So what can one do but act on one's instincts and hope for the best? Not true, not true, not true. Happily, I can report after three decades of romantic misadventures that there are, in fact, 12 red flags that everyone should watch for: clear, specific dating warnings that mean Danger Ahead, Turn Back—no matter who you are or what you find charming. Read them here, then clip this page and carry it in your wallet or pocketbook for the rest of your single life, to be unfolded and re-read by the light of a public bathroom stall on every date that gives you doubts.
As clear as all this ought to be, I have to admit that sometimes—very occasionally—a red flag turns out not to be what you thought it was at all. It's still a red flag, that is, but somehow it's become ... part of the appeal. In the heat of last year's election season, I would have said, as a fervent Democrat, that a woman's being a Republican was the biggest red flag of all. I haven't changed my political views, but I did recently meet a very smart, very attractive journalist who came with a warning: She's an ardent neocon. The flag is still waving, but we're having a lot of fun, so I'm just ignoring it.
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Will this end up as another object lesson in my own theory? Or does love mean never having to pay attention to a red flag? I'll have to get back to you on that one.
The Dirty Dozen
Watch out for the Fling-o-matic, the Parent Trap, the Anger Hum, and these other stop signs.
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For clarity,"chronic" here means "three dates in a row." If your date arrives more than ten minutes late each time, don't wait for his (or her) fourth arrival. Be gone. No doubt your date will have wonderful excuses, and one or two may even be sound. But three in a row is a pattern, and what the pattern says is: I don't want to get into this. So neither do you.