NAYLOR: The Pros of Dating Cons

Attention singles!

Hey bachelors, spinsters and lonely-hearts. Yo, playas, ballers, skanks and ho-bags. And anyone else who is sans human companionship, whether you're just "between relationships" or whether you're a full-blown social hunchback with oozing, open sores on your neck and gums. Drain the air out of your inflatable companion, pop the batteries out of your multi-speed vibrating Love Wand and peel the giant "L" off your forehead.

For anyone seeking romance, even a total love spaz such as thou, it is suddenly a buyer's market. The numbers are finally on your side. The dating pool is glutted with fresh meat. Hordes of unattached men and women are now ready, willing and available. Best of all, they're accustomed to taking orders and have extremely low expectations. They're jailbirds.

In 2000, a record 585,000 felons were released from state and federal prisons. That number will be eclipsed this year and will remain high for years to come. That's over half a million potential paramours on the street annually, desperate to reclaim their het-sex lifestyle and get their non-incarcerated swerve on with someone. Anyone. Might as well be you.

This flood of inmates back into society is the legacy of aggressive anti-crime efforts that led to record incarceration rates during the last two decades. In 1980 about 600,000 people across the country were doing time, on parole or on probation. By last year, a record 6.3 million men and women -- or one out of every 32 adults in the USA -- were locked up, on parole or on probation.

And thanks to tougher sentencing and "three strikes" laws, the genuine hard-cases are still cooling their heels in stir. Death Row is jammed and lifers still roam the yard in crowded packs. So you don't have to worry about hooking up with the wrong kind of felon. It's like a government screening program.

These cons re-entering society today are the elite of the penal system. The graduating class, straight from the hole and right to your heart. If only you'll let them in.

What's the best way for you to make a convict connection? Be gentle. Approach with caution. Remember, these new fish will be disoriented, maybe frightened of their strange surroundings. They've heard all the horror stories about what goes on outside the joint. The brutality, the degradation and the emotional beatdown. Prisoners know that deep within the bowels of society the human spirit is broken until there is nothing left but faceless drones hooked on realty television and sucking down mocha latte grandes from Starbucks at six bucks a pop.

Naturally, they'll be on edge, wary of hustlers, predators and personal trainers.

Make them feel comfortable right up front. Use a pick-up line that seems familiar. Something along the lines of, "Freeze!" Or, "Assume the position." Other possibilities include, "What we have here is a failure to communicate." "I loved you in Chaplain, Mr. Downey." "What's the weirdest contraband you ever smuggled up your ass?"

Once you've piqued their interest, let the courtship begin. For your first date engage in an activity you'll both enjoy. This may require some compromise. For example, if you want to go ice skating and your convict wants to rob a plumbing supply store maybe you can just stop at a TCBY on the way to the rink and pistol whip the counter help.

If the date includes dinner there is always the awkward moment when the check arrives. Of course you could offer to pay but then you risk injuring the fragile ego repeat offenders are notorious for. Instead, pitch in and do your part by helping to keep the hostages calm while the safe in the manager's office is being rifled. It could become the kind of first date anecdote that everyone retells at your big anniversary bashes.

All relationships need guidelines to thrive. Remember, convicts are used to existing within a narrow code of conduct. No matter how dreamy you find your cellblock hottie, try to avoid eye contact. That's an invitation to a shanking. Don't sample their dessert without permission. That's a surefire shanking. And hog the armrest during a movie only if you have some kind of shankwish.

There is no magic formula. Dating a con is just like any other relationship. It requires commitment, caring, honesty, communication and above all, a carton of smokes for every sex act.

Remember, it's not a crime to steal someone's heart. Unless of course, they're still using it at the time.

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