28 May 2008

The "just-friends" escape clause

As I have grown and matured (read: aged, not so much like fine wine, but like old cheese in that drawer in your fridge) and as my career has progressed (read: survived three corporate bankruptcies and multiple "reductions-in-force", or, please pack your box, leave the stapler, and security will escort you to the first floor...may I have your ID, please?), I have developed an unusually sardonic outlook on dating. Please read on...and don't be hatin'.

I view dating as if it were a merger/acquisition, with a strategic planning phase (where you conduct your due diligence and exchange/obtain confidential information), a transaction structuring phase (where you evaluate deal points and potentially close the deal -- this is not what you think when I say "close the deal"...trust me on this), and the final phase of a successful integration (where the resources and assets are combined and a post-closing audit is conducted). You're thinking to yourself, "Man, the Brown Man is cynical," right?

You're damn right I'm cynical. The planning phase is a bitch -- a whole lot of uncertainty reduction, things to learn about a person (the due diligence), trying to identify or recognize chemistry, or create chemistry. Now if in this phase the merger doesn't work, then a clean break between the interested parties is easiest at this point -- the main investment is financial (primarily on the man's part), and emotionally no bond is strong enough to matter.

Now, if the planning phase goes well and you're lucky enough to transaction structuring phase, well good on ya! This is usually the fun part of the negotiation -- both parties determine what's important for both, compromise is welcome and frequent, and, most significant is the proximity to a deal being made. However, if as the negotiation progresses to a point where no deal can be closed, a clean break is probably not possible and may be downright contentious and painful.

IF (a big IF) you are fortunate enough to reach the integration phase, and make it a successful integration, then you have reach the acme, the top, the peak, the end. There is a possibility that even after you have successfully integrated, this integration may not survive the (cue "dunh-dunh-dunh" music) dreaded post-integration audit. During the audit phase even the most triumphant of integrations can suffer the wrath of the audit. The tiniest, teeniest factor can destroy your relational merger/acquisition. And, this can amount to anything. Incompatible operating structures -- read: she likes to see "girlie" movies, drink non-martini martini drinks that cost $12, have a three bite dinner, wear heels with her Sevens, see ballet and opera; he likes to fart in bed, eat meat (and, that's it), fart some more, watch golf on tv, and play wii until his vision blurs an thumbs cramp. Fiscal inconsistencies -- read: he doesn't make enough and she buys $300 a pair Manolo Blahniks or Jimmy Choos....frequently. Human resource issues -- read: her friends think he's a slob; his friends thinks she is a prissy bitch (but still want to hook up with her friends). And, this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg; the audit process can extend so far until the far reaches of the integration fracture and ultimately sunder itself to the rolls of history.

So, you're thinking this might be a bit overly dramatic? I don't think it is. As a matter of fact, I think this a rather accurate depiction. Of course, I could provide additional analysis, but I think you get the point.

Recently, I didn't get past the planning phase. She exercised the formidable and conclusive "I don't think this is going to go farther than just friends" out clause. Thus, this latest attempt at a merger/acq...I mean dating was snuffed out in an instant once those two words were uttered..."just friends".

And, now, I return to my life as Papa Smurf.

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