I'm an 18-year-old woman, recently asked out by a handsome, charming 34-year-old guy from France. He took me out to a nice restaurant, and everything was wonderful until he admitted that he has a girlfriend, though he explained that they always fight and break up. He said he isn't ready to leave or cheat on her, but he is very attracted to me and wants to keep seeing me platonically to see where our "relationship" goes. I believe him but feel like some second option. After dinner, we ended up making out in his car. Things were going WAY too far, so I had him take me home. I really like him, but I don't want to waste my time wanting someone who already has someone, even if he is "confused" about her. — Disturbed
Some men take their monogamy very seriously: "I'm not ready to cheat on my girlfriend. But I might be ready after dessert."
Yes, the guy reeled you in like a dazed trout, but you shouldn't feel too bad about that. In addition to his being an experienced 34 to your inexperienced 18, he's also French. If there's a French national sport, it's probably seduction. (Note that nobody calls making out "North Korean kissing.")
The French also tend to be more relaxed about the boundaries of monogamy. In a Pew Research Center poll, when asked whether an affair is "morally unacceptable," only 47 percent of French people said it is, compared with 87 percent of Americans. Former French President François Mitterrand's wife even invited his mistress to his funeral, where they stood together over his coffin. Still, even in France, there are lines you just don't cross. In the words of actor Yves Montand: "I think a man can have two, maybe three affairs while he is married. But three is the absolute maximum. After that, you are cheating."
Unfortunately, you missed your cue to activate the ejection seat — the point at which the guy mentioned having a girlfriend. A guy with a girlfriend is a guy who is not available. Not even if he says they're on-and-off and suggests sampling you as a way of deciding whether they should be off-and-off. The problem is, there's a time when this sort of clarity comes more easily, and it isn't when you're in the heat of the moment, having your culottes charmed off by Jean-Claude the Seducer.
You need to go into a date with a set of standards — standards you come up with ahead of time for what you will and won't accept. If, for example, one of these is "Never become somebody's backup sex," it won't matter that the man in question is very attracted to you and says so with a French accent. As France's big gift to the United States, the Statue of Liberty, says on its base: "Give me your tired," not your "tired of their girlfriends."
You may now miss the bride
My ex-girlfriend and I broke up two years ago, and she's about to marry another guy. I admit that I'm not quite over her, and she knows this, so I'm not invited to the wedding. But we loved each other for many years, so it seems wrong to let such a big life event of hers pass without mention. Do I send a card? A gift? Put in a phone call? — Former Boyfriend
When the woman you love is marrying someone else, it's natural to be of two minds — one that says "Call and congratulate her!" and the other whispering, "Call in a bomb threat to the church on their wedding day!"
Taking the classier approach will actually have benefits for you — even beyond avoiding a lengthy trial and prison time. A growing body of research finds that "walking the walk" — acting the way you'd like to feel — is one of the fastest, most effective ways to change how you do feel. Basically, by acting as if you're over her, you'll help move yourself along to that point.
So, yes, write out a congratulatory card. (A gift is unnecessary, and a call might be uncomfortable, especially if you and she end up playing phone tag and her fiancé notices 26 messages from her ex.) In the card, you can simply say something like, "Wishing you guys all the best on your wedding day and many years of happiness!" Just avoid getting into specifics on the happiness thing, like how you'll always be there for her: "If your husband ever finds you in bed with another man, I'd like it to be me."
Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com). Her latest book is Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck.