Q: Ten months ago, while studying abroad, I had one wonderful night with a girl. We kissed and danced the night away. She lives in Brazil, but we’ve communicated regularly via Skype and email. I’ve never felt such a strong connection. Recently, I asked what she wanted, and she said to be together in the same country. We started imagining that, and she became extremely attached, wanting reassurance about our future that I couldn’t yet give. I confessed to feeling guilty about causing her emotional strain. She flipped, seeming like a totally different person. She said it wasn’t the first time someone had worried about how attached she was and said she’d start being more distant with me. Angry, I briefly blocked her on my phone so I wouldn’t communicate anything rash. She later complained about her texts bouncing back, and I explained what I’d done and why. She lost it, saying she was “sick of this” and “done.” That was two weeks ago. Should I attempt reopening communication? I feel I’m missing the opportunity of a lifetime if I don’t.
A: Here’s a woman who flips out when you worry aloud that you aren’t making her happy fast enough. The prospect of being with someone who does this is the “opportunity of a lifetime” the way Hurricane Sandy was the vacation opportunity of a lifetime, complete with the chance to swim in the Jersey shore’s finest restaurants and mingle with celebrities (well, wave to Sean Penn if a disaster recovery photo op took his rowboat past the roof of your motel).
A long-distance relationship is a relationship that’s miles from reality. Much of its power comes from what’s missing. For example, there are a lot of blanks left by “seeing” somebody by Skype and email. Nature (and human nature) abhors a vacuum, so you fill the blanks with your projections of who the person is, drawn from romantic memories and hopes of who you’d like them to be. The love you feel may, in part, be a love of how your conversations make you feel about you: that you’re witty, charming, and a great romancer. And of course, love that’s out of reach tends to have the strongest pull, a la Romeo and Juliet. Frankly, if their families hadn’t basically been the Crips and the Bloods with linguini and instead had been all “Hey, you crazy kids, be home by curfew,” it probably would have been a matter of weeks before Juliet was sneaking out behind the palazzo with Marcello and then Luigi.
You find out whether you can have a life with a woman by experiencing her day to day — seeing whether she chases you around with a cleaver when you forget to wash a glass or when you draw the line at picking up ladyproducts at the drugstore. You could propose living in the same place for a month — after getting in touch to tell her how wrong you were. (This is basically catnip for women, and whether you were actually wrong about anything is immaterial.) But consider all that goes into a relationship with someone from another country (travel expenses, residency permits, and difficulty finding work and even getting a work permit). Maybe it makes sense to deem what you had as “one wonderful night with a girl” — before you get to Brazilian customs and find yourself answering “Do you have anything to declare?” with “Yes, I think I’m making a big mistake.”
Q: I’ve been on two dates with a woman, and she’s agreed to a third. We kissed on the second date and have been talking every night, but she seems to be playing it a little cool (letting me do all the calling, etc.). Perhaps I should also play it cool, but I’m dying to tell her I like her. Is there a magic number of dates you have to go on before it’s okay to do that?
A: There are solutions that cause more problems than they solve, like giving your car a car bra, which traps moisture underneath and eventually leads to two-tone paint. (And besides, what happens if your car doesn’t have a bra, someone sees its nipples and it gets embarrassed?) Announcing that you like someone you’ve gone out with twice is another one of these problem-causing solutions. If this woman is at all ambivalent (a healthy way to feel early on), telling her you like her wouldn’t make her like you, but it might make her uncomfortable enough to flee. So, go ahead and say those “three little words” — as long as they’re “You free Friday?” Rest assured; she knows you like her. Because you’re still around, because you’re calling every night, and because when you kissed her, you apparently didn’t spit afterward, wipe your hand across your mouth, and say “Eeeuw!”
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