Susan Deitz

DEAR SUSAN: Thanks for your words about friendship. I really hope they spark something for readers who see no point in pursuing relationships with anyone but those they consider potential romantic partners. Friendships are worth cultivating -- much like hobbies, classes, activities -- not because there's a chance they'll lead to romance but because they can enrich your life in ways you can't know at the start.

From the "Single File" blog

DEAR BLOGGER: Yes, yes, a zillion times yes! There is absolutely no way of knowing what a relationship will become at the start. Sometimes a friendship mutates along the way into a wholly different kind of togetherness from the kind you expected. That's the fun of moseying around your world and meeting all sorts of people there as a sort of roving interviewer. It comes with no salary, true, but think of the upside potential! Keeping notes is an option, too, jotting down your comments after each encounter, meant to be read by you some quiet evening when nothing much is happening. (Good for a laugh, if nothing else.) But in my experience, the best part of friendship is the kindness exchanged, warm feelings that aren't romantic or sexual but definitely qualify as closeness to another human being. For me, a life can't have too many of them.

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DEAR SUSAN: Ending a 15-year marriage has left me with questions. Has dating really changed, or am I just rusty? And how do I let it be known that I'm now ready to date? And if I, as a woman, do the asking, what is a good first date?

From the "Single File" blog

DEAR BLOGGER: The dating world has definitely changed in the 15 years you were sequestered. Women do less waiting and more initiating. Sex is possible on a nonromantic basis. (Ask me about casual sex casualties!) And romance is more of a partnership. But every change in the dating ritual occurs in the personal and private world of its two adults; the trajectory of each date is decided by the individuals' needs and standards. My drift is clear: Before entering the hazards of dating, it would be prudent to gaze deeply into yourself to gain clarity into what would and wouldn't feel right the morning after. That includes the issue of sexuality, naturally, but also consideration, kindness, respect.

It's a wild world out there; be ready for rejection, coercion and double talk. Some lessons must be learned on the job, but knowing yourself goes a long way toward survival. My advice is to approach dating obliquely, in ways that are less daunting than formal dating. Consider donating your time at a local soup kitchen, volunteering at the local United Way, asking for permission to read to hospitalized children. And don't forget those animals in shelters! I can't imagine a better meeting place than the SPCA.

Walk in those shoes a while and dating will assume its rightful place in your life -- as a nonessential.