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Pragmatic Cling

Three years ago, my longtime friend "Jon" and I became involved. Back then, I was in a long-distance relationship with my daughter's father. A year later, he moved to be closer to me, and I ended my relationship with Jon by not talking to him or returning his calls. Last month, I saw Jon and explained that my relationship with my daughter's father was dysfunctional and emotionally abusive. I know Jon has a girlfriend now, but he's constantly in my thoughts, and I want him back. My problem was that I'd never experienced a good relationship because my parents went through many divorces, but I feel I've changed a lot in recent months. How do I let him know I love him and would never hurt him again?--New and Improved

I'm nicer to telemarketers than you are to men you supposedly care about. Whenever some boiler-roomer breaks the Do Not Call barrier, I ignore their concerns and immediately launch into my own: "Wanna talk to my plantar wart?" "What's the best way to get a large quantity of goat's blood out of a Persian rug?" "Something tells me you aren't wearing any panties." OK, so I'm vulgar and immature. At least I give those in harm's way a hint of how I'm feeling -- fair warning to cut out before I read aloud from the 957-page rough draft of my children's book, Letters From My Small Intestine.

Oh, so sorry. I guess I missed that bit in your letter about what a new woman you are. These days, you're no longer just about your needs. You're also about your other needs. Meeting them means convincing your ex that things will be different the next time around. Hmmm ... different, how? Before, you were cold and unfeeling; now you've got all the compassion of a mollusk? Whoopee.

Of course, accidents do happen. Maybe you inadvertently bump somebody or step on their feelings. Or maybe you inadvertently excuse yourself from their restaurant table, squeeze out the bathroom window, and hitchhike home. Later, you inadvertently refuse to answer any of their calls pleading for an explanation. Ooops.

People used to talk about the "Me Generation," but this is ridiculous: What are you, the spokesmodel for the "Me! Me! Me! Generation"? Well, yes ... but, it's all Mommy and Daddy's fault! Perhaps it is -- if your parents spent their spare time between bad marriages getting laws passed to keep you out of therapists' offices, and away from the self-help section at the bookstore, then had somebody put up a tiny fence in your head to stop you from soul-searching. Excuse me, but at what point does the statute of limitations on blaming your parents kick in?

For somebody who supposedly believes parental example is destiny, you're rather cavalier about plopping your daughter into a dugout seat to watch you treating men like used chewing gum. Luckily, it's possible to turn a negative parental example into a positive thing -- by holding up their relationship as what you don't want yours to be. Assuming you don't live on a North Pole ice floe, positive examples aren't hard to find. Just seek out people who show genuine concern for their partner's well-being, and feel physically ill if they cause their partner pain. Try to emulate them, and you might stop blowing kisses in the mirror long enough to wonder whether your beloved might be happiest left in blissful ignorance with his current girlfriend. Only then can you honestly claim to love him -- not just the way he'll meet your every need until somebody better comes along and you disappear without a trace.

Roll Reversal

I'm an attractive, outgoing guy, 42, who's been in a wheelchair for 10 years. I'm completely independent, live alone and drive a car, yet women won't give me a second glance. I do ask them out, but to no avail (despite having reasonable standards). Yes, I can have sex, and I miss it; but more than that, I miss companionship. What am I doing wrong?--Empty Lap

All the average person sees is the chair, and then they feel a flash of panic that they'll fail to treat its occupant with adequate dignity and respect. Never let it get that far. Imagine a quadriplegic guy who rolls up to a woman and says, "Do you like my new shoes? I hear they're comfortable." That guy is my cartoonist friend, John Callahan (, who's spent years hot-quadding around Portland, Ore., in his motorized wheelchair, collecting women like refrigerator magnets. While Callahan need only go out in his "I'm paralyzed and you're not!" shirt to get women to follow him home, you might find it helpful to spell out your assets in a personals ad, discreetly answering questions the average person has about the sex life of, in Callahan's words, the "permanently seated."

Copyright 2004, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail (

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