Miss Information

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

Dear Miss Information,
    While I always come to dinner equipped with enough cash to pay for myself, the guy I’m with inevitably insists on settling the tab. I’m not complaining exactly, but I think it’s strange that it happens so regularly. When I was growing up, I was always taught that girls should expect to go dutch. What’s your take? — There Is Such A Thing As A Free Lunch


Dear Free Lunch,
    I’m typing this wearing flame-retardant oven mitts in anticipation of the flame war that’s about to begin. There’s no precise mathematical formula that applies to every dating situation, but here are some basic rules of engagement for everyone to follow:
    1. On the first few dates, both parties should hit the ATM and be prepared to split to the check.
    2. If one or the other party offers to pay and they insist more than once, let it go. Fistfights over checks are not comfortable, and they’re not classy. Thank them politely and accept.
    3. After a few dates, start taking turns rather than splitting the check. Nothing ruins romance faster than a calculator watch.
    4. If the activity is something out-of-the-norm and/or especially pricey, and it was more your idea than your partner’s, then you get to pay.
    5. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Girls, don’t go dutch and then make sideways remarks about how you hate cheap men. Guys, don’t pick up the tab and then start referencing Anna Nicole Smith.
    6. If one partner makes significantly more money than the other, that person should generally pay for more of the dates (note: this does not mean all of the dates).
    7. No matter who pays for what, this phrase is not optional: “Thank you.”

Dear Miss Information,
    My wife wants a divorce. When she told me, I was totally blindsided. She wants to remain friends, but my therapist says that would be both “emasculating” and “psychologically debilitating.” I know he’s right, but I just can’t quit her cold turkey. Should I attempt a friendship knowing I’ll probably always hope for reconciliation? — Vexed Ex

Dear Vexed Ex,
    If you have kids, yes. If you don’t, it depends on how much pain being friends with your ex is causing you. If you can’t meet her for coffee without feeling like your heart is hemorrhaging out of your chest, leave it alone.
    Your therapist’s use of terms like “emasculating” to describe male/female friendship is pretty much bull. Lots of men maintain pleasant relationships with their exes without having to hand their testicles over in a pink crocheted sack. The majority of them have time and distance on their side — I’m prescribing these remedies for you, too. Tell your ex that being all buddy-buddy is too difficult for you right now. You’d like to have limited contact — say, a phone call every few weeks or lunch once a month — and that this may change as time goes by and your mutual psyches improve.
    But be careful not to get all buoyed by a period of feeling stable and then suddenly decide it’s okay to dive back into something intense. Realize that you probably feel good because you’re not talking to her. Don’t rush it.

Dear Miss Information,
    I finally found her: The One. I threw aside my reservations, rescued her from a failed marriage and befriended her brat of a daughter. Then, after she lost thirty pounds, she cheated on me with a guy I knew would use and abuse her — which, of course, he did. Two years later, she realizes she blew it and is trying to get back into my life. I’m still drawn to her like a moth to a blowtorch. Should I give her a second chance? — Once Scared, Twice Stupid

Dear Once Scared,
    A lot of folks hear the c-word (cheating, not that other c-word, you pottymouths) and dole out an automatic banishment from Relationship Kingdom.
    Granted, most of the time this is the wisest course of action. But it doesn’t have to be so black-and-white. People fuck up, but they also have the capacity to learn and change, and two years is a substantial chunk of time in which to do that.
    If you know for sure your lady isn’t a chronic cheater (if she’s done this to other guys in the past, put on your track shoes and run), and if she’s showing signs of real change — not just in words, but in action — then give her another shot on a temp-to-perm basis. Love can be pretty amazing the second time around if the right ingredients are there. Keep your expectations low and reel it in if you suspect she’s up to her old tricks.

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