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December 7, 1998   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

Is there any cool way or time to find out if my boyfriend is ever going to propose? I've held off for a REALLY long time because I did not want to rush things or do that stereotypical ultimatum thing. But...in January, we will have been together 4 years. I'm 25; he's 26. I know that's part of the problem -- I'm at "that age," we attend weddings constantly, and not a week goes by where someone doesn't ask me when we're getting married. Apparently, people don't do that to men. Or it doesn't bother him. It's starting to bother me a lot, especially since I have no answer for myself.

This is not a letter I ever expected to write. ( I bet you wish you had a dollar for every time you read that line.) I have always been, and still am, very career oriented, not man-dependent. I was "most likely to succeed" and everyone expected me to do what I said -- escape from the midwest and conquer the world.

We met in my last semester of college. Since he is on the (cough) 10-year bachelor's degree plan, we compromised by moving back to the nearest major city after I graduated so he could finish his degree in-state. That city is my hometown, where I swore I'd never go back, where I'm sitting now.

I got a decent job that is sort-of in my field. I hate it, but it pays well, and I'm almost done with that "dues-paying" period, plus I can't quit because I'm pretty much supporting us both. God, am I the cliche first wife or what? Except I'm not even his wife. How pathetic. I live for the day he graduates so we can move to Boston or New York so I can get a more satisfying job, we can get married, and everything will be peachy.

That's what I tell people -- that we're just waiting until he graduates (which, by the way, may be as soon as August.) I give my parents a logical explanation -- there's no way he can afford a ring while he's in school. But to be honest, I've said these things so much that I can't remember if he really said them or I reasoned this out.

Also, he has bought me expensive gifts such as furniture and a leather jacket. Sort of depletes the ring fund.

And oh yeah, I do love him. He's kind, generous, attractive, intelligent, the whole nine yards. Everyone tells me what a catch he is.I've sorta left that out because I'm angry at him. Tonight he told me he's applying to a one-year graduate program in Australia. (In a field where there are MUCH better progams stateside.) Hello! I'm just supposed to throw out my career and everything I've been through for the last three years at work and go overseas, then start over in the U.S. in a year?

Sometimes I wonder whether he thinks about me at all except in terms of food/shelter/sex. If he's graduating within a year, you'd think he'd be making plans that include me, not koalas.

So, you're probably going to say, get some balls and ask him all of these things. That is my real problem. I am so afraid of being humiliated. I fantasize about hiring someone to call him posing as a survey-taker and ask him if he is planning on proposing to his girlfriend. Got his name from GQ subscription lists -- sponsored by the diamond industry or something. Maybe I should copyright that idea.

Plus, I feel so pathetic. I never meant to be a traditional girl, and I think that is one of the qualities that originally attracted him to me. I don't feel desperate to be married in general, but I'm starting to feel like I may be wasting the best years of my life. Please advise.

-- Samantha

Dear Samantha,

Can we please all try to get over the notion that a woman who wants to get married is automatically caving into some evil, oppressive, "man-dependent" tradition? How about considering the marriage urge -- and the act -- as asign of maturity ... bravery, even? Where's the conflict? Where's the compromise? Quit apologizing and realize that you have to be just as Xena to make marriage happen -- and work -- as you do to "make partner," so to speak, in the other realms of your life.

So, Samantha, wanting to get married is not the lame part. The problem is that merely being worrier princess will not get you there. You are living on hopes and excuses, deferrals and silences (when if you ask me, you should be living on royalties from great ideas for sitcom premises). And after four years, yes, he owes you more than just an announcement that he wants to go for Degree Dundee. So try thinking about it this way: it's most humiliating for you not to ask him what's up.

Breakup Girl



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