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September 20-26, 2006

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Ask Sydney

This advice column is penned by a Sonoma County resident and our new weekly sage. Go ahead! Ask her anything.

Dear Sydney, OK, I know this sounds sexist, and I don't mean it to be, but I have been observing something for many years, and I don't get it. Many men don't really chew their food. The first time I noticed this was when I was dating a man in college and we were getting pretty serious, talk of marriage and all. We loved to go out to breakfast together, but this morning we were in a hurry. When the food came, I looked down long enough to spread jam on my toast, and when I looked up, he was done. I had not taken one bite. It was very disturbing to me! At the time, I felt somehow less than, unable to compete, puzzled by the phenomenon. It made me feel separate from him. Suddenly our breakfast ritual was tainted forever.

Over the years, I have made a small study observing this and I have to say that in many cases three chews per bite is the extent of their effort. Can you help me understand this? Are men and women physiologically so different? Is it a throwback to some primitive part of ourselves that men have just held on to longer than women? Do men have an ability to digest whole unchewed mouthfuls of food and women don't? Is there any correlation between this style of eating and the big guts that many men seem to have? Please, I would appreciate your insights.--Men Don't Chew

Dear Chewy: Are you saying that you decided not to marry a guy because he ate too fast? Well, we'll save that for another day and not stray from your essential point, which seems to be this: Why do men not chew their food? The men who have no doubt inadvertently taken part in your study must chew their food. If they didn't chew their food at all, they would choke. They just aren't chewing it as much as you would like, which means you believe that there is a certain number of times one should chew one's food, and if one does not do so, one is being disgusting and in poor taste. But, clearly, the men you have observed feel as if they are chewing exactly as many times as needed in order to swallow and digest safely. You see, it's subjective.

In my experience, men who eat in a fast and wolfing manner have often just completed, or are about to complete, some level of hard physical exertion. I must say that my own ability to wolf down food without the need for any genuine cardio to back it up is far more disturbing to me then any particular male's lack of interest in thorough mastication. As for the big guts, you obviously do not have a big ass, or you would never, ever risk asking a question like that.

Dear Sydney, after over a decade of struggle, I find myself divorced and ready to create the life I want. It seems, however, that I have more interests than a healthy lifestyle can sustain. I am struggling to find balance, and my family life, or what's left of it, is suffering. How does a single mom prioritize among raising a child, working, and having a spiritual, political, creative and social life--not to mention finding space for a love life? Am I missing something, or is it time to lose something?--Overly Interested

Dear O.I.: Everyone is too busy these days; it's a national epidemic. Even our children are too busy. But, hey, at least we don't have to spend all day foraging for food. You are fortunate to have the space and energy to consider so many wonderful options. What a gift to be able to crave and actually try and pursue so much! This is called evolution, and I salute your intelligence and fascination for life.

Of course, you can't do everything all of the time, so make a list that you pin to the fridge. I can start it for you: 1. Child. Now you finish the rest of the list. Then, when you get up in the morning, look at it, and spend just a moment considering what number two will be for you today. (Sorry, but child is always number one; the only way to change that is to get rid of the kid.) If you can get to the first two things on your list every day, you are doing pretty damn well.

In a day with only 24 hours, where it takes most of our time just to make enough money to keep a roof over our heads, a running car and food on the table, our passions are kind of like extracurricular sports--you can only do so many at a time. That's why there are seasons. What season is it going to be for you?

Dear Sydney, I have been married for almost 25 years. My husband and I have three awesome kids, the oldest of whom we just sent off to college. I have a beautiful home and am well-provided for. Recently, after 18 years of being a stay-at-home mom, I went back to work as the secretary at my youngest son's school. I am on the verge of having an affair with the principal, 10 years my junior. My husband and I have a great sex life, but I'm tired of the ways he doesn't honor who I am and cannot talk with me about things that are important to me. Do I pitch it all in? What should I do? I am . . .--On the Verge.

Dear Verging: You've made it this far, which is way better then most, why ruin it now? You're well-provided for, you have great sex, your kids are on their way to college, and you want to throw it all away for some hottie principal? That said, anyone who thinks they are above ever having an affair just hasn't met the right principal yet. The question is, now that you have met yours, what in the hell are you going to do with him? Fuck first and think later? I suggest you do not.

If you made a commitment to be monogamous with your husband, then deal with that relationship first. If you feel he doesn't honor you and won't talk to you about the things that really matter, then deal with it. Don't you think that your stud-muffin principal will develop some unattractive characteristics after, say, you spent 25 years with him? So for now, keep Mr. Principal in your fantasies. If he just doesn't go away, then break up with your husband, move out and then pursue the affair. Of course, passion does not listen to rationality, so may I just remind you that it is a dangerous world out there, and even young principals can have a little bad luck, so use a condom.

No question too big, too small or too off-the-wall. Ask Sydney.