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Homely Security Issues

My boyfriend just confessed that he feels "intimidated" by my attractiveness! He said he's had relationships in the past with less attractive women and felt more secure. Is this ridiculous, or what!?—Pretty Dumbfounded

The supermodel does not lie down with the superstore clerk. There is no stampede from the Victoria's Secret photo shoot to the bar where all the Jack-In-The-Box cashiers hang out. And here's an In Style caption you're never going to read: "Monica Bellucci and Salma Hayek escorted into The Academy Awards on the arms of Walt Morton, night manager, Ace Wholesale Plumbing Supply."

Don't stick the blame on the superstarlets. Just as water seeks its own level, so do the fry cook, the dishwasher repairman, and the bowling shoe rental dude — if they're smart. Let's say some über-beauty, bored with European royalty and movie demigods, wakes up craving a little down-market fun. Hello, Joe Average! Of course, for her, the utterly average is utterly exotic: "Say it again," she'll beg: "'Do you want fries with that?!'" After Mr. Average gets bored congratulating himself on his stellar good luck, he may come to realize exactly how unlucky he is. See, what you've never had, you don't miss. And, that's the key here. Because, as with "shtetl chic" — the unfortunate trend that has Vogue cover girls dressing like turn-of-the-century eastern European street urchins — whims in downwardly mobile dating fly by faster than models can turn $8,000 of pretend-poor couture into dust wipes.

The same goes even when the person on the high end of the status gap is more likely to cat-sit than cat-walk. In other words, your boyfriend's no dope. A slew of studies bears out his fears. Psych prof David Buss sums them up in The Dangerous Passion: "Those who are lower in desirability are more vulnerable to getting unceremoniously dumped. The person higher in mate value comes to feel 'under-benefited' in the relationship, sensing ... better possibilities elsewhere. People act on these feelings."

Maybe you have no intention, now, of trading up to a European race car driver from your current North American rat race contestant; but, if you really are his much, much better half, you remain a flight risk. The way he sees it, maybe the sun was in your eyes when he handed you his business card, and you misread his title as "Lover" instead of "Loser." He's not sure why you're still hanging around, but he suspects it's only a matter of time before Something Better comes along, and carts you off on a hand-truck.

Beauty may be truth, but one approach to this problem could be making your looks lie a little. Apply to be the first case of reverse plastic surgery on reality TV. Your issue will certainly take producers by surprise: "How ugly do I need to be to keep my boyfriend? Add a hook nose? Eye bags? A weak chin? And maybe hire a trainer — a pie-eating contest coach to help me pack on some pounds."

If you favor a non-surgical solution, try convincing him that you're with him for good reason. Show him you want him in the way you jump him when he comes to the door. Be specific about what you like and love about him. Rinse, and repeat. Ironically, making an effort in this relationship might mean lazing around in a shapeless gray T-shirt with rollers in your hair. Ultimately, no matter what you do, your boyfriend's low opinion of himself may doom the relationship. Beauty talks, but from the insecure guy's perspective, ugly seems more likely to stick around to make lasagna next Tuesday night.

Chased Makes Waste

I'm 33, and perpetually single. When I date a man, I like to wine him, dine him, and give him gifts, but my efforts are never appreciated or returned in kind. In fact, I'm usually stood up, and left feeling heartbroken and used. What am I doing wrong? —Nice Girl Finishing Last

You have to decide whether you want to be Santa or somebody's girlfriend. If you'd like to go for girlfriend-hood, your objective, when you're on a date, should be exchanging witty banter, period. The point is seeing whether you have a connection with someone, not bribing them into coming back for more: "Date your way to a new car!" (Why not just scrawl "Desperate!" in red lipstick on your forehead?) Finally, keep in mind that a guy might want to have a role in the date, too. Your current dating style is a bit like throwing a ball to your dog and making him stay while you run and fetch it. While it's nice to avoid treating men like walking wallets, all your wining, dining, and gifting doesn't leave much for your date to do — well, beyond rolling over and playing dead while you hold up both ends of the conversation.

Copyright 2003, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail [email protected] (www.advice

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