Phase II Playlist

My girlfriend turned 30 this week, thereby kicking in Phase II of my romantic scheme. This is the stage when I parlay her concerns about an expiring biological clock into a reduction of my effort in the relationship.

When we first started dating, seemingly every one of my friends offered the unsolicited observation that she was too hot for me. I am lucky those dear to my heart are unconditionally supportive.

They were wrong though. Sometimes the nerd does get the girl; it’s just that he won’t be able to keep her over the long run without energy. Novelty by definition has an expiration date. So I treaded water with creative dates, magnification of my personality, smoke and mirrors amplifying career and family ambitions, and strategic accessibility to alcohol.

Now the tide turns. The sunk costs have grown too significant to ignore for even the most rational of decision-makers. Come on lady, you’ve invested two years out of the prime of your life in me. We consolidated all of our worldly possessions into a one-bedroom apartment. Getting that couch you loved through the doorway — brilliantly located under a bolted awning and 36 inches from the base of a 6-foot fence — required an act of God, along with my uncanny ability to quickly build a rapport with the Inland Empire-tattooed movers based on my nine-month residence in Riverside.

Plus you finally got me to wear jeans that fit. And you want to dump me now? There is simply not enough time for you to start over. Freezing your eggs would be prohibitively expensive and not 100-percent reliable. Even if that were a viable option, the rest of your body would not keep up with what the mind wants to do. I want to watch that happen to Kobe Bryant, not you.

And where would you go anyway? Into whose arms would you run? The 22-year-old posting dick pics on Tinder? News flash baby: I was sending dick pics long ago while these frat boys were still studying for their AP exams. And mind you, I aced all of mine in high school. That included a perfect 5 on BC Calculus, a score I guaranteed to Mr. Bernard in exchange for final exam exemption despite having too many unexcused absences senior year. Everything in life is negotiable except death, which looms just around the corner once you turn 30. And that is my leverage now.

I need the leeway because I make mistakes even and especially while pursuing noble intentions. The other day I tried to enhance a bedroom session by assembling an iTunes playlist entitled “Sex.” Just because we live together does not mean the courtship should dissipate entirely.

The first song, N Sync’s timeless “God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You,” struck a sweet nostalgic chord and afforded me an auspicious start. “I Will Wait” by Mumford & Sons backed it up capably, kind of like a modern-day Dave Matthews Band, which I hear was the go-to music for sexy time back in the day.

Then Bruno Mars’ “Treasure” started blaring, and she found the tempo change jarring. By the time the distinctive melody of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” took over, the entire mood had unraveled. I skipped ahead to her favorite jam, “She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5, in an effort to salvage the effort. But with no momentum, my playlist ended up an utter bust. I had tried my best to select recognizable, trendy songs, but keeping up with what’s cool has been a struggle since Total Request Live disappeared. Those of you who actually had sex in high school can stop the unconstructive jeering and reach out to me offline with better suggestions.

Episodes like this underscore my need to manage perceptions within our relationship to keep it strong and healthy. The next step is to prominently display in our apartment a poster of an old spinster with the subtle caption: Don’t let this be you. Don’t leave Gerald.

Phase II can seem callous, but the basic idea amounts to nothing more than being aware of the evolving situation and calibrating the best response. I am the point guard realizing the shot clock is winding down. The play-calling now focuses on trapping the girl who’s everything I ever wanted in a girl rather than maintaining an unsustainable facade, one of the few times when inertia is more friend than foe.