Me, and my boyfriend PrinceWhen you are a single woman of marriageable age, it is not a thing unusual to find yourself in social situations where usually rational, kind, thoroughly modern people think it is acceptable to ask you about the current state of your love life. I blame the a-a-a-a-alcohol.

Weddings, dinner with out of town friends, the births of babies -- they are all good opportunities to pointedly cut everyone down to size. "No, no boyfriend -- nobody wants me, isn't it tragic?" This among other ripostes are worthy gambits sure to shut the nosy nellies down. But maybe you aren't feeling prickly and spiteful. Maybe you'd rather let the good times roll. I join you in this venture and suggest that instead of teaching everyone who asks where your date is what manners are, you introduce them to your fake boyfriend.

I had my first fake boyfriend when I was 11. His name was Jose and he was on the run from the law, having committed a series of petty thefts. I invoked him whenever my mom asked if there were any boys I liked. Though my mom was not remotely fooled, she was infinitely entertained. I continued using him throughout college. Just this Thanksgiving my mom asked me, "How's Jose?" I had to break the news to her: He's not well. He's gotten in deep with El Jefe, the leader of a competing drug cartel. Indeed, things for Jose have soured considerably since our childhood love first blossomed.


(Me and my imaginary boyfriend, 1990s era Michael Keaton. Fatal Flaw: I'm Catwoman. He's Batman.)

I'm an expert at creating Imaginary Boyfriends. It's a gift I come to you with today, eager to share my years of total insanity in the hopes that you too will be able to find love in the arms of a guy who is totally not even real. It will keep me from worrying about Jose, who is really not in a good way, you guys.

First off: The Name.

What's in a name? When it comes to I.B.s -- everything. If you pick, say, Carmello, prepare yourself. Carmello is the name of a man with whom the sex might be passionate, but the emotional intimacy is probably lacking. After all, he's really focused on his mysterious "importing and exporting" career and his secret family in the suburbs. By all means, name him Carmello if you must -- but understand, your friends will deem you a drama queen from here on out.

If you want to project an aura of maturity and normalcy, name your I.B. Steve. Steve is the name of a man with a job, an acceptable grasp on the ins and outs of sarcasm, and a passion for most Chicago-based sports teams.

Next up: His Job.

Why settle for something second rate and blah like "marketing" or "finance" when he could be "an actual pirate" or "a doctor who exclusively removes things from people's butts" or even better "a lion tamer." Whatever job you give him, it's got to involve long hours. You know, so folks understand why they've never met him.

Then: His Fatal Flaw.

The only problem with an imaginary boyfriend is that he isn't real. Normally, this is no big thang. But what if you meet someone you'd ACTUALLY like to date while you're still supposedly in a long-term relationship with Derek, the light tenor slash CIA operative?

This is where the fatal flaw comes in. Sure, Derek's emotionally available and gives a great back rub -- but he's also wanted by the government under suspicion for being a double agent. Send his ass to jail and give that cute dude your number! What about Sean, the scientist working to give dogs the power of human speech? He makes a damn fine bouillabaisse, this is true, but he's also seemed distant ever since his identical twin Jean showed up with a trunk labeled "what we did." Introduce them to the Wakefield twins and ask that hottie at work out, yo.

Now that you're a pro -- pop quiz: So, are you dating anyone right now? TELL ME ALL ABOUT THIS TOTALLY REAL GUY IN THE COMMENTS.