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Holiday Dating

It's a scary proposition

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Early fall is the most difficult time to start something new. Especially if it's two people at the beginning of a budding relationship, sexfest, or whatever it turns out to be. It's the one time of year that's jam-packed with holidays that are family and couple-oriented, and if the relationship is new, you never know what the general protocol should be. More often than not, during this time of year, judgment calls turn out wrong.

Holidays at other times of the year are pretty easy to get though. St. Patrick's Day -- you go to a bar. Memorial Day -- you go to a bar or the races, which is basically the same thing. Independence Day -- you cook out, go boating, watch fireworks, and then go to a bar. Labor Day -- you skip work and, yep, you go to a bar. Come on, admit it; so far this year, you've had a ready-made plan for all the holidays -- something definite to do, an agenda that wasn't too hard to keep. I know I can't be alone. If you check out uptown Charlotte the night before any of these holidays, or the day of, it's packed.

With Halloween soon approaching, though, it gets a little scary. The coming of Halloween means that Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's are just around the corner. While you'll probably take comfort in knowing that by the end of the year chances are pretty good you'll be back at a bar, you have to somehow figure out how to get through the next three holidays unscathed and without too much pressure.

Halloween has its own set of expectations: Do we dress up or not? Am I ready to go over and spend the early part of the evening with her family giving out candy to trick-or-treaters, or is mingling with small children too suggestive of the relationship heading to a whole new level? You can probably get out of the candy-giver role and get on to the business at hand, namely, skipping the family scene and enjoying your girlfriend dressed as a sex-crazed Morticia Addams -- or giving her visions of you as the vampire who's going to be biting her neck all night long. But keep in mind that the chances of you dodging the family on Turkey Day are slim to none. My advice is to use Halloween as an icebreaker. Go over to her, or his, home and watch the nieces and nephews eat candy corn until they're ready to throw up. So what if little Johnny is going to show you how funny he is by pushing pixie sticks up his nose? It's good practice for what is to come when the kids will eat very little breakfast on that day in November and will have all day to repeatedly whine, "When are we eating?"

On Thanksgiving Day, you'll be asked to sit down for dinner, and that will cause a whole other set of issues. For me one year, it was being greeted by a spread of food with a family who followed Greek Orthodox tradition by having roasted lamb and other authentic Greek foods for dinner -- foods that I not only didn't care for, but loathed. I was very careful not to offend my host, I remarked on how great everything looked, and then spent the longest hour of my life choking down a lamb chop with mint sauce and feta cheese. Hey, it could happen -- never assume everyone serves turkey. If you're lucky, they'll at least serve a good wine.

Once you and your budding relationship have survived Thanksgiving, it means the Christmas holiday is almost exactly a month away. An entire month of torture, sweating out whether or not to give a gift to the person you're dating, and what price range to pick for the investment. It's always a sticky situation, especially if the relationship has been casual. There's nothing more uncomfortable than one person giving a gold bracelet and receiving a mid-line sweater or cologne from the other -- and that's on top of the tension of wondering if they'll like the gift or not. Or even worse -- and believe me, this has happened -- you give the girl a pair of diamond earrings and she breaks up with you a week later. Christmas isn't supposed to be about gift giving, but come on -- it does weigh on your mind a bit.

Just take comfort in the fact that once you've made it through Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, you're home free for almost another year, provided you actually survived. New Year's Eve is a great excuse to celebrate a year of accomplishments, or even just a season of them. How hard can it be? Just get all dressed up in your glittery best and go out to a fabulous dinner and some bubbly champagne -- with traditional public smooching starting promptly at midnight, how badly could the night possibly end?

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