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A new leash on life

I've been dating my girlfriend for four years. Two years before we met, I was briefly involved with a co-worker. She and I chat in passing, but exchange no innuendoes or intimate life details, and have no contact outside the office. Despite my being completely faithful, and swearing that I have zero interest in this woman, my girlfriend is totally fixated on her. She's searched my office, reviews my e-mails and cell phone log, and bought a deleted e-mail recovery program in case I'd gotten rid of any incriminating correspondence! Worse yet, she's parked outside my office at closing time and has hacked into my co-workers' e-mail -- which could get me fired if my boss found out. What will it take to get my girlfriend to stop imagining me in the arms of a woman I casually dated six years ago? -- Not Guilty

After four years with the same person, a little role-play can help stave off erotic ennui. Some couples turn to the classics: the mean cheerleader and the class dweeb, Nurse Ratched and the boy who won't swallow his pills, the lady motorcycle cop and the schlub with the suspended license. And then there's your girlfriend's current events-inspired approach: Spc. Lynndie England and the Iraqi prisoner.

All women have ways of making a man talk. The wise ones undo a couple blouse buttons and ask probing questions like, "Do you lift weights, or do you just have really great genes?" Your wack-job girlfriend, on the other hand, knows there's more than one way to skin a cat. (Unfortunately, none of them is likely to be a real laugh riot for the cat.) Assuming you're telling the truth about being "completely faithful," any attempts to invade your privacy should be dealt with on a "need-to-know" basis. Say your girlfriend informs you she'll be searching your office. You need to let her know she'll have better luck searching the Dumpster behind her apartment -- where she might find a ratty sock or an old toothbrush to remember you by after the movers have picked up your stuff.

Imagine if, on your first date, she pitched you the relationship you have today: "Wherever you go, I go -- with my high-powered binoculars." Or, "Don't mind me, I'll just be sitting in the parking lot with my Pringles can antenna, tapping into your boss' midday porn break." You might be tempted to call this love. For accuracy's sake, you probably should call it "extremely slow strangulation." Anybody over 8 has a romantic past. Unfounded jealousy about yours is a sign that you aren't dating a person, merely a chalk outline of one. Never a good idea. Getting involved with somebody who's short on self-worth is like buying a car that's short on tires. You won't go far, but you'll probably be too transfixed by the girlish tickle of bare rims on pavement to do much odometer-watching.

Tomorrow could be the first day of the rest of your interrogation. But perhaps you'd prefer to put your role-playing skills to healthier use: You're The Black Stallion! You're a cockroach when the lights come on! You're the "Runaway Bride"! If you do manage to turn your staying power into leaving power, avoid women until you figure out why you not only met Big Brother, but spent four years hogging her covers, and review all the ways dating should differ from a proctology exam. Do your homework, and you might someday land another girlfriend who keeps the sparks flying -- but without blindfolding you, standing you on a milk crate, and sending charges through the electrodes until you talk.

Heir traffic control

I'm a guy in my early 30s, and while I'm into getting married, I don't want kids. Yes, I've looked deep into my heart and pondered, "Fred, aren't you being a tad selfish?" Well, maybe. But, I'm a freelance writer hoping to be a novelist someday, and raising kids'll put a major financial crimp in my plans. Regardless, I'm just not a kid person. How and when do I tell potential girlfriends? -- DNA Hoarder

There are those women who'll listen when you inform them your gene pool is closed this lifetime. They tend to hear it best, however, if you speak up before they can start swooning, "He could be the father of my children!" I hate to rush you, but to be safe, this means getting it in directly behind hello, or, at the very latest, before the appetizers. Are you being "a tad selfish"? Perhaps. But what's colossally selfish is a woman who forces kids on a guy who's made his ambitions clear: staying up late writing, not writing checks for the extraction of a Red Hot from Junior's nose. Who says you can't induce labor in a man? All it takes is one woman, one safety pin and a couple holes in a Trojan.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, No. 280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com).

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