I am single and 32 years old. I don’t want to have kids. Question is, when is the “right” time to talk about this with a date?

Happily Spawn-free,

I’m glad you asked. I want you to know that I respect you for being conscious about such an important decision, and for figuring out what’s best for you. I hope, for the sake of future generations, that future parents put ample hours of thoughtful cogitation into their choice, as well.

A brief aside regarding online dating: while it has its flaws and tediousness (it can feel akin to channel-changing, yes?), online dating does allow you to check or uncheck the “wants/does not want kids” box. There are also boxes for faith, smoking and drinking habits, pets, and other “lifestyle” preferences that could potentially be deal-makers/deal-breakers, which almost effortlessly erases the need to have certain conversations with a new date at all! Take it or leave it, as you will.

Okay. So, let’s assume you’re not meeting someone online, or being set up by all-knowing chums. Let’s say you meet a girl at a bar. You hit it off. You talk about Ai WeiWei and Jenji Kohan and gastronomy and quantum physics, and she’s obviously smashing, and it’s fireworks. You ask her out for a legitimate date and get her digits.

Fast forward to the first real date together (you’re 32 years old – I’m guessing you can handle the logistics between meeting and starting to date, and if not, that’s for another YAF advice response). Let’s say this date is going swimmingly and you’re picking up where you left off from your first encounter; it’s titillation, head to toe.

IF (note the capitalization) you can find a way to deftly and casually steer the conversation to a place where it is natural to mention your preference to abstain from procreation, then do so. It might go something like this:

You: “I mean, 3D printing is actually blowing my mind. People are printing guns, now. Semiautomatic rifles. Seriously.”

Her: “I know! Kind of puts some pressure on lawmakers to keep up with gun control legislation that’s actually applicable now, you know?”

You: “Definitely. I mean, who’s to say when another twisted teenager will get the idea to shoot a bunch of people at school? Except now, they could just print a gun out, themselves. No ID to show, no background check… I got to say, I’m glad I don’t plan on being a parent – won’t have to wonder what my kid is printing late at night in his bedroom.”

THEN, if she wants to pick out that comment and talk more about kid-rearing, she can, or, not. Or, you could just enjoy a spirited and lively exchange about mental health and the detrimental effects of our gradual cultural shift towards increased isolation as opposed to being in community – all fantastic fodder for a firework-filled date, indeed.

Anyway, I would generally suggest trying this “casual” approach sometime(s) during the first 2-4 dates, but if a good moment comes up sooner, go for it. If she still doesn’t take the bait, do the most responsible thing, and initiate a real conversation about it.

Another thing I should mention: you should find out, before any kind of chat about your preferences, whether your date already has kids or not. The older you get, (if you continue to date people your own age, or older), the more you’re going to meet folks with all kinds of histories, baggage, souvenirs, etc. If you haven’t already contemplated how you’d feel about being a stepparent, take time to do so. I am of the personal belief that love is a strange and mighty force that doesn’t give two sh*ts about what you think you want… but I’m undoubtedly a romantic. Consider the above recommendation to be most applicable to the more pragmatic sort, which may or may not include you.

My friend, I think that covers our bases!

Enjoy it all: the dating, the freedom, the lack of diapers and school recitals and college funds… oy.