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Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson
Columnist
Friday, February 11, 2005; 11:00 AM

Every February, chocolate, long-stemmed roses and romantic cards are exchanged between sweethearts. Valentine's Day -- and all its attendant excitement and anxiety -- is upon us again. Do you celebrate V-Day in a new relationship? Should you send a card to a secret crush? Feel left out without a sweetheart?

Syndicated Chicago Tribune advice columnist Amy Dickinson was online Friday, Feb. 11, at 11 a.m. ET to take on your questions and quandaries in a special Valentine's Day discussion.


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Dickinson joined Chicago Tribune in July 2003 as the newspaper's general advice columnist, following in the tradition of the legendary Ann Landers. Prior to the Tribune, Dickinson was a frequent contributor to Time magazine, where she penned a column about family life. In addition to writing for Time, Dickinson provided commentary for National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" and to "Sunday Morning" on CBS. She worked as a producer for NBC News in New York and Washington, D.C., and has written for The Washington Post, Esquire, Allure and O magazine, among other publications. In the early days of the Internet, she wrote a weekly column, carried on America Online's News Channel.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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washingtonpost.com: Welcome, young lovers, wherever you are...Today The Post is happy to have Amy Dickinson, syndicated advice columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Live Online to take your questions about Valentine's Day or anything else.

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Amy Dickinson: It's so great to be here -- you make me miss DC -- I lived there for 12 years and just moved to Chicago to take this great job.

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Boston, MA: Three years ago I happily dated a man who cheated on me. I found out about this after we broke up, and stopped speaking to him for several months. After almost a year of not speaking, he returned to my life. He begged forgiveness as he acted like a real jerk the first time we dated and claimed he was now mature and realized what it took to be in a real relationship and just wanted a chance to prove it to me. That was seven months ago and he has put more time and energy into proving himself and investing in our relationship than I see with most other couples I know. My question is, from your experience. . .is the saying true "Once a cheater, always a cheater?" Although I have nothing to doubt now - I worry that old habits may arise in the future.

Thank you!

Amy Dickinson: You know how when you're investing in the stock market and there's this disclaimer that says, "past performance is not a predictor for future earnings..."

Well, in relationships, it is. Past performance is a fairly good predictor for future performance.

That having been said, I'm a real believer in fresh starts and forgiveness. What is your alternative, really? If you want to be with this guy, you have to permit him the opportunity to prove that he's changed. It sounds as if he is trying hard to do that. Cheating, I think, is so cowardly. If he is cowardly or not trustworthy in other aspects of his life, that might be an indication that he's not quite over his cheatin' ways.

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New York, N.Y: What are some suggestions of a gift for a man for Valentines Day? What are some suggestions for something that isn't tangible besides candlelight dinner?

Amy Dickinson: I suspect that men love being "gifted" on this day just as women do. I think it would be nice to do something surprising -- whether it's showing an interest in a sport he likes by wearing a football or hockey jersey

Amy Dickinson: or making arrangements to go see a band you know he really likes. You know -- this pulls you a little out of your comfort zone and makes him feel you "get" him. And we all want that...

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Lawrenceville, GA: Just a comment - My hubby takes me out the week before VDay so we don't have to fight the crowds. He does the same thing on Mother's day. He discussed this with me first, and I agreed. If he had just done it with out consulting me, I would have been mad, but since he asked and I okayed it, it works well.
Guys, you can bend a lot of rules if you will just TALK IT OVER with your lady before you do it.
Just my two cents.

Amy Dickinson: I love this - partly because your husband is showing you that he's put some forethought into the whole thing. Lots of guys seem to wait until the last minute and then fly into panic mode -- or is that just the guys I know?

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Arlington, VA: Hi Amy --
I'm so glad the Washington Post has picked up your advice column. Welcome!;
Per my usual, I'm dateless on Valentine's Day. What are your thoughts about a girl asking a guy out (not for Valentine's Day but for a regular date). Should we wait for him to call or is it okay to be more aggressive?

Amy Dickinson: I loooove the idea of a girl asking a guy out. But it must NOT happen on Valentines Day. That day is just too loaded. I'm actually going through this right now -- trying to figure out how to get up the courage to maybe show someone I'm interested in him. Sometimes you just have to send a little casual email and see if you get a chat going.

I really like the idea of being more aggressive, and I think guys are fine with that, too.

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washingtonpost.com: Amy, before we get started with readers' questions, I'd like to know how you went from a features reporter and commentator on NPR to an advice columnist? Can you tell us how this transition came about? Amy Dickinson: My career has been extremely eclectic. I started out right out of college (Georgetown) as a lounge singer -- if you can believe it. I sang in a sort of semi-seedy lounge on M Street in Georgetown. I also worked as a receptionist at the New Yorker.
Sometimes I think my resume is very strange and all over the place, and now of course it makes perfect sense to me because all of those experiences prepared me for this one.
I had been freelancing for magazines and writing a column for Time Magazine -- in addition to doing the radio stuff -- when Ann Landers died and the Chicago Tribune came looking for a new column to replace hers. After a fairly lengthy tryout period, I was chosen.

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Arlington, VA: I have been dating my boyfriend for a month and I'm not sure what to do for Valentine's Day, if anything. It came up in conversation when we were just friends and he didn't seem into the holiday. Now it's Friday and he hasn't mentioned doing anything special on Monday. Should I forget it or plan something for us? I don't want to seem pushy, but don't really want the day to go completely unacknowledged either. Thanks.

Amy Dickinson: This day is so loaded. I would plan something, but keep it super casual. Like, drinks or a bite at a very casual -- NOT Valentines-y place. Don't choose any place where you're going to be around dressed-up, swooning couples. I just think it's too soon for that.

If I were you, I'd wait till Monday and then call and see if he wants to do something. That way, if he has any sort of gesture planned, he'll have been able to do that.

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Northfield, IL: I'm really angry at my ex-wife for the way in which she left me and the choices she made in the process. Here's a brief background. My ex-wife and I were previously partners in a life in which I took care of our child (now 8), ran the non-client portion of her business, and worked with her to make the marriage work. Unfortunately, that all fell apart and at the very end of the divorce process she chose to make a new life for herself by moving to a small town about 2 hours away. Our child moved with her, resulting not only in a more favorable divorce settlement for her, but, more importantly, the virtual removal from my life of the boy I raised. Being angry with her is not productive and even when it is expressed dispassionately leads to consequences typically involving access to our child. I want my ex-wife to acknowledge the hurt and anguish she has brought to our lives (I acknowledge my piece and have done so to her) but realize that this is an unrealistic desire, at least at this time. So, what do I do with my hurt and anger?

Amy Dickinson: Here's what you do with your hurt and anger -- you swallow it. You punch your pillow. You go to a therapist or let it out with your best friend. But I don't think you should express your anger while you are in any proximity to your child. She must be your absolute first priority. I hope you can devote yourself to being the very best dad to her that you're able. You can do that at a distance. Your daughter's love with help melt some of that anger down until -- god willing -- you achieve complete indifference toward your ex.

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Washington DC: My SO is making me dinner - and not just what he's done before. He's making my favorite things even though he's not a big fan. That's true devotion.

Amy Dickinson: I'm with you. That is fantastic. I also assume your SO is getting something from you...?

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Washington, DC: My boyfriend and I have been "seeing" each other for about three months. About two weeks ago we decided to be exclusive. I had been planning on getting him something small. Should I expect that he would get me something as well? I am not expecting anything extravagent, we're both college students. If he doesn't get anything for me, does that mean anything at all?
Thanks!

Amy Dickinson: I'd stick with a card. OK. Maybe a card with a daisy sticking out of it. I don't think you should take it too personally if he doesn't do anything for you because college guys aren't usually as into this as women are. But if you slip him your card and daisy early in the day, it will give him a chance to run out to 7-11 and pick up something for you.

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los angeles, ca: Amy,
I have a friend who's interested in me and is taking me out for valentine's day. I told him that the holiday was not that imporant to me and that we could get together anytime but he insists on doing something special for valentine's day. I like him well enough but haven't decided whether I'd like to actually date him. I feel like I should give something in return for valentine's day as well, since he's going through so much effort. So should a girl give something to guy who's interested in her but for whom she still has cooler affections and if so what? Thanks.

Amy Dickinson: I don't actually think it's necessary for you to give this guy a token. He asked you out, after all. I don't know if you should actually go out with him at all, mind you -- since you don't seem interested in him romantically. It's sort of a lot to expect of this guy to take you out for Valentines day and then accept the fact that you're not that into him.

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V-Day Gifts for Guys: Go to a nice liquor store that sells beers indvidually, buy several different, less well-known ones, and put them in a basket. Basket of beer!;

Amy Dickinson: Nothing says "I Love You" quite like a "beers of the world" gift basket... I really like this suggestion. It's cool -- and different.

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Foggy Bottom, DC: I figure I'll break the chain of V-Day questions for the day. Recently my girlfriend of 8 years and I have decided to pick up and leave DC for a much sunnier California. Since we're both in the same boat as far as not knowing the area, we're thinking of living together. Currently we do not live together, but had tried it out a couple years ago. After are previous lease was up in our one bedroom, we decided to give each other space and try independent living. It was one of the best decisions we ever made. I realize most people do it the opposite way, but I guess we're not most people. I'm seriously contemplating living with her if we move to CA, especially since we both don't know the area. Do you think I'm shooting myself in the foot, or maybe a two-bedroom might solve the problem?

Amy Dickinson: I think that this is something the two of you really need to work out together. Rent in California is extremely expensive and you should really do your homework before you make this huge move. I don't like the idea of your finances forcing you into cohabitating -- especially since you tried it before and it didn't work out so well.

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Washington DC: Amy -- I do not celebrate Valentine's Day. However I did want to let you know how much I enjoy your column. Your writing style is fresh, direct, and engaging. I don't always agree with the advice you dish out, but I love your column. Keep up the great work!;

Amy Dickinson: Well, I do appreciate the nice comment about my column. Most people when they're complimenting me will say, "your column is great -- I always agree with you!" That makes me wonder if they would still like it if they didn't agree with me; or if their affection is completely contingent on the fact that we share a point of view.

So I appreciate this. You know, on the V-Day thing -- I just sent off some little chocolates to my nieces and nephews and to my mom because in our family we always acknowledge each other on V-Day. It's a way of knowing you're loved even if you don't have a romantic partner. Just a suggestion.

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Dupont Circle, Washington DC: Hi Amy,
Segueing from the first question... A couple weeks ago I came home to find a "call me" message on my answering machine from an old boyfriend I have not heard from in nearly 10 years. History - we have had an on-again off-again relationship where we remained friends since middle school. I did not call him but sent him a neutral card with some catch up info. But now I am dying of curiousity. What should I do? He is in another city, and I would guess he has a significant other. I have a boyfriend I care about but he also lives over 500 miles away, and would encourage me to see him.

Amy Dickinson: I think you should satisfy your curiosity and call the guy. If you don't you'll just develop some outrageous fantasy about it. You have to know that once you call him, you then have to be completely responsible for what you decide to do next -- only do this if you are able to satisfy your curiosity and still be a good girl.

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Washington, DC: I've been reading your column since you've been in
the Washington Post and I often feel uncomfortable
with what I see as your understanding of the
problem. It might just be me being blinkered to your
answer but I often find your answers blinkered. I
hope you don't mind me outlining this for you with
an example so you can show me your perspective.

Someone broke up with her boyfriend because he
really dissed her family. Now she wondered if they
could have worked through it and should she call
him? Your response was - he really dissed your
family, why would you call him? Calling him validates
your behavior.

That could certainly be true - assuming he really did
diss her family. Her letter gives no details
whatsoever. What people characterize as ‘dissing my
family' varies greatly. It can be something no-one
would dismiss at dissing - but for some people it can
also be something that is very debatably dissing.
This ex-boyfriend could, for example, have said, ‘you
know what honey, I love your family but I don't like
spending EVERY Friday evening with them. Why don't
you just go this Friday, I've been invited out with the
lads.'

What I'm saying here is that it's possible she was the
one who reacted badly and not him. Granted he
could be a monster but given what is in her letter we
just don't know. There is not enough detail. Quite
honestly I was expecting a more nuanced reply - one
that at least gave a nod and a wink to this possibility.

I thought about this for a bit and it occurred to me
that perhaps she did give more details but for one
reason or another you didn't want to publish these.
But if that's the case, then why didn't you either
explain that in your response or just send her a
private message?

I have had this ambivalent feeling more then once
while reading your column. I hope you don't mind
me asking frankly about it - thanks.

Amy Dickinson: I publish the letters that come into my column unedited. Occasionally I will have to cut a letter for length, but I don't change the writing or the details -- ever.

I appreciate that you're reading the column even if you don't always agree with me. Now I have to go look up "blinkered."

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arlington, va: We are very happy that our relationship is not based on waiting for or validating our love on such a commercial day. What I don't get is why people either feel left out during V-Day or why people feel the need to feel sorry for anyone who doesnt get anything on V-Day. When I was single, it didn't matter to me any more than having someone now during the same time. Nothing is demanded to be given because we give and send flowers, love and other things to each other 364 days of the year. Is that crazy?

Amy Dickinson: Valentine's Day is sort of dumb, let's face it. But I don't know -- I was in a candy store yesterday here in Chicago and you know the wind is howling and it's zero outside and I'm surrounded by chocolate hearts and people puzzling over what to get one another -- and I liked it. It's a day to declare something that a lot of us just don't declare often enough.

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Mitchell,SD: I have a big problem with my mother-in-law. I married the baby of the family. He lived with his mother up until a few months before we got together. Problem is my MIL thinks my hubby still needs to pay her way through life and she makes him feel guilty about it. (He paid rent to live with her and paid for half of the groceries and most of her utility bills.) She works part-time and her and her hubby get Social Security. How can I get her to see we can't afford to pay her bills and she shouldn't burden my hubby with this? She also pulled him away from our wedding reception to go buy her cigarettes. Sad in SD

Amy Dickinson: I'm a pretty firm believer that when it comes to Inlaws, the best thing to do is to let your spouse handle his mother. He is the one who will have to learn to set limits with her. I know it is very very difficult to do, but that is part of the burden of being a son or daughter -- as you grow and have a family of your own, you have to handle your relationship with your parents as well.

I hope that you have some money of your own or that you put aside money for your household savings that he doesn't feel tempted to dip into.

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Sterling, VA: For all you ladies who are trying to figure out a good Valentine's Day gift: Not to be crude, but there's one thing all men want on Valentine's day, and it doesn't cost one red cent. I'll leave it at that. Trust me.

My question for Ms. Dickinson is this:
Do women really like "Vermont Teddy Bears"? They seem SOOOOOO cheesy and cliche. I always get a positive response from my wife with a simple bouquet of roses, some chocolate, and a dinner out to her favorite restaurant. I also give her a voucher to take an entire day to herself, where I take our son all day from morn til night (either a Sat or Sun). She can do whatever she wants for as long as she wants. Not that she needs my permission or anything, as she does the same for me.

Amy Dickinson: I hear you, brother. We do know what you want.

I don't know what it is about those teddy bears, but I have to confess that sometimes the cheesier, the better. Why is that? Is there some chemical that makes us women go awwwww at the sight of our guy holding a teddy bear? That's probably it.

I love your Valentine's gifts to your wife. Very thoughtful. Especially the part where you take your son for a day -- we moms really do appreciate that.

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V-Day:
I'm making popcorn and watching "When Harry Met Sally" or "Four Weddings and a Funeral", haven't decided which one. If I start early enough, I will watch both!;

Amy Dickinson: I'm adding "Shall We Dance" -- just out on DVD to my Valentines Day watching. It's just .... so... sweet.

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Washington, DC: I had my heart broken last year. I fell really hard for someone who didn't reciprocate those feelings. I don't meet people easily, especially men who I am interested in and who are interested in me. I really feel like I need to get back out there, but I feel very discouraged about the whole thing. I just don't know if I have it in me to go through it again. How do people get past this?

Amy Dickinson: I know how hard this is. Boy do I know. But one way to get out there is to get out there with a partner in crime. Do you have a friend who can sort of push you in the right direction? Friends can be so good at that - they see your best qualities, they know your history, they know your type. You could start by putting the word out to a friend that you'd really love a little push.

One way to get past this is for someone to lead you. Another thing you might find helpful is to go to an online match site and just look around. This might make you realize that there are a lot of people out there -- and probably someone for you.

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Silver Spring, MD: Hi Amy, I like your column. I'm in a relatively new (6 mo.) relationship that began only 2 months after I left my husband of 15 years. I am wondering how not to get upset about things like how many relationships my new guy had before me (lots, he's been divorced for years), his being friends with some women he used to date (a few), and sometimes making comments about it being tough for women over 50 (we're the same age, in our mid 40s) to find someone (I take it personally even though he doesn't mean it that way). I don't want to go through this relationship getting upset too easily--he's a good guy, we have a lot in common, and we get along great most of the time. How do people handle these feelings without either stuffing them or talking about them every time they come up?

Amy Dickinson: Talk to him. Talk talk talk. I think it's okay to be open about some of your insecurities and to let him know that it is a measure of your feelings for him that you are trying so hard to change. It might have been a little early for you to jump into a new relationship after such a long marriage, and it is going to take time for you to work some of your kinks out.

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Re: asking guys out: So if you're in favor of women being more aggressive in showing interest and asking guys out, what are your thoughts on that phenomonon of a book, "He's Just Not That Into You," which says a woman should NOT ask a guy out because guys like to do the pursuing?

Amy Dickinson: What I love about "He's Just not that Into You" is really the punchline of the title. It is extremely helpful for women to learn to read signals. We can be so determined to make things happen that we justify everything a guy does -- or doesn't do. So yes, if you call him and he doesn't call back, he's just not that into you. But I'm not aware that the authors don't believe women should call guys -- they just want for women to be much more realistic about what's going on once they do call a guy.

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chicago, il: I read your article today in the Chicago Tribune about Charles and Camilla and second marriages. You really seemed negative and appeared to perhaps carry over some own baggage from your own divorce. Don't you think a lot of people learn from their first marriage and actually bring a lot of positive attributes and maturity to their post-first marriage relationships?

Amy Dickinson: Actually, I thought that essay was pretty positive. What I said was that second marriages are the triumph of hope over experience. What I think most people want to avoid is not a second marriage, but a second divorce. Many many second marriages work out well -- as I think this one will.

One observation I made was that Camilla has all of the qualities of a "first wife." She is age appropriate, stolid, and has known Charles for a lifetime. Diana was the "second wife" -- more of a trophy, I think.

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Washington, DC: Dear Amy -

I really need some advice for a friend of mine, whom I'll call "Tim." "Tim"
is well over 30 and he can't seem to settle down. He frequently goes out
drinking, meets women, and regularly hooks up with people that he meets, but
he rarely calls them again or expresses interest in anything other than a
casual relationship. I'm worried about "Tim." At a time when most of our
friends are finding fulfillment through the trappings of marriage,
mortgages, and screaming newborns, "Tim" continues to behave like a man in
his 20s. I don't think this behavior is healthy. By the way, I believe
you've met "Tim" before, out at a bar in DC one night. So I expect you will
respond with some authority.

Thanks!;

Amy Dickinson: Okay. Well, fortunately I don't have any earthly idea of who you're referring to but in general, I think that older guys who continue to live this way just sort of get seedy. You know Jack Nicholson's character in "Terms of Endearment"? It's just not attractive after a while.

I would hope that this guy got his act together, but marriage and children and settling down aren't the only answer. Living your life with some intention and purpose is the answer.

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Alexandria, Va: How do I approach my pregnant wife with the idea that I would like to have a fling? She's lost all interest in sex these days. Earlier in our relationship, she said that this was the sort of arrangement we might make if one of us lost interest.

Amy Dickinson: Eewww. If your wife was into this before, I guess you could broach the subject with her again. But I'd wear some protection, man. I mean, from your wife flinging something at you. Pregnant women don't much like being messed with and I think it's sort of ghastly of you to bring this to her.

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To Sad in SD: Same MIL issues - best advice I can give is to set boundaries NOW as opposed to later. He needs to say no and follow through on the "no," whatever it is. My in-laws treat us as if we're made of money, even though we're drowning in debt because of school that they didn't help out with. Fine that they didn't help, but they are blind to the reality of our situation and love to take. Be strong, be firm, your hubby absolutely has to step up to the plate here and be a man.

Amy Dickinson: Yes indeed. Set boundaries now. And the offspring of the Inlaws have to lead the way.

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Arlington, VA: Is there a standard for what makes a couple a couple? I've been seeing this guy for about three months now... some weeks we'll see each other three times, other times we'll go two or three weeks without seeing each other. At different points I've dated other men, but am not currently. I don't know if he has or is dating other women. We act very "couple-y" when we're together, and we're intimate, but at the same time I feel like there are no expectations. I like him as a friend and enjoy his company, and we have great chemistry, so I don't want to ruin all that by insisting on having "The Talk", but at the same time, I'd like to know where we stand... I'm in my mid-twenties, but I've never really done this "casual dating" thing before (always been in a long-term thing)

Amy Dickinson: I actually like the sounds of this. And I like the idea that you're relaxed about it. I don't think there is any standard for being a couple -- except for the old stand-by of having "standing plans" for the weekend. But I hope you feel your relationship with this guy is on a fairly even footing and that you are seeing him as often as you want to. Obviously I have to add the standard disclaimer that you need to use a condom if you are sexually active and get tested regularly and blah blah blah. You know what I mean. You really have to do that.

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Chicago, IL: I have been dating my fiance for almost 8 years and whenever we're together on Valentine's Day I always try to take her out somewhere nice. If we've been apart in the past, I've sent flowers. This year, we're trying to save for our wedding and honey-moon and she's insisted that we don't do anything...no expensive dinners no $80.00 dozen roses. I still want to do something, or get her a little something. Any ideas?

Amy Dickinson: Yes. You came to the right girl. Get a goofy photo of you when you were a kid and take it to a color xerox place and have it blown up and then sign it "movie star" style to her. Something like, "To my future wife. All of my love on this Valentine's Day.... Bunky." you know, something adorable. She'll love it. It will show her that you loved her before you even met her. How cool is that?

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Rockville, MD: Hi, Amy: I can understand all the differing opinions about Valentine's Day. Several years ago, after a particularly nasty divorce, I was feeling great animosity toward Feb. 14. But then I realized I had many people--especially siblings--who had shown me so much love and support (including serious financial support) during the whole ordeal. So I made a point of sending each of them a Valentine's Day card expressing my gratitude for all they'd done to carry me through that very tough period of my life. And I felt great after I did that! Instead of being mopey, and sighing oh, poor me, I don't have a love interest anymore, I felt loved--very much. For you singletons out there, give it a try. Send a note to someone who let you cry on their shoulder after your last breakup, or the neighbor who cheerfully takes care of your pet...It's as good as Prozac for curing the blues!

Amy Dickinson: I hear you sister. I can't tell you how good it felt to drop off a little package on my way to work this morning. Sometimes I feel like my family gets the short end of the deal with me and I just love the opportunity to ask them to be my valentine.

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St. Louis, MO: Amy,

A friend of ours is throwing my fiance and I an engagement party. However, the party is in another city that is over 1,000 miles away. The question we have is what to do with gifts that people might bring, since we live so far away and would definitely not be able to carry them back with us on the plane. Do you think it's proper to hint to people that we want the gifts shipped to us instead of bringing them to the party? Is it fair to make everyone pay for the extra shipping costs? Should we just accept all gifts and pay for one large shipment ourselves?

Amy Dickinson: Do not hint about gifts. Accept the gifts you are given and then take the burden upon yourself to have them shipped to your home. If a guest thoughtfully asks you what you would like, you can say it might be easier for you to have things shipped, but only if you are asked.

Your job is to be lovely and grateful and accept the things you're offered with no regard to the problems they might bring.

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Pennsylvania: Hi Amy,

Not a question, just a comment. I love your column (I don't always agree with your advice) but I love your style. I also recently relocated from D.C. for a job and miss the heck out of living there. At least Chicagoland appears to be a better place for single gals than Pennsylvania. Thanks for the chat!;

Amy Dickinson: I don't know... I'm sure there are some wonderful guys in the Allentown area. Have you scoped out Scranton? Paraded around Pittsburgh?

I am indeed sitting in guy-land. Men in Chicago seem to be extremely attractive for some reason. If anyone knows why, please give me a shout. My point is that I'm sitting in guy-land but I'm asking my 8 year old nephew to the prom. You know what I'm saying? You have to make the effort -- okay maybe it's a bigger effort in Pennsylvania, but the state that brought Ben Franklin (the original player) to the world has got a lot going for it.

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rockville, md: Hi amy - 29 year old male here, never been in a relationship. Is there something I'm doing wrong? I go out on dates with women, but always after a couple (if that many) of dates, they gradually stop returning phone calls, emails, etc. until I I guess "get the hint" and give up. I don't know how other people do this so easily, and I'm still here trying to figure out the secret of getting women to actually take an active part in the 'dating' scene.

Amy Dickinson: I think that if you have a good female friend, she might be a good love coach. My pals are oh so very open about what I do wrong -- and you know, your friends know and love you and want you to succeed. So if you have a gal friend, take her out and ask her to tell you what she thinks is going on. You might just be one of those special guys who will kiss a lot of frogettes before you meet the right one.

If you have any special interests -- singing, fencing, kayakking -- these activities might bring you into proximity with women who you share more with than just a date.

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Iowa City, IA: I planning to watch Sense and Sensibility (the one with Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant) or You've Got Mail. If I'm still awake, there's always the 6-part BBC Pride and Prejudice!;

My husband (25 years this June) will be working in DC on Valentine's Day. I'm slipping a card into his suitcase and buying candy for the kids and me!;

Amy Dickinson: Awwww. I love this. Especially the part about the card in the briefcase. Also, let me recommend "Shall We Dance" again -- especially for you long-marrieds.

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Alexandria, VA: Dude - you would actually have sex with another woman while your wife is carrying your child? And be able to look at yourself in the mirror afterwards? Yikes.

Amy Dickinson: I know -- we're getting some response to the guy who wants to step out on his pregnant wife, and ... dude ... you're not the favorite of the crowd right now.

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Vienna, VA: Hi Amy,

V-Day dilemma - known this guy for about a year and a half during which we first dated, then he broke it off, but always was open to "casual" encounters overnight. I even dated other people but always kept in touch with him. Now we've been seeing each other since New Year's and things are better this time and he seems more giving than before. We spend some time weekends (big S-Bowl party with HIS friends)together and during the week. I gave him a small gift for Xmas that he appreciated (he didn't reciprocate - family not much into gifting except for kids). Deal is I love holidays and gifting and bought him a couple of small gifts (small bag of "normal" chocolate - no red or hearts, nuts, a pullover, and a funny book) that I'll put in a gift bag. How do I handle this if he doesn't make plans to see me on V-day - I want him to initiate it. I know this is a sticky holiday for guys and new relationships but I'm getting tired of being the one initiating things. Even a card would be okay...thanks.

Amy Dickinson: Actually, I know this isn't your question, but I'm wondering about this relationship. Is this really what you want --hooking up with your former boyfriend casually and then you being all thoughtful about a gift and not knowing if he will even call? This just sounds so lopsided to me.

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Chicago: Hi Amy,

I'm so happy that you're writing for the Tribune!; I love reading your column.

What do you think about being friends with exes? I am quite close with a couple of my ex-boyfriends & I know that this has made one or two guys that I've dated rather uncomfortable. Then again, it doesn't seem to phase other people I've dated. There are no lingering romantic feelings. One guy happens to be in a similar career field & has become someone I can really trust to give me advice about the business. (It's a very competitive, drama filled industry, so those friendships are like gold). I've tried to just be open & honest with the guys I date & get close to so they understand that there is nothing that they should be afraid of. I don't want to lose a boyfriend, but I definitely don't want to lose my good friends, either.

What do you think?

Amy Dickinson: I really like the idea of being friends with your exes. If it weren't for my exes, I wouldn't have that many guy friends, really. But I think that the burden is on you to make sure that any special guys in your life know and accept that these friendships are completely platonic in every way. I think that in really healthy relationships people know what to feel threatened over.

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Kansas City: Just a request... when you print responses to a recent column, would you please state the date of the original column. I hate reading the responses when I can't recall what column they are responding to.

Thanks!;

Amy Dickinson: I try to do a decent job of explaining what the issue is about, but I can't print the date of the original column because some newspapers print my column on various dates and so I can't be sure of what your newspaper is doing.

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Amazed in DC: Your wife has given up her entire physical being to foster life for your child. And you can't wait for her to fulfill your own needs? Wow, I hope that post was a joke.

Amy Dickinson: Well, let's just all hope that post was a joke. However, form the contents of my "in box", there is more of this going on than any of us would think.

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RE: California Move and Girlfriend: Umm.. ok so you guys have been dating for 8 years and think that not living together is the best thing for you, yet you are willing to move across the country together. so do you ever plan on getting married at which point you would pretty much have to live together?? Seriously if after 8 years you are not ready then will you ever be? I could maybe understand if you started dating when you were like 12. Don't know about the rest of you but this sends big warning signs to me!; BIG!;

Amy Dickinson: I agree with you -- that this couple seems quite vague about many things, but I also think that people have many different ways of being in relationships and I actually like that. Not all of us are headed toward marriage.

I'm real interested in the "Bloomsbury" group of writers, artists and poets. They went through life without the expected social constraints and I think that this works for some people.

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Arlington, VA: A few years ago, after a horrible breakup, I took all of my single girlfriends out for dessert on V-day. We have continued this tradition to this day- anyone who is single meets up for dessert.

Amy Dickinson: I love this. Okay, my friend Emily just came into my office because she wants to ask me if I've emailed my crush yet.
Yes, we are in seventh grade. But I like 7th grade. You get to have gym class in the middle of the day.

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feeling left out: You SHOULD celebrate your love spontaneously.
That's most important. But Valentine's Day is about a
public declaration. Yes, it has become commercial
but your public declaration doesn't have to cost a lot.

It's about nailing your colours to the mast and having
them fly for all the world to see. That's why it's
important and that and not just dumb. That's why it
raises very real emotions in people - single and
coupled.

Amy Dickinson: Let me end on this wonderful note. So yes -- nail your flag to the post! Call the guy! Go ice skating! Tell your mom you love her! Let's all do everything we can to bring a little light into an otherwise dark time of year.

This has been a blast.
Amy

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washingtonpost.com: Thanks, Amy, for being so generous with your time!

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