Carolyn Hax is on leave. This column originally ran May 2, 2012.
Question: Is there a polite way to say to well-meaning family and friends, "Please don't feel like you have to try to set me up with every gay man you know just because I am single"? I live in an area without a huge gay community, so I'm grateful for occasional setups with guys who share my interests, but it feels like, sometimes, these matchmakers are using "you're both gay" as their only criterion.
Answer: I could argue your dilemma represents progress, as matchmakers have a long history of using "you're both single" as their only criterion for setting up friends.
Nevertheless, there's nothing wrong with voicing your honest concern, pretty much as you've said it here.
The surface drudgery of a bad date isn't the only hazard of thoughtless matchmaking, though: It also holds insult potential when you get paired with your definition of a grasping lowlife or galloping head case. You find yourself asking, "Is this what my friend thinks of me?"
Because getting pushed to this point can leave a residue of hard feelings, and because often the matchmaker is not thinking much at all, it's worth trying to aim your query closer to the heart of the problem. "Sure, I'd be happy to meet [latest setup attempt]. My one criterion: Would you feel flattered to be matched with him?"
Question: Please help me out - I am about to lose the love of my life because I feel unready/unwilling to have children with her. I do want children theoretically, but I see nothing but misery in life with a small child.
She has asked me to think it over before making a definite decision. She will move out at the end of the month if we agree that's what must be done. I want her to stay, but my true feelings about children today remain the same as ever. Please advise.
Answer: "Nothing but misery"? Wow.
Theoretical children do tend to be easier.
When a kid is whining, squirming, nose-picking, and generally making life visually and aurally miserable for anyone within a surprisingly wide radius - they have that power - most adults are thinking two things: (1) "Please leave" and (2) "I am so glad that kid isn't mine."
Yet, the majority of people have kids of their own.
I suppose some of this majority are delusional or careless, but most just do the math and decide having kids is worth a few (or few years) of these scenes.
You need to figure out why your math is different. Are you lying to yourself (and/or your girlfriend) about ever wanting kids? Are you just unwilling to suck it up? Are you waiting for something concrete, specific, and realistic to change?
Also: How do you feel about older kids? Have you had positive experiences with them, or are they just not as obnoxious (i.e., visible) to you as the diaper brigade?
There's nothing wrong with not wanting kids, and your fear of having your life upended makes emotional sense. However, your argument doesn't make sense-sense. Either you can project enough joy in family life to accept that kids' needs are anything but convenient - and, therefore, can say, "I do want children" without setting off any pandering-, wishful-thinking-, or crap-meters - or you can't.