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Lions And Tigers And Bares

I am wondering how I am going to find my soulmate when I am so scared to get close to anyone. I either push men away from me or run away from them. I'm almost in my thirties, and I don't want to be single forever. I know I should stop doing this, but I did not have a happy, loving childhood and I'm sure that is part of the reason for my behavior, and the reason I don't feel comfortable or safe getting romantically involved with men. What should I do?

--Single File

SAY YOUR MOM was valedictorian of the Wicked Witch Of The West School Of Parenting. You can sit around bemoaning your miserable childhood until monkeys fly, but it won't transform you into a happy adult. Since it's unlikely that the guys you're dating are in the habit of forgetting to pick you up from ballet lessons, spanking you with a wooden spoon, or sending you to your room without dessert when you don't finish your green beans, it makes no sense for you to relate to them as you'd relate to your mean mother.

Chances are, you give men you date a preemptive shove-off because you're terrified of rejection; probably because you see it as a confirmation of your mother's notion that you're merely a lump of coal masquerading as a person. Rejection should instead be taken at face value -- that a relationship between you and someone else didn't work out. It hurts, but it will not cause your hair to fall out, your head to fly off, or the earth to spin out of its orbit and crash into Saturn. It's the price of (eventually) finding love. You should either embrace the probability that you'll get dumped, or you should lock your doors, plant yourself in a rocking chair, and devote the rest of your life to determining whether Efferdent really does get the blueberry stain off dentures.

If you decide to risk rejection, take relationships very slowly and be frank about your track record as a frequent runaway. You probably won't mend your ways, however, until you come to love and accept yourself, hairy moles and all, simply because you exist. (Getting to that point needn't involve doofy conversations with your mirror or Post-It affirmations like those that Dating Game host Chuck Woolery has stuck on his, including "You look great today!" and "Your hair is perfect!") Instead, take a look at yourself: Could you imagine, if you were created by Nintendo, how much you'd go for at Toys 'R Us? Good. Now give yourself a big, wet kiss.

Once you've dispensed with the foreplay, it's time to get the name of personal growth. Your assignment is to do everything you can to get rejected. Pick out a handful of your most embarrassing moments and reveal them to people, laughing at your blunders all the while. For graduate level work, don a gorilla mask and approach men on the street and ask them out on dates. (If you get a few takers, don't blame me.) Do this until you begin to find rejection hilarious (or, at least, a roaring bore), or until you get chased down the street by zoo keepers, whichever comes first.

Copyright ©1998-9, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, Ask The Advice Goddess, which appears in 60 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.