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Jesus Of Cleveland

I'm a 30 year-old woman who hasn't been in a serious relationship in at least seven years. I've had a series of casual involvements, but I can't seem to meet a guy I consider "boyfriend material." My friends tell me that I hold my ex-boyfriend in God-like esteem, and that no one will ever compare. Well, let's say that's true. I honestly haven't met anyone like him. What can I do? Isn't it possible that he was "the one," and that maybe I goofed? Please, your insights.

--Stranded In Single-Land

UNLESS YOU HAVE IT on good authority that three wise men happened to be in the neighborhood on the day your ex-boyfriend was born, you're holding him in a little too much esteem.

Ex-boyfriends are always at their saintliest when viewed through a rear-view mirror. Your ex might have had a number of good qualities, but he was probably still mortal when the two of you were dating. Seven years down the road, you've reminisced him into Jesus, Elvis, Buddha, and Brad Pitt, all rolled into one. No wonder none of the new guys you meet seem like "boyfriend material." You can't stomach settling for a guy who's simply bright, honest, interesting, and attractive. Unless he can also cross a body of water on foot while singing "Blue Suede Shoes," he's out of the question.

If you don't think celibacy sounds like a fun way to spend a lifetime of Saturday nights, you'd better get into getting down with a few mere mortals. First, abandon that myth that there's one perfect person for everyone. In reality, there are a lot of people who are pretty much okay for a lot of other people, providing that they haven't turned their hearts into shrines for long-lost imaginary friends.

Try to figure out why you canonized your ex. Jung felt that "the need for hero symbols arises when the ego needs strengthening." If you are in the midst of an identity crisis, don't expect some man to be your personal "Rescue 911." Until you accept your own flaws and become able to stand on your own without wobbling, you're sure to look down your nose at any guy who doesn't show up to your first date with stigmata.

It's time you put the intrusive memories of your ex out of your life once and for all. To do that, hold a funeral for your former relationship. Send invitations to your closest girlfriends, asking them to wear black and bring flowers. Gather photos and mementos from the relationship that was, and place them in a shoebox. After a solemn ceremony in which you break with your imagined past, bury the shoebox in your parents' backyard, next to the grave of your pet rabbit, and your ex-boyfriend should haunt you no more.

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.