All this prying is really trying my patience

People who know me often ask why I’m never in a “lasting” romantic relationship. I have had imaginary conversations in order to concoct the proper answer for anyone who asks in the future and finally arrived at a concise answer. Now, when people ask, “So Bob, how come you’re never dating anyone?” my answer is, “Relationships just require too much lying.” Obviously, I know this is not a healthy attitude, but I am struck by how “honest” I feel the answer is. Any ideas on how I can move past this? — Bob G.

Dear Bob: Mensch appreciates that you are facing a dilemma. However, it is unclear from your question what exactly that dilemma is. What is it are you wanting to move past? Do you want to be in a lasting romantic relationship? Do you want to come to a place where you no longer believe relationships require too much lying? Or do you want to stop having imaginary conversations with yourself in anticipation of invasive questions?

Maybe Mensch can help. First of all, your relationship status is nobody’s business. If you’re an adult, nobody — including your parents, siblings, friends or rabbi — is owed an explanation of your relationship status. It can be nice to have a friend or relation with whom to discuss intimate aspects of life and gain insight into ourselves. However, people who solicit intimate details of your life without first establishing a level of trust and friendship are not people we should be worried about impressing. The next time such a person inquires as to why you’re not in a lasting relationship, feel free to answer with, “I don’t know.” On the other hand, “Relationships require too much lying” might put them off just as effectively.

You say the latter answer feels honest to you and that you arrived at it after a series of imaginary conversations. But, just to be clear, Bob, imaginary conversations are not really conversations. So, without diminishing your own experience, please do not give the conclusions uncovered in these internal dialogues the weight of universal truth. All relationships do not require too much lying, even if yours do. Regardless of whether your attitude is healthy, and you admit it’s probably not, it certainly is not a posture from which to advance toward anything truly romantic or lasting. How do you move past this state of mind? Stop lying. The next time you find yourself in a situation where you are attracted to someone, if there is a whiff of romance in the air, resolve to tell the truth. Straight-up honesty actually takes less energy than lying, which leaves more energy for other things. It’s an attractive trait because it projects courage, self-confidence and a willingness to take risks.

If you were a fan of the old TV show Seinfeld, maybe you remember an episode called “The Opposite,” in which George Costanza, for whom professional and romantic success have been fleeting, resolves to try something new by doing the opposite of his first impulse. Since George’s initial impulses generally arise from neurotic insecurity, his opposite approach involves a refreshing dose of frankness and self-confidence. Thus, he gets the girl and his dream job. Take a cue from George Costanza and change it up. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Recently I attended my niece’s Sweet 16 party and bought her a $50 gift certificate. This was five weeks ago and I have yet to receive a thank-you note. Should I say something to her mom (my sister)? I think my niece’s behavior is rude and that it would benefit her in the long run to be told she needs to acknowledge gifts. — Katie

Dear Katie: You’re correct that it will benefit your niece to learn polite and gracious behavior.

If you have a strong relationship with your sister, you might mention off-hand that you never received a thank you from her kid. But be careful not to appear judgmental. Parents generally are defensive when it comes to their children.

Of course, there’s another option. Make your next gift to your niece a package of fancy personal stationery, a nice pen and a book of stamps.

Jonathan Harris
Jonathan Harris

Jonathan Harris is a synagogue administrator and writer-editor living in San Francisco with his wife, three daughters and an ungrateful cat. He can be reached at