The man of my dreams

Emboldened by his declaration of love, I asked him about "the future." I wasn't banking on his honest answer.


Garrison Keillor
February 22, 2000 10:00PM (UTC)

A guy named Tony has sent a letter that sets an all-time record for this column -- 2700
words -- the longest cri de coeur in the history of Mr. Blue. Congratulations, Tony. I'm in
the process of editing it down to a couple hundred words and expect to finish by late
summer. Meanwhile, hang in there, Tony. And if anyone wants to go for the record, there it
is, waiting to be broken.

There were many responses to last week's letter from Hurting, a woman whose male friend
broke off with her because (she felt) he had become sexually attracted to her and who
wondered if her other male friends might betray her and if friendship between men and
women is indeed possible. One young woman writes:

Advertisement:

I am 36, married and have four children. I have two very dear male friends who I talk to
often, e-mail often, and they have visited my home. They are my friends, not my husband's,
and there is no sexual tension; it is genuine friendship. I know this is a rare thing, but with
the right intentions, it can be accomplished.

And another woman writes:

Men do not consider it a betrayal to suddenly vanish from a
friendship. If I show up 15 minutes late when I'm going to visit a guy, he thinks
nothing of it; women are upset. If I cancel a dinner with a male pal at the last minute, he
will just say, "No big deal, catch you next time." Women are upset. Women have a
(sometimes) hidden agenda of being dependent on a man, which comes from their concern
that if they were to get pregnant they would need to depend on him. This is such a
basic need they tend to evaluate all men using this yardstick: "Is he
responsible?" Men, on the other hand, place a premium on being
able to get the job done, on their own. It's a badge of honor for a man to say, "No big
deal." He can fend for himself. Even in friendship, women evaluate men as protectors.
Hurting should realize the man was treating her as he might
a male friend. For now he's vanished, but he might turn up in six months,
ready to resume the friendship. If she wants to have male friends, she should make sure she
is independent enough to not depend on them. She shouldn't have male
friends and underneath it all have expectations they will act like
boyfriends.

Advertisement:

And on the subject of snoring, a man writes:

I lived with a seismic-level snorer for one semester
in college, and by midterm my other roommate and I
were plotting ways to make his death look like a
suicide. I can easily imagine his wife not wanting to
endure 30 years of it. Medical science may not have cured cancer or the cold,
but they have come up with a lot of ways to deal with
snoring. I recommend he see a specialist.

Dear Mr. Blue,

Advertisement:

I'm a 47-year-old lawyer dating a 32-year-old poet, the man of my dreams -- smart, funny,
kind, strong -- though I do wish we were closer in age. It took him a while, but after a year
together he finally told me he loves me, and I believe he does. We enjoy our time
together, we miss each other when we're apart, we make each other laugh.
Two weeks ago, perhaps emboldened by his declaration of love, I had a heart-to-heart with
him about "the future." I wanted to know if he thought we would ever live together.
Last night, he told me that he really can't see us together in 10 years. He
said he's very happy with the way things are now, he loves me and is not interested in
anyone but me. But he has no interest in moving in together. And he's
bothered by the absence of the "passion" that he felt in past relationships. He was
devastated by the unfaithfulness of his last love and was still writing bitter poems
about her when I met him. He said that he's waited for the feeling of being "madly in love"
to arrive, and it hasn't. He'd like to continue with things as they are, but
I don't know if I can, or should. I love him dearly, I can't imagine his absence, but I don't
want to be an idiot. I know there are no guarantees in love (I'm a divorce lawyer, for
heaven's sake!), but I like to have at least a basis for hope. What do you think? Should I
stay or should I go?

Lawyer in Love

Advertisement:

Dear Lawyer,

Young Lochinvar has been pretty straight with you and now you have to be
honest with yourself. What do you want? Do you have a longing to be a couple and see two
toothbrushes in the holder and jockey briefs in the top drawer and guy stuff in the front
closet? Or is this guy It, no matter what? Clearly he's still getting over the previous lady and
he's brutally frank about this in admitting a lack of passion. If I were in love with a woman
and she looked me in the eye and said she felt a lack of passion for me, I would reach for
my car keys, figuring she had asked me to leave, but you're you and probably a better
person than I and more patient. And he is a poet and these people tend to be dark: When he
says he can't see you together in 10 years, this might be metaphorical and simply mean that
he's having a bad day. I mean, poets look at a bare tree and see death, they look at a stone
and see their dead grandmother. I think you should give this romance a little more time, and
I think you should be careful with your heart: Don't lunge, don't long for someone who is
cool toward you. Practice the art of friendly detachment. Uncommit yourself.

Dear Mr. Blue,

Advertisement:

I have been married for a couple of years to a really lovely man who
treats me like a princess, and everything's groovy. Except every time
we are with his family (holidays, random weekends), they drive me insane with their
backward, bigoted, isolationist, ignorant, intolerant political views. Not
a visit goes by that some racial slur or some stupid remark about liberals or
immigrants doesn't escape their mouths. They are otherwise a kind bunch, very giving and
affectionate, but not very well read, which contributes to their political
idiocy. My husband doesn't share their politics but neither does he dispute them; he
dismisses it as a factor of their upbringing in the South in the '50s and says I should just
be tolerant. But it is emotionally exhausting to be around them. There's going to come a
point when I lose it completely and offend them and cause problems between my husband
and his family. I have just found out that I'm pregnant and I am terrified of
the influence they'll have on my child. How can I get them to shut up?

Frustrated

Dear Frustrated,

Advertisement:

Rednecks don't shut up, certainly not at the request of a woman in-law,
especially not in their own homes. So don't expect them to, and don't lose your temper, and
don't bug your husband about it. Pretend you're an anthropologist in the field and collect
data on these guys. Take notes. Keep a record of all the trash they talk that particularly gets
you steamed. And when you can't take it anymore, go in the kitchen and wash dishes and
sing. I've done that when I couldn't take the company, and it always made me feel better.
Something like "Frankie & Johnny" or "Lovesick Blues" or "Keep on the Sunny Side."
Redneck politics doesn't countenance disagreement, so don't bother. Let them spout.

Dear Mr. Blue,

At 34, after three children and 15 and a half years of turbulent marriage, I am ready to chuck it all.
What I fail to understand is what happened. We have endured a child with chronic illness,
back surgery, bankruptcy, lack of communication, religious differences and complacency. I
can't stand to look at (much less enjoy intimacy with) the man who has fathered our three
beautiful and extraordinary children. We communicate only what is necessary, i.e., what the
kids' schedules are and what bills are due. He goes to work early and I try to stay late
enough that I don't have to see him when I get home. He is truly a wonderful person.
However, the pizazz has fizzled. Should I stay or should I go?

Bummfuddled

Advertisement:

Dear Bummfuddled,

That's a sterling list of troubles you've endured, though I don't know
how complacency figures in. Complacency is everyone's problem, and so is lack of
communication, and they never go away. Maybe you can't communicate because you're
afraid of the depth of your feelings -- your own anger, for example. When you say you
can't stand to look at your husband, this is more than a fizzle, it's an explosion. The back
problems, the bankruptcy, the suffering of your child: Have you turned your anger at these
miseries against each other? It's nothing I can comment on, and I sincerely recommend that
you sit down in a quiet room with a caring professional and a box of Kleenex and tell her
everything, the whole bloody story. Not to save the marriage, but to save you.

Dear Mr. Blue,

My wife and I have a contentious relationship. When we get along, it's all honey and pie;
when we fight, look out. Whenever we're at her family's house or when she's got her
friends over, she takes the opportunity to dump on me and treat me very shabbily and make
fun of me in ways that even her friends find embarrassing. She's like a different person,
bitchy, loud and abusive. She mistakes others' silence for approval. When her "allies" go
home and I'm thoroughly pissed off, it can take days before I'm calm enough to talk to her.
By then, it's all forgotten and "What's your problem?" She's really a good woman, a
wonderful mother, but there's this bully in there who can't wait to get in a safe place and
start lashing out. Any suggestions how I can deal with this?

Advertisement:

Pissed

Dear Pissed,

The surest strategy is to smile and bear up and kill her with kindness. This
truly does work to deflect cruelty. And it feels good; it feels a lot better than foaming and
raging and being just as stupid as she. Be a prince. She'll stop.

Dear Mr. Blue,

Advertisement:

I am slowly becoming enchanted by a very lovely woman. The problem
is that she has two kids. I never thought of getting into a relationship
with someone who has children. I like the kids a lot, two boys (8 and 7),
and we've had some fun times together. One of them is impish and athletic and the
other funny and dramatic. Altogether I like and admire them as a family, and I wonder if I
am getting into something I'll regret? Will I be haunted by a feeling that this family is not
my own? Something in my gut tells me to run the other way, find a
childless woman and start my own family. What thinkest thou?

Happy Today

Dear Happy,

It sounds as if you're trying to keep yourself from liking Mama and the boys as
much as you obviously do, trying to scare yourself by imagining that you might not like
them in the future, imagining regrets, a haunted feeling. You don't need me to scare you. I
think that probably she is a lovely woman with two wonderful kids and you're falling in love
with her. If you really want to fall out, better do it quick before you get in too far, which
you may already be.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I met a stunning, young married woman at a professional conference with whom I've been
exchanging passionate e-mails. Why is it so damned easy to come unglued online? We've
already concluded that the whole thing is impossible, but we keep chippying away with little
notes. I feel guilty but can't wait till she comes to town. What should we do?

About to Burn in Hell

Dear About,

Men who are embarking on passionate adulterous affairs that will land them in
hell do not write to their elderly Uncle Blue and ask him what they should do. You know
what you should do. You've been taught this since you were small, I presume. It isn't a
problem of not knowing. It's a question of how much ignorance you can summon up so as to
enable you to do what you know not to do. At various times in my life, I've been able to
dumb myself down to remarkable depths and I assume you can too, if you put your mind to
it.

Dear Mr. Blue,

My sister wants me to visit her, and we have absolutely zero in common.
We are both in our mid 30s. I left home at 19 to pursue a career as a
writer, artist and lesbian. She lived at home till she was 32 and studied to become a teacher.
She never fails to mention that I don't have a college degree and
she does -- we could be taking about cheese, and she finds a way to wheedle
it in! I'm a kayaker and mountaineer, she is a perfumed glamazon. Now I am making
one of my rare visits home and she insists that I come and stay with her for at
least one night. I cannot stand this vain, manipulative woman who can only
ever talk about where she bought things and how much they cost. I really
want to spend all the time I can with my aging parents, especially since she
is the reason I come home so rarely. However, I'm afraid she will
deny me access to her beautiful little boy in the future if I decline the
offer. I'm FRAUGHT! What should I do, Mr. Blue?

Simmering

Dear Simmering,

This vain manipulative woman is your sister and she is holding your
nephew hostage and, to some extent, your parents. Don't be afraid of her. Don't be sensitive
about your degreelessness. It doesn't matter. Neither does her silly vanity. If you shun her,
then your anger becomes the center of the story, and that's a mistake: It does you harm and
it harms your parents and your nephew. You and she may never be bosom buddies and
confidantes (or you may), but anger is corrosive and one should try to expunge it, especially
among family. Be a mensch, walk tall, put all your good humor in your pocket, click your
hiking boots three times and go see your sister.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I'm 24, free-spirited and somewhat reserved, and have been seeing a man for about four and
a half months who I get along with fabulously, but then he accused me of having a crush on
his best friend (totally unfounded; I've only met him three times). I almost fell over. I could
only say, 'You're kidding, right?' I've always believed in complete trust if you love someone,
and I just don't want one of those 'who were you with? what were you doing? why didn't
you tell me?' relationships. Am I just completely wrong about this?

Extreme Girl

Dear Extreme,

Jealousy is always floating around out there, like a flu virus, and when you
get it, you get it hard. It isn't the result of ratiocination, it's a bug, and obviously your
boyfriend is susceptible. Maybe he is worried that the best friend has bouncier hair or
brighter teeth and he wants your reassurance that he is the fairest of all. Maybe he is just an
insecure jerk who is going to give you a hard time ad nauseam. Maybe you're friendlier to
strangers than your boyfriend is able to tolerate. Your eyes sparkle, you smile, your
handshake lasts a fraction of a second too long, and your poor boyfriend is stricken with
silent agonies. You're not wrong to want a carefree relationship, but if your reassurances of
loyalty don't reassure, then I don't think there's much you can do.

Dear Mr. Blue,

My fianci, who is 20 years older than I, would like to invite two or three of
his former lovers to our wedding this spring. "We've been friends for
years," he says, and though I see that these women now fall squarely in
the category of "infrequently contacted friends," I don't especially want them floating around
the edges on my wedding day (my first, my fianci's second). He says these
women's feelings will be hurt if they aren't invited. Perhaps I'm being silly; perhaps they
won't bother me, in all my delirious joy. Perhaps he's being silly, dragging his past into a
new start. How would you suggest we resolve this controversy?

The Bride

Dear Bride, I'm old-fashioned. I think it's your day and that there should be nothing to upset
you on your day. Try to accept these fine ladies in your heart, and if you can't, then scratch them off the list. It may be silly of you, but you're entitled to be silly on your wedding day.


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.

MORE FROM Garrison Keillor


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Books Writers And Writing

Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •