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Miss Information

She needs space, but how can I keep from pining away for her?

By Cait Robinson

Have a question? Email . Letters may be edited for length, content, and clarity.

Dear Miss Info,

I went out on a date with a friend's sister about six months ago and we had a fantastic time together. Great conversation, wonderful chemistry. We went on several dates after that and totally enjoyed each other's company. The issue is she just got divorced after three years of marriage. The divorce was messy — cheating, a love child, etc. — and now she's doing some traveling to clear her head. We went out a few days before she left. I told her that I liked her a lot, but knew she wasn't in the right place right now for a relationship, and that when and if she was ready, I would be around. I also told her I didn't want to put any pressure on her given all the other crap she's dealing with, and that she could do with this information as she willed. My question is this: I am still going out on dates and I'm wondering what's the best way to present myself truthfully to another woman, without saying I'm waiting on someone else? I just don't want to hurt anyone or be reckless with their feelings, but I do know where my head and heart are. I'm also not trying just to have flings, but I feel like I shouldn't not go out and date, right? — Dating N Waiting

Dear Dating N Waiting,

Ah, yes, the noble Gentleman Caller sitting at home, chin in hands, staring out the window at the cold and rainy evening, his sighs audible over the sounds of the wood hearth and the ticking of the grandfather clock. It's the stuff romance novels are made of.

Oh wait, no, "Sexy Lord with Horse and Carriage" is the star of romance novels; "Devoted Piner" isn't. Waiting for her is essentially making a doormat of yourself, and that's thoroughly unattractive. Live your life! When she gets back with a clearer head, perhaps you'll pick up right where you left off, and you'll hold hands and run off into the sunset. But it's important that, when she asks you, "So what have you been up to for the last six months?" you be able to answer her. Date other women. Go out with your friends. Watch movies, take up square dancing, build model trains. Good God, don't just sit and pine. Most women want independent partners with lives of their own, not lapdogs. If she returns and finds out you've just been sighing and drinking tea the whole time, it will probably set off alarm bells in her head.

Listen, it's great that you and this girl hit it off. And it's good that you're sensitive to her painful and dicey situation. But it also sounds like you've gone so far out of your way to be chivalrous that you've totally given up your sense of yourself. And where is she in this story? What were her reactions? Did she want you to wait? A relationship is a give-and-take, DnW, not a series of one-sided sacrifices. Don't limit yourself because of her. Who knows what you'll stumble upon while she's gone?

Live your life as if she weren't in the picture — because right now, emotionally and geographically, she isn't. When she returns, perhaps you'll be able to share your respective travel stories — but yours need to be something other than musings on the back of her head as she walks away. 

Dear Miss Information,

My job situation is fairly terrible. I'm smart, competent, and qualified, but I'm presently stuck in a complicated web of freelance and part-time work to make ends meet. Oh, and I tend bar. At a Chili's. Oh, the indiginity. I keep telling myself it's a temporary and common situation, and I keep sending out my resumes.

My romantic life is the very opposite of terrible. Three months ago, I met a guy. A really, really great guy. We spent that whole weekend together alternating between fantastic sex and fantastic conversation. As I was gathering my stuff to leave late Sunday night, I asked what he did. It was conversational! Organic! I swear! I was surprised to learn that he's one of the founders of an organization I've long dreamed of working for and have sent, oh, twenty resumes to. My brain was a little addled by endorphins at the time, and I just thought of the coincidence as proof of the benevolence of the universe or something.

Now that we've been dating for a while, the job thing's gotten to be a problem. The boyfriend has offered to write me a letter of recommendation if I want to apply for a particular opening at his organization. Literally hundreds of people apply for their posted jobs. This recommendation wouldn't be a guarantee of a position, but it would put me on very good footing. Maybe put me on a list of three candidates instead of three hundred. I would be completely thrilled by his offer — if we weren't sleeping together.

As it is, I'm afraid that things'll become awkward if I don't get the job. And I'm afraid if I do get the job I'll soon become known as the girl who got the job by sleeping with the boss. Or, we'll break up someday and I'll have the pleasure of working in a cubicle down the hall from my ex-boyfriend's corner office. But I literally cannot imagine a job I'd want more than this one. If I were six years old, I would draw this job in crayon and surround it with hearts. Then again I'd draw this boy and surround him with hearts too. The boyfriend thinks it's no big deal, but I think he's only saying that because he's never been a woman and subject to questions of competency based on skirt length or dating habits. — Angsty Feminist


Dear Angsty Feminist,

Normally, I'd cut such a lengthy letter down a bit, but I didn't have the heart to — because it's just so good. By the end, I was practically cheering you on. Go, Angsty! Show 'em! Hemlines and competency, grr! Feminism! Mary Tyler Moore throwing her hat in the air! Jobs! But allow me to reel myself in, because I, too, have a job to do.

This is a delicate situation, and all of your weighing of pros and cons is absolutely spot-on. A less careful person would have screeched, "A free ride! Sweet!" and sprinted to the bank. But you are putting a lot of hard thought into it, which means you won't act rashly. This bodes well for both your career and your relationship. Judging from your tone, you also seem pretty dead-set on this job. Even though you have a list of reasons why it may not work out, it seems clear that you want to go for it. That instict is worth trusting.

It's encouraging that your boyfriend thinks this is "no big deal," simply because it means he thinks highly of you and feels secure in your relationship. Would he feel comfortable recommending you if he had doubts about either? Probably not. It's great that you've discussed the situation with him; I suggest you go one step further, and sit him down to make sure you're on the same page.

Tell him you're strongly considering taking his recommendation. Tell him how perfect this job is. Tell him how sick you are of all your clothes smelling like a fucking Bloomin' Onion. Then lay out the possible future: "If I get the job, we will be coworkers. Co — 'together.' Workers — 'those who work.'" Maybe draw a few diagrams or pull up a PowerPoint slide or two. (You know, for that professional edge.) See what his reaction is. Talk through possible sticking points ("Would you feel uncomfortable if you had to give me direction in work? Would it be weird if I was at post-work happy hour?", etc.)

Then — as uncomfortable and anti-feminist as it may feel — consider adding, "How serious are we?" Because, as painfully awkward as the "are we for real?" conversation can be, in this situation it's pretty much a necessity. You are clearly head-over-heels for him; if he's anything less than that for you, you want to know now, rather than six months from now when he announces that he "needs space" and you're suddenly charged with buying the ice-cream cake for his office birthday party.

This is a decision you guys should make together. If he's going to recommend you, it's important you be on the same page. Think of it as "informed consent." Tell him your concerns, and see what he says to alleviate them. If he vouches for you, you want him to be on board and enthusiastic for all of it: seeing you in the hallways, in meetings, on the train home. Then, if you two are in sync, go for it and make no apologies.

Once you get the job, sure, it's entirely possible your coworkers may gossip. But once you prove your competence, dedication, and charisma, all of that chatter will go away. Keep your office identity strictly separate from your boyfriend's, and you'll be fine. After all, his recommendation may get your résumé to the top of the pile, but your qualifications and intelligence will get you the job. Don't lose sight of that.

In short, Angsty Feminist: I think you're gonna make it after all.

Commentarium (24 Comments)

Nov 22 10 - 9:36am

Feminist, as long as he won't be your direct supervisor, you should be OK. I don't know how much sway "founder' has over this organization. If you get special perks for sleeping with someone higher up, though, your co-workers who didn't get the perks would have a valid complaint. If it's not that direct a line, then I say go for it! Even if you do break up in six months and can't stand the sight of each other anymore, half of getting started in full-time business is getting started, and you'll find it easier to get another similar job somewhere else if you have something besides "Chili's Bartender" in the experience portion of your resume. As for the photo for this article, "Hey, look, Genesis is back together!"

Nov 22 10 - 3:14pm

To the Pining Guy-- Keep in mind that the process of "clearing one's head" includes having a few flings during the course of these travels, so don't feel guilty for having a few of your own. That said, I'm glad you're concerned with the fairness of dating girls when you've already got the position filled in your own mind. Definitely don't lead them on if it's not working out, but at least give them a shot.

Nov 22 10 - 3:26pm

To the Feminist-- There's obviously a couple potential areas for disaster here, but if the job means that much to you then it's worth the risk! You've already applied to the company on your own…The feminist in me thinks that if you don't let your boyfriend (I mean, "personal acquaintance") vouch for you, then you would be allowing a romantic relationship to hinder your professional growth. Yes, it's twisted logic, but I stand by it.

Nov 22 10 - 4:36pm

I have a prof who got his job on the recommendation of his girlfriend who already worked for the department. At the time they didn't tell anyone they were living together and apparently it was scandalous. But they're such a good instructor that nobody thinks they shouldn't be there.

Nov 22 10 - 6:17pm

Solid advice all-around from our three lonely commenters! You guys are the best. I always kind of read the comments with a gin and tonic in hand and a good friend on speed-dial, just in case anyone decides to go for any particularly low blows about my adult acne or ability to punctuate or whatever. Thanks to you guys, I'm joyfully drinking alone, not sadly doing it!

And for what it's worth, I stand by RS's reading of feminist rights. Don't limit yourself by others' gossipping about your "skirt length or dating habits": just do what you're going to do. Easier said than done, for sure, but makes sense to me!

Nov 22 10 - 6:49pm

Hey Cait, I think you give great advice!

Nov 22 10 - 7:08pm

Angsty - I think Cait gave you some solid advice on this one. I also want to add, as a recent graduate from law school who is watching all of my classmates take jobs at Hooters, Footlocker, etc. that this isn't the sort of economy that you can afford to be careful in. People use connections all. the. time. The fact that you are working at Chili's tells me that you a hard worker that probably hasn't had things handed to you in life, so you aren't really used to having an "in" somewhere. Take the recommendation. Don't hide the connection with your boyfriend but don't flaunt it. DEFINITELY no cutesy stuff in the office (though you sound like you have a good head on your shoulders and wouldn't do this) and avoid projects where you two would be working together. There will always be that one miserable person with kitten posters and "live laugh love" shit up who will say nasty things and be after you, but he or she would do that even if your boyfriend didn't give you the leg up because they suck and, from my personal experience, people who need a sign in their office reminding them to perform such basic human functions as living, laughing, and loving, are notoriously awful at all those things. I digress. If your guy co-founded this operation, he wouldn't risk giving you a job if he thought you couldn't handle it. Go for it! Prove them wrong! Live, laugh, (barf). PS - I know it isn't Morris Dees, but I keep picturing your boyfriend as Morris Dees.

To the Piner,
Nothing good can come from waiting. Don't lie if someone asks if you're involved with someone else. It is sad, but Cait is right that pining always comes off weird in real life. Who knows, you could find someone you are even more compatible with in the meantime. Good luck, buddy.

Nov 22 10 - 7:28pm

feminist - He's not going to get you the job just get you noticed. As long as he is not day to day supervisor (and it sounds not) take the happy coincidence and run with it. Who cares how you get your foot in the door? Just get it in and get that job on your resume - like JCF said half of getting started is getting started. Your resume, interview and reviews with get and keep you the job. Just keep it low for 6 months until you prove your competent. Hopefully this is win win win (great boyfriend, great sex, great job) Don't worry about your co workers - they will gossip anyway.

Nov 22 10 - 8:56pm

Cait, you are awesome.

Nov 24 10 - 12:10am

How many times have we been told "It's not what you know, it's who you know"? How could AF possibly lose by not going for it? Chilis will always be there.

Nov 24 10 - 9:53am
Vincent St. John

Cait, let's get married. In Hello Kitty wedding dresses, with gigantic red bows on our heads. Yes, that's right, I'm publicly proposing to you. Cait Robinson, will you Hello Kitty marry me?

Nov 24 10 - 6:09pm

Not to go against the grain here, but can't one go out and live one's life *without* dating? The LW's question was basically: "should I date, or should I not date?" to which my answer would be to ask: "do you *want* to date?" Because you shouldn't be going out and dating just because you think it's what you're supposed to do - you should do it if you like someone. If I were Ms. Messy-Divorce and I returned and found that the guy had been living his life, doing interesting shit, but hadn't hooked up with anyone, I would not automatically think : pining-loser-who-does-nothing-but-sigh-and-drink-tea. (Not that there's anything wrong with tea. Tea is fantastic.) I would think : guy-who-does-interesting-shit-who-clearly-still-is-interested-in-me. Which is a good thing.

Nov 24 10 - 7:57pm

Interesting read, AH. I'm with you: not dating is often a GREAT CHOICE. It's especially great if you are not ready for a relationship (like the lady in DnW's quandary), generally want to focus on yourself, or have other reasons for not wanting to get involved with other people. A+! Super idea! Can be an emotionally mature choice! However, "not dating" is NOT a great idea when it's contingent on just one person's approval. That's what made me uncomfortable with DnW's description: he didn't say whether he had any sort of encouragement from her, he just presented his case as a series of sacrifices that should, fingers crossed, pay off in the end. And that's the wrong way to go about "not dating." It's the difference between telling an interested girl, "You are awesome, but I'm just not on solid emotional footing and can't be in a relationship," and telling her, "I can see you, I guess, but I'm in love with someone who's not here and I hope comes back and wants to be with me."

But absolutely, I'm with you, AH. You *can* live your life as an aggressively single person--and perhaps that's a good call for our friend DnW. You'll notice that I didn't only tell him to date people; I basically tried to say, "do things! Have fun!" Dating may or may not factor into that. You're right to point it out.

Nov 24 10 - 7:58pm

Shhh, don't speak, Vincent. You had me at "Hello Kitty wedding."

Nov 25 10 - 9:15am

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Feb 07 11 - 10:06pm

Angsty: If he recommends you, and your co-workers gossip about you getting the job because you were sleeping with the boss, they'll be RIGHT. He's got no professional experience with you. Unless you left something out, he doesn't even have much idea of how competent you are, or are not. What he knows is a) He digs you. b) You're fucking him, and he'd like that to continue c) You'd like to have the job. That is no basis for a professional recommendation.
Decline his offer. Focus on your relationship, if you'd like to have one. If you'd like him to ACTUALLY get some idea of your professional competence, when it's appropriate, propose that you two work on some related side-project together. THEN if he decides you'd be an asset to his organization, and he'd really like to have you working there, he should recommend you.
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