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Charlotte's (tangled) web

Plus, bawdy and soul

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I'm a 49-year-old guy, and when I met my girlfriend of six months she told me she was 30. Our 19-year age difference worried me, but she said it was cool with her. A few weeks ago, I inadvertently discovered she's really 39. She admitted it, apologized, and said she didn't know why she didn't tell me. I'm glad she's 39, but should I be worried about this kind of dishonesty spilling over into other areas?

-- Trust Tested

"Beauty is truth," wrote Keats. Clearly, Keats never experienced underwire, implants, or those little silicone patties women stick in their bras. (There's a reason they don't call them "truthsies.")

The truth is, beauty is rarely truth, and typically the product of a massive disinformation campaign. If you think about it, even deodorant is a lie -- and may be a "gateway drug" to lipo, Botox, and lips by Goodyear. For liars on more of a budget, there are those pantyhose that squeeze a size 16 woman into a size six woman -- until she passes out and has to be removed from her nylons by paramedics wielding the "Jaws of Life."

Men, too, lie about their looks -- with Rogaine, hair plugs, socks in the crotch, and the untucked shirt hiding the really big gut. And then, because women are into fiscal good looks, a man's more likely to introduce himself as "a consultant" instead of "unemployed," or to live in a treehouse he's sublet from some kid so he can make the payments on his Jag.

Accordingly, a girl who turns the clock back nine years is lying, but there are lie-lies and there are like-me lies, and they shouldn't be assigned the same point value. Back when you were, say, just some cute stranger in a bar, her age-shaving was a like-me lie. But, then you started dating. There was a grace period (two dates, three dates) in which she could've played the silly girl card, and said, "Tee hee, I have a confession to make. I liked you so much I told this stupid lie!" Instead, she stuck to her deception -- even though she knew that the truth would've made you feel much better. The coverup turned it into a lie-lie -- a sign of questionable character -- and probably led to some fast talking about how old she was when she got her first mullet.

Will her dishonesty spill into other areas? It's possible. Let's look at the area you're probably most worried about -- some other guy's bedroom. Researchers Todd Shackelford and David Buss gave a battery of tests to 107 married couples, and found three personality traits common to those more susceptible to infidelity. The first is narcissism -- being self-absorbed, self-important, lacking in empathy, and prone to exploiting others. Next on the list are low conscientiousness and high "psychoticism," clinical terms for a personality marked by impulsivity, unreliability, and an inability to delay gratification.

Even if some or all of this sounds disturbingly familiar, it doesn't necessarily mean she'll stray. Don't bother asking her whether you can trust her (what's she going to say, "Probably not"?). Just act like you can so you can observe her in unguarded moments and learn the truth without her knowing she's telling it. In time, you should get a sense of whether she's just insecure, and insecure about admitting to it -- or inclined to take those "little shortcuts of life" more accurately known as lying, cheating, and relocating to the Caribbean with the contents of your bank account.

Bawdy And Soul

I've been with my girlfriend for six months. Everything's going well, except that I've never really been attracted to her, which makes it difficult to be physical. My friends say I should stay with her but cheat to fill my need to be with someone I'm attracted to. It was hard just to find a good relationship, and I feel shallow and mean following their advice, but I don't want to let her go.

-- Frustrated

Do your dates typically take place under a giant sneeze guard? Because you seem to be confusing your relationship with a salad bar. You claim you have "a good relationship," yet six months in, you're already eyeing the booty buffet. You say you don't want to let your girlfriend go -- meaning, you'd rather chance her catching you in bed with some skank so she can run out, screaming and crying, of her own accord? (Shall we cue the cartoon lovebirds now, or wait until she stops using your bat to reconfigure your car?) Dump her -- it's the sweetest thing you can do. Let her find a guy who also appreciates her for what's inside -- but manages to look at what's outside as more than a reminder to have sex with somebody else.

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