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BEING NOBLE OPENED HER UP TO BULL

Carolyn: I went out with a guy a couple of times and decided I was just not interested in him. Boring conversationalist, not at all attracted to him, etc. I told him I wasn't interested (perhaps too subtly) and he asked if we could be friends. I said sure. Really only not to hurt his feelings. So last night we went to dinner, ostensibly as friends, but he maneuvered it so it was really a date -- wouldn't let me pay my share, and then kissed me when I definitely didn't want him to.

So now I basically want to tell him that I'm not interested in even being friends, which I probably should have done in the first place. What's the best way to do it so I don't hurt his feelings? I have this habit of being too nice and then going on dates that I don't want to, etc. -- California

A. Calling it "too nice" is being too nice to yourself. All you're doing is lying, and even though it's out of weakness and not malice, it's still not "nice" for anyone involved.

Look at your alleged non-date. You let him nurse along false hopes, which will now be dashed more painfully than if you'd been honest the first time -- and you left yourself open to his exploiting these hopes. Full on the lips, it sounds like. Which can't have been pleasant for you.

Things that are easier, and a lot more pleasant, than what you've both been through: "Thank you, but I'm not interested." "I don't think that would work." "It's not you, it's me." "Sorry." "Later." "Not." And the little black dress of them all, "No." Try it on some time.

Fortunately for you, the guy in question has made himself much easier to reject. You had a just-friends deal, regardless of how wishy-washily you accepted it, and he blew it. Now you can say, "Sorry, you've made it clear what you mean by 'friendship,' and that won't fly." (Yes, you can say it. Go go go.)

But future unwanted suitors won't always be so rejectable. For those, you need to form the actual magic word. Think of it as "noble," without the bull.

Who's the judge of this?

Carolyn: My girlfriend (whom I love more than anything) had an abortion in a past relationship. I call myself pro-choice because I don't think a guy really has the right to be pro-life but, morally, I really am pro-life. (My girlfriend knows this.) Just thinking about her doing this makes me really sad. My question is, do you see this causing problems for us down the road? Something we can get past, or not?

-- Somewhere Else
A. Not only can't I decide that for you, I don't think I can even decide that I can't decide that for you. This is your morality play to write.

I can say that it won't have a happy ending unless you're compatible down to your values, and that I sense contradiction in yours. You say you don't think a guy has a right to be pro-life (a moral position in itself, by the way). That, to me, says you view it as not your body and not your baby and therefore not your place to judge. But if this sadness you feel evolves into a deal-breaker beef with your girlfriend, then you are judging her. That's the question here, really: Are you judging her for this or not? If "yes," then yes, I do see some problems ahead. Sigh.

The work-absorbed boyfriend

Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend obviously cares for me, but he is a workaholic who made it very clear that his work is priority No. 1 for him. So we get to see each other once, at the most twice a week.

He is a very distant person, he never really touches me, never holds my hand unless I initiate it. He never calls me unless I ask him or call him myself. He excuses this with being swamped with work, which I believe, but over the last couple of weeks I have been feeling more and more miserable because he never expresses his feelings at all. In the beginning, a least, he showed more initiative, even though he was distant and formal. But I thought that he was just shy and that things would get better.

I ask myself: Where is the line between trusting that someone does feel something for you and deceiving yourself?

-- Somewhere
A. I ask of you: Write down the five best things about going out with this guy. If even one of them is more compelling than, "He makes me utterly miserable," then, well, my best to you both.

Write to "Tell Me About It," c/o Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or e-mail: tellme@washpost.com.

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