Ask the Advice Goddess

He Shrinks the World of You

I agree with your advice to the woman with an extremely jealous fiancé — that he could get dangerous, and she should get out immediately — but I'm wondering what to think about subtler stuff. My boyfriend of two months and I have been fighting about issues I've never dealt with before. For example, he saw some clothes I'd just bought and said, "Why do you always have to wear stuff that's short and tight?" I'm 23, and I always dress with class. Last week, I mentioned a conversation I'd had with his roommate, a coworker of mine. My boyfriend freaked out and said I'm always talking about this guy (well, we're coworkers and friends — his name just naturally enters conversation). He then asked if there was something he "should know." Is this normal or should I be worried?
—Subtle Trouble

So, the guy isn't chasing you around your living room with a chain saw, or lurking just beyond your shower curtain, meat cleaver in hand. This isn't a sign he's harmless. It's a reminder that danger doesn't always do you the favor of dressing for dates in slasher movie chic.

Danger, when under-accessorized (hockey mask optional), is especially hazardous, because it's easily yawned off as "issues." What are you gonna do, change the locks, bolt the doors and put on 24-hour rent-a-goons just because your boyfriend sniped at your fashion sense? Well, yeah. The guy is taking a chunk out of you; he's just doing it little by little, gnawing away at your friendships, your wardrobe and more — a gerbil among men. Before you know it, you'll be so worn down by his sharp little rodent incisors that you'll dutifully scurry past the baby T's to the mumu department without him so much as wiggling his pointy gerbil-boy snout.

Now, maybe you do dress "with class" — perhaps favoring intelli-bimbo style (push-up bra, tiny dress, high heels and librarian glasses) — or maybe you make hookers look like they're modeling the Amish collections for fall. Regardless, you've been dressing yourself for quite some time in keeping with your personal aesthetic. This is called "self-expression," not "insecure boyfriend-expression" — despite Mr. Mother Superior's attempt to shame you into dressing with a little more decorum. And, excuse me, but shouldn't your relationship make your life bigger, not leave you reluctant to exit the house in anything floozier than a burkha, and shrink your social circle until it's small enough to accommodate a boyfriend who thinks very little of himself?

This isn't to say you should cover your ears and stomp around your relationships, refusing to hear a word of criticism. What's key, though, is the critic's motivation — whether he's offering fashion tips to help you get ahead or because he's terrified of getting left behind. Say a guy supports your desire to pay stylistic homage to that silhouetted hoochie-mama on the back of mud flaps. He still might gently suggest that dinner at his grandmother's isn't the optimal occasion to break out the fuchsia patent leather hot pants and matching platform boots.

Forget any bright ideas you might have about reassuring your boyfriend into an attack of self-worth. That's gonna happen — right after he grows a third eye. Be who you are and find somebody who thinks it's great — even when he's forced to endure you prancing around in a hanky that's aspiring to be a dress, and revealing a lot of unsightly pushed-up cleavage.

Sleeping Booty

I needed a roommate and an old college friend needed an apartment, so he moved in. For three weeks we've ended up snuggling — nothing serious, but I've woken up next to him the past three Sundays. Nothing's been discussed and we definitely aren't in a relationship, but I think I'm falling for him. I don't think I could handle it if he brought another girl home. What should I do?
—Randy Roommate

Like grocery shopping on a full stomach, boyfriend shopping on a full bed has obvious psychological advantages — but only when the man on your list isn't also the man between your sheets. Forget that the guy's conveniently located, familiar and safe; if you were doing your shopping on the open market, would he still have a place in your cart? If so, chat with him about where he's coming from — and don't put it off until you're in midair, hurtling toward the mattress. If he likes you too, a change of living venue would be in order, since you're well on your way to having grandchildren before the first date. If tenancy with benefits is all he's into, figure out whether you can squeeze your emotions back into the roommate position. Chances are, your best bet is replacing him with another guy friend in need of housing — preferably, one who's a little more ... homosexual?

Copyright 2004, 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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