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Dating Advice: Being An Atheist Is Good—Just Don’t Spell It Wrong.

If we’re single, we’re single because someone decided being single was better than being with us. Relationships simply aren’t something we’re good at. The sooner we start collecting cats for company the better.

Dating is just too confusing. There’s no way of knowing what’s right or wrong anymore. We try being friendly and thoughtful — but we know we’ll bugger it up. Men have been buggering up conversations with women for hundreds of years. Before that, we stuck to what we were good at: grunting.

Even grunting got our ancestors thrown out of caves and castles on a regular basis. Since then, we’ve faced a continuous backlash, resulting in everything from mild reprimands to full-on suffragette movements.

We’ve tried learning from our mistakes, but we’re constantly dealing with reversals of what we thought represented good manners and polite address.

In medieval times, the simple act of mentioning God put you in a woman’s good books. Today, you’re better off being an atheist. According to an OkCupid review of 500,000 responses, having no religion — or at least questioning God’s existence — really plays well with the ladies (a 56% reply rate).

What doesn’t play so well is spelling. Saving time by writing “u” instead of “you,” or “r” instead of “are” is a deal-breaker. Punctuation wins a girl’s heart — although there are exceptions. Expressions of amusement, such as haha (45% reply rate) and lol (41%) can be used in simplified or exaggerated form (although hahahahahahahaha means you’re probably crazy).

We also have to be careful of physical compliments. Gone are the days when we could send hearts aflutter, calling a woman “beautiful” or “hot.” Seems it has the opposite effect of flattery now. As the study explained: “When you tell a woman she’s beautiful [in an online message]. chances are you’re not.”

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Trouble is, even if you follow the rules, nothing prepares you for the singularity of a woman’s particular dislikes. One woman I spoke to didn’t like my use of the word “absolutely.” I asked if her problem was with absolutes. “Nope,” she said, “the word just bugs me.”

Here’s something else we have to handle delicately: Women like men to be self-assured, but not overly confident. They don’t mind us saying, “I’m richer than that guy in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’,” as long as we throw in, “Sorry, don’t take that the wrong way. I’m kinda new at online dating. I’ve been with my pilot for two years, and before that, my saucier.”

Humility is important, but it can also go very wrong. Say you decide to replace “Sorry” with “Please, don’t take that the wrong way.” You just probed the very depths of conversational buggery. “Please” is on the negative list (22% reply rate), meaning you went from vulnerable to desperate faster than grunts sent our distant ancestors out in the cold.

It doesn’t take much to turn us from war lords into wimps. We’re dealing with a moving target here, constantly backtracking, questioning our tone and word choices more than we ever did in confessionals.

And don’t expect it to get any easier. Once you start dating, you’ll face a whole new set of hurdles. I overheard a woman in a restaurant tell her partner, “How can you say you’re a male feminist and still wear khaki?” As we all know, khaki started in the military. No self-respecting feminist wants that association, especially the no-press kind of khaki.

You also shouldn’t start flinging terms around without knowing their true meaning. If your name is Dick and you write in a message: “I just sent you a dick pic,” don’t be surprised if you get a nasty response. Supposedly, a “dick pic” refers to what men do opening their raincoats.

“Blizzard Buddy” refers to someone who comes over during a major weather event. Showing up with a Dairy Queen Blizzard is something else entirely. You’re what’s known as a “twit,” which hasn’t changed since the days of Henry Fielding (he wrote Tom Jones if any woman asks — and not the singer, for chrissake, that’s a completely different twit).

And please understand, “benching” is different in dating than it is in hockey. If a woman “benches” you, it isn’t because you gave her an illegal cross-check. It means she’s keeping her options open, just as “friendzoning” means she’s keeping you on hold while she considers other options.

In either case, you may feel like giving her an illegal cross-check, but that results in “jailing,” which, again, hasn’t changed since Henry Fielding.

The simple fact is, we’re surrounded by moving targets. Advice columns might keep us up to speed — but they won’t necessarily keep us up to snuff. That requires constant monitoring — and won’t account for the singular hatreds women develop over coffee with their friends.

The only alternative is to do what I suggested in the first place. Start collecting cats for company. They have the same contempt as women, but they’re pretty quiet about it. Some are even “zazzy,” a term Sheldon Cooper coined on The Big Bang Theory.

As I mentioned in my last post, if you have anything to add or dispute — don’t sent it to me, send it to OkCupid. Right now, I’m having trouble with “ghosting,” which has nothing to do with the paranormal, but rather a term conceived by well-known womanizer Jasper the Un-Friendly Ghost who no longer wanted to date someone. Since then, we’ve all suffered.

Thanks for that, Jasper. Stupid ghost.

Robert Cormack is a freelance copywriter, novelist, journalist and blogger. His first novel: “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Press for more details. Coming soon (hopefully), a collection of short stories called “Would You Mind Not Talking to Me?”

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I did a poor imitation of Don Draper for 40 years before writing my first novel. I'm currently in the final stages of a children's book. Lucky me.

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