WEDNESDAY, AUG. 27 — Q: This adorable, smart, funny guy I’m dating was clean-shaven when we first met, but for the past three weeks, he hasn’t shaved much. He has this really weird facial hair pattern (like patches on his cheeks that haven’t filled in well), and I don’t find it attractive. I didn't know how to bring this up, so I mentioned it to my roommate, and she volunteered to “casually” mention it. So, last week when he and I were having drinks before going out, she popped into the room and said, “Hey, Brad…still growing that beard? I think you look a lot better clean-shaven.” He seemed put off, and we went out to dinner shortly afterward, but the whole evening felt a bit weird. And he still has this patchy facial hair thing going on.
A: Maybe his facial hair is just scared. Like the groundhog, it came up, saw its shadow, and ducked, terrified, back into his face.
Nobody wants to be the one to tell a guy that his attempted sexy-man scruff is a ringer for a Hobbit’s feet or plant life struggling up after a nuclear winter. But as uncomfortable as saying something would have been for you, it had to be far more uncomfortable for him to have your roommate do it, especially right in front of you. As psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker points out in “The Stuff of Thought,” we all get that people say stuff behind our backs, but we can let it go unremarked — that is, if nobody knows that we know (that something was said about us). But, Pinker explains, once some disparagement becomes “mutual knowledge” — when others know that we know what was said — we lose face if we don’t do anything about it. And unfortunately, in this case, after your roommate said something, probably the only thing he could do to avoid looking like her puppetboy was to stubbornly avoid shaving that comb-over he’s been rocking on his face.
Let some time pass, and then tell him yourself, in a way that doesn’t come off like criticism. Pet his beard, and say you think he looks good that way but you love his skin and feeling his face is sexy. What he’ll hear: He’ll spend more time in bed with his chick if he spends more time in the bathroom with his Schick.
Q: I recently texted a girl I used to date about a year ago. I was going to be in her town, so I wrote something to the effect of “Hey, cutie…will be in your neighborhood Saturday. Want to get together for a drink?” I didn’t realize she had a new boyfriend, whom she was with when I texted. He saw the text and flipped out, as did she, calling me and accusing me of almost breaking up her relationship. I apologized, but she kept going on about it and made me feel really guilty. In retrospect, I’d like to know what I did that was so wrong.
A: It’s not like you said, “Hey, cutie, let's get freaky...and if this is being read by a boyfriend, I’m just her grandma, and Freaky is my cat we need to pick up from the vet.”
The fact that her current boyfriend went all apey over your friendly drinks invitation isn’t reason to treat you like you waited till Game 7 of the World Series and sexted her on the Jumbotron. As for your apology, when a woman starts shrieking at you, it’s tempting to say you’re sorry first and then figure out what, if anything, you did wrong. But think about it: What could possibly be your error here? Failure to install the latest OS on your crystal ball? Ignoring that “check engine” light in your third eye?
If your text did “almost” break up her relationship, that’s on her — for making her personal electronic device a public one and for lacking the verbal chops to put an entirely clean message from you into perspective. As for putting her little explosion into perspective, think of it the way you would a conversation with the wild-eyed guy at the bus stop who claims he’s getting messages from the aliens in his dental work. (I’m guessing your response wouldn’t be running home to clear your lawn so they can use it as a landing pad.) Perhaps just view this incident as a cautionary tale — a reminder that your next girlfriend should have not only the capacity for reason but an interest in using her brain as more than a sort of highway rest area for her hair.
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