Our latest selection from the incredible paperback rack is a return to one of my favorite genres, self-help. Although the Velveteen Lounge is not a "singles' bar," and I'm not a guy, I felt it in the public interest to pass along some of the tidbits of wisdom from former Playboy Bunny Cathi Chamberlain's 1986 opus, How to Succeed in Singles' Bars (For MEN Only!). Chamberlain, as a professional cocktail waitress and frequenter of singles' bars, is uniquely qualified to weigh in on the various ways men screw themselves up in social situations. Let's take a look at some of her suggestions:

On grooming:

If you eat before going to the bar, be sure no flecks of food remain in your beard. One thing worse than finding hair in your food is finding food in your hair!

More than one gold chain, medallion, bracelet or ring is pushing it, unless the jewelry is very simple. Even then, never wear more than two of each. The man who wears more is rarely taken seriously by serious women. Rather, he tends to attract "gold-diggers" who are only after one thing: his money.

On making contact:

Let's assume you've smiled at the lady you'd like to meet. She smiles back. Okay, you've gotten her attention. She is well aware that she just smiled at you--don't worry that it may have been done unintentionally. If it was, she will make darn sure she doesn't do it again lest she send you the wrong message. She doesn't want that to happen any more than you do. Repeat this smiling ritual at least twice, then get ready to make some kind of move. Don't wait too long. She can get discouraged quickly. She didn't come to the bar to exchange smiles all night. Neither did you.

On pickup lines:

One evening as Jennifer, a close friend, and I were listening to a live band at a nightclub in Marina del Rey, California, a guy approached our table. He was dressed nicely, appeared well-mannered and excused himself for breaking up our conversation (a must if you want to avoid being treated as an intruder). He then turned to Jennifer and said, "Sorry if this sounds a bit weird, but I own an inflatable doll company and I'd love to fashion one of my dolls after you." Although this line could have been perceived as sexually offensive, Jennifer didn't take it that way because it was so clever.

It's a good thing I'm not Jennifer, because if a guy tried that line on me I'd immediately leave the bar and buy a gun. This book was previously owned by a gentleman named Frank, whose last name I'm leaving out to protect any chance he might have of scoring in the future, and who made copious notes and underlined entire chapters. I hope it did him some good. I was left with two impressions. The first is that I had no idea men were quite that clueless (she stresses the need for deodorant, fresh breath and the avoidance of super-tight pants). Anyone who needs to be told to shower is, I'm afraid, going to need more than a book to connect with Ms. Right. I also had no idea before this book that any sort of contact, short of a kick in the crotch, with a member of the opposite sex in a bar can be construed as flirting. Where have I been? Although I'd be leery of following most of the advice, How to Succeed in Singles' Bars (For MEN Only!) made me laugh until I cried. THAT alone makes it worth far more than the quarter I spent on it. Hell, I'd even recommend it at twice the price!

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