A threat, not a promise

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This weekend, the TD Waterhouse Centre will be overrun by the Promise Keepers, that battalion of Christian men who are determined to face up to their masculine responsibilities -- specifically, by reclaiming their status as masters of their various households. To the PKs, reserving ultimate authority at the dinner table is the most spiritually sound method of "honoring" their wives and children.

You have to be amused by the idea, both for its fundamentalist zealotry and its separation from reality: Smart women and kids alike know that the best thing an adult male can do for them is to stay as far the hell away from them as possible. To reflect this higher truth, Dog Playing Poker announces the formation of the Distance Keepers, a movement that recognizes our basic shortcomings as men. Constructive disengagement is our goal -- a withdrawal from all but the most basic social interaction. We have to stop ruining innocent lives with our Neanderthal attitudes and habits. And it's never too late to begin, as you'll learn from our official platform.

A Distance Keeper is a bad date. The easiest way to avoid polluting the world with our rancid, manly DNA is to ensure that we never make it past that first innocent getting-to-know-you lunch. So a DK customarily arrives for a date brandishing a variety of bodily symbols that collectively scream, "Not marriage material." (In extreme cases, a sign bearing this very phrase may be worn about the neck; it's available from DK headquarters for $14.99). Common telltale totems include Hawaiian-print suspenders and novelty baseball caps that attempt to replicate the human mammary gland in foam rubber. Another favorite: A crisp length of packing plastic, worn as a belt. Throughout the entire (mercifully brief) rendezvous, the DK will be on his worst behavior, loudly petitioning the delicatessen waitress for "mas tequila" and offering to guess his companion's weight by the cholesterol content of her order. Upon arrival of the check, he will of course make no attempt to reach for it; should it land closer to his side of the table, he will emit a noise roughly analogous to that of an asthmatic swine set upon by spear hunters.

A Distance Keeper doesn't ring twice. If the instant-turnoff routine fails, the DK may be forced to participate in physical intimacy. Don't panic. After the enjoyable but regrettable night of passion is over, the sensitive male still has several options by which to prevent an encore. Issuing bogus personal information is a time-honored tradition, but may be insufficient to repel modern women, who have mastered the intricacies of the Google search engine. Canny DKs will enroll for immediate duty in the Jesuit priesthood, while the even more daring among us may elect to explore the benefits of dual citizenship with Cameroon.

A Distance Keeper guards his seed like plutonium. Let's say that Steps One and Two have been abysmal failures, and the feckless DK has been brought, bloodied and hog-tied, across the threshold of matrimony. It's still not the end of the world. The prevention of procreation now becomes Job One: For the sake of our fragile society, the DK must never look down from his Barcalounger and see a replica of his own face, staring back up at him in expectation of a lesson in OSHA fraud. To that end, we recommend a smattering of proven isolation techniques. Nothing stops a ticking biological clock, for instance, like the careful placement of child pornography within a curio box. In the most liberal of home environments, more drastic measures may be called for to keep regular copulation off the table. Got prostate cancer? Get it.

A Distance Keeper is seen and not heard. If you've made it to this point, you've been a washout on two fronts, by signing on as both a hubby and a dad. Your only recourse now is to be as unobtrusive as possible, encroaching minimally on the activities of your wife and kids as family life occurs all around your lumpen, glassy-eyed presence. Let the missus select the furniture, your clothes, the destination of your next vacation and the date of your exploratory surgery. Refrain from fixing malfunctioning water heaters, starting kitchen-expansion projects or changing the battery in the smoke detector. Don't even flush the john on your own timetable. Resist the urge to cook out; no matter what you might think, nobody really likes 'em charred black and shot through with Wild Turkey. Withhold your assistance with geometry homework; that's what the Internet is for. Just pick a spot in front of the plasma TV and zone out, restricting your conversational contributions to essential utterances like "Happy birthday," "nice sweater" and "grease fire."

It'll all be worth it years from now, when your family unit is still safely intact, and you see the fruit of your loins accept the Nobel Prize for Insect Population Dynamics. From your cushy vantage point in the packed auditorium, you'll watch him turn to his mother and mouth those words you've been waiting your whole life to hear:

"Mom, some freaky-looking guy in the 10th row keeps giving me the thumbs-up. Can we have him bounced, please?"

At that moment, you'll be able to sit comfortably back in your seat, secure in the knowledge that you have lived up to our group's defining credo.

"I kept my promise," you will whisper with satisfaction. "I kept my distance."

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