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Dear Miss Information,
I’m really conflicted. I recently met a woman on the platonic section of Craigslist. I’m twenty-five, she’s forty-three. We decided to go for a hike and ended up having a wonderful time. Since our initial hang out, we have gone on several dates and had one sleepover. The relationship could proceed without a hitch if not for my incessant worrying. Is there too much of an age difference? Is she too urban? Will she be able to put up with my bad habits? I also wonder if I’m not smart enough, need to date someone my own age, have Oedipal issues, and so on. This is usually the point when I abruptly cut things short and move on. However, for a variety of reasons I’ve decided not to. Mainly, it’s bad practice and who knows where we might meet again. Besides, we have a ton in common: she has no kids and neither of us wants to, we both enjoy several of the same hobbies, she has been hurt and so have I and so on and so forth. Am I overreacting? For goodness sakes, even the AARP is posting articles about May-December romances now! — Scared of the Cougar Over the Mountain
Dear Scared of the Cougar Over the Mountain,
Sometimes I feel like I don’t get letters to this column so much as short novels. If the words “virgin,” “roommate,” or “polyamorous” appear in the subject line, then I know to get some Diet Coke and get comfortable – this may take a while. Your letter? I actually wish it were longer. There are so many loaded snippets and statements:
“Too urban” – Urban how? Does she suffer from pollution and high population density, or are you using a euphemism to say that her cultural background freaks you out?
“Bad habits” – What, exactly? PCP and black-tar heroin or a weakness for Crunch ‘n Munch and crosswords?
Finally, there’s your worry that it would be “bad practice” to end it. What’s so wrong with a polite brush-off? Is there a Craigslist labor union? According to bylaw 7.4b, Fucker must provide Fuckee at least two weeks notice prior to terminating a Casual Encounter.
In short, you’re all over the place, Scared of the Cougar Over the Mountain. But you’re in the early stages of a relationship, so that’s totally normal. Yes, there’s the age difference, but even if there weren’t, I think you’d still find plenty to worry about.
A person who’s genuinely attracted to another person and wants to pursue a future with them will push all those butterflies aside and try to give it a go. A person who’s only feeling it “kinda-sorta” will focus on the perceived differences and look for others to add to the pile. Which are you, the former or the latter? Maybe it’s too early to try to figure that out now. Why don’t you go on a few more dates and focus on how you feel when you’re with her rather than tucking into the worrywart jambalaya? Enjoy the sex, but for now refrain from any mushy post-coital promises.
Dear Miss Information,
I’m too embarrassed to ask my friends about this because of how pathetic it will seem. I’ve started dating a good friend of mine. We’ve been extremely close for the last year and genuinely enjoy each other. The sex is fantastic and I can’t wait to talk to this guy whenever we’re apart for more than a few hours. There’s just one thing I’m hung up on: this guy is way more attractive than I am. It’s the first thing that people I introduce him to comment on. Women (and men) stare at him whenever we are out. Sometimes I like it, and sometimes I want to dress him in Groucho Marx glasses and keep him all to myself. He is mostly oblivious to this, but there is no way he can’t know. I have always been very comfortable with the way I look (marginally attractive, nothing special), and have never understood why acknowledging that you aren’t beautiful is considered having poor confidence. But since we’ve started dating, I have become less and less confident. He’s very complimentary and I know he’s attracted to me, but how far can my sparkling personality get me? I really like this guy and I can’t stop worrying that he is going to realize someday that he can get some hot young thing and leave me. If a friend had the same problem, I would tell her to grow a pair and not buy into the lie that a woman has to be beautiful to keep her man interested, but I can’t stop obsessing over that myself. I don’t bring this up with him because, well, it’s pathetic. I guess I need a pep talk or something. When men fall for an average-looking girl, do they feel like they’re missing out? — More Rhoda than Mary
Dear More Rhoda than Mary,
Pep talk? Why should I give you anything, Ms. I-Don’t-Attach-A-Photo? An advice columnist cannot live on Vincent Kartheiser pictures alone.
“Who the fuck is that?” you ask. He’s one of a number of the Mad Men unfortunate enough not to be Don Draper, and therefore, to ninety-nine percent of the salivating public, invisible. But you know what? Fuck Jon Hamm and his football player neck. Fuck his Superman haircut and noble tortured-philanderer persona. I prefer Pete Campbell. Sure he’s a worm, but he knows he’s a worm. Plus, he’s got the dreamiest eyes and the poutiest sneer. Homeboy wears it well.
I’ll stop talking about TV, but I hope you get my point. Physical beauty is subjective. Not only that, but attraction has hundreds of components. They’re all woven together, like some big crazy quilt made of neurons, childhood memories, and hormones. No one can ever fully understand or unravel another person’s quilt. So stop trying, Rhoda. This guy thinks you’re hot. You don’t have to agree with him. I’m with you, it’s hard enough spending twenty-four-seven in this twisted, looks-obsessed culture. Now we’re supposed to feel guilty because we don’t cheerfully swallow every time Tyra or the Dove “Real Beauty” campaign throws us a “you go, girl!” bone. If you don’t want to go around spouting body-image affirmations, don’t.
As far as this fear of his leaving you for some “hot young thing” – he could, but you could always meet a better-looking guy with a bigger dick and even more amazing personality and fall out of love tomorrow. You may as well be afraid of plate tectonics and falling pianos. You can’t predict it, and you can’t do much to stop it. “Never self-possessed, or prudent, love is all abandonment,” said Emerson.