Re: Modern Love: Starting 'Em Young Edition

1

I don't get it.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:13 AM
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My primary reaction to this column was irritation at the NYT editors for their social engineering. Maybe I've been reading Emerson too long, but I think reinforcing a hurtful social practice as the "norm" is actively harmful, and I'm willing to hold the newspaper responsible for reinforcing it through the essays they choose to publish.

From a (much, much better) article in the magazine section:

"It was a real turning point for me," Slutkin said, "when I was working on the AIDS epidemic and saw research findings that showed that the principal determinant of whether someone uses a condom or not is whether they think their friends use them."

I'd bet a whole lot of money that how people act in their dating and intimate relationships is also affected by how they think their friends act. And to the extent that people extrapolate from friends = social circle = people of my class and background featured in a newspaper article, that stinks.

Pah, NYT.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:15 AM
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She seems to have an awful lot of dating history for a 20-year-old. Not that that's a bad thing. Or that's it's an unbelievable number. But as representative of young college love it struck me as a little strange. All these men and none of them were college boys or high school boys? They were all writers and actors and construction workers and Jesuits.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:17 AM
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Witt sums up the reaction I had but couldn't articulate. Thank you, Witt. So, so true.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:17 AM
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If my friend isn't using a condom then I'm, by definition, not using a condom. Duh.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:23 AM
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People are especially rude to people they're dating, much more so than to people they like whom they aren't dating. I don't think it's a conscious choice; it's just defensiveness and game-playing, probably because dating is so much more about status and normative behavior than friend-making is.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:23 AM
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Also because you see the person you're dating as an extension of yourself, in a way that you don't merge with your friends. So you're more irritated and controlling of their behavior, because you want to exert the control that you get over your own behavior.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:26 AM
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8

So it turns out Charlotte Simmons is real.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:32 AM
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Surely there's an age below which we expect people to be completely insensitive when dating. It just seems like Generation Awesome has it pegged a little high. I blame the boomers.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:36 AM
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9: Age is the wrong metric, I think. (There may not be an appropriate metric.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:38 AM
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Surely there's an age below which we expect people to be completely insensitive when dating

And an age above which, as well. I suspect that the sweet spot between them is shrinking.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:39 AM
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Misogynistic dickery knows no age.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:39 AM
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As usual, this ML rings false to me. Not necessarily the bare biographical facts (though maybe! surely an unusually art-directed array of varied and quirky professions and types), but the general tenor of the reminiscences. The memories ring pretty rather than true. He dressed frantically, the way a drifter would? What is drifter-like about frantic dressing, especially in a "lovely" outfit of gray with red accents?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:41 AM
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He dressed frantically, the way a drifter would?

That seemed glaring to me, too. First, how many drifters has she bedded? Second, I think if I were a drifter, I'd take my sweet time getting dressed. It's not like I'd have appointments or anything.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:45 AM
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I thought it had been established that this is just how ML descriptions go in terms of style, and that this has nothing to do with whether the piece is "touching" or not. At least that was the consensus when an awful bit of writing was highlighted as a touching story - which it was - a while back.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:47 AM
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Among other things, I liked his indifference, confidence and knowledge of foreign film directors.

Drifters have a lot of time to watch foreign films.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:48 AM
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13, 14: Reads like it's been edited to death.

And this: There was the guy who wore more makeup than I did struck me as pretty snide and reactionary.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:48 AM
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"There was the guy who wore more makeup than I did" struck me as pretty snide and reactionary.

Especially seeing as she dated him.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:50 AM
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Right, I have a hard time understanding why, if her primary objection to these guys is that they were unattractive (plucked brows, makeup, short, whatever), she was interested in going out with them. Everyone has a baseline of attractiveness that they tend to stick to when accepting or offering dates, and it seems like a bad idea to go out with someone you find unacceptably unattractive, and then deride them for having been unacceptably unattractive.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:50 AM
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I thought it had been established that this is just how ML descriptions go in terms of style, and that this has nothing to do with whether the piece is "touching" or not.

No, no. Merits in some other area can make up for the ML house style of idiocy, but it is not value neutral. In this case, there's nothing particularly noteworthy or touching about the story she's telling in that style, and there's nothing particularly convincing about the way she tells it.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:50 AM
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Pwned by Gonerill. Pithiness escapes me.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:51 AM
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22

She's too embarrassed to say he was a clown.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:51 AM
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I suppose the behavior in 19 is not that uncommon. I've been asked out by guys who later dumped me for not being pretty enough, and it's more baffling than it is insulting. You did know what I looked like when we met, right? Wouldn't it have been wise to weed me out of your dating pool for superficial failures before dumping me for superficial failures?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:54 AM
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22: Or a mime. "He seemed secure in his silence, while I felt like I was trapped in a little box, or walking into the wind."


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:59 AM
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how careless some people can be with others' emotions
of all other things 'a big toothy smile' sounds to me that, strange
if she describes the other's smile that, she does not deserve anything better than she got, maybe
i got she's the suffering side of her too short relationships and she recalls it afterwards already annoyed etc
still, so young, so already cynical, pity


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:05 PM
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Felt as if I were trapped in a box, Jesus.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:08 PM
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It's in quotes, ben. I certainly wouldn't have written it that way.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:09 PM
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read, I don't think that the phrase "big toothy smile" is necessarily considered to be rude or insulting. But in general, yeah, she's not very kind in her descriptions of her exes.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:10 PM
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This woman is terrible at sizing people up. Maybe that just comes with the territory of being 18-22. A friend would be able to read the tea leaves instantly upon meeting one of these exes.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:14 PM
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how singular i becomes plural were?
i don't think that all smiles should be described like radiant or what, but toothless or toothy smiles are, i don't know, just better said fake maybe
but that's just for my undisturbed perception


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:18 PM
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For the sake of brevity and clarity, I'll say I've dated a lot of guys. It's not that I've gone out anywhere with a lot of these guys, or been physical with most of them, or even seen them more than once. But there have been many, many encounters.

This is the part I didn't understand, which may skew some of her later data. In order for someone to count as someone I've "dated," I'd say he'd have to pass at least two of these requirements, and even then "dated" would be clarified. We'd have to have (1) gone out somewhere together, (2) been physical, and/or (3) seen him more than once. Someone I went out with twice on a clearly potentially-romantic basis, but never kissed? I'd say we went on a couple of dates. Someone I went out with and made out with and never saw again? I'd say he's someone I went out with once. Is she counting guys she met at parties, who never touched her, and whom she never saw again, but who may have flirted with her, as guys she's "dated"? That seems like quick way to skew one's date-experience data-set downward.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:18 PM
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32

That's right. Her thing is to prove that there's no commitment among today's youth, and her proof is that she had many dates that didn't go anywhere and one conversation with a friend who is a feminist.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:21 PM
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33

Misogynistic dickery knows no age.

Perfect for a fortune cookie.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:22 PM
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34

But, like, I wouldn't say that I've "dated" someone I went out with once from an internet date and hung out with for half an hour. Nor would I say I've "dated" someone I made out with at a bar, or someone I had a nice chat with once in the park.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:22 PM
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29: It probably also comes from not having the epiphany that a bunch of 25-30 year olds with their own jobs and apartment yet still dating 18-20 year olds are probably not the most emotionally mature or sophisticated group out there.

She does seem to claim a lot of relationships, and it's kind of a weird backpedal when she says:

"I'll say I've dated a lot of guys. It's not that I've gone out anywhere with a lot of these guys, or been physical with most of them, or even seen them more than once. But there have been many, many encounters."

Does that mean she's like a NYC friend-of-a-friend (or maybe some previously mentioned unfoggedian's friend?) who I heard signed up for internet dating mostly when she needed to cut back on the meal budget for a month or two? Or is she just counting everytime she gets into a conversation with someone at the park or at a concert as a relationship to be briefly mentioned? What does it mean to date someone who you never get physical with, don't see more than once, and never go anywhere with?


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:23 PM
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36

She's 20. She had to date all these adults somehow. Thus, a chat is a date.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:23 PM
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37

Damn you, AWB, and your PhD-inspired brevity and pithiness!


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:24 PM
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38

Or maybe she's using my mother's definition of dating, which seemed to include at one point, me hanging out with any male friend.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:26 PM
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39

I'm not at all convinced that some of these guys aren't college/high school students. Sure, some of them are defined by profession, but these:

Then there was the guy with tattooed knuckles, the young Republican, the Irishman on vacation and the guy who stole $300 from me to buy drugs.

...could all be students.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:27 PM
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34: Right. If I went out with someone once, whether we met on the Internet or IRL, I'd say we "went on a date," not that we "dated." Her fuzziness of terms, or her failure to admit fuziness, is weird given the way she starts off the essay.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:28 PM
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signed up for internet dating mostly when she needed to cut back on the meal budget

Ha, that may have been me. When I moved here, I was grindingly, excruciatingly poor, like scavenging-for-food poor, and I have to admit that Nerve dating not only introduced me to some really interesting (so so so interesting, and not always mean at all) people; I also got to eat at restaurants, and drink in bars, due to the kindness of my dates. (I always offered to pay, and scrounged up the money to be able to, but I can't say I vociferously protested when they offered.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:29 PM
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42

My definition of "dated" is the same I use for "job experience": whatever looks good on a resume. Fortunately, no one had bothered to check my "references".


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:30 PM
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43

41: Gold digger.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:30 PM
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44

Obviously, terms are really tricky when talking about short-term casual relationships. I tend to call the three-dates to one-month things someone I "dated briefly." If I'm describing a present situation, it's "this guy I'm seeing." If you're not doing anything long-term for years at a time, those smaller mini-relationships can be quite sharply felt. But all the more reason not to weigh that history down with every douchebag who made eyes at you over the weekend.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:35 PM
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45

The internet dating thing surprised me, if only my sense from my college-age sisters is that college is still pretty much a pre-selected dating pool. Young, have something in common, lots of free time, similar socioeconomic status or close enough to pretend when everybody is a student. People tend to start the internet dating thing after they've graduated because that's when it's hard to just meet people.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:35 PM
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43: Well, I put out about half the time, so I guess I was a prostitute. In fact, I became really hypersensitive to that prostitute-feeling over that course of time, and struggled to become financially solvent so that I'd never have to feel sexual obligation to men for feeding my hungry belly. As God is my witness, &c.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:38 PM
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45: She lives in NYC and gets bored over the summers and other school breaks?

And I'll endorse 44. I probably count people I've dated as people with whom I could claim a romantic relationship and implications of exclusivity. Seeing them at least 4-5 times for a period of at least a month would probably be the line. But I generally tend to find out if I'm remotely compatible with someone romantically or as a friend pretty quickly, so anyone who I've gone on more than two dates with has ended up as a longer-term relationship.

It's hard to say how I'd categorize the friends I've just had sex with for a while, but never really had any notions of exclusivity or romance. I tend to refer to those periods of the friend as "I was involved with that girl for a while". With just the right emphasis* on "involved", I've had very little confusion thus far.


* drawling it while winking and elbow-nudging my neighbor


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:50 PM
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30: It's the subjunctive mood. It is very rarely used in English and is not often visible in conjugation, except with forms of "to be" and with the third-person singular of regular verbs.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:55 PM
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I've been asked out by guys who later dumped me for not being pretty enough, and it's more baffling than it is insulting. You did know what I looked like when we met, right? Wouldn't it have been wise to weed me out of your dating pool for superficial failures before dumping me for superficial failures?

Presumably you were on the borderline in terms of attractiveness, but you turned out to not have whatever other qualities he thought might make up for your lack of beauty. A case of not having enough in common.


Posted by: George Washington | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:56 PM
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50

Tweet. No using presidential pseudonyms just to be a jerk.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:57 PM
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51

Thank you, Mr. Zippy the Comment Frog.


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:58 PM
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I wonder if certain situations don't have a euphemistic name specifically because it's a bad idea to bring them up in polite company. For Di a while back, I suggested "seeing" as a way to describe someone you're sleeping with (since she's not on-board with "having sexual intercourse with," which will never catch on the way I want it to), but that doesn't even fit the sleeping-with-friends thing.

If the "romantic" sum of the relationship is that you've had (or continue to have) sexual intercourse, I figure you probably shouldn't need to refer to that situation to anyone to whom you wouldn't feel comfortable describing it as sex.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:59 PM
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53

49: Yeah, well you have stupid wooden teeth.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:02 PM
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50: His presidential confession is that he's a total asshole who fears that I might not be insecure enough! Don't tell anyone!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:02 PM
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55

I tried to post that as objectively as possible. I mean, doesn't it make sense? You keep talking yourself about how you're not conventionally attractive.


Posted by: George Washington | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:06 PM
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56

(since she's not on-board with "having sexual intercourse with," which will never catch on the way I want it to)

Maybe it would be less off-putting just to say "I'm having intercourse with so-and-so"? After all, you are having intercourse! But you're having intercourse with your interlocutor as well, so there's an ambiguity there.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:07 PM
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50: I resent the implication!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:07 PM
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58

GW chops down apple tree, continues digging.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:08 PM
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55: Then no need for a pseud, right? You're just being objective.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:08 PM
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56: And if there is no ambiguity, it's probably an even more complicated conversation.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:09 PM
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Witt @ 2 gets it exactly right.

Jack Shafer at Slate is a bit of a bully, but he's always been on the NYT's case for "trend reporting"--using soft statistic-sounding words like "many" or "most" to describe behavior by some group. Oh really? Many urban professional women are opting out of the workplace, based on some survey you did of your friends, Lisa Belkin? Oh really? Most young people are just hooking up casually?


Posted by: Belle Lettre | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:09 PM
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"I'm having intercourse with so-and-so"

Finally, Ben comes clean.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:10 PM
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63

Isn't "sleeping together" the term for people who are only having sex?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:12 PM
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64


I saw pictures of AWB, and I think she's really pretty. Also, she is highly regarded by people I like and has a cool blog.

My boyfriend and I had a state of the union last week, in which he said he cared for me and still wanted to keep dating and could see a real future for us with marriage and kids, but was not in love with me...yet. My friend says that he needs to figure out what love is, not fall in love. Oh, if only he would love me as John did.


Posted by: Abigail Adams | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:13 PM
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I wonder if certain situations don't have a euphemistic name specifically because it's a bad idea to bring them up in polite company.

Surely we have the verb "schtupp" specifically for these cases.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:13 PM
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56: Even more broadly, "in a relationship with." Could mean anything from "x is having sex with y" to "x is taller than y."


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:14 PM
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63: I think one could ask if someone and her new boyfriend were sleeping together yet, so I don't think using it implies a non-relationship.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:15 PM
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68

When I read 65 in (what I presume to be) Gonerill's voice, I get the giggles.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:15 PM
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69

It would be pretty great if most young professional types were actually looking to settle down, but assumed that all potential dating partners would be scared off by such an attitude, and so struck a pose of not wanting to settle down -- thereby reinforcing the supposed trend. That is, the false appearance of a trend becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:15 PM
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he cared for me and still wanted to keep dating and could see a real future for us with marriage and kids, but was not in love with me...yet. My friend says that he needs to figure out what love is, not fall in love.

Your friend is right.

Sometimes in such cases looking again at this song can be relevant to both parties.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:15 PM
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64: That doesn't necessarily sound bad to me. If he's saying that as a product of real introspection, then you've got someone who puts great weight on saying "I love you." Which isn't so bad.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:16 PM
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72

I, um, have a friend who met AWB and thought she was just hot, without qualifiers. Not so much non-conventional as transcending all convention.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:18 PM
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73

Maybe it would be less off-putting just to say "I'm having intercourse with so-and-so"?

Mais non, "having intercourse with" is quite off-putting.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:18 PM
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Sometimes in such cases looking again at this song can be relevant to both parties.

Because after they're deaf it will be harder to fight?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:18 PM
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But we're intercoursing right now, rfts, as we discourse. Indeed, this entire blog is little more than a tool to promote intercourse among the regulars.

The fact itself isn't off-putting, so why not call it by its name?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:21 PM
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70 & 71: Sigh. I know. It just hurt at the time to hear it, especially since he knows that I love him, and I finally told him outright, and that I would give him a generous amount of time to return the feeling, but not forever. I think he thinks of saying it as a "forever" thing, so if he does, awesome, if not, ouch again and to an insane degree of ouchness.

It didn't help that the day after our talk I had an oral exam to advance to candidacy, and that I've recently come down with a sore throat. So yesterday I chopped off my hair in a moment of fever-induced Felicity madness. It felt liberating. I don't look awful, at least. It reminds me of The Rachel of 1995.


Posted by: Abigail Adams | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:22 PM
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72: Tweet! Ego-stroking is banned!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:23 PM
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My kneejerk, probably wrong, reaction to Abigail's story is arg, another idiot fucking with a girl's head. My sister runs into these types all the time (hence my probably wrong reaction); they think she's wonderful, could see a future with marriage and kids, but they don't love her now.

Which means my sister gets her hopes up that he's just taking love seriously and will come around, but really means that the guy isn't really all that into her, wants a hotter/sexier/less intelligent/whatever girlfriend, and has my sister in some sort of future fallback position. The sort of girl you'd want to take home to mother, but no spark.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:23 PM
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79

Anyway, Abbie, kids will just doom you to poverty, as we recently learned.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:24 PM
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this entire blog is little more than a tool to promote intercourse among the regulars.

So I've heard.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:24 PM
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Yeah, it's easy to see how that would hurt, Abigail. I'm sorry. It sounds like a painful (even if necessary) conversation.

I think it's hard to sift through your own feelings versus what society tells you you're supposed to feel about The One. And there are a lot of conflicting messages from society, and each of the mini-societies within it.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:25 PM
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Is this "tweet" thing new? I guess it's a whistle or something? I disapprove.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:25 PM
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God, that ML column was just painful. How old is the writer again? Are the kids these days really treating sexual relationships as indifferently as, I don't know, changes of outfit?

(Yeah, I know; nevermind.)

Zippy probably gets something right in 69.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:27 PM
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Abby, he sounds like someone who doesn't know what he wants. It's hard to figure out, and I don't have any advice, except that you have to decide how much patience you have for that kind of behavior, and whether you think staying with him will help him figure it out or allow him to go on without figuring it out until he finds what he "really" wants in someone else. It's a gamble, I guess.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:27 PM
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63: I think one could ask if someone and her new boyfriend were sleeping together yet, so I don't think using it implies a non-relationship.

Right, but "this guy I'm sleeping with" is different from "my boyfriend and I are/aren't sleeping together." It's the "person I'm _________" construction that tells all. (Correct to "with whom" as needed.)

dating
seeing
starry-eyed about
involved with
sleeping with
schtupping (about which Gonerill is right)
having an affair with
having pity sex with
in a twisted and disastrous relationship with, which will undoubtedly end in an extremely bloody suicide/murder
etc.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:28 PM
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and that I would give him a generous amount of time to return the feeling, but not forever.

I think this is the key: to figure out exactly where you stand, and stick to it, so that ultimately you're being true to yourself. How much time do you consider reasonable? Name it, and inform him, and stick to it.

It's not an ultimatum, because you're not trying to manipulate his behavior. It's honoring what you're comfortable with and what you're uncomfortable with, and being true to yourself.

(See, I'm nine kinds of hokey when it comes to introspection. But I believe it.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:29 PM
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Are the kids these days really treating sexual relationships as indifferently as, I don't know, changes of outfit?

Gawd, I hope so.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:29 PM
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The sort of girl you'd want to take home to mother, but no spark.

See, there's a huge difference between:

1) I like you, but I'm not actually attracted to you. However, you fit the vague image I have of the person who will be the reliable-and-steadfast Mother of My Children, so I'd like to keep you on hold until I'm ready to bite the bullet.

and

2) I care about you tremendously, but I was raised to think that saying "I love you" is a deal-cementer from which there is no way out. And I can't yet picture myself being married and having kids, and my family would say I'm evil for leading you on by promising that I love you even if I don't know for sure that it will progress to marriage. Plus I didn't actually hear trumpets when I met you and what if I'm really supposed to wait for the trumpets before I commit?


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:30 PM
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Remember! das sicherste Mittel unverständlich oder vielmehr mißverständlich zu sein, ist, wenn man die Worte in ihrem ursprünglichen Sinne braucht; besonders Worte aus den alten Sprachen.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:30 PM
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83: I know that personally, I change sexual relationships like a drifter would change his clothes.

If I had 69 to write over again, I would say that many young professionals are probably confused about what they actually want, torn between the promise of sexual liberation and the model of domestic bliss (which, despite its manifest failure in most cases, is still, I think, an implicit model for most people in that demographic due to the failure to think through seriously what it would mean to develop a new model), and hence try to convince themselves that they really do want the non-committal stance due to peer pressure.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:30 PM
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The One.

Although I'm sure I have nuanced and reasonable (if not necessarily useful) views about this kind of thing, I cannot abide sincere and heartfelt use of the phrase "The One" in relationship-type conversations.

Echoing Witt (and Ann Swidler), The (Awesome, Romantic, Once in a Lifetime) One is the first of two main lines of talk about love. The other is Love is Work. We collectively ping back and forth between them in a disorienting way.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:31 PM
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I know that personally, I change sexual relationships like a drifter would change his clothes.

You're in a long-term relationship which has its own growth?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:32 PM
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due to the failure to think through seriously what it would mean to develop a new model

Perhaps they're worried that they might end up with someone who was constantly looking for a new model.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:33 PM
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85 forgets "hate-fucking."


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:33 PM
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81: Thanks, Witt.

I've been reading lots of poetry lately (instead of my real work, which is as you know, being a dead first lady) and wondering what love is, and how it means different things to different people. There is a TAL episode on this.

I'm hoping that he's not just a complete douchebag jerking me around. I told him to never do that, that I'd rather be alone than deluded. I told him to break up now if there's no chance, because it'll hurt more later. I almost broke up with him last week. So I think he's sincere about just needing some time to figure out how he feels, and doesn't want to hurt me, and is trying really hard to make it work--and knows that if it does, that this is "it. "

How one arrives at the age of 29 without having ever been in love (and thus, not having a preconceived definition of it at all), and with the longest relationship being 5-6 months in one's junior year of college (and nothing longer than a month since), I'll never know. But, since that is the case, since he is in new territory, I will give him a generous handicap. Not forever though.


Posted by: Abigail Adams | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:35 PM
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Are the kids these days really treating sexual relationships as indifferently as, I don't know, changes of outfit?

In this case, I think it's actually kind of the contrary -- she's affecting a worldly-wise indifference but in fact seems to be elevating many very minor and casual interactions with the opposite sex to the level of sexual-romantic relationship. Rereading the article, I'm not sure that she had sex with any of them, even the drifter-dresser one she spent the night with.

It's an interesting jujitsu: first take a series of interactions, the majority of which most adults would consider below the threshold of significance, and vest them with significance. Then muse about how insignificant they seem.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:36 PM
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85 forgets "hate-fucking."

If you can forget it, you weren't doing it right.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:36 PM
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Yeah, 69 is very familiar from my college dating history. I'm fairly affectionate and domesticated: regardless of whether something's true love or not I want comfortable breakfasts and so forth. And I had the narrative of this ML firmly ingrained (men can be presumed to reject any desire for a 'relationship' unless their arms are twisted into it), although god knows from where. And I have absolutely no appetite for twisting anyone's arms into anything they're not enthusiastic about.

Where this came out is that at any behavior that looked to me like distancing, or lack of interest, or whatever, from someone I was dating, I dropped pretty much all contact instantly. This left me with a lot of weekends free.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:38 PM
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85 forgets "hate-fucking."

It does include "etc.", though.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:38 PM
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86: I told him I had a deadline in mind of how long we'd be together before I'd have to walk if I didn't hear it back or have the feelings returned. I don't want a proposal, just "I love you."

88: I think it's #2.


Posted by: Abigail Adams | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:38 PM
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95: Do you think it might help, at some point soon, to say, "Let's take a break for a while, and talk in a month"? Or does he really need more time to get to know you in person? I've been in situations where I've thought I really had something good with someone, and then felt they were caught up in confusion about what they wanted, and taken a well-defined break, and we both discovered we thought we deserved better. At other times, the end of the break is this really excited re-connection with each other when we realized we really couldn't imagine giving it up yet.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:38 PM
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(men can be presumed to reject any desire for a 'relationship' unless their arms are twisted into it),

I did too. My operational assumption was that all boyfriends were merely tolerating their girlfriends, unless they were dating someone way out of their league physically. It was quite the self-loathing pickle to put myself in.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:40 PM
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any behavior that looked to me like distancing, or lack of interest, or whatever, from someone I was dating, I dropped pretty much all contact instantly.

Yeah, I do this too, but usually after one last fateful email asking what's up. Damn email. I'd be so much cooler without it.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:42 PM
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101: Ouch, tough love. I have to think about that.

See, your advice makes me do something even more painful than suffer in unrequited love, which is to give up the love entirely.

But I know it's good advice. I'm just an irrational masochist when it comes to love.

He doesn't want to break up either. Hmm.


Posted by: Abigail Adams | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:44 PM
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Abby, did you tell him the deadline, or just tell him of its existence? Is it a set date in your mind?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:44 PM
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He doesn't want to break up either. Hmm.

All this tells me is that he's getting what he needs out of the relationship. Which doesn't mean that it's enough for you. I'm with the tough love voices here.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:46 PM
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105: I told him. It's about 1.5 years together. It's a date in which I have to call my own bluff.


Posted by: Abigail Adams | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:47 PM
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103: That's better than my preferred mode of patheticness, which is to finally stand up for myself and break it off when I'm not getting what I want, then come back a few weeks later abjectly begging her to come back, promising to make no demands whatsoever, I just want to be with her, etc., etc. If you want to feel deep and abiding shame for a few months, that's really the way to go.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:47 PM
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And I had the narrative of this ML firmly ingrained (men can be presumed to reject any desire for a 'relationship' unless their arms are twisted into it), although god knows from where.

I had this idea, too. Wow, what a coincidence that we all somehow had this idea.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:47 PM
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Aaargh, sorry again. 109 was me.

And by "we all", I mean we who have said so in this thread. (Not all women.)


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:48 PM
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107: Then I think you're all set. It's still a tough thing to sit in the middle of, and you have my sympathy.

How far into the 1.5 years are you so far?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:49 PM
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I don't know which way this cuts, but I broke up with Buck under 101-ish circumstances: I was still off balance from being back from the Peace Corps, and he seemed to me to be getting too serious, and we had some other stressful stuff going on. So I broke up with him. And really missed him, instantly, and kept on finding excuses to hang around with him and mutual friends, and a couple months later apologized and asked if he wanted to give it another shot.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:50 PM
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(men can be presumed to reject any desire for a 'relationship' unless their arms are twisted into it),

This must surely be a stupid question, but where do you think this notion came from? By which I mean that I've never had it myself. I'm not sure whether to suppose that it's generational (but LB is not very much younger than I am, I don't think - 6 years, maybe?) or what.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:52 PM
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In my marriage, I was the girl in the song in 70. Damn did that last verse feel good.

Read, the phenomenon that your 30 finds so exciting and curiously strange is called the subjunctive. It is rare in English, but its most frequent occurrence is in describing a hypothetical affairs. "I was better equipped to explain this to you when I was in college" versus "If I were a better teacher, I could explain this to you."


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:55 PM
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11: Thanks for the sympathy.

7 months.

Not super long, but long enough for me to have fallen in love, and for him to have perceived that I have, and so we talked about our feelings for the first time. It's early enough that I'm cool with him not saying "I love you," and he's said that he's never been this close to someone or this close to finding someone fundamentally compatible that he can imagine being with and if all goes well, marrying one day.

However, I told him that now that we have had th is talk, we won't talk again until I reach that inner deadline. I really am giving him the time and space. We've gone back to dating as usual, though of course I am still hurting a little, inside.

I don't mean to say that I am pulling an ultimatum, but if he can't figure out how he feels or can't say "I love you", then I have to go. Sigh.

I don't need the promises of everything in the future (marriage, kids), I just want him to say "I love you" and mean it. Too much to ask by 1.5 years together?


Posted by: Abigail Adams | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:55 PM
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113: I have been totally fascinated by this question, and I think the answer is complicated.

One easy thing to point to is TV shows/music/pop media that portray One Golden Girl and a bunch of shmucky girls. Unless you're a self-identified Golden Girl Who Gets Pined For, it's easy to cast your lot in with the shmucks.

For me, there was a lot of hating the female gender and genuinely believing that a boy would need an ulterior motive to put up with us.

I bet there's a lot more and I bet I've been totally pwned and I'm not going to check. Because that's how I roll.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:57 PM
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113: It's a pretty common narrative isn't it? The man saying "I'm just a rambler, you can't pin me down, this bird cannot be chai-ai-ai-ained" and so on? Why I believed it, goodness knows. I do have the impression that a lot of guys will do a certain amount of shtick about their free spirit, no woman's going to pin me down-ness even if they really are looking for affection, and that sort of thing had me wandering off in the other direction instantly, even where it might have been worthwhile figuring out if it was just shtick.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:59 PM
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114: I'm a little hurt that you apparently found my explanation of the subjunctive inadequate, even after read thanked me.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:00 PM
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I'd always heard that men were relationship-shy and really into casual sex. And men themselves joke so often along these lines that I figured it must be true. And yet all of my relationships have been created by the men asking for more longevity commitment, more emotional involvement, more exclusivity. I'm not actually automatically rejecting of these things, unless someone makes demands that are inappropriate or something I can't offer (promises to have children, etc.), but they've always come from the men before it would occur to me to want them.

The one thing I have found myself asking for is more time, as in asking the guy for a date, so as to better get to know the person who's asking me for some emotional commitment I can't give to a stranger.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:00 PM
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I'm not sure whether to suppose that it's generational

I don't know. The stereotype of the aggressively footloose and fancy-free, can't-tie-me-down, womanizing Vietnam-era hippie guy is pretty well established, I think. But of course that's not the same as the assumption that men in general are commitment phobic. I started my dating life with the latter assumption and rapidly decided that, if anything, things were the other way around. This, of course, was also a misapprehension, born of sampling bias. Lots of the guys in my circle were commitment-hungry romantics who pledged undying love on a dime, while I recoiled in youthful horror.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:01 PM
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113: And I think you're right, that it's not generational. I'm 36, so not much younger than you.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:01 PM
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113, 116: There's a lot of very loaded language -- "clingy," "needy," etc. that gets tossed around. I was recently talking with someone about our attitudes toward dating versus another mutual friend of ours, and we agreed that one significant factor was that our mothers strongly discouraged us from reading women's magazines, whereas hers was more permissive.

It gets back to the point I was making at the beginning of this thread. The drumbeat of rhetoric that society puts out there is not nothing. It does have an effect on how you see and relate to the world. If you're told over and over that guys are always looking out for a newer, hotter model and you'd better get your teeth whitened/lose 10 pounds, it shapes how you think.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:01 PM
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122: I went through a phase of reading those horrible, horrible women's magazines and that impact you describe is so very real. You internalize insufficiency.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:05 PM
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On the cover of a Cosmopolitain I saw at the gym: "Men's new sexual needs!" Huh?


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:07 PM
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Yeah, Blume, there was a preview of the Summer '08 line recently.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:08 PM
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124: Apparently they're all really into beets now.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:08 PM
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Which is one reason I hate, hate, hate that men's magazines are going in the same direction. We will not create a better society by making men as paranoid about their failings as we try to make women.

(Also, heebie, I have to say that the raccoon-trying-to-get-a-candy-bar analogy for teenage boys is absolutely hilarious, and I thank you so much for resuscitating it and posting it.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:08 PM
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I just taught History of Sexuality last week, so this is all quite funny.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:09 PM
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"Clingy/needy" pisses me right the fuck off. I'm extremely low-maintenance, for the most part, and probably misogynistically, I pride myself on being independent, not wanting to check up on or be checked up on, etc. And the men I've been with are some of the highest-maintenance guys you can imagine--making demands on my time and emotional resources, all of which I like fulfilling because I'm a "pleaser" type. But damn it if I make a phone call or a single invitation for a date--I'll get called "needy" or "clingy." Would I dare, in a million years, to accuse a man I'm dating of being "clingy" because he's excited about seeing me? Of course not. I'm flattered.

And this kind of shit has come from otherwise well-put-together-seeming guys often enough that I get really paranoid about expressing affection for men, even friends. I'm terrified of feeling like wanting to see someone is just keyed into the misogynistic "clingy" button. So I really, like, never call men or invite them to do anything unless they express a direct interest first.

I have got to learn to shake that fear, or be a little more proud in my hatred for that term.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:09 PM
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"Invitation" being along the lines of "Hey, what are you up to this weekend? I was thinking it would be fun to go to this show, if you're up for it." Maybe my paranoia about potential "clingy" accusations shines through.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:11 PM
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(127: Thanks! Yay! I miss Lovelines.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:11 PM
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Returning for a moment to the original article, does "the ultimate nod to feminism" seem like a contradictory turn of phrase? Like the "most profound token gesture."


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:14 PM
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116: Okay, but that sounds roughly as though you (some of you, maybe a lot of women) bought into a culturally, media-driven narrative.

Which, okay, except that the same narrative -- I think it's reasonable to say -- was in place for me as well. Perhaps the most notable difference, but one of only small degree, is the increased emphasis these days on the hot Golden Girl everybody wants, the other schmucks being also-rans. Still, only a small difference there: everybody wanted to be Farrah Fawcett in my high school days.

On preview, the women's magazines, yeah; I read them voraciously until I had a revelation around age 16 and realized there was Something Bad going on here, so no more.

Maybe there is a generational gap after all; maybe the women's mags (and their counterparts on tv, nonexistent in my day) are much more required reading now than they had been.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:15 PM
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This "clingy" thing reminds me of the relationship I describe in 108 and so is making me mad. (I saw her in a restaurant a couple weeks ago and didn't realize how angry I still was at her, many months later.)


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:15 PM
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Poor Zippy. Poor froggy.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:19 PM
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133: I think plenty of women your age fell victim to the narrative. I'd chalk your escape up to individual variation.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:20 PM
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133: You're a military kid, right? Lots of travel, lots of new schools every year or two? Who can tell why one person turns out different from another, but I could see that sort of adolescence (if I'm remembering yours right) disrupting the 'normal' societal narratives, so they don't take effect as strongly.

Either that or you're just unusually clearsighted and immune to cultural bullshit.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:21 PM
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I don't think the stereotype that men are commitment-phobic is generational, or at least if it is, it's not the fault of Generation Awesome. 'The Rules' purported to be revealing wisdom about how men really were and how to catch them, and wasn't it derided as horribly old-fashioned (as well as being crap)?

I've mentioned before that I've noticed among my male friends a tendency to be indifferent to marriage (even with great women with whom they were compatible) until they could see it in their near futures. It was really like they all woke up one day, post-schooling, post first-car purchase,with a modicum of financial stability, and immediately found someone to marry. But this wasn't necessarily preceded by a fear of commitment in relationships. Some of them dated around a lot, and others jumped from serious relationship to serious relationship.

So I don't think the commitment-phobe stereotype is being generated based on some new trend.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:22 PM
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I also had a really bad date this weekend that dredged up all kinds of shit for me (this last part was not really my date's fault, though I do think her behavior was also objectively annoying). It's like it's been decided that this is a good time for the return of my repressed.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:22 PM
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It's a pretty common narrative isn't it?

I think there are structural aspects to all of this. In college and just past college, the people complaining about clingy SOs, the need for space, not being tied down, etc., were mostly women, IME. Somewhere in the late twenties to early thirties, the balance seems to shift. In most cases, both men and women are looking for the best deal they can get.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:24 PM
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does "the ultimate nod to feminism" seem like a contradictory turn of phrase?

If it were clear that the guy was acting that way because he actually cared about the freedom of the woman involved, then sure, 'the ultimate nod to feminism'. (Though I'd prefer more than a 'nod', thank you very much.) But it seems so often to function as an excuse for the guy who wants to fool around.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:26 PM
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I find I've become a lot more bone-level feminist after ceasing to watch television on a regular basis. You don't even have to read Cosmo to get that shit; you just turn on harmless cooking or home decor shows, nevermind sitcoms or dramas. Coming back to it for a while, I'm appalled by what passes for common-sense discourse about gender on TV. "I'm a MAN and I like MAN FOOD and I eat a LOT and I have MEN over to watch SPORTS and don't worry, my MEN friends like the food I cook because it's fatty and spicy and big." I'm sitting there with my jaw dropped, thinking, "Why is this guy so terrified that we won't know he has a penis? He refers to his penis and its culinary needs in like every fucking phrase. Will women who eat his man food grow a penis? Maybe he should just get a penis drawn on the outside of all his clothes so he doesn't have to remind us of its existence all the time.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:28 PM
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See, it's systemic, like the lottery. The house gets 40%. No lucky numbers. No lucky days.

OK, I'll shut back up.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:29 PM
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I see a line of golf shirts with a little pink embroidered logo. Le Schmuck.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:30 PM
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136, 137: Yeah, maybe I just got lucky, individual circumstance. And my first boyfriend, along with his family, at the end of high school, was the greatest. No bullshit there.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:31 PM
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"


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:33 PM
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142 is hilarious.

Recently I heard an ad that managed to trigger 5 angry reactions in me.

1. It was an ad for Wal-Mart,

2. Selling beef at low, low prices,

3. Narrated by a woman who was worried that her husband was bored by the dinners that she fixed,

4. But steak is too expensive, so the meal that would make him happy has been off-limits, until now

5. ...that she can sneak around behind his back to Wal-Mart to buy cheap steak. He hasn't figured it out yet! I'm not sure why the secrecy was necessary for the commercial, but it irritated me.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:33 PM
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Jesus, Ben.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:33 PM
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Maybe he should just get a penis drawn on the outside of all his clothes

Hysterical.

Oh no. Laughing fit.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:34 PM
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It's nothing I haven't done before, AWB.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:35 PM
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My mom has gotten really sensitive to the ways that all those home-buying shows depict couples who seem forced into these narratives by the hosts, like, "There's a big basement, and that's going to be just for you, Mr. Guy! But don't worry, there's also a big kitchen and a spacious walk-in closet for you, Mrs. Priss! And Mrs., be sure to notice there's a room for your children to play in where they'll be in full sight of the kitchen!" Like, not kidding at all. Occasionally the couple will try to jump in with something about how the guy likes to cook or has a lot of clothes, but most often they just go with it.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:37 PM
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147: Plays into that television trope of the slouch husband who has to be convinced that he rules the roost (which involves appearing to pander to his absurd rules and preferences), while all the while the woman is running around behind his back actually making things work.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:38 PM
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Abby, I don't like to say it, and this is purely practical advice, but in the future, the strategic thing to do is not be the one to say I love you first, unless he's horribly ill or wounded or there's a big crisis of some kind and it makes sense suddenly. It's very annoying, and silly, but it freaks a lot of men out if you say it first. Kind of like how it's okay to suggest doing things together or create situations where things might be ripe to happen, but it's much better not to actually make the first move, or be too explicit about what you're doing/encouraging at the beginning of a relationship, because then they will be less interested. And this is true DESPITE whatever most men will say to the contrary, and probably despite what they would like to think about themselves, and true of very nice men, who are otherwise enlightened and would be wonderful to fall in love with.

I do hope he gets over it. You might like his 'I love you' better, too, when it comes freely from him and is completely unprompted by you.

and that ends my cynical-practical moment of the day, although i did want to say i am a little bit horrified by george washington's comment to AWB - that he is able to talk about other people in that language.


Posted by: mmf! | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:39 PM
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152: Oh, right. That makes sense.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:39 PM
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147, 152: Well, obviously she has to hide that she's saving money on filling his gullet with beef because she spent the rest of his paycheck on shoes and makeup.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:40 PM
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Kind of like how it's okay to suggest doing things together or create situations where things might be ripe to happen, but it's much better not to actually make the first move, or be too explicit about what you're doing/encouraging at the beginning of a relationship, because then they will be less interested.

Argh argh argh argh argh. Not that you're necessarily wrong, but this is exactly what we've been talking about -- accepting it as the norm feeds it. (Not that I have much of a better idea, or at least my personal strategy for dealing with this involved a whole lot of not getting laid.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:42 PM
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153: in the future, the strategic thing to do

This advice is well-meant, obviously, but damn I hope I don't wind up in a relationship in which I have to think in terms of the strategic thing to do. It seems a little patronizing.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:43 PM
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but it freaks a lot of men out if you say it first

Doubt it. Depends on age, I would guess.

but it's much better not to actually make the first move, or be too explicit about what you're doing/encouraging at the beginning of a relationship, because then they will be less interested.

Same again.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:45 PM
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Yeah, although my own behavior in relationships follows mmf!'s suggestion exactly, it's something I'm really ashamed of because it shows that I care more about avoiding some misogynistic response than I do about expressing how I might actually feel. I've copped to being somewhat "withholding" in relationships, but that's the reason, right there.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:45 PM
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153, 156:

You know, I didn't want to say it first, and have just been sitting on it for a while, but he said that he knew how I felt. And so I said that yes, I loved him, but not enough to stay and be hurt. But then that part felt like a relief. It was the "I don't love you yet" part that hurt to hear, although why, I don't know, because I knew that already too, and was willing to give him a good long time to say it. So we're still in the same situation, albeit with declared terms and borders on the future.

I don't think he's bothered, to be honest, by me saying it--he's figured it out for a while, and has figured out other things (complications w/ my family, the nature of an academic job involving moves in the future), and accepts all of that. I don't think he's scared off. I think he really is just confused and this is all new territory.


Posted by: Abigail Adams | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:49 PM
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To 153, one thing I've noticed is that men, in general, have less practice in reacting to assertiveness than women do. So when they get asked out, asked to have sex, told "I love you," or in general pursued, they often have less-refined strategies for being able to cope with it.

Women in our society have more often (not always!) been socialized into how to politely deflect/reject. Men who are less experienced at being the pursued one often flail around a bit (as all inexperienced people do, regardless of gender) when confronted with it in the wild. And that flailing can be really hurtful, even if not intentionally so.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:50 PM
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Reading about other people's relationships tends to make me feel even more like a failure than usual, not having come through the sentimental education system with the prize in hand. It's like I keep getting left back in school.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:52 PM
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160: Yeah, I really wish guys who feel that weird sexist response would take two seconds out and think to themselves, "Am I being a douchebag? Perhaps I'm being a douchebag" instead of "Hey, I gotta keep it real and tell this woman she's freaking the sexist part of me out."


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:53 PM
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161: Wow, exactly that happened to me recently! I was blindsided by a request for more definition (hadn't even occurred to me), and I kind of froze -- leading to a really bad situation that unfolded over several weeks.

That's why I'm just locking myself in the house and upgrading to the 5-out Netflix plan this summer.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:54 PM
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men, in general, have less practice in reacting to assertiveness than women do. So when they get asked out, asked to have sex, told "I love you," or in general pursued, they often have less-refined strategies for being able to cope with it

This is an interesting observation!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:55 PM
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As far as figuring out what love is, the big leap between my relationships with my first wife and my fiancee is that with FW, love was a nice balance of sexual attraction, intellectual stimulation and envy combined with ease of sharing space, leading to temporarily happy inertia that ran aground on the friction of our differences.

The new one has the added feature that whenever I'm feeling cranky about stuff with her, it's intuitively correct to open myself up further and become more vulnerable rather than find a way to defend myself. This is a big deal, and I'd offer it towards a definition of What Love Is. Also we're intellectually complementary, not competitive, and this makes a lot of things easier.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:57 PM
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Thank you, Mr. Wrongshore.
if i were to say something hypothetical, i'll use were instead of was, good, wrong construct may be, but it's like inscribed now in my mind :) about hypotheticals
this weekend's netflix browsing yielded pretty good movies, i liked Impromptu (GB, that, relationship though famous), Goldfish memory(Ireland, relationships), The rage in placid lake (Australia, relationships) and the movie i forgot its name, ah, Where angels fear to tread (GB, classical, turns out again relationships), never thought that English movies can be this like kinda racist towards Italians, i know it's that, satire, and poor baby, nobody gets punished for the baby's death
i think i like not old like into the 80ies or not very recent movies best. tired
about saying i love you, my people say that like once in a lifetime, ideally, so i think i'd say that right before my death to whomever i'd end up with


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:58 PM
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To 153, one thing I've noticed is that men, in general, have less practice in reacting to assertiveness than women do. So when they get asked out, asked to have sex, told "I love you," or in general pursued, they often have less-refined strategies for being able to cope with it.

I think this is right. It can hard as a woman in such situation to keep that in mind, and not just to feel as though you've broadsided the guy with the idea that you might have any wants or desires. Hello! I'm a person over here, too, and I might want something one of these days.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:58 PM
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153 is crap.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:58 PM
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161: Witt gets it exactly right.

I dunno. I'm not at all a good strategist, and not a good gamer. I can wait on things, but I don't think strategic deployment is the right strategy in relationships either. Perhaps it was a rejection of my strictly gendered upbriging combined with a real embrace of sex positive feminism, but I've always been the pursuer in my relationships--asking guys out, initiating sex, etc.

I don't think that scared off the guys. Most guys have liked my assertiveness. It was more "well, do you or don't you" and "are we or aren't we" stuff that it all ultimately comes down to. I don't tink I even reach those types of questions with guys who are easily intimidated, and those who are aren't my type.

I hate playing gender role games and prevaricating about feelings. Give me honesty, because I am honest. It still hurts like hell if the feelings aren't returned (yet), but at least I know that a guy really wants to go out with me, sleep with me, be with me.


Posted by: Abigail Adams | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:59 PM
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161: Though I'm not sure I'd characterize saying "I love you" as being assertive. In my own experience, it's said in the moment, when you feel it.

That said, I'm with LB in 156: acceding to these things only perpetuates and reinforces them.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 2:59 PM
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have less practice in reacting to assertiveness from the opposite gender than women do

A key addition -- and this is why there is so much complaint, much of it in the form of e-mail forwards from my uncle, from men about why won't women just say what they want. It's pure denegation; the message is, "If you told me what you wanted, I would terrified that I couldn't give it to you."


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:00 PM
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would *be* terrified. Ahem. This is revenge for that time we made fun of the driver's ed poster that read "Don't Drink And Drive And You'll Still Alive", and then found out the author was ESL.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:03 PM
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but he said that he knew how I felt. And so I said that yes, I loved him, but not enough to stay and be hurt. But then that part felt like a relief. It was the "I don't love you yet" part that hurt to hear, although why, I don't know, because I knew that already too, and was willing to give him a good long time to say it.

You know, I wasn't there, and I don't know your guy, and I may be taking this the wrong way. But if I'm understanding this, it seems pretty lousy to me. He pressured you into saying that you loved him, by telling you that he knew already, and then responded to the confession that he'd forced by saying he didn't love you back? This sounds like he's jerking you around.

Obviously, don't put too much weight on this -- I don't know him, or you, or your relationship. But if I understand what happened, I'd be pissed. (Actually, I'd be gone, but that's my own reaction to things, and screwed up in its own right.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:03 PM
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161: yes, I think that's a lot of it. But there is something off-putting or less exciting about being chosen, rather than doing the choosing - women just get socialized to be more comfortable with being chosen.

LB, yes, saying it reinforces the norm, but not knowing about the dynamic creates unnecessary suffering sometimes.

I'm not sure how patronizing it is to think about things this way. Maybe a little bit. But everybody, men and women, has to think about & be gentle about approaching the other person, and not doing it too suddenly or disconcertingly. There's a way to be patronizing or manipulative in understanding the dynamic, but there's also a way to be considerate or gentle or even simply enjoying the slow development. Again, this stuff applies most of all to beginnings.

I envy people who enjoy dating since i would always prefer fast-forwarding to about 6 months in all at once, but it's not really possible alas.


Posted by: mmf! | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:04 PM
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174: Well, to be fair, I prompted it with a "how do you feel" question to which he replied "I don't know I feel yet, but I know how you feel."


Posted by: Abigail Adams | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:05 PM
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Though I'm not sure I'd characterize saying "I love you" as being assertive. In my own experience, it's said in the moment, when you feel it.

Some people don't say things without thinking through the likely results, and then sometimes decide not to say something that's "in the moment" if they're afraid it would change the situation in unpredictable ways.

I've always thought that I shouldn't tell someone I love her unless I could envision spending the rest of my life with her. Obviously other people have different meanings for these things. The word "love" doesn't actually mean anything. Therefore stating "I love you" is more like an act than a description of reality.


Posted by: Auto-banned | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:05 PM
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Hello! I'm a person over here, too

It is one of the few depressing findings of my adult life that "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people," is still just as powerful and world-upending to so many people in the 2000s as it was in the 1960s.

much of it in the form of e-mail forwards from my uncle

Oh, he's the one responsible? Good lord, tell the guy to knock it off, will ya? Some of us out here in Internet-land have been sick of deleting them since, oh, 1995.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:06 PM
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it's intuitively correct to open myself up further and become more vulnerable rather than find a way to defend myself. This is a big deal, and I'd offer it towards a definition of What Love Is

Yea! Er, that is, agreed.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:06 PM
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I think the problem is that, socially, it's hard, as a woman, to know how to deal with men when so many of them are coöpting "feminine" passivity in relationships without really knowing that being the passive partner is not easy, and comes with its own responsibilities and skills that take a long time to learn. I've met countless guys who claim to be shy, or who don't like to initiate, and say so, but they're not graceful about responding to female assertiveness or initiation either. I'm all for men seeing feminine modes of behavior as something other than disgusting, but they also need to learn that "feminine" behavior is not merely a cop-out. Being receptive to someone else's ideas is hard. Being flexible to other people's demands is hard. You can't just say, as AA's BF did, "I don't know how I feel; how do you feel?" when you actually do know exactly how you feel and are waiting to spring it on her after she's expressed herself.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:13 PM
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That is, "I don't know how I feel" is not the same as "I don't love you yet."


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:15 PM
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2 4

This sounds like saying newpapers should just print happy news. No reporting lynchings because it just encourages more lynchings.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:16 PM
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181 articulates something that had been bothering me about the situation (as far as I understand it), but hadn't been able to put my finger on.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:16 PM
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23

"I suppose the behavior in 19 is not that uncommon. I've been asked out by guys who later dumped me for not being pretty enough, and it's more baffling than it is insulting. You did know what I looked like when we met, right? Wouldn't it have been wise to weed me out of your dating pool for superficial failures before dumping me for superficial failures?"

I would translate this as he found somebody he likes better. Like changing jobs for a higher salary.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:19 PM
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Oh, thank fucking God James B. Shearer has decided to weigh in on this topic.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:20 PM
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Oh, it was getting a little heavy. How better to lighten things up?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:21 PM
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183: yes.
and also: I'd be wary of someone who reached the age of 29 without ever falling in love with anyone. If that's the case - which it sounds like it is.


Posted by: mmf! | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:22 PM
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Right, kind of like how a heavy conversation in real life stops when a mugger approaches you.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:23 PM
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and also: I'd be wary of someone who reached the age of 29 without ever falling in love with anyone.

He's damaged goods!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:23 PM
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How one arrives at the age of 29 without having ever been in love (and thus, not having a preconceived definition of it at all), and with the longest relationship being 5-6 months in one's junior year of college (and nothing longer than a month since), I'll never know.

The latter is easier than the former.


Posted by: charles cotesworth pinckney | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:24 PM
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188: Well, it does make you realize what's really important.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:24 PM
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I was thinking more along the lines of how a heavy conversation in real life stops when a couple of dozen clowns pile out of a VW bug, but sort of the same kind of thing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:24 PM
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How one arrives at the age of 29 without having ever been in love (and thus, not having a preconceived definition of it at all), and with the longest relationship being 5-6 months in one's junior year of college (and nothing longer than a month since), I'll never know.

One way this could happen is by being a shy person. Or by being an asshole. Or by not putting a high priority on romantic relationships.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:25 PM
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Let's compromise: the mugger is also a clown.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:25 PM
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I was thinking more along the lines of how a heavy conversation in real life stops when a couple of dozen clowns pile out of a VW bug

...and mug you.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:26 PM
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everybody, men and women, has to think about & be gentle about approaching the other person . . . . There's a way to be patronizing or manipulative in understanding the dynamic, but there's also a way to be considerate or gentle

This is true, but it's not the same as:

the strategic thing to do is not be the one to say I love you first . . . it's much better not to actually make the first move, or be too explicit about what you're doing/encouraging at the beginning of a relationship, because then they will be less interested.

The first is therapy 101. The second is The Rules.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:26 PM
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98 112

Jeez LB, first you dump them for keeping a little distance and then you dump them for trying to get too close.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:26 PM
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I was 27 before I was ever close to being in love, and at the time I wasn't even sure that I was.


Posted by: Anonymous 1x | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:27 PM
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190: Yeah, the latter doesn't sound hard at all. The former, too, I can see getting stuck on in an "People mean all sorts of different things here -- what will you think I mean if I say it?" kind of way.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:27 PM
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197: True enough, but I did come back for Buck.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:28 PM
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There are lots of reasons for not falling in love by a certain age. One of my exes was 35 and had never been in a long-term relationship, beyond a handful of months, and he seemed really confused by it himself. He said his last girlfriend broke up with him because her mother said, "Think about it. He's in his 30's and has never had a serious girlfriend? There's something wrong with him." And I thought that was really rotten. On the other hand, it was true that he had a metric shit-ton of issues he'd never sorted out, and we finally broke up because he needed to go into therapy while single and figure out what they are.

I'm a lot less wary of people who have reached their thirties without having had a serious relationship who at least have a few theories of their own about why that might be. This guy didn't have a clue where to begin thinking about it. "I guess my timing isn't so good," etc.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:29 PM
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with the longest relationship being 5-6 months in one's junior year of college (and nothing longer than a month since)

And you've been together for 7 mos you said? So basically he's freaking out.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:29 PM
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202: Oh, true. Which would excuse a certain amount of lousy behavior: "OMG, this is the longest relationship Of My Life! Do we have to get married? I'm not sure I want to get married! Must push away!!!!"


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:32 PM
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86

"It's not an ultimatum, because you're not trying to manipulate his behavior. It's honoring what you're comfortable with and what you're uncomfortable with, and being true to yourself."

Of course it is an ultimatum and you certainly are trying to manipulate his behavior.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:32 PM
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And he's nearly 30, right?


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:33 PM
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Really, James, piss off.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:33 PM
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204: No it isn't, and no you're not. You are stating what your limits are.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:34 PM
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You are stating what your limits are.

Which is an ultimatum, right?

I mean, if they're "your limits", then...you can't be with someone who crosses those limits, right?


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:36 PM
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I was sympathetic with Abigail Adams's paramour until it was revealed that he had manipulated her into revealing her feelings while not doing the same himself.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:38 PM
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I don't think I've met many of the men described in 181. It sounds like a new type that I've seen described somewhere recently -- the new 'emo' male? Is that it, a new trend, as it were, or is it just describing men who withhold, can't or won't express their feelings, who chiefly just react to the best of their ability?

Anyway, Abby's bf's statement seems open to interpretation: I can easily see it unfolding in an entirely honest way. "I don't love you yet" just means "I don't feel it (yet)" -- I had a relationship end once for this reason. We looked at each other after 8 months, he said, "I don't feel it yet, and hoped I would, though the twinkling is there," and I said, "I know." Sadly, the end, no hard feelings.

On preview, holy crap. Shearer, really, not now.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:39 PM
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i thought 198 is 197
isn't interesting to learn why one became like that, disillusioned, no?


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:39 PM
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This is one of those connotation problems. "Ultimatim" sounds, to me, like "You will do this or something very bad will happen to you. There are no other options." Which is an attempt to coerce behavior.

"You will do this, or I'm out of here" is only an 'ultimatim' in that sense if my leaving counts as doing something very bad to you. Which, in a relationship where neither party has a right to the other's presence, seems to me to be an insupportable interpretation.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:40 PM
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I think the objection is to the term "ultimatum," which sounds like something crassly made on a daytime talk show, with the threat of kicking someone to the proverbial "curb" if he doesn't straighten up. A woman standing up for her right not to be jerked around while gently offering the guy time to think about his plans and feelings should not be lumped into that "my way or the highway" attitude suggested by "ultimatum." It's saying, "This is beginning to hurt my feelings. Please be careful with me."


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:40 PM
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208: The difference lies in the focus.

An ultimatum is focussed on manipulating someone else - you are stating it in order to provoke fear/whatever in the other person, and bully them into compliance.

Stating your limits, the focus is on yourself. Being square with yourself. You inform the other person, because it affects them, but the primary focus is on your relationship to yourself.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:42 PM
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I don't feel pwned.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:43 PM
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Not by me -- you and Bear both put it better.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:44 PM
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A woman standing up for her right not to be jerked around while gently offering the guy time to think about his plans and feelings should not be lumped into that "my way or the highway" attitude suggested by "ultimatum." It's saying, "This is beginning to hurt my feelings. Please be careful with me."

This thread has been very interesting in conveying what women think. I am sure that men would be far more likely to never want to convey the sentiment in your last sentence there.

Not just because admitting that she can hurt your feelings is unmanly -- I think everyone I know is beyond pretending that men don't have feelings. But if she's already revealed that her natural mode of expression is to insensitively hurt his feelings...then she has revealed herself as someone who he shouldn't be going out with, or who will have to hide her natural self in order to go out with him.

I guess this is part of the tradition that teaches us that a woman is always hopeful that she can fix the flaws in her man's personality, whereas a man has no such hope.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:45 PM
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Which, in a relationship where neither party has a right to the other's presence, seems to me to be an insupportable interpretation.

I don't think that's standard usage. People talk about "ultimatums" in relationships all the time without discussing some sort of...I don't know what, but it sounds like you mean something like vengeful punishment that is a right.

I have to admit that it sounds like an ultimatum to me, but I'm not sure what's wrong with that.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:46 PM
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But if it's not an ultimatum, it's still saying "I'm not going to change. You have to change in order for us to be together."


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:47 PM
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There's something wrong with him.

I'll be in the office, punching myself in the face.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:47 PM
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I guess this is part of the tradition that teaches us that a woman is always hopeful that she can fix the flaws in her man's personality patient about minor incidents that seem uncharacteristic of his general behavior, whereas a man has no such hope patience for imperfection.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:48 PM
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But if it's not an ultimatum, it's still saying "I'm not going to change. You have to change in order for us to be together."

Yes. It is reasonable to have things in a relationship which are a deal-breaker for you, and other things which you are open to compromise. Again, you have to get clear with yourself, first.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:49 PM
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218: An ultimatum, in connotation, contains a threat. Saying "The way you treat me makes me unhappy. If you keep on treating me in a way that makes me unhappy, I won't stay with you," isn't the sort of thing I can reasonably read as threatening. Formally, it's similar, but not really the same.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:50 PM
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So women are clingy/needy if they want to spend time with a man, and they're issuing ultimatums if they have some particular reason to want to stop seeing him?


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:50 PM
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Aw, Flipster, there's nothing wrong with you. You're not over 36, are you?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:51 PM
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180

"... I've met countless guys who claim to be shy, or who don't like to initiate, and say so, but they're not graceful about responding to female assertiveness or initiation either. ..."

Just because a guy is shy doesn't mean he will have more experience with agressive women than a guy who isn't shy. He will probably have less as he will have less experience with women in general.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:54 PM
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219: So she should say, "You didn't do what I wanted at the moment I wanted you to and you said you were still working through it, but fuck you, I'm outta here"? Rather than, say, give him the time he's asked for but say, "I can't wait forever"?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:54 PM
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A penultimatum?


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:55 PM
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221, cont'd: IME, it's not that women want to "change" their partners, but that, if they see their partner as a generally good, thoughtful man and he suddenly acts in a way that's hurtful or scary, they'll try to address that behavior and ask what triggered it and if the guy thinks it will happen again, so she'll know this is intrinsic to him somehow. Inevitably, the dude says, "Oh, I was tired/stressed/freaked-out, and it wasn't how I really feel." Woman is patient, and the behavior resurfaces, in different circumstances. How many times this happens before she realizes this is normal for him has a lot to do with how much faith she has that he cares about not hurting her or scaring her.

IME, men tend to see even the smallest behaviors of a woman as a "sign" or a "symbol" of her "real self." And whether he breaks off the relationship or not, he doesn't say, "That hurt me and I wish you wouldn't do it." He just says, ominously, "Now I know how you really are!!!"

What we need is balance between the two.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:55 PM
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224: See, told you women are irrational.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:56 PM
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227: No, the ultimatum conditional on good behavior in the future is better than the sudden breakup with no warning as a result of one incident.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:56 PM
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How is "I won't stay with you unless you love me back" an ultimatum involving manipulation, coercion, and threat?

It's more of a necessary condition for the continuance of the thing. It's a need, not a demand. If he can't give it, then I won't stay. But I am not forcing him at gunpoint to articulate feelings he doesn't have, or to return feelings he doesn't have. But I am not forcing myself to live with that either, just to be with him.

It's definitely not "If you take this job I will leave you" or "If you don't get a job I will leave you" or "Unless you lose 10 lbs I will leave you" or something horrible like that.


Posted by: Abigail Adams | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:57 PM
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Well, what are the alternatives to this ultimatum?

1. Leave the relationship (with or without explaining why).

2. Stay in the relationship, hoping that he will read your mind and do what you want.

3. Stay in the relationship with a high degree of fatalism, accepting that you cannot do anything to change him and you may stay the rest of your life (or however long he decides to stick with the relationship) without getting what you want.

4. Explain how you feel and what you want, but do not press him to give any information about how he feels or what he wants.

#1 can preserve your self-esteem but automatically means you won't be staying with a person who you (apparently) love. #2 is pretty much always a disaster. #3 can be successful, and #4 can occasionally work.

(Well, #2 can occasionally work if it is more like "Keep your mouth shut and let the course of events unfold," but I don't think that gets to a happy ending very often.)

It sounds to me like Abigail made a pretty wise choice, given her options. Are there others that I did not list above?


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:58 PM
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Saying "The way you treat me makes me unhappy. If you keep on treating me in a way that makes me unhappy, I won't stay with you," isn't the sort of thing I can reasonably read as threatening. Formally, it's similar, but not really the same.

My understanding of the standard marriage ultimatum: we get married or we break up. How that differs from "I want to get engaged, and if you're not ready for the next step, I really need to move on" is not at all clear to me.

This is a digression, though. I don't think there's anything wrong with ultimatums if you're willing to stick with them.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 3:58 PM
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224: Yeah, this is unfolding in a strange way, isn't it?

217: I am sure that men would be far more likely to never want to convey the sentiment in your last sentence there [i.e. "This is beginning to hurt my feelings. Please be careful with me."]

Leaving aside that the whole of 217 isn't making much sense to me, the quoted portion is interesting.

In any case, whether "ultimatum" is appropriate or not, I doubt I'd ever tell someone he needed to discover that he loved me within a certain time frame or else I'd have to call it quits. It's a legitimate sentiment, but I'd not want to voice it.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:00 PM
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234: Yeah, if you don't think there's anything wrong with ultimatums, I think they probably don't have the same negative connotations for you that we're talking about.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:00 PM
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225: Not much over.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:02 PM
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229 is exactly right. Thank you for presenting the neutral version of the inflammatory 221 and 217.

(though when I said "tradition" in 217 I meant the pop culture tradition, not how people actually behave)

I can see why men generally skip these threads entirely. I don't spend nearly as much time thinking about these issues as the women in this thread do.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:02 PM
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232: In the past, I've ended up phrasing this sort of thing by putting the responsibility back in his hands, since he's the one with the decision to make, as in, "It hurts me to feel like I'm with someone who might never love me. But you're the one who knows how you feel, so could you please do me the favor of thinking about this problem for [time-frame], and then please tell me if you still don't share my desire to pursue a romantic relationship with me."

So it's not "I'm gonna break up with you if you don't say you love me!" but more like, "You're responsible for your feelings, and if you don't want the same things I want, at all, then let's agree to end this relationship amicably."


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:02 PM
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223

"An ultimatum, in connotation, contains a threat. Saying "The way you treat me makes me unhappy. If you keep on treating me in a way that makes me unhappy, I won't stay with you," isn't the sort of thing I can reasonably read as threatening. Formally, it's similar, but not really the same."

The threat is to dump him. Suppose the guy says if you don't start performing a particular sexual act by x date I am going to find somebody who will. This isn't an ultimatum and an attempt to manipulate?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:02 PM
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231: It's not "good behavior" she's looking for but for him to sort out his feelings. They're entirely different.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:04 PM
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(Of course, in my case, it was "No, seriously, if you don't understand your hangups about sex and are not interested in figuring out what is up with that, let's just be friends. Take some time to think about that and give me a call." It was a nice, pleasant, caring breakup in the end.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:04 PM
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234, 240: I don't think these problems arise if you use my 214 distinction.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:05 PM
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231: It's not "good behavior" she's looking for but for him to sort out his feelings. They're entirely different.

I thought this was about him saying hurtful things.

Sorry, I started out by just questioning why the word "ultimatum" couldn't be used, not by talking about this specific situation.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:08 PM
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The threat is to dump him. Suppose the guy says if you don't start performing a particular sexual act by x date I am going to find somebody who will. This isn't an ultimatum and an attempt to manipulate?

This situation is less like "If this doesn't happen, my threat is to dump you", and more like "If this doesn't happen, it should become clear that we need to break up."


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:10 PM
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It should not be left unsaid that heebie is right.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:11 PM
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True. It also should not be left unsaid that eb's "penultimatum" made me laugh.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:13 PM
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"Manipulation" and "ultimatum" both have negative implications. If you use them to designate any attempt whatsoever to get others to behave differently, you seem to assume an anarchist or solipsist ideal universe in which no one tries to influence anyone else.

"Manipulation" normally has connotations of deviousness or indirection -- tricking someone into doing something they don't really want to do, but without stating your intentions straightforwardly. This certainly isn't the case here.

"Ultimatum" has a connotation of a threat and unwillingness to negotiate. This doesn't seem to be the case here at all either. Ms. Adams is just putting her cards on the table in terms of what she wants.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:13 PM
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214 244

"An ultimatum is focussed on manipulating someone else - you are stating it in order to provoke fear/whatever in the other person, and bully them into compliance."

You are trying to bully him into saying "I love you" by threatening to leave. Or at least you are acting exactly the same as someone trying to do that.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:14 PM
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238: Part of the problem with men entering this kind of discourse is that, often, the only language they have for discussing relationships is language that is laden with misogynistic stereotypes ("women wanting to change their man," etc.) that can really put us on edge. As women, we hear a lot of this talk about women making "ultimatums" to "change" men, because dating is like buying a fixer-upper, or whatever, and it makes for some very unflattering representations of "feminine" behavior, even if we're trying to do the most ethical and thoughtful things by our partners. I know it must seem to the men here that the women are being hypersensitive about terminology, but man, you hear that terminology thrown at you every time you're trying really hard to be generous with your emotions, effort, and time, and it'll start to make your blood boil.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:15 PM
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The problem with the term "dump" is that it's made to sound like a form of aggression or insult, but in this case it's just putting the end to a freely-contracted relationship.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:15 PM
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Look, the problem with the ultimatum terminology is that it sounds as though the parties to the relationship are antagonistic. Whereas it's actually better viewed as a joint project: we are having a relationship. The goal of the relationship is to determine whether we love one another and wish to go on, other things being in place. We can't carry on with this forever, we really need to have some timeframe in mind such that we agree that we love one another, or it hasn't happened, and we should move on. If you don't love me, or I don't love you ... etc.

No? And the deal with Abby's guy seems to be that this is his first time, as it were, and she is needing to explain to him. So, fine. And he's freaked out. They should probably talk more. Or he should talk, to his friends.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:18 PM
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This whole "ultimatum" thing is annoying. In this case, it's more like an ongoing gift economy than a take-it-or-leave it moment. In such a relationship, what happens is a back-and-forth of exchanges and reflection about what those exchanges mean. Problems typically emerge around the question, "What sort of relationship is this?" If things break down, the assessment is typically not, "I gave him an ultimatum and he didn't meet it" but rather "We didn't agree on / X couldn't make up their mind about what the relationship was." One person stating their view about what the relationship isn't a threat, at least not by itself.

The standard big transition point in long-term relationships is exactly the phase where short-term, time-limited, freely-contracted exchanges give way to longer-term, open-ended, ongoing gift-type exchange. Of course, things are further complicated by power differentials: the person least committed to the relationship is the more powerful one within it, and this cuts against the gift dynamic.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:18 PM
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To go ahead with the "dump" word: it's as if it is being claimed that the ill-defined open-ended relationship the man prefers is the man's right, and that by ending it or proposing to end it Ms. Adams is taking away something that is his. But she isn't, unless you think that possession of her on his terms is his right.

I suppose I shouldn't be arguing with Shearer.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:19 PM
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249: Finally, someone standing up for men!


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:19 PM
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Or at least you are acting exactly the same as someone trying to do that.

You can't distinguish between the case where the focus is on the other person, versus oneself? Are you an Aspie?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:19 PM
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I think that part of it is that people still have magical transcendent conceptions of romantic relationships, so that any exercise of rationality or will is regarded as profane and wrong.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:20 PM
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249: Really, piss off.

You have the psychological understanding of an idiot.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:21 PM
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At least my troll is delusional -- Shearer is a total sociopath.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:23 PM
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252 gets it exactly right. As long as men are raised to act as if relationships are something women want, and they're battling them by trying to "get" whatever they're getting out of it, one can't have a rational conversation about feeling. Relationships at the level Abby's talking about are not battles of the sexes. They're negotiations between parties who--let's remember--might actually like each other.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:24 PM
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248

""Manipulation" and "ultimatum" both have negative implications. If you use them to designate any attempt whatsoever to get others to behave differently, you seem to assume an anarchist or solipsist ideal universe in which no one tries to influence anyone else."

So what synonyms should I be using which mean exactly the same thing without negative connotations?

""Manipulation" normally has connotations of deviousness or indirection -- tricking someone into doing something they don't really want to do, but without stating your intentions straightforwardly. This certainly isn't the case here."

Giving an ultimatum while pretending you aren't isn't straightforward.

""Ultimatum" has a connotation of a threat and unwillingness to negotiate. This doesn't seem to be the case here at all either. Ms. Adams is just putting her cards on the table in terms of what she wants."

What's to negotiate? Ms Adams wants to hear I love you, is she going to settle for I like you a lot?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:24 PM
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The assumption here, of course, is that Abby's BF might actually want to be in love. That is, he's not "winning" anything by denying her that; he's just not ready yet. If he does actually think he's getting away with something by denying her love but staying in the relationship for companionship, then he's a dick and DTMFA. We are not in the epistemic position (and neither, it seems, is Abby) to know which category the BF falls into.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:28 PM
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By responding to his questions, you make him want to post more! Insults apparently have the opposite effect. I think there's a lesson here.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:30 PM
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Fatman was right about "ultimatum" way up above, and it doesn't necessarily have the negative connotations that either the Shearer or anti-Shearer camps are attributing to it.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:32 PM
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Oh, sorry, I stopped reading Shearer's comments a long time ago. I was just riffing on the need for non-combative language here, a la parsimon's 252.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:32 PM
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262: I can easily imagine that he will think for a while and say "I don't know what I've been thinking love would be, but whatever it is seems a lot more unrealistic now than it did when I was 16. So yeah, I guess I am in love now. All right!"


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:33 PM
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251

"The problem with the term "dump" is that it's made to sound like a form of aggression or insult, but in this case it's just putting the end to a freely-contracted relationship."

You object to the word "fire" on similar grounds? You think AWB should have used a different word in 23?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:34 PM
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Maybe this could be rephrased as a disagreement over whether to have a relationship consisting of exchanges governed by a principles-based or a rules-based regulatory scheme. Try not to swoon at how romantic this phrasing is.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:34 PM
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264: I think ultimatums can be seen as strong and positive when they are made by men. When a woman makes anything like an ultimatum, it often carries a really nasty, petty connotation, or at least that's the perception I'm reacting to. And I do think it always connotes hostility between the parties, which doesn't necessarily belong in this situation.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:35 PM
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This isn't an ultimatum precisely because she isn't trying to bully him into saying 'I love you', because on the reasonable assumption she's not insane, that's not the sort of thing that would have any value if it were bullied out of someone (unlike a material good.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:35 PM
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Without the negative connotations, the words would not be synonyms, James. It's not my job to help you express your ideas. The way you have chosen to express them is wrong. Try again.

She was not pretending she was not making an ultimatum. She was not making an ultimatum. She was making an offer and a request.

Based on what she's said, she's fairly open-ended about what she hopes for but isn't willing to accept the continuation of the status quo.

The idea that any statement that includes among its possibilities that a given voluntary relationship might come to an end is an "ultimatum" is a pretty excessive and inaccurate use of that word.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:35 PM
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Doesn't anyone else enjoy having an animated strawman participating in the conversation? Emerson's 248 and Bear's 250 were both valuable and interesting, and showed up only in response to Shearer being obtuse.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:35 PM
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264: I think ultimatums can be seen as strong and positive when they are made by men. When a woman makes anything like an ultimatum, it often carries a really nasty, petty connotation, or at least that's the perception I'm reacting to. And I do think it always connotes hostility between the parties, which doesn't necessarily belong in this situation.

?!?!?

I don't think the word "ultimatum" ever has a positive connotation within the real of romantic relationships, for goodness sake.

But it is accepted as a fine and necessary part of hard-hitting business negotiations, and we all know how much more suited men are for that than women are.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:37 PM
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252

"Look, the problem with the ultimatum terminology is that it sounds as though the parties to the relationship are antagonistic. Whereas it's actually better viewed as a joint project: we are having a relationship. The goal of the relationship is to determine whether we love one another and wish to go on, other things being in place. ..."

Not everybody thinks this is the goal of a relationship.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:39 PM
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I strongly object to the vicious mischaracterization of men in 229, as prone to overuse of exclamation marks.
..
apart from that, of course, go AWB!!!


Posted by: U | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:40 PM
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260: As long as men are raised to

I just wish this weren't put in terms of men who are always the uncooperative parties in these things. Women can just as easily be. It's a human connection problem. Or dynamic. See Gonerill's 253.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:40 PM
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a/the is a real distinction.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:41 PM
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269: To the extent that perception is extant, we don't have to perpetuate it. The word does always indicate a dispute between parties -- and one that's come to a point where one party says "look, this is what I need to not break off relations with you" -- but that's fine, since disputes are a routine part of relationships.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:41 PM
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277 to, sigh, 274.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:42 PM
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274: And for people who don't share goals of that nature, they probably shouldn't be in relationships together.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:42 PM
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(I mean, further to 278, yes it's obviously an indication that something has gone rather wrong to bring things to that point. But avoiding the word "ultimatum" won't change the fundamental dynamics of "I need X from this relationship or I have to end it.")


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:43 PM
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But again, it's not 'I need X from this relationship' it's 'what is this relationship to be?' Wanting the other person to love you, or like you, or be exclusive, or anything, isn't like wanting them to make more money, or give you a blowjob, or clean the apartment without having to be reminded. Desiring the X doesn't make sense without the relationship.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:46 PM
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Shearer uses the word "bully". Again, this assumes that the guy's relationship to Abigail is his by right, and that she is wrongly threatening to take it away from him.

Suppose someone says "I like going to concerts, but no more heavy metal, OK?" Is that bullying or manipulation, or an ultimatum?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:46 PM
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217

"Without the negative connotations, the words would not be synonyms, James. It's not my job to help you express your ideas. The way you have chosen to express them is wrong. Try again."

Sounds like irregular verbs to me.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:49 PM
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274: Not everybody thinks this is the goal of a relationship.

James is correct. I cringed as I wrote it. I was adopting the managerial approach to the conduct of relationships. Not one I normally use myself, but it's popular, and can be helpful.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:51 PM
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But again, it's not 'I need X from this relationship' it's 'what is this relationship to be?'

Mmm. I'd bet that there's an answer to the second question that is sufficiently deficient as to prompt the first statement. If this isn't an ultimatum, it's the moment prior to the ultimatum. That's not necessarily a bad thing.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:54 PM
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Well, Shearer will have to answer for his own argument, such as it is. I don't care what he's saying particularly.

Basically, I'm just saying that if you're establishing a condition for the relationship to continue, "ultimatum" is not an unreasonable term to use. If you're unwilling to remain in a relationship where you're not getting enough love, or sex, or exclusivity, or housework, or jokes about math, or whatever, then sure, stating so is an ultimatum. If you'd merely prefer to have more or less of something but it isn't a dealbreaker, then it's not an ultimatum, it's negotiation. That seems pretty straightforward to me.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:54 PM
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But again, it's not 'I need X from this relationship' it's 'what is this relationship to be?'

If this isn't an ultimatum, it's the moment prior to the ultimatum. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

There's a difference -- which JS elides -- between wanting to know whether someone loves you and demanding to hear them say the words "I love you."


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:55 PM
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284: yeah, it does. You are putting the worst interpretation on the situation and asserting that yours is the right one. Based on 261 and 267, however, you seem unaware that there are other words in the English language expressing less negative interpretations of this type of interaction.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:56 PM
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what i thought again
James and analytic philosopher are one person
b/c of the same quoting style
if he were to quote in italics he would annoy people less


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:57 PM
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If that's what you mean by ultimatum, fine, but as people have said, it usually carries a connotation of bullying or threatening. Which is why one might find advice to establish what one's ground rules are for a relationship without giving an ultimatum.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:58 PM
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Doesn't work on prose style, unless Shearer is better at faking a different voice than I think he's likely to be.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:59 PM
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288: Yes, exactly. Which is why it's not a demand like 'make more money.' She doesn't just want to hear the words.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:59 PM
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James and analytic philosopher are one person

I doubt that. analytic philosopher was obnoxious, but knew what he/she was talking about in a way that James never seems to.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:59 PM
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My mom has gotten really sensitive to the ways that all those home-buying shows depict couples who seem forced into these narratives by the hosts, like, "There's a big basement, and that's going to be just for you, Mr. Guy!

This reminds me of something kaf once said on his blog, Defective Yeti:
"After looking at over a million homes in the greater San Francisco area, the wife and I now turn to each other when presented with a particularly large such basement, and say "Now this'd be a good stabbing room. We could put the bodies over there in the corner."


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 4:59 PM
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My mom has gotten really sensitive to the ways that all those home-buying shows depict couples who seem forced into these narratives by the hosts, like, "There's a big basement, and that's going to be just for you, Mr. Guy!

This reminds me of something kaf once said on his blog, Defective Yeti:
"After looking at over a million homes in the greater San Francisco area, the wife and I now turn to each other when presented with a particularly large such basement, and say "Now this'd be a good stabbing room. We could put the bodies over there in the corner."


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:00 PM
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Twice as funny!


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:00 PM
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283

"Shearer uses the word "bully". Again, this assumes that the guy's relationship to Abigail is his by right, and that she is wrongly threatening to take it away from him."

This is independent of the sexes. The guy threatening to leave his girl friend unless she does X is trying to bully her also. Would you prefer "coerce"?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:02 PM
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Basements of unusual size? I don't believe they exist (in the Bay Area).


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:02 PM
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291: If that's what you mean by ultimatum, fine, but as people have said, it usually carries a connotation of bullying or threatening.

Yes, well, people have said this, but I think they're mistaken, is the thing. What it usually carries a connotation of is decisive finality, which isn't necessarily the same thing as bullying or threatening.

Of course, establishing the ground rules in advance is much better than having to do it post hoc.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:04 PM
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The "stabbing room" thing is excellent.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:05 PM
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Of course, establishing the ground rules in advance is much better than having to do it post hoc.

How would this work? On the first date? That would be awfully weird.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:06 PM
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ergo prompter hoc


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:07 PM
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No, LB, because then you'd be giving an ultimatum on the first date.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:08 PM
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302: It means we reengineer society so that everyone only meets partners through really elaborate classifieds or eHarmony.com or something.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:10 PM
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No, no, DS is right. Of course it doesn't have to be done on the first date. People should talk more, I swear to god.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:11 PM
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I really don't think there's any way to work things out in advance or have all the cards laid out on the table. I think that all relationships (damn them) require occasional in-flight emergency repairs.

People change, and they misunderstand each other, and they commit to things they shouldn't, and they try to be nice or try to avoid difficult topics, and so on.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:11 PM
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288

"There's a difference -- which JS elides -- between wanting to know whether someone loves you and demanding to hear them say the words "I love you.""

If you really want to know, listening for the words "I love you" is unreliable as the words mean different things to different people and are often said insincerely in any case. Better to look at whether you are being treated as someone in love would treat you.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:11 PM
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Hasn't Di's little girl suggested that everyone just sign contracts?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:12 PM
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There's a difference -- which JS elides -- between wanting to know whether someone loves you and demanding to hear them say the words "I love you."

Given the issue, I'm not sure that's the widest distinction. That is, "love you" seems like a decision point in many a relationship. Unless he's unnaturally obtuse, he knows that. And he knows he hasn't chosen the timing of the decision. It wouldn't be unreasonable for him to see the decision laid out as "You must (a) love me, or (b) leave me." I think every relationship has this sort of thing come up, be it in regard to love, marriage, kids, whatever. People have wants and red lines; wanting to be loved in a relationship is hardly an unnatural one.

As for bullying--I don't know. Again, I think the prototypical relationship ultimatum is "marry me or let's move on." I don't think of that as bullying. A surprising number of healthy marriages seem to result from it.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:22 PM
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If one is definitely not interested in long-term anything, or wants to at least put forth the likelihood that one is or is not, right now, interested in marriage-directed dating, I think conversations at the outset are helpful. Of course relationships that last any length of time outgrow anything you might say at the outset. Generally, I'd rather not talk about any of these issues until I know something pretty substantial about the person's character.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:22 PM
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280

"And for people who don't share goals of that nature, they probably shouldn't be in relationships together."

Perhaps, but how many people say up front they are looking to get married and you shouldn't get involved with them unless you are looking to get married also? I don't think this is the default assumption.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:23 PM
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307: I think that all relationships (damn them) require occasional in-flight emergency repairs.

Sure. Also, relationships provide opportunities along the way to make clear what you do and don't like and what would be dealbreakers for you, before getting to the point where you have to come out and say "I need such-and-such not to walk."

The notion of doing everything on the first date is pretty entertaining, though. And yes, contracts! Have all first dates chaperoned by a notary, and carried out in the spirit of the L'Idiot "reservations interview" scene from L.A. Story. ("You think with a financial statement like this that you can have the duck?!")


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:24 PM
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308: That's not entirely wrong. But a significant component of treating someone as if you're in love with them is being sensitive enough to how they're feeling that they aren't in any doubt about how you feel, whether you say it or not. If you're not successfully communicating your feelings, and you're unwilling to change your methods despite your partner's unhappiness, the two of you have a problem.

298: The guy threatening to leave his girl friend unless she does X is trying to bully her also.

Dan Savage gives this advice all the time, and I wouldn't call it bullying unless the manner is bullying. If you have a dealbreaker, identifying it as such really isn't wrong.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:26 PM
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312: Sure thing. Which is why there's nothing wrongful about making it clear along the way.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:27 PM
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FWIW:

Ultimatum \Ul`ti*ma"tum\([u^]l`t[i^]*m[=a]"t[u^]m), n.; pl. E.
Ultimatums ([u^]l`t[i^]*m[=a]"t[u^]mz), L. Ultimata. [NL. See Ultimate.]
1. A final proposition, concession, or condition; especially, the final propositions, conditions, or terms, offered by either of the parties in a diplomatic negotiation; the most favorable terms that a negotiator can offer, the rejection of which usually puts an end to the hesitation. [1913 Webster]

2. A final demand, the rejection of which may lead to a resort to force or other compelling action by the party presenting the ultimatum. In international diplomacy, an ultimatum may be used as by the demanding country as a signal to other countries that it gave the other country a seemingly reasonable opportunity to avoid a war; in this way, the demanding country may seek to avoid responsibility for starting a war. [PJC] [1913 Webster]

DS and I seem to be using the first definition. The rest of you seem to be in the vicinity of the second. I fear you.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:29 PM
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289

"... You are putting the worst interpretation on the situation and asserting that yours is the right one. ..."

Well part of it is, unlike you DFHs, I am not convinced that threats and ultimatums are such bad things that one is never justified in using them and hence must pretend you aren't when you are. I am not saying Ms Adams is doing the wrong thing.

And I think there is a pretty good chance Mr Adams is going feel he is being bullied.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:33 PM
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But since 'bullying' has no negative connotations either, that's just fine!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:35 PM
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I think there is a pretty good chance Mr Adams is going feel he is being bullied.

If he's a douchebag, that is.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:38 PM
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And I think there is a pretty good chance Mr Adams is going feel he is being bullied.

Which is only going to get in the way of a positive resolution, if there is one available. That is, if he's being hesitant, but does actually want the same things out of the relationship she does, framing it in terms of ultimatums and bullying isn't likely to get him to agreement.

Not framing it in those terms, on the other hand, is harmless. Which is why people are pushing back against your choice of language.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:38 PM
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318

"But since 'bullying' has no negative connotations either, that's just fine"

I will concede negative connotations to "bully". How about "push"? Either way some people tend to dig in their heels.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:41 PM
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Yes, Mr. Adams might "feel" bullied. But Ms. Adams "feels" she might be strung along and disappointed. Valuing potential male negative feeling over actual female negative feeling is the source of suspicion about your motives in my corner.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:44 PM
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Wait. There's no Mr. Adams. There may never be. This is Mr. X.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:48 PM
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Valuing potential male negative feeling over actual female negative feeling is the source of suspicion about your motives in my corner.

I think Shearer is getting the rough end of the stick here based on past performance and some problematic language choices. I believe he's said that it's OK to push on an issue. And he has at least allowed for the possibility that Adams is doing the right thing: I am not saying Ms Adams is doing the wrong thing.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:49 PM
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Chalk up another vote for lack of connotation of bullying in a sincere ultimatum. An insincere ultimatum, though, I would call bullying. That is, if you're not really going to leave, but pretend it's a red line to get your way -- I do not approve.

Really, though, I still back with our young author's definition of "dating" -- not a term I would use to describe anything I've done in the last 25 years, but by her definition, it turns out I do quite a bit of it.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:52 PM
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229 is one of those observations that seem to ring true for everyone, and yet make me totally worry that I'm mistaken about my gender.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:52 PM
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"Bullying", "manipulation", and "ultimatum" are on the table (though "manipulation" hasn't been mentioned recently). The first two have almost exclusively negative connotations. The third is more mixed, but generally doesn't sound good.

But even then, it sounds like Ms. Adams knows pretty much what she's looking for and knows that if she doesn't get it she'll eventually leave, and is just wondering how to deal with the situation, in terms of how explicit to be. Even in the favorable interpretation of "ultimatum", that's only one of the possibilities she's consideration.

Looks to me like the guy is in "Don't know what you've got till it's gone" territory. My magic eightball says that the odds are not good.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:54 PM
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320

"Not framing it in those terms, on the other hand, is harmless. Which is why people are pushing back against your choice of language."

Coercing an insincere "I love you" may not be harmless at all assuming Ms Adams is interested in more than just the words. Which is why pretending you aren't making threats when you are interferes with seeing the situation clearly.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:54 PM
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Mr. X
i always loved Imre Kalman's operetta
aria of Mr.X


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:57 PM
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324: That's hard to reconcile with 'bullying', 'manipulative', and 'ultimatum.' And 'coercing.' And 'threats.'

Either a bad thing is meant by 'ultimatum' or it isn't, but it's hard to argue for the latter given the rest of the language.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:58 PM
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328: I would not phrase it quite that way, but I think Shearer gets at what was bothering me about swaddling an ultimatum in cozy language. It's OK to know what you want, and make decisions based on that. That doesn't make you a dick, somehow.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 5:59 PM
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327: Aw, John Emerson. Sigh.


Posted by: Abigail Adams | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 6:01 PM
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325

"Chalk up another vote for lack of connotation of bullying in a sincere ultimatum. An insincere ultimatum, though, I would call bullying. That is, if you're not really going to leave, but pretend it's a red line to get your way -- I do not approve."

This makes sense to me. Although the distinction between a sincere and an insincere ultimatum is not always clear even to the person giving the ultimatum.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 6:02 PM
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"Aria Mr. X" looks interesting but I have no sound.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 6:04 PM
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oh, what happened to your sound, can you fix it?
i'll post it if i find in English


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 6:12 PM
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You can't distinguish between the case where the focus is on the other person, versus oneself? Are you an Aspie?

for the record, in case no one has said so yet, this is Narcissism, not Aspergers you are describing. Aspies aren't som much self focused as unable to connect.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 6:13 PM
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290

"James and analytic philosopher are one person"

For the record we are not. The philosophy thread tended to confirm my prejudice that philosophy is like a religion with internal disputes, like how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, which seem important to believers but are really meaningless.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 6:13 PM
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I can hear it! Excellent.

It appears to be from this operetta. But what is going on in the story? Who is Mr. X?

(BTW, I presume that there has been an extremely long and discourteous debate over whether Kalman's Wikipedia page should list him as "Imre Kalman", "Kalman Imre", or "Emmerich Kalman". This may not be true, though)


Posted by: Ardent reader | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 6:15 PM
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for the record i was kidding :)
that was just to suggest you to use quotes in italics


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 6:17 PM
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It seems that that was the kind of decadent Viennese thing "Cabaret" was referring back to.

I didn't have a sound card installed after my computer crashed. I waste enough time on the computer as it is. I don't download either.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 6:19 PM
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330

"Either a bad thing is meant by 'ultimatum' or it isn't, but it's hard to argue for the latter given the rest of the language."

That's because you all are in denial about conflict. As I recall you (not necessarily Cala) were bent out of shape by the article by the animal trainer who applied the same methods to her husband.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 6:21 PM
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Coercing an insincere "I love you" may not be harmless at all assuming Ms Adams is interested in more than just the words.

This is interesting. Shearer -- I'm not picking on your choice of words here. I do think this is a possible way for the guy in that situation to feel. But it's peculiar when you pick it apart. He doesn't love her, and saying he does would be insincere. But her saying that she'll leave him if he doesn't is a serious enough threat that it amounts to coercion. How would you describe his feelings for her, if that's a fair description of the situation from his point of view?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 6:24 PM
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iirc, the operetta is about the circus and the anonymous performer Mr.X who fell in love with a comtesse, and there is a lot of something like class conflicts etc i forgot all the details but there is a happy end, Ms. Adams
a bit resembling Phantom of opera, though without the hero's face disfigurement
if you'll download the card, JE, will your computer crash again? if so, i'm not suggesting it


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 6:27 PM
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the


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 6:31 PM
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269: ultimata.

/w-lfs-n


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 6:31 PM
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I could probably easily get sound, but I'm not highly motivated.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 6:37 PM
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Hasn't Di's little girl suggested that everyone just sign contracts?

Actually, Rory expressed some thoughts on this very topic last night. See, Zoe's boyfriend James gave her a necklace that said "I love you," and then Zoe got totally weird on him. Rory opined that James was a little too quick with the I love you, that a premature I love you when you aren't really ready for it can lead to people getting hurt.

I, of course, told her I thought she had a point, but really it seemed like the bigger problem is that Zoe still loves Chase, and even if you really care about someone, and want to love them, it might just not be possible to really start something new when you haven't gotten over someone else.

She gave me this indulgent, knowing smile, which made me feel like I'd just misled her to thinking that I'm still pining for her dad or something. So then I added that, you know, you're going to get hurt if you get out there, and you can't let fear of getting hurt get in the way of getting out there and taking a chance.

Abigail and her BF are in a tough spot. he wants to love her (it seems) and she want him to love her. They will both have to see how that plays out.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 6:39 PM
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James, "ultimatum" is arguable but you've also used the words "coercion", "bullying", and "manipulation".

As I said at the beginning, I suspect that you have a anarchist, solipsist, radically individualist view of human relationships. Ms. Adams is in a relationship which isn't satisfactory to her, and you're using highly colored words about her attempts to deal with it, but it's possible that you have no other vocabulary.

P.S.: Your ideas about philosophy are lumpen-positivist ideas. You're a philosopher yourself! But not a very good one.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 6:41 PM
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342

"This is interesting. Shearer -- I'm not picking on your choice of words here. I do think this is a possible way for the guy in that situation to feel. But it's peculiar when you pick it apart. He doesn't love her, and saying he does would be insincere. But her saying that she'll leave him if he doesn't is a serious enough threat that it amounts to coercion. How would you describe his feelings for her, if that's a fair description of the situation from his point of view?"

There are various possibilities. One is he enjoys the relationship and wants to continue it indefinitely as is but for some reason is unwilling to commit to more. He for example might not see the woman as marriageable or he might be wary of marriage in general. Another possibility is, he was badly hurt in love before and is afraid of getting too close or he thinks not admitting he is in love will immunize him. Or more darkly he intends to end the relationship at some future point (like when he graduates from med school) and just wants to string her along until then. The problem from the woman's point of view is the worse the guy's real feelings the more likely he will be willing to lie to string her along for a while.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:02 PM
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Or, he really just isn't sure yet how he feels. Strange though it seems, there are in fact those who are not perfectly in touch with their emotions and have a hard time sorting things out.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:16 PM
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350: People like that need to sign contracts.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:22 PM
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That's what people like Will are for.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:23 PM
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348

"As I said at the beginning, I suspect that you have a anarchist, solipsist, radically individualist view of human relationships. Ms. Adams is in a relationship which isn't satisfactory to her, and you're using highly colored words about her attempts to deal with it, but it's possible that you have no other vocabulary."

This seems a little strange coming from Mr no relationships.

I don't know what an "anarchist, solipsist, radically individualist view of human relationships" means. I think people in general like to get their own way and don't stop liking to get their own way when they get involved with other people.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:24 PM
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I've been caught unawares by a few "I love you"s (or equivalent) that felt premature to me. It's a good time to decide whether you're in it with the same trajectory in mind. But it's always going to be awkward.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:25 PM
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Has "I [heart] you, but I'm not sure I love you" entered the discourse?


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:28 PM
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I think people in general like to get their own way and don't stop liking to get their own way when they get involved with other people.

Homo oeconomicus has enough limitations in modelling the economy, James, without trying to make it into a general purpose agent model for the dynamics of relationships.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:31 PM
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I do think this is a possible way for the guy in that situation to feel. But it's peculiar when you pick it apart. He doesn't love her, and saying he does would be insincere. But her saying that she'll leave him if he doesn't is a serious enough threat that it amounts to coercion. How would you describe his feelings for her, if that's a fair description of the situation from his point of view?

I find myself uncomfortably with Shearer again. Imagine this: Your boss asks you if you love your job. You don't, but if you say that, your career prospects are tarnished. Even if you want another job, I think your response is being coerced. How much we value being in a relationship, as opposed to this relationship, probably controls.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:38 PM
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353, 356: My proudest moment this weekend was hearing a friend's relative comment on how attentive Rory is to other people, how eager she is to do for others, "And it's not about her at all, she is genuinely focused on other people's happiness." That's, ideally, what love is all about -- not wanting to get your own way, but wanting the very best for the one you love.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:38 PM
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I guess I feel differently about jobs than relationships. Lying to a boss is often a necessity or an obligation, but dealing with a relationship that way seems wrong.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:41 PM
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Yeah, I think the analogy ban covers comparing girlfriend to boss.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:43 PM
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but dealing with a relationship that way seems wrong.

This explains the genesis of the No Relationship policy.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:43 PM
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I have to say, reading through this thread, I was repeatedly struck by the sense that Emerson has gotten it exactly right at nearly every turn. The only logical conclusion, then, is that the no relationship way is the way of wisdom.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:44 PM
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But love is work!


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:46 PM
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(Like those prophets of domestic bliss who were not themselves married, Emerson has probably started dating someone.)


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:48 PM
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what love is all about -- not wanting to get your own way, but wanting the very best for the one you love.
very beautifully said, how nice
i recalled this great post
though i suppose this ideal is about unrequited love, not happy or just healthy relationship


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 8:00 PM
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357: Analogy ban, Tim. That said, How much we value being in a relationship, as opposed to this relationship is operative, yeah. Part of the point of telling someone you want to move to the next level, or else no, is presumably to get some sense that it's this relationship they want.

But I'm still a little perplexed by people who don't seem to talk very much, and are guessing at each other's feelings.

And see Gonerill's 253, people, really: a gift economy. This was lovely.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 8:00 PM
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338: There's a synopsis of The Circus Princess here, starting on p. 121. I think that's the Song of Vienna aria from the third act. (I like the George Ots version.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:07 PM
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a gift economy

Ahhh, but gift economies are about passive aggressiveness and manipulation, so it all ties in.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:09 PM
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gift economies are about passive aggressiveness and manipulation

AMEN!


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:13 PM
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Huh, I'd never thought of gift economies in terms of relationships before. As a consequence, I mostly associate the term with people giving me free drinks.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:16 PM
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You have to repay the gift, you know, Sifu. Otherwise you lose mana, or something.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:26 PM
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Ahhh, but gift economies are about passive aggressiveness and manipulation,

Yes, gift exchanges can be excellent vehicles for exploitation. In fact, a colleague of mine has these fantastic experiments showing that people are both more likely to be exploited (lose out on resource allocation) and report themselves to be happier about what they got than in explicitly negotiated exchanges.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:26 PM
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Gift is a German word.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:28 PM
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371: I did, by gum: I cooked them bacon! I served them drinks right back!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:30 PM
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Gift is a German word.

Poison!


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:31 PM
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374: In fact, you were probably so pleased with the drinks they bought you that you bought them more expensive drinks.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:34 PM
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There used to be a shop in the vicinity of Bryn Mawr, PA called "Das Gift Haus".


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:39 PM
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"Der Gift Hut" would have been even better


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:40 PM
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Der Fisch ist tot, der Fisch ist tot,
Der Fisch ist tot, der Fisch ist tot.
Er kann nicht mehr schwimmen,
lalalalalalala.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:43 PM
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376: things get quite competitive, it's true. Actually, one of the things that always cracks me up is to see a free bar that just can't attract customers.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:46 PM
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nothing wrong with ultimatums but this isn't one. Abby's in love, John's at the I might be falling in love but I don't know. Makes sense on both sides not to break up, and to note that the situation can't last forever.


Posted by: tkm | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:55 PM
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Anyways ultimatums make sense in relationships when preceded by a period of 'this is really, really bothering me, please stop'. If they don't, and you can't live with it, time to end the relationship.


Posted by: tkm | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 9:57 PM
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Poison!

I know this from an Isaac Asimov story.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 10:11 PM
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and she said "Love? Lord above! . . .


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 10:20 PM
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Zippy, the Minima Moralia conversation of April 29 is awesome.

I write with a fat grey cat on my lap. Of course, at night all cats are fat.

When I went to gift-economy-desert-funhouse, my gf told me not to worry about bring little pieces of crap to give to people, and just being helpful would be fine. Then I wasn't even helpful.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 10:38 PM
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Minima Moralia


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 10:39 PM
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Years ago, I gave Minima Moralia as a gift to someone in that spirit. I don't think it was ever read. But it remains on his shelf!


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 10:43 PM
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Fuck, Friend, or Throw Off a Cliff: Horkheimer, Adorno, and Habermas


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:12 PM
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Oh Jesus, that made me laugh.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:15 PM
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Dieses Mädchen ist Gift!


Posted by: Glocke Biv DeVoe | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:17 PM
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Fuck Marcuse, fer sure. I think Adorno would be grateful for the quick end, and Horkheimer always seemed like a stand-up guy.

In school we played it this way: who from the Frankfurt School would you be most comfortable with dating your sister? Marcuse--too skeezy! Adorno--too critical! And you're back at good ol' Max.

Of course, wouldn't it be your luck: she'd end up with Erich Fromm, and you'd just be embarrassed.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:18 PM
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I guess I read Marcuse for Habermas. Oops. I think it remains the same. Habermas wouldn't be as kinky, but you'd get some communicative action.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:19 PM
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You'd get a theory of communicative action. Horkheimer is clearly the only normal person in this bunch. He can date my non-existent sister and I hope he'll be my friend.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:24 PM
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196: I'm coming to this late, but sending the conversation back a bit, no, neither of my sentences fits either of those labels.

Haven't you ever had the experience of watching as, the more you make overtures to a guy the more they back away, but when you stop and back away yourself, the same person is very interested and makes lots of overtures himself?!

It's common. It might be nice if it weren't, but the world doesn't change just because I'd like game-playing and gendered social roles to disappear.

(I use the gendered language because I've only had that experience with guys, although I'm sure all things are possible for all people; ime when dating girls, we both have trouble making the first move but we both know pretty clearly that we want it to happen before it does - and we know that we know - it's a different dance).


Posted by: mmf! | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 11:34 PM
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John needs to stick to his guns. Offering relationship advice implicitly supports the relationship institution. It seduces the reader, who imagines him or herself in the position of the thoughtful lover who takes the advice and experiences a pleasurable and lasting relationship.

I think people in general like to get their own way and don't stop liking to get their own way when they get involved with other people.

That's true, but it's only one thread in the vast relationship tapestry. The moments when you clearly know you want your own way are in many ways less dangerous than the ones where you genuinely think you want what's best for another, but have unconsciously convinced yourself that the other person desires what you think they should instead of what they actually do.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:01 AM
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And Gadamer could date my sister. A little ponderous, but a nice guy. They would gaze at the horizon together. Or is he not Frankfurt School?


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:02 AM
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Definitely not Frankfurt school. Gadamer studied with Heidegger (but was himself a good guy).


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:07 AM
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Ah yes, I knew that once, long ago. Before the German philosophy section of my brain was reduced to its current dilapidated state.

The more I think about it, the more disturbed I am by John's behavior in this thread. Romantic advice is a key part of the relationship-industrial complex.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:15 AM
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John pretends to be all brusque but he's actually a softie.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:30 AM
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Better to relate than to burn.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 4:00 AM
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Wait, was that just a confession, John?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 6:07 AM
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I am just a dreamer, but you are just a dream. You could have been anything to me.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 6:15 AM
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One thing that's true about Emerson is that, despite his own personal principles on this issue, he does relate really well to the feelings of someone in a serious relationship. A lot of people in this thread put aside their own personal romantic goals of the moment to think about AA's problem, which I find is one of the great things about a lot of people here. Then there are the "But this is about MEEEEE" people.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 6:23 AM
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that was directed at me, wasnt it?

Darn it. I did it again.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 6:25 AM
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403:

Along that topic, I am regularly impressed with how insightful Witt's comments are and how she reveals virtually nothing about herself. (Other than her salary.)


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 6:29 AM
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Where is the love for Witt and Emerson??!?!?!?!


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 7:49 AM
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I gave Emerson love! I hereby also give love to the mysterious Witt, who is wise and thoughtful.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 7:52 AM
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here, for Witt and Emerson
Georg Ots
but the sound card is required, it seems :)


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 7:56 AM
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I thought about read this weekend bc of the review of a Mongolian book.

AWB:

BR says we'll come to the baths if you convince Witt to come!


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 7:59 AM
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what book was it? a review in English? how interesting
i thought may be i'll change my handle it's kinda funny to think that people thought of me everytime when i see the word, too generic a word


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 8:06 AM
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Mongolian is a generic word?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 8:07 AM
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you may say that, but i thought about my handle


Posted by: rdae | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 8:08 AM
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Then there are the "But this is about MEEEEE" people.

Harsh.

Where is the love for Witt and Emerson??!?!?!?!

Again, I say, Emerson has gotten it right at nearly every turn in this thread. And I add my agreement that Witt is consistently right on the mark.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 8:09 AM
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409: Conditions, conditions! You're a NYC-visiting excuse-maker, sir! (Though, of course, Witt's presence would be welcome!)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 8:09 AM
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actually this is a perfect new handle
ard E
ard means a layperson, like sitizen
E is my initial, sweet


Posted by: ardE | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 8:10 AM
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Is there going to be a Russian baths encounter in NYC? Sounds great.

AA strikes me as being in a dangerous situation. Really no choice but to gently make b-f aware of the situation, set her own internal deadlines for decisionmaking, and then be observant, aware, and present in the relationship. Making the vocalization of "I love you" a big issue is a distraction.

For what it's worth, I could easily easily imagine the ML column with the genders switched. It's less a male/female thing, it's a who loves more / who loves less thing.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 8:12 AM
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I read 402, and I think "but wait, it is all about me."

Then, I think "but how can that be true? I've barely been in this thread?"

Still, I'm pretty sure.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 8:15 AM
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We want to come! We really do.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 8:15 AM
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And Gadamer could date my sister. A little ponderous, but a nice guy. They would gaze at the horizon together.

And play a lot!


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 8:22 AM
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Also on the ML column: that Steven guy early in the column, who's in a semi-open relationship with his girlfriend. That was interesting. THe author seemed to mark it up to "he's not serious", but Steven's attitude strikes me as a not-unreasonable accomodation to getting involved when very young, in a place where promiscuity is normative. It might be a greater sacrifice for him than his g-friend, depending on who is more committed to the relationship.

I know a very good marriage that started out like that. Eventually the occasional other people fell away as being too much bother. Mileage can vary quite a lot, of course.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 8:32 AM
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You say I'm harder than a wall, a marble shaft about to fall . . .


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 8:32 AM
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I think I am in a situation like that of Ms. Adams' boyfriend, except extended for several years. A couple of bits of advice: Try to be clear about whether it is caring, loving behavior that you're missing, or literally hearing it spoken. If the latter, be prepared to explain why, even if he's the most attentive boyfriend ever, he needs to articulate his feelings as well as act them out, and that you want it to show up unprompted from time to time. And if you are going to set some deadlines, do follow through, for your own sake.


Posted by: 18th century suitor | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 8:49 AM
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She's only 20, and she may have had that conversation when she was 18 or 19. "He's not serious" is probably a good thing at that age, whether that leads to an open relationship or serial monogamy.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 8:53 AM
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I have to admit, I'm someone for whom constant declarations of love are very nervous-making. If someone is repeatedly avowing their love for me, is it because they're paranoid that I am inconstant in my affections, and need to prompt me to respond in kind as often as possible? Or are they really just, at that moment, feeling love for me? I've had this conversation with my best friend many times, as she's extremely demonstrative about her love and openly concerned about my potential loss of affection for her. I guess I'm a lot more comfortable in situations where my love is taken for granted and doesn't need to constantly be reasserted. But I can negotiate within reason.

I think for AA's BF, the problem is that he's literally said he doesn't love her. That is, not "Of course I care deeply for you and feel love for you but I don't like saying it all the time" but "You have feelings for me that I don't share...yet." The latter may become the former with time, which is a lot more tolerable as a relationship-position, but, as yet, it's still the latter.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 8:57 AM
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She's only 20, and she may have had that conversation when she was 18 or 19

It is very important to be heading towards marriage at 20. Every couple at that age should be planning their wedding.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 8:57 AM
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422: If it's okay to pry, any insight on why you are in that same position? Is is a matter of just not articulating what you genuinely feel because you just aren't the (verbally) expressive type? Not being able to articulate what you feel because you can't reduce it to words or find the right words? Is it a question of feeling something different from what she would like you to feel?

You don't have to answer that, of course. I guess I just ask because I think there must be a million possible explanations for your and Abigail's situations and I suspect that what the explanation ultimately is makes a huge difference in how tolerable the situation actually is.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:01 AM
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Then there are the "But this is about MEEEEE" people.

I missed this thread, but after having skimmed it pretty thoroughly, this one clearly is about me. I hope I'm not too redundant with others, but speaking from my own experience:

1 - There's nothing wrong with (the sparing use of) ultimatums in relationships. You ain't getting what you need, you gotta ask, and if the issue is important enough, you gotta demand. Dealbreakers exist.
2 - Abigail errs in her choice of ultimatums. She is wise enough not to issue on ultimatum on how her boyfriend feels - even though his feelings are obviously a legitimate dealbreaker - but she unwisely issues an ultimatum on what he says.
3 - She also unwisely eschews the possibility of an ultimatum regarding marriage. If that's what she (eventually) needs to have, she should say so (eventually).

LB's 174.1 seems wrong to me. AA's boyfriend seems to be being entirely honest - he's not confident about his own feelings; he knows about hers - and bringing those facts out into the open strikes me as the reverse of being manipulative.

So to break it down: Ultimatums regarding how someone feels are pointless. Ultimatums about what someone says are counterproductive, because they encourage dishonesty, but ultimatums about what someone does can be entirely appropriate.

At seven months into a relationship, it seems to me that Abigail and her boyfriend aren't quite on the same page, but they seem pretty close. Sometimes you just have to wait and see how things play out, while keeping in mind (as Abigail does) that you can't wait forever.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:01 AM
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At seven months into a relationship

7 months?!?!? Wow. I missed that one.

When you are young, I guess 7 months seems like such a long time.

Why push it??! Let it develop.

But, try to develop good communication skills. Part of that involves educating yourself about the other person. Part of that involves communicating your own needs in a productive manner.

These are difficult skills to learn, but so very important.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:06 AM
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AWB:

I love you!


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:07 AM
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416.2 = shorter 427. The worst kind of pwnage is succinct pwnage.

Though as a cup-half-full kind of guy, I think AA's position is more "promising" than "dangerous."


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:08 AM
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Wait, aren't AA and her boyfriend nearly 30?


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:09 AM
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424: Yeah, we're not talking about 'say the magic words' but 'do we feel the same way?' (And I'd add 'and maybe not so much with the marriage and future talk if you're sure whether you're in love or what love is.') But I think how often people say it just depends on what they're used to. shivbunny and I say it a lot, but it's not because we're gushing with love all the time.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:10 AM
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427 pretty much sums it up. Very well, I think.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:10 AM
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Politicalfootball and I love each other.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:11 AM
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Oh, never mind. I see "she's only 20" was a response to the ML author. This thread had an original topic.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:12 AM
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This isn't about 'say you love me', which should be clear from all the bits where she says 'he doesn't FEEL the same way.' Which, again, is why it isn't an ultimatum in the usual sense.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:12 AM
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7 months seems like a perfectly normal time frame for a 30-something to be evaluating where a relationship is headed, no?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:12 AM
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IME, six months is a good statute of limitations for knowing whether you feel you can grow to love someone---not whether you want to marry them, but whether you might love them. That is, if I've been in a relationship six months and I'm looking over and thinking, "I don't know if I'll ever love this guy," then the answer is probably no. (When the relationship is working, by the time six months has rolled around, I've usually felt a little thrill in my heart at some point along the lines of "I think I'm falling in love!" even if not all the required evidence is solid or in place yet.) Not to be a downer, of course, and maybe dudes don't know as quickly what the potential of their feelings is, especially dudes who've never been in relationships longer than six months.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:13 AM
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To me 'seven months and no I love you but let's hint about our future' conjures up the phrase 'shit or get off the pot.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:13 AM
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434: I'm not ready to commit to that.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:13 AM
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one of the things that always cracks me up is to see a free bar that just can't attract customers

What universe were you in at the time?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:17 AM
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I'm through with you, PF.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:21 AM
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To me 'seven months and no I love you but let's hint about our future' conjures up the phrase 'shit or get off the pot.'

Sounds like you think there's a need for some sort of ultimate resolution.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:23 AM
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IME, six months is a good statute of limitations for knowing whether you feel you can grow to love someone---not whether you want to marry them, but whether you might love them.

This seems right to me, but I think AA's boyfriend passed this benchmark in a reasonably auspicious fashion. I get the sense that you disagree.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:24 AM
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426: a variety of things.

88.2 rings right to me, at least as a starting point. I'm not certain of my own feelings and am never sure that "I love you" is a true statement, so I resist saying it (or, more commonly, it doesn't occur to me in the first place. Saying "I love you" is not a habit I've ever been in. Hard to say why, except that it wasn't something I really saw or heard in my own family.

Also, my relationship went from casual to serious to moving in together in ways prompted by external forces without really addressing, much less resolving, this issue, and now there are a lot of habits and problems built up around it. Just to pick one, having said that I'm not sure what "love" means to me, can I say "I love you" without that being a statement that I've internally resolved that ambiguity?


Posted by: 18th century suitor | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:29 AM
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conjures up the phrase 'shit or get off the pot.'

I hate that phrase. It's so disgusting. The ideal ultimatum would not be phrased in this manner.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:30 AM
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To me 'seven months and no I love you but let's hint about our future' conjures up the phrase 'shit or get off the pot.'

Sounds like you think there's a need for some sort of ultimate resolution.

There does seem to be something a little off in talking marriage/kids with someone you don't love... yet.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:31 AM
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Haven't you ever had the experience of watching as, the more you make overtures to a guy the more they back away, but when you stop and back away yourself, the same person is very interested and makes lots of overtures himself?!

No. I know it can be that way, but it hasn't been my experience with men. I think it's more helpful to note that that's one possibly dynamic to consider when you're trying to figure out what's going on with the other person.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:31 AM
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443: No, just a conversation. Which they've had. Are you guys seriously all envisioning this as 'you must love me by June 1st or I'm leaving' as opposed to 'we both need to be in love if this is going to go where you say you want it to go, I can understand that you're still figuring this out, but I'm not going to wait forever'? Did we all miss the part where it's an 'inner deadline'?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:31 AM
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y e


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:32 AM
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449: There was a deadline at 1.5 years mentioned somewhere above.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:35 AM
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107 says:

I told him. It's about 1.5 years together.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:37 AM
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445: This does sound complex, and the sort of situation where (at least in my mind) the explanation you just gave would seem far more satisfying than a careless, throwaway "I love you."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:38 AM
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Did we all miss the part where it's an 'inner deadline'?

Again, unless he's an idiot or she's got the affect of a toaster, the inner deadline isn't unsuspected by him.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:39 AM
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Ah, my bad. So she told him that eleven months (more than the entire relationship has been going on) from now if he's still dicking around with 'i see our future together, but I don't know if I'm in loooove,' she's probably not going to stick around. Gosh. How dreadfully unreasonable.

One should instead say nothing and either dump him having never said anything or pine steadfastly away until he turns into 88.1.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:41 AM
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Agree with 248 about ultimatums. (Maybe the discussion has already moved on, but fuck it, I don't wait to wait until I finish reading the thread if I have something to say about this part.) In an emotionless, out-of-context sense of the word, what Abigail is saying amounts to an ultimatum, sure. In the real world, though, the word "ultimatum" does have emotional baggage attached and has a context, and that context is negative and implies being manipulative and selfish and stuff.

So while a dictionary or an AI might call what Abigail said she did an "ultimatum," it's a really assholeish way to describe what sounds like an entirely reasonable thing for her to do in her situation.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:41 AM
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What do you have against toasters?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:42 AM
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My anxiety in AA's position would be wondering what in the hell he's continuing to date me for if he's not that crazy about me (in whatever terms you want to call it). There's little less flattering than being pretty sure your boyfriend is continuing to date you out of habit, boredom, or resignation. I would not want to be in a long-term relationship with someone who I didn't feel much for, but its a common enough phenomenon that people stay in relationships only because nothing better has come along and they hate being single. I think it's pretty reasonable for AA to at least ask, "If you don't love me, why are you staying in this relationship so long? Are you hoping that you might start to feel more for me, or are you just hanging out?" I have myself broken up with quite a few guys who admitted they were just sort of hanging out--not because I want a "commitment," but because I deserve to be with someone who actively wants to be with me, rather than someone who feels they're doing me a favor by putting up with me.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:42 AM
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452: Huh. I missed #107, so I missed "call my own bluff," which seems to suggest the recognition of a big decision to be made.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:43 AM
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That toaster is very perky.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:45 AM
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I have myself broken up with quite a few guys who admitted they were just sort of hanging out--not because I want a "commitment," but because I deserve to be with someone who actively wants to be with me, rather than someone who feels they're doing me a favor by putting up with me.

This is what I'd worry about most in this situation, too. It doesn't even have to be because the other person is hedging his bets until something better comes along. You can also wind up staying with someone because you tell yourself that, objectively, there really is no good reason not to love them and so you try to convince yourself that you do.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:48 AM
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I have myself broken up with quite a few guys who admitted they were just sort of hanging out--not because I want a "commitment," but because I deserve to be with someone who actively wants to be with me, rather than someone who feels they're doing me a favor by putting up with me. they'd rather be with me than alone.

There's no need for you to presume that the man in this situation has some sort of pity or disdain for you.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:48 AM
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What do you have against toasters?

"Toasters" is synecdoche. I hate all electric ovens.

How dreadfully unreasonable.

I'm not sure who has said it was unreasonable. I think Shearer even said it was (or might be) fine. I'm pretty sure I said it was very reasonable, as did a number of other people.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:49 AM
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I dumped a guy who I loved very much who told me he didn't find me attractive and didn't think he was in love any more (there was this cute undergrad), but didn't want to break up.

My answer was something along the lines of wow, you don't even have the stones to break up with me, but fuck you if you think I'm that kind of doormat.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:50 AM
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Or the even LESS uncharitable assumption, as presented in 461.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:51 AM
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Let me pose a question to the coupled-up among us: seven months -- did it really take that long to know?

I'm also interested in the binary and narrow nature of this thing. I would say that I love maybe 12-15 people right now, including parents, siblings, children, wife, friends. Obviously different kinds and degrees of love, but then even looking at the narrowest form, for the serial monogamists among us, would one really call the love for partner A the same as the love for partner B? Or is not each love as unique as the person loved, and the person (and I'm very different now than I was at 19) loving?

I can see why one would be politic about making statements about one's feelings, inasmuch as that might affect others. I certainly don't talk about this with the married-to-other-men women I love, or my wife, although it's not exactly the most mysterious thing in the universe. (I'll hasten to add that love isn't zero sum: my love for child no. 1 was in no way decreased by the arrival of child no. 2 . . .)


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:51 AM
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462 is exactly right. I've never understood it, but clearly for some people being in any relationship that isn't actively horrible is better/easier for them than being alone.

I think also for many people there is a long time between vaguely beginning to understand that your relationship isn't going to be what you hoped it would, and deciding that you have to do something about it. That, and the uncertainty of `this isn't working'. Especially if things are basically ok, so it's easy to second guess yourself.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:52 AM
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wondering what in the hell he's continuing to date me for if he's not that crazy about me

Suppose he never gets crazy about anybody. Dating you is, as far as he knows, as good as it gets. It seems insane to hold out for something you don't know to exist in your own repertoire of emotional response.


Posted by: 18th century suitor | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:52 AM
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I didn't think 461 was uncharitable at all.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:52 AM
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you tell yourself that, objectively, there really is no good reason not to love them and so you try to convince yourself that you do.

Ugh, ugh, ugh. I think it's very possible to be attracted to the idea of a person or a kind of relationship without actually being all that into the individual person. Misery all around!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:53 AM
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463: Yeah, there's this whole by 'ultimatum' I meant 'completely reasonable' thread mixed in with by 'ultimatum' I mean an action which is 'unwise', 'bullying', 'coercing' and 'threatening', all of which carry no connotations and should not be taken as evidence that I think she is doing anything wrong by issuing said ultimatum. (Also, if my advisor writes in my letter 'She is punctual and has excellent penmanship', I should not complain.) But I've said that already, and that's getting dull.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:53 AM
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464: Wow. What an asshat.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:54 AM
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I think it's very possible to be attracted to the idea of a person or a kind of relationship without actually being all that into the individual person.

Not only possible, as far as I can tell this is common.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:55 AM
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I didn't think 461 was uncharitable at all.

Maybe I should have said "MORE charitable" instead of "LESS uncharitable".

Ugh, ugh, ugh. I think it's very possible to be attracted to the idea of a person or a kind of relationship without actually being all that into the individual person. Misery all around!

Why would this lead to misery?

I mean...some people would rather not be alone than be alone. And obviously none of the geniuses here fits this description, but some people see most of their potential romantic partners as roughly interchangeable, whether because they have no strong interests or desires they expect a romantic partner to share, or for some other reason.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:56 AM
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Maybe I should have said "MORE charitable" instead of "LESS uncharitable".

Oh. Or maybe I should learn how to read and be less defensive... I thought it said "LESS charitable."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:59 AM
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some people would rather not be alone than be alone.

Also, many people hate change.

The relationship might be perfectly fine, but nothing special. Many people do not strive for fabulous. They either do not think that they deserve it or do not think that it is possible.

It only becomes a problem when trouble hits. (Very interesting other person or bad trouble bt the couple.)


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:59 AM
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462 is exactly right. I've never understood it, but clearly for some people being in any relationship that isn't actively horrible is better/easier for them than being alone.

Fine, I'll buy it. I guess I find relationships rather difficult, much more difficult than loneliness, and so there had better be something pretty wonderful about a relationship to make me want to keep it going beyond a month or so. I've never understood how being in a relationship is easier for anyone than being single, even without the benefits of a partner who makes them feel cared for, safe, stimulated, entertained, or whatever. Is it just about having a body there to talk to who's not just a friend?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 9:59 AM
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Suppose he never gets crazy about anybody. Dating you is, as far as he knows, as good as it gets. It seems insane to hold out for something you don't know to exist in your own repertoire of emotional response.

darn it. totally pwned by the 18th century.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:00 AM
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474: Because there's a good chance that the other person is with them because he or she is in love with them. And chances are the person who is 'this is not love, but I am honestly content' isn't, and what ends up happening (ime) is the person who thought they were content with not being in love finds someone they can fall in love with, or has that spark. Or the person who is in love and is somewhat committed to the idea of that meaning more than 'interchangeable woman part in life' figures that out, and either pines for more, or leaves.

And then the shit hits the fan.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:01 AM
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totally pwned by the 18th century.

Story of my life, Will.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:02 AM
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477: Well I don't get it either. But then I've always been perfectly happy[*] alone. Observationally, it seem to drive some people batty, and consume all of their energy. A friend once told me (paraphrased) : "The best thing about being in a relationship is having time to do your own things without constantly worrying about being in a relationship."

I told her she was an alien being.

[*] or no more miserable, you pick.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:03 AM
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477: some people don't feel comortable without a potential human shield in the event of a gun battle.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:05 AM
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Plus, not having to sit at the loser singles table at wedding receptions.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:07 AM
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And if things get really bad, a significant other is a potential source of food.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:07 AM
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479: This describes a pretty normal scenario. Maybe misery for a couple weeks, but inevitable.

The relationship might be perfectly fine, but nothing special. Many people do not strive for fabulous. They either do not think that they deserve it or do not think that it is possible.

It only becomes a problem when trouble hits. (Very interesting other person or bad trouble bt the couple.)

This was the story of my life for about eight years. I usually only detect that a woman may be interested in me about every two years or so. So when I detect such a thing, there's a pretty low bar of "me being attracted to her" which has to be crossed in order to contemplate becoming a couple. And there's little risk of the "finding someone else that I can actually fall in love with", because experience teaches that this happens rarely and may for all I know never happen again.

Of course, then I actually found someone I could fall in love with. Something that will probably never happen again.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:08 AM
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484: some people love their dogs.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:09 AM
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483: Not always. CA was a best man recently, and thus seated at the head table. I had to sit by myself with a whole passle of folks I knew not. Upside: I was drunk pretty quickly and who am I kidding, I'd talk to a tree stump.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:11 AM
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479 gets it right, or, in the case that both partners are just in it to have "a" relationship, as was the case with my ex's marriage (in which case it was sort of explicit---she said "I want to get married and have a baby, and you seem like someone to do that with" and he said, "I could do that") then it ends miserably when one partner finds someone they really get something out of being with. Of course, this is all great for Will's business. Marriages of convenience for all!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:11 AM
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Being single at wedding receptions is a blast. I have not been to a wedding reception since being married, but shivbunny doesn't like to dance, so it probably won't be as much fun.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:13 AM
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488: This is part of what's broken about marriage. The all-or-nothing approach plus a bunch of bullshit expectation building and frankly unrealistic goals lead to a lot of business for Will. No offence to Will, but a lot of that should be easily avoidable.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:13 AM
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Plus, not having to sit at the loser singles table at wedding receptions.

Why do people want dates to weddings? Going to a wedding by yourself is the best.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:15 AM
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489: you can dance with other people, right? So long as shivbunny has someone to talk to, it should be good.

People say the singles table(s) at a wedding are for `the losers' are bitter or confused. They're pretty much always the most fun, ime. Then again, I'm typically at weddings where I don't know many people anyway, so ymmv.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:16 AM
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Being single at wedding receptions is a blast.

pwned by Cala. hey, Cala, leave shiv at home for Ogged's wedding?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:16 AM
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The all-or-nothing approach plus a bunch of bullshit expectation building and frankly unrealistic goals lead to a lot of business for Will.

Well, mostly, it is having sex with other people. But, your comment is a somewhat close second.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:18 AM
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492: He wouldn't have a problem with it, but to be honest, I'm not sure, at the weddings I'm likely to attend, who I'd dance with since all of my friends went and got married. We're running out of singles.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:19 AM
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We're running out of singles.

Strangely enough, most of the single men in Cala's circle have died in explosions.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:21 AM
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Occupational hazard.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:23 AM
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495: Soundsly like you need only find a married friend whose partner doesn't dance.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:24 AM
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Well, mostly, it is having sex with other people. But, your comment is a somewhat close second.

I see `frankly unrealistic goals' wasn't clear enough.\.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:25 AM
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Kobe is happily married.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:27 AM
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Going to a wedding by yourself is the best.

While technically I had a date to my own wedding, I hardly saw him at all for the entire reception. And it the best!!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:29 AM
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He was dancing with Cala, wasnt he?!@?!? Hussy.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:32 AM
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Did you just call UNG a hussy, Will?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:33 AM
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UNG's been called worse. Probably on this blog.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:34 AM
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Don't worry, Sifu. He's been called worse.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:34 AM
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Again, I think the prototypical relationship ultimatum is "marry me or let's move on." I don't think of that as bullying. A surprising number of healthy marriages seem to result from it.

Martha didn't give me an ultimatum in so many words, but that's what it amounted to. It wasn't that I was uncertain about whether I loved her--I did--but that I wasn't really ready to give up the freedom (theoretical though it may have been) of legal singlehood.

In retrospect, I don't regret the way it worked out. We're still married and happily so. But both of us have had anxieties about "what it all meant" (her, because she had to wonder whether I really wanted to be married; and me, because I've had to question whether I would have come to the same decision absent the coercion).


Posted by: George Washington | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:35 AM
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Pwned! Don't I get dibs on snide UNG remarks or something?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:35 AM
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I hardly saw him at all for the entire reception.

As long as he didn't go home with someone else afterwards...


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:38 AM
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I wish!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:39 AM
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But both of us have had anxieties about "what it all meant" (her, because she had to wonder whether I really wanted to be married; and me, because I've had to question whether I would have come to the same decision absent the coercion).

George, if you decided to marry Martha and are happy you did so, why are you still anxious about this? And why don't you reassure her that you really did want to marry her?


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:40 AM
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I've had to question whether I would have come to the same decision absent the coercion

The fact that you choose to describe it as "coercion" is a bit disconcerting.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:46 AM
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George, if you decided to marry Martha and are happy you did so, why are you still anxious about this? And why don't you reassure her that you really did want to marry her?

I'm not anxious about it anymore. But in the time between the proposal and the first anniversary or so, I was.

I did reassure Martha that I really did want to marry her, and I tried to show her as well as tell her, but the anxiety unavoidably arose in her mind when we had conflicts, especially in the first year or so (and also in the months leading up to the wedding).


Posted by: Geo. Washington | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:47 AM
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jms:

I think it is very natural to wonder about whether you made the correct decision. I think we too often suggest that such a question means that you do not truly love the other person or that the relationship isnt important.

It is human nature to think "What the hell am I doing here?!?!?!?" [this is not my beautiful house....]

It only becomes problematic when you do not satisfactorily answer the question in a month or two.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:48 AM
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The fact that you choose to describe it as "coercion" is a bit disconcerting.

I thought about writing "compulsion", but "coercion" is more technically correct. In addition to redefining torture into meaninglessness, fucking GWB has imparted connotations to "coercive" that are far more perjorative than the original sense.


Posted by: Geo. Washington | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:50 AM
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You're supposed to be conflicted about getting married; every marriage has powerful pros and powerful cons (okay, there are some without powerful pros, but you get my meaning). If you aren't at least a little conflicted, you haven't thought it through well enough.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:51 AM
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Coercion:

"I'm breaking up with you if you do not marry me."

Maybe you just wanted to wait a little longer. I suspect that many people get married sooner than they want to as a compromise. The other person wants it now, you want to wait a little longer.

Isnt that what marriage is all about? Making yourself miserable so that someone else can have their way?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:53 AM
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If you aren't at least a little conflicted, you haven't thought it through well enough.

They never put this on the signs at the drive-through chapel.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:54 AM
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Similar process: I love my kids and certainly don't regret having them, but I do regret missing some of the opportunities that closed by having them. And I would argue that anybody who says differently about their own is being dishonest either with you or with themselves.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:54 AM
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Not to be all nitpicky, bit my quibble with "coercion" isn't so much with the torturous connotations as the implications it has on, for lack of a better word, agency. It might be helpful to both of you if you were to reframe it, "She pushed (encouraged?) me to really think about what I felt and what I wanted, and I have never regretted the decision I made."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:55 AM
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Folks, I take everything back. Continue to get married! If a lot of unemployed divorce lawyers are thrown out on the street, they will wreak utter havoc, instead of neutralizing one another. We can't let that happen.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:56 AM
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I agree that it's natural and typical to have doubts, but this:

I've had to question whether I would have come to the same decision absent the coercion

signalled that Geo. was having more than the usual ambivalence. As Di points out, "coercion" is a striking word choice -- to me, it sounded a bit passive-aggressive.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 10:58 AM
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I don't want to get married. If I feel differently in five years and someone convinces me that it's a good idea, then I will decide whether I've changed my mind. I'm not going to sit around disavowing the responsibility for the relationship for the rest of my life by saying "It wasn't my idea! I NEVER wanted to get married and he MADE me!" But I guess I'm a pretty decisive person; I can't imagine sitting around for years after the wedding thinking, "But it wasn't my idea! What if I didn't want to get married!" If you feel like you want to say no, just say no, goddamn it.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:03 AM
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AWB, just get married once for Will's sake.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:04 AM
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I don't want to get married.

I haven't asked you, AWB.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:04 AM
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522: Amen.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:05 AM
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I don't mean to be a bitch, but it does sound like George is saying that he never got the chance to discover whether he wanted marriage because his wife ruined it by bringing it up first. Really? Never thought about it, ever, whether you might want to be a married person? It was the first you'd ever thought about the concept? How do you think women feel, that we're never supposed to ever make any sort of assertion in a relationship, because we're supposed to assume that men, like, just don't think about what they want from life, ever? Or are we supposed to assume that women do all the thinking about what we want, and men do all the asking us what we think about what we want?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:10 AM
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Of course, some of this gets thrown out of whack by the guy-proposes-paradigm, because instead of just saying, "George, will you marry me?" Martha has to say, "I want you to propose to me," which contributes to George feeling "coerced" into a proposal, which is somewhat anticlimactic in the way it's just a little less exciting opening that birthday present that you picked out for yourself.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:19 AM
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by the guy-proposes-paradigm

Another of the many broken things about it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:20 AM
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As Di points out, "coercion" is a striking word choice -- to me, it sounded a bit passive-aggressive.

To me, it sounds normal. (Which, I suppose, still allows for it to be passive aggressive.) Someone forces a decision; that's coercion. It's not necessarily bad--many, many people have to be forced to make decisions; I'd be astonished if there are people who have no areas of their lives where this is true--and people often make good decisions when forced to do so. It would be nice if there were some easy formula for arriving one's truest heart's desires, but, to the best of my knowledge, there isn't one.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:22 AM
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I think it's sounding like it's in the past, like he wondered for a while whether in another possible world, he asked her to marry him five months later, or they eventually broke up, or something. But not something that's actively eating at him now.

I'd put it more strongly than apo: getting married means, in theory, agreeing to put up with another person for the rest of your life. And they have to put up with you. It's not the powerful good bits and the powerful bad bits. It's mostly the little annoyances, the little habits that drive you crazy, which everyone has, unless they're a saint.

And what are saints? Virgin martyrs, mostly.

Being conflicted is just being reasonable.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:22 AM
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And what are saints? Virgin martyrs, mostly.

This response, I'm betting, isn't kosher for catechism.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:26 AM
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Martha has to say, "I want you to propose to me," which contributes to George feeling "coerced" into a proposal, which is somewhat anticlimactic in the way it's just a little less exciting opening that birthday present that you picked out for yourself.

I think gets at what has been irritating me: there is some sense, both with Adams and Washington, that there's a right way to do this, and that pushing is somehow improper. It's seems parallel to couples being embarrassed to have met online because it doesn't match the picture of the right way to meet someone significant. It seems as if there might be some confusion between "cute" and "necessary."


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:28 AM
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Silly ben, the catechism doesn't have to be kosher.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:28 AM
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it does sound like George is saying that he never got the chance to discover whether he wanted marriage because his wife ruined it by bringing it up first.

No, this is a misreading of what I meant when I said I questioned whether I would have made the same decision. The reality is that I look back on that episode and thank my lucky stars that Martha forced the issue when she did, because the alternative is that I might have missed the chance.


Posted by: George Washington | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:32 AM
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Tim is probably also a solipsistic anarchist radical individualist for whom separation and domination are the two possible relationships, and for who any self-assertion is bullying, coercion, and/ or manipulation. But that's good! The only way it can be!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:46 AM
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I've had many married people give me the "you just know" line, claiming inner certainty about who and when to marry. Sounds like the coupled types here don't believe in that?

the little annoyances, the little habits that drive you crazy, which everyone has, unless they're a saint.

If you read the lives of saints, including modern secular ones like Gandhi, etc., it's clear that they are actually *way more annoying* than your average ordinary person.

I've never understood how being in a relationship is easier for anyone than being single, even without the benefits of a partner who makes them feel cared for, safe, stimulated, entertained, or whatever. Is it just about having a body there to talk to who's not just a friend?

Imagination failure, AWB? Some people are just natural couple types. When they squabble and complain, they'd rather do it about another person than internally, about themselves.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:47 AM
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Sounds like the coupled types here don't believe in that?

Yeah, I don't buy it. The only people I know who've claimed that sort of certainty are the same sort who'll tell you that they knew `X was the one' because God told them.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:49 AM
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I've had many married people give me the "you just know" line, claiming inner certainty about who and when to marry. Sounds like the coupled types here don't believe in that?

I thought I did, but I was wrong.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:50 AM
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(And no, God didn't tell me. In fact, God has since repeatedly emphasized, "That is not what I said!")


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:52 AM
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Oh yeah, it's not just the religious types I've heard say this. There are three groups, in my experience:

1) God told me he/she was the one.
2) I used to think so. That asshole.
3) The very young.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:53 AM
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540: I am not convinced that 2 and 3 are distinct groups -- just the same group at different stages...


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:56 AM
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I am not convinced that 2 and 3 are distinct groups -- just the same group at different stages...

Neither am I.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:57 AM
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Back to one of the questions from the beginning of the thread, what exactly is dating? Specifically, how does dating differ from seeing?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 11:59 AM
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Tim is probably also a solipsistic anarchist radical individualist for whom separation and domination are the two possible relationships

Tim is convinced that relationships, like the people that form them, are pretty fluid, and that forcing an important decision doesn't mean all relations are forced, or that force goes in only one direction on important decisions, etc. Maybe more, Tim is convinced that relationships are complicated and hard to reduce to something endlessly appealing. And yet, on balance, they are very good things.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:01 PM
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Specifically, how does dating differ from seeing?

I think the whole terminology has become vague.

Fwiw though, I've been in more than one social group where `seeing' implied exclusivity that `dating' didn't.

But then I ran into one where the meaning was exactly opposite and gave the whole thing up for a dead loss.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:01 PM
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You're all wrong about Tim, Tim. Trust me.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:01 PM
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The future Mrs. Coolidge, with whom I was living at the time, advised me that I would agree by a specific date about three months hence to marry her, or she would move out.

Now, marriage was okay with me. The only reason I hadn't already asked was that I didn't see any urgency about getting married.

However, I didn't want our marriage to be perceived as the result of her ultimatum. So my plan was to let it slide for a few weeks, and more-or-less pretend to come up with the idea on my own.

Well, Mrs. Coolidge was having none of it. She reminded me quite frequently that I had a deadline, and that she would be moving out. I kept putting her off. I told her, for instance, that moving out didn't seem like a good idea, because I was covering the rent on our place, and I didn't think I could afford to pay rent on two places. She was only somewhat amused.

Anyway, my birthday came up in the interim period, and I asked her to marry me as a birthday present. She was annoyed that it took so long, but accepted my explanation.


Posted by: Calvin Coolidge | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:03 PM
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More grist for the Mineshaft. It looks sort of boring.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:04 PM
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I'm with Tim as far as Tim's judgments of Tim's sense of Tim's attitudes, whatever those judgments should turn out to be. For Tim-on-Tim guidance I always look Timwards.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:05 PM
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For me, "dating" is early stage "getting to know you" territory. "Seeing" is the stage after that where you are actively contemplating a "relationship." "Relationship" is where you are sufficiently coupled that you no longer stop to worry about whether [you brushed your teeth/are wearing nice underwear/s/he'll call].


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:05 PM
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I am sick to death worrying about s. I swear.

For Tim-on-Tim guidance I always look Timwards.

Sifu understands first-person authority.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:06 PM
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I just can't understand worrying about s.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:11 PM
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Gonerill mentioned upthread about competing narratives about love, and it's even more true once you are contemplating getting married. You'll know when it's the one, and there is one person for you; but love is a lot of work. And there's a set of practically ritualized answers one is expected to give, e.g., the answer to 'when you saw him, did you just know?' is not 'not really.' No wonder every one is confused.

My sense of dating vs. seeing is like Di's.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:18 PM
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I see nothing conflicting about the narratives. Love is a lot of work, so you want to be sure in your gut that you have found the right person to work together on it with. Sometimes, it is possible to be sure of these things and be wrong, sometimes it is possible to be unsure of these things and still make it work.

Zip, zap, nothing up my sleeves: comity!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:22 PM
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Sifu is gullible and easily swayed, but we love him for the endearing qualities characteristic of his breed.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:22 PM
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the answer to 'when you saw him, did you just know?' is not 'not really.'

Except it probably is, most of the time. How much of this stuff is people using the easy societally blessed path of avoiding difficult introspection?

If people tell you something was `the most important decision of your life', do you really want to sit yourself down and figure out if you screwed it up or not? Or if that construction even makes sense? Barring unavoidable evidence, of course. But even then, many would rather not look.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:22 PM
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I've had many married people give me the "you just know" line, claiming inner certainty about who and when to marry. Sounds like the coupled types here don't believe in that?

554 is right. Like Di, I certainly felt that way about my first marriage. And, I can report, this works with divorce, too. When it's right, you just know.

Even in retrospect, I don't see how I could have avoided that marriage, so I still see a certain sort of inevitability in it. I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader as to whether this is romantic or not.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:25 PM
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||

McCain will still be getting his hugs, even if he criticizes Bush a teentsy bit.

|>


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:26 PM
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And, I can report, this works with divorce, too. When it's right, you just know.

Heh. Though, to bring this full circle, some people need a little push to "force" the decision.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:28 PM
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some people need a little push to "force" the decision.

sure, but people don't like change. Also, typically people are bad at computing short term vs. long term trade-offs (see, oh, anyone you know for examples)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:29 PM
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561

543: soup is probably right that it's vague and variable, but if I had to draw lines, here's how I'd do it:
• Dating: most if not all the interactions with a person you're dating are at date-type events -- movies, dinner, or something else you generally don't often do either solo or with a group.
• Seeing: It sounds more casual than "dating," which actually means it's a more involved and committed relationship, because you're getting together with the person during the day, with no particular agenda, maybe with little notice, whatever.
• In a relationship: you're living together, or if you aren't it's just because of convenience or long-term leases or a preference for personal space, not because you couldn't see yourself living with that particular person.
• Schtupping: there's not much commitment or emotional investment in it, but you're having sex on a regular basis and you want people to know about it.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:38 PM
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562

And there's a set of practically ritualized answers one is expected to give

Before we got engaged, whenever people would ask my ex or me when we were going to get married, we'd always answer, with a straight face, "As soon as we meet the right people."

Less funny in retrospect.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:38 PM
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563

but you're having sex on a regular basis and you want people to know about it.

I've heard there are entire sections of the interwebs dedicated to this.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:40 PM
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564

you just know

Sure. Also choosing to stay married or not during bad times is always crystal clear.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:44 PM
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565

Martha has to say, "I want you to propose to me"

Aaagh. Remind me, when is this whole feminism thing supposed to happen?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:47 PM
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566

565: The next generation. It's always the next generation.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:48 PM
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567

"Relationship" is where you are sufficiently coupled that you no longer stop to worry about whether [you brushed your teeth/are wearing nice underwear

Then you stop worrying about looks and charm entirely, and then you get divorced.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:51 PM
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568

Except it probably is, most of the time.

Evidence suggests this is not a good response to give one's immediate relatives.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:52 PM
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569

562: less funny to you, maybe.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:52 PM
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570

Evidence suggests this is not a good response to give one's immediate relatives.

I don't think any of my immediate relatives would even think to ask that question.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:54 PM
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571

570: "when you saw her, did you just know she would speak to you, eventually?"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:55 PM
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572

I'll second 570. Cala, did people actually expect you to profess love at first sight?


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:56 PM
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573

Evidence suggests this is not a good response to give one's immediate relatives..

See, that's why you don't even tell them you're going to do it, until afterward. Or maybe the day before.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:56 PM
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574

People are quite stupid in the run up to a wedding.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:57 PM
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575

See, that's why you don't even tell them you're going to do it, until afterward. Or maybe the day before.

Aargh. A friend of mine is having problems with this right now. Plans for a simple elopement ruined by telling her mom!


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:58 PM
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576

Then you stop worrying about looks and charm entirely, and then you get divorced.

Aaaaaaagghhhhh! I hate when people say this. Shortly after I filed, this guy was pleasantly flirting with me, telling me how great I looked, etc., then added a comment about how people always really make an effort to look good when they are single again, after years of not bothering because they were married. I was like, "Dude, I looked this good when I was married, too!"


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 12:59 PM
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577

Plans for a simple elopement ruined by telling her mom!

Has her mom put her under house arrest, then?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:00 PM
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578

I'm shocked, shocked you would say such a thing Cala. You mean weddings don't bring out the best in everyone? You may cause me to recalibrate my faith in human beings. Or else just remain really happy we skipped that part.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:00 PM
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579

575: Time for the double-secret fake elopement plan to cover up the real elopement.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:01 PM
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580

Aargh. A friend of mine is having problems with this right now. Plans for a simple elopement ruined by telling her mom!

That's why my first option was tell them afterwards. Only do the day before thing if you're sure you can make it stick and not break down under maternal pressure or whatever.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:01 PM
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581

||
Spiderman to the rescue!
|>


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:01 PM
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582

581 to 575.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:03 PM
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583

Time for the double-secret fake elopement plan to cover up the real elopement.

Awesome. You, little sister, fake left! You two, fake right! Where's that j.o.p ?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:04 PM
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584

That's why my first option was tell them afterwards.

Exactly. The problem is not that the mom is trying to stop it, but rather that she's hellbent on being here for it now. Causing logistical headaches which, while not on the magnitude of a full-on wedding, are still headachier than the original plan.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:06 PM
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585

||
Does it ever occur to you lot that there is such a thing as too much refreshing of unfogged?
|>


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:06 PM
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586

Does it ever occur to you lot that there is such a thing as too much refreshing of unfogged?

I don't think so, no, but you can always give the bot a shot. Again.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:09 PM
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587

too much refreshing of unfogged

Insufficient refreshing of Unfogged leads to that not-so-fresh feeling.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:10 PM
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588

Let's keep the pointless digression about "ultimatums" going a little longer, 456: So while a dictionary or an AI might call what Abigail said she did an "ultimatum,"

You know how dictionaries are made? It's by fair-sized teams of people sifting various contemporary media to get an idea of current usage. AFAICS they still enjoy more authority on the question of what current usage actually connotes than the very strong feelings of Some Dude In A Comments Thread. So, double asshole on you.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:17 PM
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589

Aaaaaaagghhhhh! I hate when people say this. Shortly after I filed, this guy was pleasantly flirting with me, telling me how great I looked, etc., then added a comment about how people always really make an effort to look good when they are single again, after years of not bothering because they were married. I was like, "Dude, I looked this good when I was married, too!"

Simple. Now the spark of life has been restored to your eyes, not to mention the spring to your step.


Posted by: Ardent reader | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:20 PM
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590

Plans for a simple elopement ruined by telling her mom!

Well, if the would-be spouses told one of the parents, then I'm pretty sure the wedding either would get ruined or would no longer be an elopement.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:20 PM
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591

So, double asshole on you.

If Cyrus gave one of his assholes to DS, they'd both have one.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:20 PM
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592

I ULTIMATON REJECT YOUR PUNY HUMAN DEFINITIONS. THERE IS ONE ULTIMATUM: MINE! AND ALL SHALL BE MARRIED TO A HOLY BRIDE OF CLEANSING FIRE -- OR DIE! WAIT, NOT 'OR'. ULTIMATON MEANS ALL DIE!


Posted by: ULTIMATON THE ULTIMATUMER | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:22 PM
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593

I think ultimaton meant "and", not "all". Stupid robots from the future.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:23 PM
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594

Erm, I could be wrong, and there are ample academics around to tell me if I am, but isn't denotation what those dictionary writing people have "authority" on and connotation pretty much determined by cultural consensus? Including opinionated commenters...

Also, I don't think Websters specifically weighed in on the classification of AA's relationship discussion.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:23 PM
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595

SHUT UP, YOU.


Posted by: ULTIMATON THE ULTIMATUMER | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:23 PM
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596

I think Ultimaton meant 595 to go to 593.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:24 PM
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597

STOP TELLING ME WHAT I FEEL, DAD.


Posted by: ULTIMATON THE ULTIMATUMER | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:25 PM
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598

I'm taking it personally anyway. Because it's all about meeeee!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:25 PM
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599

Or else what?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:25 PM
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600

594: a responsible lexicographer will record the current, and past, connotations, surely!

It wouldn't be the entry for "fuck" if it didn't have "(vulg.)".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:26 PM
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601

STOP TELLING YOUR SON WHAT TO FEEL OR THIS RELATIONSHIP IS GOING TO BE FACING SOME TROUBLE.


Posted by: OPINIONATED MECHAFEMBOT | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:26 PM
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602

I COULD JUST LEAVE, HOW ABOUT THAT? I WILL, TOO, IF YOU DON'T LEAVE ME ALONE AND BUY ME THOSE MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE TICKETS.


Posted by: ULTIMATON THE ULTIMATUMER | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:28 PM
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603

591: And what a relief that will be, let me tell you. Fecal vomiting isn't as much fun as it sounds.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:29 PM
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You know how dictionaries are made? It's by fair-sized teams of people sifting various contemporary media to get an idea of current usage. AFAICS they still enjoy more authority on the question of what current usage actually connotes than the very strong feelings of Some Dude In A Comments Thread.

I don't see how this disagrees with 456. What AA is saying is an ultimatum. But calling it that in this situation -- someone is trying to wrestle with their own feelings and figure out what kind of future is possible with her significant other, etc. -- is being an asshole. In this, I guess I disagree with the second paragraph of 271, but oddly enough, not the other three.

I'd say more, but I'm running late. Sorry. Although I guess brevity would be good for me anyway.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:35 PM
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605

I guess I just don't see how calling it something that it is is asshole-ish. This would only be true if the word did in fact have heavily negative connotations. Callying it "bullying," "threatening" and "manipulative" is asshole-ish, but not the same thing.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:49 PM
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606

Fecal vomiting isn't as much fun as it sounds.

No kidding. I guess there was really no way it could have lived up to the hype.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 1:53 PM
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584: Right. Hence `the day before' which was really shorthand for `a time, varying on distance, which makes it completely impossible that anyone can travel to the event, but still gets you out of dealing with `how could you do that without telling us!'. For some, a day. For others, mere minutes from an anonymous pay phone, preferably to voicemail.

This works very well, fwiw.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 2:15 PM
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606: Right, what do these three things have in common:

Fecal vomiting.
Marriage Heterosexuality that thing with the cup True Love.
Snakes on a Plane.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 3:14 PM
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609

i was wondering what elsemore could be said on the topic
i'm not sure about the snakes, but all are kinda sicknesses?


Posted by: rdea | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 3:26 PM
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605:
I guess I just don't see how calling it something that it is is asshole-ish. This would only be true if the word did in fact have heavily negative connotations. Callying it "bullying," "threatening" and "manipulative" is asshole-ish, but not the same thing.

"Does this dress make me look fat?" Forgive the analogy and the heteronormativity, but it's entirely possible for the answer to that question to be true while still being an asshole-ish thing to come right out and say.

And not to split hairs (who am I kidding? Splitting hairs is why I'm here!), but while I'm not married to the idea of "heavily negative connotations," I do think "ultimatum" has some negative connotations, as was stated in 212-214 and replied to in the following comments.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 4:14 PM
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611

"Does this dress make me look fat?"

"Full-figured," "Rubinesque" and "How are we defining 'fat'" are all wrong answers to this question, aren't they?

Never said I was good at the sensitivity thing, per se.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 6:28 PM
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612

The first Ultimaton comment had me hoping there was something interesting to be found at "cutoverload.com", but alas.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05- 5-08 8:35 PM
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613

"Full-figured," "Rubinesque" and "How are we defining 'fat'" are all wrong answers to this question, aren't they?

Best to stick to "It doesn't do you justice".


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 05- 6-08 8:36 AM
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