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The girl sitting across from me on the subway was an exact replica of me at fourteen years old: chubby face, disobediently curly hair, a slim body struggling to develop and a slightly rowdy innocence that would one day cause some trouble. She looked so much like me I had to do a double take, convinced a miniaturized version of me was within arm’s reach.

I may have gone on without giving the matter much thought, except that there was something even more me-ish about the girl than her plump cheeks. She was pining away over a boy who apparently was giving her the run around. Moreover, she was testing the limits of friendship by giving the pal next to her every minute detail of their last conversation.

Me much?

The boy had told the girl to stop calling him. He didn’t want to talk to anyone right now. He wasn’t replying to any of her texts or returning her calls. Every so often, she’d call late, sometimes after midnight, and was surprised when he wasn’t home.

Fourteen-Year-Old Me was confused. Older Me knew there were only a few causes for such behavior and they all revolved around other girls, lack of interest and overall jerkiness.

“He says he can’t handle a relationship right now,” the girl told her friend. “He’s worried about his mom and he has to get a job.”

The girl lifted her chest and proudly said, “And I was like, ‘you expect me to wait for you?’”

Older Me hoped either the guy fell to her feet in tears or she gave him the grand heave ho.

“’He told me, ‘no.’ So I asked, ‘do you want me to?’”

It took everything in me not to take the girl by the shoulders and shake her senseless. “Get some strength in those knees and stiffen that spine. You cave to this creep and you’ve got years of male crap to put up with. Get out now!”

“Honestly, Mary, I don’t know,” the girl continued. “I was like, ‘I can be your girlfriend and support you through this.’”

No, you can’t, I thought, trying to use mental telepathy to communicate with her. You can’t because he doesn’t want you to. Or someone else is his support. Or he doesn’t have a problem, he’s just making up bull malarkey because he’s afraid to cut the cord.

“I was like, ‘I’ll be waiting for your call.’ He didn’t call me, so I called him.”

You just earned another year of lessons from the Relationship School from Hell.

“He was on the phone with his cousin.”

Yeah, right.

“He kept crying and crying and I was like, ‘I’m right here for you.’”

Man, was this girl tugging at my heart strings. How many times have I begged some big wounded boy to let me love him? In fact, nearly every female I know has blubbered to me about some damaged soul who won’t let her heal his pain. Few things are as confusing to women as men who turn away love and support.

I wasn’t angry at the apple of Fourteen-Year-Old Me’s eye. Sure, guys like him can be selfish and plain mean. But they’re just snot-nosed little boys and it’s up to the women who adore them to cut their losses when the writing’s on the wall.

Unfortunately, it can take decades before a woman learns to stop hanging on to dead end love. I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me, but will confess to making tons of stupid decisions, dating scads of nincompoops and coming face to face with lots of not so pretty truths about my own inner workings. Most importantly, it took the real love of a couple good men to show me true connection isn’t something you have to beg someone to share with you.

I wanted to tell Fourteen-Year-Old Me to let this cad go and avoid love she has to wrestle to the ground. Spare her the agony of heartbreak or an on/off affair with someone who only kinda likes her. But like every hard lesson, you’ve got to learn it on your own.

All I could do was give her a smile that said, ‘you’ve got a long, hard journey ahead. But you’ll get there.’

She probably didn’t grasp my message. But maybe she will in twenty years, when her own Mini Me sits across from her on a train.

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nicknameMy friends and I have recently noticed most of the men in our lives are nameless.  Undoubtedly, they have names, we just refuse to use them.  Melissa’s current crush we call Mr. Arm Toucher because their romance thus far consists mainly of his touching her arm when they pass in the cafeteria at work.  Janine’s last couple dates were with Annoying Tea Sipper, while I keep complaining about running into The Lip Smacker on the street. 

 

What a hoot it’s been to find the most salient feature of our love interests’ characters and slap on a nickname.  “How’s Expensive Watch Collection?”  We’ll ask each other.  “Any word from Drinks Milk With Straw?”

 

But then our friend Kim had to ruin it all when she started dating a man she called Doug.

 

“What, like Dig Dug?”  Melissa asked.  “I loved that video game.”

 

“Or like Dug a Hole?”  Janine asked.  “Is he a ditch digger?”

 

“No,” Kim said, sanctimoniously.  “Doug, as in his name is Doug.  Grow up, will you?”

 

Seeing as how Melissa had just ended things with Quotes ‘80s Lyrics, and Janine was awaiting a call from The Peruvian, this whole first-name-basis thing was not computing.

 

Kim was being a bit persnickety, but she did have a point.  The women I know in relationships are in them with men named Dave, Shawn or the occasional Phillip.  Most single women I know are in and out of flings with guys called Anchorman Haircut or The Rash.  Single gals like to tell themselves nicknames help distinguish between the endless succession of suitors coming through their doors.  But the truth is we’re all just afraid of death.

 

Not literal death.  I’m talking about the tiny deaths a single woman suffers each time some potentially fabulous fellow strolls into her life only to be escorted back out by some powerful external force – his hang-ups, his lack of interest, his wife.  What dies is the dream our fair lady has already woven around her suitor, the spot in her heart which houses a place that great lover of the twentieth century Bill Clinton once called…hope.

 

Single women who have been solo long enough fight a constant battle against the belief that their romantic circumstances are unalterable.  Nowadays, potential mates come and go so quickly, most women are near militaristic in their attempts to stay on their guard.  Why get attached to someone you know won’t stick around?  So single women do what farmer kids do when they get a new goat: call it The Goat.  Name it, and you’re toast come slaughter time.

 

Kim claimed to be calling Doug by his real name because she didn’t want to be reminded of the ridiculousness of her previous choices.  To her, a quick perusal of the nicknames given her conquests – The Hot DJ, The Hot Bartender, The Hot 22-year old – made clear why she was still single.  The only salient feature she could come up with to describe Doug was Just Plain Awesome, which was the reason she wanted to let down her guard and give the guy a chance. 

 

Referring to a crush by name feels like a risk, like a commitment.  We’re committing to officially wanting the guy and putting our trust in love and in our chances of actually getting it.  Naming a crush is an act of faith.  Dag nab it, we’re saying, I wanna believe in this one.

 

Of course, if it doesn’t work out, a gal can always go back to calling her crush by his obvious nickname: Please Don’t Break My Heart.

 

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sex-blogEveryone wants to know what makes gals tick.  Universities do research, glossy magazines do surveys and Mel Gibson stops making Jesus-flogging films long enough to star in a movie declaring what women want.  Apparently, female sexuality is some elusive enigma, a riddle of biological labyrinths as profound and unknowable as God Herself.

 

An article in last month’s New York Times drew many fascinating conclusions about female desire, mostly centering on the premise that women are just a bunch of voyeuristic floozies.  In one cited study, both men and women were presented with images of straight sex, male and female homosexual sex and…Bonobo chimpanzee sex.  Straight dudes only watched the girls.  Contrarily, women got randy watching everybody do it, including the, um, apes. 

 

Which begs the question: Why would anyone pay a university researcher to watch people watch monkeys screw?  Are there not diseases to cure and ozone holes to sew shut?  

 

These studies suggested women are open to varied forms of sexual expression because our sexuality is a discordant medley of physiological and psychological notes.  Supposedly, men are more basic.  As long as they see naked boobies and have their parts touched, they’re happy as clams.   

 

But is this all men want?  According to the guys on February’s Man Panel, not even slightly.

 

The panelists’ desires were as diverse as their personalities.  Some said their hearts needed to be as stirred as their loins when doing the deed, others not so much.  Some believed sex on the first date cancels out the possibility of true love, others thought no time line offers guarantees.  Two wanted a woman with only a few notches on her bedpost, the rest felt better-suited to a gal whose bedpost could double as a Jackson Pollack painting. 

 

Like women, the panelists said, men can develop feelings for their “friends with benefits” and feel hurt when no relationship evolves.  They’re also just as worried about their lovers liking their bodies.  And get this.  Guys can fake the big-O.  Seems they sometimes lose steam, lose interest or just feel sorry for the poor gal laboring over them to no avail. 

 

In other words, male desire is neither simple nor fixed. 

 

The women in the audience were brimming with questions.  How should a woman swivel her hips when she’s on top?  What toys do you want to find in her bedroom?  What celebrity would you like to see train your woman in the ways of knockin’ boots?  In other words, what do we have to be, look like and do in order for you to want us? 

 

The men were befuddled. 

 

“It’s a problem to mimic someone else’s style without developing your own,” said one panelist.  “Women who are good lovers don’t back off from their own sexuality, they understand who they are as sexual beings.  So ask yourself, ‘what are the things you like, what titillates you, what makes you curious, what terrifies you?’”

Be authentic, the guys said.  Listen.  Respond.  If something feels good to you, it would probably feel good to him.  Sure, you could pout like Angelina Jolie and re-enact the entire script of Debbie Does Dallas.  But sexiness is something you can’t fake.  Besides, it only gets you so far. 

 

“The physical usually doesn’t have staying power,” said another panelist.  “It might do me well the first time we sleep together.  But I need something more to pull me back.”

 

And therein lies the rub.  If there’s anything the Man Panel has taught us thus far it’s this: when a guy digs a woman, she really can do no wrong.  And if he digs you, it’s because the two of you are compatible in lots of ways, including between the sheets.  Whether it’s putting out “too soon” or not swiveling your hips to porn star perfection, an emotionally invested guy will make it work. 

And anything you do will make him go ape.

 

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