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When I meet a person of interest there’s one thing I need to know before I even consider considering (I said that right) spending any amount of time or energy on them. Very early on I ask,

“Are you available?”

I don’t preface this question with anything. I don’t add any disclaimers or buffers. I ask it flat out with a straight face and no expectation.

Disclaimer: We’re talking about someone I could potentially see romantic ties with; not friendly exchanges.