Dear Carolyn:

I am a 20-year-old college student rooming with a friend of mine next year. She is 20 also and has no experience with guys -- no dates, boyfriends, kisses or anything. She has sadly said guys are intimidated by her and that she is never going to have a boyfriend. I had my first kiss and first relationship last year, so I can relate to her I'm-never-going-to-find-anyone attitude. I have encouraged her to remain positive and predicted she will have a boyfriend by this time next year in order to cheer her up. She said I was nice to want to improve her love life, but no one will ever like her and that she has given up. What can I do to change her mind?

Ohio

If every woman who declared herself too intimidating to attract men were in fact too intimidating to attract men, then free day care and PMS leave would be global law.

So if you'd like to change her mind about that, have at it. It would also help if you could persuade her that "guys" aren't a monolithic entity tapped into one central brain ("The Three Stooges" and Coors ads notwithstanding), much less one that has declared her undatable.

You won't bury these myths, however, by superimposing the myth that she'll achieve instant Boyfriendia when the right guy comes along/when she least expects it/three Thursdays after the next blue moon.

She is looking for an identity in all the wrong places, and you are, with the best of intentions, pointing her up a tree.

Whenever anyone sighs, "I'm never going to (blank), because all (blanks) are (blank)," you're hearing a pathetic plea for attention, not a bold vow of intent. Give her the attention, and you reward her for being pathetic, and then you watch those dorm walls close in by Thanksgiving.

She needs to stop looking for happiness, or validation, or attention, or whatever she's looking for, in couplehood. The kindest thing you can do for you both is to come through with the "puhleez" she so badly needs -- with all the affection you feel -- along with a reminder that companionship is a great and necessary thing that also, cruelly, comes and goes. And in between, we might as well enjoy our own company, the only source of happiness that is guaranteed never to move out, move away, dump us, betray us or die. Which might explain the Stooges and beer.

Dear Carolyn:

I'm 20 and have been in an amazing, change-your-life-relationship with someone for almost two years. We are spending next semester on opposite corners of Europe, and I feel pressured by everyone BUT him to take a break to "test" the relationship. I understand the logic of their argument -- taking time apart could strengthen our certainty that we are great for each other. But why do that when I already know?

Spending Too Much Time Mulling, Too Little Time Interning

Maybe a better question is, why mull at all when this "break" you keep mulling is a certainty?

Whether you pledge fidelity or split up or brave a don't-ask-don't-tell, you're going to test the relationship just by pursuing your own trips abroad. Discuss what you both want, part warmly, see where it goes.

Hope It's Unpaid

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