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November 30, 1998   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need

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Dear Breakup Girl,

I dated a guy for a year. It began as an almost exaggeratedly casual "dating" situation, both of us trying to be too cool for words, but dammit, we got along REALLY well. So, stuff happened-couple stuff like going on vacation together, and talking twice a day (we are on opposite coasts), and showing up together at functions and what have you. This guy is cute and sexy and smart and a wee bit spoiled, and my read on him was always that he was very attached to me and maybe even a bit in love, but that he wasn't gonna fess that up to ME anytime soon. And frankly, I'm pretty much the same way, a self-protective goon. So after about eight months of this deepening but unaddressed relationship (led on by him , thankyouverymuch), I find out he's had a one-nighter with some Norwegian au pair. I inform him that I know very well that we don't have a formalized commitment, so he was well within his rights to do that, but I don't like it, and so sayonara. Well, natch, he freaks, informs me he's crazy about me, says it's the only time it happened (substantiated by my independent counsel investigation of various mutual friends), says he wants a commitment, and we are off to the races. It gets a tad more serious (i.e. I meet the family) and then two months later he drops the bomb. His ex (six year relationship, he failed to pull the trigger, she bailed and married someone else and now there are photos of her in all drawers of his house) is coming unglued from her marriage and has been calling a lot and he's "confused" and doesn't want to break up but wants to be "truthful" about his "mixed emotions" and intends to go hang out with the ex. So being a strong 90s girl I dump him and tell him to call me when he gets his sh*t together. It hurts like hell.

Six days later I meet the sweetest guy on the planet. This guy cooks dinner for me, gives foot massages and washes my car when I go out of town. I cannot imagine this guy playing head games or being deceitful. He's brilliant and the sex is amazing and I start to learn all kinds of nifty stuff I can expect in a relationship, like respect, communication, expression of tender feelings.

Three weeks later my ex shows up to tell me that it's me he wants and the whole issue was less his ex than his fear (duh) and can we please try again. I list the eighteen things I want changed and he agrees with me and says okay.

Now, I can't see shutting the door on a year of #1 because I've had three awesome weeks with #2, who is fab but IS a Republican and a Baptist, and a hunter, for God's sake. So I am going away with my ex to see if he can behave and if we can get to somewhere good together. Naturally the new guy is hurt and angry and even though I've pointed out to him that without closure on #1 I'm not going much of anywhere in any relationship, he basically has told me to F-off and give him a call later. This has the eerie ring of something I said to #1, so I understand although after three weeks it's a pretty hardline stance to take. The problem is: I'm about to take off to a fabulous resort with my ex and I can't seem to even get happy about it. I don't feel good. I miss the other guy. I have tons of leftover anger for my ex and I know that on paper guy #2 seems like a paragon, and I basically feel like whichever way I turn I am screwing something up. I want to see how I really feel about #1-- I need to-- but losing #2 is breaking my heart. I know about having your cake and eating it too, but how do I get my feelings straight?

-- Julee


Dear Julee,

Believe it or not, for what it's worth, you all seem to me to be dealing with the natural messiness of love in all its multiple dimensions -- like time (the past) and space (distance) -- with a great deal of smarts and strength. The mini-breaks have been clean, straightforward, and well-advised; everyone's being pretty damn honest and self-aware. And it makes sense that you have mixed, confused feelings. Guys #1 and #2 each sound pretty great, they each sound pretty different, and you can't, ultimately, have both.

All you need, I think, is a dose of perspective about guy #2. In order to give it to you, I need to use a word that may strike more fear into your heart than "Republican," "Baptist," and "hunter" combined. Ready? Rebound. Now, I'm not saying that just because he showed up during the Rebound Time Zone (six days later) he can't be a real boyfriend in camouflage. But things seem to have moved awfully fast in three weeks. Which could be because you're true soulmates or some such, or it could be because he was in the right place -- massaging the right feet -- at the right time.

So if I were you, I'd go ahead and give the, uh, Democrat a chance. You have more invested there. See how he does with the eighteen (!) things (at least maybe the twelve most importantest ones, Miss Julee). Not just on one getaway ... over time. Which brings up the nineteenth thing -- or maybe the first -- when are you going to live on the same coast?

Love,
Breakup Girl

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