Examinations are formidable even to the best prepared, for even the greatest fool may ask more than the wisest man can answer.
C.C. Colton

What "self-help" book could be complete without a test?

Consider this a simulation rather than a traditional test of skills. There are no wrong answers. The purpose of these exercises is to test your resourcefulness, your ingenuity, and your presence of mind...
...when faced with one of "life's little surprises".

To get the maximum benefit from this test, take it twice. The first time, allow yourself no time to think. Answer with the first thing that pops into your head. In "real life", you need to react almost instantly to developing situations. The second time, you can allow yourself the luxury of pondering at length on what you should have done, a sort of leisurely post mortem.

Many of the situations presented here have actually taken place.

  1. As you walk from a store, a young woman approaches you. She boldly announces, with a mischievous grin on her face, that she had been watching you paw through the cookware. "I could tell, you add up the prices in your head", she says. How do you answer?

  2. Walking down the street, you notice an attractive woman several hundred feet away seem to stare at you, possibly even smile. Do you approach her? How? What do you say?

  3. At the supermarket, a well-dressed woman stares into your shopping cart. She remarks that you seem to have a special liking for canned spaghetti. Could she be "hitting" on you or is she just making a joke at your expense?

  4. You have been good, but not intimate friends with a woman for years. She trusts and confides in you. She is in the process of breaking up with her longtime boyfriend. She turns to you for comfort and solace. Is it time for something more than friendship between the two of you?

  5. On the street, you run into a classmate from high school. She walks right up to you and starts chatting, as if she had seen you just last week, rather than a decade ago. She would not have condescended to notice you back in school, but now she is extremely friendly, even intrusive. Do you respond to her overtures?

  6. At work, a woman loudly announces to her friends that she would accept an invitation from "anyone" to a certain dance club. She happens to be looking in your direction and she seems to have taken pains to ensure you will overhear her. You scarcely know the woman, and had not even considered approaching her. What to do?

  7. As the office party breaks up, amidst considerable noise and confusion, a woman you hardly know grabs you and kisses you on the lips, hard. After you recover from shock, you decide rather enjoyed the sensation. Is she drunk, or does this indicate genuine interest in you?

  8. The woman you have been going out with shows up late for dates consistently, at times an hour or more. She always has an excuse, but you are beginning to get just a bit annoyed.

  9. As you pass a group of young women on the street, one of them makes a rather suggestive remark about you, to the accompaniment of raucous laughter from the others.

  10. The obligatory blind date disaster. A good friend has set you up with "the perfect woman". You talked with her on the phone and seemed to hit it off quite nicely. When you show up at the rendezvous, here is this alluring Hollywood film star wannabe in a tight fitting sweater, reeking of expensive perfume, literally oozing glamor, flaunting her good looks. She takes one look at you and visibly recoils. She seemed to have been expecting a male counterpart, and her distaste for you is all too plain.

If there are no wrong answers, neither are there correct ones to the problems given. A workable strategy depends not only on the situation and the people involved, but on timing, "delivery", and a good measure of luck. The following are only suggestions, tantalizing hints to provoke your thinking. Detailed solutions are left as an "exercise for the reader".

  1. Smile. That's always a good start. "Hmmm, I'm honored that you consider my shopping technique worthy of your attention, milady. While I don't consider shopping for frying pans a critically important activity, all the same, I do my humble best. And, no, I can't quite track all the prices, as I seem to have a sticking digit somewhere behind my left eye. It helps if I whack my forehead occasionally, like so..."

  2. Smile back. Wave. Give her the chance to respond. If she does not, shrug your shoulders and walk on.

  3. "Well, yes, I enjoy this particular brand for the tangy metallic flavor of the sauce. For a fellow who finds boiling water a nearly impossible task, I think I do a pretty fair job at making this stuff at least marginally fit to eat."

  4. Remain friends. Give her comfort and support, but be extremely wary of becoming more closely involved with her, at least at this time.

  5. Talk is cheap. Stay noncommital, and let her carry the burden of the conversation.

  6. This is a double whammy. On the one hand, she is displaying behavior typical of a giggly teenager. On the other, she is making it perfectly clear that she would be using you only as a convenience, to provide an escort for her into the club, and that any generic male would do just as well. Let her find another victim.

  7. The next working day, flowers for her arrive at the office, with an unsigned card saying, "The kiss lingers".

  8. You seem to be number 468 on her list of priorities. Have a long talk with her, but realize the relationship may be in serious trouble.

  9. Rudeness has become a national epidemic. Consider this a minor annoyance, the equivalent of bird droppings falling on you from the sky. Keep walking.

  10. "I'm not quite what you were expecting, Leila. It does appear that we are quite unsuited for each other, and it would be my pleasure to relieve you of the obligation of spending the evening with me."

    Put her into a taxi. Go home. Cook yourself a spicy pasta. Read a good book. Consider yourself fortunate not to have wasted a perfectly fine evening entertaining an airhead.

Construct other possible scenarios, based on your own experience and on what you have read and heard about. Act out what you would do, speaking your role aloud, as if you were a performer in a play. For added realism, you may enlist a friend or family member to play the role of the woman involved. Be aware, though, that when "the real thing" comes, it will be unexpected and most likely take you completely by surprise.

Experience is the worst teacher. It always gives the test first and the instruction afterward.