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Where the rubber meets the toad

My boyfriend of eight months is 38, with two kids. I'm 27 and divorced. He has unofficially moved into my apartment, but he isn't pulling his weight. He pays $500 a month in child support and $400 for his apartment — that he doesn't live in. (All of his utilities were shut off for nonpayment.) I understand that he doesn't have money to throw around, and help him financially whenever he needs it. He's always grateful, but I'm feeling resentful because he's very irresponsible in his spending (he lacks self-control). I could've amassed an emergency fund or bought the motorcycle I promised myself after my divorce. Now, that's been put off. He threw me a few bucks for expenses when I asked, but only twice. I told him he has until August 1 to ditch his apartment so he'll have some money. He does say he loves me every day, tells me I'm beautiful, and says I make him happier than he's ever been. I'm at a loss. How do I kindly tell him to pull it together? — Tapped Out

You dreamed of the wind on your face and the sun at your back as you're speeding down the open road on a new Harley. You settled for a Hog parked in your living room, mowing through your groceries and mining the couch crevices for spare change.

Not surprisingly, the guy isn't saying, "Gimme all your money, and make sure there's no dye pack in there." He tells you he loves you, how happy you make him, how beautiful you are. (He finds you especially beautiful as you're writing the check to pay his electric bill.)

It would be one thing if he'd fallen on hard times, but he's impulsive and fiscally irresponsible. As unromantic as it is to care about money, what's even more unromantic is fighting bitterly about it, which is what you'll be doing, and in close quarters, if Mr. Moochypants gives up his place and moves in for good. And, no, the problem isn't how to "kindly" tell him to get it together; this is a character issue. This is who he is — a 38-year-old man who can't live within his means, but has no qualms about living within yours.

You don't have to find a rich guy with a bum ticker, just a nice, stable guy who brings more to the party than a variety of flattering remarks about your hair. After all, you pull your weight. Don't you think you deserve a man who does the same? Also, because women evolved to seek providers, men co-evolved to become somebody and acquire resources, probably as a way of getting chicks. A guy might tell you he has no problem being supported by you, but he's sure to devalue you for it — his genes make him do it. (Sadly, they have yet to enroll in "Intro to Women's Studies.")

You might care about your boyfriend, but your willingness to stay with an unrepentant sponge suggests you don't expect much for yourself. Good news! You can change that. Work on becoming a person who has a strong sense of self-worth — strong enough to set standards for who she lets into her life. You're sure to pick a different sort of guy once it's you who's looking for a boyfriend, not your unresolved issues. Should you have a moment of weakness, just remind yourself of all the things you have to offer a guy — beyond lights, running water and a telephone with a dial tone.

Let's meek plans

A guy I did some juvenile "dating" with back in junior high is stopping by my workplace. The thing is, he doesn't ask me out; he just keeps coming by and hanging around. I'd like this to come to some sort of conclusion so I can stop wondering what his intentions are. — Perplexed

Loitering is a misdemeanor, not a form of seduction. The guy probably has the hots for you — accompanied by all the mojo of your stapler or the fake plant on your credenza, both of which have also lingered in your workplace but have failed to ask you out. Of course, you may be part of the problem. The flip side of Today's Wimp is the woman who sits there like a paperweight instead of flirting to let a guy know it's safe for him to make a move.

Sure, you could ask your fragile petunia out. But, it's a really bad idea. The guy who overcomes his shyness for you isn't likely to take you for granted in a relationship like the wimpy guy you reward by taking over and doing the asking. Assuming you have flirted, the conclusion you should come to is clear: If you want the guy to make himself useful, hand him a time card and a broom.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail adviceamy@aol.com. Read her blog and more at advicegoddess.com.

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