...but If You Want to Say Yes, Replies Author Marilyn Hamel, Learn the Rules

updated 11/26/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/26/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

Drawing, she jokes, on her "vast field experience," Marilyn Hamel has written a book called Sex Etiquette: Should I? Can I? May I? Must I? The Modern Woman's Guide to Mating Manners (Delacorte Press, $13.95). Questionnaires filled out by "hundreds of disgruntled romantics," as well as "rap sessions" held in the house she shares with former astronaut Buzz Aldrin in West L.A., yielded a handbook on how to meet, mate and marry Mr. Right. A sculptor whose own marriage dissolved in 1971 (her ex-husband later married Suzanne Somers), Hamel found herself once again playing the dating game and appalled at the lack of rules. PEOPLE gleaned tips for the modern woman from Hamel's book and from a discussion the 42-year-old mother of two had with correspondent Joseph Pilcher. "Let's be straight about lust," she says in her book, "women are interested in more than cozy cuddles. What was once palmed off as a vulgar male pursuit is now generally agreed—except by a few repressed holdouts—to be good healthy fun for us all."

How does one meet men?

Supermarkets get a four-star rating. You've seen men, blinking in glazed bewilderment as they search for a ripe persimmon. It's your duty, both as a humanitarian and as a seasoned produce picker, to give them the benefit of your greater experience. Also consider parks, libraries, Laundromats, YMCAs and that time-honored fallback, an evening class in Sanskrit.

Does a lady talk to strangers at bus stops, elevators and the like?

Yes, as long as the conversation is discreet and the man doesn't look like Jack the Ripper.

How does one dress to attract men?

Wear spandex pants and undersized Lurex shirts emblazoned with provocative sayings and men will emerge from dark places pleading for your favors. This is fine if you fancy bikers and men festooned with diamond pinkie rings. If not, dress like yourself, not a refugee from the Folies Bergère.

Is there an etiquette for singles bars?

Put on your combat mascara and industrial-strength lip gloss because it's a jungle in there. Meat-market crowds are rarely looking for stirring insights or hankering to hear your life's saga.

With all the answering machines around, what kind of message should you leave for a man you've just met?

"I've been fantasizing about your pesto sauce. Here I am, my palate is primed but all I get is your machine." The ball's in his court now.

Does accepting an invitation to a man's apartment mean you must also accept his advances?

Going home at 4 a.m. with a sharpshooter from the local pickup palace has different implications than an invitation to play Scrabble at Stanley's. Don't go home with strangers if you just want to play Scrabble.

What is a proper advance—as compared with an indecent assault?

An expressive squeeze on the bottom is fine for seasoned partners but ill-advised for strangers. Try, "I'm very attracted to you." If he responds, "I think you're a nice person too," both of you can go back to acting as if everything is peachy-keen, buddy-buddy.

Is there a time frame for intimacy?

This is not pineapple upside-down cake you're making. Emotions are hard to refine into a recipe. Trust yourself. Women between 18 and 25 usually wait 10 dates, for women between 25 and 40, it's about four.

What about sleeping with a man on the first date?

Later is almost invariably better. Discovering that the two of you can jabber away till dawn on topics ranging from belly button lint to world famine is more significant than finding out if he prefers the missionary position.

Is "Your place or mine?" an important consideration?

Locale is usually more important to women on opening night—first time round, most men would agree to a tryst on the landing strip at La Guardia. Be flexible, but tell him your preference. If he's adamant about being home with his jammies and Yogi Bear blanket, reconsider.

What constitutes a suitable partner for a discreet fling?

"Discreet" means a fleeting encounter with a Bulgarian sailor who's shipping out tomorrow (and don't let him take any Polaroids). If you're intent on some extracurricular fun, choose someone for whom discretion is just as vital.

Is there a protocol for public passion?

Exhibitionism is not exclusive to seedy men in soiled raincoats. Any intimacy that induces perspiration is not for public view. When your snuggling threatens to set off the smoke detector, take the show home before you're blacklisted by the Legion of Decency.

What's the biggest misconception about sex?

That sex is no laughing matter. This is a patent lie. Any act that requires one to maintain the posture of a frog is automatically funny.

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