Women.

What is there to say about women?

What more can be said about women?

Well, what indeed.

A friendly overture to one woman is a cold shoulder to another. A considerate gesture may be a worrisomely overattentive act smacking of stalking and darker deviations.

And you only really get one shot at any woman. The stakes, the standards, are higher than they would be for the same woman if she were merely considering a potential friend.

Women don't really know what they want, any more than men know what they want. We all want friends. We all want confidants. We all want shoulders on which to cry, helping hands to give support. Man is a social creature, and Woman equally so. Or maybe you're not -- but I am.

It's not just women -- bosses are like this. Friends are too. But we usually don't seek to fulfill our 40,000-year biological imperative with our bosses and friends qua bosses or qua friends (if the boss or friend happens to be a woman, then things can get ugly).

A woman wants someone exciting, who brings something different into her life. Perhaps a bit of a bad boy or rebel would be nice. But once she's got him, then he should turn out to be actually fairly considerate and moderately conservative (or considerately moderate) -- this often gives the woman the sense that she's tamed her man.

Men are so much simpler: give them a beer-serving bimbo, and they're happy. That, and the chance to have a good cry over an Elie Wiesel book.

Whatever. There's naught about women that can't be said about men, animals, or minerals.

For all of them, you apply a few fundamental rules, and the results are dead-on predictable for any individual specimen if you just have enough information. Leibniz, your Monadology was right after all.

Look a woman in the eye when you talk to her.

Give her a friendly hug when you greet her.

Touch her casually on the arm or hand when you both laugh at some shared joke or comment.

Laugh.

Let her know that she's a woman and you're man.

Praise her, compliment her. Mean it.

Lean in a little and show you're interested in her.

Show her you yearn for her, but that you're not desperate.

Respect her space, her person, her thoughts and feelings.

Meet her on your terms -- do your own things, don't always wait on her.

...And doing those things will make you more interesting.

Listen. When you open your mouth, shut it and listen some more.

Whatever you say is merely what you say; what she hears will be what she hears. Some things are not in your power to change.

Somewhere in all this, be sure to enjoy being with her as well. Savor everything about her -- the soft hair you couldn't achieve in a thousand years, the sparkle in her eyes, her clear laugh. You could swear her skin is smoother and warmer than yours. Deep talks, long walks, late night telephone calls...

The best part and the worst part is being sincere. All these things must come naturally without thinking. It takes practice. But with the right woman, they will all come naturally (with practice).

Either that, or be a better actor than I, who was typecast twice as a pompous ass in minor stage roles (rightfully so).

If you're in junior high, don't fear the cooties. You can catch much worse (like chlamydia -- I'll tell you when you're older, Junior).

If you're in high school, look up from your books and games every once in a while. Girls aren't just classmates from whom one can crib neat notes.

If you're in college, approach girls. Hang out with them, invite them places. Your guy friends will despair of running 32-player deathmatches without you, but they'll be there when you inevitably screw up and find yourself alone again. Order a pizza and move on. There'll be other girls.

If you're out of college, well, the only rules are 18 and unrelated by blood.

This next bit is subject to change, once I've been ten years out of school with a longer perspective. But I don't know if it will, based on the experiences of people I've met thus far since leaving college:

Meeting women is hard. Making friends is easy -- even making friends with women. But meeting women qua dating prospects... Well. You need to spend time with them, but your job takes 40 hours a week (if you're lucky). Grad school classes will take more of your time, and all the women there are either attached or career-focused.

Time, time, time. The one thing you squandered and lavished on the pointless pursuits and follies of youth -- like beating Super Mario Bros 2 until you memorized the theme song. And now that you've found your potentially real Princess Toadstool, you no longer have time to pursue her. Unfortunately, just like with beating SMB2, building a relationship is a function of time -- some things you just can't rush. Quel dommage. All you have time for now is an hour here, 30 minutes there, every week. Can you imagine trying to beat Bowser at that rate?

And money, Mario. You need coins. Not to lavish gifts, because you likely won't keep any woman (or want to) who demands a constant supply. But rather so that you can treat her as you would like to. Eating warmed-over pizza and watching the Cartoon Network is no longer sufficient (was it ever?). Anyone who says it is, is either still in college, insensible, or (if female) a gem to be treasured.

Backrubs are nice. There's nothing like hearing a contented female purr. Or a snore, if you've done too well. Shopping is nice, too. She wants you to see her in costume, and you want to see her in costume. Pay attention, and you'll learn what she likes. Saying "no" is okay when it's called for, but it's an art form.

Cooking is a must. No amount of restaurant-roasted rumps can say you care like your own signature chicken marsala. If the best you can do is macaroni, you'd better change it quickly.

Finally, remember that for every ten women you ask out, one will say yes. For every ten you date, you'll have sex with one. For every ten you have sex with, you'll marry...

Well, it doesn't quite work like that. At the end of it all, sex is overrated, despite our burgeoning global population. But it's still a numbers game. There are 3 billion women in the world -- 140 million of them in the U.S. alone, and roughly 20 million of them in your target age bracket. Some of them will catch you on a bad day, and some on a good day.