Ask Collins: A Correspondence

Chapter 1

Dear Malvin,

I have received your missive this morning and having perused the contents thereof, have wasted no time in forming a reply. I hope you will not take anything amiss but will grow in understanding and social grace. A young man such as yourself cannot be too careful in his presentation and form.

I must confess that I was greatly surprised to hear, Malvin, that you have not, before now, taken advantage of your post as a busboy. Your chief end, I believe, is to cart great amounts of people from one end of town to another. What are you thinking, boy? This is a perfect opportunity to market yourself to the young ladies and their escorts (whether that be mother or any other obliging matron). My suggestion is this that you with all due respect, listen for an opportunity within the lady's conversation for a chance to be of service. Perhaps the lady in question has lost her bus schedule and is unsure of when to return to the stop? Surely, a clever young man such as yourself could pull that off. I do not believe that your situation is so grossly bereft of opportunities to make yourself known to the gentle sex

Now, I must address the situations you have pointed out to me in which you suffered some confusion. To be sure, you should not be so surprised as you are by the reaction of your favorite. Since you seem to suffer some degree of mortification at the use of her name, I shall instead refer to the lady in question as Rosamond (which has always been a favorite name of mine) so that if by accident, this missive should fall into the hand of your good mother, she will have no opportunity of providing her Tuesday visitors with any juicy morsels that would be an embarrassment to yourself and a grievance to her. I shall try to avoid redundancy, but I must refer to what you have written. You say, Malvin, that you had the opportunity of escorting Rosamond home from a social event and that you parted on less than satisfactory terms. Well, that is hardly to be wondered at considering the topics with which you chose to endear yourself to said young lady.

Malvin, my lad, never confess that you are a overly fond of your mother. Though your behavior in regard to that good lady who brought you forth may be a little too obvious, you must never implicate yourself. It is the case that though females will often bemoan the absence of tender-hearted males, not one woman will ever brag upon the muscle of a mama's boy. Rather, this information will come back to bite you with such ferocity that you will inevitably loose a proverbial buttock if you are not on your guard.

Now, in regard to the excursion itself, remember, Malvin, that you are the one with the financial obligation. If you are going to pay, then pay. I understand, of course, that customs change in these modern times and that it is acceptable for two young people to "split" the expense. If this be the case, then do so when she offers her portion. I beg of you to not trifle with her as it only increases her discomfort (and coldness since you're making her pay to begin with) and lowers you in her esteem. The longer you hold out the stupider a fellow you appear. I confess that I was alarmed to learn that you had not only refused her money several times when she offered it, but when you did need it you asked her as though the thought had never entered her head! This is both boorish and insulting behavior. Oh yes, Marvin, never refer to her as a "very fine lady" ever again.

I congratulate you on your good sense in attempting to compliment your Rosamond. There is no better way to a woman's heart than through flattery. However, I would caution you to use your discretion. A woman, if one wants to hear it to begin with, need only have it pointed out once that she is blushing. I assure you, she already knows it, and your notice will (once again) increase her discomfort and her censure. And, had you not drawn attention to her crimsoned state, she may have responded to your thinly veiled inquiry into the inheritance of her cheeks with less confusion and more grace. Do compliment Rosamond's taste---in fact---always compliment her taste. Let her choose the outing; let her choose the music you listen to. You were right to ask her when you were out, but I'm afraid the sentiment was nullified when you ignored her request anyway and turned on the "Pirates of Penzance." Not only were you rude in overriding her but you probably didn't impress her when you sang over the lead vocal's solo. Oh, and Marvin, refrain from directing the Choir Invisible; never try to make her sing to you. I assure you that you were the only one amused by this.

I recommend that you avoid the question of artificial coloring of both skin and hair, especially since you are unable to check your disapprobation and censure of such females that do. Refrain from questioning her morals if she does and please refrain from declaring your undying devotion if she does not. Honestly. Women are a fiercely loyal sex and at this point you have done so little to recommend yourself that I fear Rosamond may be a brunette when next you meet.

Malvin, save politics and theology for after you have secured a wife, when there is no fear of losing her. If you truly feel that all women must adhere to archaic dress codes, a first date is not the place to mention it. Nor should you vent your spleen on the subject of those "odious officious hip-hop instruments" within the modern church (especially if you do not know the ideology of the lady in question, whose brother I happen to know plays the drums exquisitely). I am afraid that, besides mortifying her, you will invoke that legendary female obstinacy that will cause her to disagree with every word you say from then on---such as when you informed her that she was not a great walker nor fond of shopping. Never inform a woman.

This point also reminds me of yet another one of your faux pas moments. While it is certainly the case that women have not received such good treatment as they are want, your way of showing sympathy for their plight is left wanting. When outlining the list of travesties women suffer, I think it best to leave out such physical details as all of the parts of their bodies which require support as opposed to the one place on you. Never mention the "bandaging of bosoms" to her or to me.

Here is one more thing you must never do. When you sit down to dinner with Rosamond, do not compliment her unusually healthy appetite, especially if you are going to compare it to the bird-like diet of your sister who has been winning local beauty pageants for the last five years. I assure you that the young lady will not be sensible to the compliment.

Dear boy, by all means ask her about her interests. This will be especially useful when you wish to please her while courting. However, if she is not inclined to enjoy the same activities as you (such as sports), then refrain from calling her boring (especially since you are of rotund proportions yourself and have scarce left the couch to actually play them in favor of watching).

Last but certainly not the least, since I doubt that you actually have much of a chance in heaven with Rosamond, I suggest that you turn over a new leaf and start afresh with a new girl (possibly in a new town). My first suggestion as that you do not rely on your best friend to fit you up with a date. Secondly, if you do attempt to find a young lady on your own, do not start by asking why she doesn't have a boyfriend. Apologize if she does, and do not ask what's wrong with her if she doesn't.

Now, go forth young Malvin with full confidence that you will never have your knuckles rapped or a glass of water thrown in your face. Good luck.

Your Servant, etc.
O. Collins



2005 Copyright held by the author.


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