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Nine months ago, I started secretly dating an out-of-town coworker, only seeing him when business brought him to the city. Company rumors pegged him as a big player, so I wasn't surprised when he said he'd just come out of a relationship and only wanted a casual fling. Having just ended a relationship myself, this sounded ideal. We kept it light and fun. When months went by between his visits, I wrote him off with no hard feelings. But, when work brought him back, something had changed. We spent hours just talking. He started calling me constantly. He sent me a plane ticket, and I visited him. He says he's falling in love with me, but rumors about him persist. Even his driver told me what a womanizer he is: on the phone telling one girl how much he misses her, then saying the same thing to the next girl on the line. I don't want to get hurt, but I'm falling for him. If he is a player (and I gave him a "no strings attached" fling), why would he pursue a real relationship? Am I naive to proceed? —Play It Again

There comes a time in a player's life when the existential emptiness of meaningless sex with a different woman every night leaves him longing for more. That's generally when the player expresses special feelings for one particular woman, hoping to make a more profound connection with another human being — while continuing to sneak out for the existential emptiness of meaningless sex with lots of other human beings.

Just because a player's found love doesn't mean he's going to stop looking for it. Perhaps that's why there's an aspiring Annette Bening in every woman. Bening is more than a movie star — she's the woman who turned Warren Beatty into Ward Cleaver. It's the ultimate female ego-polisher, to be the one who had what it took to tame the beast. The truth is, there's no woman fabulous enough. Only the beast can tame the beast. Maybe he grows weary of sales pitching a different "what's her name" into bed every night. Maybe age puts a muzzle on his screaming hormones. Eventually, he might start wanting a relationship enough to stop living according to the principle "if it moves, is female and under 75, try to have sex with it." Of course, he could also be one of those guys who wants it all — a wife and a revolving harem — plus the luck and skill to maintain it all without getting chopped into little pieces in divorce court.

Remember, the road to this guy's bed is paved with good intentions, all of which probably sounded sincere at the time. Sure, there's a chance he'll keep his pants on — and an even better chance if you make his zipper off-limits with a little dab of crazy glue. In other words, if you can't live with infidelity, you're contemplating a life with the wrong guy. Forget telling him how you feel. It's a player's job to tell you what you want to hear. Nothing he says proves he's boyfriend material — only that you slipped past his finely honed psychological defenses, probably by not putting up an offense. The way you play this, if you're willing to take your chances, is absolutely expectation-free. If visions of diamonds and forever dance before your eyes, inform them that your establishment doesn't have a cabaret license just yet. Should you apply for one? Time will tell. In fact, a year down the road, it should be very clear — whether this was the summer the leopard changed his spots, or whether he just got really, really tan.

Disgrace Under Pressure

My fiancée's parents are radical Mormons who say I must marry her immediately to end the disgrace I've brought on the family by having premarital sex with her. I don't feel ready for marriage, but the wedding date has been moved up (from not even set to three weeks away). I'm in a band, and I don't make much money, so I have no idea how I'll support my future wife. What should I do?—The Bad Guy

"Because her parents are fundamentalists" is a good reason to avoid inviting them to hear your favorite Satanic metal band, not to gallop to the altar with their daughter. Yes, it might be hard for them to read their family name under that big black mark they think you put on it, but in time, they'll manage. You're likely to lose your fiancée if you don't follow their orders, but in time, you'll manage. Probably much better than you would paying rent to her parents so you can live in wedded bliss in the doghouse behind their house — the perfect place for you to be trained to respond to all their commands: "Roll over! ... Fetch! ... Play dead!" Of course, that last one shouldn't be necessary.

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.advicegoddess.com).

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