Ask Lynn-My Clock Is Ticking…

One woman who wants to get married and have kids wonders how to date.

By Lynn Harris

ear Lynn,
My biological clock is ticking. When I date men, I am testing the waters for fatherhood; I feel like I’m “wasting my time” staying with someone who I have no future with for more than two or three dates. Also, the longer I’m with a man, the more I seem to focus on all the ways we’re not compatible,
When I date men, I am testing the waters for fatherhood.
and so I’m losing my desire for intimacy, too. What’s the right way to tell a guy that I don’t think we’re compatible and I don’t want to waste my time—without making it sound like I’m attacking each one as a person?
– Game Over Before It Starts

Dear Game Over,
I got married in my mid-thirties; I know from this clock. And I think you’re right in principle not to “waste your time” hoping someone will morph into someone you could actually fall for, really fall for. Lots of women (and men) do that and find themselves married to the wrong person—or waiting and waiting for the wrong person to ask.

And while we’re on the subject, do not listen to people — I bet they’re out there — who say you’re being “picky.” Unless you are actually being picky, as in looking for an utterly, demonstrably unattainable ideal, right down to shoe size and favorite McNugget sauce, that is the most patronizing, irritating, and ultimately ludicrous thing any single person could hear. Picky? About the person you want to spend your life with? Yeah. Go away. (Can you tell I have some history here?)

So that’s some cheerleading for you. Now, here are some answers and observations. Primarily this: Girl, you are totally psyching yourself out. And, very possibly, pushing people away. As I said above, your game plan itself is fine. A few dates, no spark, fine to move on. There, you should trust your instincts. In fact, you should trust your instincts instead of doing what you’re doing now, which is over-thinking. And that's creating problems.

Do you go home from a date planning your outfit for the next one, willing the phone to ring or the email to beep—or at least smiling a little when you think of him? Good. That’s all you need to know. Enjoy the rush of attraction. Deeper analysis now will only
Do you go home from a date planning your outfit for the next one.
(as you say) make you feel unsexy, not to mention (possibly) make you appear all judgmental and feel all uptight in his presence. So don’t worry yet about “compatibility” or the “future.” It’s the crush-y stuff now that will get you there later.

Likewise, don’t over-think — or over-explain — the brush-off. Only you know you’re saying goodbye to a former candidate for Husband ’07. As far as he knows, after a date or three, it’s just a “Thanks, but no thanks.” As in: “I had a lovely time with you, but I think I’m not up for anything more. Thank you so much — especially for that excellent sushi — and good luck with your job interviews. Wish you all the best.” (After only a date or two, if you haven’t had that much phone contact, I believe you can totally do this with an email. Again, it’s a “no, thanks,” not a breakup.)

Advice addendum: Date more than one guy at once. At least for a handful of outings, it’s absolutely fine. Why? Because they won’t all fit under your microscope at once! Allow yourself to enjoy the process, harrowing though I know it can be; let a front-runner emerge naturally. Game on!

Lynn Harris ( is co-creator, with Chris Kalb (, of the award-winning website — you can visit BG's blog to discuss this letter! A longtime journalist, Lynn has written about dating, gender, and culture high and low for Glamour, Marie Claire, The New York Times,,, and many others. She is currently the communications strategist for Breakthrough, a transnational organization that creates pop culture to promote human rights. Submit your own dating questions for Ask Lynn via Your question may be answered in a future column.
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