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"Date my friends? What do you mean, 'date my friends?' My friends are married!"

True, after you're married, most of your friends end up being other married couples, whether because everybody in your old crowd climbed life' s ladder (graduate/get job/get married/have kids...) at the same pace you did, or because the old crowd drifted apart and was replaced by a new crowd, met at work or through kids' activities or otherwise discovered already perched upon the same rung as you. And then you fell off.

So why do the relationship experts urge you, post breakup and seeking, to look around at the people you already know rather than hit the bars or the personals, and why do I, whether writing about safer sex or how to find a boyfriend, keep coming back to what ought to be such infertile ground: date your friends! How could such advice possibly make sense?

Well, for many would-be daters, it doesn't, of course. When I brought it up in a safer-sex context it was to say that if you happen to be in a position where dating friends and friends-of-friends is comfortable or even possible, it often comes along with a special additional side-benefit of not having to be quite so alert to danger at every moment. You can actually know, for instance, that somebody is likely as disease-free as he claims to be, the same way you know that he wasn't recently in jail or rehab and did not once fake his own death to escape crippling debt and a shrewish wife by abandoning his car half-sunk in the Okefenokee.

You know the guy; you know these things. It was nice to know, for instance, when I was seeing (and, eventually, marrying) K, that he wasn't the sort to profess his abiding and eternal love right before taking his old girlfriend back and expecting me to climb happily aboard the polyamory train with both of them, and to then keep wondering crossly why I kept crying all the time. Not that you'd expect to encounter such rank rat-bastardism twice in a row, but just in case, it was comforting to me that my new boyfriend and I had been part of the same circle of friends (which included the rat bastard, of course, and still does) for a good ten years already and if he were the type to pull that sort of stunt on women I'd probably have heard about it by then.

Add in the likelihood that people you already know (on purpose, anyway) are likely to share not only some of your experience but some of your worldview, values, and cultural references as well, and toss in the fact that unlike total strangers, your circle of friends is easily accessible and probably returns phone calls, and it becomes unnecessary to hunt any further for an answer to "why date your friends? Why you shouldn't is, of course, another matter.

Next time: Why you shouldn't!

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