How can I get the exciting man I married to stop talking about multiprotocol networking? (Yawn)

Published December 15, 1998 8:00PM (EST)

Dear Mr. Blue,

I married a wonderful, sweet, exciting man right after college, a theater
man and a musician, but after college he became interested in the
Internet. Very interested. Obsessed with the actual technology of the
Internet. (Yawn.) He is quite brilliant at it and is earning loads of money,
but I am bored with this aspect of his life and feel isolated from him.
(How did my writer/musician husband turn into a geek?) It's so hard to
listen to him go on and on about hypertext links and mulitprotocol
networking. I still am in love with him and adore him. How can I get past
this disparity in our interests?

Sincerely in Seattle

Dear Sincerely,

No need to share his interests. Fine for him to earn loads of money, but your love isn't based on that and so you should shut him up when he goes on and on about hypertext links. You adore him and you're entitled to say, "Let's not talk about that." Your feeling of isolation -- is that because
he's engrossed in boring Internet shit? Cut him off. Lower the boom.
Tell him, "I'm sorry but this has no meaning or beauty to me whatsoever,
so talk about it someplace else. Talk to me about the stars and music and
our first date and how beautiful you think my pussy is." You need to be
explicit with these cyberfreaks. Let him talk about networking with
someone else, and let him come home and be your beautiful husband.
Expect no less.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I'm a 24-year-old guy with a wonderful girlfriend, 27, and we've
been living together for about five months now and things are going
swimmingly and our sexual relationship has been fantastic except I have
trouble initiating. I have so much desire and love for her, but most of our
sexual encounters are started by her. She is beginning to feel like I'm not
attracted to her and that I don't enjoy sex with her, although when we
have it, it's great. It's clear to me that her sex drive is much higher, but I
feel terrible that she thinks I'm not attracted to her. Since we've talked
about the problem, all actions on my part are now seen as merely attempts to
mollify, and not as genuine. How should I proceed?

Mr. Catch-22

Dear Catch,

It may be that one of the mysteries of your sexual makeup is
that you're pleased, aroused, thrilled by a sexually forward woman who
takes you by the hand and leads you to bed. You wouldn't be the only
man to ever feel this way. This is a sexual preference (like dim light, a
candle burning, flowered sheets rather than striped, a choir singing "Onward,
Soldiers," whatever) that your lover can come to accommodate. You can
her insecurity, surely, and the best way to mitigate it is to let yourself be
little bolder once things are under way. But don't get drawn into long
discussions about sex with her, so that a pall of serious interpretation is
drawn over a joyful and pleasant and humorous part of your life. If she
insists on discussing your lack of attraction to her, start taking off your
clothes right then and there. No matter where you happen to be. In a
restaurant or at her parents' house. Just drop your pants.

Dear Mr. Blue,

My friends seem to like me, but except for one long-ago romance I
have had little success with women. I've always felt shy,
and I'm afraid my personality has been further obscured by my
stockiness. I'm 5-6, 220. I'm 28. I'm profoundly lonely at times and I'm
pining after one woman in particular -- a bright, lovely, engaging woman
with a long-distance boyfriend. What ought I do?

Dreading New England Winter Alone

Dear Dread,

Loneliness can be awfully profound, and at its profoundest
may lead a person to do all the wrong things. Don't despair. Don't let
loneliness swamp your life. Fight it on all fronts, in all the usual ways.
Cleave to your friends, keep busy and extend yourself toward people in
need. There are men, women and children in more desperate situations than
stockiness and
shyness, and in reaching out to them, you do a great deal for yourself. You
quell self-pity,
which is the great enemy, and you get to see the resilience of the human
spirit. This sounds preachy, but it's true, I think. As for the lovely
engaging woman, don't pine --- be her friend, if she wants to be yours,
and enjoy her company. And dress warmly.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I'm a 27-year-old single mother and graphic designer. I recently met a
man, single, 27, attractive, who likes to spend time with me, which in
itself is a miracle, and I do enjoy his company. This guy fancies himself a
writer. He imagines his future living in a quiet old farmhouse, with a
study, typing out his next opus. I can easily place myself in an imaginary
adjoining studio, painting away, how idyllic. The problem is, his writing is
not very good. It's run-of-the-mill, populist science fiction, and how can I
feign appreciation of that? What would you recommend?


Dear Condescending,

Don't think about making a life with someone you
don't respect, whom you consider deluded about himself. Go ahead and
enjoy his company, but don't buy that farm.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am 31, a female MBA with an interesting international career
and a full life. In the past four months, it became even fuller. I
moved to a new city, started dating after a year off and now find myself
with three serious suitors -- one local, two long-distance. Each of the three
knows that he is not alone in pursuing me. The problem is that each
man is now pressing for a commitment. I once set a deadline for choosing
a winner, but it is about to pass with no decision made. The three men are
each wonderful and difficult in their own way. Isn't there a method I can
use to determine who is the right mate for me?

Irresolute in Houston

Dear Irresolute,

A woman who can maintain a career and simultaneously
romance three men to the point where they each want to marry her is a
woman of tremendous executive ability, and I think you
should consider running for president, in which case you'll need a man who is
affable, able to stay in the background
and look pleasantly neutral and who can run the house and tend the
children and not embarrass you by speaking his mind.

As for these three musketeers, I don't think you'll choose any one of them.
They may
be wonderful but you're not in love with any of them so what's to choose?
You've got them nicely balanced against each other and why not try to
keep the game going for another four months? And another four months
after that?

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am 28 and in a graduate writing program. I've got a great
boyfriend who I've been with for a few years, and we love each other.
But lately I find myself attracted to other men from my program. Part of
me thinks this is all just healthy flirtation, but another part of me wonders,
If I'm interested in other men, what does that say about my relationship?
The last thing I want to do is hurt my boyfriend; he's a rare and
wonderful person. But part of me is scared that I'm going to get hurt
down the line, so I should cut the cord now and -- what? Pursue men I
barely know? As you can see, I'm confused, Mr. Blue. I should add that I
have a crush on one man in particular. I feel guilty, and a little in love,
and also in love with my partner, and not sure at all what to do, if

Confused in Chicago

Dear Confused,

I can't draw you a chart to help you through this thicket
without pain, and even if I could, I wouldn't. You can't get through life
without hurting people. You're at a big point in your life. Why avoid it? I can sort of guess
from your letter what you are about to do, and I would not try to persuade you one way or the
other. You are in a situation that you must navigate intuitively --- a door opens and either
you go in or you do not, depending on what you sniff in the air and how
your skin feels and what you hear in your brain. And then someday you'll
write a story about it. But you'll hurt your boyfriend whether you want to
or not. Something else is up. And maybe you want to know what it is.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I'm a writer who used to enjoy the solitude of working at home, until I
moved across the country with my wife so she could get a job as a
professor and move up the academic ladder. I love her with all my might,
but I'm becoming depressed with so much time on my hands in a city
where I have no friends. I used to go downtown to meet other writers and
now I feel so lonely that I can hardly write a paragraph. The people I've
met here don't seem to have much time to share with me beyond sending
e-mails. Where do I begin to meet new people and make new friendships
that provide balance in my life?

Lonely Scribe

Dear Lonely,

You say you're a writer and you don't mention anything
you're working on, so I will venture to say that some of
your depression may be due to your being between projects. Writers are
a hardy breed, able to withstand long bouts of loneliness, so long as we
have engaging work, and if we don't, we can be moody, no matter how
many friends we have. Get out and see that city you're in, and invent a
way to write about it. As for meeting new people, that's accidental. You
know how to get into an accident: Be careless. So walk into people's paths
and don't look to avoid them.

Dear Mr. Blue,

Before having kids, I was a newspaper editor at a big-city daily; since
kids, I've been writing occasionally for the local paper and I'm told I'm a
good writer. I want to begin writing freelance, but I'm going through a
divorce after 12 years of marriage and I feel all shredded inside (even
though I initiated the split). Is this a good time to be sending out pitch
letters, or should I wait till my divorce is all settled and I feel more
confident and happier in general? Some friends say that's a cop-out
delaying tactic; others say, sure, wait till later.


Dear Torn,

A writer doesn't have big thresholds to cross. Writing is a
life, and you slip into it, and then you're a writer: It's how you think, how
you look at things. You don't send out announcements, you just write. So
there's nothing to postpone. Be a writer. (I don't know what pitch letters
are, sorry, and perhaps I don't want to know.) Write. Writing doesn't
require confidence and happiness; it's simply what writers do.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I'm a gay male who used to spend a lot of time with a gay
male friend and developed a crush on him, which became agonizing when
he started dating someone else and ignoring me. Now they've broken up,
he's got free time again and he wants to hang out. What to do? I don't
want to return to quietly yearning for him.

Can't Go Back

Dear Can't,

If your friend wants to hang out and it causes you pain to
hang out with him, then don't. Don't even think about it. The yearning is
all on your side, evidently, and so this seems like an unequal relationship.
Keep your distance. But don't blow him off. Crushes do wear off. He
might turn out to be a great pal in a year or two.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am 30 and have spent the past five years working very hard. I dated a
few men, nothing serious, and now I have an overwhelming fear that it is
too late for me. That I am beginning to get set in my ways, getting
comfortable being single. I keep wondering if I should be more active in
searching for a mate. What do you think?

Disillusioned in Dallas

Dear Dallas,

I have no idea what you're disillusioned about. You're young
and you like your life and now you're feeling a little jittery about being
alone -- that's fine. Disillusionment would be if you'd married an evil
jerk when you were 17, had two kids by him and another kid by a bastard
you met when you were 26, and now you're broke, alcoholic, you've
given up on love and you hate waking up in the morning. That doesn't
seem to be the case here. You're free and you work hard and you are
thinking you'd like to have a mate. That's a good way to feel at the age of
30. You'll make a much better mate now than you would have 10 years
ago, and so will he. Good luck.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am a 29-year-old woman without even the hint of a relationship on the
horizon, living in a rural area in a state full of spectacularly awful men.
There is a physician in the next town who is within my age range whose
wife passed away about a year ago. I find him attractive enough -- and I
just happen to be looking for a new physician. I was thinking about
setting up an appointment with him. I've heard good things doctor-wise
about him. Is this is a good idea? Or a recipe for a bizarre encounter?


Dear Looking,

You have your own radar to tell you what is bizarre. The
fact that you ask me suggests that you think it is. Whether you want to
pursue it anyway is for you to decide. Surely there are other ways for you
to meet this physician, if you are curious about him. Though the phrase
"attractive enough" is hardly a ringing endorsement.

Dear Mr. Blue,

There is a good chance that in about a year I'll be offered
the dream job that I've been working all my life to get.
The trouble is that my spouse does not want to leave Austin
and the job is 200 miles away in Houston. This is a long
commute, even for a Texan like myself. Should I just plan on
getting a small apartment there and driving back and forth every

Cruise Control

Dear Cruise,

You should devote some time to your spouse, to enjoying
life together and dancing and eating fine meals and making love and
talking, and so, if the job is offered to you, you'll be as close and tender
with your spouse as you've ever been, and you can make the decision on
that basis. If you're crazy about each other, then separation means one
thing, but if you're on the outs, then it means something else.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am 30, in the last weeks of planning my wedding. Two weeks ago, my
father passed away after four months in a coma. His illness was
unexpected and he never regained
consciousness after the initial crisis. The pain of the loss is immense. He
and I had a very
close but conflicted relationship. I keep wishing I'd had a chance to say
goodbye and set things right. My beloved and I don't want to
postpone the wedding; we need a day of celebration. But I am not sure
that I won't be reduced to tears when that day comes. How can I heal
enough so that I can be emotionally
functional and so that I remember my wedding day with joy?

Blubbering Bride

Dear Bride,

If I were your father, I'd want you to go ahead and have a
big wedding. It will take you years to heal, and you can't postpone life
while you do it: It has to take place in its own good time. You should lean
on your beloved and let him lead you through this joyful time, and of
course you will cry. You'll cry buckets. But it can be joyful at the same
time as you grieve for your father. Your father loved you and he'd want
you to move forward. You'll never forget him, you'll never resolve those
conflicts with him, but go forward. That's a word of advice from a father.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I compose music and I'm 48 years old. I've always been an invisible
middle-aged woman, but now there's this hot young drummer who makes
me feel all naked in a crowd. Maybe the guy is just playing with me, but
I'm playing back, which sort of
thrills and horrifies me at the same time. He's a lovely, intelligent
creature. I haven't ever been into younger men, but then again I haven't
ever been this old. Except that
I have no love life, the years have been kind to me. I love composing
music -- and I would hate to screw it up on some deluded romantic
side trip. What to do?


Dear Waiting,

After a certain point, age doesn't matter so much in
romance. What matters isn't how many years you have lived but how
many you have left, and nobody knows that, and so a kind of equality falls
upon us. If this young guy makes you feel naked, how lovely for you, and
why would you back away from such a lovely feeling? You're not going
to screw up your music by falling in love with him: You're not that
fragile, are you? No, you're not. You're an adventurous middle-aged
woman and you obviously want to take this side trip and so you will.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I'm 35, single, a freelance writer, involved with a 27-year-old man. We were casual acquaintances for a year, then fell into a rather
steamy fling that doesn't end. Whenever one of us breaks things off, we
get back together again.

The problem is that I'm ready for a relationship, maybe a family, but
he is still sowing his wild oats and has flings with other women. I suspect
he has deeper feelings for me than he will admit to and will settle down
eventually; but I don't know if my heart can stand watching him pursue
others with such wild abandon, even though I know they don't mean
anything to him.

Is a maybe thing better than a nothing?


Dear Wondering,

You need to pull away from him. No big scene, no
confrontation, no tears, no long accusing letter, but just be distant, less
available, less anxious, less interested. Take your eyes off him. Don't leap
when the phone rings. Let the machine answer. Don't try to arrange time
together. And see if he drops you or if he tries to reach out toward you.
Let him decide that on his own. Do not pursue him or keep track of him
or try to read his feelings. Let him figure this out.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I need to break up with a man, a fine fellow, humorous and generous and
smart, who I've been with for two years. I have great affection for him,
but I don't want to commit my life to him or even a few more years. I
want nothing but good for him but I have to go.
I need courage.

So Sad

Dear So Sad,

It's a hard thing to do, but it's easier after two years than
after 10 or 20, so do it. If he's a fine and generous fellow, then he
won't make you pay too heavily for it. Take him to dinner and look him
in the eye and tell him it's all over and hand him a letter in which you tell
him about all the wonderful times you've had together and how much he
gave to your life and how you hope that you and he will be friends. And
then kiss him goodbye. He'll be fine and so will you.

Dear Mr. Blue,

A few years ago, I was a starving writer and decided to learn about
computers; an acquaintance offered to help. She was extremely kind
and we became friends. She introduced me to the CEO of a start-up
company, who hired us both on a trial basis, and at the end of the trial he
offered a full-time writing job to me, and not to my friend. Since then, my
income has tripled, I travel, my work has won awards, I have valuable
stock options and my friend has had a rocky and precarious life. When
we do things together, I usually pay. I've tried to help her but I cannot
relieve my sense of debt. I feel guilty -- what should I do?

In the Doldrums

Dear Doldrums,

You don't owe your friend any more. She gave you a
hand, but the rest you achieved on your own, and you should feel good
about that and not guilty. It's fine for you to try to help her, but do it for
its own sake, not as repayment. You can't be her friend as a matter of
obligation -- that's the worst kind of friend -- so try to be an honest
friend, if you can, and if you can't, then wish her well and say goodbye.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am an 18-year-old male college student who's in love with a girl
at a university far away whom I have met only once in person and then
carried on a relationship by telephone and e-mail. She is stunningly
beautiful, a woman of wit and charm and soul. She makes me feel indescribably good when we talk. The problem is that she and I have never talked about relationships. Should I summon up the courage to tell her my feelings?

Bashful in Beantown

Dear Bashful,

You don't need to talk about "relationships." That's the last
thing to talk about. Talk about what you see and hear, what is close to
your heart, what you think, and when you get a chance, tell her how
wonderful she is. And if she is willing to accept that you think she is
wonderful, then surely she will want to see you again, and then, at some
natural point, you will lean forward and tell her that you are in love with
her. She might scream and call the cops, or throw her head back and
laugh a horrible sardonic laugh that breaks your heart, or throw her arms
around you and say that she's in love with you, or she might do something
else that I can't imagine -- but that's up to her. But what a fine
compliment you pay, sir -- "a stunningly beautiful woman of wit and
charm and soul" -- it's as if you're describing my wife. If you are, I will
kill you with a butcher knife. If you're talking about someone else, I wish
you all the best.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I'm a writer in Chicago, who's been smitten with a charming and
minister from Scotland. We're an item and falling for each other. But he
intends to go back
to Scotland, and I want to settle down and have babies not too
far from home. In June, I met an older guy from Iowa. Physically, I don't
feel attracted to
him. He annoys me. I feel myself drifting off during our conversations.
Yet, I have a nagging feeling that if I gave him a chance and opened my
heart, he could be good for me. Help?

Muddled in Chicago

Dear Muddled,

This strikes me as stupid. You want to trade someone
you're smitten with for someone who annoys you? OK, go ahead, but
that's like turning down my mushroom risotto for a Big Mac -- why ask
me for permission? Scotland is not Siberia. Scotland is unbelievably
beautiful, green, full of wild eccentrics, rock walls, kind people,
handsome sheep, fabulous nature, gorgeous cities, wit, culture, music and
so forth. If you can't consider Scotland as a place to have babies with
someone you're crazy about, then you're not interested in love, you're
interested in breeding. Find a sperm donor.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am 32, have been joyously married for about a year and a half and want
very much to have children, but I am concerned about our marriage,
which hasn't really
been stressed yet. Nora Ephron says that having a baby is like having a
go off in your marriage. I am wary, though my husband wants kids and
sees it as the next logical step in the relationship.

Is it more foolish to start a family in the next
year or so while we both want one so much, or to wait a few more years
until I can be sure
the marriage is structurally sound? And how does one coddle children and
marriages at the same time?



If you are joyously married, then why entertain thoughts of
trouble? Just be joyous. You want kids, your husband wants kids, so you
should move ahead. Nora Ephron is a humorist, and those people
exaggerate. If you and your husband want to have another year or two or
three of simple twofold bliss and freedom and spend a summer in
Provence looking each other in the eye over fine dinners and having sex
on sailboats, fine, but don't postpone the family you both want because
you imagine the worst. If you'd described your marriage as troubled or
boring, I wouldn't speak so freely, but you said it is joyous, so what more
joyful thing can you do than have a baby?

By Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor is the author of the Lake Wobegon novel "Liberty" (Viking) and the creator and host of the nationally syndicated radio show "A Prairie Home Companion," broadcast on more than 500 public radio stations nationwide. For more columns by Keillor, visit his column archive.

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