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Susan Dietz on

DEAR SUSAN: I agree with your reader that idealizing and pining for an unavailable someone is the time-honored way to avoid having to face one's own fears of falling in love. But why do we do that?

DEAR BLOGGER: Every problem forces a choice between tackling it head-on or telling ourselves it doesn't exist (aka deluding ourselves into thinking things are just dandy). In psychological terms, the response is either "fight" or "flight." (Just between us, while no one's listening, how did you handle your most recent problem?) Big or small, the problem's size isn't nearly as important as your handling of it. Did you face the music and tackle the problem? Or did you deny its importance and sweep it under the rug? Think about it a while, and then you might have a greater understanding of those who choose to hide from their fears about The Real Thing (it is intimidating, granted) by choosing an impossible love object. Their hiding place? Within the deepest caverns of their psyche. That denial mechanism has probably been used so often since childhood that in adulthood, they can muster a convincing argument that leaves no lingering doubts in their minds. Their idol, this unavailable fantasy person, is their one and only love object; they must have that person or no one. So they end up alone, never challenged by (or relishing the fruits of) the Real Thing. And that's the way they (unknowingly) want it to be. Sighworthy, no?

DEAR SUSAN: Ah, yes, the big Gender Conspiracy. I met men like that when I was young and single. They'd start the conversation by moaning about how women only want men with big paychecks instead of "nice" guys like them. Apparently, I was supposed to say, "Oh, you poor thing, abused by all those mean girls! I'll be different; I'll turn myself inside out trying to prove that I'm not like them!" I suppose in their eyes, I became yet another Mean Girl when I failed to fall for the line.

DEAR BLOGGER: Nice guys -- really nice ones -- don't go around billboarding themselves as nice. They don't have to; their kindness comes across. There are men (and women, I guess) who use every and any ploy to boost their ego and -- the main point -- put themselves in a favorable light. It's pathetic, really, and it makes the exact opposite impression of the one intended. The best conversation opener is a natural one, relaxed and unforced, a few words in a friendly tone of voice. And not about oneself! Take your cue from a recent headline in the newspaper, or a recent film that's getting buzz. If there's mutual interest, the retort will come back fast. It will be an opening to more good conversation, and things will continue from there. (It's amazing how long a cup of coffee can last!) Smiling eyes are worth close attention.

 

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