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When I got hitched last year, I was happy to put my history of bad dates firmly behind me. But boy did I pay my dues. Once, during a particularly horrible rendezvous, I ran to the ladies' room and texted my friend.

"Help! Bad date. Need out :-(  Pls call in 10 min!!"

After adding the extra exclamation point for emphasis, I went back to the table and waited to be rescued. Ten minutes never felt so long. My companion's misplaced cockiness, despite his crooked yellow-stained "teef" and horrible breath, was bad enough. Hygiene aside, his comment, "Just a sec. I've gotta take this," at every ring of his cell phone was the last straw. I was bored and longing for the exit. When my friend's ringtone finally chimed in, I rushed out of there citing an emergency. Then I swore I would never go on another internet date again.

It's funny -- Technology got me into that mess, but it also got me out of it. What's interesting is the way the industry responds to the way people really use their cell phones. Magic Tap released Fake Calls, the iPhone app that sends phony calls on demand, earlier this month. And AT&T issued a press release called, "AT&T Survey Examines Role of Texting in Dating and Relationships."

Conducted by Synovate, the survey was performed online with 1,000 adult participants ages 18-55. Here are the tidbits that really caught my eye:

38% admitted that their cell phones have saved them from uncomfortable dating situations.
58% admitted they have at least occasionally shown a friend a text message from a suitor to get his or her interpretation.
67% have used text messaging to flirt.

Whoa. That's an awful lot of mobile communication for dating's sake. But judging by my own experience, the cell phone etiquette of modern dating life hasn't caught up to the burgeoning functions. To bridge the gap, I've compiled a few tips culled from years of hard-won experience.


DATER'S GUIDE TO CELL DO'S AND DON'TS

• Don't ask friends to interpret texts from your latest flavor of the week. They have less chance of knowing what was intended than you do. Not only are you guaranteeing awkwardness between them and your potential significant other, but if a pal slips and mentions it, that could actually sink your burgeoning romance. So if you're one of the 58% of people doing this, try to control yourself.

• Don't answer incoming calls on a date (unless it's an emergency -- like your house is on fire). Picking up calls or texts doesn't make you look like a mover and shaker. It just makes you look rude. This should be a no-brainer, but it always surprises me how many people can't adhere to this simple rule. Instead, focus on your date, like this moment and this person is too important to let anything distract you. If you're the nervous type, be strong and don't hide out in a phone call. In fact, if your cell rings, shut it off.

• Don't forget to take that old photo of your ex off your phone. Ditto for the vacation pic you took at the nude beach last year. You might accidentally flip through something embarrassing while showing off those cute images of your new puppy.

• Do show off spectacular pics of yourself climbing the Himalayas or volunteering at the homeless shelter, but only in moderation or if asked. Otherwise, it comes off as boasting or like you're trying too hard.

• Do know if you're dealing with a text person or a phone person. Communicate primarily through the preferred method -- then mix it up once in a while. The occasional and judicious text or call will really stand out then.

If you're crazy about each other, do set your wallpaper to a picture of the two of you together. This can tip the scales in your favor with someone who's on the verge of falling for you. (But use this with caution: Do it too early, and you risk sending that new love fleeing into the hills.)

Finally, if you have a big announcement, but not a lot of time to talk, do take advantage of text, Twitter or IM. When my husband popped the big question, we texted our fingers off for a minute to share the news with our closest friends. Then we resumed basking in the moment with each other, undisturbed.

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