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Catch and Release

By Mink Stole | Posted 5/30/2001

For a few weeks I've been dating a guy I thought I could fall in love with, but lately the romance is starting to smell a little fishy--literally. Like most guys he's into sports, but he is completely obsessed with fishing. He even ties his own flies. What's really bad is that a couple of times he's canceled plans with me just because one of his buddies heard that somewhere in the world a trout was jumping. I hate to get mad because it makes him so happy to go, but while he always says he'll make it up to me, he never does. I've asked to go along, but he says it's something he does "with the guys--no girls allowed." When we're together he's fun and affectionate, but how long can I go on playing second fiddle to a fishing rod?

Forsaken for Fish

Dear Forsaken:

I don't know what the deal is with men that makes them want to go out into the wilderness in packs to commune with nature and kill things. It may be some throwback to our prehistoric hunter-gatherer way of life, or it may just be a genetic compulsion to assert their perceived superiority over the lesser species. (I know fishing is considered more contemplative than, say, deer hunting, but it's pretty much the same from the deer's and the fish's perspective.) What I do know is that to the devoted fly-caster there is nothing so intoxicating as the prospect of spending hours waist-high in freezing water wearing rubber overalls in the attempt to outwit whatever little scaly-finny things happen to be living there.

You have options. You can learn to fish on your own (lots of women love it) and keep asking to go until he relents. Then surprise him with your expertise. Or you can realize that fighting the obsession is useless and give in gracefully, remembering that fishing season is only a couple of months long. In the meantime, research some recipes for whatever fish he's bringing home. He's much more likely to include you eventually if you don't make a "fishing or me" issue of it. And you haven't been together long enough to know yet if he'll keep his promise to make it up to you.

If, on the other hand, after fishing season is over he's still unavailable because of football, basketball, or any other all-guy activities, it might be wise to accept that he's pretty much a bad catch. Just toss him back and try to hook up with someone else.

I met a guy on the Internet, and he's incredible. He gives great e-mail--charming, smart, and flirtatious without being smarmy or overly familiar. We e-dated for several months and finally met last week. Big mistake. Instead of the Cary Grant I'd imagined from our e-chats, he looks like a reject from the World Wrestling Federation: overweight, a worst-case mullet hairdo, and a mouth full of rotten teeth. He was well dressed and has a nice car, and I'm pretty sure he's not broke, so it's hard to believe he wouldn't take better care of himself. I managed to mask my disappointment because I didn't want to hurt his feelings, but what do I do now? He wants to see me again, but I don't think I can. I know it's shallow to care so much about his appearance, but he really is physically repulsive.

Ashamed of Myself

Dear Ashamed:

Don't be so hard on yourself. Looks matter. Not every guy can look like a GQ model, but anyone can get his teeth fixed and a good haircut. The question is whether or not this guy is aware of what he really looks like. Amazingly, some men who are total toads can look in the mirror and see Brendan Fraser grinning back at them. But this guy made contact with you first on the Internet, so chances are he's got at least a slight suspicion that he's got a problem or two in the Greek-god department. But he may not. After all, you're not ugly and you were on the Internet too.

Because of all the things you like about him, you have zero to lose and possibly a lot to gain by leveling with him. If you can't say it in person (really hard), or on the phone, compose an e-mail telling him that it seems strange that someone as sharp as he is wouldn't realize the importance of good dental hygiene. Add that his hair could look great with a good cut. Tell him you're sorry to sound so brutal, but that you really like him, you think he's worth the truth, and that he deserves better from himself. You need to use your own words, cutting the criticism with plenty of praise, but you get the idea.

If he takes it badly and dumps you, well, it'd be sad, but at least you'd be off the hook. On the other hand, if he's perceptive enough to realize that your bluntness is in fact kindness, and a genuine attempt to keep the relationship alive, you could both win big. It's worth a try.

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