Advice

Miss Information

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Miss Information is off this week. She’ll be back next week with an all-new column. Until then, enjoy this Labor Day best-of and email your questions to erin@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content and clarity.



Dear Miss Information,
When I’m with my family and friends, I’m relatively witty and bright. I’m a good listener, and people come to me for advice. But get me in front of a hot, eligible male, and I turn into this motor-mouthed crazy person who can’t stop talking about herself. How can I calm down in front of men? — Motor Mouth

Dear Motor Mouth,
You know you talk too much, but do you know why? Okay, you’re nervous. But that’s a symptom, not a cause. People over-talk for a whole slew of reasons, and you have to figure out yours. Some overtalkers are insecure and looking for approval (generally, your garden-variety douchebag braggart). Others are looking for a common bond — thus the narcolepsy-inducing monologue on their roommate’s boyfriend’s attempt to quit smoking. Still more come from a garrulous family like mine, which treats any conversational lull as a sign of a serious personal vendetta.
Now that you’ve analyzed why you run off at the mouth, here are some more practical suggestions:
1) Put the focus on your date by asking him questions. For every question he asks you, ask the equal or opposite yourself. Make the phrase "and you…?" a significant part of your night.
2) Listen with your eyes. People give non-verbal cues when they’re not interested in what you’re saying. Darting eyes is a big tip-off. Getting up and leaving with a hot brunette is another.
3) Memorize these numbers: Ten, thirty, ninety. Ten seconds, you have your date’s full attention. Thirty seconds, their interest has peaked. Ninety seconds and you really need to shut that big old yap of yours. If you’re ever in doubt, stop your story mid-sentence. You’d be surprised how rarely you’re asked to fire back up.
4) First-date scenarios where you shouldn’t ever be talking: A movie (unless it’s Rocky Horror), a live show ("This is a great band." "WHAT?" "THIS IS A GREAT BAND." "WHAT?"), a dance floor (when the mouth is engaged, the ass can’t follow) and the last thirty seconds before you depart (how can he kiss you if your mouth’s in motion?)

Dear Miss Information,
Is it possible to have a well-adjusted relationship with someone who works in the sex industry? I’m a lesbian who dated a stripper, and it didn’t end well. I caught her in several lies. Plus, she insisted she was a lesbian but is now dating her ex-boyfriend. I’m beginning to think that any job that requires you to put on an act to make money can’t coincide with a healthy relationship. What’s your opinion? — Between Two Chairs

Dear Between Two Chairs,
If you want to institute a "no shuck-and-jive" policy with the women you date, you might as well write off ninety-nine percent of the working population. Whether it’s the white-collar worker who oohs and aahs over his boss’s ugly baby or the vegan waitress who swallows her disgust as she serves up a Meat Lover’s pizza, everyone puts on an act to some extent. It’s how we earn our pay.
That said, I think you could make the argument that sex work tends to draw a higher proportion of people with serious issues — broken relationships, substance abuse, financial troubles and so on. Do people pursue this line of work because they have these problems to begin with (i.e., a woman who starts stripping to support a drug habit) or do they have these problems because we live in a society that’s unsupportive of what they do (i.e., an escort who’s mistreated but is afraid to tell the authorities)? Let’s simplify and say that you prefer not to date exotic dancers. That’s cool. You don’t need an empirical reason. I don’t like dating sound engineers. The personality required for the hyper-exacting process of recording music strikes me as anal-retentive and boring. I’m sure I could meet men who defy that stereotype, but it’s easier for me to skip over those personal ads altogether. Central to dating is the concept of individual choice, so trust your tastes and experiences.
As for your ex: stripper or no, dumping her was an excellent decision. It sounds like you put up with her untruths because you believed she was a sensitive soul who couldn’t bear to hurt anyone’s feelings. Now you know that, like most people who are that passive-aggressive, her lies were all about making her life easier and avoiding unpleasant emotional situations.
Take some time to lick your wounds, then go find a more honest hottie to lick them for you.

Dear Miss Information,
After seven years with my girlfriend, I’m on the verge of ending it. I like our friends, where we live, and even her family. But the relationship itself almost doesn’t exist anymore. A million little things have started to bug me, but I know that’s a symptom of the larger problem, not the cause. I just don’t know how to leave her. I’m scared to death that I’d be making a huge mistake, and I don’t want to hurt her. I feel like I’m postponing the inevitable. She’s aware that things aren’t great, but I don’t think she knows how close to the edge I feel. How do I end this? What’s the best way to do this to give both of us a healthy, fresh start? — East Coast

Dear East Coast,
My dad’s a big word nerd. For real. The man shits Scrabble tiles. Part of his affliction is that he’s constantly reading signs. I remember him freaking out over one in particular. It was at Kennywood amusement park on the "Raging Rapids" water ride. It said: "You will get wet on this ride." Not "may get damp" or "perhaps will be sprinkled" or "very possibly misted." Will. Get. Wet.
It’s pretty much the same with breakups. Just substitute the word "hurt" for "wet" and a heart full of sad for the soggy t-shirt, fanny pack and lost Ray-Bans. There is no way to break up with someone and not hurt them. There is no way to break up with someone and not get busted up yourself. There is no way to predict how much hurt there’s going to be or what it’s going to feel like until you actually do it. They’re all unknowns.
But you do have some knowns: anxiety, annoyance, dissatisfaction, that squiggly "this just isn’t right" feeling that dominates every waking thought.
So the question is, are the unknowns worse than the knowns? I’d argue they’re not. Even though the unknowns may hurt more initially, they’re much more prone to change in the long term. The healthiest, freshest starts I’ve seen (and experienced) are the ones that put a fair amount of distance between the couple and observe these Five Don’ts:
Don’t #1: Don’t agree to delay the decision. Stay in the here and now.
Don’t #2: Don’t hash out the minute details of previous arguments. It’s not constructive.
Don’t #3: Don’t tell them you’re unsure about what you’re doing, even if you are.
Don’t #4: Don’t expect good feelings or positivity out of the other person. You’re the dumper, which means you have to accept your role as asshole.
Don’t #5: Don’t do what makes you feel good, do what you know is right. It’s hard to be cold to someone you care about, but sometimes it’s the best thing for them.


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©2008 Erin Bradley and Nerve.com