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The Deadbeat Goes On

I really identify with the girl who wrote you about her lazy, jobless boyfriend. I supported a deadbeat boyfriend who lived with me for a year. He always claimed he was “going” to get a job, and that he was “going” to contribute to our expenses; he just never did, and I finally got him to leave. I realized I’ve had a habit of getting involved with nonworking, nonproductive partners. How can I prevent history from repeating itself?

--Charity Worker

"There’s a name for a woman who provides the one she loves with a roof over his head, three square meals a day, and all the little necessities of life -- and it’s “Mommy.”

Maybe, like a lot of wanna-be parents, you’d hoped to bypass the long lines to adopt an infant by going for an older child -- one in his 30s or 40s. Adopting a 42-year-old, for example, does have its advantages. Surely, your middle-aged moppet won’t be badgering you to send him to a pricey private elementary school, nor is he likely to clamor for you to take out a second mortgage to fund his college education. No, he’ll be earmarking the money from your second mortgage for his beer and cigarettes fund. Like college tuition, this fund will be a gift that keeps on giving -- admittedly, just a little -- whenever he gets a handful of change for turning in his empty beer bottles.

You really can’t blame your last man-child (or his predecessors) for staying home playing Nintendo while you were at the office playing oppressed worker. Retro-lefty types might have even had the nerve to claim they were just too busy poring over Mao’s Little Red Book -- in their $400 Karl Marx-style wire-rims you’re still paying off. Surely, you don’t expect Mommy’s Little Commie to soil his hands with filthy lucre. No, that’s your job, but he’ll take a double cheeseburger and an extra-large Coke, just as soon as your filthy little hands are free to scribble down his order.

This brings us back to the blame, which still needs to be placed -- preferably, where it belongs: with you. You didn’t just trip and fall into the arms of guy after guy looking to experience “Womb, The Sequel.” You’re eager to provide that experience; probably because you’re terrified of being dumped. Only when you get comfy with possibly getting discarded will you have the guts to go for the kind of guy who stays with you because he loves you -- not because it’s the difference between sleeping on 300 thread-count sheets in your bed or on a sheet of mildewed cardboard in a urine-soaked doorway.

Give a little thought to getting dumped. It really isn’t an indictment of your worth as a human, nor will it squash you out of existence like a bug under a boot. Millions of people survive it every day. It’s nobody’s idea of Mardi Gras, but it is a great way to lose weight while curled up in a fetal position next to your treadmill, and unless you sleep face down crying, and drown in your own tears, it’s unlikely to kill you.

Behave with self-respect, and self-respect might actually follow. Find the spine to demand that a guy bring more to a relationship than two hairy hands with upturned palms. That’s all it takes to make the American Idles scatter, clearing your way to guys interested in being equal partners instead of sharing equally in everything you earn. Cling to your newfound spine, and you should eventually find a man who’s attached to you instead of a pod looking to attach to the mother ship.


Copyright ©2003, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.