Dear Carolyn: I'm in the early stages of a long-distance relationship. We see each other as many weekends as possible. Whenever he visits me, I clear my calendar from Friday to Sunday. When I visit him, I can't help but feel like I'm intruding on his life.
I think this has to do with the fact that we haven't been together very long. I feel awkward tagging along, but I feel even worse sitting alone in his apartment while he honors prior commitments (he has a part-time job and is also on a casual sports team). I keep coming THIS close to telling him I don't want to visit when he has other plans scheduled, but that seems like it would come off as controlling. What do you suggest?
-- New York-D.C.
A: I suggest you get your head out of your (boyfriend's apartment).
He lives in either New York or D.C., obviously. So, your away games are in a city that offers so much interesting stuff for people to do and see that visitors risk the paralysis of too many choices.
I get it, you're there to see your boyfriend, so you want to see your boyfriend. But when he's had these prior commitments, why haven't you used this time to explore Inherently Fascinating City?
Let's say you have a great reason for staying in; you're wiped out from a demanding job, maybe. That just presents a different reason to appreciate his occasional absences, since they offer time to nap, read or contact other people you love.
When you decline to make your own plans -- even tired, or stranded in Culturally Challenged City -- you essentially say to your boyfriend, "I skulked around your apartment the whole time you were gone because I lack sufficient curiosity and initiative to do anything else." The implication that you have no interests beyond being with him is relationship-endangering.
Whether you sightsee or loll on the couch, downtime is ideal for pondering whether your clear-the-decks approach to love will be healthy for you in the long run. People drift apart, break up, die or just pursue interests that don't interest you. Or they just have crabby days. Each presents challenges, but all are a lot less intimidating when your self-sufficiency muscles haven't gone slack with neglect.
Deflecting snobs' queries
Dear Carolyn: I live on the cusp of a very affluent community -- homes range from $200,000 to more than $2 million. When people find out I live here, too, they invariably ask, "Where?" I've been vague, saying, "Just up the road," but then they still say, "Where?" Most people are nice, but I would like a quip for the nosy snobs.
-- I Thought We Left High School
A: Nondefensively: "You mean which side of the tracks?" You'll bust the social-climbers and amuse the rest.