Miss Information

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Have a question? Email Letters may be edited for length, content and clarity.

Dear Miss Information,
I am forty-two. A year ago I fell head-over-heels in love with a divorcee of three years. He is working hard to rebuild his relationship with his two children. He told me early on that he didn’t want any more children. I had never wanted kids before, so at the time I was ambivalent. But now I adore this man and really wouldn’t mind having his child.
Recently I swallowed my feelings of vulnerability and revealed this. I was met with the same "I don’t want any more kids, full stop." Fair enough, but what’s preying on my mind is that this is a rejection of me, despite his protests to the contrary. Also, despite his resolute attitude, we have unprotected sex. We are both STD-free, but I am not on the pill.
I’m confused. If he really doesn’t want kids, I want to respect that and not land him with another mouth to feed. But isn’t he being irresponsible, too? I shudder at the thought of being pregnant with a decision to make and a hostile partner. But as a woman who hasn’t got much time left to have a child, I am experiencing a kind of pressurized sadness: at the thought of never being a mother, and the thought that the man I love will never willingly father my child. I am too old to leave someone I love so much in the hopes of finding someone else. Any advice? — Not Desperate

Dear Not Desperate,

Whose fault is it if someone gets pregnant? Is consent implied by the absence of birth control? I could spend the next five columns debating that. But at the core of the problem is that neither of you is acting in accordance with what’s best for his or her own needs. And I want what’s best for you, lambchop. You too, Wally and Beaver.

He wants a woman who is comfortable with not having children. He’s dating one who’s ambivalent, and (because he apparently doesn’t have enough drama with an ex-wife and two children) has elected not to wrap it up. You’re not sure how you feel about having children, but you do know the position of your boyfriend. You know that, were you to get pregnant, you’d have to deal with your own uncertainty and the physical and psychological implications of whichever path you chose: pregnancy, abortion, or adoption. Plus an unwilling partner. Yet, you also opt not to use rubbers.

As the proud owner of a set of ovaries, I totally identify with an accidental "whoopsie" as a secret, sometimes self-destructive, desire. As an adult human, I share your anxieties about ending an imperfect relationship, the aging process and starting over. I still think you deserve better than the status quo. It’s not clear whether you want a baby because you want a baby, or whether you’re attempting to bridge some gap between you and your partner. You need to use condoms until you figure this out.

As far as a long-term plan, I suggest you resign yourself to not having children with this man. And then do everything you need to do to make yourself happy with that decision — therapy, couples counseling, etc. — or move the hell on. I know you think it’s too late, but staying stuck in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want what you want has only one possible ending. If you’re single, the future is wide open. You can be a foster parent. You can adopt. You can meet a guy who’s just as kiddie-minded as you and be shocked by how quickly life changes. All it takes is the right person and nine little months. I have a friend who went from single and convinced he’d always be a lonely bachelor to married with three children in the time it took me to go through a can of pomade.

In closing, three words: condoms, condoms, condoms. And good luck.

Dear Miss Information,

How do I explain to friends and family (who express various degrees of surprise and exasperation) that the reason I’m not dating anyone is that I’m too emotionally crippled to even make the attempt?

The period of life where people learn how to get along and how to socialize? I didn’t get that. As a result, I have no idea how to approach anyone, and no inclination to compete with people who have been in this arena since they were twelve. And given that no one uses keywords like "fixer-upper" when searching a personal site, simply waiting and hoping is out of the question. Any suggestions on how to get the bystanders off my back? — In Dire Need of an Overhaul

Dear In Dire Need,

I’m sure you know why they’re asking. They care about you. That, or they’re in long-term relationships and bored as balls. You’re what they turn to when the DVR records Antiques Roadshow instead of Gossip Girl. They’re living vicariously.

Unlike you. You’re barely living at all. I’m not saying that because you’re not dating. Fingers off the keyboard, militant singles. This guy wouldn’t be using phrases like "emotionally crippled" and "fixer-upper" if he were happy with his Stouffer’s "Meal for One!" Beef Stroganoff. Hell, just the signoff alone is pretty telling. Dire Need, I think you’re a lot more socially and psychologically advanced than you give yourself credit for. You know how many people hide behind excuses like "I’m too busy" or "I’m too lazy," and have been doing so for so long that they can no longer separate real from bullshit? You are twenty steps ahead of those so-called dating experts who’ve been Don Juan-ing it up since they were in middle school. You’re aware of your limitations and blocks.

Except they aren’t limitations and blocks. Anyone can screw up dating, and most of us do. The barrier to entry is very, very low. Doesn’t matter whether you’ve been dating for days or years. There will always be David Lynchian-lunch dates and regret-laden moments. Turn your inexperience into one of your major sellers — "Cute guy. Hasn’t done much dating. Looking for nice girl who’s cool with halting-but-sincere conversation and the occasional uncomfortable silence." Put that in your personal, add a dog or cat photo and you’re golden. Go ahead and make some mistakes. Get out there. Find a therapist or embark on your own your brand of self-help. I think you’ll find there’s very little that’s real about your "undateable" self-image.

In the event I’ve got it all wrong and your question is real, with no underlying subtext, then my advice is to act as cheerful as possible. Thank them for their offer, but blather on how you don’t need to pursue dating because you’re so friggin’ happy. Channel one of those stereotypical, L.A. pseudo-spiritual types and brag about how you’re "enjoying your solitude" and are in a "really good place now." Statements like these are hard to refute (you: I’m happy; them: Uh-uh, are not!). And they usually get the solicitor to wonder: Am I really happy that being in a couple? If I dumped Billy, would I be better off, too? Yeah, it’s a white lie, but it shifts focus. The conversation transitions into healthy eating and exercise and you’re free to slink off without nosy romantic inquiries and patronizing set-ups.

Readers, how do YOU react when friends and family comment on your status? Are you deferential? Hostile? Do you lie? Tell the truth? Have you gone from a lonely avoider to a dating smoothie or vice-versa? How did you do it? Leave a comment in the Feedback section and tell us what’s up.

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