Dating a Jock

It’s every man’s fantasy: a girlfriend who loves to play and watch sports as much as he does. But dating a tomboy has its flip side. Do you play as hard? Do you let her win? Can you handle it if she’s better than you? Frankly, boys, it’s a minefield. Follow my advice if you want to get through it with all your parts intact.

The situation: She’s seriously athletic and has no qualms beating you. In front of your friends. Often.
The upside:
She’ll never make you come home at halftime. (And why would she? For her, that’s just midway through the game she’s winning.)
The problem:
She knows your weaknesses and injuries. She is wily, aggressive, and unrelenting. She has no problem handing you your balls at the end of any game you’re playing.
The solution:
You can’t ask her to take it easy on you, but you can recruit her to your team. So whenever you can, partner up with her. Get her to savor winning together, and maybe she’ll have some pity next time you’re head-to-head.

The situation: Her passion for sports is not exactly matched by her prowess.
The upside:
Tag football, Frisbee, miniature golf, kickball … If it’s a sport, she’s in. And shotgun.
The problem:
She strikes out, drops the ball, fouls, spaces out, and is in general the weakest link. She’s also your girl, so crushing her makes you feel like a cad.
The solution:
Level the playing field any way you can so she can still enjoy herself. Come up with an excuse as to why you should give her a head start or yourself a handicap. Most important in this situation: Allow yourself to really enjoy the game for the game’s sake.

The situation: She has a team for every season.
The upside:
She can pontificate on how Tiger’s scores are affecting the game of golf. She can home in on Jerome James’s apathetic performances. She can detail why the ref is picking on LeBron yet again.
The problem:
It’s always the opposing team. That’s right. You are UNC, she’s Duke. She’s Yankees, you are Red Sox. You are sleeping with the enemy. What this means? You disagree about sports. All. Year. Long.
The solution:
Enforce a “no talking about sports in the bedroom” rule. Pronto. You can agree to disagree about a foul or shot or resume the discussion the next day, but in general, when you pass through that doorway, sports banter should end and the pillow talk begin. Explain it to her this way and she’s sure to be game.

The situation: She’s obsessed with competition -- even more so than you are.
The upside:
If there’s a dart board, pool table or hacky sack in sight, she’s making a beeline for it.
The problem:
You never thought you’d say this, but you wish she’d pay more attention to you -- and not just to beating you.
The solution:
Your best bet here is honesty. Level with her. And then make plans for “we” time that doesn’t involve a pigskin, goal or referee: Try renting a movie or going to a concert. The more non-sports-related things you do together, the more non-sports-related content there will be to talk about, and all eyes should soon be on you.

The situation: She’s always in, whether she’s invited or not.
The upside:
While your buddies are getting the eye roll or pout from their ladies, yours is already changed into her sweats.
The problem:
It’s endearing but annoying that she’s always in tow when it comes to sports. Sometimes you wouldn’t mind playing -- or even just hanging -- with the guys.
The solution:
She lets you slither away when her friends mention a sale on boots or start complaining about their boyfriends. Well, flip the script. Tell her the guys want to talk guy stuff (if a buddy’s having girl trouble, even better), and she’ll most likely bow out of her own accord.

Photo Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/StanleyPhotography

Play Your Summer Romance Into Overtime

Even if you’ve never done a karaoke duet to the Grease song “Summer Lovin’,” you know how the lyrics wind down:

Sandy: “It turned colder – that’s where it ends”
Danny: “So I told her we’d still be friends … ”

Well, we don’t have to tell you that by the end of the movie, Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta return to being more than just friends! Autumn didn’t kill their summer romance, so why should it squash yours?

Sure, there are hurdles to extending a summer romance. But if you start planning now, you might be able to morph your bikini babe into your snow bunny.

Problem: She lives far away.
During the summer, you worked in the same company, camp or beach resort, so the fact that her year-round home is two hours and $26 in gas away wasn’t a problem. Now it is.
Solution:
Line up your calendars. A bit of good, old-fashioned planning can fairly divvy up long weekends and holidays. (Doing this while you’re still relaxed and have sand in your shorts is easier than trying to read her mind later.)

Problem: Long-distance love interests return.

Your girl comes back from her summer internship (darn -- you’d conveniently forgotten all about her!), or worse, her former love interest comes back from his sports-training camp. And his nickname is Skull Crusher.
Solution:
Make a pact to give yourselves a week, then talk about the status of the other love interests. Maybe hers will get deployed and yours will decide she didn’t like you anymore anyway. OK, things will probably be more complicated than that. But take a few days, then talk honestly to assess the situation and see how you feel.

Problem: Real life replaces summer.

Reality comes crashing down: The semester starts, or your boss is complaining about end-of-year goals, and all too soon you have to plan holiday gifts. Ah! What happened to your happy summer problems like whether to get rainbow or chocolate sprinkles?
Solution:
Start to negotiate real life again, and you’ll see if your relationship has any depth. Sure, you’ll yearn for July, but now you’ll be slapped out of being summer-happy and more able to see if you really are good partners in communicating and balancing life responsibilities.

Problem: You discover you’re from different worlds.
Summer routine and gear (read: shorts and T-shirts) were great levelers. But now with autumn here, you have to deal with old friends, hobbies, responsibilities, parents and siblings -- all of which might be very different from hers (maybe she’s an uptown girl and you’re a backstreet guy, or vice versa).
Solution:
Gauge the degree to which difference matters to you. If your September through May was pretty predictable, life isn’t. The chance to see and appreciate differences in people starts now. Maybe you have some learning to do, maybe she does. Perhaps it’s just a matter of telling your friends to simmer down and make room for your girl. Regardless, have an open mind.

Problem: Your relationship’s turning digital.

Now it seems time is scheduled into blocks and you can’t be as flexible with meeting up. In fact, texting is no longer a communication option -- it may be the only way you can touch base during the week.
Solution:
Make time for phone talk (remember that?) and Skype. They’re not as real as skin on skin, but they’re much better than just sexting in monosyllables while you wait at the gas station. You can even get really crazy and send a paper card, snail-mail-style (watch how amazing she’ll think that is!).

Meet Women at the Gym Now!

Regardless of whether your gym has an Olympic-size pool, it’s sure to have a great dating pool. And let’s face it: Unless you go there to sit outside the trampoline classes and stare at the leotarded (in which case … eww), you are at your buffest and best there. So don’t blow it with an opening line that’s so lame she shoots you down before you get anywhere near the part about her joining you for a smoothie and a protein bar.

Here are five common gym scenarios where you may find yourself weight belt to sports bra with a hot gymette. Follow this workout, and you might just meet a woman on your first set:

Location:

Stretching mats

Worst line:

“Wow, I see you’re really flexible. Are you a dancer?”

She thinks:

“‘Flexible?’ I know where your dirty mind is going with that, you perv.”

Best line:

“You seem like you know what you’re doing. Got any suggestions to stretch my hamstrings? They’re killing me – they’re so tight.”

The logic:

The second question seems more legitimate.

Location:

Water fountain

Worst line:

“Hey, leave some for the rest of us!”

She thinks:

“Wow, jerk. I’ve only heard that 50 million times.”

Best line:

“I swear, they really do manage to keep the water nice and cold here.”

The logic:

The first doesn’t leave her any way to respond if she does want to talk to you. The second one could be a conversation starter, plus it’s something everyone who’s parched might actually be thinking. (Of course, if the water’s a bit warm, you can comment on that instead -- though you might come across as a bit of a whiner.)

Location:

Free weights

Worst line:

“Need some help? You should hold it from this angle.”

She thinks:

“Just because I’m a girl using free weights, you assume I need help? You could use some help with your approach, tool.”

Best line:

“Damn -- 20 pounds. Not bad!”

The logic:

At last, an honest compliment from one fellow gym rat to another. That you noticed makes her feel strong.

Location:

The weights (machine or free). The situation: resting between sets

Worst line:

“I love this song,” referring to the music playing. Alternative: “Who’s winning?” referring to the game on TV.

She thinks:

“I’m wearing an iPod, dummy. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Best line:

“Do you mind if I work in?”

The logic:

This is the only direct question that makes any sense here. Any other directive breaks the gym cardinal rule, “Thou shalt never interrupt someone’s flow with an irrelevant question” (unless she’s screaming, “Drop dead, ref!” at the TV -- then, by all means, comment on the score).

Location:

At the bikes, treadmill, Stairmaster or elliptical

Worst line:

“Can I buy you a drink when we get there?”

She thinks:

“Aren’t you the same guy who used that stupid water fountain line before?”

Best line:

“Ugh cardio, it always feels so good to get it over with.”

The logic:

It doesn’t mean you love or hate cardio; it’s just a general feeling about how good it feels to be able to check it off your list. If she wants to add to your comment, she can; otherwise, you give her the out of just panting and nodding yes in agreement.

In case you haven’t figured it out after all this, when it comes to meeting women at the gym, the best lines don’t make a girl feel trapped -- or obligated to answer you. They also let you save face in case her boyfriend is the huge power lifter giving you the evil eye across the room.

Perfect Summer Dates

When it comes to romance, summer rules differ from those we follow the rest of the year. Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts that will turn those lazy summer days into busy summer nights.

DO...

... cool off:

It’s not so much that the hot summer days will make her feel more sensual. It’s more about the relief she’ll feel cooling off as the sun dips down. Use this to your advantage by planning evening outdoor dates. (And if your rendezvous does occur after dusk, don’t forget the mosquito repellent.)

... croon at the moon:

Plan big dates around full moons (there’s one up there right now, and it returns August 24). As if that weren’t enough, seal the deal by wowing her with moon trivia: July’s moon is called the Full Buck Moon because it’s when the new antlers of buck deer come out. August’s full moon is the Full Sturgeon Moon, when this large fish of the Great Lakes are most readily caught.

... use caution:

Seeing as how everyone already wears so little clothing during the summer, you might feel like going for broke with your girlfriend and ditching your textiles altogether … then proceeding to the next step (aka “doing what comes naturally”). On the other hand, if you’re not trying to get her pregnant, use protection. Every. Single. Time. Otherwise, come spring, you’ll be changing diapers.

... get wet:

Whether it’s waterslides, sprinklers or the beach, being in the water naturally relaxes everyone. Use this opportunity to tell her how beautiful she looks even without makeup.

... rock out:

Summer concerts are the largest concerts of the year and often encourage blankets, picnics and lounging (unlike indoor concerts). Take advantage of the situation: Don’t forget to pack a blanket, snack, refreshments and those cute little hand wipes, and know that attention to detail in what you bring will be something she’ll make a mental note of.

DON’T ...

... lose track of time:

Keep your eye on the clock since more daylight in the summer will make you underestimate the time and either make her miss her curfew or make you late for work.

... assume it will end:

Your summer fling doesn’t have to conclude in September. By the end of August, you might start thinking of her as someone you want to hang with in the fall ... the winter ... and maybe beyond!

... let her burn:

Use the very real need to protect her from dangerous UV rays as a reason to make sure you apply and reapply sunblock on her. Not only will you get to slather something onto her soft skin, you’ll demonstrate how much you care.

... lose your smarts:

Sure your libido gets a good workout in the summer, but make sure you keep your brain active too. After all, she may like the way you look shirtless, but having a copy of The Brothers Karamazov in your back pocket can also be really sexy to her (and will take the whole summer to read, trust us).

Turn Women on -- With Your Skin

If anything exemplifies the perplexing polarities of what women want, it’s men’s skin. She wants your face soft as a baby’s butt ... but with the rugged appearance of a veteran cowboy. She wants you to have that “JLo glow,” but the masculine version. She tells you to get regular melanoma screenings and to keep an eye out for suspicious moles -- all without keeping a pasty, Kabuki-white pallor. Go figure.

Here are five tips from the pros to achieve this feels-smooth-but-looks-rugged men’s skin dichotomy she finds so irresistible:

1. Drink up.

No, we’re not talking about beverages from a can or bottle -- we’re talking tea. Says Denise Vitello, spa director of the Mandarin Oriental in New York: Drinking warm ginger tea to support the circulation of blood will give you that flush chicks read as healthy and sexy (without the dripping sweat you get when you work out).

2. Read the labels.

No, not the protein and carb content in your protein shake (that’s another story), but rather the ones on your “products” -- from zit medication to sunblock. “The ingredients you put on your body are just as important as the ingredients you put in your body. Skin is the body's largest organ (it lives and dies) and needs nourishment to encourage regeneration of healthy skin cells,” explains Cecily Braden, president of Beauty Secrets, a company that produces organic skin care products for professional spa use.

3. Don’t suffer.

“Waiting to reach for the ChapStick and having your lips crack puts you at risk for lip cancer,” warns certified plastic surgical nurse Joan Dallal. So don’t think you’re pulling some kind of macho move by holding out -- you're just being mucho dumb. Bonus unfortunateness: “Men also have to reapply sunblock more often than women because they sweat more,” says Dallal.

4. Foresee your future.

“Your skin is nothing like your mom’s or sister’s -- it’s oilier and more acidic than women’s skin,” says Dr. Isabel Souffront, an internist specializing in cosmetic skin care. “Sure it’s denser, thicker and firmer because you have more collagen than women, but unless you take care of it, expect it to thin quickly and to have deep lines.” Bottom line: Pass the skin cream, bro.

5. Take time to shave.

“Rushing in the a.m. can really end up hurting your face if you’re multitasking and not paying attention,” warns Kristen Haines, winner of the Juli B Style Skincare Professional Esthetician of the Year award. What’s that, you say? You already shaved with too much pressure, against the grain, using a dubious razor? Soften the blow by reaching for moisturizer instead of aftershave.

You think she’s looking at your shoes or your bulging biceps? Nah, the first thing she notices is your skin, “so take that extra minute or two to pull that razor across your face and use the right product,” recommends Haines. “There is nothing sexier than a smooth, irresistible face.”