Ex-wild child seeks nice guy

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - CAR­OLYN HAX tellme@wash­post.com

DEAR CAR­OLYN: I’m 25 and just fin­ished a three-year grad­u­ate pro­gram. Early on I met this guy, G., who pur­sued me mul­ti­ple times but I al­ways re­jected him.

I en­tered grad­u­ate school as a very shel­tered, in­no­cent girl. I think that was what at­tracted G. I then be­friended a cou­ple of girls who in­flu­enced me to be­come this wild party girl. I also got a huge tat­too on my thigh be­hind my par­ents’ back.

I’ve been liv­ing in re­gret since then. The tat­too is very un­char­ac­ter­is­tic of me. The party life was a phase I en­joyed mostly be­cause of the com­pany and the new ex­pe­ri­ences. Prior to grad­u­ate school I was very shy and quiet.

That phase is now done. I don’t care for club­bing or drink­ing. I’m eas­ing back into my old life and it feels great.

I’ve also been think­ing of set­tling down and G. came to my mind. I know he’s a good guy. At the same time, I’m so em­bar­rassed about my past and my tat­too. I know he likes nice, se­ri­ous girls. I con­sider my­self nice and ma­ture. But I can’t change what hap­pened in the past three years. I can’t even bring my­self to imag­ine his re­ac­tion when I tell him about the tat­too.

I don’t know what to do. I want to ask him out be­cause I can imag­ine set­tling down with him, but I keep talk­ing my­self out of it be­cause I’m so self-con­scious of my past. I’m scared to have to face his judg­ment.

Do you think I should try with him at all? Or should I just look for some­one else?

— Con­se­quences DEAR READER: A sud­den jolt from shel­tered in­no­cence is a fairly com­mon path to a thigh tat­too, so I hope you don’t waste too much time feel­ing unique, much less shamed or fallen.

You saw a new side of the world, jumped in, stayed a while, and de­cided it wasn’t for you. OK then. Ap­par­ently it was a phase you needed, and it gave you in­for­ma­tion you needed, to rec­og­nize that a quiet life suits you best.

That too is com­mon. Your “old life” was the one dic­tated by your up­bring­ing. To­day, even if it’s es­sen­tially the same as the old one, your new life is fully your own. What you once did by de­fault you’re now do­ing by in­formed choice.

In­stead of fret­ting about what’s be­hind you, I sug­gest be­ing more con­cerned about — or at least just mind­ful of — what could be ahead of you.

While it’s use­ful to be in­formed by re­gret, it’s im­por­tant not to be owned by it. Shame can make even worse de­ci­sions than does naivete. Its ef­fect is akin to fear: It sends you in re­treat from prob­lem­atic de­ci­sions, ver­sus to­ward good ones. Which feels bet­ter, go­ing for a run or say­ing no to a piece of cake? We tend to feel bet­ter, more em­pow­ered, more op­ti­mistic, with pos­i­tive steps and worse with avoidant ones.

So, are you eye­ing G. be­cause you gen­uinely like him? Or do you see him, con­sciously or sub-, as a way to say no to cake — to prove to your­self you’re a “nice, se­ri­ous girl”?

Even the loveli­est of dates makes a poor rem­edy for self­doubt. That grants oth­ers waaaaaay too much power over us, for one.

If you re­ally do just like G., then, yes, ask him out — when you can do so with­out fear of judg­ment. His or any­one else’s. None of us stands alone as a fin­ished prod­uct. We are who we are, and who we used to be, and even who we want to be­come. We are all the good and bad things that shape us.

If you em­brace your grow­ing-up process as part of you, then oth­ers will. And if G. doesn’t — es­pe­cially given that it’s what awoke you to him — then he’s not the guy for you. In­ti­macy is ac­cep­tance. Don’t stick around for less.

DEAR CAR­OLYN: We have a long-term prob­lem of my mother-in-law, “Milly,” ex­clud­ing my hus­band and me from fam­ily oc­ca­sions. We are miss­ing birth­days of lit­tles and land­marks be­cause the host asks Milly to pass along the in­vi­ta­tion, and she man­ages to in­vite the lit­tle brother — the golden child — but not my hus­band and me. I have asked the in­laws to please in­vite us di­rectly so we can be there as nieces and neph­ews grow up. But so far, the in­vi­ta­tions are still pass­ing through that gate­keeper Milly.

— Ex­cluded DEAR READER: You asked them to com­mu­ni­cate with you di­rectly, but they haven’t, so you need to com­mu­ni­cate with them.

And since you can’t ex­actly call around invit­ing your­selves to things, you ei­ther have to in­vite th­ese in-laws to gath­er­ings of your own, or com­mu­ni­cate with them just for the sake of it.

Prefer­ably both. Call to say hi. Call to talk to the lit­tles. Call to learn what they care about, then care about it your­selves. We tend to in­clude peo­ple more who are al­ready half­way there. Chat on­line with Car­olyn at 11 a.m. each Fri­day at wash­ing­ton­post.com. Write to Tell Me About It in care of The Wash­ing­ton Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. N.W., Wash­ing­ton, D.C. 20071; or email

Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group/NICK GALIFIANAKIS

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