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November 22-28, 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, I have this friend whom I have had a crush on for several years now. I believe that she feels at least some sort of affection for me as well. We are both married, love our partners and have no intention of ruining those relationships. At the same time, I always feel a bit empty when I spend time with this person. We only feel safe chatting about current events across a table in case, God forbid, we should cross any lines that could not only compromise our current partnerships but could, of course, ruin our own friendship as well. Are there any options here? No middle ground that would allow us to express a bit more affection but would not spoil it all? We are both mature individuals, and yet our culture offers so few options in a situation like this. Your insight, please!--Needing Options

Dear NO: I sympathize with your frustration. Who hasn't felt constrained by the paradigms of a relationship--not just once, but hundreds, possibly thousands of times, depending on how long you've been together. Think of a relationship like the most delicate of flowers; just about anything can kill that fucking thing. Even what you feel to be a harmless crush, a little flirting "just for fun," can be enough to make the flower wilt and begin to brown about the edges. You must proceed with caution.

One of the trying things about being in a monogamous relationship is that you can never pursue any other relationship for long enough to discover how wrong it is. This is why single people so often complain that there is just no one available to be with, and people in relationships are always, like, "What are you talking about? I meet desirable people all the time!" It's the very fact that you can't really get to know each other in an intimate way that makes the crush so enticing and long-lasting.

Some people can have never-ending crushes, and it's no big deal. Others with--let's call them "artistic" temperaments--can't be trusted with the responsibility. If you know you are untrustworthy in this regard or think that your friend is, then you are better off just keeping the distance. My guess is that the two of you should probably keep your distance, because if you didn't, you would end up in bed together, and that would be such a pain in the ass, wouldn't it? Keep sitting at opposite sides of the table. Until you decide to toss off the rules of your culture, you will have to abide by them.

Dear Sydney, I'm 20 years old, my girlfriend is 28. We've been together for a year. We're obviously in different places. She has her degree, I'm just starting to work on mine. She has already done the whole college party thing, whereas I'm just starting. I really love her, we get along great. But sometimes the age thing causes tensions, which leads to fighting. Sydney, I'm happy being with her, but she feels like there's no future for us, because of my youth. What should I do?--Bummed Dude

Dear Dude: Some women, possibly even a lot of them, have a hard time dating men who are younger then they are. It goes against our cultural norms and brings up all sorts of doubts and insecurities. If a guy dates a younger woman, everyone holds it in much higher regard then when the scenario is in the reverse. What you need to do is to remind her that she's lucky to be getting such a hot young stud like you, and not to worry about it so much. If you're having a good time together, then don't trip. Either you pull it off and stay together, or you don't, but worrying about it won't help. Same goes at any age.

Maybe she's right, and there is no future for you, but if it's working right now, why change it? You have no way of knowing what the future will bring, and there seems to be little point in either one of you sabotaging a good thing over some doubts and insecurities. Welcome to the rest of your life; better get used to them.

Now, if what she's worried about is the ticking of the biological clock, at 28, she's still got some time. And who knows, babies have a way of either announcing themselves when they see fit. Differences in age do not necessarily determine compatibility one way or the other in this regard. If you two broke up, she could end up with a guy who, at 40, never wants to have children, or who, at 31, is infertile. You just never know, so give it a rest and just love each other.

Dear Sydney, about four years ago, my Grandmother died. I am a teen. However, I never got to speak to her before she died nor attend her funeral. She was cremated. I still find it difficult to deal with and feel like I need to say goodbye properly. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can say goodbye to her?--Miss O

Dear Miss O: You are suffering from the elusive sense of loss that so often accompanies the death of someone we love. In a way, it can feel like they just went on a trip, maybe moved to another country, and that they are still out there somewhere. Except they never visit and they never write. In order to keep your grandmother close to your heart and to avoid feeling so lost, put mementos of her somewhere you can see them--a picture, a letter, a gift she once gave you, something to think of her by. If you have anyone you can tell stories to about your grandmother and your memories of her, then tell them; if you don't, then write them down. Plan a ceremony of your own. Set up an altar with candles and special things in your room or out in the garden. Invite your best friend, or your dog and tell your grandmother goodbye. Sometimes we have to create our own rituals, and now is a time for you to create one for yourself.

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