“AM I WRONG?” WINGMAN: THE CASE AGAINST RUINING THE SURPRISE

Whoever said that all’s fair in love and war had obviously never been on the losing end of a fight with a woman. We sulk, we take passive aggressive digs, and sometimes we flat out refuse to admit that we’re wrong.

But sometimes we aren’t wrong. Sometimes you’re wrong, boys. And the only way to determine who the exculpatory party is vs. the One Who Eff’d Up is to allow a jury of your peers to decide. Or at least, an uninvolved and impartial party, such as yours truly.

That’s why Miss Wingman created the “Am I Wrong?” feature, to give dudes a platform to plead your case when you feel wrongly blamed by a female sparring partner. And it’s my pleasure to bring you an all new edition of the blame game, courtesy of Paul in Ohio.

The set up: Paul, our friendly protagonist (or antagonist, it’s yet to be determined), has been dating his girlfriend Harriet for a little more than a year. They do not live together, mostly for “practical” reasons that involve Harriet needing to live on-site at her counseling job, and her apartment not feasibly accommodating two people. But they have had several conversations regarding their future and believe each other to be “the One.”

The argument: “About two weeks ago, I was out shopping with my girlfriend of nearly 18 months. We were walking in an area rife with jewelry stores, so I decided to see if she wanted to pop into one of them and ‘take a look around.’ Obviously I meant to check out engagement rings. She hesitated for a second, but after giving me a weird look, agreed.

We spoke to a very nice sales lady who showed my girlfriend several different shapes and cuts of diamonds. After trying on about five, she settled upon a square-looking one, which I guess you girls call a “princess” cut. We thanked the woman for her time, left the store without purchasing anything (it was just meant as an info-gathering mission on my end) and went home.

But as soon as we were home, she started acting upset. When I pressed her on it, she admitted that she was really disappointed that we’d just gone ‘engagement ring shopping.’ I told her that no, we hadn’t gone engagement ring shopping, we’d gone engagement ring browsing, and that the shopping was something I’d be doing solo one day in the future.

She said it didn’t matter, that now she knew it was coming, and that the surprise she would feel from the proposal was ruined in her mind. She’d wanted me to run my own recon mission to find out her design preferences without her knowing so that it would be a complete shock when I finally asked. I told her that she still wouldn’t know when I was doing it or how, but no matter what I said, she was still bummed out over the whole thing.

I’d only intended to get her input on what style she preferred and maybe get a ring size while I was at it, hell – I have no clue what girls like  – but she said that if I really knew her well enough, I’d know what her style was. I disagree, we could be dating 10 years and I’d still not know whether she wanted a round, princess, or a goddamn triangle for that matter. But apparently, I’ve somehow messed the whole thing up?

It’s not like we fought or yelled, it was just hearing her tell me that I’d ‘ruined’ the engagement surprise she’d been looking forward to her whole life that made me feel like a huge jerk. So, Miss Wingman, tell me – am I wrong? Am I the idiot, or is she overreacting?”

The verdict: Yikes. And also, sucks to be you, Paul. Not to mention, is that really your girlfriend’s name? Man, I didn’t know people were still naming their kids Harriet after, like, 1935. What the hell are her sisters names, Edith and Muriel? Sorry, just took me a minute to get past that… But the answer to your question, if I’m being serious, is in reality probably a little blame on both sides. And here’s why…

You were just trying to be a conscientious boyfriend, to be as considerate as possible. I get that. You did what you thought was the logical thing, so as not to have her smile through gritted teeth when you snapped open the box to a ring that was decidedly not her (and that she’d have to stare at for the next, oh, say, 40 or 50 years). If “Sex and the City” taught men nothing else, it should be to fear the “ugly ring” conversation. (Hey, don’t blame me, blame Carrie Bradshaw).

But even though you were just covering your bases, what you didn’t realize is that, for a lot of women, the idea of being proposed to is something we daydream about since we’re little. No, strike that. Not most women. All women. Even me, who hates the idea of all things girly and fairytale-esque, and who couldn’t care less about floral arrangements or picking out dresses. And why do we fantasize and wonder about our proposal? Because it’s a big frigging deal, that’s why.

The idea of asking someone to forsake all others and devote themselves to you every day until they die is kind of a tall order, don’t you think? So forgive us if, even if we aren’t interested in any JumboTron or sky diving antics being involved, we want your proposal to be as special as humanly possible. And that, in our minds, involves the element of surprise. (Not to mention some seriously heartfelt words. Don’t forget the sentiment, gentlemen).

On the other hand, while I can sympathize with your girlfriend’s disappointment – unintended though it may be – I think she needs to accept the fact that she was giving you entirely too much credit. I’ve come to learn that women have a grossly overestimated view of how much guys really know about engagement rings. I know we all assume that you’ll just hijack one of our own rings for sizing, enlist the covert help of our inner circle and embark on some stealth shopping mission armed with your own innate knowledge of clarity and carat size, but in real life? That shizz ain’t happenin’.

I’ve actually had girls tell me that their boyfriends contemplated buying them a heart-shaped ring, because, you know, all girls like hearts and shiny things. Don’t they?

Hahaha. Wait…hahahaha. No judgment intended, boys, but that just confirms how little you know about our tastes (and rightfully so). Also, if you’re dating the kind of girl who actually would like such a thing, RUN. Or else you have a lifetime of rose-colored furniture and floral bedding to look forward to.

So the takeaway from all of this is that yes, she has every right to feel a pang of disappointment from thinking the element of surprise is somewhat tainted. But no, that doesn’t give her the right to tell you that to your face and make you feel guilty. You were only being pragmatic and (you thought) considerate, you intended no harm.

Granted, you can’t undo the incident, but what you can do is make sure that, on the day that you finally do pop the question, that she knows exactly what she’s meant to your life and how much you love her. Speak from the heart and I promise you, all prior tipping of the cards will be forgiven.

As for the rest of you, until next time, keep sending me your issues, and I’ll keep giving it to you straight, honest, and completely unfiltered. Just the way I like my men, but that’s a post for another time. Good luck, fight fair, and remember to keep your head (and your dukes) up.THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID

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ALTRUIST WINGMAN: WHY VOLUNTEERING IS SERIOUSLY SEXY

When it comes to men, there’s nothing sexier to women than a big, huge…heart.

What’d you think I was going to say? Pervs.

That’s why this year, you should clear a little space in your schedule to grab a shovel, or a soup ladle, or a storybook and lend your time to someone in need. You don’t have to sacrifice every Saturday, and you don’t need to go very far – there are all types of opportunities in every local community, just check sites like VolunteerMatch to get started.

From neighborhood beautification projects, to Habitat for Humanity, to Meals on Wheels or even Big Brothers/Big Sisters, there’s a million and one ways to make a difference. Just log on, type in what project interests you, and voila! Let the giving begin.

And if being a do-gooder doesn’t come naturally to you, allow me to persuade you with the following reasons: 1) Because it really does make you feel better inside to pay it forward. Think I’m lying? No amount of manual labor or it’s measurable results could match the satisfaction you’ll feel from seeing gratitude on someone’s face. You’ll get more out if it than the recipients, trust me.

Secondly, for the less altruistic man, because it ups your desirability with the ladies. (Read: it may even get you laid). See? If I can’t appeal to your kindness, I’ll appeal to your libido. Whatever works.

Now, I’m not suggesting you join a charitable organization so that you can pick off broads to try and score with, I’m just saying that if we know volunteering is what you’re into, we may just be more into you as a result.

And finally, for the free T-Shirt.

Which, if you wear to the gym next time you work out, might just, oh I don’ t know…possibly catch the attention of some broads with whom you end up scoring. Synergy, boys, it’s a beautiful thing.

Just take my advice and please leave your acts of kindness off of social media. Posting “Look-At-Me-I’m-Such-A-Good-Person” uploads to Facebook kills the generosity part, I’m afraid.

And if you’re still not convinced, you can always donate your money instead of your time. Organizations like the Red Cross are constantly seeking donations. Sometimes reaching into your wallet just comes easier to some people than reaching for some work gloves, I get it.

Hopefully the next time you’re faced with the choice between watching the games all afternoon or giving back, you’ll at least contemplate the latter – as a favor to me. If you’re blessed enough to have the means to be reading this site, then you certainly have more than a lot of other people. If you never lose sight of that, I promise your grace will serve you well.

Because in the end, you may not always feel responsibility for your fellow man, but you should feel a sense of accountability to yourself. And you’ll sleep better at night – literally – if you help a total stranger.

So give generously, gentlemen. Give often. And as always, give without expectation.ETIQUETTE WINGMAN

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TREND COMEBACK ALERT: THE MAN TURTLENECK? UM, NO.

Whilst trolling the web today, Miss Wingman came across something so disturbing it made me stop in my tracks. It was so unnerving, so heinous and ill-advised, that I just couldn’t help but comment to you, the reading masses.

So brace yourselves, boys, because what I’m about to show you is in no way endorsed by this site, myself personally, or I’m pretty sure females ANYWHERE.

What could possibly offend me more than the punishing, excruciating cold we’re being served up by Mother Nature this week? THIS.

Yes, the style blogs are now reporting the return of the Man Turtleneck. (Thanks a lot, Paris Fashion Week runways). But please, ignore this trending alert. Shun it, avert your eyes, and if any of your buddies attempts to pull this off, it is your duty as a card-carrying member of the testosterone club to point/laugh/refuse to be seen with him until he changes his clothes.

It’s OK, really. I give you permission.

Now, I know it’s frigid as hell right now. (And no, even an ass raping by Old Man Winter isn’t grounds to bust out those 180′s, boys – I know some of you are contemplating it). But even a severe cold snap is no excuse for wearing the Man Turtleneck.

Are you Steve Jobs? Is this 2nd grade and you’re also wearing bib-front snow pants? No? Then cut that sh*t out. Mock or full-neck, cable knit or just cotton, I can’t think of a single instance where I’ve thought a man looked sexy wearing this. Or would consider sleeping with him. Sure, male models with their chiseled jaw lines and perfect pecs look like they can pull this off. But I assure you, even they look douchey to women.

And trying to hide it under a rugged jacket or pair it with a sports coat isn’t acceptable, so don’t try to sneak that by us, either. Just stick to your regulation wool sweaters and cozy flannels until the mercury stops assaulting us, and I assure you your love life will fare much better than the dude’s who tries to look like the 4th member of The Lonely Island.

If you’re still unclear about what’s considered acceptable male fashion trends, gentlemen, then stick to this rule of thumb: If childhood pictures exist of you wearing said item (or worse, wearing matching outfits with your siblings), please leave that trend where it belongs…retired, permanently. Good luck, stay warm, and for the love of God, just invest in a scarf.DAPPER WINGMAN

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THIS IS WHY YOU DON’T HAVE A GIRLFRIEND

Hello again, Wingman faithful. I trust you’ve been behaving yourselves in my absence? Sickness has sidelined me once more (seriously, where the f**k is my immune system already? KICK IN, DAMMIT). But have no fear. After mainlining cough medicine and drinking some “weird, hippie herb” a friend recommended, I’m on enough of an upswing to type something (hopefully) lucid, and definitely sarcastic. Some say the return of one’s appetite means you’re feeling better. But for me, it’s the return of the smartass humor.

We have a very important topic on deck today, boys. It’s the gloves-off explanation as to why so many of you are single. And it was prompted at least in part by a recent New York Times article called “The End Of Courtship?”

Now, the author of this article hasn’t uncovered anything new or earth shattering in the dating world. He’s just astutely put into words what women everywhere have been griping about for several years – that the rise of “hookup culture” has rendered a proper courtship completely obsolete. We text now, instead of calling. Meet for drinks in group outings rather than soliciting a dinner date. Facebook stalk instead of asking each other about our interests and goals. It’s an informal, romance-barren mess.

And it’s all your fault, guys.

In fairness, that last caveat comes from me, not the Times writer. And it’s one of the primary reasons I’m citing as to why you boys are finding it hard to parlay these casual romantic dalliances into actual relationships – because your bar has gotten way too low.

Yes, not bringing your “A game” is reason #1 on my list of why you might find yourselves sans girlfriend when you might otherwise want one in your life. All of this technology you lean on for these half-assed attempts to get our attention have made us forget what it feels like to be properly pursued. And I don’t mean pursued in a hit-it-and-quit-it kind of way, I mean in a meaningful, deliberate, there-might-actually-be-something-there kind of way. You just have to shrug off your dating ADD and focus long enough find out.

I’m not saying you need to score us dinner reservations at the swanky new “It” spot, or buy roses for every girl you meet at the bar. I realize that the early stage of getting to know someone is a lot like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if any of it sticks – there will be more misses than hits. I’m just saying that if you spot a glimmer of possibility or a future with us, do yourselves a favor and put some thought and effort into your attempt. Come at us with intention, or don’t come at us at all.

Mull over date ideas before you call us. CALL US, don’t text. Ask a week in advance, not two days before, and definitely don’t be the guy who only hits us up on Friday and Saturday nights.

Then once you’ve shown us that you think we’re worth that effort – and that we can begin to place reasonable expectations on you – you move onto the next step. Gaining our trust. Skipping this all-important area will ensure that you never make it to “boyfriend/girlfriend” status with us. Because in the end, if we can’t trust you, why should we date you in the first place?

Maybe this one seems easier said than done, but I disagree. Unless you’re dealing with a female with major trust issues (it happens), proving to us that you can be counted on really isn’t that complicated. All you have to do is consistently show up.

I mean “show up” in the figurative sense as much as the literal. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you can’t, don’t panic. Just tell us so that we’re not left wondering what the hell happened. If you’re curious how our day was or what we’re up to, call us. I’m sure we’re wondering the same thing about you, too. It really is that simple.

Just don’t offer to call us or hang out if you have no intention of seeing it through to fruition. Hear that? Just. Don’t. Offer. Disappointment is way worse than outright flakiness in our minds. We’d rather just be pleasantly surprised if you do come through, honestly.

Then, once you’ve accomplished the wooing and the trusting parts, the way to bridge that final gap between “hanging out” and “girlfriend status” is the one that’s the hardest for most guys. Communicating.

Seriously, talking about where your head is at or how you feel about us shouldn’t be that torturous. But for some reason most of you place it on the same level as waterboarding. You don’t need to do it often or ad nauseum, but we shouldn’t have to go all “Zero Dark Thirty” on you to get some insight, either. Allowing us to fill in the blanks about your mindset is a recipe for disaster. Chicks love to over-think things, so odds are we’ll get it wrong.

The only other possibility for why you don’t have a girlfriend after all of this could be that, simply put, you don’t want one. You SAY you want one. You might even think it. But if way in the back of your head you secretly like only thinking about yourself, or if you haven’t even begun to make room in your life for someone else, then you might only be fooling yourself here. Women can respect even guys we know are dogs, if they’re forthright about who they are. At least they’re being honest. It’s the wolf in sheep’s clothing type that we despise.

Eh, strike that. That’s not the only other possibility for why you don’t have a girlfriend, it’s just the only other one you can control. Lack of physical attraction, compatibility issues, lack of self-confidence – these can also ultimately play a part. Or you just haven’t found a girl that feels like the proper fit yet – a valid roadblock. Hey, men are allowed to have high standards too.

Still, the pragmatist in me prevents me from addressing things that you can’t account for in the end. So for your purposes, all you need to know is: being single MIGHT be a result of factors outside of your control. Timing plays a part, it’s true. Or it could be because you’ve failed to figure out what to do with “it” when you’ve found it.

And if that’s the case, then the blame may have been your own. But lucky for you, you can always turn that around. Be bold and take chances this year, boys. You never know when you’ll go from “just winging it” to finding a wingman of your own. THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID

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BOOZY WINGMAN: WHAT YOUR DRINK CHOICE SAYS ABOUT YOU

The world is (supposedly) ending in two weeks. Jessica Simpson is pregnant. And the Redskins are somehow relevant again. I’d say this is reason enough to drink, wouldn’t you? But before you belly up to the bar, boys, take a moment to consider what your drink choice says about you – to the ladies, at least.

Most of the time, what’s in your glass isn’t reason enough for us to take pause. But every so often, what you’re drinking gives us insight into you. Or at least what we assume about you. Right or wrong, these are some of the messages your beverage sends out to the female population:

Beer (low end): This is, for the most part, what the majority of the male population below 25 years old imbibes. Miller Light, Bud Light, Coors, Keystone, Natty (do they even make that anymore?), you get the idea. They’re mainstream, they’re simple, and in some cases (Read: SOME cases, not all), they’re not even that good. I’ll catch hell for that one, I’m sure.

To borrow a friend’s quote, “It’s like people who eat Tostitos brand salsa. There’s more to life than that.” I’m far from a beer connoisseur, but even I recognize that there are better options out there. Unless you’re on a budget, in which case I can sympathize. Or unless you’re drinking pitchers or buckets on football Sundays. In which case go with the masses. Also, GO BIG BLUE.

I realize that to many guys, beer is beer. But after college, and after you’re making at least what I hope is a liveable wage, you might consider exploring your options. I’m not hating, we just appreciate when you’ve cultivated at least some sense of beer taste. It won’t ruin your chances with us, but it’s not helping you out either.

We automatically conjure images up of your apartment having mismatched chairs, the couch from your college days, and/or dart holes in the walls. (Just no Yaffa blocks, please). I’m not saying you have to abandon your beloved swill beer, I’m just suggesting that you raise the booze bar.

*Miss Wingman note: An exception has to be made for Pabst Blue Ribbon. It’s near and dear to my heart. So long as it’s not being drank in an ironic, hipster kind of way, the PBR man gets a thumbs up.

Scotch, whiskey, bourbon or anything ordered “neat” or “on the rocks”: If you know the difference between single malt and blended, have a brand of choice, or can describe what “smoky” vs. “peaty” is, I’m talking to you. Miss Wingman was recently at a swanky cigar bar where practically every man in the place was drinking something that falls into this category. They wore custom shirts, shiny loafers and monogrammed cufflinks. And they had women in sequined tops with mile-long legs by their side…no coincidence, I’m sure.

The man who drinks Johnnie Walker Blue or an aged Macallan comes across as self-assured, mature, and has at least some appreciation of the finer things in life. But fret not, fellas, it doesn’t have to be a cost prohibitive spirit. A glass of a lesser brand isn’t taboo in our eyes. This type of drink just tells us that you either A) care enough about your taste to discern what you like, or B) just want people to think that. Beware: the line between “polished” vs. “prick” is a fine one in our eyes, and your attitude is the determining factor.

Mixed drinks of the vodka/soda variety: Regulation city. They’re not bad, but they don’t necessarily have any teeth to them, either. Full disclosure: a Ketel/soda is usually my order too. Guilty as charged. But then again, I’m a chick. If vodka truly is your drink of choice, then bottoms up my friend. But if it’s just because you can’t think of anything better, I assure you – there are more exciting ways to get f**ked up.

Beer (higher end): Imports, micro brews, IPA’s, lagers, etc. (think Stella, not Schlitz): Now you’ve graduated to a level of drinking that at least has some thought put into it. Find the most unusual beer name on the menu and order that – it’s always a fun experiment. Plus, if it’s good, we might ask you for a sip.

Wine/champagne: Red or white, bubbles or not, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes these are just a nice alternative to beer and liquor – especially if you know something about them. It’s a sexy man who is knowledgeable about different regions or reserves. Just make sure to order them in an environmentally appropriate setting. As in, don’t be the guy who orders a bottle of Moet in a sports bar (cough *D-bag* cough).

Jameson/Guinness: Hell, I’d marry you right then and there (but maybe I’m just biased towards both of these).

Craft beers: In all honesty, I had to Google what this even means. And I’m sure I’m not the only female who doesn’t fully grasp what it entails. It’s mostly lost on us, except those who do the whole home brew thing. Now that’s a hobby I can get behind.

Jaeger, Four Loko or anything in a red solo cup: You’re probably not even old enough to be reading this site.

Also, you’re up in beer pong, bro. Rack ‘em.

Fruity cocktails or frozen drinks of the umbrella-bearing variety: I mean, do I really have to spell it out for you? Yikes. Unless you’re on vacation, in which case – pink, blue and cherry-topped all the way.

Tequila: A damn fine beverage, though probably not one we’d like to see you drink exclusively or often. Tequila is fun. Too much fun. Though it can be drank in a quality way, most of us – myself included – know no moderation here. Partake at your own risk, but if you must, leave the training wheels to us (lime and salt is for the ladies).

Absinthe, Moonshine or anything that was ever outlawed: Unless the girl you’re talking to just climbed up onto the bar and is pouring shots into people’s mouths, most of us aren’t adventurous enough to hang. Best to seek out women in spring break bars. Or in Ibiza.

Sambuca, Frangelico, etc: Wait, how old are you? These tell us that either you’re A) geriatric or B) mafia-affiliated.

Calm down, I can say that, I’m Italian.

Cocktails of the Manhattan, Martini, or Tom Collins variety: We like men who hearken back to a classier time. (“Mad Men,” anyone?) A solid choice, just beware – you also might remind us of our dads.

Hope this list helps, boys. Drink smart, drink often, and drink responsibly. The man who buys our beverage or gives a solid toast gets style points, too. So raise your glasses, gentlemen, but remember: Keep your love lives off the rocks, but your drinks on them. ETIQUETTE WINGMAN

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CAN MEN AND WOMEN REALLY BE FRIENDS?

It never ceases to amuse me how men and women can look at the same situation from two completely different angles. No place is this disparity more glaring than in matters of male/female friendships.

True story: In having a conversation with a female friend recently, she referred to a guy with whom she spends time. I asked if they’d ever dated before, and her response was, “Oh god no, we’re just friends.”

BOOM. There it was. Her justification for being able to continue hanging out with him: that she felt no weirdness or sexual tension. She simply just didn’t view him “that way.”

I told her I’d bet a million dollars that if a guy asked that same male friend what the nature of his relationship with her was, that his answer would be something along the lines of “I haven’t hit that yet, but as soon as I get the chance, I’m all over it.”

And why am I so sure about that? Because the sad truth is, as much as I’d love to believe differently, men and women can’t just be friends.

No way, no how, no matter how altruistic and pure-intentioned we think we’re capable of being. It just doesn’t work that way.

A woman can look at a male in her life and classify him as a “friend,” with no intention of ever removing him from that platonic category (The dreaded Friend Zone, sorry boys – I’ve tried to help). While a man can look at that same woman and label her not as a “friend,” but more like a female he just hasn’t slept with yet. Both are accurate from each person’s perspective, but the difference is one of intentions. Ours? Harmless. Yours? Up to no good, if we let you.

So in keeping with that honesty, here’s my confession: I’ve always been a girl who enjoyed hanging with the boys more than my own gender. Sure, I have lifelong friendships with girls who I’d trust with my life, and who I thoroughly appreciate and value. That type of female camaraderie is precious. But that said, with very few exceptions, I’ve always been more comfortable amongst the Y chromosome crowd. Room full of dudes? My favorite place to be. Room full of females? My own personal version of hell. Even still, I’m under no delusions about the nature of our “friendship.” And any woman who isn’t aware of it should read this, too.

I don’t mean to sound disparaging to my fellow females, but guys are more low maintenance, transparent, and they carry with them very little drama. We, on the other hand, can be finicky, passive aggressive, and tend to place ourselves and our friendships into a social hierarchy in which inevitably someone gets left out.

And if hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? Then watch out, because we can hold grudges with the best of ‘em. So it’s no wonder that some women gravitate toward guy time. We just need to realize that the sexes have entirely different end games in mind.

But going back to the statement that we can’t just be friends, it’s necessary to finish it off with “….unless one of four things is at play.” If one of these factors is activated, then a male/female friendship can exist in perpetuity. And what are those four things? I’m glad you asked, boys, because it’s about to get real up in here.

1- One or both of you is taken. If either side of the friendship has a significant other (or historically has over the duration of your friendship, thus preventing the proper timing needed to act upon your attraction), then it’s fair game. Taking the possibility of hooking up off the table pretty much diffuses the sexual tension time bomb, temporarily at least.

2 – You’ve already consummated that attraction in some way. Whether with just a drunken make out session or a full-blown hook up, if you’ve seen that person with bedhead the next morning, sometimes that’s all the action you need. Once the thrill of the chase is over and you’ve reached that (sometimes anti-climactic) pinnacle, men and women can often go back to being friends. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen again later down the line. Hey, who doesn’t love a good encore?

3 – Something is legitimately preventing you from taking things to a non-platonic level. What could those things be? That you’ve dated their best friend and are now off-limits, the hot girl is your buddy’s sister (thus he would kill you), or that one of you is flat out not attracted to the other. If you’d rather hook up with a blood relative than get with her or him, that would make it easy to hang out without getting physical. Also, sucks to be them, for what it’s worth.

And finally, 4 – That you just plain haven’t hooked up yet, but it’s coming. And if the case is that it’s bound to happen sooner or later, then you’d better buckle up, because you never know if it’ll be a bumpy ride afterwards.

As with many of my steadfast decrees, I’ll add a final addendum: I reserve the right to be wrong. Perhaps there are totally healthy, platonic friendships out there between men and women. Look at Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock (totally gonna hook up). Or Chandler and Monica (definitely got it on). Or no, here you go – Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. Oh hell, who are we kidding? They’ve totally f***ed. Whatever – no disclaimer necessary. See? I was totally right all along.

But whichever category you fall into, realize that true friends are hard to come by. And however you consider said friend – with benefits or without – always remember to consider their feelings above all else. Mostly because it’s good karma, but also because you never know when the embargo could be lifted. Happy Friday, my friends. May your weekends be filled with good company, great possibility and even better stories –MW.THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID

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HOLD THAT THOUGHT: THE ARGUMENT FOR “I DO” vs. “I DON’T”

I have a confession to make. I give advice on finding love for a living, but I’m not sure I really believe in marriage.

Um, what?

I know. Ridiculous, right? Especially since I’m not a child of divorce. I didn’t grow up rife with daddy issues or commitment phobias. In fact, I had an exceptional marital example to emulate. My parents just celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary and they still, to this day, hold hands walking together and share a soda with two straws. It’s sickeningly solid, really.

But after reading a recent New York Times article called “Missing the Boat – A Case for Marriage,” where the author argues that she doesn’t really believe in “happily ever after” but does think there’s something to be said for the necessity of marriage, I couldn’t stop thinking about the topic.

She said marriage was necessary because having that contract made it harder for someone to walk away, and I couldn’t help but wince at that rationale. Incidentally, I think a lot of married people would wince, too. So, when I was finished ruminating on it, I arrived at the following conclusion: Sorry, Jessica Bennett, but you’ve got it all wrong.

In fairness, let me emphasize that not only was the article outstanding, but she was also unflinchingly honest – a move I respect from anyone, regardless of whether or not our ideologies align. In it, Bennett tells the story of how she turned down her boyfriend’s proposal at the age of 24 (ouch – but good for her for recognizing that she wasn’t ready), and how they somehow managed to stay together for several years afterward. Despite her publicly professing how marriage was an obsolete, broken institution. Despite her believing that it wasn’t required to have a happily ever after with someone. Despite the fact that he was devastated.

You could ride off into the sunset without the piece of paper, she swore, no one was stopping your horse to ask for documentation. It would all work out just fine in the end. She even published an anti-marriage diatribe, she was that convinced.

So it was strange that somewhere along the way, this formerly marriage-shunning female changed her mind that she did want the romance, the wedding, the big profession of love in front friends and family. Only it was too late, he never recovered from her rejection, and he left her in the end.

Sometimes we hurt people so badly that when the wound heals, they can’t allow themselves to go back there again. No matter how much we want them to, or how badly they might, too. Resentment runs deep, and if you’ve ever caused that kind of pain to someone, you know what I’m talking about. And you also know that the guilt you carry as a result of it runs even deeper.

But back to the article…Bennett’s view on marriage had somehow pivoted 180 degrees, from “it’s unnecessary” to “there’s something to be said for it” over time, which is what drove her to write the present day argument. If I’m forced to choose between the two? My opinion might not sit so well with some of you I’m afraid.

I believe her previous mindset – that you could live happily with someone for life without the marriage police hunting you down – was spot on. But this is a realization I arrived at later in life. After I’d opted off the nuptial train (or at least one that was headed down that track). After I’d seen how much harder it was than I’d anticipated to get “there” – wherever “there” was – to be in the proper mindset for marriage. After I knew in my heart that allowing someone to think that you’re ready when you’re not would’ve been much crueler and messier in the end.

If timing is working against you, however, there’s nothing more brutal than realizing you’re leaving someone you love standing at the station as you pull away. And knowing they probably won’t still be there when you return. Such is life, I suppose, but it doesn’t make it suck any less.

Which is why I believe too many people allow the momentum of their circumstances to keep them in a situation that they know isn’t right. It’s (part of the reason) why half of all marriages fail, because people don’t listen to their gut.

It’s why I’ve begun to lose count of how many of my friends are divorced, and why none of us even think twice about it anymore. “Did you hear about so and so?” we say to each other. And then as quickly as it’s brought up, it’s dismissed. No big deal, we think, moving right along…

Dating people who’re divorced is no longer such a daunting prospect as it was when we were younger, either. Now it’s a side note in someone’s characteristics list. Like being left-handed. Or a Mets fan (*Miss Wingman note: I’d rather date someone divorced with 10 kids than someone who loves the Mets, if we’re being honest).

To that end, I can literally line up all of my married friends and speculate which couples among them will stand the test of time, and who I just bought a very expensive gift for their first wedding. And I bet for the most part I’d guess correctly. Sadly, there will be more hatch marks in the latter category to come, I doubt we’ve seen the last of it (especially with all of you people cheating these days, cut that s**t out already, for real).

Which is why I say that you can have just as healthy and functional a long-term relationship with a non-spouse as you can with someone to whom you’re legally married. The piece of paper is all well and good, but I prefer that the person I end up with sticks around because he considers me the love of his life, not out of contractual obligation.

Sure, having that contract makes it harder to walk away from someone, but shouldn’t your commitment to him or her – regardless of the formality – be what makes it so hard instead? Be there because you want to, not because your vow requires it, at least that’s what I believe. And if the person still breaks their promise and decides to walk away, then maybe it wasn’t so right in the first place.

That said, I’m from a family of hardcore Catholics, so this was not an easy mentality to settle upon. I believe that marriage is a big deal because it’s a sacrament (a what? apologies for the faith specifics), thus should never be taken lightly. If you do it, you do it once and you do it right – and you fight like hell to keep working at it every day.

But not a lot of my peers seem to feel this way anymore, so I’m not sure which is outdated, my view or the institution itself. I only know that the follow through that needs to be there is waning, and that’s a damn shame.

Also, we shouldn’t be so afraid to take each other at our word. The prospect of saying to one another, “I love you. Do you love me? Good. Are you going anywhere? Good, me neither. Now sit tight,” shouldn’t incite a panic. If you really love someone, marriage can wait. We’re lucky to find our person at all, so focus on that in the meantime.

If you do choose marriage, that’s your right (well, if you’re heterosexual or live in one of the more liberal states, but don’t even get me started on how bullsh*t marriage inequality is…). If that’s what makes you happy, then you should absolutely do it. Just please don’t even consider walking down that aisle unless you’re certain that you’re ready to be a wife, not just a bride. To be a husband every day of your life, not just to placate her and then expect marriage not to be hard work.

And if you don’t see a difference between the two, then maybe that’s your answer.

In the end it all comes down to this: a ring on your finger shouldn’t give you any more validation or reassurance than not having one would. The unknown is the unknown, none of us can anticipate what life has in store. That’s just not something for which you can control. But even though it’s OK to have doubts about what life will throw at you, I’ll be damned if I’m going to have any doubts about the person I’m standing next to on the day when I say those vows. Or don’t say them, however it ends up shaking out.

Happily ever after may be an abstract, naive expectation, but being truly happy and committed isn’t. I’m beginning to sound like a broken record I fear, but if you follow your own timeline and don’t ignore your instincts, you’ll be fine. Whether you say “I do” or just “I don’t.”THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID

http://youtu.be/oYGtzFKBhEI

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