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Ask Amy

Ask Amy column

Q. I’m just past 40 and have been divorced for three years. I’ve briefly dated a handful of guys, all of whom I met through work or friends. None of these mini-relationships have ended well — most barely started — but all have one striking similarity: The men are happy to go to lunch or dinner with me but balk at spending any “quality time” together.

When I invite these men to join me for something as simple as an afternoon bike ride, the response is always either: 1) a flimsy excuse, with no follow-up by suggesting another activity, 2) hedging (one guy responded to my invitation with “Will it take long?”), or 3) complete silence — they ignored the request altogether.

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None of these guys has ever initiated an activity date. I find this behavior incredibly rude and frustrating. How can people get to know each other if they don’t spend time together?

I’m not sleeping with these guys, so what do they get out of just having dinner? Has dating changed so much that this is considered totally acceptable? For all these men, I cut it off once it was clear it was going nowhere, but now I feel the pattern will just repeat itself and I shouldn’t bother going out at all.

A. For most people, sharing a meal is an appropriate way to get to know and connect with someone. Some men actually enjoy conversation and a good meal, even if they don’t have sex afterward! Imagine that!

I believe you have a valid point, but rather than try to change every man you encounter, the smart thing to do is to look at this established pattern and then look in the mirror — and see what you can do differently.

You are lumping all these men into the same category and judging them harshly. Perhaps they sense they are being tested when you throw down the idea to go on a bike ride, or they are terrified about being trapped with you in a context where they can’t simply ask for the check and flee.

The most obvious solution is for you to join clubs or engage in activities where you will meet people who have the energy and desire to be active and adventurous.

Q. Our son has been dating a young woman for about a year.

He brought her home for dinner during the holidays, and shortly thereafter we received a gift card from her for $150. In the enclosed note, she thanked us for the dinner and stated that she hoped that we would enjoy her gift. We’re not sure how to respond to this. Your thoughts, please?

A. My in-box is full of letters written by people frustrated by the lack of gratitude expressed by people in their lives.

The flip side is a thank-you that is so outsized it makes the recipient uncomfortable (I assume that is the case with you). I don’t think it’s appropriate to return this gift; accept it graciously in the spirit with which it is offered.

You can assume that this young woman erred by going overboard because she is eager to impress you. Consider yourselves impressed and respond kindly by writing her a note or e-mail to say, “We were so surprised to receive your extremely generous thank-you gift. That was very thoughtful and sweet of you. Please know that in the future you needn’t ever thank us by sending a gift. It is truly a pleasure to get to know you, and we are always happy to offer our hospitality. We look forward to seeing you again very soon.”

Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@tribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @askingamy or “like” her on Facebook.
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