Should I take the plunge?

I'm so ripe for an affair it isn't even funny.


Garrison Keillor
April 13, 1999 2:04PM (UTC)

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am a part-time yoga teacher and aspiring screenwriter living in L.A.,
married for 12 years to a thoughtful, kind, lovely man who appreciates my sense of humor
and loves music the way I do. Unfortunately, I am not (and haven't been for quite some
time) sexually attracted to him. My problem: I met a man, a student in
one of my yoga classes, who arouses fantasies in my mind. I have never fooled
around on my husband, never thought I would, yet this man is very attractive and seems to
be sending discreet signals that he finds me attractive. He knows I am married and has hinted
at getting together for something to eat, has sent postcards when he is out of town,
and Christmas cards. I am so ripe for an affair it isn't even funny. I know the pitfalls and I
recognize that it is my need for excitement that is causing me to consider betraying my loyal
and faithful husband. However, I am sad and miserable at the thought that I will spend the
rest of my life in a sexless marriage. Do you have any
words of advice? Yoga, ironically, hasn't helped enlighten me.

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All Twisted Up

Dear Twisted,

Of course I have advice, and so does anyone else, so do you, so does your
mother and your Aunt Prudence, and probably it's all the same advice, but if you know the
pitfalls and you're heading in that direction, what value does advice have? It's only rational,
after all, and compared to the urge for excitement, common sense is a small canoe on a big
river. This is your story and you're the one who must live it.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am a single, 47-year-old woman in San Francisco who would like to
fall permanently in love with the right man. I've been worried that I'm not
attractive, but I think it's a problem of volume; I need to meet a larger number of straight,
well-read, available men in their 40s. I keep trying to imagine where they are, and I'm
afraid they're all home drinking beer and watching the ballgame, or reading
something wonderful they've ordered from Amazon. I hate meeting people
through ads, and trying to come up with a cute pickup line for a guy in
a museum whose wife is probably standing in front of the next painting
is not my idea of a good time. What do you suggest?

Home Alone

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Dear Home,

The supply of lovable available men in their 40s, especially well-read ones,
is scarce, and that's just a fact. You're hunting for mountain goats, ma'am. You're probably going to need a guide, a friend who knows a goat personally. The problem is, when a
person is not in a romance and wants to be, then seeking romance becomes central to your
life and you think too hard about it. And romance doesn't bear thinking hard about. Romance
is not the center of life: work is, or family, or religious faith, or political crusades --
romance is an episode that with luck can lead to something nice. No matter how hard you
try, falling in love is accidental. By all means, you should push yourself into the social
stream and meet people, including available men, but do it for its own sake, for the pleasure
of being in groups, of working for a cause, of enjoying music or art, whatever the occasion.
Don't look too hard, in other words. And as long as you bring it up, you ought to do
something about your appearance. If it's on your mind, then there's a problem. Everybody
needs to freshen up their look once in a while. Double-check yours.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I'm a youngish (35) academic who is afraid she's running out of
luck. I got my Ph.D. four years ago from a good school with a
well-respected advisor. Since then, I've held two temporary positions in a
state far from everyone and everything I care about, but I haven't
yet managed to land a tenure-track position. I'm weak on publication, in
part because I haven't had enough stability to settle down to
work (but also, I worry, because I'm just not good enough). I'm
beginning to face the prospect of not making
it as an academic. But I can't imagine another life as rich and interesting as that of a
philosophy professor. I worry that if I leave the academy I'll feel like a failure the rest of my
life. I'm smart and passionate about life and the world, and I
know I have something to contribute, somewhere, but I can't see myself
clear of this sorry state of my life. What should I do?

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Lost in the Academy

Dear Lost,

You're at a crucial junction here and you should seek advice from your advisor
and from other people who know your field. Looking for a job is not meant to be a solo
quest. But when it comes to the fundamental question, whether to stick with academia or
look for something elsewhere, you have to consult your soul. Does the academy engage what
is the best part of you? Or are you spinning your wheels? Do you have something to say in a
paper or a book? Or is publication only a ritual? Your life isn't in a sorry state; you simply
need to make some moves in the next few years. You're smart, you'll figure it out.

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Dear Mr. Blue,

I fell in love with a German woman here in Iowa, a very endearing and
outgoing person, and then after a year and a half, she moved back
to Germany to raise her children there. I visited them a couple of
times in the past two years, but it was impossible to hold onto the relationship
at that distance, and we parted. Half a year later, we began writing again. Now, she is
planning to visit Iowa, letting her children stay with their father (he lives in
this town), and she wants to see me.

I'm excited; my dreams still turn her way often. Yet I
don't want to set myself up for romantic doom when she leaves. I have
deep feelings for her, and since dating Ms. Germany, I've not felt anything remotely similar
for anyone else. I'm trying to be optimistic, but no one else is on the horizon for me.

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In a Quandary

Dear In a Quandary,

Are you asking permission to enjoy her company? Well, you have it.
And yes, it'll be hard to say goodbye to her. But that's what happens when you live life.
And these large experiences serve to make you a more patient, loving, vital person. When
Ms. Iowa comes along, she will have reason to be grateful for there having been a Ms.
Germany.

Dear Mr. Blue,

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Until two years ago, I didn't believe in true love or soul mates; then I
fell in love with my best friend and fell badly. She returned my love. But
she decided she couldn't leave her boyfriend of seven years. She broke
off with me after a short, glorious affair. I tried to remain friends with her, but it proved to
be too painful for me to be around her, so I took off for a trip around the country. I haven't
spoken to her since, though I think about her quite often.

Last October, I started dating a colleague at work. I reluctantly fell in
love with her. She is a wonderful woman. We laugh together, hold hands
like love-struck teenagers, feel incredible sexual passion
for one another and we are also great friends and share the same goals of
traveling and building creative lives before settling down to have a
family. I can see myself spending my life with her. Yet, in my heart, I do not feel the same
transcendental "connection" to her that I felt with my first love. Is there only one soul
mate for each person? Can a soul mate connection be cultivated, or is it
simply there or not? Does a commitment to living a life together need to be
based on such a connection, or is it possible for ordinary, mundane love to
sustain a partnership?

Am I cheating on my current love by thinking about my ex so much, and
pining for that sense of "spiritual" connection?

Guilty

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Dear Guilty,

The lost love is not your soul mate, and the spiritual connection you refer to is
imaginary. A brief passionate affair has great power to the imagination; like a beautiful
fragment of a song or a first line of a poem, it lingers in the mind. But this is not the same
as being soul mates. Your soul mate is not the one you aspire to love, it's the one you make a
life with. The phrase that leaps from your letter is "reluctantly fell in love" -- is this merely
an awkward slip or should you investigate your feelings there? And the other is "ordinary
mundane love"? What is that supposed to mean? You can give yourself some time to sort this
out, but you do need to resolve whether this convenient woman who shares your goals is
someone you're really in love with.

Dear Mr. Blue,

What is it with the single Gen-X-ers of today who constantly complain
about being alone and uninvolved, and yet they never do anything
about it? I'm a 27-year-old grad student with a large circle of friends who socialize
frequently: At parties, nights on the town, dinner
parties, etc., everyone is constantly complaining about "being
alone," or "being uninvolved," but no one ever seems to do anything about
it!
Opportunities to meet other people are abundant, but
people prefer to stand around with friends and ramble on with
their self-involved complaints about loneliness. Why aren't people
meeting?

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Tired of Putting Up With My Generation's Self-Absorbed Drama

Dear Tired,

I'm from Generation G -- the G stands for Geezer -- and back in my day,
child, we fell in love like crazy, sometimes two or three times a day. It was the result of a
repressed upbringing. You Xers have been exposed to so much so early that by the time
you're 27, emotionally you're 73, crotchety, bitter, racked with loneliness, trapped in
sensibility. It's your parents' fault for having tried to buy you a life and personality. We
should have been tougher. But it's too late. Just remember that, when you hit 30, there's
no such thing as generations anymore: You're all in the big lake of adulthood then. Excuse
me while I go take my medications.

Dear Mr. Blue,

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My older sister is a 34-year-old mother of four in her second
marriage. She got pregnant right out of high school, and for most of her life, she's been an
irresponsible person, getting herself into pretty much any trouble you can imagine. Through
everything, my parents and I have supported her and bailed her out. Now, for the second
time in 12 months, her husband has left her. He's a lazy bum who has worked about
two weeks in the past year, and now I find out that he's been hitting her and may have hit
my 14-year-old niece. She doesn't want to divorce him! Wanting to stay with a lazy,
abusive, selfish man is beyond the comprehension of any
semi-intelligent being. She has put my poor parents through so much and
they are such sweet, naive people that I just can't take it anymore. I
wish that I was an only child.

P.O.'ed in St. Paul

Dear P.O.'ed,

The first critical issue here is the abuse of the child and the mother, and it's a
legal issue. A man can't be allowed to hit women and walk away from it; he should at least
be confronted by police asking pointed questions. If you have knowledge, you should report
it. The second issue is whether your sister is capable of raising these children, or if her
ditziness is putting them at risk. Put aside your feelings about her and do what you can for
her children, and if the situation warrants, involve the authorities. Don't worry about your
parents, they must have figured out how to cope by now. Worry about the four children.
And don't natter at your sister. Be cool. Don't express your anger toward her in little dribs
and drabs. Wait for the right moment, have your speech ready and then lower the boom
hard.

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Dear Mr. Blue,

For three years, I've loved a funny, articulate and
sexy man who has a degenerative disease. We've been
living together for one year, and in that time my creative
life and my houseplants have bloomed. But last week, I started packing my bags. I'm 41,
want to get married and want the option of having a child. He's 43, has been
divorced and is scared of getting trapped in marriage or kids.
He figures he has 20 years left. We love each other, but it
seems that all he can see is a downhill trudge toward
disintegration. I would like us to make a commitment for a
hopeful future. We just had a tearful fight and great make-up sex. Any thoughts?

Bags still half-packed

Dear Bags,

You're taking a long step into the dark, betting that you can find a man you love
so well and who will want what you want and that you'll find him in short order, while you can still
have children. You don't say that you want to have a child, only that you want the option. I
think you ought to reconsider. The bird in the hand, and so forth.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I've always felt more alive when I'm in the practice of
writing. In school it was easier to do as I had deadlines to meet. Now
that I'm out of school my habitual laziness is taking over. I'm beginning to feel that it's an
inborn trait I'll have to battle for the rest of my life. It doesn't help my motivation any that
when I'm out of the practice of writing my senses are dulled. Am I always going to have to
battle this? Just while trying to write this to you, I've spent the better part of an hour
gazing out the window.

Dazed

Dear Dazed,

Even if writing makes you feel more alive, you still need a motivation to do it.
You can write for money, or write to do battle, or write for love, but it isn't enough to want
to write for the pure sake of writing. Maybe you could awaken your enthusiasm by trying to
write the Forbidden. There is a dutiful little pupil inside each of us, faithfully striving to
please Teacher, and perhaps this is stifling you. Perhaps you could try to write dangerously
and extravagantly, something erotic or violent, something uncharacteristic of you, just to see
what it's like. But you shouldn't agonize over writing. If it doesn't come, put it aside.
Writing is not a career that needs to be practiced steadily. Some people start late. There's no
point in starting before your time.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am 19 years old, a college sophomore living in Boston. I have
recently fallen head over heels for a college student living in N.Y. who I
met a couple of weeks ago. We really hit it off, and on a
whim I decided at his invitation to visit him for a few days. I have not been in many
romantic relationships, and I still
approach these things with a certain amount of naive idealism. I am
afraid of becoming too emotionally attached. Should I put any emotional investment in this guy or keep things casual?

Infatuated

Dear Infatuated,

Keep it casual. By that I mean enjoy his company for whatever it is and
don't imagine the future. You're very young, still discovering your powers, learning how to
be your own person, and what you need right now is to become an independent, responsible,
self-reliant woman. Romance is a lot of fun, but it doesn't advance your cause right now
and can harm you if you look to a big love affair as some sort of shortcut to the adult world.
Enjoy yourself but keep your eye on the prize and know that it isn't him.

Dear Mr. Blue,

Last fall, my husband and I separated. The marriage was a wreck for
years, and we were both miserable as individuals. I thought the marriage was the problem because I didn't know how to fix myself. I told him that I didn't want him or our marriage anymore, and then, to make things worse, I started seeing someone right after the split.

I am still with this guy, but I still love my husband deeply and continue to find him attractive. I
can't understand why I pushed for the divorce. My reasons seem so
trivial now and extremely selfish.

Recently my husband and I found ourselves in an empty house together. We ended up in a clinch, debating whether or not to make love. He was torn, I was torn, but it was clear we wanted each other. We did not go through with it, but we affirmed our love, affection and mutual attraction for one another. We also did a lot of talking and crying, and cleared up some of the issues between us. It was cathartic.

Afterward, my husband said it was a complete mistake and that it is totally over between us.
But I am clinging to the idea that someday we will get back together. I feel like the biggest
moron. I can't believe I ended this relationship. Should I keep hoping? Or am I better off
putting all these
feelings aside and getting on with my life?

An April Fool

Dear April Fool,

It isn't much of an answer, but this situation needs time and patience. But
if you really want to resume with your husband, really believe in that marriage, then you
ought to break up with the guy you're with now. You can't be in two places at once.

Dear Mr. Blue,

You've heard of procrastination and writer's
block and people who can't find their way out of labyrinths of their own creation, but you've
never heard of a case as bad as mine. I started graduate school in the humanities
in 1985. I did course work, took exams, wrote seminar papers and eventually graduated to
teaching, yet I never could write my dissertation. The project seemed too
big. I could never figure out where to begin or how to organize it. The
pressure and the stakes seemed too high. My family wanted nothing else from
me (they're academics), and my whole identity rested on my presumed
intelligence. I wanted desperately to finish. I read books and articles,
collected notes and boxes of files. I forced myself to write through tears
and terrible depressions. From all this effort I eked out parts of chapters,
all told some 60 pages. My question: Should I let it all go? I'm 37 and feel sharply
the need for a real career and a real life. But if I give up,
I'll never be able to teach at the college level; I'll have to cope with the
shame of quitting and letting my family down; I'll feel like a big failure;
and my connection to the subject I've studied will dwindle. I still love
reading about it when I'm not under duress to do so.
What life I have is built around the idea that intellectual pursuits are all
that matter. My studies are the one thing that gives my life any purpose
beyond the most mundane form of survival. My self-esteem is all wrapped up in
this. Should I keep working at the dissertation until I finish?

Have Beginning, Lack Middle and Ending

Dear Beginning,

Procrastination is a problem I'm quite familiar with, and yours doesn't seem
to me unusual or scary. You've been working for maybe 10 years on a piece of work that
resists you. You've kept at it. You haven't spent 10 years staring at a blank page -- you've
actually done quite a bit of work. OK, it isn't as much as you'd hoped to do, and it isn't
brilliant as you had hoped it would be, and maybe your problem has to do with unrealistic
expectations. But yes, you should finish your dissertation. Absolutely. And you will. The
first 60 pages are the hardest. It'll get easier as the goal approaches. Stretch. And reward
yourself for your work as you go along. Page by page. Chapter by chapter. This is doable.
You blurted out your misery and your fears to me, and that's good, but don't think more
about that now. You're going to finish this by the three yards and a cloud of dust method.
I wish my advice were more original, but here it is. It's like hiking into the Grand Canyon.
You get tired and thirsty, and after a while you wonder if it was a big mistake. Just keep
putting one foot in front of the other. The way to do it is to do it. Good luck.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I'm 27, and have spent the past five years learning to let go of things. My
grandmother died, my mother moved far away (leaving me to clean up her
house), I just ended a four-year relationship and I'm recovering from rape.

I'm really tired.

I'm in therapy, my life is in decent shape, my writing is good, but
I'm scared to start forming attachments again. I'm afraid of being
abandoned, and I'm afraid to trust my own judgment, having made such a
grave error in the past.

Any words of encouragement for this slowly chilling heart?

Jemima

Dear Jemima,

You have every right to be tired. If it were me, I'd be face down on the floor
and incoherent. But your life is OK in general: You're seeing a therapist, you're writing
and that's good enough. Give it time. Your heart isn't chilling, it's healing. Don't beat up on
yourself. You will find someone to love and to love you when you're ready.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I live in Los Angeles and work in television. I find Angeleno women culturally devoid and
overstuffed with attitude and would like to move to San Francisco or Manhattan, where
people tend more toward the intellectual, but I am trapped by my career. How's an
Ivy Leaguer to meld the proximity career issue with the population?

Lost in Place

Dear Lost,

Go to the beach and look for women in Yale sweat shirts. It will take time, and
you may have to settle for Brown or Princeton, but eventually you will find one who is
culturally full.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I have fallen head over heels in love with a man, and I want to ask him to marry
me. I'm 28, an editor; he's 25, a movie critic. We've only been
together three months. Should I wait for six months to be sure? How does a
woman propose to a man? I'm nervous.

Looking to take a leap

Dear Looking,

If you hesitated long enough to write and ask, then you could wait a few
more months to see how things are going. Falling head over heels should be enjoyed for its
own sake, as an emotional ride, a glorious delirious episode in life when all sensations are
heightened and all those corny old love songs seem literally true and love walks in and drives
the shadows away. It is possible, however, to fall head over heels for someone who would
drive you nuts in the long run. Someone who has ignited your imagination and whom you
love being in love with but who, for reasons that perhaps are perfectly clear to your friends
or family, can only make you unhappy. The success of your marriage depends less on the
height of your feelings than on certain qualities that it takes a little time to discover.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I found out this week that I have herpes and that I gave it to my new
boyfriend of five months. I didn't know I had it. I knew my
last boyfriend had it, but I really thought I didn't catch it. But I am at fault because
I didn't tell the new boyfriend that my last one was infected. How can I
possibly forgive myself and how can I regain the trust of my
boyfriend? I have never, never intentionally hurt
another human being. I can't quit thinking about all
this.

Miserable

Dear Miserable,

As your attorney, I will plead you innocent, and I'm confident the jury will
acquit. The facts are all there. Herpes is a miserable affliction when it's active, and usually
you know if you have it, and you didn't think you did. I'd suggest that you read up on
herpes a little. It's a serial infection that does abate somewhat over time. As for your
boyfriend's trust, only he can offer it, and there isn't anything you can do to make him feel
differently. Be kind, be understanding of his feelings and let things take their course.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I find myself, at the ripe old age of 34, completely paralyzed by fear and
hopelessness with regards to romance. I was obese throughout my
20s until finally, a few years ago, I decided to seize hold of life and shed all those
pounds and recapture my self-confidence. I succeeded, and my reward? The only woman
with whom I could link up was a grossly obese woman I met in an Internet chat room. I
hadn't had so much as a kiss in 11 years, let alone made love, so I stupidly dove into a
relationship with her. It was a disaster. I am still recovering, three years after
we split up. Part of the fallout has been that I've gained
back nearly all the weight I lost during that earlier heroic lunge at a better life, 160 pounds.
I'm at a loss and wondering what to do, with visions of
a 54-year-old me, still alone and miserable beyond all belief, shambling
through my head.

Loser

Dear Loser,

You climbed that mountain once and now you shall do it again, as a wiser man.
You know that you can do it. But losing the weight is only part of the struggle. You need to
be kinder to yourself. I don't think it should take a young man three years to recover from a
disastrous romance. Stop recovering, put the story in the past and have a good life. You're a
child of God, and even if you weighed 800 pounds and had to ride around on a forklift, you
cannot loathe yourself. You lunged at this woman and it was a mistake. Don't lunge. Walk
tall. You're honest and smart and young. You're not hopeless. Far from it.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am married to a wonderful, beautiful woman, and blessed with a
fabulous child, but I've become rather unhappy in the last few months.
Among other things, my life has become rather sexless. My wife is certain that her sex drive
is gone for good, and she doesn't seem to particularly miss it. I was never sexually
demanding before -- maybe that's what attracted her to me -- but now I am unraveling.
Sex isn't everything, but I have been obsessing about it lately. I am starting to regret my
idealistic and solitary youth. I am unaccountably falling in love with women friends,
compulsively exercising to make myself more presentable, becoming a leering, scheming old
man. There is no nobility in acting this way, and I do not want to sacrifice my relationship
with my son or my friendship with my wife for my libido, but I am far
too young to have to put it away.

Pining and Pathetic Paterfamilias

Dear Pining,

In the clearest and friendliest way possible, you must tell your wife what
you've told me and make her understand that this is her problem, too. You shouldn't deal
with it alone: The resolution has large implications for her so she should be brought into the
story. You've experienced a rush of sexual urgency in middle age and are having powerful
feelings postponed from youth. You don't want these feelings to run you off the road and
neither do you feel capable of banishing them to the attic. Let her know. At the same time,
try putting the two of you into seductive situations (without being obvious about it). Don't
accept what your wife says about her sex drive. Try being alone with her, holding hands,
talking, and work on your kissing skills when you have the chance.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I have an ex-girlfriend whom I visited last weekend in another city, a couple of months after
we said goodbye. She dances topless at a fancy club, which is where we met. We have
nothing in common: Our social paradigms are vastly different, our level of education is
completely incompatible. And yet when I am next to her I feel such an overwhelming love
for her. I lose all sense of rationality. Gone is the sound thinking and proof by reasoning. It
is disquieting because I am sure I am not in love with her. My hypothesis is that my
attraction to her is caused by pheromones, that her chemical makeup is uniquely compatible
with mine. Do you think that an uncontrollable attraction could be pheromonal? If yes, then
what is love?

Grad Student

Dear Grad Student,

You could test this theory by asking her to give you the shirt off her
back. Bring it home and put it under your pillow and see if you wake up excited.

Dear Mr. Blue,

As the song goes, "Sometimes a day goes by when I don't
think of her ..." and then morning comes.

The hallways are swept, the linens shaken out and
changed, the pictures stored in a cardboard box
somewhere ... but I can't stop dreaming about her.

She's been purged from my heart, ripped from my soul
and scoured from my touch; but she lurks in memory, darting
out at random moments to startle the shit out of me.

I'm scared I still love her, and, until I know better,
can't or won't love any other.

Afraid to sleep, perchance to dream

Dear Afraid,

You can't purge the past, or scour it, and the harder you try to make yourself
stop thinking about it, the more vivid it is. The past is permanent, and our sorrows don't
evaporate, but they do become paler and slighter and trouble us less. They cease to be
dreams and become stories and thereby manageable. This too shall pass. Find some
distractions. Learn French. Take flying lessons. Hike the Appalachian Trail. As time goes
on, you'll think of her less and less.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am 26 and have everything I ever wanted -- a best friend in marriage, two beautiful
babies. I love everything about being a wife and mother, all the mundane little details,
the smell of my daughter's downy hair after I dry her off and get
her ready for bed, the way my "big boy" needs his mama and only mama
will do. My problem has to do with my husband. I love him so
much, have loved him for so long. I was the bold pursuer at the beginning
and we had a sweet courtship. I was a jazz singer and he played football
and sat in the cafe and I would sing to him. Lately, I guess the level of romance has just
dropped. I don't want anybody else, I just remember feeling desired, desirable. Is
there any way to make him see me again, and not just "what's for dinner,
I'm turning on headline sports." I know he loves me, would do anything for
me, and he loves being a daddy and enjoys our life together. Is this just a
season in our marriage? I am assuming everyone goes through this, but does
anyone come out the other end?

Waiting for my one and only love

Dear Waiting,

Yes, lots of people come out the other end. They get in the doldrums and then
they get out. Avoid accusations and avoid long discussions about What's Wrong, and just try
in small ways to make things right. Children can play havoc with a romance, and you need to
put the children off to the side once in a while. Your husband is not the problem. Life is the
problem, and it has to be dealt with every day. It's easy to sink under, and a person has to
keep swimming. You sound like a wonderful person and terrifically desirable. Do what you
can to make time for the two of you to enjoy each other again.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I just came back to the States after two years in Europe. In
that time I fell deeply in love with a native, but decided to leave
him and come home to work on my career, which feels
really important to me in my late 20s. It's been four months and my
lover and I talk quite often on the phone and I plan to visit him soon.
The only problem is that I've started seeing someone else, and I feel like I'm starting to fall
in love with him. How can I have feelings of love for two very different men. And
worse yet, I can't choose between the two.

Caught in the crossfire

Dear Caught,

It was your choice to come home, so you are probably not
going to choose your old lover. But of course you don't feel like dropping him right away.
It's a good idea, though, to let him know that there's someone else in the picture, and that
your reunion is only for old times' sake.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I'm 42. Is it all over for me? Is the pattern of my life unalterably set? I've had opportunities
to marry and have run from them. Opportunities for careers and
have run from them. When does the hardening of the sensibilities become
intractable and what decisions am I making that seal this fate? I'm
exhausted by the thought of having to meet someone and I despair at the
possibility of never meeting someone to joyfully share life with. I
suspect that joy and sharing are, in time, oxymoronic. My, don't I sound dramatic.

Dramatic, but authentic

Dear Dramatic,

It's far from over for you, but apparently you have stopped momentarily.
And you're feeling fate's great shadow closing over you and don't dare turn around. As a
kid I used to scare myself by thinking, "What if I am paralyzed and can't get out of this
chair." And then I'd stand up and savor the small thrill of avoiding fate. I don't know what
"hardening of the sensibilities" means, but it sounds like a phrase you've thought up to scare
yourself. And the phrase "seal this fate" -- are we writing a Dracula movie here? I think
it's fine to be dramatic, but it's more fun to be dramatic with someone else. Out of the crypt
and into the ballroom scene, or the train scene, or the strangers thrown into each other's
arms by a shipwreck or avalanche or blizzard. You've led a rich, full life escaping from false
opportunity, and one of these days real opportunity will knock on the castle door and you
want to be where you can hear it. Not in the crypt, in the foyer.


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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