Breaking news: I am not a “dating coach.” Yes, I sort of give dating and relationship advice. I write about relationships and love and cupcakes and samurai for this site. I also dispense advice for other websites, and I’ve written for lady magazines, primarily because sleaze pays very well. But to answer a reader who e-mailed me, I am not, nor will I ever be, a “dating coach.” I hate the term “dating coach.” It suggests that love is a game to win. Love is not a game. It is a journey that requires courage. “Dating coaches” sell that love can be won; that it’s about touchdowns, and victory dances, and spiking a heart. But they sell that because if they sold the truth, they’d be out of business. Here’s the truth: love isn’t about scoring points for yourself. Love is intercepting your own pass, and running the ball in the opposite direction. Love is losing.
I’m going to go ahead and ruin any chance I might have of a relationship book deal, and also write that there is little logic when it comes to trying to find someone to love. You either do or you don’t. We’re all knee-deep in romantic opportunity. Whether or not we recognize that opportunity is another matter. Most people see the world with their feeble eyes, or their analytical brain, or their barking sex organs. So we date the beautiful, or the most successful, or the one with the ripest butt. We never look with our poor wheezing heart. Each and every one of us has, at one point in our life, passed on someone because we answered the door on the second or third knock.
My dad was a religious man, and I am not. But he told me once, because my dad was also in politics, that President Kennedy had a plaque on his desk with a simple prayer written on it. That prayer read “Oh God, thy sea is so great, and my boat is so small.” I use to think that Kennedy would keep that prayer handy to remind himself to stay humble. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to understand that the poem is about life. We’re all in little rickety boats, bobbing along, trying not to capsize. Paddling against the waves. We feel alone, but we’re not. All of you have permission to board my wee dinghy. But to one of you, and you know who you are, let’s lash our ships together and set out for a shore that might not be there. I will be your life preserver. I will be your lighthouse. I will be your sail.
So, no, I’m not a dating coach. I am just a man with excellent hair. A hack writer who writes about sex, movies, and whatever else I can make a buck on. A hundred years from now, someone might discover the feminist sex farce I wrote and directed that was produced in Brooklyn. But for now, I’m just a dude who knows that experience is never making the same mistake six or seven times. I write based on my experience. I try not to be a dick, which I can be and have been on many occasions. I have made people I love laugh and I have made them cry. Wisdom is fermented regret. I marinate what I write in that bitter nectar. Unless I’m writing high-brow genital jokes. (Hemingway’s lost book about my genitals began thusly: “His organ was big.”)
While we’re on the topic of people giving relationship advice, I am also not a therapist, even though I do possess a PhD in Sweeping Gender Generalities. In addition to dating coaches, I also loathe so-called mental health professionals who dish out diagnoses on television, radio, or the Internet. Pretty much, if you go by “Doctor First Name” and you sell snake-oil in public, you’re just a desperate famewhore like the rest of us. TV/Radio/Internet therapists are quacks, every last one of them. Take their advice at your own peril. I have interviewed some especially weaselly faux-shrinks and cringed as I put quotation marks around their banal psychobabble. When I die, the Writing Gods will judge me accordingly.
I have absolutely nothing against therapy. My therapist’s name is Bill. I know many guys think going to a therapist is an admission of weakness. If that’s so, then I’m weak. Therapy helps me take responsibility for my actions. My hour a week is an hour where I work on making myself a better person, and try to make myself more useful to those I love. I think therapists do great work, and a good therapist is worth all the money they charge. But therapists are only human, and there are plenty of lousy ones. Namely, those who fill the airwaves and blogosphere with their doublespeak. There are so many ways to get the help of a professional who takes his or her profession seriously. If you’re broke, there are many well-meaning student therapists who will work for scale. If you’re in an abusive relationship, addicted to drugs or alcohol, or feeling depressed, seek the counsel of family, friends, and a professional. Don’t tune into radio shows where you’re basically advertising filler for a diva who wants the thrill of treating patients without all the annoying hard work.
You know what qualifies someone to give advice? A person to ask them for it. Once that happens, all bets are off.
The Internet is beautiful because the Internet is one huge sloppy conversation. The conversation I find myself most engaged in is a moral one. When it comes to two people, what is right and what is wrong? I am not a moral relativist. There are some moral absolutes. When it comes to sex, whatever two consenting adults choose to do in the privacy of their own home is groovy. It is wrong to deny two consenting adults the legal right to love. Other moral absolutes include the following: it is wrong to attain happiness at the expense of someone else. It is wrong to say one thing and do another. It is wrong not to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I’ll also throw stoning in there. It is wrong to stone anyone for anything.
There are so many questions about sex and dating and relationships and love. So many opinions. But there is always just one answer that can be rephrased a thousand ways. One of my favorite ways of saying it is from a new band called The Beatles who recently debuted on iTunes. I hope they make money one day; I’m sure if they stick to it, their music will be played in the great cathedrals of Las Vegas and clowns will dance. Every question about relationships can be answered with a single verse: “In the end, the love you take/is equal to the love you make.”
PS. If that doesn’t suffice then how about: “Dump him!” Or: “He’s not cheating on you, but he could be!” Or how about: “Touch his penis!”
Read more of John Devore’s preening narcissism on Twitter.