Serial monogamy can be hazardous to your health, warns Salon.com television columnist Carina Chocano in her book Do You Love Me or Am I Just Paranoid? Addressed largely to 24- to 32-year-olds who, says Chocano, no longer date but jump from one intense, long-term relationship directly into another, Do You Love Me offers some delicious advice for those who are romantically entranced, constantly infatuated and perpetually entangled.
Take, for instance, Chocano's wry tips on "How to Be a Serial Monogamist" or how to keep the relationships coming. The best way, naturally, is to be "devastatingly beautiful." If that's not within your reach, develop an attractive personality, a goal attainable by anyone "thanks to the widespread availability of personality-enhancing chemicals and the vast army of personal gurus at our disposal."
With serial monogamy, unlike casual dating, warns Chocano, comes inevitable compromise and sacrifice. But negotiating the minefields of compromise becomes a cakewalk with a few simple instructions:
Step 1: Lower Your Standards. Start by asking yourself the following:
Does he really have to be attractive?
Does he really have to be smart?...
Does he really have to be clean?
Does he really have to be sane?
Step 2: Question Your Instincts
Your gut is telling you to run far away. Pretend not to hear it ...
Step 3: Accentuate the Positive
Before dismissing someone as "ugly" or "crazy," take the time to examine his positive qualities:
Is he wonderfully weird?
Is he thrillingly obsessive-compulsive?
Is he expertly medicated?
And so on. You get the picture. Is Chocano kidding? Yes, with wild abandon. But not completely.
"The entire book is tongue-in-cheek," she explained in a recent telephone interview. "But the phenomenon is real. I'm talking about a generational thing. People used to date 20 or so people and marry the best one. And people used to date a long time before they actually got involved.
"Now, the goal is unclear. The pattern isn't as socially sanctioned. When women and men get out of one long, committed relationship, generally it just happens again and again and again, not necessarily leading to marriage or permanence."
At the urging of an editor, Chocano set out to write a guidebook for her generation's dating game, dubbed serial monogamy. The end result is biting, ironic, incisive and painfully funny, and it sets the traditional love advice manual on its ear.
"Take a guidebook on love, how to find love, on how to have a good relationship," she explained. "While they're supposed to be helpful, really they instill fear with their huge expectations."
In Do You Love Me, Chocano takes those expectations to an all-time low. Consider her chapter "Review: The Seven Phases of Love, or, What Just Happened?" a post-relationship inventory. Here are the seven phases:
Phase 1: Attraction Sprinkled with Anxiety
Phase 2: Dating Laced with Irritation
Phase 3: Exclusivity Accented in Resentment
Phase 4: Commitment Punctuated by Repugnance
Phase 5: Cohabitation Soaked in Loathing
Phase 6: Separation Peppered by Longing
Phase 7: Breakup Suffused in Everlasting Love
Admit it. You can fill in the blanks.
Chocano's a clever, quick-witted writer and her book is an amusing anti-Valentine, dedicated to spotting huge potholes and driving right over them.
The author's candid advice for the infamous day of love, Feb. 14?
"Expect nothing. Usually holidays are prime argument time because of all the expectations,"said Chocano. "This holiday sets you up to expect the impossible, whether you get nothing or something. It tends to bring out the shortcomings rather than the good stuff. I would just avoid it at all costs."
-- Kathryn Eastburn