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The Talk 

By the time you read this, Valentine's Day will be receding into the rearview for another 360-plus days, much to our satisfaction. The Observer has nothing against love, having been in it for over 20 years with a wonderful woman we met several professions for both of us ago. But we do have a bone to pick with Valentine's Day, that holiday that seems to be designed to make everybody making an attempt feel both financially poorer and a bit inadequate.

Love and romance have always been a trial by combat for The Observer if you want to know the truth, from the moment of our first teenage kiss late one night, leaned against the hood of a threadbare 1963 Chevrolet convertible slumbering in dust in one wing of Pa's 1,000-bale hay barn — a scene straight out of a Bob Seger song. The Observer's love 'em and leave 'em days are behind us, thank God, but it is all back on our mind because of Junior, of course, 18 now and soon headed off to college, where he will surely make the mistakes in romance, commerce and culinary excellence his Dear Ol' Pa has been warning him against since pretty much the day he began to grasp language. Plentiful folly lays ahead for that child, we fear, as it does for every child. Plentiful victories, as well, but those are always tempered a bit by the mistakes we made to reach them, aren't they?

Junior's Dear Ol' Pa has been puzzling over what to say to him about amour ever since a few weeks before his 18th birthday last summer. We gave him The Talk when he was 13, the one we wished we'd received when we were that age, telling him he wasn't weird; that he hadn't, in fact, invented new ways to sin in the eyes of God; that bad things wouldn't happen to him if he didn't cut that shit out, if, indeed, he was getting up to that shit, which was none of my business. At 18, The Observer figures, we should have a corresponding bit of advice about all the other stuff that usually comes with being an adult with a license, an apartment with a mattress in it and a sex drive. The problem, The Observer sees now, is that we're all still a little cloudy on that ourself, and especially on any wisdom we might give to a young man just walking into the room which we, at some point in the next 20 years or so, will be checking out of. What is there to say?

Here's something: Ask questions on a first date, but not so many that the datee starts to feel like they're taking the LSAT. That's a good one, we suppose. Be yourself, but chew with your mouth closed. Being able to make a lover laugh is worth any amount of ripped abs and cut pecs. Be less "John Wayne" and work toward "Han Soloesque." Listen for the "Oooooohhhh," and then do what caused it more. Buy condoms well before you need them, but don't spend extra on the superthin realfeel with extra sensitivity lube, because they're all terrible, as is the act of putting one on, like skinning a rabbit in reverse. That said: If you're gonna love, wear the glove. Sex in cars sounds fun, but actually isn't, because clothes. Call her, because there's always the chance she's waiting for your call and if not, you took the initiative. Here's a biggie: A person who is too intoxicated to drive is too intoxicated to give enthusiastic, informed consent, and that includes you. There are scumbags in the world who are always willing to take advantage of those who are momentarily more vulnerable or temporarily weaker than them. Don't be a scumbag. Oppose all scumbags, violently if necessary, because the damage they do can last a lifetime. Three solid positions is all anybody really needs. Any more than that, and you're just showing off, not to mention testing your partner's patience. Don't listen to Cosmo magazine sex tips.

That's all the advice we've got on that point. Beyond that, we're still at a loss. You'll figure it out — probably — so happy trails, pilgrim. Or should that be: May the force be with you?

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