Adapted from a recent online discussion.
And she wants to date this guy with a bad track record . . . why?
Anonymous: Re: Stuart (the player from yesterday's column, who suddenly declares himself not ready for a relationship whenever someone falls for him): If you've been witness to his doing this — not once, but twice — why would you want to get into a relationship with him?
Carolyn: Either because "Mass." and Stuart really are uniquely suited, or because this is the tallest local mountain, and everyone at its base wants to be the first to plant a flag at the top.
The fun part: People usually find out which it is only in hindsight. Usually, eventually, one would-be conqueror does plant that flag. But whether it happens because Stuart finally met his match would be an interesting research topic. I suspect timing (onset of dating fatigue and/or panic) has as much to do with it as anything else, a la musical chairs.
Anonymous 2: Re: Stuart: So because I'm single and have never been able to hold a relationship together, I should be viewed as an unacceptable romantic prospect? Whatever happened to just not having met the right person yet?
Carolyn: Thanks for calling attention to this — it's a part of the question I ignored, but shouldn't have.
First, the issue is not that the letter-writer was about to date somebody she had witnessed failing at relationships; unless two people are each other's first date ever ever, both have already failed to some degree. The issue is that the letter-writer has watched up close while Stuart has hurt two people, as part of an established pattern. According to the original letter, it "has become accepted as an eye-roll-inducing aspect of an otherwise good guy."
These are very specific circumstances, and while they don't make Stuart untouchable or even a bad guy, they do make him an emotional risk to be taken seriously.
That his exes still have Stuart in their lives, and apparently all three remain comfortably in the same social network, actually speaks well of Stuart as a person. That in turn would suggest he has a good chance of breaking/growing out of his pattern. Just a hunch, but it might be a matter of his figuring himself out and learning to like what he sees. Then he won't need so much attention, or to expend so much charm trying to secure it.
Anonymous 3: Re: Stuart: I was thinking this too — why start a relationship with Stuart? Then it occurred to me, if the poster had been a man, we would have all assumed the woman had big . . . assets. Please tell me that something like this isn't an underlying reason; that would be fun but ultimately torturous.
Carolyn: In my experience these romantic black holes like Stuart, male and female, have that effect not because of traditional good looks. It's a head game, and they're very, very good at it. Usually a combination of charm, elusiveness, restlessness. It's the I'm-complicated-but-you-and-only-you-really-understand-me con.
While women chase Stuarts, I think Stuarts are chasing something, too, subconsciously: relief from self-doubt or even self-loathing. No intimate friends — or enemies, either — means he maintains the exact distance from which he trusts himself to be liked.