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Undapper Dan

Emily Flake

By Mink Stole | Posted 8/6/2003

My girlfriend recently took up up knitting and she's really bad at it. I love Abby. She's sweet, kind, and funny, she laughs at my jokes, and she never complains. Except for this knitting thing, she's pretty much perfect. (Isn't there always an "except"?) She made me a present of the first thing she made, a scarf, and, although I told her I loved it, I don't. The colors are ugly and it's obviously poorly made. She keeps asking me why I'm not wearing it. I don't have the heart to tell her I'm embarrassed to be seen in it, but I'm running out of excuses. I don't know what to do. I'm not a snob nor a clotheshorse, but I dress well and care how I look. What can I say that won't hurt her feelings but also won't encourage her to make me anything else?

Dapper Dresser

Dear DD:
Far be it from me to tell you that caring about your appearance is wrong. On the contrary, looking one's best is our responsibility to the community, much the same as mowing one's lawn, using litter baskets, or picking up one's dog poop. But just as there are times we have to let the car go dirty an extra week because we got too busy finger painting with the kids to get to the car wash, there are times when our duty to the community must take a backseat to our duty to our loved ones, and the public must understand and forgive. This is one of those times.

I don't care how ugly it is, you will not permanently disgrace yourself for wearing this scarf. If you're usually as well-dressed as you think, people will know you're wearing a gift and they won't hold it against you. You only have to wear it once so she can see it and be happy, and the pleasure she'll get from seeing you in it should more than compensate for any transient embarrassment you might feel. Then, after you've proven your willingness, you can beg off having to do it again by telling her that, yes, of course you love it, but you love it because she made it for you. Tell her that it gives you a happy glow every time you see it in the closet, but that, honestly, you're really not a handmade-clothes kind of guy. Rather than waste her time making things you don't know how to appreciate, tell her it might be better if she made things for herself from now on. She'll probably see right through you, but if she's really that close to perfect, she'll take the hint along with the compliment.

Joe's a really nice guy, but there's no fireworks happening. We've been dating five or six months, and it's been OK, but there's just no spark. At a party last week I met this other guy, Phillip, and we hit it off right away. I didn't give him my phone number, out of loyalty to Joe, but he got it from a mutual friend and called to ask me out. I put him off because I'm uncomfortable accepting a date with another man while I'm still dating Joe, but I'd like to see if there really is something between us. Is it OK to date two men at once? What do you tell the first one? I don't want to hurt Joe or do anything sneaky, but I'm pretty sure he's not "the one" and I'd like to keep my options open.

Muddled Marge

Dear MM:
Dating sucks. It's messy and confusing, the rules keep changing (remember "the guy always pays" and "good girls don't put out?"), and it's often devastating. It's the system we've got, however, and it's not going anywhere. We can only try to play as fair as we can.

Theoretically, as long as you're still officially "just looking" and haven't agreed to marry Joe, you're free to date anybody with a clear conscience, and so is he. The problem with this theory is that most of us, even when there's been no actual verbal commitment, tend to take one for granted when we've been seeing someone exclusively for a while. Which is how hearts get broken and why, even though it's technically true, "I never made any promises" never makes anybody feel better.

If you're uncomfortable dating Phillip while still going out with Joe, then it's wrong for you to do it, no matter the technicalities. Which means, if you want to date Phillip or anybody else, your options are limited. You can break up with Joe, which, since he bores you, would be the fairest, kindest, and most honorable thing to do. Or you could ask him how he feels about dating other people. Of course, since this is universally accepted code for "Take a hike, buddy," this is pretty much just a cheesier way of breaking up. Or you can always stick with Joe. If you can only date one guy at a time, though, wasting time on a dud makes no sense.

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