Wanted - A Man Who Goes With Everything

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Looking for a guy who’ll charm your boss, impress your dad and never, ever scratch there in public what you need is Port-a-Man – the date you can take anywhere, says Gemma Askham

“Do you know what Chris did when he farted in bed last night?” Er… “He punched his first in the air and went, ‘Yeaaah, 8 out of 10!’” my friend Kathryn told me over lunch last week. “I was relieved – at least it wasn’t in front of my mum this time.”

It’s dating law that, after a while, and behind closed doors, things get relaxed (and by ‘relaxed’, I mean ‘Neanderthal’). But in public, we want buttocks clenched, hands away from balls, eyes away from waitresses’ breasts and conversation away from the gutter. Because it doesn’t matter how great a guy is in bed, in the kitchen or even if he has an unusually accurate toilet aim: he needs to be able to handle himself out of the house. Imagine your favourite handbag in man form: the one you can take anywhere and is instantly adored. This is the Port-a-Man. So damn likeable, so civilized, so… where is he?

Port-a-Man skill 1: Manners with strangers

I once dated a guy who was decent in every way, apart from his incessant need to correct people’s pronunciation. He’d do it with waiters and wine lists; taxi drivers and names of footballers; mums on the bus talking about chicken Kievs. “Er, hi, sorry, I’m not being rude, but it’s not said ‘keeve’…” (No, you are being rude). It was like a nervous tic that ticked everyone else off.

Description: Port-a-Man skill 1: Manners with strangers

Then there was the cheapskate who point-blank refused to tip, arguing, “No one tips me, do they?” No, because you work in a bloody office! I never quite understood his stinginess (because he was quite the giver elsewhere) until I met his dad. The same, the trick here, according to dating expert James Preece, is to treat Mr Social Gaffe like a dog. “If he behaves badly, withhold your attention. When he’s extra polite, reward his good behaviour – so, kiss him or squeeze his hand. After a while (around ten times), he’ll start automatically doing nice things to get this.”

Port-a-Man skill 2: Dressing the part

Description: Dressing the part

I’ve witnessed several fashion fails on dates. One guy had bird poo on his back. The worst wore a waistcoat he’d made himself out of a material best described as public. This is not Port-a-Man behaviour. Nor is a T-shirt that reads: ‘FBI: Female Body Inspector’ (this actually happened to my friend Lucy), or hiking shoes unless you’re on a hike. Even if the restaurant is named after something outdoorsy (The Ivy says). The moral: if you find yourself meeting 30 minutes early – not for an aperitif but in anticipation of an emergency detour via Topman – take action. I once very successfully hid a pair of horrendous sunglasses in my car glovebox until the guy forgot he owned them. If this fails, throw out the offending item. Or him.

Port-a-Man skill 3: Working a party

For some social invites (old friend’s wedding, important work bash), it’s OK if your first thought is, ‘Can I leave him at home?’ faced with a room of strangers, a small-talk-shy guy often ends up at the bar, drunk, or by your side, silent. “I threw a party last year and had to be attentive to a lot of people. My ex brought four friends, but still ended up glued to my side, at one point bleating, ‘After you’ve got other people drinks, are you going to look after me?’ He was almost 40,” says Alex, 31.

Description: Port-a-Man skill 3: Working a party

James says a social clam isn’t a lost cause but prepare him. “There’s pressure for a shy guy to have to talk to people he doesn’t know; he’s scared they won’t think he’s good enough. So first, give him ammunition. Get him into some zeitgeist TV [e.g. hot new US show Person Of Interest] – always a conversation starter. If possible, have him meet one other person who’ll be there beforehand, and fill him in on key people’s interests: ‘You’ll love Jen’s boyfriend, he’s an Arsenal fan too.’ Second, give him an ego boost before you go out, with compliments that remind him of what attracted you to him.” One friend’s husband used to be so nervous that he once sat in silence for an entire evening with her uni friends. “After that, I told him how important it was that he could be the relaxed person I knew, so my friends could know him like I did. It worked: he’s made a huge effort since then.”

Port-a-Man skill 4: Charming your family

During a decade-plus of dating, I’ve done my bit to win over boyfriends’ parents. I’ve complimented meals (even bad ones). I’ve cooed over those model soldiers men like to paint. I even took an interest in George W Bush for the sake of one hot son of a Republican (what can I say? I was 18, I’d never kissed an American, I wanted to continue to do so.) And while I’d never want a robotic suck-up of a guy, I expect something. Pleasant.

Description: Port-a-Man skill 4: Charming your family

Unlike the ex of Lisa, 28, who went to a wedding with her parents and got so drunk, he passed out in their car on the way home. “When he came to, he mistook my dad for a taxi driver and tried to pay him, then stumbled out of the car and was sick in front f our house.” Or the charmer that Jessie, 34, once dated: “At my grandma’s 70th birthday, my father saw my dress and said, ‘Gosh, kiddo, you look beautiful.’ My then-boyfriend piped up, rubbing his hands together: ‘Yeah, I’d do you!’” But when a guy gets it right…wow. As Debbie, 33, who has a good one, knows. “He nods sagely when my dad drags him off to chat ‘tools’, smiles sweetly when my deaf granny shouts in his ear and always asks relatives to dance at wedding, all of which means a lot to me.”

So, yes, we’ll overlook a bit of wind in the bedroom. Because when it comes to men, we’re about the portable, not the perfect. After all, no one wants a guy so good that he makes us look bad.

The Port-a-Man training plan

Make any guy plus-one friendly, with tips from Jeff Wilser, co-author of The Man Cave Book

  1. Act like his co-conspirator Say, “Yeah, I know my parents can seem prudish, but they really aren’t into jokes about blow-jobs – can we keep it clean tonight?”
  2. Play to a nervous guy’s strengths Think about something he’s excited to talk about – cars, travel, bondage (OK, maybe not bondage) – and steer the conversation in that direction.
  3. Buy the bad dresser a new shirt Obvious? Maybe, but it works. Tell him that when he visits your parents, he’d look great in that new top. (Unless he’s completely clueless, he’ll get the hint.)
  4. Laugh off a Neanderthal moment “Oh my God, you just scratched your balls – busted!” Nest time he does it, elbow him and whisper “Dude!” with a smile. It’s better than a Big Talk (which rarely ends well).
  5. As for the guy who hits on your friends or tells racist jokes… Sometimes a guy acts like a prick because he is actually a prick. Are you sure you want to date him?
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