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Income really not a factor here

Dear Carolyn: I am a reasonably handsome, fit, clean-cut and educated man in my mid-40s.

I work as a security guard, which enables me to read for 40 hours a week, which I just love to do.

When women find out how much money I make, their contempt for me can barely be hidden. I wonder when I am going to be valued by a woman for who I am, and not my ability to be a "provider."

Where are all the feminists who are looking for men who view them as equals? Could it be that even "feminists" are looking for a man to provide for them, and if they can't find a suitable male who makes enough money, they just do without a man?

-- T.

A: That's certainly one narrative you can write from the facts you have.

Here's another: These woman aren't looking for a man "to provide for them," but instead to pitch in as much financial security as they do. You got a job that allows you to avoid work (!), and while you're right to pursue what suits you, know that a prospective mate could be turned off by that choice. And, forget these are tough times, since those pass; these are independent times. Women whose husbands support them represent a small fraction of American women. Partnership is key.

Granted, that still pins your romantic struggles somewhat to your income. I can offer another narrative, though, that doesn't.

A 40-hour-a-week (minimum, right?) reading habit says yours is a life of the mind, to an unusual degree and at the expense of other ambitions. That's going to appeal to an equally specialized woman. If you quadrupled your income, you still wouldn't suit most women's tastes, and -- more important -- most women wouldn't suit yours.


It's time for you to fess up

Dear Carolyn: I'm in love with a man that I have never actually told I love. We have been in an on-and-off relationship for two years. He's moving to Seattle, and while I'm happy for his new opportunity, I don't want him to go. I have said that in a joking way but not in a meaningful conversation.

Is this the moment to let go and say it, or since I haven't said it in two years, should I just let the man have a happy life in Seattle without me?

-- Anonymous

A: Just say it, please. Not to keep him -- for your own sake, expect the worst there -- but to prove to yourself that you'll feel stronger if you try and fail than if you default to passive self-pity.

If your fear of pain is so great that pain avoidance is your prime motivation, then please recognize that your shield deflects joy, too.