Dear Ms. Behavior:
Years ago, I used excellent advice from your book Do What I Say: Ms. Behavior’s Guide to Gay and Lesbian Etiquette to prepare for falling in love. It worked. My relationship lasted 10 years. Eventually, my partner and I grew apart, and broke up.
Unfortunately, when I searched for your book, so that I once again could prepare for love, I found that my partner had taken it. She refuses to give it back, claiming she needs it more than I do.
Could you give us an excerpt in your column?
Dear Single Katie:
Here’s a condensed version. Ms. Behavior hopes it helps.
How To Meet the Person of Your Dreams and Fall in Love
Think of the Buddhist notion of holding two opposing things, one in each hand. One represents going on with your life without thinking about falling in love. The other represents preparation for the magical moment that you do. Such spiritual gymnastics are not necessary for casual dating, but to be ready for love, Ms. Behavior believes you must achieve two seemingly contradictory states: a Zen-like meditative bliss which keeps you happy in the moment; and the intense preparation of a boy scout.
Nothing potentially batters your self-esteem more than a new relationship, so in addition to preparing physically (grooming, working out, and lots of moisturizing), being ready for falling in love involves pumping it up emotionally, too. The unimaginative attempt to achieve heightened self-esteem by sitting naked in front of their full-length mirrors, reciting affirmations. The non-icky way to enhance your self-image is to become your own ideal lover.
If you are attracted to fit, spiritual people who read a lot, you might start working out, meditating, and spending your free time at the library, instead of lying on the couch, eating popcorn, and bemoaning your fate. This method not only improves your self-esteem, but also gets you out of your house, so that you can meet people.
You know why this self-strengthening is necessary. Once you fall in love, you lose your center, and become a jiggly, gelatinous cling-on. The warm, liquid feeling in your lover’s presence becomes a drug that both awakens you, and gives you a sensation of sleepy calm. Your sense of self erodes. You have to look in the mirror all the time to remember who you are. You shed your own interests, and become obsessed with your partner’s interest.
Your friends and family recede into the distance. You are late for work twice a week, and when your boss yells, you just smile. The heap of laundry in your bedroom is shoulder-high, with whites and colors happily commingling. Your therapist gets exasperated with your faraway look, and tells you that she hates people who are in love, because they are rendered deaf and silly by their own passion.
At first, losing yourself feels wonderful. Merging with another person, body and soul, feels like a giant, psychic orgasm. But you soon realize that your life has slipped away—that you even don’t remember what used to interest you. Beneath your new collection of Snoopy dolls and reptiles are small clues about what your life used to be like, and like a victim of amnesia, you try to piece them together. Your memory of self has been sucked into the black hole of obsessive love.
Ms. Behavior cannot bear to see this happen to you. All she ever has wanted is your happiness. So, here she offers her guidance on what you need to do to prepare for falling in love:
• Floss and brush your teeth
• Use high-quality skincare products
• Buy new sheets and fabulously sexy underwear
• Spend a lot of time cultivating your hobbies and friends
• Ride your bicycle
• Plant things in your garden
• Go to therapy, and discuss your mother and your father, over and over again
• Be nice to your pets
• Visit your grandmother
• Avoid people who are deeply cynical
• Burn pretty candles
• Come out to everyone you know
• Keep fresh flowers in a vase in your living room
• Take your vitamins
Once you have done all this, you will be ready to fall in love. Also, you will be pretty damn appealing.
© 2009 Meryl Cohn. Address questions and correspondence to <firstname.lastname@example.org>. She is the author of Do What I Say: Ms. Behavior’s Guide to Gay and Lesbian Etiquette (Houghton Mifflin). Signed copies are available directly from the author.