The Joel Stein Show

Liar's Market

Why should Joe Millionaire shock us? Secrets and fibs always pave the road to happily ever after.

I'm not smooth with the ladies. One of my greatest dating tricks was to wait until I was supposed to ask for a woman's number, and instead just get up and leave. I figured this would make me look cool and confident and nonpredatory while also building mystery. How I was supposed to exploit this mystery with a woman whose last name I didn't know in a city of 8 million was not clear. But it did lead to my other greatest dating trick: stalking.

My friends who did much better than I did used techniques that I used to think of as slimy and embarrassing but now realize are perfectly normal. One of the more effective ones was lying. Back then, lying seemed wrong and immoral and kind of like lying, but now I realize prevarication is a natural and acceptable part of the mating ritual. Everyone is disgusted by the gold-digging Joe Millionaire contestants, and yet finds Joe charming even though he's using the oldest bar trick in the world: telling women he's rich in order to hook up with them. That's because while striving for wealth is a good thing, it's not okay in matters of the heart, which is reserved for deeper things like how hot someone is and how they are in bed. Lying, however, is not only acceptable, but expected. After all, if dating is like a job interview, who's going to tell their potential boss their real salary? And once you're already lying about how much you make, you might as well go with $50 million.

Lying is sort of sweet, a way of saying that you like someone enough to impress them. I'm sure on my parents' first date my father told my mom he was listening to her. In fact, maybe all lies used to hit on women are sweet. I'm thinking about pitching a Fox show called Casting Couch, where I pretend to be a producer casting an actress in a movie where George Clooney falls in love at a nude beach.

Romance itself is lying, a way to make yourself seem like you care. Joe Millionaire is constantly making out with women on camera, which never looks manly. For a man, kissing in public is just another form of humiliating yourself in a desperate attempt to get a woman to come home with you. Much like hand-holding or talking.

Women like to be lied to. Several of the women on the show said meeting Joe Millionaire was ''like a fairy tale.'' That's partly because a fairy tale is the ultimate lie, and partly because these women were on a horse-drawn carriage and had the brains of a 4-year-old. Even when he's not lying about the $50 million, Joe is employing other classic dating lies. He keeps saying how shy he is, but he must have downed enough Paxil to model snug bikini underwear on a website that I suspect is not meant for straight men due to the fact that it sells snug bikini underwear. He's using the classic trick of using his middle name as his last name so the women can't find him in the phone book the next day -- apparently unaware that they'll eventually see him on TV. Joe Millionaire is not the brightest guy. He slightly overdid the post-sensitive Cro-Magnon bit when he acted confused by rich-people concepts like wine and silverware, considering that his dad is vice president of a bank. And there's no way, after having a contractor ask me for $50,000 to redo the kitchen in my studio apartment, that I'm buying that Joe only made $19,000 as a construction worker last year. I'll bet the IRS isn't going to believe that either. Following his lying pattern, I'm guessing around episode 5 he says he's had sex with exactly 10 women.

My friend Jayson Adams, 35, is a real multimillionaire, and he does really badly with women. That's because he is exceedingly honest. Jayson hasn't had a date in the last year, since a short relationship ended with a woman he met through an ad he put in LA Weekly. At one point, a desperate Jayson took out another ad. ''I used my rock star alter ego,'' he said. ''I was saying 'I'm going to rock your world.''' It landed him a few dates with a fitness model, who he knew was a fitness model because she was on the cover of a magazine called Ms. Fitness. The ability to use context clues is a key part in making several million dollars. As was creating software in 1998.

What Jayson proves is not only that I know important, successful people. He also proves that it's not what you lie about -- being a doctor, having $50 million, that ''I thought you were all phenomenal'' -- but just that you lie. Because without the lies to unravel for the rest of your relationship, it's hard to get to that next level of closeness. Joe and whichever princess he chooses are going to be very, very close.

Originally posted Jan 24, 2003 Published in issue #692-693 Jan 24, 2003 Order article reprints