I am in my 60s and have been widowed twice. Six months ago I met a wonderful man and we are in a committed relationship; however, he makes remarks about my being flat-chested and has said he likes big breasts and would like for me to have breast-enlargement surgery. I have never had this "problem" with a man in my life before and it has hurt me very much. In every other way he is very considerate and thoughtful and we enjoy being together. I am just at a loss as to how to handle this, as I do not want to have surgery and it has never bothered me before. Thanks.
Dear Small Boobs,
Life is full of surprises. I never thought I'd write a letter beginning "Dear Small Boobs." You never thought your breasts were too small. And this man of yours probably never thought he would come over to see you and find a giant dildo on your coffee table. It probably never occurred to him that you would point to it and tell him how much larger it is than his own penis and suggest that he have penis-enlargement surgery to correct his deficiency. But life is full of surprises.
I don't know what to do. I am a 23-year-old woman engaged to a great guy. We have a 7-month-old daughter. The problem is his sister. When I was four or five months pregnant she tried to attack me. She made it clear that she didn't want me having this baby. Every time she calls she can say one or two words and can have him mad at me for a week. She has a son who will be 2 a couple of days before Father's Day. She is throwing his birthday party at a cabin two hours north of where we live. (She is a psycho.) My fiancé will not be here for his first Father's Day because his sister and her son always take precedence over his daughter and me. I have tried talking to him and nothing works. Should I leave him and let him figure stuff out on his own?
Yes, you should leave him and let him figure this stuff out on his own. And when, in a couple of weeks, he calls you and says he has it all figured out now and you can come home, tell him to do a little more figuring. There might still be a couple of things he hasn't quite figured out yet, like who he's engaged to and who is the mother of his child.
Sounds nutty and dangerous. Leave him and his whole crazy family. You say he's a great guy. How great a guy can he be if his sister can call him and say two words and make him be mad at you for a week? What kind of life can you expect to have with a sister-in-law who tries to attack you? What sort of mother would you be if you continued to expose your daughter to these crazies?
Get out of there. Go far away. Take the kid. And when he calls to charm you with whatever great qualities he supposedly has, don't put the baby down to answer the phone.
I have a firm belief that men are generally pigs. I have seen them all -- nice, bad, good, and scary. I have given up on them. I am not writing to seek some sympathy or empathy (from your lady readers), but just to seek some truth. I always enjoy reading your column, mostly because I get to see my theory on men reinforced consistently. I get a chuckle or two out of reading the depressing mess caused by these so-called men.
However, going back to the truth I sought out in the beginning: Cary Tennis, are you in fact a female? The reason I ask you this question is simple. You don't fit the "pig"-syndrome criteria. Your writings project a female voice and your empathy for women's issues seems unusually too good to be true. You are nurturing, introspective, seemingly kind and gently sisterly. I am forced to take time in my busy schedule and write down an actual e-mail on much ado about nothing! Forgive me if I sound a little irritated; it seems that I cannot cope with the realization that there is an actual man out there who is not a pig!
Dear Totally Irritated,
Don't worry. I, too, am a pig. But I am a well-trained pig. Just ask my wife.
Forgive me for sounding like every other psycho Manhattan chick with a skim latte in her hand, but am I ever going to find anybody? I am worried that being so professionally driven and independent will prevent me from connecting with someone special and keep me intimidating men forever.
I'm smart, outgoing and attractive enough that men would consider sleeping with and also dating me. I've had boyfriends, one-night stands, flings, love affairs, seductions, dates, etc. ... but maybe John Gray is right -- am I intimidating the commitment power right out of men?
I am an intensely creative and emotional person. I consider myself an individual and though I seek a companion, I don't necessarily see myself starting a family, nor do I think women need to in order to find fulfillment. But is it true that I can "just be myself" and still find someone?
I do want to meet someone who's attractive, successful, intelligent, and very interested in growing, experiencing and changing. Am I being unreasonable?
I guess my question is, what the f-ck do men these days want? Martha Stewart, Judith Light, Britney Spears, John Gray? Because if I have to be a pushover in order to find love, I'll go out and buy some cats and more or bigger dildos right now.
Insane Single Chick
Dear Insane Single Chick,
I believe you have just gotten something off your chest. That's a start. But if you want to do more than vent, if the questions you pose are really causing you pain, it's because they are not framed in a way that invites answers. They are either too broad -- "What do men want?" -- or too narrow -- "Is it this or is it that?" The kind of questions that will be productive for you to answer are small, personal questions that refer to the real world that you and I know and deal with every day.
If you and I have any common ground it is in the area of creativity. I don't know what you mean by "creative," exactly, but if you are involved in painting, drawing, music, dance, performance, sculpture, architecture or writing, that is probably the medium you can use to answer the questions that actually can be answered, the answers to which will add up to a concrete portrait of who you are and what's going on in your life, why you are frustrated and angry and impatient.
So I suggest that you back up from your frustration and your list of entry requirements and look at your own life creatively as it is now: What do you love now? What are you painting? When are you happy? Are you happy when you're playing music? Do you like men in general? What is it about men that you like? Is there a man you like now? What do you like about him? Do you like the way men walk, the way they smell, the way they talk? What do you take pleasure in? Do you think there is anyone in the world who is as important as you are? Do you find yourself imagining what other people think about you? Do you think people will think better of you if you are on the arm of an attractive man? Do you think you have the right to order men about? What, specifically, would a happy relationship be like?
It is possible to live without torturing yourself or others. But it helps to concentrate on specifics, on the little things, and not to throw words about just hoping to hit something. As to the books that promise things like love, fulfillment and happiness: They're junk. Don't believe a word of it.
My life is almost too good be true right now. I've got a beautiful, charming 5-year-old daughter whom I adore; an amazingly good relationship with my ex-husband and his wife; a loving, close-knit family; and a promising career. I've also just purchased my first home. I even have a relationship with a man I truly respect and love, but (and you knew it was coming -- why else would I be writing?) I don't know how he feels about me.
We've known each other for 15 years and dated off and on (more off than on). We have always maintained contact when we were seeing other people and have been good friends. Last year, I sent him an e-mail telling him in no uncertain terms that although I knew he was living with his girlfriend and loved her, I knew in my heart he was "the one" and I regretted letting him get away. Within two weeks, he showed up at my house unannounced and said his relationship was over with her. We never really talked about it; we just started going out. He spends time with me and my daughter, we go on trips, we just hang out, we have incredible sex. He's supportive, affectionate, respectful, considerate -- in short and in my eyes, he's perfect, except that he won't tell me he loves me.
I've blurted it out to him on more than one occasion and he doesn't react or speak at all, and it's killing me. I know I should just ask him, but I can't seem to summon enough nerve. I love the relationship exactly the way it is, I don't want to be married right now, and I'm happy, but I can't get past this one issue. It keeps me awake at night, but at the same time, I'm too much of a chickenshit to just confront him about it because I don't want anything to change. His actions in every way indicate that he does love me, so should I just keep my mouth shut until he's ready to say it to me?
Oh, yeah, by the way, the reason we broke up five years ago was because I was sleeping with another guy (whom I married and had a child with), so there might be some trust issues involved here.
Confused in Atlanta
Oh, yeah, by the way, there might indeed be some trust issues here. There might be some infidelity issues here. There might be some revenge issues here. There might be some real pain and anger from that time when you were going out with this guy but sleeping with someone else whom you went off and married and had a baby with and then divorced. There might be some issues about how, once divorced, you called up the old flame who was by then living with his girlfriend and told him he was really the one after all. And oh, yeah, there might be one pissed-off girlfriend who for all you know is waiting for the boyfriend to come back the minute he's through with you.
And he might not be saying he loves you because he might not feel that way about you. He might just be enjoying the shift in power relations and feel no loyalty to you at all, on top which maybe deep down he'd like to even the score by walking out on you once you're good and tender. He probably knows he can go back to her and say you didn't mean a thing to him and he was only trying to help you in your moment of crisis after your painful divorce and nothing really happened and please baby please. He probably knows you might be mistaken again, that -- Surprise! -- he really isn't the one after all, it just seemed like it to you at the time. And what would be surprising or new about that? It would all be rather predictable. Yeah, there might be some issues here. There might be some issues indeed.
I'm a 27-year-old woman about six months into a great relationship with a wild 30-year-old man. I say "wild" because he is so dissimilar to me -- a rowdy, punk-rock kind of guy with several motorcycles and anarchist-type views on just about everything. He's confrontational and emotional and loves to drive fast cars. I was the straight-A high school student who went off to an Ivy League college and landed a great job afterward. I make good money sitting in front of a computer; he works for a crappy hourly wage breaking his back all day. He smells sweaty and has dirty fingernails and hard muscles and I honestly can't get enough of him. He fascinates me. I've never known or dated anyone remotely like him. And he loves the attention.
He knows that I think he is unique and interesting -- I ask him endless questions about skateboarding and his travels in South America; I devour his fabulous cooking and delight in riding on the back of his motorcycle. But he doesn't seem all that interested in what I've done with my life. He acts like he knows all about it. When I start to tell what I think is a funny or enlightening tale, he frequently cuts me off by either finishing it for me or saying that he knows someone who did the same thing. Either that or he so vehemently rejects the academic and corporate experiences I've enjoyed that I feel uncomfortable relating the stories to him.
But the rub is that he seems to adore me, he wants me around all the time, he calls me at work just to say he's thinking about me, he buys me thoughtful little gifts and rubs my feet at night. He is proud of me: I hear him talking about me to his friends and he brags about my accomplishments. And he takes my career advice very seriously (he wants to start his own business), acknowledging that I do know what I'm talking about sometimes. I mean the sex is incredibly passionate and all, but I have to think the reason he wants to spend all this time with me is that he enjoys the audience. I am endlessly interested in all of his pursuits. I have bought CDs from bands he introduced me to, I took motorcycle training and got my own license, I cooked one of his recipes and bought clothes more similar to things that he likes. I know what spark plugs do now, and I built and stained a wooden table last month. But he isn't interested in learning more about what I like -- and why should he, when I so enjoy doing what he wants to do?
It's just that I worry that he doesn't love me; he loves me paying attention to him. I feel like he doesn't know me at all -- but then he amazes me by making some insightful comment about my feelings and I think that maybe he pays more attention than I give him credit for. Am I just being paranoid because of the white-collar/blue-collar split? Do I just let go and revel in the greasy shirts and tender embraces? Does the man of my dreams really have to have read my favorite book or own a suit? Is it OK to radically adapt yourself for someone as long as you enjoy making the changes, or am I setting us up for a hard fall?
Adoring Audience Member
Don't romanticize the working class. It isn't taken as a compliment. Just shut up and enjoy the ride. You two sound like a perfect match.