Ask the Advice Goddess

Spine Language

Three years ago, I got out of a dysfunctional three-year relationship where I did anything and everything for the guy, including ditching all my friends and tolerating him sleeping with another woman. When he inevitably left me for somebody else, I worked very hard to get my friends back and build a life for myself that didn't involve some stupid boy. Now, when I meet a guy I like, all I want is a sexual relationship; in other words, a boyfriend without the drama of a relationship. Can I have the independence I've grown to love and still have a guy in my life?

-Trampled

Some men require instruction on what is and isn't a proper place to put their feet. Your problem wasn't having one of them in your life, but trying to keep him there by insisting, "Hello, my name is Sidewalk (but I'll also answer to Shag or Parquet)."

Your life didn't just involve a guy; it revolved around a guy - probably because you bought all the Cinderella hoohah that "love is the answer," and to just about everything but "When was the Battle Of Hastings?" Forget personal growth, "love is all you need!" (All you need to do what? Sing like Aretha Franklin? Eat beans without repercussion?) Then, there's "love makes the world go 'round." (Sorry, but I have it on good authority that gravity is key.)

Actually, as long as the earth is still turning, much of what you need is self-respect. Once you've loaded up on that, the need for love becomes a lot less pressing. Sure, becoming somebody is a lot of work, but simply becoming somebody who's with somebody isn't gonna fly. Surprise, surprise, guys don't respect girls who'll do anything and everything for them; they use them as their footpath on the way to girls with enough self-respect to have boundaries.

Those girls don't have to limit themselves to booty calls to keep dating from turning into accommo-dating. They're constantly sending out signals that the first brush of a shoe sole on their neck will be the last. If a guy like your ex wanders into their life, he's rapidly shown the doormat - the rectangular one that sits on the exit/no-reentry side of the door.

Figure out who you are and what you value - what you really value, not what Cosmo, your grandmother or nine out of 10 sociologists say you should. Set standards for how you want to be treated, and resolve to stand by them no matter what. In time, the response - "Hey, I'm a woman, not wall-to-wall carpeting!" - will become automatic. At that point, you should no longer feel compelled to put the Great Wall Of China between you and anything resembling a relationship.

Relationships don't have to be all-consuming, as in "that crazy little sinkhole called love." Get a calendar out, figure out how much weekly friend-time and alone-time you need, and look for a guy who has enough of a self (and enough friends to keep it company) that he won't clamor to colonize you. For now, practice for the future by looking at your naked back in the mirror. That's the faint outline of a backbone you see - a helpful reminder that, when a guy tries to walk all over you, the correct response is not tacking a throw rug to your shoulders to help him stay on message.

Walking Small

My girlfriend and I are insanely happy. However, her best friend's boyfriend came to our party last weekend, and I swear this guy was Superman - tall, dark, confident, intelligent, curious. He had an informed opinion about everything, a penetrating gaze, and a mean Ping-Pong spin. I've always been secure in who I am, but I suddenly felt like a pygmy (although my sweetheart gave me no reason to believe she loves me any less). How can I get my confidence back and get this guy out of my head?

-Micro-Man

Wading in rose petals in the moonlight night after night gets so tedious; why not introduce a little doubt to liven things up? If one person in your relationship has to be obsessed with another man, at least it's you. Apply a little logic to your insecurity. You can never be anybody but you. If you don't like who you are, take Ping-Pong lessons or read The Economist. Granted, you might truly be a pygmy compared to her best friend's boyfriend, but you're her pygmy. In other words, it's working for her, so don't muck it up by being distracted, inattentive and fixated on somebody else.

P.S. Even Superman isn't always Superman. Doesn't the name Clark Kent ring a bell? Here's a man who flies into a phone booth at the slightest provocation and steps out in tights, a Speedo and a cape. There's a name for a man like this: "gay best friend."

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail [email protected] (www.advicegoddess.com).

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