Wednesday, July 16 — Q: My boyfriend of two years got an early birthday present from his sister and her husband: a really expensive, second-row ticket for a major sporting event next year. The trouble is, it falls on my 30th birthday (a Saturday). He knows I usually don’t care about my birthday, and I confess that I also judge people who care about theirs. Still, I can't help but feel that my 30th is a bit of a milestone, and I wanted to spend my birthday weekend together somewhere with my boyfriend. I understand that he doesn't want to seem ungrateful for his sister's gift, and he's courteously told me about this conflict well in advance. Do I need to just get over myself? Or should I raise my concerns?
A: As a child, I was not one to turn down birthday loot, but around age 8, I developed a sort of jadedness about birthdays that continues to this day. The way I see it, if you are over 12 and not a cancer patient, do we really need to throw you a party and give you prizes for surviving another year?
It seems you communicated some similar thinking to your boyfriend. Bizarrely, he believed you. Yet, apparently out of love and consideration (and perhaps the suspicion men have that all women are at least a little nuts), he let you know a year in advance that hockey or auto racing or whatever’s special day coincides with your usually-not-so-special day. What more was he supposed to do — well, other than travel back in time and ask your mom, “Hey, can you hold the baby in one more week? There’ll be a scheduling conflict in 30 years.”
Wait…were you expecting him to turn down the ticket? If so, what’s that really about? Maybe a recent public service announcement from your ovaries? “Hi, we’re also turning 30, as in, it won’t be long before we retire, move to the countryside, and take up scrapbooking.” You may also be looking for what evolutionary psychologists call a “costly signal” — some show of commitment requiring such a big outlay of money, effort, or forgone opportunity that it’s likely to be sincere. (In the absence of a proposal and a diamond, maybe it seems the least he could do is light that ticket on fire.)
If you do want more from the relationship, you may be able to get it, but expecting a man to read your thoughts is like expecting your dog to understand algebra. Tell your boyfriend you’re feeling sensitive about your birthday, your future, or whatever else, and you’ll at least find out where you stand. Assuming you get the reassurance you need, maybe you can do the loving thing and put your partner’s interests up there in importance with your own, perhaps by celebrating your birthday the weekend before the actual day. You might also try to get in the habit of using spoken-word communication — fun as it can be to surprise a man with a game of naked charades, aka “Guess what I’m thinking when I weep inconsolably during sex!"
Q: After reading a magazine article about movie stars with “pixie cuts,” my girlfriend got her hair cut really short, and I absolutely hate it. She’s very pretty, and short hair doesn’t change that, but I love how she looks with long hair. Is it controlling to ask her to grow it back?
A: The good thing about bad haircuts is that they are fixable with time. (You can't tell your girlfriend, “Hey, I’m not a big fan of your personality; can you grow it out a little?”)
When you first saw her new do, you probably squeezed out something positive like “Looks great!” — while thinking, “Did your stylist go blind in the middle of cutting your hair or pretty much right when she started?” It’s good to be kind, but because staying happy with somebody takes staying attracted to them, it’s best for your relationship to be kind in a verging-on-honest way. Wait a few weeks and say, “You know, you’d be beautiful even if you shaved your head, but I love your hair long. Would you grow your hair out for me?” (You aren’t asking her to bolt on a new set of boobs; you’re just requesting more of what’s already on her head.)
And yes, you do have to tell her what you need, because if you don’t, there’s a good chance you’ll get resentful and act like a jerk about things that aren’t really the thing. It might even lead to a breakup. The bottom line: You’re all for her having movie-star hair — as long as the movie star it’s modeled on isn’t Chuck Norris.
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