Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 18 2007 7:34 AM

Weighty Issues

The man I like is wonderful—but not attractive to me. What should I do?

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Dear Prudence,
I recently met a man who thoroughly enchanted me with his personality. He's incredibly smart, funny, generous, and caring. We've spent time together and found that we have so many things in common and have this great connection—one that is extremely rare. When we get together for chats, they last for hours and I lose track of the time. I always look forward to spending more time with him. My dilemma is that he is overweight, and I am not completely attracted to him. I am on some levels, but I am not sure it would be enough to transition our friendship into a relationship. Part of me really believes that we should keep things as just friends. The other part of me thinks that I'd be crazy not to take things further, but I think if we did, I would just end up hurting his feelings in the end. What should I do?

—Weighed Down

Dear Weighed,
It's a good sign that you're not asking how to get your new friend to lose weight so you can be attracted to him. Instead, you're struggling with feelings that the seemingly right person for you comes in a package that doesn't match your fantasy. Since you met this man recently, don't force yourself to decide right away. Sure, it's thrilling to find yourself immediately, physically attracted to someone. But we all know that acting on mutual lust is no guarantee that the relationship—and the attraction—won't fizzle out. Just continue to see your friend and marvel at how easily and quickly the time passes when you're with him. Stop worrying that if you take things further, it might not work out. Whenever two people take things further, there's the chance one or both of them could get hurt. As for whether you can ever find yourself attracted to a person who just isn't your physical type, I refer you to Michael Berman's memoir of being fat, Living Large. He describes arriving for a blind date—he weighed almost 300 pounds—and being greeted at the door by a thin woman who took one look at him and declared she had a headache and would be unable to go out. But she was polite enough to invite him in for a quick drink. After an hour of talking flew by, she found her "headache" had cleared up and suggested they continue out to dinner. They've been married 40 years.

—Prudie

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Dear Prudence,
I've been told more than once in my life that doing something good for others is a great way to feel better about one's own life, and so, after a long stretch of un- and underemployment, I decided to give volunteering a try. Rather than feeling rewarded in my efforts, however, I felt overwhelmed and depressed by all the work that needed to be done for the less fortunate, and an uncomfortable feeling of unending obligation to those people I was serving. I am loath to do more volunteering, but my reasons for not doing so feel absolutely selfish and evil. What's wrong with me?

—The "I" in Charity

Dear I,
It's great that you have the time and inclination to volunteer, but look for ways to make a contribution that don't leave you emotionally flayed. There are endless things you could do: transport donations to a food bank, repair playgrounds in poor neighborhoods, help at an animal shelter, etc. Don't beat yourself up because you discovered being with people whose lives are worse than yours didn't make you feel better about your own life. But you also should figure out why your life has been so unsatisfying for so long. Pick up some books in the job development advice section of the bookstore and start taking action on why your career is so stalled. If you went to college, see what resources your alma mater might offer alumni. Also consider seeing a therapist to address some underlying issues. If you feel evil because you didn't like the volunteer activity you chose, it will probably be a worthwhile investment to explore why you are so hard on yourself.

—Prudie

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Dear Prudie,
My boyfriend just moved to the city from a small town. We live in a great apartment that we both love, but there is one problem. The couple upstairs have loud sex a few times a week. It normally happens just as we're falling asleep, and sometimes it makes it hard to sleep. I get embarrassed to hear something so intimate. My boyfriend would like to talk to them about it, but we have only said "Hi" to them since we moved here and I don't want to embarrass them. I don't want to have to move, but I need my sleep. What should we do?

—Pillow Over My Head

Dear Pillow,
I, too, once had a loudly lusty couple living in the apartment upstairs. Fortunately, I found putting my ear to a glass pressed against the wall amplified the sound sufficiently so that I didn't miss anything. In the case of my couple, they eventually got married and almost immediately afterward the sounds from the bedroom ceased. But since you don't know your neighbors, you're probably not in a position to encourage them to tie the knot. As for your boyfriend's plan to talk to them, what is he going to do, introduce himself in the elevator, then say, "Nice to meet you. Don't you think more than four noisy orgasms a week per person is overdoing it?" No, you can't talk to them about their sex life, but you can take care of your own needs by looking into sound-dampening technology. There's everything from drugstore earplugs to white-noise machines. If you get one of the latter, set it on "jungle sounds" and drown out the mating calls of the homo sapiens upstairs.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
We have a fairly tightknit group of married couples who get together every month or so. One of the wives has a single sister who lives in town, and she brings her to some of our events. Sometimes she asks and sometimes she doesn't. The group dynamic definitely changes when the sister is around, as most of us don't know her very well. We all try to make her feel welcome, but things seem odd because she is not married and we only see her during these events. What can be done when this wife says she's bringing her sister to an event I'm hosting, without completely crushing this very sensitive woman?

—No Sister, Sister

Dear No Sister,
What is the nature of these events that one single person throws it all off? I assume you're not all tossing your car keys in a hat and temporarily rearranging your pairings. As a matter of courtesy, your friend should ask anyone who's hosting an event if it's all right to bring her sister. But unless there's a compelling reason otherwise, the answer should be that she's more than welcome. Surely, if she's shown up for a bunch of soirees, you all know her well enough by now to include her in the conversation. It would be one thing if you all found the sister a disruption because she dominated every discussion or sulked in the corner. The only thing you find odd about her coming is that she's not married. Let's say misfortune struck you, and your husband died or you two split up. Would you expect the group to now exclude you because you were odd woman out?

—Prudie

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