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How To Whim Friends And Influence People

My girlfriend of two months has some sort of control streak. For example, she called while away on business to say she was all dolled up and all the guys were swooning over her. Sarcastically, I thanked her for telling me. "It's not like there's a ring on my finger,” she replied (her way of joking back). The next night, she complained she had nobody to dine with. "What about all the guys swooning over you because you have no ring on your finger?" I teased.  She hung up, and wouldn’t answer when I repeatedly redialed. The next day, after I mentioned plans we’d made for me to visit her that weekend, she got cold and distant. She was mad I hadn’t double-checked with her before booking my flight, and said she needed her space. “Is there someone else there?” I asked. She hung up on me again. Eventually, I groveled her back to sanity. Now she “can’t wait” to see me. Help! When she isn’t acting like a lunatic, she’s a really nice person. Maybe she just desperately needs somebody to nurture her. Do you think, as I do, that there’s a wonderful person trapped inside her who simply needs help finding the way out?

--Remote Controlled

What is this, the reverse version of Alien? You’ve got a scary monster of a girlfriend with razor claws and dripping fangs, but you remain convinced that, any moment now, a tiny hoof will poke through her convulsing stomach, and out will pop Bambi to gambol over and lick you upside the face.


This could be a great relationship -- if only you were in it with some other woman. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t just have a control streak. On a good day, it’s more of an eight-lane superhighway; on a bad day, more of a control black hole. Who’s her relationship role model, Mussolini?

Control is fear on parade. What she fears -- finding love, not finding love, losing love once she finds it -- is anybody’s guess, but it’s got her cracking the whip and making you double-dutch. It’s what’s behind her creative approach to logic -- not just twisted, but matted. A rose is a rose is a rose, except when it’s a toaster oven. When is a rose a toaster oven? Whenever she informs you it’s no longer a cantaloupe. Of course, five minutes later, it may very well be a cantaloupe; that is, if she says it’s a cantaloupe. Are you getting all this? Allow me to simplify. If you’ve grown fond of your sanity, and you’d like to cling to it, remember the rule for relationships with the power-mad: You’re wrong. About everything. And everything else.

Yank your head out of its dark, sunless, temporary home and look at what you have with her. On the misery-to-fun index, your relationship’s neck-and-neck with a root canal with an appendectomy chaser. Decide what you want. If it’s a power-struggle cross-dressing as a relationship, you’re in the right place. Keep pretending you can cure her (you can’t) if only you put in enough time playing Annie Sullivan to her Helen Keller, to crib from Joan Didion. If, on the other hand, you’re willing to risk your heart and guts on a real relationship, swear off wounded ducks. Find a strong woman -- one emotionally stable enough to make a relationship a haven from stress, not a leading cause of it. You’ll recognize a strong woman by what she doesn’t do: Hang up. Scream. Weaponize sex. Grab big shears and shred all your best shirts into hamster-cage liner. (Current girlfriend hasn’t gotten to that yet? How nice that you still have so much to look forward to!)

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.