Sara Lynn Michener


My Dinner’s on Me, and Here’s Why


Dear Sara,

In online dating, who pays for dinner when you finally meet?

First, let’s define what a date is and is not.

Ours is a culture in which many a 20-something will admit to never having been out on a single traditional date. Meeting someone in a bar, where one might express interest in buying you a drink, is both an act of old fashioned gentility, and new-fashioned, crude efficiency, depending on the manner in which the gift is offered. Dinner might not come into the picture until you’ve already become lovers. Or perhaps you’ve met a friend of a friend at a party and are hitting it off with them, ending the party with a kiss or more. That’s not a date either.

One of the appeals of online dating is that it feels ironically old fashioned once the laptops have been left at home and you find yourself sitting across a table, peering into the pupils of a would-be beautiful stranger. The most common phrase on the average online dating profile is “I’m tired of the bar scene.” Without the internet, it’s really difficult to date traditionally. It requires the right environment; it requires both men and women to ditch the unwritten social systems we have established for ourselves by default, and actively approach someone with the intent of asking them to dinner, a movie, or on a walk around town. In other words, a date is a formal expression, the enactment of a specific activity bound by a specific time and place, involving just the two of you.

That said, dating culture is so very much all over the map, there are no official rules as to who pays for dinner. I have met a few girls who insist that men should pay because “it’s how they were raised.” When they describe it as such, they insist on adopting the sense of it being a class issue, not a patriarchal one (which is the same thing if you think about it). A few men of the same breed have also stated that they could “never let a woman pay for dinner.” But I find this attitude hardly complimentary to the female sex: It stinks of the utterly average, princess-laden, Disney Store consumerist, little-girl upbringing, rather than those of American would-be debutantes. Real ladies have something in their purses other than lipstick.

I went on a date once with a man who insisted that the woman “at least blow smoke up his ass,” explaining he prefers that she offer to pay though he has no intention of allowing it. I replied that when I offer to pay, it is because I intend to pay. It was our first date, and we nearly fought about it. I didn’t like the image he was painting, of the girl who disingenuously offers to pay merely because she is expected to offer. Feminism is about, among other things, not raising little girls to say “yes” when they mean “no” or vice versa. This starts at the dinner table.

Oh, a relevant side note: The link between established couples fighting about money, and divorce rates, is well documented. In certain cases, these people no doubt got married under certain assumptions about money that didn’t pan out for either party. If a man pays for a woman’s dinner, on a primitive, evolutionary level, she’s more likely to assume that he’ll continue paying for anything else she might need, and in the worst case, build the entire relationship on that foundation. So the next time you split the check on an awesome first date, you’re not only adding to the health of the overall relationship at that time, but to the health of the relationship, potentially 10 years down the line.

Personally, I always offer to pay precisely my share, and I always mean it when I do, except under certain circumstances. When a man makes a thousand times what I make to the effect that it would make me feel ridiculous to offer, I let him pay. When a man ordered so many more drinks than I, and the check cannot be split evenly, I let him pay if he offers. If he declares he is paying for dinner in a respectful, nonthreatening way that doesn’t make the quills on my feminist crest flare up, I will let him. This doesn’t mean that I expect men to figure out how I want them to ask. I am merely confessing that I can be seduced into it by the right attitude. These men have powers of gentility which are the same whether they are offering to pay for a male friend or a female friend. In this case, the man has made me so comfortable with his presence in general, and treated me as his guest so genuinely throughout the entire dinner, that he manages to convey the sense that paying really is his pleasure. It doesn’t happen very often. (And again, that’s quite all right — among other reasons: I think men ought to be able to date without having to double their dining out budget to accommodate it.)

In closing, splitting the bill down the middle is a safe, comfortable and democratic dating method, and if and when it comes to it, if he gets a bit pushy later that night outside your door, you’ll have that extra bit of self-respect leftover. Incidentally, I’ve never heard of a man who felt pressured to have sex with a woman because she bought him a bowl of pho two hours prior. Anyway, please be aware of the culture you live in and how easy it is to fall into unpleasant role-playing. I know too many girls with a fragile sense of self-respect. The fact sometimes is, when he pays, there is an expectation-elephant in the room that wasn’t there when the date began. If you don’t have the Princess Power to remain fixed to your post-date evening plans regardless of who pays, you’d best pay for your own dinner.

That said, I have read about many women who are using dating as a way to eat in this economy, which blows my mind. If you have the cheek to do this regularly, I suspect you also have the cheek to make sure it has no effect upon your sex life. Otherwise, please go fetch yourself a package of ramen noodles while I donate another $15 to Planned Parenthood.

Got a dating-related question? Write to: [email protected]

Breakup Badge: Rejection’s an Accomplishment?


Dear Sara,

The same pattern keeps repeating. I meet someone online, we spend weeks or months talking. We talk on the phone, we email, we Skype — he tells me how awesome I am, how I’m just what he’s looking for. We go on one date, maybe two, and I never hear from him again. I’m starting to take this personally. How can I know what I’m doing wrong when these guys won’t tell me why they suddenly lose all interest?

Here’s the thing about online dating: The actual dating isn’t supposed to happen online. It can, if both parties are really good at writing or some other form of remote communication, but ultimately there is NO reason why you ought to be waiting several weeks or months to meet
someone in person, unless he lives in a different state or continent. Meet him or her in a public place as soon as you feel safe enough to do so, yet curious enough to make it worth your time. Why? Because an ounce of experiential data is worth a terabyte of pictures, video, and email. If you’re already attached to someone you haven’t met, chances are you’ve waited too long, and both of you are setting yourselves up for some sort of delayed disappointment. (Unless, of course, you share the mutual chemistry you hope for.)

There is more to meeting in person than simply verifying that a person looks like their pictures. So much, that we’ve only scratched the surface of the science behind it. Consider it nature’s overly complicated way of making sure genes are distributed widely. We have a population of seven billion now. I personally love being picky: The way a person holds themselves, the way they smell even when they are clean, etc. If you’ve ever rejected someone yourself, and I hope you have, you’ve got to give humanity the right to reject you as well, carte blanche. Physical attraction is important to all of us in different ways. We’re all affected by it, but we all translate it or describe it differently, in part because we all want different things at different times, and even the most self-aware person is still only half sure of what they want. In a sense, all dating is blind dating. We play chess with each other. We hide our faults — sometimes we’re hiding our best features. We reveal our strengths, strengths which we adore about ourselves, yet can easily turn others off. If you think about it, there is a certain romantic justice to the whole process. There are no algorithms yet powerful enough to make Person A love Person B.

Here’s hoping that you arm yourself in the future against false expectations by meeting more people, more often, but for now remember that rejection is something both males and females experience.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we culturally supported widespread constructive criticism between friends and lovers a little more than we do now? Absolutely. Miscommunication often kills perfectly good romances and friendships. Even when people give you a reason, it’s often not the real one. A lot of people with simple rude habits might improve if we told them about it. But for now, when it happens, let yourself be disappointed for one day, tell yourself it could be any little thing, try to shake it off, and focus on the next person the next day. That said, it can be extra harsh when mysterious rejection happens to anyone in succession. Remember: Anyone who doesn’t want to invest in the whole person isn’t worth the time to mourn too deeply. As Marilyn
Monroe said, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

Think of the painful experience as a specific Scout badge on the sash of dating. And think of it that way consciously as a method of recovering: Anything worth having is worth enduring pain to achieve, right? Rejection is a kind of an accomplishment. This accomplishment makes you more sensitive to the plight of your friends who have been through similar experiences, hopefully makes you treat others more respectfully than you have been treated, and finally, makes you value what you have when you do eventually find it. (It also emboldens you to humanely reject another, when the gesture is called for.)

And don’t demonize the person who rejected you, because that’s just a hollow way of coping that won’t make you feel any better anyway. Give the person your whole-hearted forgiveness. Give the rejector the right to look for the person worth their time, and accept that for now, that’s not you. Rejection is only bitter if we curl ourselves tightly around it. If you let it go instead, your life will be more beautiful overall, and you will be happier, with or without a significant other.

Got dating questions? Email [email protected]

Autobiography of a Steve Jobs Fangirl


Last night when I heard Steve Jobs died (through Gchat), I turned to Facebook on my MacBook Pro, like I do when anything happens that’s both culturally of note and relevant to me personally. Say what you will of Facebook — I find it fascinating for a number of reasons that, for the present moment, trump its deficiencies. When something happens which effects the entire culture, such as the killing of Osama Bin Laden, Facebook becomes a national stream of consciousness, a polyphonic chorus of connectedness. 

Reading everyone’s responses to the death of Jobs became a kind of therapy–soothing my deep sense of sadness. The same sadness I felt recently upon hearing of his retirement, because you knew it meant death was coming. You also knew it would be soon, if you follow Apple, because he wasn’t the kind of man who would resign to spend the last years of his life not working; you knew it was weeks or at the most, months.

Friends reacted according to personality, and according to their respective relationships with Macs. Diehard PC user friends made either no comment at all, or saw it as an opportunity to once again express their dislike of Macs and/or Apple Culture (which some see as one and the same) Most of them noted that the passing of the relatively young man is “still sad on a human level.” Most have specific underlying reasons why Macs don’t appeal to them. Some are in a particular field of work or study which lends itself more to PC use than Mac use because of the software involved. Certain software does run better on Macs, other better on PCs. Some friends are the sort of people who can’t like a computer unless it begs to be taken apart and tinkered with. (Macs are most certainly not that.) Some simply grew up with PCs and never got curious about the other side. One even referred to the collective sadness as “distorted hagiography,” presumably because he doesn’t see Jobs as we Apple fans do — as a unique genius and visionary.

I grew up using PCs at home and the occasional early Mac in elementary school. They were widespread in classrooms in the 80’s because Apple marketed specifically to schools. In fact I thought of the computers at school as a toy I wasn’t allowed to touch (back then you had something like one computer per two or three grade levels, so the solitary thing got rolled slowly between classes on a library cart like The Lost Ark, rarely to be used by sticky-fingered tiny mortals), whereas the PC at home was, as far as I was concerned, a monolithic calculator on my father’s monumental desk, but for words instead of numbers. I probably only used it to type the final drafts of book reports. That’s probably all it could really do back then.

Until I was in my mid 20’s, I was still on PCs. In fact I didn’t really understand there was a difference. Ironically, around that time, I actually cut out an Apple “Think Different” ad with a picture of Charlie Chaplin directing on it, and taped it on my bedroom wall. I did this because I loved Charlie Chaplin, and I loved that ad campaign. But I didn’t know Apple at all, let alone love it. I knew Apple represented a specific brand of computer, but all computers seemed alike. Somewhere in there I became a graphic designer, and I looked on my computer as a clunky tool I had to put up with to achieve my projects.

Then a friend loaned me an Apple laptop specifically with the intent of seducing me into that world. He had been talking about the thing as if it were the computer of the gods, and through him I became aware that there existed such a group as “apple fans.” I had never met a fan of any other kind of computer, so I thought he was just the sort of peculiar person who grows esoterically attached to some brands. But after playing with the Mac a few hours, I wanted one, badly; I wanted never to have to touch a PC again.

It was as if all my life, I had used male computers, and never knew there were females. It was as if my previous life had been dominated by an electronic box that sat around my ankle like a cold, awkward ball and chain, and I used it thusly, and assumed the experience was a fundamental basis for life with computers. When it broke, I had to run to my dad to fix it — it seemed always to be breaking, always interrupting what I was doing because it appeared to need something before it would allow me to continue. Computers, to me, seemed too high maintenance to be very practical, and I remember feeling this strange nebulous desire for something like a computer, but without all the annoying bits. A desire which was fulfilled by my first Apple, my second Apple, and so on. Everything about the user experience of Apple was intuitive, and nothing man-made in my experience had ever been like that other than a bicycle. Appropriately, Jobs once described computers as bicycles for the mind.

Using it became pleasurable precisely in the places where the PC had felt so awkward. It felt like an extension of my brain and body, and the line between work and play blurred. I didn’t need my father to open it constantly, tweak its insides, and bring it back to life. It simply worked like it was supposed to. On the rare occasion that something would go wrong, something actually was wrong; my Mac wasn’t acting coy, as the PC seemed to do, implying that computers should just be expected to behave badly from time to time or require a license for operation. Yes, I can already hear my PC friends defending themselves. But the truth is, without Apple providing that specific user-satisfaction competition for which they are known, Windows might never have improved as it has over the past several years.

One of the few positives I gained from three years of art school was a more refined appreciation for Steve Jobs’ aesthetic. Every detail I love on a Mac was designed for a specific reason by a tireless and exacting auteur, rather than by committee. It has been said it takes a dictator to create the iPhone, and it does. The way things were done in similar technologies meant bad things for the consumer: that a product is released with a minimal expectation of longevity, minimal expectation of user satisfaction, and a certain disposability attached therein. Indeed, the pitfall of innovation is we’re so caught up with the newest technology, the technology itself drives the experience so that we’re eager to move onto the next technology rather than refine that experience. Jobs was different precisely because he insisted on this business of the human experience driving the technology. He was willing to spend extra time and money getting things right from the beginning, rather than sacrificing details — details that change everything — to the machine of the status quo within manufacturing.

A fictionalized embodiment of Beethoven once said in a biopic, “It is the power of music to carry one directly into the mental state of the composer. The listener has no choice. It is like hypnotism.” I was reminded of that quote when I reflected upon my genuine sadness over the death of Steve Jobs. He was a composer of something that nobody ever thought could be composed: a surprisingly human relationship with technology. The reason this loss feels so intimate, is because the user experience of Apple has felt like being transported directly into one mind — one way of seeing logic and order, one way of looking at things. It may not be everyone’s idea of perfect design, but for those who feel that loss with me, it was a beautiful way of seeing things. Oh, the things he could have done for us if given another 50 years.

Online Dating Survival: 10 Messages I Ignored on OKCupid and Why


1. That guy who didn’t use a single capital letter, yet lacked an ounce of ee. cummings’ charm, whose profile picture was himself, bare chested. Not at the beach, in swimwear (acceptable, if somewhat smarmy), but in a white towel sarong, à la Weiner (not acceptable). He had a nice chest, mind you, but why I’d want to see it at this stage is beyond me, particularly when accompanied by his lame exclusive use of the lower case.

2. That guy who created an entire dating profile as Captain Kirk, using pictures of Captain Kirk, and answering questions as Captain Kirk would answer them. If you really wanted to date me, dork, you would have at least masqueraded as Captain Picard. I’m obviously not a Kirk kind of girl.

3. That guy who is marked as a 29 percent enemy*, and old enough to be my dad–but not in a good way. Gentlemen, if you are Sean Connery or Robert Redford, you can get away with that and more. Otherwise, please remind yourself that you’re not a Silver Fox and stay within your own age margin. (*Enemy percentage = a measure of how many questions each party answered which differed from what the other person desired their match to answer.)

4. That guy whose one picture is of his bare chest, cropped at the neck, thus appearing headless. I am not only not interested, I am terrified. Why you think that anyone would get a positive first impression from a headless bare chest is beyond me.

5. That 20-year-old. I’m 12 years older than you, son. TWELVE. YEARS. I seem to be headed towards eventual Cougardom, but even then I’ll hopefully draw the line at Can’t Legally Drink.

6. That 54 percent enemy whose entire greeting was “are you a hard person to talk to?” Then two hours later, after rightly assuming I had ignored him, sent another one with “guess its a yes? sorry for offending you.” No sense of capitalization, no sense of the wisdom behind enemy percentages, comes off as hostile in less than 20 words, and for that matter, it’s and its aren’t the same. A real winner.

7. That guy in the full Halloween mask–with no other pictures. This isn’t 1997. Lots of people post pictures of their faces on the Internet. The Internet isn’t new and terrifying anymore, but you are.

8. That guy with a picture of a picnic table as his only picture. See above.

9. That married guy, also old enough to be my dad, also not in a good way. See #3

10. That guy with no profile picture whatsoever. Online dating with no picture is like trying to put a teething baby to sleep with a trombone. There are probably blind date websites out there somewhere designed to join together two people too terrified to post their own mugs. By the presence of MY photos, of which there are 10, you know this isn’t that website.

When Should I Tell My Date How My Mind Works?


Dear Sara,

I have mild Asperger’s Syndrome. Online it isn’t perceivable, but in person people tend to notice that something is slightly odd about me and how I interact socially. I don’t want to scare people off; I also don’t want them dismissing me because they think I’m weird and fail to realize it’s just a processing difference. When do you think would be a good time to tell my dates about it?

I’d recommend putting it directly in your dating profile. If you put yourself out there from the beginning, you know if he contacts you anyway it doesn’t bother him. That said, I certainly don’t think you should see it as a fault, or package it that way in your profile. Our quirks, documentable and certifiable or not, make us interesting and can enhance a profile description (no one picks a profile that reads like a template). I myself have never learned to drive, and I’m cheeky enough to see that as a feature, not a fault. If a guy lives 20 miles away, it means he’s got to come to me…but I slot it directly in my dating profile so that men know I possess what I see as a humanistic philosophy toward transportation. This seems to annoy certain guys, and I’m quite happy to filter those out from the beginning. Move along, boys. Move along.

Dear Sara,

Dating sites want me to give out a lot of personal information like what my sexual preferences are and how I feel about charged political issues. I think those things are better discussed in person. Will people still communicate with me if I omit those elements? The matching software sometimes says it doesn’t have enough information to match me if I don’t reveal very personal stuff, but I’m not comfortable with strangers reading those details–and forming opinions. And is it okay to be on lots of different dating sites? Will people Google my username and find me on seven different sites and think that I’m completely desperate?

In terms of people forming opinions about you, they do that anyway, dear; they do that no matter how little or how much information you give them. The difference is, the more information you provide, the less you need to blame yourself. Don’t let yourself consciously worry about what people think. Everybody catches themselves doing it, but telling yourself it’s not worth your frontal lobes’ time is half the battle. As Dr. Seuss said, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” 

Be on as many different sites as you like!

Fill out everything you have the time for, and watch the math behind those percentages do magic (though they aren’t always right). However, on dating sites, less is never more. An empty profile certainly isn’t representing who you are. I can tell you that I don’t respond to men who haven’t filled out political questions, because the worldview of a prospective mate is very important to me, therefore I don’t want to waste my time on someone who doesn’t share those views. Sites like OKcupid allow people to explain their answers, so if you feel like something is a gray issue, saying so, and explaining why, proves you’ve thought about the topic–and that’s much better anyway than simply checking off a party affiliation. The more information you leave (that isn’t your name and address) the better your results.

Good luck!

Are You in a Whatevership?


We don’t get into relationships anymore. We get into whateverships. That’s where we are as a (dating) culture. And the last one I had was positively ruined by his need for premature classification.

He had been a peripheral friend for a few months, when we attacked each other after a party. It was the inevitable conclusion to the one tangible thing I had with that boy that can be sworn upon in court if need be: glorious, beautiful, raw chemistry. But it was also the inevitable beginning to the complexity of all that happens next in Loverland, whether it lasts years, hours, or in this case, precisely two weeks.

Post-coital, he confessed that he was still in love with his childhood sweetheart, and I thought that was completely adorable. It totally endeared him to me. So we talked about it and decided that we’d keep it casual for the moment and see where we ended up.

A few days later, after the second time we had (hyper-glorious) sex, he told me, “I can’t handle this.” He was looking for something more meaningful, said he. This threw me off entirely, and I realized when we said we’d keep it casual, we’d each meant different things. I had meant to sign us up for the safe zone of any new relationship, whereby both partners acknowledge an open-ended possibility to be explored in order to answer the big question(s). He had interpreted our “contract” as casual sex–perhaps because, to him, it was the same thing, or the straight bottom-line amid all that tangled complexity. I had been trying to explain that the only way to find out who you are together, is to exist together in an honest all’s-fair neutral zone, in which both people take the same risks.

I tried to heal the semantic rift, and told him that getting to know each other is where everything starts out, like it or not, and that of course, anyone’s going to want it to go deeper, and want to know what to label it. Everybody wants to fall in love, even the most cynical, wizened, embittered lovers, but you can’t force it. The conversation was unsatisfying. Three days later, he texted to say he was outside my apartment, and we attacked each other again. But afterward, as had become his style to ruin the afterglow with a desire to publicly classify what just happened, he stated that not only was he still in love with his first love, but that he was still going to date other women, because he was fairly certain that I wasn’t what he wanted long-term. And so, “We shouldn’t do this too often so that neither of us gets confused.” Yes, he said those things; he said them hours after he voluntarily showed up at my place.

At that point, being constantly filed away after sex was so annoying, I was beginning to value peace of mind 51 percent more than that smoldering chemistry. So I said goodbye.

And that was that. We still see each other in mixed company from time to time, and nature taunts us with the same phenomenal pheromones. But he can’t enjoy it for what it is, while keeping a window open to possibility and treating me respectfully afterward (in lieu of lovingly). And I can’t call it mere open-and-close-case casual sex every time we have it, just to make him comfortable with his evidently bewildering desire for me that deigns to go against his five-year plan. So we ignore nature, chemistry, chance. We nod hey, and move on.

After the first, second, or third time you start having sex with someone, one of the pair is likely to ruin things by asking that it be defined for the alleged benefit of both parties. “We need to decide what this is” he or she may offer. “We need to label this,” or “I need to know what to feel,” etc. This expression is an understandable impulse and I’m sure it makes you feel very adult and in control for the fleeting moment it passes from brain to lips, but that’s about all it accomplishes. It doesn’t keep you from dating players (if you are trying to avoid them) for they are probably good enough to know what you want to hear, pat you on the head, and otherwise placate your fears so that they remain totally in control. It doesn’t keep you from getting your heart broken, or from breaking someone else’s heart. It actually makes heartbreak more likely all around, because defining things lends itself to expectation. It makes people feel like something has been made real or official, that by all accounts probably yet isn’t. Commitment in the body isn’t a placeholder until the heart catches up. The heart is fast enough, has its own plans, and needn’t be rushed. We are blessed to live in a time and place where premarital sex is the norm, so that we can get to know someone well prior to committing too much to the wrong person. And no, in my opinion, you can’t get to know someone ultra-romantically without having sex with them first. Sex unleashes so much about a person psychologically that they themselves might not even know about, or can’t face. We are Victorians with Facebook pages, guarding and constructing images of ourselves that we can maintain for years, unchecked. Sex is the forced intimacy that makes most facades impossible to maintain (but not all). Sex has taught me which guys love my body, whether I am 70 percent happy with it or 90 percent happy with it, versus which are constantly looking for ways to improve me. It has taught me which guys have a healthy idea of sex, and which do not. It has taught me so much more.

But we still can’t quite figure out how to go about the process successfully. We’ve invented subdivisions and stages for relationships to explain to our friends where ‘we as a couple’ are at this or that point in the quest for genuine intimacy.  Every day the narrowly defined ‘open relationship’ becomes more of a social norm, which can probably be explained by our cultural need to address this very issue–to bypass the stage of the relationship that is, by nature, the unknown. The only authentic route, in my view, is NOT to define the damn thing at all until you know the person, as well as your reaction to them, well enough to do so.

Advice: When you start sleeping with someone, don’t ask questions designed to define relationships for a solid three months, for the genuine benefit of both parties. In other words, dating is getting to know someone romantically, and you can’t accomplish it honestly if you’ve rushed into a relationship in order to give yourself, or the other person, permission to feel safe. Pretending won’t actually make either of you safer.

Give it three months, and enjoy the tenuous connection for what it is. Don’t dissect the sapling–it’s guaranteed to not grow that way. At the end of the three months, you’ll probably both know the answer, even if they’re two different answers.

In closing, nobody knows what dating is anymore. Especially those doing it the most. If you’re beginning something fun, coast with it a few months. Get to know the other person before you prematurely commit to them, or before you shut off all possibility of commitment by calling your connection something less than what it may be in the future (possibly making the other person feel like crap in the process). Neither of you knows what it is! That’s okay. The only thing you should know is that this is the early fun part. The next time some new guy breathlessly asks me to define we just did, I will say, “Eros incognita,” then I will ask him to ask me again in a couple months, and then I’ll stop his mouth with a kiss before either of us ruins it.

All My Exes Live on Facebook

Dear Sara,

My boyfriend is friends with his exes on Facebook and I just don’t think this is appropriate. I mean, sometimes he’s quite familiar with them too. I hate being able to read it when he has special little inside-jokes with them. I don’t want to see that. It is wrong for me to ask him to de-friend them? 

In a word, absolutely. If it bothers you, you should delete your own Facebook account. You shouldn’t have access to the temptation to feel bad about something awesome; that your boyfriend is evolved enough to have rich, meaningful friendships in his life with both sexes. That your boyfriend is still friends with his exes is the best testament you can ask for regarding how cool (comfortable with himself) he must be. I would know because I am friends with 97% of my exes. That other 3% are those who just can’t stand being friends with me, and I actively judge them for it. Relationships aren’t ownership, and when you date somebody, you share something between two people that is unique because of who you were at the time, individually and with each other, and what you learned from each other. Just because you’re now dating, or engaged to, or even married to one-half of that now-extinguished pair, it belongs to him, not you, and trusting him to handle that aspect of himself responsibly is a million times more rewarding than asking him to cut it off and hand it to you as some sort of proof that he loves you more.

If you don’t figure this out now, you’ll eventually stifle him, so if you want to hang onto him, consider this: Jealousy is one of those things that for some reason we aren’t taught to grow out of by the time we’re twelve. But it should be. It’s the emotional appendix, totally superfluous. When you catch yourself feeling it, you should regard it in the same manner as if you just caught yourself tempted to shoplift. And also note: Facebook is the lowest common denominator when it comes to friendships; Facebook exists for the people we still care about, but who cannot be a part of our lives actively for one reason or another. I would hope that in addition to being Facebook friends with the ones who live close, your boyfriend still meets with them from time to time for coffee. You are the one he chooses to be with for the given time. That is awesome; that is more than enough.

Got a dating-related question? Write to: [email protected]

One-Night (Produce) Stand?


Dear Sara,

A stranger asked me out, in the produce section of real life, and I
more or less ran away from him. My friend then made fun of me, but I
didn’t know what to do. I just feel more safe and comfortable meeting
new people online. Weird? Probably. I feel bad about it. He was kinda
cute too. I felt like I had to make a decision right then.

Dear In-Headlights,

One of the oft-overlooked little beauties of the internet is that in a
sense, it is a slow-life movement even as it speeds so much else up.
Yes, new social acronyms are born there every day and Urban Dictionary
dutifully keeps track. But it has also given us something back that
we’d culturally lost. It is a place of pen pals and waiting several
days to hear back from a thoughtfully composed email. The comfort
level you’re describing comes from the power of being able to think
about and compose a response on your own terms. Yes, few people
utilize this power when engaged in a heated political argument on
Facebook, but nevertheless, it is an option, and speaking as one who likes
to write, I prefer it to the feeling of being put on the spot that
happens often enough in real life.

What you really wanted was to experience your grocery store moment slowed-down, long enough to have a chance to think about how to respond. The internet is The Neutral Zone and you’re the captain of your personal spaceship. Not so in the real world, where apparently a cute guy who had the balls to talk to a strange girl in the first place, makes you feel like you’d have to marry him or something if you gave him your email address. Decide in advance what information you feel safest giving bold strangers and stick to it. For some, it’s a phone number. For others, it’s the email address they use for coupons but not the one tied to
their Facebook account. And remember that the internet feels safer in part because it’s full of so much fiction (where anonymous authors feel safer inventing new MLK quotes than they do owning up to their own words, for instance). Any safe “feeling” is very rarely grounded in anything real. I mean watching Robert Redford in Out of Africa makes me feel VERY safe. Real safety has nothing to do with a feeling or a fantasy. It comes from good choices and proper safety nets in place. You know, stuff like a really long password containing numbers and special characters. Now that you’ve had this experience, you’ll know what to do next time. In the meantime, this is why Craigslist has a Missed Connections section.