OK, I give up. I met a guy online. He said I was very pretty (and I actually look like my pictures). We talked several times, and had lots in common, so I took a train to where he lives, and he drove us to a baseball game. Let me be clear: At no time did it seem he wasn’t enjoying himself. We laughed and flirted. He even mentioned a second date. Then it happened. In the eighth inning, after we’d each had four beers, he went to the bathroom. The ninth inning starts, and he’s not back. The game ends. He’s still gone. He left this voicemail on my phone: “Hey, I’m across the street at a bar called …” I call him a few times. No answer. So, I text him, “What kind of person leaves a woman stranded at a baseball game?!” He responds, “A bad one.” Sigh. I’m always attracting losers. What the hell did I do to deserve this one?

— Stunned

At baseball games, a lot of people cut out early to beat the rush. Maybe this guy drank so much that he did that — and then, at the bar, remembered, “Oh, crap, I was on a date!”

What kind of person leaves a woman stranded at a baseball game? “A bad one,” sure. Beyond that, my guess? A thrifty drunk. Maybe he needs to be hammered to feel OK on a date, or maybe his one true love is a girl named Bud. At stadium prices, eight beers (assuming he bought yours) could approach 60 bucks. And maybe because he was only halfway to Hammertown, and you’re a near-stranger from the Internet, he found it easier to exercise casual cruelty. The devil on one shoulder said, “Can’t wait till this night’s over and I dump her off at the train station!” The devil on the other snapped, “Why wait? To hell with her, we’re going to the bar!”

There’s an ideal time to find out a guy’s all “Every day’s an alcoholiday for me!” and it isn’t when he’s your ride back to the train. On a first date, you should always have a getaway car. First dates should be short, easy on the wallet and local — a couple of hours for coffee or drinks as opposed to dinner or a deep-sea fishing trip. (I’d hate to have you writing me “What kind of person leaves a woman stranded in the middle of the ocean?!”) You might give yourself a curfew — have someplace you have to be afterward — and stick to it. If you don’t go on some all-night romantic bender, you’re more likely to have the objectivity and perspective to decide whether date 2 is a wise idea. (Always a plus if you aren’t so sloshed you’re slurring your thoughts.)

Any woman can trip over a man with problems. When you do, do you keep him? That’s a problem. If you’re drawn to men with problems, that’s a problem. If you just aren’t paying attention, you have to start. People usually give you clues as to who they really are — in conversation and online. Do your best to spot them, but don’t take it personally when dates turn out to be duds. You might even use bad dates as a gateway to better dates. Break the ice with, “So tell me: Worst date ever?” Cross your fingers that the guy won’t top yours (with his tale or on your first date): “I mean, how could I not know, when he said he’d never drive drunk, that he meant he always passes out before he can find his car?”

Dissing in action    

My boyfriend and I are in the military. After dating six months, I deployed (until the end of the year). I’ve been gone 10 weeks. It took him three weeks to e-mail me, and he only writes once a week. He hasn’t sent a single care package either, yet claims I’m everything to him and he can’t live without me.  

— Wondering

Hemingway was a soldier and a writer. Maybe this guy’s just a soldier. If he’s like a lot of men, he’ll wax your car and reframe your house before he’ll write two sentences touching on how he feels.

In a non-naggy way, let him know what you need. Tell him you love getting e-mail from him, and you’d love to get more. He doesn’t have to emote. Just write something and hit “send.” Meanwhile, be open to the possibility that he actually can go on without you, and is — perhaps the message he’s been trying to send with that slew of I Don’t Care packages. Sure, maybe he’s a man of few words, but if you are everything to him, what’s with being a man of few granola bars and packs of spare batteries?

(c)2008, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)