Monday, August 27, 2007

Summer's almost over, and I'm totally bummed! What should I do?

Dear HTT,

I want to write to you for advice but not sure about how to disguise myself. You would know from my email address who I might be.

I thought it would be a good place to put a comment on your vacation pictures and pose my dilemma.

I am in a panic about summer ending. I have to say that it’s been a blast and I am afraid that the good times will end. And I don't want to wait another 10 months for summer to start again.

What advice can you give me to keep the good times rolling???

PS: Football season does start in a few weeks so there is some light on my horizon.

Party Girl

Dear Party Girl,

First, thanks for your ingenuity…posting your question in the comments section is a great way to disguise yourself! The rest of you anonymity-challenged readers/would-be letter writers should take note.

Now, on to your dilemma. I’m not sure how old you are or where you live. If summer’s end means back to school (or work, if you’re a teacher), I can imagine falling into a funk this time of year. Or, if your main form of fun involves a beach and a bottle of pina-colada-scented tanning oil, maybe the passing of 90-degree days is cause for mourning. Or, if you reside in a state that might see snow in a few weeks, I guess I can imagine bumming out as August slips by.

But for me, the end of August is cause for celebration. Soon the high temperature will dip below 99! Being outdoors will become a pleasure and not just a test of endurance. I might be able to take my hair out of a ponytail, once even the thought of a few strands on my neck doesn’t make me sweat. Before too long, we’ll be enjoying a little nip in the air, some mulled cider, bulky sweaters, and an energetic spring in the steps of our stylishly boot-clad feet.

Honestly, if you work year-round, I don’t see why summer holds any more party promise than the rest of the year. All right, maybe pool parties will drop off the calendar for a while, but what else can’t you do in the fall that you can do in the summer? Where I live, fall’s a nicer time of year for a cookout, a picnic, drinks on a bar patio, a bike ride, a hike, a road trip, a street fair, a wedding, most vacations, a walk on the beach, a party on the porch, a stroll around Duke Gardens, a trip to the farmer’s market, hand-holding (fewer sweaty palms), dressing up, gardening, dancing, exploring new places, oh, I could go on and on.

But, o.k., I’ll assume that the passing of summer is, for you, reason to despair, whether it marks the end of aimless days of pleasure or the beginning of an early and long, dreary winter. I guess the closest parallel from my own life that I can draw on to feel what you might be feeling is the end of a fantastic vacation. (And you posted near my vacation pictures, so you know how depressed I can get when I return from a great trip.) This is what I do when vacation ends: I start planning another one. Not just dreaming. Planning. I need some concrete fun to look forward to. If you know me at all, you’ve probably heard me say, at least once, “In order to be happy in life, one must always be on vacation or planning one.”

So, Party Girl, start cooking up some fun for the fall and winter. Sure, if you’ve had the luxury of partying every night over the summer, you’re going to have to make do with less. And certainly, unlike a vacation, you can’t just plan to have summer again in a few months. (Although if it’s beach weather you’ll crave, remember it’s always hot somewhere in the world.) Think about the kinds of events that will add joy to your life this fall and winter and make real plans to do them. Get other people on board. I know for some people lack of spontaneity is a buzz kill, but even a few exciting, sure-to-happen events on your calendar can make the end of summer (for you) or vacation (for me) easier to bear.

Party on, my anonymous friend!


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

More on crushes

A guy friend of mine begged to differ with my advice to the previous letter writer. He said that he'd prefer the object of his crush to be less opaque about her feelings so that he's not left guessing. But, when pressed, he couldn't come up with what she should actually say. I maintain that there's no polite way to tell someone you're not interested in them, particularly if they haven't expressed interest in YOU.

The burden is on people with a crush to rip the band aid off if they really want to know where they stand with the object of their affection.

However, as I tried to express to "Crushed," I think it's humane....a kindness, a try to get the point across somehow that she's not interested in dating her pal. Don't make him rip the band aid off if he can avoid it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Should I crush someone who might have a crush on me?

Dear HTT,

I have a small group of loosely connected friends that I hang around with on a fairly regular basis, some of them more than others. I have reason to believe that one of the guys in the group has a crush on me. He’s never said so straight out, but it’s just a feeling I get. I like spending time with him, but I’m not interested in dating him. Should I tell him? I don’t want to hurt him or make it awkward for the two of us to show up at the same events, but I don’t want to lead him on either. I don’t flirt with him, but I am friendly, and it’s possible he could be misreading the signals.

Thanks for any advice you can give.


Dear Crushed,

You know, this whole crush business generates more visits to my site than any other topic. People who arrive at “Here’s the Thing” from Google leave a visible trail of search terms, at least half of which include the word “crush.” (Don’t worry. As I pointed out earlier, I can’t tell WHO is doing the googling, so your secrets are safe.) It’s fascinating, really, to imagine just how many people at this very moment are nursing a secret crush on a coworker, friend, teacher, buddy of a spouse, barista, bartender, or girl across the hall. As widespread as this situation appears to be, it’s puzzling that someone hasn’t figured out how to profit somehow. Or, more philanthropically, to come up with some kind of cure and distribute it widely, free of charge. I'm sure a cure would be welcome. Because by their nature, crushes are fun for a few weeks or months at best before they give way to frustration and pining and pints of Ben and Jerry’s. (Unless they happen to turn into relationships, in which case, they’re no longer “crushes.”)

After all, crush is violent word:

–verb (used with object)
  • to press or squeeze with a force that destroys or deforms.
  • to squeeze or pound into small fragments or particles, as ore, stone, etc.
  • to force out by pressing or squeezing; extract: to crush cottonseeds in order to produce oil.
  • to rumple; wrinkle; crease.
  • to smooth or flatten by pressure: to crush leather.
  • to hug or embrace forcibly or strongly: He crushed her in his arms.
  • to destroy, subdue, or suppress utterly: to crush a revolt.
  • to overwhelm with confusion, chagrin, or humiliation, as by argumentation or a slighting action or remark; squelch.
  • to oppress grievously.

  • the act of crushing; state of being crushed.
  • a great crowd: a crush of shoppers.
  • an intense but usually short-lived infatuation.
  • the object of such an infatuation: Who is your latest crush?

It’s probably no coincidence that “an intense but usually short-lived infatuation” that can cause no small amount of depression and googling isn’t called—I don’t know—a “nurture” or an “encouragement.”

So, getting around to your specific crushing issue: since this fellow hasn’t laid bare his feelings or asked you on a date, you can’t be certain he thinks of you as more than a friend. As such, I think it’d be a bit presumptuous to explicitly state that you lack romantic interest in him. For the sake of argument, though, let’s assume that he does have a crush on you. It’s quite possible that he already knows you aren’t interested and is just biding his time until the crush fades, as they tend to do.

I think your best bet is to remain friendly but pay attention to your boundaries. It’s flattering to be wanted, but continue resisting the temptation to flirt. If you usually only see one another in a group, keep it that way; if you have hung out alone in the past, maybe for a while it would be better to include others. If you have, or develop, an interest in someone, mention it to him as you would to any other friend, but take care not to be heavy handed or cruel about it.

Bottom line, treat this guy as you’d hope to be treated if the tables were turned.


What other advice columnists say

A friend and reader sent this to me. I'll try not to follow this example, even though it made me laugh.

Monday, August 13, 2007

How will reclaiming my virginity affect me in the romance department?

Dear HTT,

I'm a divorced woman who wishes to 'reclaim her virginity' (i.e., be sexually abstinent, as younger women in HIV-prevalent settings are being urged to do to protect their health). Do you think that will affect my romantic prospects, and if so, how? Reclaiming one's virginity might be seen as akin to "detailing and garaging/protecting one's car" for a time before putting it on the market. Though used, it feels rather new. Also, in this day and age, maybe virgins -- of whatever age, pure or reclaimed -- are a refreshing, albeit puzzling novelty.

What do you think?

Dear Virgin Wannabe,

If you think reclaiming your virginity is a simple matter of announcing your abstinence and beating back suitors, you are mistaken my friend. Thanks to Google, I came across The Society for the Recapture of Virginity, which, FOR NO MONEY DOWN, assists you in the complex process of revirgination.

Three not-so-simple steps:

First you enter some information into the VRS 3000, a “state-of-the-art software which takes in factual information from the non-virgin, performs complex, rigorous calculations, and through a process called virgination, finds the algorithm needed to restore your virginity.” According to the site, “a group of highly skilled scientists set out on a multi-million dollar research study that eventually led to a breakthrough in the understanding of virginity.”

Next, based on the number crunching done by the VRS 3000, a microchip is custom encoded with a unique algorithm. “This microchip is then attached to a wristband, which you wear at night while you sleep. During the night, the microchip emits harmless radio waves that adjust and correct your virgin biorhythms. While you dream, your virginity will be restored. You will not feel a thing, but you will wake up a virgin!”

(How do you know it works, you ask? Easy. According to the web site, “You will know.” Period.)

Finally, you will receive a certificate with your name on it (emphasis not mine) to prove that you have been reflowered.

I suspect (desperately hope) the creators of this site are pulling our legs, and kudos to them for making me nearly shoot coffee out of my nose. But all joking aside, your question about how this second virginity business might affect your romantic prospects deserves some serious discussion.

Are you looking at the process as one of detailing/garaging before going back on the market sometime soon? I mean, after all, you mention reclaiming virginity, not adopting life-long celibacy. And being a virgin means that you haven’t had sex yet, not that you intend on never having it. Given that, I think many men will view your revirginization with great enthusiasm.

First, you’re the best of both worlds: you do actually have sexual experience (I’m assuming), but of late you are pure. You’re the Madonna and the whore all in one person! (Um…I don’t mean you’re a whore. That didn’t come out right.) Second, lots of men love a challenge. You might very well be wined and dined and showered with flowers and candy by men with amorous intentions.

Now if don't plan to re-enter the market in the foreseeable future, I think you should make your parameters clear to any potential suitors. Are you wishing to remain a new virgin for a certain length of time? Until you fall deeply in love? What’s the purpose of your new-found virginity? Do you crave emotional, platonic relationships with men and don’t want sex to get in the way? I think a guy’s got a right to know, particularly if he is sincere and kind and not just looking for a booty call.

I’ll be curious to see how this situation unfolds!


Thursday, August 9, 2007

Summer slump

Nothing particularly pertinent to my blog is going on right now, so I'll spare you any stream of consciousness rambling. (This is not to say life isn't good. It is.) But I didn't want lack of entries to cause any of my family members to think something distressing had happened to me.

Keep those questions's too hot and steamy to spend any time outside anyway! And lately, my in-box is filled only with notices that I've won the Irish Lottery.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

My girlfriend gets hammered, her friends hate me, what should I do?

Dear HTT,

Girlfriend's friends are a problem.

When I first started dating my girlfriend a little over a year ago (we live together now), I met all of her friends and although a few of them were annoying, I took it in stride and decided they were along for the ride. Since then, I've helped them move, watched their houses and animals while they were out of town, hung out with them, basically accepted them as friends and put my heart and soul into that just as I would any friend.

When my girlfriend and I began to argue about alcohol (she drinks too much and has admitted that several times; she can never have just "a few" - always has to get hammered; she said several times she would change for the better but consistently failed at that after just a few days at most and we would argue again), she would seek the help of these friends as "second opinions". Of course, being her girlfriends and drinking buddies since long before I knew her, they supported her. They told her that I was "controlling", that I "didn't want her to have any fun", that I was "trying to take her away from her friends", etc etc the list goes on and on. It has degenerated into them flat-out declaring that I am an "asshole" and a "dick".

I have never done anything wrong to these friends - have only been genuine and treated them like my close friends as well. Now that they are picking me apart and beating me and us down, I tell her that this is too much and I no longer have any use for any of them. She says that I am the one with the alcohol problem (for not accepting her getting hammered frequently) and that I am alienating myself as far as these friends are concerned. I told her that they are the ones who screwed up.

Everything else is my fault. My girlfriend never apologizes for anything. When she is wrong and we argue, I apologize just so that we can move on; with the hopes that such forgiveness and understanding and work toward the greater good will be met with relief and she will work harder.

I know she loves me and she tells me that she does. She has a new house and new car (all in my name because she has no credit; I'm 5 years younger). I tell her I love her each night and each morning.

How do I fix this craziness of denial and friends?

Thank you for any advice.

Dear Anonymous,

I’m afraid that her friends are the least of your problems. When I boil your letter down to its core elements, this is what I see:

  • Your girlfriend “gets hammered” whenever she drinks
  • She has admitted she drinks too much, yet says you’re the one with the problem because you don’t accept her drinking
  • She counts on her drinking-buddy friends to enable her behavior
  • She thinks everything is your fault and never apologizes for anything
  • She has used your good credit to purchase a house and a car

These are red flags. Briskly waving flags. Giant ones, like the enormous American flag that flies over at least one car dealership in every town in this country. You ask how to fix this situation, but your girlfriend seems to have problems that you can’t fix, no matter how much patience, forgiveness, or understanding you muster.

Believe me. I know all too well the appeal of “helping” or fixing someone. Hello, I’ve got a crush on Gregory House of the television show “House.” If you watch the show, you know he’s a pill-popping, emotionally distant, ass who is also brilliant and handsome. I imagine his character as possessing a kernel of goodness that would blossom with the love of the right woman (aka me, if House were actually a real person).

To some of us, people who go off the rails have their own crazy allure, but we have to fight the tendency—and hubris—to think we can make them better. And in case you’re thinking, “easy for you to say…House is just a television character and I’m talking about a living, breathing person whom I happen to love,” rest assured that I’m not delusional; I know it’s only t.v. But I also briefly dated a man who was an alcoholic. He readily admitted as much and was working hard, albeit not very successfully, to stop drinking. He had more than a kernel of goodness, but a relationship with him would have been unhealthy if not impossible.

Your girlfriend might not be an alcoholic, but clearly her drinking is of concern to you. And that’s a problem. Also, I’m troubled for you about the possible ramifications of having put her house and car in your name.

I trust that you love her. I even trust that she loves you. But, cliché though this may be, love isn’t enough. I’m going to stop just short of suggesting you break up, because maybe your girlfriend is capable of change, although it doesn’t sound like she thinks she needs to. I do recommend disentangling yourself financially. And then spend time alone, someplace restful and quiet, and think about whether this relationship really makes you happy.

Good luck,