Wednesday, February 16, 2011

We have no advice (we have advice)

Ashley: In Prudence, there's a teenager who found her dad's porn.

Lulu: That problem always comes up, and I never have any advice. Uh, ignore it? Everyone watches porn.

Ashley: Or reads it.

Lulu: Everyone consumes porn. Nomnomnom.

Ashley: There's a bit of a twist in the column, though.
Q. While looking for a movie to put on my iPod on the family computer, I saw a really disturbing title. "Wild. Teen (S-E-X)" What should I do? I have a feeling this movie might be illegal, and I am kind of scared to be around my dad right now. I don't want any divorce/court/prison-type things to happen, so I am clueless. I have two 5- and 7-year-old brothers, and I haven't told anyone. HELP!

A: As disturbing as your discovery is, I doubt there is anything for you to be scared about. Yes, the idea is creepy, but men viewing porn is very, very common. Your father would probably be more mortified than you are scared when he discovers you came upon his porn-viewing. Take him over to the computer and show him what you saw and say, "Dad, I found this when I was searching for a movie, and obviously it upset me." Let's hope he's grown up enough to apologize and make sure it doesn't happen again.

Lulu: Okay, so I guess this kid assumes it is child porn? Because it says teen sex? But teen could mean 18 or 19 or 27 pretending to be 18.

Ashley: Usually the latter, yeah.

Lulu: Or even 27 pretending to be 16, and it would all be fine and legal. Given that probably 90% of porn videos claim the female lead(s) are celebrating their 18th birthday, the fact that it has teen in the title is meaningless. It might not even necessarily be what the dad is into but just what is available. The fact that i have hint of lime taco chips doesn't mean I love lime, it just means I love taco chips and that's what was at the store. I DO love lime, but that is irrelevant.

Ashley: I also love lime! And 18-year-old girls.

Lulu: I would not do what Prudence said.

Ashley: Correct. Why seek out an uncomfortable discussion?

Lulu: There are two passive aggressive methods that i can think of if what she wants is to get the dad (or mom!!!!!!!!) to stop leaving porn videos in the open:

1. delete any you find

2. save your own to the same folder

Ashley: Find a gay video, save it with the same filename. See what happens.

Lulu: I bet he won't notice, because I bet he didn't intend to leave a copy in the My Downloads folder or whatever. So she can probably safely delete it, protect her young brothers' virgin eyes, and do her dad a favor in the process.

Huh. I guess we did have advice for this LW after all.

Now, we really don't any advice for the LW in today's Love Letters. We just find the letter spectacular.
A few months back, I began to realize that I was falling in love with a woman I have known for some time but never got to know well. Being a hopeless romantic, I penned a letter to her stating that I had come to cherish our time/conversation and that I didn't know where our relationship was headed, but that I was so blessed to have her in my life.

She did not respond directly to the letter, though at other points she had told me that I was "endearing in every way" and made me blush (inside and out, I imagine) with other generous (albeit exaggerated) compliments.

Over the following months, we texted every night before we go to bed, hung out after work, talked intimately about life, and generally appeared to be engaged in the process of falling in love as I have come to know it -- the breaking down of barriers and the full sharing of oneself with another.

Yesterday, after playing board games at a local cafe for a few hours after work, she invited me to her apartment. I accepted, not thinking/expecting that anything physical would occur, but with heart aflutter that this was yet another sign of a desire for romance.

After looking at photos/artwork on her bed, I told her, in no uncertain terms, that I had fallen hard for her. She seemed excited to hear this first-hand, but also cautious, because, as it turns out, she is in an open relationship.

Such relationships are not for me (though I certainly do not begrudge others for engaging in them), but I now find myself between a rock and a hard place with two emotions/thoughts: (1) A wish that she had told me about her status earlier so that I could try to emotionally reorient myself (though I admit that I probably could not have stopped falling for her), and, connected with #1, (2) A concern that our relationship, somewhat paradoxically, cannot continue because we are so close, but cannot take the next step.

Should she have said something earlier? Exclusivity isn't important to her but was it reasonable to assume it wouldn't be for me? Do I try to slowly move away from the intimate communications we've been having, so as to create distance while not being reactive?
Ashley: He's right. She should have told him. But he's such a tool that I don't care.

Lulu: Right?? I mean, I don't agree with Meredith's response, because she comes down hard against open relationships in general. I don't think that you're not allowed to have an open relationship. I do think it's shady not to mention your relationship with someone you're having these intimate Life Conversations with, and who has made it clear he's interested in you, no matter what kind of relationship it is. If she wanted him to be a secondary partner, or whatever, she should have made that clear so he could make an informed decision. But it sounds like she's not particularly into him at all, really.

So I do sympathize with him. It sucks to find out the person you have a crush on is unavailable in the way that you wanted. Realizing you can't be around someone you like because you wanted them as a girlfriend and not a friend is not paradoxical, it is normal, and it sucks.

But I still think that he is a real knob.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Gaming the job application test

Today, a teen job hunter in Hey Cherie is confounded by her first encounter with those lame job application personality tests.
Q. I am a 16-year-old girl who is applying for an after-school job at a supermarket... I talked to the assistant manager, and she told me that I should fill out an online application. I went to the website and did all the easy stuff, like what my job history was (not much!) and where I am in school. That part was easy.

The hard part was what came afterward. There were all kinds of questions of psychology with multiple choices. Things like, did I like to talk to strangers? If I saw someone slacking on the job, would I tell him or her off? Do I like to work as part of a team or on my own?

Cherie, these questions stumped me. I didn't know the right answers, so I haven't send in the application yet. I have talked to my friends, but they all have conflicting ideas about how to answer these kinds of questions.

A. In the olden days, back when your parents were teens and trilobites roamed the earth, applying for a job was pretty straightforward. You filled out a written application and did your follow-up. Now it's a lot trickier with online applications.

First of all, answer every question. As you do, think about what your employer wants in an employee. If it's a supermarket, your boss will want you to be neat, clean, presentable, work in a team, and know that your every move is a way of representing the company.

Have you ever stopped going to a business because of a rude employee? When that happens, not only do you stop going, but you also tell your friends that you are not going anymore. There is a negative ripple effect that all employers justifiably want to avoid.

So, think about your answers to those psychological multiple-choice questions from the point of view of your new boss. That will make all your answers easier.
Lulu: I mean, as far as I recall from doing this kind of application, it's usually pretty straightforward. Say NO I NEVER STEAL.

Ashley: Except that if you're too perfect, that gets flagged too.

Lulu: Does it? I know on like, the MMPI, it does, but on a standard job application test? I feel like they usually want you to superhumanly saintly.

Ashley: Say you never steal, that's fine. But if you say you never lie, that's not believable.

Lulu: Once I had one where it tried to trick you into thinking stealing was normal. "What is the cash value of the items you have stolen from your employer in the last year?"

Ashley: I have stolen things worth ZERO DOLLARS.

Lulu: I just stole people's hearts! And pens. They have like no resale value right?

Ashley: If it's directly job-related like stealing, then you definitely should say you never steal.

Lulu: It also seems from the question she cited that they are looking for her MBTI personality type: the "Do you work best individually or as a team?" "Do you see the forest or the trees?" kind of questions. In that case, I would guess what personality type they're looking for and answer that way (for a supermarket job: ESTJ?), but I know MBTI well enough to see through the test. But Cherie's advice, to try to imagine what kind of person they are looking for and answer as that person, applies.

Ashley: Yeah. Although I still think "individually AND as a team" is the right answer for every. job. ever.

Lulu: This ehow article on how to answer these kinds of questions is pretty comprehensive and straightforward. They provide sample questions and correct answers:
I work my best under pressure.

Most people will second-guess this question and think "Well, if I answer 'true', then they'll expect me to work extra hard." Remember, it's just an assessment. The score is interpreted as a raw number. The individual answers have no bearing on your job placement; the only thing that's important is that the answers are right. Therefore, when a question like this arises, always answer favorably.
They seem to think that you can't be too perfect--that the software isn't actually subtle enough to include or identify lie-catcher questions. My feeling is that for the most part the kind of test used by a supermarket, and the people interpreting the results, may be too unsubtle to notice an overabundance of perfection. You don't want to be screened out for being too honest on the test to find out if you are a liar!

Ashley: Some of them are weird, too, because there are factually-correct answers that are not what they want. You're supposed to strongly disagree that "Most teenagers go through a shoplifting phase," but that's a fact! You can't disagree with a fact!

Lulu: Well, for the purposes of the test, you'll just have to learn! And to go to a bizarre place of moral rigidity. Oooh, here's an answer key!

Ashley: Ha ha. This is the most useful post we've ever done.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Efficient advice machines!

Ashley: What do you think about today's The Vine?
Q. I have an older sister. The thing about her is that she was a pretty comprehensively horrible older sister to grow up with, and a while back, I decided that I was kind of done with her being a horrible older sister to be a grownup with, too. ... I offered her a deal. I wanted to get off the merry-go-round of aggravation and nastiness, so I proposed terms which boiled down to some pretty elemental behaving-like-adults stuff. ... Sister said no, she wasn't interested. I said if that was her choice, then we couldn't have a relationship any more.

It's been about a year and a half since then. In that time I have seen her in person once, at Christmas 2009, at our parents' house. (I was civil, but distant.) The part that gets awkward? She still gives me birthday and Christmas presents, transferred via our parents. This Christmas, my mother followed this up with suggesting that I should write her a thank-you note for the present I had rather awkwardly taken along with my gifts from my parents and family friends.

I feel like doing so would be wrong — because I set a boundary and it's important to me to hold it, and because it would probably suggest to her that I was caving and we could resume a relationship on her terms, which I feel would be unfair, since that isn't going to happen.

What do you think? Should I write her a note — but tell her that I'm still not going to interact with her if I have a choice? Should I ignore it, and treat the gifts as damages for past injuries, or pass them on to charities? Should I reject the gifts entirely? (In my cultural background, refusing a gift is incredibly rude, and I'm reluctant to horrify my parents like that, but…)

A. But you're still interacting with her. You still have a relationship with her, and she still controls you through it. Standing right at the boundary line and informing her, over and over, that this is the boundary and you will defend it is not ignoring her or ending the relationship. It's creating even more thankless work and frustration for yourself within it. ...

Accept that she will not learn, give yourself permission to stop giving a shit, and do whatever requires the least effort and emotional engagement going forward. It doesn't sound to me like you've explained the situation to your parents, which you might consider doing, in brief, so they understand why you behave certain ways, but if it's going to turn into even more drama and they'll still make a federal case out of you accepting the gift, well, then just accept the damn thing. Take it, write a short thank-you note, and sell it on eBay or drop it in a trash can two blocks away. ...

You don't have to forgive her, or stop thinking she's a dick, but if you genuinely don't want to deal with her? Don't. But holding a boundary this unswervingly is dealing with her. Find another way, one that lets you go back to not thinking about her as soon as possible.

Lulu: I think if you have told somebody you do not want them to contact you anymore, you do not need to write them a thank you note. She can accept the gift given through the parents and discard or keep it as she wishes, because the parents don't need to be put in the middle of this, but if she has told her sister she doesn't want a present, then it's fine for the sister's presents to go into the void UNTHANKED.

Ashley: Yeppers!

Lulu: Hee hee. Anything to add or shall we move on to dispatching Miss Manners?

Ashley: I think that covers it!

Lulu: Okay, so today's Miss Manners.
Q. I seem to be at the very beginning of what might be a romance, having gone on two fun and innocent dates. I know that you encourage a period of "friendship" before plunging in. Would it ruin the illusion of just being friends to give a handmade valentine card?

I do like to make valentine cards with lots of lace and red hearts, but maybe that would seem silly. Should I give it in person, or mail it? Mailing it would require finding out the mailing address somehow. And, what should it say?

The general message I would like to convey is, at the very least, "I would very much like to keep dating you!"

A. Leaving aside the notion of "plunging in," which Miss Manners would prefer not to think about, she may well have suggested the friendship approach to romance. Not that she really expected anyone to listen.

So instead of courtship strategy, she will discuss your question in terms of the strategy of etiquette. As this has to do with the effect on the recipient, it may amount to the same approach.

The object should be to delight him, rather than to embarrass him. You know him better than Miss Manners does, although not much better, since you don't know where he lives. If you believe that a valentine from you will set his heart racing, go ahead. However, she believes that even if a romance is budding between you, it is all too likely to inspire the unromantic thought, "Uh-oh. Was I supposed to send you one?"

Ashley: I do agree re: not making him think he was supposed to get you something, but I don't think a card necessarily implies that, especially if you like making them. Maybe make a stack and pointedly fish out his? So he doesn't think he's too special?

Lulu: Ha ha, yeah. Search ostentatiously through a messenger bag of red envelopes. This is similar to advice Darnell gave me about the candygrams - plausible deniability! She should definitely try to keep it simple and spontaneous-seeming, and avoid going overboard. She shouldn't send it in the mail.

Ashley: Agreed. Mailed would be weird.

Lulu: Okay, so we're done here too? We're so efficient with our advice today! Bam bam bam! Let's do another! Any thoughts on ex-girlfriend pictures on Facebook? This is in Love Letters, and Meredith comes down HARD on the side of taking down the pics.
Q. [My sister's] boyfriend and the guy I've been dating for a month are both reluctant to remove their cuddly, kissy, coupley Facebook pictures with ex-girlfriends. Both men rationalize that they are trying to maintain casual friendships with these exes, and do not want to take the hurtful action of removing or untagging the pictures.

My sister and I lean toward thinking that this is a bunch of malarkey. My sister fears that her boyfriend still cherishes feelings for his ex. I don't feel similarly threatened by my guy's ex-lady, but I just feel awkward that his profile contains dozens of public photos of him with her! ... I can't relate to my guy's reasoning since I'm not friends with any of my exes, but personally I always take down coupley pictures once a relationship has ended. (I've also noticed that many of my guy friends keep pictures of their ex-girlfriends on their profiles. Is this related to gender?)

Help! What do you think we should tell our guys? Is there a standard of etiquette around this issue?

A: If the picture is on his profile, he should take it down. If it's tagged on someone else's, he's allowed to de-tag himself. Your feelings should be more important than his ex's. And if he's worried about offending anyone, he should slim down his entire gallery of photos so that he's just keeping the bare minimum.
Really, I've never understood the whole I’m-putting-everything-on-Facebook thing. I know I'm an old lady in my 30s, but it's about respect and privacy, two things that never go out of style.

You're right. He's wrong. And your sister is right, too. You can't start dating new people and expect them to smile at your Facebook profile if it's basically a scrapbook of your dating history.

Tell you guy he should take down the pics -- so he doesn't seem like a jerk. And if he doesn't agree, forward him your friend's text. He’s obviously worried what people think of him. He should know how this looks.

And maybe tell him that he doesn't have to replace those pictures with 100 photos of you. Make some memories in real life. Not everything has to be part of the display.

Lulu: I don't see a problem with it at all. If facebook is the place you put all your pictures from your life, then obviously you will have a lot of pictures from every relationship. I don't think you should have a picture of you with your ex as your main profile pic, since that's the one that's supposed to represent you right now, but I don't see what's wrong with having outdated photos in your photo section.

Ashley: Maybe she should defriend him. Then she won't have to worry about it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Personality and dating your ex

Lulu: What do you think about the second letter in Tween 12 and 20?
Q. Tim and I had been dating steadily for three months when suddenly he said that he wanted to "play the field." This hurt terribly because I care for him very much (it could be love), and I didn't want to end our relationship. Last night, he called me and said he still wanted to go out with me, as well as several other girls.

I talked it over with my mom, and she said I should go out with Tim if he called. When my dad entered the conversation, he disagreed and said that Tim was probably only going to call me when he didn't have anything better to do, so I shouldn't go out with him anymore. We all agreed to let you have a say before I make up my mind.

A. Keep dating him, but just make sure you're not sitting around waiting for his call. Put the relationship on your terms, not his. Do things with your girlfriends and family and, by all means, date other guys. Do not break another engagement to go out with Tim — only go out with him if you're not busy.
Ashley: I think it's good advice, for once!

Lulu: I think it's good advice in THEORY, but it's impossible to do in practice.

Ashley: Really?

Lulu: Basically you have to act as if you don't care what he does and how her interacts with you, because you don't want to care, and because you don't want him to know that you care. But if you do care, it's hard to force yourself not to, and it's hard to behave convincingly as if you don't.

Ashley: Perfect advice for Extraverted Thinking personality types though! Since I am one, it made perfect sense to me. Now that you mention it, she did say "it could be love." She might be Feeling or Introverted Feeling. People should be required to give their MBTI types at the beginning of each letter.

Lulu: I'm T--milder than you, I guess--and I just think I would always be second-guessing myself. Suppose he asked me out and I didn't have solid plans, but I had some possible irons in the fire. A lot of times plans don't form until last minute. Do I blow him off, if he asks, on the basis of probable or possible plans? And if I don't, is that prioritizing him? If I say 'yes' because I'm not busy, does it seem like I'm prioritizing him? It seems dumb, but it's easy to overthink when you're more invested than the other person. She would have to have a lot of self-discipline.

And she would also have to be able to distinguish between wanting to see him because she likes to hang out with him (which is a legit motive to go out with him) and wanting to see him because she wants to convince him to come back and be her steady boyfriend. Because if that's what she wants she should not bother.

Ashley: Maybe she should shop around his friends. That's what I would do. In-your-face happiness is the best revenge.

Lulu: I do think the best thing she can do is to live well and go after what she wants. Just because he wants to play the field doesn't mean she has to. It sounds like she wants to go steady so she should go steady with someone else.

Ashley: Right, but if she doesn't have anyone yet, it's too early to pitch a fit. She should date him casually until she finds someone, and then go steady with them.

Lulu: Why bother with him at all? If she's dating to look for a boyfriend, he's already told her he's not interested.

Ashley: Having casual dates will make her look more desirable to other people too.

Lulu: Unless they think, 'Poor her, chasing after whatever crumbs her ex will throw her.' I mean, you see, it could be taken either way. She should assume he'll never be interested in going steady, and go on a date him if and only if she thinks the time she spends will be enjoyable.

Ashley: Practicing dating has its own rewards. Some dates aren't fun. She should learn how to handle them. Isn't it better to practice on an asshole whose feelings you don't care if you hurt?

Lulu: Why make yourself miserable just for a learning experience? I hate that. Anyway, going on a date with someone you went out with for three months is not necessarily an accurate testing ground for going on a date with someone new. You need to line up a series of blind dates with people from the internet with whom you have no evidence that you have anything in common--to be SCIENTIFIC!

Wow, for once we have an approximate equal amount of arguing on both sides of an issue.

Ashley: Big surprise: the extrovert is arguing for going out and doing things, and the introvert is arguing against it.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sports, video games, and other conversation-breakers

Ashley: Tween 12 and 20 has a sports question, where Wallace tells a girl to develop an interest in sports lest she lose her boyfriend. And her best friend. The girl asks:
DR. WALLACE: With our boyfriends, my girlfriend and I double date about once every two weeks. At first it was fun, but now it just turns out to be one long discussion on sports. Even my girlfriend puts her two cents' worth in about who's going to win the Super Bowl (I don't even know who's playing). They talk about Ohio State football and basketball. And they talk about the Yankees being a cinch to win the next World Series because of the all-stars they recently signed.
I keep telling my boyfriend that I'm bored with all this sports talk, but it doesn't seem to matter. He still does it. I've asked my girlfriend for help, but she says she enjoys talking sports, too. I hate to be a party pooper, but I think my only solution is to refuse to double date ever again. Do you see a better solution? — Bothered, Zanesville, Ohio.
And Dr. Wallace responds with:

BOTHERED: If you want to stay with your boyfriend, maybe you should try to cultivate an interest in sports instead of growing increasingly exasperated with the topic. It's not fair of the other three to repeatedly leave you out of their conversations, but that doesn't mean they'll stop.

For you, deciding to find a way into the conversation — rather than refusing to double date again, which might cost you both your boyfriend and your best friend — could be the simplest solution. And once you're in the conversation, you'll probably find it easier to steer it to topics more to your liking.
Lulu: That's kind of like how I should be into LOTRO.

Ashley: Yes, you should be into LOTRO! Or you'll never get a double date again. Although we've moved on to League of Legends, and the new Star Wars MMO is coming out soon.

Lulu: I am less interested in League of Legends than LOTRO. I like high fantasy better than superheroes.

Ashley: League of Legends isn't superheroes. It's more Pokemon than anything. But it's all magic and stuff! Stuff, I tell you.

Lulu: Sure. In any case, according to Dr. Wallace, I should have developed an interest in video games SOME TIME AGO. I don't think you should be opposed to picking up interests of your friends' but you shouldn't have to develop all of them. Sometimes they are just dead boring to you!

Ashley: Look, you choose a champion, and they have different skills, but the main point is that it's an RTS; it has very little to do with superheroes. Also there are skins and terrible backstories! It's glorious.

Lulu: Dude. Sometimes you just can't get into something no matter how much someone else likes it!

Ashley: Oh, right, like sports.

Lulu: ... Yes.

Ashley: Dr. Wallace mentions this, but I would probably focus on how she can change the subject: conversational tactics as opposed to interest tactics!

Lulu: It can be really hard to change the topic when three people really want to discuss it though. Maybe she can plan an activity for the double date?

Ashley: They'll probably want to watch a sporting event. On the one hand - boring! On the other, though, it's much easier - the trick is to make fun of announcers. Announcers are always wrong, in all sports.

Lulu: Good to know!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Middle school problems

In today's Ask Amy, a middle school girl has nebulous drama. Then, I have middle-school drama!
I am a seventh-grade girl. I have been having trouble with a guy at my school. We'll call him "Chas." Me, my friend and one other girl all like him.

Chas has shown some interest in asking all three of us out. To make matters worse, our Valentine's dance at school is coming up.

The three of us girls decided that we won't be mad at whoever Chas asks to the dance. But to add even another problem, we all have other "crushes" as well.

I thought I only liked Chas, but in the past couple of weeks, I have seen a guy who I like even more. We'll call him "Randy." Randy has also shown an interest in at least talking to me. I think he might ask me out.

I wouldn't mind dating either of these guys, even though I think dating at my age is a little insane. But even if I dated one I would still like to have a friendship with the other boy. What should I do?
I can see where Amy is coming from with her advice, but it's just the sort of thing an adult would say.
The first thing you need to do is - simmer down.

I realize that asking a seventh-grade girl to simmer down is like asking Justin Bieber to stop being adorable, but all the same, if you could relax you'll have a better time at the Valentine's dance, and beyond.

You and your friends are starting to choreograph a dance you'll be performing for the rest of your lives.

For now you should do your "dating" as a group. If you don't pair off, you won't have to worry about a boyfriend relationship interfering with your friendships, and you'll be free to enjoy your crush-of-the-day.
Lulu: I just don't think it's feasible.

Ashley: I don't get either the problem or the response.

Lulu: It's a non-problem. She's new to dating and exuberant and doesn't know the rules. For her reference, here are the rules:

1. If you want to go out with someone, ask them
2. If someone asks you out, decide whether you would like to go out with them, and say yes or no accordingly.

That is all!

Ashley: Ha ha.

Lulu: I know it's more complicated in practice. And Amy's advice to relax and take things as they come is good (if hard to implement). But her advice to not date and just go out as groups is not going to work at all. That's a total adult fantasy of what young teen social life should be like. Like it or not, middle and high school kids are all about couples and pairing off. Doing stuff as a group is fine, but there will be pairs within that--even if they change daily--and the participants will always be obsessing about who is with who.

She can choose not to date, but she won't, because that's no fun when you're the only one, and she certainly can't change what her friends do, or the boys do. You can engage in the dating culture that's around you, or not, but you can't just decide to have a different culture.

Ashley: I didn't participate in seventh-grade culture, but I don't remember being particularly confused. If she likes a guy better than another guy... ask the guy out. What's the problem?

Lulu: It's unclear. I think she likes 2 guys, and even if she sort of likes the one better than the other, the other is more popular and she doesn't want to be out of the running? I dunno. If she can't decide between them, she can just wait and see if one of them asks her out. Or she could decide which one she likes best and ask that one out. Or she could flip a coin. Middle school relationships don't last that long, as a rule; it's not a huge commitment.

And to answer her actual question, dating one guy absolutely doesn't mean she can't be friends with the other! She can have as many friends as she wants. She PROBABLY can't date both at the same time--that would have been frowned on in my middle school--but she probably won't get the opportunity, so it's no problem.

Ashley: She also says it's insane to date at her age??

Lulu: Yeah, maybe that's why Amy is telling her not to date. She seems to find the whole thing overwhelming and a bit ridiculous. It is a bit ridiculous, because you say "going out" but you're not really going out--neither of you can drive, you can't get anywhere, you mostly probably hang out at school. All it really means is that you have a special feeling about somebody and they have the same feeling about you, so you've agreed to give each other titles. If that seems fun and exciting rather than totally pointless, then you're old enough.

[lull; Lulu checks work email]

Oh god, officewide Valentine's candygrams!

Ashley: Oh god.

Lulu: I can't afford to send one to the entire team and yet if I don't I'm playing FAVORITES.

Ashley: Send them to no one!

Lulu: Yeah. That is what I will probably do. But I want to GET some. Maybe I will send myself like 4.

Ashley: How expensive are they?

Lulu: 2 for $5.

Ashley: How big is the team?

Lulu: Like 20 people!

Ashley: Hah!

Lulu: There are only 5 in the row, but there is ONE PERSON I like outside the row. And there is one person that I have a childish crush on, but my first instinct--to send them four--could probably be considered workplace harassment.

Ashley: You're just screwed then.

Lulu: Probably it is more cost effective to just buy myself candy that I like, but that's not fraught with potential important office drama!

Do we have any readers, still? This is an open call for advice for MY middle school level non-problem! Or the LW's, I guess.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The dating game

Lulu: Ha ha. Reading Love Letters today, I was like, "Yeah, this seems like a normal problem, this is sort of like me," and people in comments are all "I don't understand, this is weird, you need therapy!"
I'm a 25-year-old woman, and it has been seven years since I've been in a relationship. Not just a serious relationship -- any relationship at all, or any date with a guy I've had positive feelings for...

I sing in a very social choir; I work at an office full of young people; I live in the city where I went to college and am still close with a lot of college friends. Granted, these aren't all the best ways to meet guys (my co-workers are mainly women, and choirs tend to be weighted towards men who are not interested in women), but I do socialize with a lot of people. Obviously there are a lot of fluky things that can result in dry spells, but it just seems like in such a long period of time, something should have happened with someone.

My conclusion here is that the problem is most likely something I'm putting out there. ... If I do have a crush on a guy, I'm not shy about trying to spend time with him. But if I don't already have strong feelings, it's hard for me to flirt in a way that might lead somewhere. I find myself pulling back. ... I also get really embarrassed at the idea that other people might think I'm romantically interested in someone. Is there any way I can turn off this scared-of-romantic-interaction vibe? Anything you can tell me to change my mindset? Again, it's not an issue with guys I have feelings for, but that happens really rarely (maybe once every two to three years).

Is there anything I can do besides be patient and hope the next seven years don't go by before something clicks with a guy?
Lulu: Also everybody is telling her to join sports and ski clubs. What if she doesn't like sports and skiing???

Ashley: I think she's a lesbian.

Lulu: Right?? I mean, some of the commenters identify her problem this way: she's not comfortable dating people she doesn't know, and she wants to be friends first before she dates. But that doesn't really happen after you get out of school. You have to date, and to be explicit about your interest in someone, even though it can be awkward. I think that's correct, and I have the same problem. I even have the thing where I'm only physically attracted enough to a man to overcome that aversion to flirting every 2-3 years.

That said, I mean, I'm (basically) gay. And I'm much more comfortable and into doing dating/flirting/there-is-no-plausible-deniability-I-am-interested-in-you conversations with women, even when I don't already know them well and they're not dropdead gorgeous model/actors.

That said, she doesn't mention being attracted to women, and you'd think she'd know that by now.

Ashley: Maybe she's just less attracted to people in general?

Lulu: It occurs to me that possibly the basic fantasy of slash fiction is a relationship where you intimately know the person before you consider them as a romantic partner.

Ashley: She probably loves slash.

Lulu: If she doesn't already, she would. But introducing her to slash is NOT A SOLUTION! It will only further her unrealizable romantic fantasies! With her gay chorus friends!

Ashley: The thing is, I also like to be friends with people before i date them. But i do eventually date them. So there's a weird disconnect for me between her preferences and her actions. There needs to be a step two: how does she get from preferring to date friends to not dating anyone?

Lulu: All her friends are women? If she's not a lesbian, she needs to become one! I mean, yeah, I guess the people who recommend sports clubs are correct in that she needs an activity where she'll meet guys. But sometimes you do not like those activities and are not good at them. Like imagine me joining Darnell's soccer team.

Ashley: Sports aren't the only option.

Lulu: It's true; of the activities I've looked into alone, several are male-dominated: coding, cartooning, rock music. And we know she can sing! Although maybe you don't want to date someone in your band.

Ashley: Video games. Role-playing games.

Lulu: Is that our solution to everything?

Ashley: Be gay or start gaming? Or both?

Lulu: Yeah.

Ashley: Well, it works!