James Roberts

James Roberts

Nowadays there’s quite an assortment of possibilities for meeting a romantic partner: numerous online dating sites, Meetup happy hours, Facebook and, of course, chance meetings with your crush in a grocery store line.

But now that your Christmas tree — or whatever décor you fancy during the holidays — is just a fond memory from last month (you have taken yours down by now, right?) it’s time to recognize what podcaster Brian Dunning, in a totally different context, calls “The Christmas Tree Puzzle.”

As you know, a proper “holiday tree” (as we’ll call it) involves strings of adjoining blinking lights — on, off, on, off — just like the potential partners you encounter in real life. Now imagine your potential romantic partners as blinking lights...sometimes they’re on (at the same place, either physically or mentally) and sometimes they’re off...who knows where?

So, the problem is that when you meet a new person, you can’t just go and ask for their phone number right off without sounding either presumptuous or a bit cagey. You could offer to send them the name of the movie you were both struggling to remember, or the store where eggs were selling for less than the price of gold. But you still need some contact info and probably at least tacit permission to make the contact. Unless...they ask for you to initiate this (with online dating, as much as people say they hate it, it's actually a bit easier since presumably both of you have a motive to meet. Score “1” for TinBumberMatch).

Back to our blinking lights. Each illuminated bulb represents a potential connection. It's on for a while, and then it's off so the object of the game is to have both your bulbs “on” at the same moment.

Now, the nice thing about Meetup events is that you can see who’s signed up for the event. Sadly, according to actual stats from Meetup organizers, there’s about a 60% chance they’ll blow off their RSVP and won’t show up. So, although both lights are blinking during the sign-up period, all too often one of the lights goes dark when you take the trouble to show up.

What’s a guy/gal to do?

First off, if it’s a Meetup, show up, dang it all, if you’ve RSVP’d. But seriously, the Male Call Advisory Board just threw their collective hands up and the best we could come up with is: “Stop blinking and keep your bulb on whenever you’re out on the town.”

As to my own holiday tree, I have now delayed taking my tree down for so long that I decided to re-brand it as my “Valentine tree.”

James Roberts is a significantly over-40 Phoenix-based writer, author of “On Being Eight Again and The Tao of Coyote.” He has been exploring the dating scene and collecting tales of woe for many years.

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