Last year, I fell for this guy, "John." We hung out and flirted via e-mail, but he never asked me out. This fall, after he left on a month-long trip, I started dating "Mike," later discovering he's one of John's best friends. Things with Mike started getting rocky. John then surprised me by e-mailing that he'd heard about Mike and me and was a bit hurt and jealous. At Christmas break, Mike left town and John returned. John and I planned to get together, but John lives with a friend of Mike's so I had to sneak in through his window. I soon realized I had to break up with Mike. Mike was devastated, and it didn't help that I couldn't tell him why. John and I kept meeting secretly, but the guilt was getting to him, so we called it quits. Now, I'm torn. Do I settle and give Mike what he wants (me), or wait and try again with John? Or, is it worth it to think of either of them? — Hopeless RomanticOy....when you can't follow the plotline of the love polygon, the answer is almost always "stop dating everyone until you better know yourself, your values, and what you're looking for in a relationship." Sound advice, I think, typically delivered with varying layers of sympathy/contempt, depending on the emotional state of the writer and the patience of the columnist. And Amy Alkon is, in general, not known for suffering fools lightly. Ahem.
The course of true something-or-other never did run smooth. Two people — one of whom is really kind of apathetic about the other — torn apart by fate, or whatever you call it when you rip a perfectly good pair of panties sneaking through your boyfriend's best friend's window.
An actual "hopeless romantic" is somebody in love with love. You just seem confused: Paper or Mike? John or plastic? Cheeseburger or big steaming plate of raw sewage? "Or, is it worth it to think of either of them?" Now, I'm all for people asking me for advice — especially because I'm fond of eating and my landlord likes me better if I pay my rent — but you have to come in with a bit more of a base: I'm this kind of person, and here's what I care about, and here's how the two guys I'm considering stack up. Probably because you lack self-knowledge and values, you're seriously considering settling for a guy. Yeah, there's a romance right out of "Romeo and Juliet": "He's here, he wants me, whatever."
Spanish philosopher Fernando Savater said one of the greatest mistakes you can make in life is being a "moral imbecile" — somebody who doesn't bother figuring out who they are and what matters to them, and instead relies on other people to tell them what to do.
When nobody's around to ask, a person like this can end up doing some really dumb things — say, climbing in a guy's window on the first date. Ever hear of bars, restaurants, coffee shops? Many people who date use them as meeting places — especially if they're women looking for more than a hookup, because guys tend to use and lose women who sleep with them on (or especially, before) the first date. In the future, when a guy you're seriously interested in is picking you up, see that he does it in a car, not by grabbing you by the arms and yanking you over the sill.
Of course, until you find it completely nuts to be with a guy simply because he wants to be with you, you're the only person you should be dating. (Maybe grope yourself at the door for old time's sake.) As you get to know yourself better, you'll get a better idea of what kind of guy is right for you. In practice, deciding who to get involved with should work like Santa — the "making a list and checking it twice" thing, not hauling off to the mall and plopping yourself down in some fat guy's lap.