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Chump Change

Several months ago, I met this amazing woman. We fell in love quickly, and everything seemed perfect, but it turned out she'd been speaking with her ex-husband about reuniting all along. He subsequently moved back in. Days afterward, she called me, promising their relationship was "really over." I forgave her and started seeing her again. Of course, he never really left. I now know that she manipulated me every step of the way, but I still care for her, and want her to get the emotional help she clearly needs. How can I reconcile my feelings about what she did to me, and help her become the person I once thought she was?--Fool For Love

If you were a duck, you'd fly around during hunting season in a little gold lame vest, towing a banner that reads "PICTURE ME NAKED ON YOUR PLATE ON A BED OF WHIPPED POTATOES!" As a man, you can simply go to a bar and be yourself -- loud, clear and needy -- and women will picture you lying on the floor in a three-piece linoleum suit, shouting, "Walk all over me!"

Don't try to argue that mistakes happen. Sure they do -- especially to people who cover their eyes, plug their ears and sing really loudly to obscure any facts not in alignment with their desired reality. It's guys like you who get hacked up in slasher movies -- immediately after insisting, "I'm not letting some report of a meat-cleaver-wielding maniac on the loose stop me from exercising my right to explore this dark cellar for no reason whatsoever!"

Anything for love, huh? Or rather, "love." Sorry, but love, when it's real, is not blind or otherwise impaired, but the product of very good eyesight. It takes time to see who somebody really is -- assuming you have the inclination to discover it. So, while you might have broken some speed records for falling in something (or, more accurately, stepping in something), it definitely wasn't love.

Forget "reconciling" your feelings about what she did to you, or helping her become the person she never was and has no interest in becoming now. Reconcile how you can say stuff like that without retching, then take action to stop being somebody who gets "done to" -- starting by faking your own death to eliminate any chance of hearing from her again. Oh, but you can't abandon her now! (No, you're far too busy abandoning yourself and your dignity to find room for anybody else on your abandonment agenda.)

Apparently, it's a full-time job for you, avoiding the real problem: You aren't simply looking for love; you're desperate for love -- which is the surest way to land in the arms of somebody incapable of providing it. This won't change until you get comfortable being alone -- comfortable enough to refrain from selling yourself down the river to the first con girl who needs a bit of man-bait to green up her ex.

"To err is human" is putting it mildly. For a lot of people, stumbling through life as if auditioning for the role of the long-lost brother of The Three Stooges is more like it. Luckily, there is a remedy for stupid reflux: Embrace your prior stupidities and recognize how prone you are to repeat them. The first step would be admitting that you weren't the victim of some freak accident, like getting struck by lightning at high noon on a sunny day. But, let's pretend this woman was some brilliant artiste du scam. Being at all surprised she zapped you a second time is like being astonished that you were struck by lightning during an electrical storm -- while wandering around a golf course, using a 10-foot metal lightning rod as a walking stick.

All Smell Breaking Loose

In your response to "Grossed Out," the girl who complained that her boyfriend was only showering every other day, I think you missed a trick. Instead of telling the guy there's a problem, why doesn't she invite him to take a shower with her? It's the sexy way to get him clean, don't you think, and without wounding him in the ego? --A Man of the (Wash) Cloth

When somebody asks you to talk dirty to them, they probably aren't looking to hear how you haven't washed behind your ears. Likewise, the last man any woman wants to bathe with is one who's seriously in need of a bath. The impulse, if any, is to take him out and hose him down, then burn his clothes. While a man should be clean if he's looking for an invitation to get dirty in the shower, the need to turn rudimentary personal hygiene into a sex act does have its merits; namely, as a highly effective way to prevent pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and girlfriends.

Copyright 2004, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)

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