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November 2, 1998   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

I'm a 31 year old woman/girl who has been happy to be single for about 1.2 years. For the first 1.0 years I was very happy to not be attached to someone. I have had some very unhealthy relationships in the past, (starting at age 17) and this present break from the pain and the passion and the excitement and the horror and the sex and the waiting, waiting, waiting for the phone to ring syndrome has been the most productive and stress-free period in my life so far (not including before doing the rude thing with boys period)

I have sorted a lot of things out and feel very strong but I have found that during this period of single-hood, there has always been someone on my mind that I have fixated on, making me feel as though I do have a love life when actually I don't, and...the thing is, now I wonder if I'll ever be able to behave maturely in a relationship with anybody that I actually know, and indeed, if I'll ever find anyone with whom to behave maturely with in a relationship. As you are not psychic, I suppose I need to ask a more specific question regarding my predicament/Lerve Question:

How can I stop myself from clinging to ridiculous fantasies about guys I hardly know and then feeling really stupid when I find out (after months of building up the fantasy) that they are Married, Gay or just in need of a babysitter. I seem to thrive (until they dissolve) on these psuedo-relationships in which I don't actually know the guy but feel content and fulfilled just thinking about how gorgeous they are and how excited I am about seeing them next. Could it be that I have these fantasy relationships to protect myself from the cruel world of relationships that I have experienced in the past? Probably yes. And is it the case that I have a problem with getting to know and like men at the same time. It seems that the more I know a guy, the more I see their imperfections -- things like the way they chew their food or hold their pen. Why am I so picky about minor details but have, in past relationships managed to forgive massive personality flaws? As you would say, Breakup Girl, one big fat Hmmm...

My latest fantasy man scenario (he's got a ....friend) has dissolved, and now I'm feeling...dare I say it...LONELY. I've got many excellent girlfriends so I don't mean that kind of lonely...I spent the first year of sex-free singledom telling every one that I hadn't had sex for... 6 months, 7 months, 8 months, making it a goal, saying "I'm gonna make a Year!" etc. etc, but now I'm over the year mark...I'd actually like to meet someone to get to know, care about, love and make love with (I think).

I try to be realistic and think that it is very likely that "IT" will happen (when I least expect it...), but on the other hand, I think, "IT" may in fact not happen. Then I imagine myself in years to come still waiting at age 90, and then I count the years that I've got left before my double-chin takes over as the most prominent feature of my face (overtaking my splendid nose), and I get a bit panicky (a bit) Then...I remind myself that by spending time thinking that it will happen is counterproductive to the cause...So I'd just better stop thinking about it and keep getting on with my productive and stimulating, but love-free, life.

I'm also not very open about the types of guys I'm interested in...ie, younger ones, but I've noticed that the new generation of guys that I've met seem a really interesting bunch, but then I think..."he'd annoy me for this reason or that reason." In fact, this is the way I think about a lot of the guys that I have on my "to be considered" list.

If you have any words of wisdom to offer me about my "fantasy man" problem or what ever other problems you might be able to identify, I would be very interested to read them. Keep up the excellent work.

-- Clare

Dear Clare,

The Hmmmm here is not so fat after all. Your only problem, Clare, is that you think you have a problem. You've got some space in your life these days, and these fantasy guys are filler. Normal, normal, normal. Especially because if, as you say, you do feel pretty fulfilled in the rest of your life, then these are not Calgon crushes. But if you want to waste a little less of your otherwise productive and stimulating time, here's a tip: about the married/gay thing -- find out first. In so far as you can. Don't play clueless -- therein, actually, lies your self-fulfilling anti-fantasy. If you're perspicacious enough to notice that someone's jaw cracks when he eats or that he writes that funny left hand upside down way, then you're certainly qualfied to take a pretty good stab at his predominant lifestyle choice.

Speaking of said "imperfections," excellent question about "minor details" vs. "massive flaws." Listen, it's totally fine to notice those details, even to let them annoy you. Just don't dismiss someone based on only them. Take a perspective lesson from Breakup Mom and Dad, who annoy each other plenty, but dig each other waaaay more. Or Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, who sing: "You're the reason I changed to beer from soda pop ... You're the reason our kids are ugly ... but I love you just the same." And anyway, result/payoff-wise, picky is the same as its spectrum-opposite: indiscriminate. They're both ways of setting things up to tank. So be buoyed by crushes, be irked by "flaws," just try your damndest not to fixate on either at the expense of ... one big fat IT.

Breakup Girl



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