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Apocalypse eventually

My girlfriend of four years is sweet, smart and sexy, in a vanilla kind of way, but I've never felt passionate about her. We're both grad students, and we were getting sick of our respective roommates. My girlfriend wanted to move our relationship forward and found us a great deal on a rental, but we had to act immediately. Although I had misgivings, it seemed too hard to say no, so I signed the lease. Now, I realize it was a mistake. I've wasted my 20s with a nice but boring girl. I want to get out, meet more women and live a little, but the lease complicates everything. I'd be leaving her not only heartbroken but unable to pay the rent and needing to get a roommate. I'd sort of like to stay roommates with her and be able to date other people, but I know that'd never fly. Supremely Stuck

There are all these things you really want to believe like, that you can lose 40 pounds on the Deep-Fried Twinkie Diet, gain 3 inches from a pill some guy in Romania is hawking over the Internet, and that the shifty guy behind 7-Eleven will sell you a brand-new Wii for $100, not a slightly used brick in a brand-new Wii box.

Then there's the idea that you could stay roommates with the ex you've just dumped and turn your shared apartment into a parade route for bar floozies you bring home. When your ex-girlfriend/roommate wonders about the racket, simply tell her, "That's just the triplets in the shower." I'm sure her response will be, "Oh, OK. Do you think they need more towels?"

A guy can dream, can't he? Well, sure. And you do concede that this fantasy would "never fly." But you have a bad habit of giving reality the heave in favor of fantasies with the wings of an anvil: Boring girlfriends will get more exciting over time. Because you'd like to be attracted to somebody, you eventually will. And when you want to end it with your girlfriend, the thing to do is keep it to yourself and sign a lease locking you into a one-bedroom apartment with her for at least another year.

Your defense? "It seemed too hard to say no." Are you a man or a puddle? Breaking up with your girlfriend can have its downsides the screaming, sobbing, pleading, lifelong resentment. Still, in the long run, there's nothing quite so hard as taking the easy way out. Did you think you were doing your girlfriend a favor by sticking around, vaguely dissatisfied, for four years while she got more and more attached? When were you planning on breaking the bad news, upon hearing the question, "Is there any reason these two people shouldn't be married?" You hang your head: "Uh, ahem, Father ... I never should've signed that lease."

Man up already and do the deed. Front your girlfriend a month's rent so she can find a roommate. Get in the habit of scrutinizing everything you do and being honest with yourself and others instead of making self-serving excuses: "She won't be able to pay the rent! She'll have to get a roommate!" The apartment's a "great deal," probably in a college town, and probably not one on the Arctic Circle. She'll manage. So will you, if you stop putting off today's unpleasantry until tomorrow which leads to fun scenarios like never cleaning your bathroom, and never cleaning it, and never cleaning it, and getting to the point where the only hope is not Comet, but arson.

Kiss and wake up

Two months ago, I went hiking with this girl I volunteer with. I kissed her, and she said she had a boyfriend, but she didn't stop kissing me. We now spend lots of time together, especially considering her boyfriend, who's not always her favorite person. Sometimes we kiss, sometimes it gets a little more heated. Do I back off? Move on in? Continue as I have been? Conflicted

Lucky for you, you're a man, not a supermarket, or you'd be out of business within the month. You know those little tastes of sausage or crab dip some lady in a paper shower cap is always handing out at the end of the frozen-foods aisle? She'll offer you one or two, not 26. That's because one or two are a free sample, an incentive to buy; 26 are a free lunch, an incentive to nap.

Market wisdom is make-out wisdom: If you want to do more than fool around with this girl, stop fooling around with her, stop seeing her and tell her to call you when she ditches the other dude. Think of it as giving her a taste of what she's missing. If she's hungry for more, she'll have to buy the whole salami.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail adviceamy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com).

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