No womb at the inn 

Q: I'm a 35-year-old woman. For six months, I've been dating an amazing 30-year-old man I love very much. Sadly, he's ambivalent about continuing our relationship because we have a conflict on a major issue: I don't want kids. He does ... at some point. He's not ready for a child at this moment; at his estimate, he probably won't even start thinking about having one for at least five years. I don't want to lose him, but the child thing isn't negotiable for me: I'm not nurturing, I don't like children, and I have no desire to be a mom. Does this have to mean the end for my boyfriend and me? —Nobody's Mother

A: In love, everybody's looking for an extended-service contract — "Will you love me forever?" as opposed to "Will you love me until the middle of time?" or "Can you ink me in through next Tuesday, then pencil me in after that?" Forever used to be pretty doable, back when milk came from cows instead of from 7-11, and there was no market for "Wench Clairol" because everybody got bubonic before they got gray. Back then, forever only lasted about 10 or 20 years. Modern women have their own money and few of their own cows, which means that they have the power, for the first time ever, to ditch relationships that aren't working ("Don't let the drawbridge hit you on the way out)!" Modern medicine (filling out 20 pages of paperwork in triplicate to get an aspirin) inspires everybody to live long enough to sue their "care providers." Add a little diet and exercise, and pledging to stick with someone "until death do us part" can mean giving radioactive waste a run for its half-life. Yet, there's still this big, hairy, invisible hand shoving everybody toward "forever or bust."

This is why 22-year-old club rats are looking today for a guy with a pierced tongue who can help them fasten the safety pins on their adult diapers 24,251 tomorrows from now. This is why couples whose relationships are long past stale and moldy cut smiles out of magazines, paste them on their faces and pretend that they aren't so violently bored with each other that they'd like to cut off their own heads and take them bowling. This is dumb.

Although you get more out of a relationship that outlasts a cheap pair of shoes, there's no point in sticking it out in a dead thing just to get a big slap on the back and a bunch of gold crap at the 50-year mark. Some people are good forever candidates — my parents, for example, who spend about 27 hours a day together, and still don't seem tired of each other. The rest of the world have options. They just don't consider them because there's too much peer pressure to do forever or nothing.

Take your pick: Either call it quits now, or make a plan with your boyfriend to be together until he starts looking forlornly at his shoulder and dreaming of little piles of baby upchuck. In a sense, you and he will be racing toward a brick wall, but maybe spending five great years with somebody "amazing" beats spending those five years shopping around for a passable candidate for forever.

Q: Recently, I went on a first date with a guy who had been asking me out for a while. The date was going extremely well, until he mentioned that he was interested in a girl he worked with who wasn't giving him clear signals. I think this was rude, and it made me feel bad. On one hand, I appreciated his honesty. Still, when a man takes a woman on a date, I think he should focus on her. Am I overreacting, or is this a red flag? —Second Bananaville

A: Information should be dispensed on a need-to-know basis, with a minimum of discomfort to the recipient. If one's small intestine is backing up (again), one's date needn't be informed, provided his or her Persian rug isn't in clear and present danger. The information your date dispensed was important — that he might not be all that available — but, he dispensed it to excess, in turn informing you that he's rude, inconsiderate, and lacking in grace.

To preserve your feelings while getting his message across, he should have followed the lead of drug manufacturers, who list the worst-case side-effects to medicine — "may cause dry mouth, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, and loss of life" — ever-so-politely. In other words, taking a dose of their stuff could cause you to writhe on the floor in mind-splitting pain, then cough up your internal organs, one by one, then finally croak. Details, details. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail

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