives you confidence in your skill set and, in turn, your decisions surrounding that skill.

All right, let’s start simply . . . with the language that all women are universally fluent in—ice cream. I know, without a doubt in my mind, that Birthday Cake Remix at Cold Stone Creamery is my favorite flavor of ice cream. I am certain of this because I have tried all of the remaining flavor combinations that appeal to me, and if you’ve been to Cold Stone, you know that there are infinite possibilities. Trying other flavor combos was not an indication of my ADD, nor did it make me confused or disloyal; rather, it made me open-minded and respectful enough of my very favorite guilty plea sure, to arrive at my favorite flavor decision with utter confidence and thus guarantee pure satisfaction with each bite and every lick. I concluded that Birthday Cake Remix was the flavor that would own my heart (and all of my spare change) forevermore after having tried all of the other flavors that interested me. I estimate that I have tried roughly twenty different flavor combinations at Cold Stone (not to mention at least twenty of Baskin-Robbins’s thirty-one flavors). Because I have taken the time to try all of the other flavors of interest, I never, ever walk out of Cold Stone with my "like it" portion of Birthday Cake Remix on a cone with any regret, thinking, perhaps, that I would have been happier with Chocolate Devotion or Cookie Minster. Just the opposite occurs; I enjoy every lick until the last one, knowing that I made the perfect choice tailored to my palate’s preferences. OK, now that you get it in ice cream terms, let’s apply this same philosophy to men.

I have gone on what seems like a zillion dates. I’ve dated every flavor of guy imaginable because I approached dating like one big tapas menu. (Tapas, if you’ve been living under a rock, is a kind of dining style where you choose a bunch of small plates to try instead of just one main dish.) I did this because I was in the exploratory phase of my dating life. Forcing myself to choose one main dish freaked me out, not because I had a fear of committing to a guy, but rather because I adamantly refused to commit to the wrong guy. It is only by tasting (and sometimes retasting) everything on the menu that I gained knowledge about what I like/don’t like and gained confidence in my decisions. We’ve all been there, trying to decide between two or more dishes on a menu (ever been to the Cheesecake Factory?!), always wondering if the dish we didn’t choose would have tasted better than the one we did. But with tapas, you get to have a nibble of everything . . . and so, too, should you when it comes to dating!

3>>every date teaches you a valuable lesson . . . and there’s a lot to learn

Over a decade of dating taught me a tremendous amount about myself and about men—from the less substantial lessons, such as discovering the power of high heels, to the more meaningful lessons, such as that liking someone is just as important as loving someone. With every dating experience I learned something about myself, something about what I wanted, and, most important, something about these often maddening creatures known as men. On your own dating journey, you also will collect an arsenal of lessons, each one getting you more prepared for an eventual great relationship. Unlike many of life’s lessons learned, though, these will not be painful lessons, because your interactions will likely be brief, lasting only as long as the experience remains a positive, growth-filled one. In addition, you already know that the purpose of MENu Dating is all about having experiences and becoming master of your own dating destiny so that your eventual Mr. Right is just that, right for you in every way!

Through MENu Dating you will learn how to reflect on each dating experience in an effort to extract the lessons. This takes work. It takes honesty. It requires you to look in the mirror without bias or shame or excuse and to replay your experiences candidly and truthfully. It requires you to hold on to the positive aspects (they always exist, even on the most disastrous of dates) and to think about how you will behave differently on your dates going forward so that your ratio of negative to positive tips more and more to your advantage with every date. This isn’t to say that you won’t trip on your own. You will and, in fact, you need to. Still, the tips I will share with you should lessen the number of falls and help you deal with those stumbles constructively. MENu Dating is a pro cess; the more you MENu Date, the more experiences you will have, and the more experiences you have, the more lessons you will learn, and the more lessons that you learn, the closer you will get to finding the guy for you.

4>>your energy is invested in you, not him

Despite being empowered, independent women, when we have a boyfriend, we tend to get very wrapped up in him and the relationship. We always say we won’t, but we always do. Our time with friends diminishes, our productivity at work wanes, our alone time virtually disappears altogether. We begin adjusting our schedule to his schedule. We know when he goes to the gym, when he has monthly late-night meetings for work, when he has biweekly brunch with friends or family, and so on. The problem with this isn’t that it is a little psycho-stalkerish. No, the real problem is what we do with this intel that we dedicate so much time and energy to collect. We carve his booked time for our time to ourselves and leave all of the vacancies on his calendar open on ours, just in case he wants to hang out. OMG—can we say, "Ewwwww?" Still, we all do it. I know you hate the way this plays out on paper or how it sounds in your head. Admit it, though, it’s true, and sometimes the truth does indeed hurt.

As a result of such behavior, you often hear women who are in relationships say that they feel they are "losing themselves." You see, the problem with women who lose themselves in their men is that they were never found to begin with. Well, what kind of partner can you possibly be if you are lost? By casually dating, you get all of the good stuff that comes from male companionship without sacrificing your own personal needs. While MENu Dating, you will easily be able to make room for yourself because your interactions with the guys you meet will be commitment-free and stress-free. The very design of the MENu Dating Program should eliminate this as a possibility because you never singularly focus on one guy. At all times, you must be rotating and replenishing your dating platter. None of the guys you go out with will be "Mr. Right." They are all "Mr. Right Now—for the moment—while I am taking the well-deserved time to explore and experience and eventually be ready and sure of Mr. Right when he does come along in the future."

Throughout your dating journey, by honoring yourself enough to direct your focus inward, you will become the phenomenal woman that you want to be. Subsequently, you will attract a higher-quality man who will reflect your greatness. And furthermore, you will not be lost. You will be found. You will be secure in who you are, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually . . . and there is nothing more attractive to a good man than a woman who comes to the table strong and complete.

You will come to know that a spouse is not someone who should "complete you" (sorry, Jerry Maguire) like you thought he should when you were seventeen years young, but rather someone who should complement you, for a relationship won’t last if each party is searching for its other half. Simply, success will only occur if you both come to the relationship as whole people; if you are solid as individuals, you will thrive as a unit. This is why it is critical to gift yourself this time, to be good to yourself, to love yourself, to better yourself, and to truly become comfortable in and proud of who you are as an individual first, before you can achieve the same as a member of a relationship.

5>>you come to learn what you need in and out of a relationship

With every date, you will become increasingly clear about who you are as an individual, how you work as a partner, and what you need in a relationship. By paying close attention and reflecting on each experience, you will witness yourself growing and making better and better choices along the way. You will become more interesting, more self-aware, and more confident. You will become crystal clear on what you want/need (and don’t want/need) from yourself and from your partner in a relationship. You will learn the difference between wants and needs (want = a guy with an honorary doctorate in massage; need = a guy who I can be quiet with), and you will be able to detect what will work and what won’t work for you, quickly and painlessly. You will learn that while it takes work to grow a relationship, when it is right, it doesn’t feel like work . . . it feels like an investment. You will come to recognize that you deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and with the greatest love and care. You will come to recognize that only a man to whom you wish to extend the same love, care, and respect is worthy of your hand. Furthermore, you will learn that you need not settle in any area, that you can and should have all that you need.

6>>dating is friendlier on your wallet than being in a relationship

When you are just dating, your expenditures are pretty limited, particularly if you are going out with generous, chivalrous guys who foot the bill. But when you are seeking or are in a relationship, you spend a lot of money. Even in the beginning, when he may be paying most of the time, you are still spending oodles of cash on new outfits, blowouts, the hottest Chanel lip-gloss shade of the moment, and so forth, all to impress him. Eventually, you get to the fifty/fifty stage when you are paying half the time. You have to splurge on expensive gifts four times a year (birthday, anniversary, Valentine’s Day, and winter holidays) for him, as well as gifts for his family. You also have to buy new dresses for every stupid wedding you have to attend as his date. I estimate annual gifting expenditures alone can total around two thousand dollars. That is two thousand dollars you could spend on a fabulous trip with your girls, a deserved full day of treatments every quarter at the spa, or three new jaw-dropping bags to stash your saved cash in!

Excerpted from Menu Dating by Tristan Coopersmith.
Copyright 2007 by Tristan Coopersmith.
Published in August 2009 by St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher. TRISTAN COOPERSMITH and TODD JOHNSON have been best friends since they were eight. As roommates in their 20s, they became each other's dating coaches and interpreters of the puzzling behavior of the opposite sex. Tristan is a trend forecaster in Los Angeles. Having taste-tested all the way to her main course, Tristan is a happily retired graduate of the MENu Dating program and a newlywed. Todd works in finance in New York, married the woman of his dreams and is the proud father of a baby boy. He continues to be Tristan's "boy's eye view" for all things man-related.