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Dense Fever

I love to dance. I've been dating this guy for a while, so I brought him to the dance club because it's a big part of my life. I asked him to dance several times. He declined each time, so I danced with some of my friends. I finally stopped asking him. I figure my mother didn't raise a dog -- I don't need to beg. By the time we returned to my apartment, he'd stopped speaking to me. Hours later, he finally explained why. Get this -- the deejay played a song he liked and he was mad because I didn't ask him to dance to it! HELLO!? Which one of us is wearing the bra? He spent the rest of the evening telling me how disrespected he felt. If he wanted to dance so badly he should have said something instead of sulking like a baby. Tell me, what's with this new generation of "sensitive" men?

--Ooh, Baby, Babysitter

THE HEIMLICH MANEUVER is a highly effective way of removing a chicken bone stuck in a person's throat or communicating with somebody like your boyfriend. When you have the need to know, just get behind him, clasp your hands into a fist, and give him an upward sock in the stomach: "Spit it out, sweetie!"

SOCK! "Darling," he sputters.

You maintain your position, and SOCK! again. "Isn't," he continues - SOCK! - "a dance club" - SOCK! - "a place where" - SOCK! - "you stand around" - SOCK! - "waiting for" - SOCK! - "someone to come" - SOCK! - "administer you" - SOCK! - "last rites?"

Eureka! A simple misunderstanding. You fall to the floor, limp. When, you wonder, did the art of conversation become the art of extraction? Relationships are supposed to take work, yes, but maybe that work shouldn't make you feel like you just put in a double shift on a chain gang. In fact, it's kind of important to add the hours you spend working on a relationship and stack them up next to the hours you spend having fun in it. Note: The ratio should not be a skyscraper of work vs. a mud hut of fun.

So what now? Since there's no record of anyone ever being annoyed to death, you might be tempted to let his night of pouting and sniveling slide. Bad idea. Like toxic mold, which starts with one tiny spore, little flecks of undesirable behavior at the beginning of a relationship are a sign of big, smelly, oozing blobs of it to come. Stick with him, and you'd better be prepared to induce projectile commenting whenever you want to know what's on his mind.

But what about giving him a chance to meet your communications needs? "Hey boyfriend, my crystal ball's in the shop this lifetime. When something's on your mind, you might form it into words and spit them out in my direction." He might...for a while. But there's a big difference between being and behaving like somebody who's mastered adult forms of communication. The guy's irrational and emotionally flabby, and next to you, he has all the personality of a clogged pore. Remember what you said about your mother? She "didn't raise a dog -- I don't need to beg." Well, if that's the case, you don't need to stay, either.

Copyright ©2001, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, Ask The Advice Goddess, which appears in 60 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.