DEAR ABBY: I'm a single woman who has had a string of unsuccessful relationships. When a man is into me, I'm not into him and vice versa.
I know the problem is mostly mine. I'm very independent. I don't want a man to consume my life -- just be a part of it. It seems like the men I date want to smother me.
My friends tell me that most women enjoy this. I hate it. I need a certain amount of time alone. I am attracted to manly men, but the ones who are attracted to me are either emotionally needy or they take longer to get ready to go anywhere than I do. It's frustrating.
I have met some men who would have been wonderful catches, but I felt nothing. I know friendship is the basis of all relationships, but physical attraction is important to me. A relationship won't work if I can't bring myself to be intimate with the person.
In all my years of dating, I have been in love only twice. Any help would be appreciated. -- LOST IN WASHINGTON STATE
DEAR LOST: I wish I had a magic lamp that would give you what you're looking for in a puff of smoke, but I don't. What I can offer is that you need to continue looking for someone who is as independent as you are, so you can find an attractive man whose needs are similar to yours.
Some couples find the process of dating a smooth and easy one. For others it's complicated, but not impossible. I agree that the basis of strong relationships is friendship and compatibility.
DEAR ABBY: How does one stop family and old friends from going on and on about their aches, pains, symptoms, conditions, doctor visits and medications in excruciating detail? Aside from my mother (who is 85), I don't care to hear about this from others. It has taught me a lesson I wish people would follow: While I do have back issues, I speak of them only to my doctor.
I try to be patient, but some folks seem to need someone to vent to. I don't want to be the one they "tell all" to. I try to tune it out, but I wish there was an easy way to let them know enough is enough.
Any ideas on the best way to handle these people? Or am I stuck being a good listener forever? -- NOBODY'S THERAPIST IN CROFTON, MD.
DEAR NOBODY'S THERAPIST: Try this: Say, "Really, I'm sorry to hear that." Then change the subject to something you read in the newspaper, saw on television or that's happening in your community.
DEAR ABBY: Tell me what you would have done in this situation. While dining at an expensive restaurant on a rare night out, we were seated directly across from a nice-looking family. As I was eating my meal, I had a nauseating view of their child's butt crease. The boy was about 12 or 14, and I didn't want to embarrass him in a public place, but it put a damper on my enjoyment of the meal.
Would it have been appropriate to approach his mother and quietly tell her? Obviously, the kid didn't know or care that he was exposed. The restaurant was full, so I couldn't request another table. -- LOST MY APPETITE IN MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.
DEAR LOST YOUR APPETITE: The first thing I would have done was resist the urge to walk over and plant a stalk of celery in the great divide. And then, because moving to another table wasn't possible, I would have moved my chair so that the view of the young man's cleavage wouldn't have been "head on."
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
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