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November 15, 1999   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

Having just ended a disastrous fling a week ago, I am coming to grips with a sad, sad fact: I am INSANE when it comes to deciding whom to date.

Let me give you the specs: I'm 21 years old and was both high school and college valedictorian. YET most of the guys I date are fairly dumb. I'm not throwing around the term "dumb" loosely -- I mean dumb as in I have to explain movie plots and can't speak normally because they don't understand most of my favorite words. Some of them even border on ANTI-intellectual, thinking books and studying are LAME. (While I am going for my PhD.) Considering that I am bigtime interested in intellectual things, it is astounding to me that I keep dating guys who aren't. I don't think I could ever be truly happy in a relationship if I didn't feel free to talk about things I'm interested in at the level I'm interested in. But with most of the guys I've dated in the last couple of years, I wind up being a "watered down" version of myself.

Also, I don't smoke, do drugs, or drink. Most of the guys I date do most/all of the above in various big-time-party combinations; the last couple have been borderline-alcoholic, chain-smoking, "hook me up with the good sh*t" types. I know this is insane. Why do I get into relationships with people whose lifestyles are so different than mine?

Well, I've got a couple theories. One is that I like to date really, really good looking guys. And all of the good looking guys I know who are also smart and not seriously wacked out on substances have girlfriends already. So I date the good looking, loser types. Oh my. Also, I know a lot of people think that someone brainy like me must be some sort of intellectual snob, so I think I bend over backwards to prove I'm not by not letting intelligence factor into whom I date.

Also, the fact that I don't drink or do any of that stuff makes a lot of people think I'm some sort of self-righteous, stuffy person, which I'm really not; I'm afraid of being too judgmental, so I will put up with a lot of substance abuse in boyfriends.

Another part is that I think I'm young -- I don't have to look for Mr. Right yet -- so it's okay if the guys aren't perfect. I guess there's a difference between "not perfect" and "completely and utterly wrong for me." But I never see that distinction until I'm deeply involved, often infatuated (but not in love).

Maybe there are self-esteem issues involved. I'm not sure. I just don't understand why I'm upset about ending a brief relationship with a guy who happened to be really, really cute, really, really affectionate, and really, really good in bed but who also has serious addictions, terrible mood swings, and other fairly important problems.

This is an issue I've been struggling with for a long time and need some good thoughts on it. Whenever I decide I'll just have "higher standards" or "be more selective," it never happens. In fact, I seem to be in a downward spiral. My high school sweetheart was brilliant (went to Princeton), ultra-caring, and substance-free. My big college relationship was with someone who was pretty smart, rarely drank, and also a caring, wonderful person. Since then, I have dated the slime of the earth. What is wrong with me? Or more to the point, is there anything I can do to snap myself out of this ugly cycle?


Well Jane,

So you've gone from one kind of tiger to another. Why? Well, let me ask you this: How's school? How's life? Are you bored? Do you no longer feel like the star? Are you [finally] rebelling against expectations of achievement? Are you overwhelmed, over-challenged, afraid to fail? I mean, when you're with these guys, do you feel both watered-down ... and smarter by comparison? Because it seems like, for some reason, you feel like you've got a lot to prove; sounds like this valedictorian needs some kind of validation.

That said, trying to prove how down you are by dating "down" is ... dumb. Also, it is judgmental to not date someone because he doesn't have expensive clothes; it is not judgmental to not date someone because he does have an expensive habit. Steer clear.

How to snap out? Well, the thing is to figure out what it is that you're actually getting out of all this "slime" -- you tell me; see first paragraph -- and then decide you don't need it anymore. Or figure out how to find that it elsewhere. See, now it's time to explain the plot to yourself.

Breakup Girl



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