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Jiffy Pop the question

Q: I'm a 33-year-old, nice-looking, professional guy. I haven't had a girlfriend in three years because of a demanding job and because I am incredibly choosy about the women I take up with. I would rather be alone than date a woman who isn't right for me. Two weeks ago, I met a woman through mutual friends, and began dating her. She is everything I've ever wanted in a partner — smart, funny, beautiful, sexy and truly loving. Every day, I find myself overwhelmed by the urge to declare my love for her. My question is this: What is the shortest amount of time a couple can date before becoming engaged and not be considered crazy? —Feeling Ready

A: Cool your jets, Romeo. On the mental wellness road map, you are here, and your judgment's gone Greyhound to Vegas. The scary thing is, you seem perfectly sane (to you, anyway) ... and did even as you struggled to settle on a school district for your unborn child on the third date. If you are lucky, some well-meaning friend or acquaintance will recognize that you've become a danger to yourself and society, and will bind and gag you to prevent you from taking any action that requires a minister or a justice of the peace and a blood test. At the moment, you probably know your mailman better than you know this girl. If you got out more, you might realize that what you're in right now isn't love. It's pre-love. It's lust, infatuation, a sex fog. Until the fog clears, you'll continue to behave as you have been — as if you have rolled oats for brains. To find out exactly how oaty in the head you are, take five for a cute check. Infatuation is life's great fault remover ... meaning that the things people do that you find somewhat irritating, even screamingly annoying, seem darling when your sweetiebuns is the guilty party. You know — like clicking a pen to imaginary music while you're trying to read the paper. Or flossing in public. Or flushing your toilet so it runs forever. Or e-mailing you much-forwarded get-rich-quick schemes (yes, Virginia — major multinational companies are now doing business by Internet chain letter). Such is the stuff of pre-love ... for a while, anyway. Eventually, the sex fog will dissipate, leaving you with a real woman in your arms. That's when the hairy moles come out; yours and hers. And that's when you'll both come to a crossroads — Walk and Don't Walk; Relationship This Way or Run For Your Little Old Life. At this point, the oat bran will have vacated your mental premises, and you'll again have access to all the gray matter that was languishing in storage. Rehab it and put it to use for at least a year in the presence of your semi-annoying beloved. Only after a serious block of time passes will you be qualified to decide whether to "take the plunge" ... and to know with any certainty whether that would be a good thing or the sorry alternative to a plunge to your death.

Q: My girlfriend and I have been seeing each other for a little over nine months. Recently, she started talking about other guys. When we are together, I notice her checking out other guys, too. She is transferring to my college this semester. When I went to pick her up from registration, all she could talk about was the hot guys she'd met. She listed all their names except for the one guy who gave her his number. She said she "forgot" his name. At this point, I asked her if she was looking for another man. There was a 10-second silence, and then she replied, "What?" After another pause, she answered "no." Now, if she had asked me the same question, I would have answered no immediately. Suddenly, I feel inadequate around her. I don't feel attractive, and I definitely don't feel like I am the one she wants. Could I be I overreacting? —Feeling Like Number Two

A: Unfortunately, your girlfriend seems to communicate with you in classic nonverbal Seventh Avenue style. Designers never tell women in so many words what they want them to wear. Instead, they dictate their message in a flurry of advertising photos: "Look like a woman who took so much Valium in 1962 that her eyes are still glazed over and she still doesn't feel like changing her clothes." Likewise, everything your girlfriend does says that you're stonewashed cargo pants in a sea of leather. Take the hint before she plasters a sign across your back — "Last season's fashion! 70 percent off!" Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com

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