March 17, 2010

Love it or loathe it, dear readers

— It's that time of year when people are divided into two camps -- those who dread Valentine's Day because they have to find a gift for the person in their life, and those who hate the holiday for being an overcommercialized, faux and socially normalized expression of devotion.

Then again, kids really like it because it involves candy, so count them too.

In the long tradition of Dear Abby, Carolyn Hax and Dan Savage, I thought I would take a few real questions from local people about relationships and dating.

To protect the innocent (and not so innocent), the names have been changed.

I WAS IN a long-distance relationship with a girl when I decided I no longer wanted to be with her. The problem is I came to this conclusion before Christmas and did not want to break up with her then. We had a good time on New Year's, but by January I wanted to call it off again. The next time we were together was on Valentine's Day. That's when I broke it off. I know now that was wrong. What would you have done differently? -- Poor Planning in Portland

IF BREAKING UP is something you've been considering for a while, you probably need to have a talk with your lady. The Christmas, New Years and Valentine's Day triple-header does not give much room if you're looking for a non-emotional time to break up. But the bottom line is you have to pick your moment, take the fallout and don't procrastinate. If there's no such thing as a perfect moment to ask someone out or propose, there's no perfect moment to split either.

MY GIRLFRIEND is ready to live together, but I'm not sure that I am. I love her and we've been together for a while, but living together seems like a big step. Am I just freaking out? -- Not ready to sign on the dotted line

LIVING TOGETHER can seem like a big deal, especially since you're probably used to having things just how you like them. You don't want to give up your David Ortiz Fat Head cut out or decrease your Xbox 360 hours. But if you look around, you've probably already made adjustments in your life because of your lady. If she has a toothbrush and a change of clothes at your place and you didn't freak out, you're already halfway there.

HOW CAN MY partner and I celebrate Valentine's Day four days after the (Democratic) caucuses if one of us is depressed by the outcome and the other one is thrilled? -- Party politics for two

THE FACT THAT you two have different opinions and different tastes is probably what attracted you to each other in the first place. Also, keep in mind arguments often lead to makeups. But if things stay at the same pace in the presidential race for the Democrats, things probably won't be decided after Maine.

MY BOYFRIEND and I broke up recently and things have been respectful. The one hitch is that we got a dog together. We both really care for the dog, so what are the rules in a situation like this? -- Two on a leash

IS IT SAD THAT in our society people have custody fights over dogs? Pets have a special place in our lives, so some work out joint custody; others try and settle a permanent agreement. I'd avoid the lawyers, but consider where you think the dog would be happiest and who has the best atmosphere for it.

Is it OK to call or text for backup when you're on a really bad date? -- Standby on speed dial

THIS IS A TIMELESS question. The thing to consider is how bad the date is going on a ''threat-level'' scale. If it's just threat level green and a little awkward, then no. If it's full blown red, you're paying for everything and he won't stop talking about exes, then yes, call for back-up. Set a public rendezvous and if a few friends happen to show up, well there's nothing wrong with that.

HOW DO YOU FACE the guy you made out with on Friday night when you see him again at a different bar Saturday night and you don't remember his name, or if you ever got his name? -- A Shot of Mistaken identity

SHADY. WHAT YOU'RE suffering from is a case of Shame-nesia, a malady that is becoming far too common. The best thing to do, obviously, would be to drink less, or perhaps have the gentleman fill out some sort of comment card. But if you do run into him again (and Portland is small enough that everyone runs into an ex at some point), you'll have to go Rumpelstiltskin on him and get him to say his name.

Staff Writer Justin Ellis can be contacted at 791-6380. See his blog at:

www.pressherald.com

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