Ask the Advice Goddess 21

I hate those first dates when you just sit across the table from someone and try to make conversation. On the other hand, I don't exactly want to invite a guy I've just met to come over and make out on my couch. Can you suggest a new, improved alternative to the classic dinner date? --AdrianaWhat to say next to your date becomes increasingly unimportant when you find a more pressing preoccupation, such as whether or not you will become a permanent fixture on the grille of some old man's Cadillac, thanks to the failing brakes on your Rollerblades. Welcome to The Sports Connection, the panting, sweating, high-carbohydrate first date of the nineties. The following are a few pointers:When choosing your outfit, think "action figure." In other words, wear comfortable, sports-appropriate clothing you've worn before. Wearing a bikini without extensive practice is ill-advised. (The twins are likely to pop out when you least expect them). If certain areas on your body are in need of improvement, do not drape or stuff them into safety orange. Remember, black is slimming, but it does not work miracles. Large baggy shorts, even on The Playmate Of The Year, are neither feminine nor flattering. Try one of those little culottes skirts or a shirt over bike shorts if your back end is a little on the "wide load" side.Choose a sport you've done at least a couple of times before. Generally, successful dates do not end with one or both of you being rescued by paramedics or the coast guard.Your game or sport should be social -- not a reenactment of the Christians being thrown to the lions. Your date is no time to run a triathalon, especially if you are the next Joan Benoit and your companion has only been known to run when the meter maid is approaching his car. And while you shouldn't pretend to be a fragile flower, keep in mind that leaving your date writhing in your dust can be extremely detrimental to the fragile male ego. I'm a guy in my late thirties. My girlfriend's a very positive person. I'm at a crossroads in my career and my life -- I know I need a change, but I'm not sure what I want -- and I've been pretty down about it. One day, my girlfriend wanted to hang out and I just wasn't up to it. We got in a fight, because she thought my not wanting to do anything had something to do with her. I just have this feeling of sadness -- almost an emptiness, lately -- and it's really hard to share that...(aside from the fact that not many people would want to). What is the value of this feeling that is dragging me down? How do you deal with sadness?--Cloudy DayIt's a little hard to get in touch with your inner Mary Poppins when you're walking around in a shroud re-reading Kafka.Not that you should. Your sadness is like that warning light in your car that says "service engine soon." Ignore it, and incipient problems are likely to come to the fore when it's raining cats, dogs and small barnyard animals and you're miles from the nearest house; that one you passed with all the rifle turrets and no-trespassing signs.Articulate to your girlfriend that you've fallen into an emotional pothole, and have no idea about when you might find your way out. Repeatedly remind her that it has nothing to do with her. Unfortunately, it's pretty hard to be good company for someone who skips around crooning "My Favorite Things," when you're in the mood to elevate your spirits with a little something by Nine Inch Nails or Jane's Addiction.Instead, spend time alone exploring your feelings. Take stock of your life; what's made you feel happy and fulfilled; what you'd rather jettison. Read books and explore others' points of view and take from each what works for you. Seek out new paths that provide you with what you think you need. Don't be afraid to experiment with wild ideas or make false starts. And try to see any failed attempts as positive; taking a wrong turn may help point you in the right direction.Don't let your girlfriend or anyone else try to force you to act the part of the plastic Ken-doll with the painted-on smile. The masquerade will only make you feel worse. Besides, if your girlfriend takes a closer look at old Ken, she'll notice that not only are his facial features stuck in permanent "have a nice day" mode, he also happens to be anatomically unreal in another most essential area.

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