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Reach Out And Rush Someone

Three weeks ago, while I was out of town, I ran into a guy I grew up with. We exchanged phone numbers, and he called me the next night. We talked about maybe dating when he moves back to where I live (in three months). It’s been three weeks since he called, but I don't know whether I should call him. I don't want him to think I’m in a hurry to get into a relationship (we both just broke off engagements; mine, a year ago, and his, nine months ago; and we are both still young: I am 20 and he is 21). Will calling him make me seem too forward?

--On Hold

“Mr. Watson -- come here -- I want to see you...” shouted Alexander Graham Bell, making telecommunications history and the world’s first needy phone call at the very same time. Mercifully, it appears that he got cut off before he could add, “...about having my baby.”

Ringing your long-lost friend and blurting out, “Do you want to know at the ultrasound whether we’re having a boy or a girl?” probably isn’t in your best interest -- especially if you’d like to avoid giving the impression that your idea of a great first date is dinner and a wedding. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t call at all.

You could call when he’s in the middle of dinner to express your concern that he might be making a tragic error in choice of telephone service provider, or to prevent him from missing out on a “free” vacation in tsetse fly-infested swampland. (He pays only the psychic cost of sitting through a 12-hour lecture on investment opportunities in “Ten Plagues, Inc.” vacation timeshares.) The telephone can also be a great tool for letting others know they’re appreciated. Some callers do this verbally; others favor a nonverbal approach like heavy breathing. If this seems a little impersonal, not to worry, you’ll get credit when your home phone number reads out on the guy’s Caller ID.

Should you favor a gimmick-free approach, you might try a conversation -- an exchange in which one person phones another and asks stuff like “How are you?” and volunteers information about the kind of time they’ve had (or served -- depending on the company one keeps). Conversational calls (when made to a guy you barely know) should be spaced to seem casual -- one a week or one return call from you for every call from him. The idea is to leave him wondering a little -- and not about whether Tommy Lee Jones will play you in the TV movie: hunting him down with dogs and federal agents, clapping him in irons, and leading him on a chain to the altar.

What’s with the mad rush to become your parents? There’s a right time to think about getting married, and it isn’t while you’re still paying off the dress you wore to prom. Actually, nobody should be allowed to do anything permanent in their early twenties -- a time rarely referred to by anyone who’s emerged from it as “My Era Of Great Wisdom.” Right now, you’d probably find yourself remarkably compatible with vast legions of men. Unfortunately, that’s most likely because you have no clue as to who you are or what you stand for, and neither do they. If you marry really young, you are likely to end up sharing at least one idea: the opinion that it’s really dumb to get married really young. Now, there’s the perfect topic to express how much you and he have in common -- you and the guy who’s your first date after the divorce.

Copyright ©2003, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.