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Amy Alkon drags people, kicking, screaming, and laughing, out of their misery with her behavioral science-based advice column, which runs in about 100 newspapers.

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Advice Goddess 

How to make irreverence matter

Thursday, Mar 6 2008

Who's Yore Daddy?

I'm 33, never married. In 2000, I happened to call my old boyfriend, "Tim," when he'd just become a dad and was a week away from getting married. He seemed happy I called, but I could tell his wife-to-be was right there, so I was brief and apologized for the timing. Well, he was always so kind, and I wanted to call him just once more to tell him how special he was to me and how glad I was to have had him in my life. This time, his wife answered. I said I was an old friend. She told me to call later, when he'd be home. I did, and she answered: "Tim said you were an old girlfriend, NOT an old friend. Since you lied, I don't think it's a good idea, or appropriate, for you to call here." I emphasized that I was harmless, and had no intention of calling again after this. She wouldn't have it. I really wish I'd asked her what Tim's thoughts were. Was my call really that threatening? -- Hung Up

Surely, a wife lives for the day she can holler to her husband, "Tim, honey, it's your old girlfriend on the line calling to let you know how special you are!"

click to enlarge Photo by Craig Schwartz
  • Photo by Craig Schwartz

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Even the most secure wife isn't likely to yawn and go about her business when some woman on the phone claims to be her husband's "old friend," which, in her mind, is probably short for "the girl he had all the crazy sex with in college." Chances are, she's picturing you as the single girl who spends all her spare time and money hotting herself up -- while she's on her hands and knees in stained, shapeless sweats and no makeup, cleaning up baby vomit. "Hold on a sec," you tell the wife, "I think that's the UPS man, delivering another shipment of my size zero slinky dresses."

Oh, did you emphasize that you're "harmless"? Come on, you have to know that, to many wives, a harmless old girlfriend is one who's not only dead, but who the husband never found that attractive, due to her two heads and her dual handlebar mustaches. As for "Tim's thoughts," he's probably wishing you'd shown your gratitude by stuffing a big sock in your mouth, dropping your phone down the garbage disposal, and turning it on. Or, at least called him at work, where you could've said everything you planned to say to him at home, but without causing any of his co-workers to burst into tears and spend a month grilling him, "Is she prettier than I am? Is she better in bed?"

What's with this sudden urge to express your gratitude, anyway? If you're truly aching to give back, the little old lady who taught you in second grade would probably be thrilled out of her support hose to have a visitor at the home. Maybe you wanted to remind him you're still out there. Maybe you wanted to remind his wife. Or, maybe you were bored and lonely, but couldn't say you miss him and need excitement, so you grabbed for the old, "Thank you for being you." If something's missing from your life, admit it and deal with it. You should feel less compelled to call up some married guy to tell him how much he meant to you -- as his jealous wife listens in. And not because you finally have the equipment to show your gratitude by breaking into his car and leaving your lace panties in the passenger-side door pocket.

Stop And Spell Out The Roses

A month ago, I started dating this great woman. I've been an open book, sending her songs and poetry, and telling her point-blank how into her I am. I'm worried because she hasn't opened up about her feelings. I don't want to start playing games, but I'd feel better knowing where she stands. -- Uneasy

There is less-than-productive game playing, like leaving a severed chicken foot in a girl's mailbox, then happening by to save the day, or being so elusive that she forgets who you are. But, don't knock all game playing. You will not be more successful in love if you flop your feelings on another person like a big fish. In fact, telling somebody you want them when you barely know them suggests you'll want anybody who'll have you. The game you should be playing is one that makes you seem interesting to another person: slightly mysterious, not pathetically open. Shut up, take the girl bowling, and just be. To learn how she feels, just pay attention. Is she flirty and eager to see more of you? Or, does she flinch when you touch her, and did she have the sheriff send your poetry back with a warning not to come within 100 yards?

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