Advice

Miss Information

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



Dear Miss Information,
Last night I went on a second date with a guy I’m not too excited about. We’d make great friends, but there’s no romantic spark. He may feel the same way, as he invited his friend to join us for a drink later in the evening. The thing is, I really liked my date’s friend, and I think he liked me too. We shared many charged moments, complete with shy smiles and unspoken questions. I’m not sure how to go about seeing this new guy again. I found his email address on his work web site (which was actually quite easy), but should I go behind my date’s back and send an email, or should I ask my date if it’s okay? I could also wait and see if he makes the effort. The thing is, for the first time in two years ago, I feel hope and excitement. — Butterflies in Winter

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Dear Butterflies in Winter,

To sneak is underhanded, but to ask is unnecessary: You don’t really need anyone’s permission after so few dates. That said, it’s nice to take into account this guy’s feelings for you, even if you doubt he has any. Keep in mind that you might be way off in your assessment. Perhaps he invited his friend because he’s really excited and wants to show you off, however premature and inappropriate that might be. I’m not saying don’t trust your instincts, but be careful. It’s easy to project your own wants and desires onto other people’s behavior.

 

So, rather than sneak or ask, you should tell, in an email or a phone call — whichever’s more suited to the intimacy and intensity level of your two dates. You can say something like, "Second Date, I’ve had a great time getting to know you, but for whatever reason, I’m not feeling the chemistry. On a related-but-much-more-awkward note, I was planning on contacting Mr. Friend and seeing if he wants to hang out before the holidays. Who knows if he’ll even be interested? I just thought I should tell you. I hope this doesn’t stop us from being friends."

You’re pulling a borderline-shitty maneuver. I wouldn’t be surprised if this guy tells you to shove it, or pulls the loyalty card with Mr. Friend and orders him to stay the Jesus-and-Josaphat away. I still think it’s worth it, though. The hurt you’re inflicting is minimal, and you’ll be taking care of something that was already on your To-Do List, which is dumping Second Date. If you can live with one or both of these guys thinking you’re an inconsiderate Jezebel, than I say go for it, mami. If you’re lucky, you might end up getting Biblical, in a good way.


Dear Miss Information,
I can’t make myself trust my boyfriend of two years. We both were seeing other people when we started dating, and he has a history of flirting with his female friends many of whom he’s dated or hooked up with. It drives me up a wall when he sees them, though logically I shouldn’t have any suspicions. I haven’t voiced my concerns because he might resent my jealousy or feel trapped. Should I ask why he’s freshly shaved, both facially and pubicly, after seeing one of his old female friends, and why he didn’t tell me he saw her until after the fact or should I just deal with it? Possibly Neurotic

Dear Possibly Neurotic,

First of all, stop beating up on poor old Jealousy. It may not be as celebrated as Love, as ostentatious as Anger, or as universally embraced as Familial Resentment and Apathy, but it’s still an important part of our makeup. Science-y types have observed jealousy in babies as young as three months. If they don’t get their diapers in a knot about it, why should we?

Granted, we find better ways of coping than holding our breaths until our faces turn magenta. As adults, we know that’s not constructive — usually. But neither is what you’re doing, connecting the dots where there might not even be dots. You may think you’re being mature by holding back, but you’re just providing a warm, emotional Petri dish in which these ugly little suspicions can flourish. Your behavior will become more unpredictable and passive-aggressive. Your boyfriend will pull away because of this, and whammo, bammo: self-fulfilling prophecy.

Bottom line: Fire up a dialogue. Stop guessing at what’s real, and honestly communicate your feelings. Make it a shared issue rather than an indictment or an investigation. Remember that jealousy itself isn’t bad. It’s how that jealousy is communicated that matters. Come at him in a way that’s nuanced, thoughtful and mindful of your own failings. If he doesn’t respond, he’s either of a non-compatible mindset with you, or he doth protest too much because he’s cheating. For your sake, I hope it’s neither.

Dear Miss Info,

I can’t date a woman who smokes. If I see a woman take a drag on anything — cigarette, pipe, joint, etc. — she immediately becomes unattractive and goes into the "platonic" category in my brain. I have a number of reasons for this, among them being that I deplore the smell.

I hang out in hipster circles, and naturally more than half the women I meet smoke. I’ve often received subtle and not-so-subtle signals from smokers. When pressed as to why I’m not interested, I tend to blurt, "I just can’t date smokers." I don’t want to be insensitive and rude. I just have a strict preference; it’s not like I think less of them as individuals. I’m not looking to change this hang-up, but I want to learn how to articulate it better. Single Non-Smoker

Dear Single Non-Smoker,

To start, I wouldn’t refer to them to as "smokers." Yeah, that’s what they are, but a lot of people aren’t cool with labels. It’s not the same as "jogger" or "calligrapher." Most smokers feel conflicted about their habit; it’s not this proud badge they wear. Even if it’s not intended as an insult, knowing that someone has defined you by category makes you feel crappy. Why? Because it gets in the way of that precious, primal coping mechanism: denial. We love our denial, and we don’t take kindly to having it pointed out by relative strangers.

The solution is an easy one — just flip around the language:
"I have a problem with smoking.
"I’m really weird about smoking. It’s a dealbreaker."
"I can’t be around cigarettes."
"I’m one of those uptight non-smoking types. Sorry."

Now the focus is on you, and you can stop right there. No need to expound on all your platonic-versus-sexual feelings. To be honest, it reads a little Madonna-whore, and being told someone finds you — or rather, something you do — repulsive is not going to win you any friends amongst the ladies. The more you talk about it, the more you imply that your preference is up for negotiation. Unless it is — say, for instance, you’d date a woman if she promised never to smoke or smell like smoke around you — then change the subject to something else people have strong opinions about, and go on your way.

Readers, how do you give smokers the brush off? Smokers, do any of you refuse to date non-smokers? Leave a comment in the Feedback section and butt in on the debate.



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©2008 Erin Bradley and Nerve.com