Disaster-proofing Your Habitat For Special Guests


I might own a book called “Stop Obsessing! How to Overcome Your Compulsions”. There may be some CDs in my collection by Mariah Carey. I own various expired prescription rash medications and a jar of Jolen Cream Bleach. I have the entire series of “Fat Blaster Plus” home workout videos.

But if I’m going out on a date and there’s any chance you’ll be coming over afterward, you won’t see these things. Not for a long, long time.

Let me introduce you to the concept of the Pre-Date Sweep, a secret ritual every woman I know undertakes, the once over for once you come over.

It’s not that we’re trying to hide who we really are, it’s just that perhaps once you get to know us, that would be a better time for you to discover we use “I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter” spray and bunion pads.

In a very unscientific poll involving six girlfriends and a long brunch at Doughboys, I learned our methods don’t vary much. The Sweep intensifies if we really like a guy and gets sloppy if we don’t care, but it usually goes something like this.

First, the bookshelf must be purged of any titles reeking of self-help or man hunting; that is to say, we hide “How to Get to ‘I Do,’” “Why Men Love Bitches,” “Spiritual Abundance” and anything in the Louise Hay canon.

Frankly, I keep a couple books just for show that I never intend to read (“Underworld”? That’s not going to happen). By the way, if an old picture of me from cheerleading camp falls out of it, oops!

The kitchen is a minefield of potentially dangerous items. More than two baby photos on the refrigerator can scream “baby fever” and create the sort of potpourri-infused Spinster Museum feel that’s unfortunate. We tuck away the Get Regular Tea, the teeth bleach in tubes that look like hypodermic needles, the Weight Watchers literature stained with spaghetti sauce.

Moving into the area of grooming, anything designed to remove unwanted hair (even tweezers) is generally bound for the bottom drawer. I would no more leave out a tube of blemish cream than I would a family of stuffed bears. Speaking of animals, I happen to have two cats, which doesn’t leave much wiggle room for extraneous girly items. Let’s just say I keep the throw pillows to a minimum and it’s Jim Beam to the front, dry Sherry to the back.

Music is a critical area, as guys will generally gravitate toward a CD collection.

Every woman I know hides her Mariah Carey.

Alanis Morissette can be a problem (“You Oughta Know that I’m angry”). For the record, I don’t hide my Lucinda Williams; if a dude can’t hang with Lucinda, he might as well know I lighten my eyebrows and sleep with a night-light.

There’s nothing un-Feminist or phony about the Sweep in my mind it’s simply a matter of putting one’s best feet forward, as long as they’re not wearing those Reebok high-tops we hide under the bed and use to tap along to “Dream Lover.”

I don’t know if men do much of a Sweep, other than basic cleaning and the hiding of the porn, but I do know this: a girlfriend of mine once came home from a date and told me she was never seeing the guy again.

“Why?” I asked.

She hissed, “He has an Abdominizer, a gold curling iron and a Mariah Carey CD.”