Sexless in the City

Sometimes reading romance novels doesn’t quite prepare you for a love life...

For this 30-year-old urbanite, love is always a misadventure: The Harvard Lickwit, Hippie the Groper, the 5% Man, and the Ad Weasel. These and many other men wander in and out of her life — but never her bed.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

nightBlogging: the dating advice episode

Updated, 2:02 p.m.

Later this week I hope to work in a bit of the trademark wackiness (reports on my allegedly “Hassidic Christian” chaperoned-by-parentals double date, perhaps? Or maybe the latest in neighbor-sex habits ...). But meanwhile, another reader question.
Dear Anna,
I’ve recently been consorting quite happily with a girl 10 years younger than me that I met while working as a waiter and I turned her entire table onto my website. Her and her best friend both went to my site, left comments, joined my myspace friends list, and gave me their im names, in a matter of like 2 days. So I spent the next few nights talking to young love on im till 3 in the morning for like a week straight. Then I took her to church with me 2 weeks in a row, 2 starbucks visits, and one lunch date before she went back to school in Nashville. She’s quite Christian, very ironic, and seems to see the world through a similar prism as I do. My only other relationship was a long distance one a long time ago, so since then I’ve always tried to figure out how to “get it right” so to speak. I’m just so afraid of screwing this up somehow. I fear if I wait too long to tell her I like her she’ll find someone else and start telling me about him , and I would hate that. And of course if I tell her I like her, then she might get scared and start thinking about the reality of the situation like how she has 2 years of school left and is in a state very far from here. and oh yeah like how I’m 10 years older than she is, and I have to limit my conversations about things to 1998 till now. Anna please help. Is it too soon to work the best friend angle? I really think I have something good going on here and I want it to develop gradually, but at the same time I’m really scared. What do you think I should do?

Still Waiting
Well, dahling, first of all we need to untangle the many issues imbedded in this email. So far I make out about five:
  1. age-difference
  2. long-distance
  3. strategic use of best-friend alliances
  4. speed of relationship
  5. Young Love’s knowledge of your affections
Knowledge of affections. Let’s start with the last, since it may prove the most critical to your suit (forgive me if I slip into a distinct drawl here). Given the scenario you have described, it is extremely unlikely Young Love interprets your behavior as mere “friendliness.” I know, you tried to be low-key, but guess what? Women basically interpret any male action that involves us to be motivated by interest. I mean, men on the street look at us based on interest. Why else would you talk to us/IM/hang out with us one-on-one/take us to your church? Clearly you’re sizing up the potential of our conveniently childbearing hips for birthing your babies. With the possible secondary agenda of trying to guess how good or bad we’ll look in 20 years. It’s not like you’re looking for a girl friend or something!! (Slaps knee several times.)

OK, well maybe I exaggerate. I concede some male-female friendships have been known to exist. But as a general surmise, Young Love probably not only thinks you like her, she may be already referring to that string of innocent encounters as a “relationship” — if not “dating.” For reals, as we used to say (I think she’d still get that jargon). And that bring us to issue #1 ...

Age difference. As long as you’re fine with it, I’m not convinced this is the worst of your troubles. Older men have long had a certain mystique to women — particularly when she’s her age and you’re yours. Somehow, most women have a hard time talking with guys their own age. In fact, it’s only recently I’ve even remotely considered in a romantic sense men less than 6-7 years older than me.

The one caveat here is that men close to 30 — such as you — can be in a vastly different place than young women just coming out of their teens. Guy Friend #1, for instance, is dating a woman about 8 years his junior. From what I can tell, he’s considered marriage more seriously in this relationships than any he’s had previously. But while he’s getting closer to a point where he’d finally like to settle down, his girlfriend has tended to still be more in the young, swingin’ single girl stage — which I didn’t leave until about 26. On the other hand, though, I tend to think women stay longer in this carefree, don’t-tie-me-down stage when we’re living in urban areas (perhaps a way of coping with the equally delayed marrying age of most of the eligible men; everyone here tells me I’m quite “young” to be afeared of a spinster’s fate at merely 27).

Plenty of girls I know back in Arizona and the midwest settled down right after college. Depends on where your girl is at — assuming it gets that far. But we’ll get to speed-of-courtship in a minute. After all, even a speedy car would be hard put to make quick work of the drive from your town to hers, am I right?

Long distance. This doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker in my book, but it may test your ability to write romantic love letters. No? Well then, the real challenge may be trying to maintain some semblance of reality apart from the already-existent use of electronic communication. IM and email can be great, but as Harvard Lickwit very wittily put it while oozing charm to my parents ... “Don’t write when you can speak; don’t speak when you can nod; don’t nod when you can wink.” (And dahling, if you’re reading this: utterly brilliant, as always.) So try to balance it out a little. The great thing is, if both of you are comfortable pursuing a long-distance relationship, the pacing of such may work well in terms of her finishing up school. The real question is whether a 29-year-old such as yourself can handle seeing your woman so infrequently for two years. Mayhap you’ll want to get to know the story of Jacob well ...

Best-friend alliances. Since we’ve already covered the likelihood Young Love guesses at your affections, I’m not sure how necessary leaning on her gal-pal will be. Unless you’re reluctant to make explicit your feelings without knowing how she feels in return. If such attention to your website and blog have been shown thus far, though, she’s probably not (yet) thinking in terms of restraining orders. Which brings us at last to:

Speed-of-relationship. You’re wise to think in terms of taking it slow. No sense putting the playlist before the iPod ... or something like that. ;) If you’ve already imagined the entire relationship in your head — from giddy beginning to miserable end — you’ve likely fallen into the trap that was John Cusack’s wake-up call in High Fidelity. If you haven’t, congratulate yourself on still possessing some shreds of sanity. Weave those into a nice fall coat and wear it the next time you see her. When you should initiate a ... (duh, duh, DUNH) ... define-the-relationship talk. Or whatever it needs to be. The terms aren’t important, but you do want to clarify — explicitly — what your intentions are, where you’d like this to go, and what she thinks of your yet-unvocalized imaginings. But you sound like a comely chap; I imagine you know how this goes. So get with it while you have the chance! And if she’s already departed (and if you’re still pining), for God’s sake, call her, man! It’s a wonder she hasn’t put “Call Me” as her MySpace theme song.

Yes, really. I hear 80s music is hip these days (though God knows why); she may actually know who Blondie is. ;)

Good luck ...