Hit me with your best shot

A fortune teller was reading Tarot cards at a big Christmas party last week. I'm very skeptical about psychics, but what the hell, it was a party and it was free. The woman had me pick some cards out of the deck. "Hmm," she said, scanning them through her bifocals.

According to the cards, she said, the kind of man I wanted was passionate and charismatic, someone who was usually at the center of attention. I would love this man and I'd expect endless devotion and vows of marriage in return. But I also valued my solitude and needed my personal space. Wow, I thought, that's very accurate, but aren't those things contradictory? Aren't charismatic guys usually nonmarrying bad-boy types? Shouldn't I stay away from them and learn to love someone more emotionally mature?

I've been in love three times in my life, and all three men were flirtatious charmers who couldn't be devoted to me for a day. Yet this fortune teller was telling me that I wouldn't be truly happy with anyone different. Thanks a lot, I thought, there goes a year of psychoanalysis and trying to break old patterns.

I was dating someone for eight weeks when I broke up with him around Thanksgiving. The guy was sweet, attentive, and handsome—in short, he was great boyfriend material. But I let him go, mainly because I was still in love with the guy dubbed "Alien Boy" in these columns. In fact, I started dating guy number two precisely to distract myself from the breakup with Alien Boy. Needless to say, it didn't work. Often when I was with Guy 2, something that came up in conversation would trigger my memories and desire for Alien Boy.

AB is very dynamic. He's intelligent and a graduate student who shows signs he's going to be big in his field. He's very funny; whenever he's in a group, he causes fits of laughter with his brainy humor. He's also creative and musical—he writes songs and plays guitar in a rock band. I can't praise him enough, because everything he does seems brilliant to me. I know, it's sickening to listen to someone so blind in love, but this was the state I was in. While Guy 2 was pretty great, he couldn't possibly measure up to Alien Boy. No one could.

Of course I didn't tell Guy 2 all of this when I broke it off. We are trying to remain friends—which seems almost impossible at this point. I was in his shoes after Alien Boy broke up with me, and I know how he's feeling—hurt yet hopeful that I will want to go back to him.

Guy 2 asked me to go to his parents' house in Bainbridge over the Christmas weekend. I said no, but I empathized with the offer. Right after my breakup with Alien Boy, I wanted something, anything—a date, a night of sex, a weekend in Vancouver—even if it meant being hurt afterwards. I just couldn't bear to be dropped from his life.

Later, I was feeling bad about Guy 2 and told the story to my friend Anna, who had a surprising response: "Oh, don't feel bad, he's probably enjoying his misery."

"What do you mean?"

"He wouldn't have put himself in this position if he didn't like being hurt in some way."

It sounded horribly twisted, but I knew what she meant. I behaved the same way with Alien Boy. Could Guy 2 really be a masochist? And am I a masochist? It goes against all that I believe in—strength of character, women's power, wisdom of experience—but given my recent behavior, yeah, I'm Silly Putty when it comes to desire. I fall in love with men I have to struggle with. And after being knocked down, I can't help asking for more. It sucks, and I have to figure out how to get past this if I'm ever going to have a healthy, fulfilling relationship.

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