Ask Alison: Age Hangups, Cheap Weddings, and Respectable Breakups

Good advice from someone who is terrible at dating
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My fiancé and I are getting married, but we have no money. We like the idea of a small wedding, I'm crafty so I am down to do some handmade things, but time and time again I've seen this look tacky and/or cheap. One time I went to a backyard wedding that had a wonton buffet and it made me so sad. I see how handmade weddings can turn into Etsy nightmares, which now are my nightmares. Do you have any tips for making an ULTRA low budget wedding still classy without looking like something that ended up on the Bridezilla's cutting room floor?

Congrats on marrying your fiancé, number one. Two, ignore my dumb joke. Marriage! Congrats! What a weird thing that you're doing: being adults, starting a life together, etc.

I feel you on the tragedy of that wonton wedding. When I was nineteen I went to a friend's wedding that took place in a small backyard where they served spaghetti and garlic bread from a local restaurant. We both worked at a small hardware store making eight dollars an hour. BUT here's the kicker: The food they served was from the restaurant that they had their first date and the backyard comfortably fit everyone and they're still married and seem really in love. So who cares?

I think about how I would like to get married, or if that will even be a thing in 40 years, and I imagine a five-minute ceremony where a sassy elderly gay man will ask us, "So do you love each other or not?" and then we'll kiss and then we'll eat burritos and maybe go to a ballgame. That's it, dream day for me. I know that would be a sad nightmare for most people, but it's my hypothetical day so leave me alone.

As for YOUR wedding stuff: It sounds like you know what you think is bad, so I guess just don't do that? You are an adult human with objectivity, opinions and the give of reason; so if you make a place setting (or whatever wedding stuff you need to have a wedding, I don't know) and you hate it, then I would suggest not using it. The important thing is that you're happy and love your wedding. Oh, and don't be shitty to your friends and family beforehand. They are your biggest asset in saving money. For example: buy all of your booze from Costco and have a friend bartend, and if you have a photographer friend, have them take your photos. People really only care about the candid shots where people are looking at each other lovingly, anyway.

If you do end up with some sort of ugly aspect of your wedding; weird looking floral display, ugly cake, funny looking bridesmaid dresses, just say it's made from green materials. People will forgive appearance if they think it's good for the environment, just look at the Prius.

My friends complain a lot about relationships ending in the other person just fading away. As in, they just stop calling and become apathetic, instead of an actual definitive breakup. I hate when women do it to me, but I also find myself doing it sometimes. At what point do you owe someone a confrontational "This isn't working out" talk? And it has to be a talk (as in, not text or Gchat)?

I love this question so much. It's funny, I wonder how many relationships fail because of the uncertainty social media provides. I can't count how many times I've been party to conversations where a friend is stressing about their significant other not liking their status update, profile picture, blog post. Oh lord, he's starring another girl's tweets? I think it's over. It's a gross and weird world we're living in, where constant public validation seems to be a requirement.

I do have to say, social media has helped me maybe more than it has hurt. I can't tell you how many times friending a person I met at a party has gotten me laid (once).

But I feel like your question has much more to do with the timeless pang of rejection. Sure, it's fine when you fade out of a relationship or casual dating situation, but it sucks when someone does it to you because you're great and everyone should see that. No one wants to be left hanging, you know?

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It's tough when you first start dating someone to know when you have to let someone know that you don't want it to continue. I have this idea that I'm going to eventually sit someone down and give them this long beautiful speech about how wonderful they are but that we are different creatures and I'm a bird or something? I haven't figured it out completely yet, but I imagine finishing this soliloquy only to be met with a perplexed look and a "I know, we we're just hanging out." My advice is always to err on the side of human decency: If you're at six weeks you should at least call, especially if there were solid or tentative plans in the future, but I will accept email or text with the open invitation for a phone call. Anything longer than that and you've gotta just suck it up and do it in person. Ending things with someone is the worst, but I promise if you do it in a classy way with a clear, definitive end, you'll feel better and make her feel better.

I'm 29, and I've been dating this guy who's younger than me by quite a bit. I'm nervous about having sex with him because I can't stop thinking about how he grew up with high speed Internet and probably has seen more porn on a Tuesday than I have in my whole life. I've always been confident in bed, but for the first time in my life I'm starting to feel self-conscious. I read somewhere because of such early exposure to porn, kids are doing really extreme things early on. Should I just stick to guys who grew up with Sega Genesis?

Okay, so. There are several pieces of information that I don't have. You say he's significantly younger, but you don't say by how much. Legally, it can't be more than eleven years and if you're dating an 18-year-old, there's no way it's for the conversation. And without being argumentative, even an 18-year-old would remember the days of dial up. MY guess is we're talking about five years, tops. And who cares? He certainly doesn't.

The sex thing is another area where I wish I had more detail. Is he an asshole? If he's an asshole, then yeah, he might try to do things that you are uncomfortable with sexually without asking you first. You shouldn't date that guy. Watching porn, even an exorbitant amount of it, does not make a person a sexual deviant. Speaking as a mild-mannered porn over-watcher, there is a very clear line between reality and fake auditions.

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Most likely he's just a regular dude, because most people are just regular dudes. Which means that the first time you two have sex he's not going to do anything other than be slightly disappointing. You say that you are usually confident in bed, which is great, all women should be. I'm looking forward to an era where we don't expect a gold star for asking for the things we need, sexually. But embrace that self-assuredness in all aspects of your life, don't balk just because this kid might not get your TaleSpin references.

Also, are you even into this guy? Or is he just available? I feel like I just reached the point where I can no longer just have sex with someone out of apathy. Kind of an important milestone, really. When I hear people already searching for fault in the person they're dating so early on, I have trouble understanding why they would want to continue. Don't get me wrong-- I've done this a million times: boring guy, weird laugher, funny smeller, sure why not? It's fine until it's not and if you're already trying to find an excuse as to why it's not going to work, then I don't understand investing time or energy.

Please believe me when I tell you that I totally get the age discomfort thing. I've dated men who were younger than me and it never quite fit. So for me, I would just casually say, "This will never work long term, you're too young for me." Which is neither constructive nor a jumping off point for like, a casual conversation but a GREAT way to destroy a relationship.

If age is a sticking point for you and you don't think it's something you will ever be comfortable with, then this is not relationship that you should pursue further. Although I do have to tell that since the original Sega console - which was great, sure - they have made huge leaps and jumps forward: better graphics, immersive gameplay and hey, the ability to save your game. You should check 'em out.


If you have questions about relationship etiquette, please send them to askalison@theatlantic.com.

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Alison Agosti is a writer living in Los Angeles.


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