His credentials for writing Dave Barry's Guide to Marriage and/or Sex are impeccable. First, he is irrefutably Dave Barry, the weekly syndicated humor columnist for the Miami Herald and about 150 other newspapers. Second, as the twice-married father of a 7-year-old boy, Barry admits to having experienced sex. He also admits to having danced with Glenn (Fatal Attraction) Close when he was in junior high school in Pleasantville, N.Y. He never dated her because "she's a nice girl, she's an attractive girl, but I knew that sooner or later she was going to try to kill Michael Douglas."

The 40-year-old son of a Presbyterian minister and his wife, Barry was named "class clown" in high school, an honor he feels he was awarded because of his uncanny ability to "hand-fart." He confesses that his chronic cutting up "was a clear case of compensation because I was smaller and less advanced than my classmates. I reached puberty at 30. At 12, I looked like a fetus."

As an undergraduate at Haverford College, Barry played "in a series of really bad bands" and spent "a lot of time thinking about sex." Married for the past 12 years to free-lance editor Beth Lenox, he admits that time has changed him. He is "no longer like an adolescent where every thought is about sex. As a mature adult, only four out of five of my waking thoughts are about sex." Discussing his book over a discreet lunch with Miami correspondent Laurel Tielis, he also revealed a man still somewhat insecure about his looks. "Just say I'm unusually short for a 6'2" guy," he says.

When did you first realize that the world needed your book?

When I was reading a contract I had signed with Rodale Press and realized I was only weeks away from a deadline. I said the world really needs a book about marriage and/or sex and preferably by April 1 and at least 120 typewritten pages.

Can anybody benefit from the book?

Definitely. Me and my agent. And it has tremendous practical value to the stupid. Beyond that, I can't imagine a reader finding it useful. I pride myself on never having anything useful in my books. You try writing 120 pages with no facts. Try as hard as you might, something factual is going to slip in.

What keeps men and women apart?

Men and women aren't called opposite sexes for nothing. In my book I reveal that women want to be loved, listened to, respected, needed, trusted and held. Men want tickets for the World Series. Another key separating characteristic of men and women is remote control devices. Men can watch seven or eight TV shows simultaneously, whereas women tend to watch only one. Instead of premarital blood tests, couples should get remote control tests.

How do you feel about, dating?

I think it's hormonal. It's like insects doing a dance. It's not sincere. Dating means going out with a potential mate and doing a lot of fun things that the two of you will never do again if you actually get married. The fun stops when you marry because you're trying to save money for when you split up your property. When you marry, it's like "Whew, I'm done. I've got a mate. I no longer need to go to art galleries."

Do people sometimes date and marry, ah, jerks?

Yeah. I think that's pretty much what you have to settle for. There's a certain amount of jerk in everybody, including—dare I say it—Phil Donahue. You're trying to steer between Phil and Charles Manson if you're a woman. With guys, you're steering between Victoria Principal and Phyllis Schlafly.

You say that it's harder to meet someone spontaneously now that smoking has lost its glamour. Did the tobacco industry encourage you to say that?

Asking someone to light your cigarette today is sort of like asking someone to pick your nose. But no, I've never accepted a bribe from the tobacco industry. It's kind of dumb on their part because I have no scruples and would happily write nice things for the right price, which is $153,000.

Do people marry to avoid dating?

I actually think that they get married to avoid breaking up. The only easy way to break up is death.

What's the secret to a happy marriage?

Separate bathrooms. Actually, there is one other thing that I think is really important. I'm going to get a little corny, a little idealistic, but I think it helps if both parties can bring a lot of money to the relationship. Look at the Marcoses or Jackie and Ari. Jackie and Ari did not have that much in common—like height. But they had this rich and rewarding relationship on different continents. I don't think it would have worked if Ari had been an appliance salesman.

What about in-laws?

It can be difficult to get along with your in-laws, but it can work out if you make an honest and sincere effort to never see them or talk to them.

Do you recommend having children?

They're very amusing, but they're sort of permanent. You have to spend the rest of your life worrying about them and waiting outside stalls of public bathrooms. Then there's having children. It used to be you could sit in the waiting room smoking cigars. Now there's a federal law that a man has to watch.

Is sex possible after marriage?

Yes, it is. It's possible to have a very active sexual life, and in some cases you can have it with the person you married.

Promiscuity has been defined as anything that makes you feel bad the next day. Would you agree?

Yes, but we'd have to include a lot of frozen drinks in that definition. Basically, promiscuity is what goes on at office parties.

How can you tell if your spouse is having an affair?

You can tell because your spouse will inevitably do one of two things—act guilty, or, in an effort to trick you, he or she will act the same as always. So I think it's a good thing to accuse your spouse every two or three days.

Is anything perverse if two people both enjoy doing it?

I would actually go so far as to say it's perverse if anybody enjoys doing it.

How long should sexual intercourse last?

As a rule, women would like to devote as much time to foreplay and the sex act as men would like to devote to foreplay, the sex act and building a garage.

Would you define the orgasm?

Orgasms are those things that men have 16 or 17 of in the context of trying to enable that special person in their life to have one. They are also those things that women never tell men about in order to keep men insecure.

Is there anyone for whom you believe your book is inappropriate?

The Pope. And nuns. And certainly teenage boys should not read my book because of the sexually explicit material. And teenage girls. Or kids in general. Actually, it's inappropriate for just about everybody. It would be best if people would just send me money in envelopes.