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It happened again. I didn’t mean for it to, but it did.

Last year I went home to visit my parents and met someone — let’s go with Carrie this time — who’s everything New York women aren’t. Carrie didn’t have an iPhone, didn’t want to eat at the latest gastropub and didn’t belong to a yoga gym. And she’s the first female scientist I’ve known. In short, Carrie was refreshing to a guy like me. Just one problem: She had a boyfriend. I don’t mean a dude she was kind-of-sort-of seeing. I mean a man she’d lived with for years, one who brewed her coffee every morning and had probably laundered her underwear. When you consider that I’m a semi-ethical human being who knew this up front, it was just a little disturbing when I found myself making out with her on a deserted starlit beach my last night in town.

I know your eyes are rolling at that “found myself” line. But I honestly didn’t pursue Carrie; I just talked to her. A lot. Pretty soon, though, she was referencing her “current situation.” The words not in love, and probably should have ended a long time ago were involved. Carrie broke up with her guy that week. We then carried on a long-distance relationship that lasted for months before it finally fizzled.

In street parlance, the act of taking the taken is sometimes known as bird-dogging. And once upon a time, I felt like most of you do about it — disgusted. But I had to admit to myself that I’d grown to love hanging out with cool women who had boyfriends, even if I had no intention of it extending beyond conversation. Because they were technically off-limits, there was no performance anxiety — I could just be myself. That comfort translated to confidence. And confidence, as we all know, is sexy. Suddenly I was transformed into a man with swagger.

And don’t tell me that taken women don’t love to flirt. You can feel their excitement when they see that they still have plenty of value out there on the open market. The trick, of course, is remembering to draw the line somewhere — and on the beach, with a few rum and Cokes in us, Carrie and I had probably crossed that line before we even sat down on the blanket.

I’d love to say this was an isolated incident, but there have been others. Still, I try to believe I’m not like my bird-dogging friend who bragged about it when he got with his married coworker … on her desk. Quite the opposite: I have the unfortunate ability to vividly picture the poor oblivious guy who is the third point in a cheater’s triangle. I actually worry about the bad karma and all that crap. No, I’m not one of those predatory jerks who feel no guilt, I tell myself. But then I hear another louder voice in my head — the one that tells me I’m a tool.

Which brings me to my New Year’s resolution: no more bird-dogging — for moral reasons and selfish ones. I’ve finally asked myself this important, albeit obvious, question: If a girl is that easily swept away from someone else, what’s to say she won’t always have one foot out the door with me? That’s not just karma — it’s logic. From now on, I’m making it clear that until a woman is 100 percent single, karaoke-ing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” together is as intimate as we’re going to get. But to all the Carries out there, I beseech you: Ditch your lame boyfriends already, will you?