Get your copy of "Dark Side of the Room" now
"Laughs" Live! Shows:
Detroit, MI      Chicago, IL      Phoenix, AZ      Charlotte, NC      Washington, DC     
Dayton, OH      Chicago, IL      Houston, TX      Dallas, TX     

The Column

Engaged in Conversation

I write a lot about maturing. My definition of maturing is the transition from kid to adult that takes place from the time you're 17 until you die, because most of us never become fully mature. I know that I won't.

"Uh, nurse? I have a bit of pain in my finger. Perhaps if you pulled it..."

This column's previously discussed signs of my life changing are apartment hunting, paying my own electric bill, and people I know having babies. But nothing prepared me for the biggest rite of passage I've now gone through.

I was at a writers networking event last week, which also doubled as a singles night because of the proximity to Valentine's Day. I thought this was a fine idea; if tradition held true and things went wrong when I hit on someone, I could end up with some freelance work. Of course, neither happened.

The event was red lit, which made reading people's nametags extremely difficult. Some people refusing to wear nametags made reading them even more difficult. But the combination of people having tags and people refusing to wear them set up the easiest opening lines of all time. If a girl were wearing a nametag, I'd say, "I can't read your nametag. What does it say?" If she were sans nametag, I'd say, "How come you're not wearing a nametag?"

And that is how I met the nametagless Jessica. The logical follow-up to "how come you're not wearing a nametag?" is "so what is your name?" Thus, I found out her name was Jessica about ten seconds into the conversation. Because the logical follow up to that is not "do you have a husband?," I didn't find out that she did until we were talking for about an hour.

I have been trained over the past several years to determine whether or not my conversation partner has a boyfriend. If you've read my column before, you know that I don't trust body language, so I rely on other means of discovery. My most common investigative procedure involves asking how the two met, and if that doesn't work, I make a comment to the guy about what it's like being single. If I still can't tell, I'll ask the guy if he thinks the waitress is hot or the bartender is hot or the anyone-but-the-girl-with-whom-I'm-flirting is hot. Even if he and my flirtee are dating, if he says yes to any of those questions, they won't be for much longer.

Once I determine that there is no boyfriend present, there still might be one at home. To determine if this is true, I try steering the conversation towards a recent relationship or breakup I've had, which may or may not be fictional. If the girl doesn't mention her current boyfriend, either she doesn't have one or she won't have one for much longer.

But these techniques do not work for husbands. Husbands have been around long enough that wives don't even think of mentioning them, since they're just a part of the day. When you get a new car or a new apartment or a new prosthetic limb, it's all you talk about for the first few weeks you have it. But after a while, you have grown tired of the details, and you go to singles events on the day your wedding ring happens to be getting reset.

I don't fault Jessica for not mentioning her husband, since it must be difficult for a married woman to make new male friends. The only way a woman makes male friends is by convincing them that the two of them are not going to sleep together, so he may as well stop wasting his energy. If he agrees that they're not going to sleep together for the time being, but thinks there is a shot of them doing it in the future, he'll stay friends with her, too.

If a married woman tells a guy she's married early on in the conversation, he'll usually excuse himself to hit on someone single. And by "usually," I mean "quickly and always." If a married guy tells a woman that he's married early on in the conversation, he's lying since guys never admit that without prodding.

I am glad I spent my night talking to Jessica, since I gained two things from it. One, I have a new friend I know I won't hit on. Two, I am empowered with the knowledge that I have to start asking about more than just boyfriends.

It'd be so much easier if everyone just wore nametags.

*Kings vs. Sports Illustrated
*Paris Hilton is No Mother Theresa
*Putting the "Fan" in "Fanatic"
*Thinking Man: Happy New Year
*I'm Listening
*Punky Brewster Scares Me
*Don't Get Smart With Me
*Checking Out a Check Up
*Yeah, Thanks
*Steve Hofstetter is Your Friend
*Post Halloween Wrap-Up
*My Letter to Me
*The Night the Heat Went Off
*Turn That Crap Off
*You Might Be a Redhead If
*To My Future Children
*Shine Your Shoes, Mista?
*Flying Forward
*DotCom Dating Dish
*Paging Paige Page
*Watch While You Eat
*You Have Got to Be Kidding Me
*Come Home, Rachel I. K'Benjamin
*Get Out Of My Bathroom
*Subway Going Under
*Driving Forces
*Singles Anonymous
*Know When to Fold Em
*The Mirth of America
*Also Known As
*Smooth Criminal
*What That Mass Email Really Said
*Dude, Where's Your Car?
*Thinking Man: Can't We All
*You Might Be a Redneck
*A Nice Hawaiian Punch
*100,000 Friends
*Mine is Bigger Than Yours
*Good Answer
*T Stands for Terrible
*I Love You Guys
*Mitch, All Gone
*Birth of a Hate Mail Archive
*Never Do Today What...Ooh, Shiny
*Can You Hear Me Now?
*Fast Food, Slow Digestion
*Homeland Security, Eh?
*Quality Training Purposes
*The Show Went On
*Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
*Putting My Foot Down
*Breaking the Chain Mail
*Happy Valmochrismaweenygiving
*Mr. Clean's Illegitimate Brother
*The Quest For 10,000 Friends
*Forgetting Paris
*Magnetically Challenged
*New Year's at the Barefoot Boogie
*Instant Carma's Gonna Get Me
*The Biggest Loser
*Steve vs. Kentucky
*Gone in a Flash
*How to Destroy Your Car
*Ghouls, Goblins, and Candidates
*My Freedom From Your Freedom
*Drive Unto Others
*Please Don't See This Movie
*I Love The Clip Shows
*Column of Atonement
*Happy Anniversary, Sugarhill
*Life, 9/11, and the Interstate
*Your Band Sucks
*Spending Wisely
*The Blind Dating the Blind
*Grilled Cheese With a Side of Hip Hop
*The Drive to 25
*Are You There Margaret? It's Me, God.
*Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House
*Seacrest! Out!
*Harder Than You Think
*Glad To Be Here
*Thought for Food
*Feeding the Meter
*She's Ready For Her Close Up
*Paging John Hughes
*Excusing America's Gas Problem
*Extra, Extra, Extra Long Time
*The Finals Countdown
*Your Friends and Mine
*The Future Mrs. Bueller
*Toasting Not Toasting
*A Tall Order
*Snaking Your Engine
*My Hair is the Color of Tomato Soup
*The Solace System
*You Say Potato
*It’s Getting Less Cold in Here
*This is Not a Virus
*Pitchers and Catchers
*Another Night Not at the Movies
*Higher and Higher
*To Write A Wrong
*They Call it Super for a Reason
*Imagine All the People
*Lost Wages, Nevada
*This Just In
*Why Are All My Stands Red?
*For Whom the Wedding Bell Tolls
*Silent One Day Sale, Holy One Day Sale
*I Want To Be That Guy
*Felicity Doesn't Always Mean Happiness
*That Time of Year
*My Cranberry Sauce Looks like a Can
*The Legend of Fat Dead Steve
*Two Beldings in One Building
*Happy Halloween From Happy Valley
*Three Stations and Nothing On
*15 Shots of Nostalgia
*Here's To the Dancing Guy
*Teaching an Old Dog New Sticks
*If You Could Choose Just One Dumb Question...
*Obligatory Pun on The Word Tired
*I've Grown Accustomed to Your Wet Nose
*What Do You Want For Your Birthday?
*What a Long, Strange Trip
*Open Letter to My UPS Man
*That Better Be Your Foot
*The Abandoned Lot is Always Greener
*Putting Down the Pieces
*Take One Down, Pass It Around
*Here, You Throw This Away
*Being Green at the Box Office
*Who Wears Short Shorts?
*America is an Okay Place to Be
*You Can't Stop the Rain
*Don't Feed the Alpha Males
*Don’t Sweat It
*The Special Plate Blues
*You Deserve It
*The Return to Popcopy
*They're Real, and They're Spectacular
*Keeping Your Prom Misses
*Guerillas in Our Midst
*That Weird No Bread Holiday
*The Ballad of the Buttless
*Something About Being Twenty-Something
*Have You Seen My Cell Phone?
*War, Huh, Yeah, What Is It Good For?
*Leggo My Ego
*I'm a Spazz, You're a Spazz
*Can I Please Keep My Pants?
*Engaged in Conversation
*Welcome to PopCopy
*Hold Me Closer, Tiny Bathroom
*My Two-Bedroom Furbee
*All’s Fare in Love and Daytona
*Open? Shut Them
*I Am Everyday Pimple
*Here Comes the Judge Show
*When, Praytell, Were The Days of Auld Lang Syne?
*What Are You Up To This Weekend?
*The Waiting is the Hardest Part
*A Night Not at the Movies
*Funny, You Don’t Look Flu-ish
*Does This Baby Come With Airbags?
*When The Hogan Family Was Still Valerie
*Blue (Haired) Tuesday
*In Loco Parents
*Moving Is Like A Vaccuum: It Sucks
*Thou Shalt Not Save the World and Get the Girl
*Like Oil and Stuff That Hates Oil
*How to Get Hatemail
*Fungi, Octopi, What’s the Plural of Bus? (Part I
*Fungi, Octopi, What’s the Plural of Bus? (Part I
*It Happens to the Best of Us
*Talking To A Piece of Junk Mail
*When You Can’t See the Forest for the Trees
*ICFS Disorder and Celebrity Kid Growth
*Electricity and Other Things They Cut Off
*When Pigeons Fly
*Goodbye, New York, Goodbye
*La La La-la La La, Sing a Happy Song
*What To Do at Work Besides Work
*Why is This Column Different From All Others?