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March 27, 2000   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

Yes, it's me again. I'm afraid my romance that started on New Year's is already over. We got on really well, made each other laugh all the time and had exactly the same kissing style (dry), but he was too conservative for me and vice versa, so he broke it off with me. It got very serious very soon, and I think he wanted to break it off sooner rather than later. He was very Catholic (a lecturer in Philosophy and Ethics) and didn't believe in artificial contraception, even within marriage. Having seen how my mother's health was affected by this rule, I couldn't accept that someone would have high moral principles about something that principally affects his partner. Even though I knew it wouldn't work long term, it still hurt (being dumped the week before Valentine's), especially since I've never been dumped before.

Since then, I've tried throwing myself into my hobbies (singing, salsa class), and I now have a crush on a salsa dancer in my club. So what's the problem?

Simple. He's 21, and I'm 30. Now, I don't mean, "he's amusing in an immature goofy way, yet strangely attractive..." I mean, he's 21 going on 34. His father is a diplomat; he grew up in Denmark and is very charming and mature. He's already sick of the ordinary club scene and is the youngest in the salsa club.

When I asked him to be my dance partner in the next competition, he told me he couldn't because he was sorta "going out with someone." Now, if he's going out with someone, why has he paid me at least five compliments with the word "sexy" in them? He's extraordinarily attentive and notices little things, like new earrings. He even knows what color my eyes are, and they're green, usually mistaken for brown. People are always telling him he doesn't make enough eye contact while dancing, and he explained to me that he doesn't want whomever he's dancing with to feel he's coming on to her. I said that for the length of the dance, she should be the only woman on the floor, and that each dance was like a short love affair.

Well, he took me at my word and stared intently at me during our next dance. However, I was wearing lip gloss, which I don't usually wear, and he seemed to be transfixed by my mouth. His staring at my mouth got me really embarrassed. He laughed that I couldn't cope with his looking me in the eyes, but I told him that it wasn't my eyes he was looking at and explained my embarrassment. (We're very frank with each other.) I also told him that his frequent compliments confused me, as he has called me sexy more than anyone else I've ever known. He replied that he wouldn't say it if he didn't mean it.

When I asked him about his sorta girlfriend and how one managed to sorta go out with someone, he raised one eyebrow and said "Well, it's only just started and it's not set in stone." The eyebrow raise was fractional, but I could see it. Why is he acting like he's attracted to me? And why am I attracted to this ... youth? Is it because chronological age means nothing to me? I mean, the last guy I had a crush on (and still do) is 52. (In case you're wondering, the singing teacher and I have moved onto overt flirting, but he is referring to his partner more often and using the word "we" when he refers to her. In an odd way, the overt flirting feels more safe, like it'll never go anywhere because it's out there, rather than all subtext.)

Why am I going around seeing attractive, unavailable men who all flirt with me as if they were available? I used to have no sympathy for mistresses at all, but I now think that they seriously believe their men will leave their wives, because (and this is the important bit), the men do not give the remotest impression of being bonded to someone else. I flirt like a mad thing -- and have been told I could win an Olympic medal in it -- but not when I'm involved with someone else. Where do these guys get off confusing me with their mixed signals? And how direct does a signal from a guy have to be for it to be serious?

--Moonstruck Mezzo

Dear Moonstruck,

Ooh, I'm going to see Tosca as soon as I finish writing. I'll think of you! But trust me, this guy's no big bad Scarpia. Far as I can tell, he is: flirting. As an end in itself. Which -- as opposed to ... soliciting -- is totally legal. If not yummy. Why are you attracted to him!? Ye gods, will you reread your letter? Hiiiijole! I had to get up and splash my face after I did. Dale sabor papi! Please, Mezzo, instead of tallying and analyzing these details (fractional eyebrow raise?), please try to savor the pure picante fun of noticing them in the first place. Relax and enjoy the fizz; each flirt is like a short love affair. And make sure the next guy who meansmeans it follows the same steps.

Breakup Girl



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