Dear Ms. Hax:

I have lived in America for six years, and have dated women in their late twenties to mid-thirties. When I explain that I manage my own investments, their eyes light up and their further inquiry presents embarrassingly familiar interest in my financial prospects. They seem convinced that I am wealthy; I am quite certainly not. One such date, when I mentioned playing my piano, actually wanted to know how much the instrument was worth.

Coming from London, I had always heard of the materialistic inclination of the women hereabout, but had supposed this an exaggerated stereotype. Experience has confirmed the observation beyond my misgivings. How does one cope?

--Ye Olde Befuddled

Hey, aren't you that guy from "The Avengers"?

If there were anything I could do to break America of its raging cash habit, I would do it in a second.

And I'd make a killing.

But as long as money can turn any old Sneetch into a Star-Bellied Sneetch, we "classless" Americans will persist in our ungainly grab for dollars. Not all Yanks are quite so spiritually bankrupt, of course; if someone professes a respect for value-values over dollar-values, very little fainting occurs.

And, mercifully, we're not all so obvious.

But unless you're willing to befriend a bunch of poets and then steal their girlfriends, there's no systematic way to locate women who can't be bought. Better just to weed out the greedies by:

1. Fishing in less materialistic ponds. If "trendy," "chichi" or "hip" are ever used to describe your hangouts, you're bound to reel in climbers.

2. Describing your profession, straight-faced, as watching yourself lose vast quantities of money instead of watching a high-paid broker lose it for you.

3. Being your humble self. If you attract nothing but climbers, it's time to check your bait--clothes, cars, conversation topics, everything.

For the piano lady, though, I'd bring on the special treatment. Call her again, go on an outrageously sumptuous date and, at every opportunity, flog your imaginary worth: "What, the Steinway? In the family for ages . . . ."

And then never call her again.

Dear Carolyn:

I am 28 and have been dating a wonderful 25-year-old for the past two years. She is my confidante, soul mate and best friend. For the first year, we enjoyed a comfortable level of intimacy. For the last year, our sex life has dropped off to zero. She confided that she was the victim of sexual abuse as a child and date-raped in college. At my urging, she has been seeing a therapist for the past eight months to try to sort things out. She doesn't believe she'll ever develop a sexual appetite again. My parents keep telling me that intimacy is a normal and important aspect of a marriage and I shouldn't propose until "things in the bedroom improve." I think this is callous, but maybe they have a point.

--Confused

You say callous like it's a bad thing.

Not that you should ditch the poor creature--she needs time and support to get better, and if you love her, you'll give her both. But when you're talking about a lifetime commitment, there is absolutely nothing wrong with waiting to see what, exactly, you're committing to. Can you promise to stay in love? No. Retire rich? No. Resist cancer? Nope. Guarantees in marriage are notoriously hard to come by. That's why you should never, ever take lightly what you already know for a fact.

Right now, you know sex is a problem. Actually, "intimacy" is the better word--the physical act is only part of her burden. Unless you're prepared, without hesitation, to make that problem a permanent part of your life, you're not ready to propose. And, frankly, I doubt that eight months into a difficult process is a smart time for her to make one of the weightier choices she'll face.

The abuse and the rape will never go away--there's no point watching the clock for that one. But with good care and willpower, your girlfriend can learn to minimize their hold over her. She might not, though. That's why it's so fortunate that the decent thing--to give her enough unpressured time to find out either way--is also the wise one.

Hey Carolyn:

Going on a first date tonight with a guy I'm very interested in. For some reason, I don't do very well on first dates. I want to make a great impression and leave him wanting more. Any suggestions?

--Newport, R.I.

Run through the external checklist: Bathe, floss, brush, dress like you aren't desperate, resist the urge to apply enough perfume to fell a wild beast.

Then, the internal: Want him to impress you.

Reversing that part is a classic mistake. You become so self-conscious trying to win the Big Contest that you never bother to see if you even want the prize. Listen. Ask questions. Find out.

And don't eat like it's your first trip out of the barn.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or tellme@washpost.com. Join Carolyn's next live discussion Aug. 30 at 8 p.m. on The Post's Web site, www.washingtonpost.com.