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A lot of us singletons make the mistake of thinking that finding
someone is the hard part. And that once you do, you're set. We tend to forget
that there is -- ideally -- a whole life-time of Relationship Maintenance that
follows. And if you believe that that's easy, I've got a ticket to
"Your Friends and Neighbors" to sell you. Basically, it's the story
of two couples in/from hell. How brutal is it? Makes "Private Ryan"
look like "Air Bud." For further evidence that the relationship is
the hard part, see ... all of my columns.
To put it another way (and to quote myself): having a boy/girlfriend is like
having a car with air conditioning. It may be more comfortable at times, but
there's a whole lot more stuff that can go wrong.
That is just one of several things I would like to point out to the many
fine folks who write me to ask,
Dear Breakup Girl,
Why Don't I Have a Boy/Girlfriend?
(Hi, Breakup Mom, I know you just sat up a little straighter in your
And here's the problem: the folks who ask me that are fine folks. I
mean, if they were saying: "Dear Breakup Girl, I have a second head in the
shape of Boba Fett, my gums bleed when I'm nervous, and Kenneth Starr is my
hero...why am I alone?" well, then we'd have a clear place to start (eg
"online dating"). So I can't necessarily tell each of you precisely
why. But I can give you some perspective. Which is something everyone
should have before they have a boy/girlfriend, anyway.
1. Why no ragazzo/a?* No rhyme or reason. Why, just think of all the
excellent, admirable civilians (as opposed to superheroes) who are single. Like
Winona Ry-- no ... Antonio Band-- no, Barbra Strei-- no, Will Smi-- no. Okay,
different tack. There's no nice way to say this, but BG has made the
acquaintance of plenty of people who were not conventionally
"good-looking" or "socially adept" or, well,
"interesting" -- and they had B/GFs. Go figure. So quit wondering if
you're "normal." A lot of people have girl/boyfriends ... who
are mean to them, or for reasons like "I'm afraid to drive on the
highway." How normal is that?
2. Dawson's Creek is not reality. Your first tipoff should be the guy
in a rowboat wearing a sport jacket. Your second tipoff should be that the guy
in a rowboat wearing a sport jacket has no idea that Joey is in love with him.
Look, you all know this, but I'll say it anyway. Movies and songs and TV --
even CNN, these days -- fetishize love. Like, did you ever see the doctors on
General Hospital actually doct? All you see and hear are people who yearn for
it, who have it, who had it, who wear funny ties for it. All love, all the
time. Which is kinda sorta how we feel deep down -- and is what keeps BG
in business -- but maybe we'd be able to override it better and maybe get
something freaking done around here if everything in our culture weren't this
big huge blinding yellow stickie in front of our face that says: LOVE! GOT ANY
YET? HUH HUH HUH?
3. I know it's fall, but B/GFs are not school supplies. (Hey,
grownups, just because I'm making Dawson's Creek references doesn't mean I'm
not talking to you. First of all, shut up, you totally watch it. Second, even
if you haven't been to school in years, I know you've been to Staples to look
at the cute new notebooks and highlighters. Third, high school, is a metaphor
for life, in a Lord of the Flies sort of way. So my analogies and advice should
communicate loud and clear to everyone.) The point here being: there's a lot of
pressure -- in culture and in "real life," which, in a Truman Show
sort of way, are not unrelated -- to "get" (your verb, not mine) a
boy/girlfriend. Having one "means" you are cool, attractive, popular,
legit. But listen: if you get/have one just for those reasons, then you are NOT
in the In Crowd at BG High, okay? I know this is really really easy -- if not
totally obvious -- for me to say, but if you look on a boy/girlfriend as your
own personal Self-Worth-o-Matic, well, let's just say that's one of those
gadgets with planned obsolescence.
4. Approchable is better than "Stunning." If you don't
believe me, see the clever article on this very topic in this month's Marie
Claire (I think). "Stunning" makes certain people's knees weak, yes
-- that is, too weak to dare walk over and start a conversation. You get my
drift; I'm not going to get into the whole looks
thing again. (Note: "Approchable" -- unlike "terrific" and
"such a pretty face" -- is totally a sincere, legit compliment; it
really means pleasant, inviting, attractive.)
5. "Shy" is better than Loud. Just trust me.
6. Cheesy bottom line: it's about chemistry. Barring certain
non-negotiable matters of personal hygiene, manners, and taste in superheroes,
your "appeal" does not occur in a vacuum. Granted, yes, there certain
things (Society, Culture, Boobs, etc.) that mean that certain people get
noticed first. But as far as anything longer than one awkward empty
conversation is concerned, it's the Reese's effect: you could have perfectly
good chocolate, but go figure, only certain people are going to trip over you
with the peanut butter (see grownups, I'm talking to you too: teens will not
remember those commercials). I am talking about that elusive "click."
(NOT, may I remind you, that exclusive clique that requires a
boy/girlfriend for entry.) So what to do? Don't shrink back, stung and
defeated, into a spiny shell; step out and go places and do things where the
odds are higher that the chemistry/peanut butter/click person will be there,
too. And while you're playing the odds, have a little trust in fate. If you
don't believe me, see "Next Stop, Wonderland." Which, bless its heart
-- and yours, in the meantime -- also makes a powerful, lovely case for being
alone, all to a balmy bossa-nova beat. Rhyme/reason? No. Rhythm? Yes.
* Italian for boy/girl and boy/girlfriend. Empirically, appears to be
synonymous with "hottie."
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