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October 4, 1999   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

I've known my best friend for 16 years, and I've seen her through at least that many relationships. She's extremely attractive and sweet, and gets more than her share of dates. But she's almost 40 and for several years now has been getting very antsy about the marriage/biological clock thing. In fact, you could probably say that getting married has been a big priority for her for quite some time. Problem is, the men she gets involved with have been pretty assh**le-ish. My analysis was that given her looks (and excellent sense of style), she was prime trophy-girlfriend material for surface-y jerks. Most of her boyfriends had no intention of marrying her. They would usually move on once the novelty of her pretty face and nice wardrobe wore off. The ones who stuck around seemed to do it because she's such a nice person, and they didn't want to hurt her; if you're going to stay with someone out of guilt/pity, it's not so bad when they're very nice to look at.

The good news is, after some heartache and pain (we're talking reasonable levels, no real masochism), she would eventually wise up and leave the idiot who was stringing her along. Even when one put a ring on her finger, she was able to see that he was never going to really go through with it, and she walked away.

I kept telling her that if she wanted to get married, she had to look beyond the charm, pretty faces, and high-powered careers of the icky men she was hooking up with and find a normal man, who may not be gorgeous, sophisticated, and wealthy, but who could appreciate her and commit to her. And recently, she did. Well, kind of.

She met a guy last year on a vacation, and after 4 months of weekend dating (they live about 3 hours apart), they got engaged. On a positive note, he's nothing like the jerks of the past: he's not gorgeous, sophisticated, or wealthy. Problem is, he's not much of anything else, either. He's boring and not too bright, and I'd be surprised if he has much of a future, career-wise. Don't get me wrong; he's not a loser. He's just nothing special.

Now, I know that's relative and that what seems blah to me could be the best thing since sliced bread to someone else. But my friend doesn't seem so excited by him, either. I've seen her when she's in love, and this is not it. There are no sparks between these two at all. I just met him for the first time (my friend and I live in different cities now) and the entire weekend we were together, they touched each other maybe twice. No loving glances. No warm, private smiles. And even though they had planned for her to move to his city months ago, she keeps putting it off. Now the plan is not to move there until after the wedding. (i.e.: they will get married without ever having spent more than two or three days in a row together.) She has no real reason not to move there now, and I have to think that if she really loved him, she'd have done it long ago.

As you can see, I'm worried that she's marrying this man mainly because he's the first decent guy who seems to want to marry her. And I think he's doing it because (1) he can't believe his luck that such a beautiful and nice woman would marry him and (2) he's the plodding, dutiful kind of guy who does what he thinks he should, and he thinks he's at the point in life where he should be getting married. The whole wedding-planning process (did I mention that they've postponed it a year, ostensibly because they think he should pay down his credit cards before they tie the knot) has more an air of grim determination than of joy and love.

Should I say anything? My friend has always been able to break off bad relationships before, but this time it's different. She's at the edge of her child-bearing potential, and there are no sirens screaming GET AWAY FROM THIS BASTARD -- there are just whispers of YOU CAN DO SO MUCH BETTER AND BE SO MUCH HAPPIER. Maybe I'm being presumptuous in thinking I know whether or not she's in love, but I really hate to see her make a massive mistake.

--Presumptuous, But Only Because I Care

Dear Presumptuous,

Oooh, such a good -- and tough -- one! Now, you know how I feel about interventions that involve some sort of "Who asked you?" (translated from the Mer-ish) confrontation and lecture. But my sense -- from your caring, thoughtful, articulate, really not-about-you letter -- is that your talking with her would not be one of them. I mean, my guess is that you've been so on eggshells about this one that you haven't even done the Level One Girl Talk to begin with. I mean, you still lack basic data that I think you'd have otherwise.

So I'd say you could consider approaching it one of two ways.

1. The Slumber Party. The innocent/leading question: "So tell me about this guy ... really!" See where it goes. Or ...

2. The Delicate Speech. Wherein you tell her much of what you told me -- your empirical observations about her, your assertion that he is not a loser -- with a few more whopping disclaimers. First, that this is Just Your Opinion. Second, that she does not even have to respond or defend; if she likes, she can say simply, "Noted" and nothing more (just because she doesn't discuss or act right off doesn't mean she hasn't filed your remarks away for later consideration -- I mean, it's a big thing.). Third, you guarantee that you will love and support her and hers no matter what she does, even if she has made a calculated lucid adult choice to "settle" in the shadow of the big looming clock.

That -- all of that -- is what friends are for. Good luck.

Breakup Girl



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