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The Third Date Doctrine

Pressure wears many hats in the tri-state area.

Exhibit A) Work: New York's unemployment rate is 7.9% (the national rate is 5.9%). "Mass layoffs" is as common a term on CNBC as "Chapter 11." The pressure to hold on to one's gainful employment is higher than ever for young people.

The rent goes up while the space gets smaller. Losing a job could mean dubiously defying the old saying, "You can't go home again."

Exhibit B) Appearance: Shows like The Bachelor apply subconscious pressure because it raises the bar on the perceived quality of available singledoms out there.

For those women hanging out with Mr. Rork and Tattoo on Fantasy Island, here's the memo: All men aren't as GQ looking, Dr. Phil sensitive and monopoly money rich like Bachelor 2 wet mop Aaron. But his presence in the minds of millions of women may lead them to believe that guys like that are as readily available as rollneck sweaters at J. Crew. The Y-chromosomes see men like Howard Stern with his girlfriend model Beth Ostronsky and think, "If Howard can get her, I can get me some of that too."

For a country with so many reality shows, very few are actually living in it. Still, as long as Sex and the City and decadent Coors Light commercials serve as reminders that there is always room to trade up, the need to stay fit and flawless remains high on the daily "to do" list. Exhibit C) Relationships: The impetus for long-term commitment is not what it was when our parents were growing up. Who needs marriage with 500 channels of DirecTV, movies on demand, email, the Internet, the gym, happy hours and beach and ski houses? Finding a life partner first and figuring out the rest—such as six figure college trust funds and paying for the half million dollar homes—is no longer an option. A successful career is imperative if a nuclear family is the eventual plan for the rest of our lives.

That success applies to both guys and dolls. The female gender's particular growing desire for financial independence and achieving lofty career aspirations puts the whole "I do" thing down the page of priorities.

Welcome to the 00's...

Still, with nesting season in its embryonic stages in the Mile Square City, longer-term relationships are more likely to begin in preparation for the winter to simply escape the boredom of Reese Witherspoon flicks and Seinfeld reruns.

"I'd like to meet someone for the winter to pass the time with, but I definitely want to be single when the summer comes again," says Jennifer, a rather selective 32 year old Hobokenite. "My mother is growing quite impatient with me, however."

So when does a dating scenario move from "just dating" or "hanging out with" or "kind of seeing" to the g and b (boyfriend and girlfriend) title? Some around Hoboken say the exit ramp off the road of casual dating begins on the third date.

"It's very simple. If you get me to a third date, and that's a difficult task, I will have sex with you," an attractive female friend pronounced after several cocktails one summer evening. "But guys are so stupid, they'll do something immature along the way—like not call when they're supposed to or get drunk and too aggressive too soon—and blow their whole chance." "Third dates mean you obviously like them 'enough,'" says 5 year Hoboken resident Shawn, 30. "The trick is not be too out of the ordinary; keep it simple but add a personal touch."

"I wouldn't go on a third date if I wasn't into the guy at that point," explains former model Maureen, 28. "The third date makes me start to think where things are going, but it depends on what kinds of dates the first two were."

Evidentially there are several interpretations of what is and isn't a real date.

Making dinner is considered a "bigger" date than going to the movies or a Nets game. Wedding dates are also weighed more heavily than a dinner or dancing. Funeral dates, as noted in Seinfeld, are "like 6 dates in one."

Drinks after work could be considered a meeting, but not necessarily a true date. Nor is the classic out-at-a-bar-got-oversevred-five-drinks-over-my-happy-buzz-quota-and-went-home-with (insert name here) even though I didn't know their last name.

Random tangent: It's actually comical to listen to temporary couples try to right all the wrongs of a drunken tryst by following up with a more "civilized" date. "Sure, we made love like Sea Otters three hours after we met, but perhaps if we grab a cup of coffee together we can attempt to take things slow and get to know each other."

Taking things slow after a random slumber party is an idea that comes from the same people who take aspirin before drinking to prevent an inevetiable hangover. The pre-emptive measures may seem like the prudent thing to do, but the ultimate result (see: Sea Otters) is always unavoidable.

And so, I digress.

The first date is invariably a feeling out process without actually physically feeling anything. In a straw poll of 5 lubricated patrons taken at Liberty Bar, 4 of 5 say a kiss outside of a peck is increasingly uncommon on a formal first date. The same 4 indicated that even if the date was just OK to average, they would still consider a second date to give things a chance.

All 5 in the straw poll agreed that Date 2 is important in deciding if the existence of compatibility and chemistry is present in both conversation and canoodling. If those tests are passed, the third date is the one your friends will start every question regarding your partner by using the word "So." As in "So…I heard you're going on a third date tonight."

We are a selective generation but one with an unquenchable thirst for instant gratification. On matters of love and relationships, instant gratification wins over pragmatism more often than not. This losing battle usually results in a limited number of third dates because patience is practiced about as much as abstinence.

But maybe you have been patient. Maybe you called when you said you would. Maybe that bottle of Merlot didn't prompt you to say something to scare the hell out of your dating partner. Maybe you left the raincoats in the nightstand. If that is the case, congratulations are in order. You've just survived two whole dates.

Now the third date represents a road to more, or the road to nowhere.

No pressure or anything...

Joe Concha writes a weekly NFL Preview for NBCSports.com and is a feature writer for Hobokeni.com. He is slated to be J. Lo's next husband in October 2003.

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