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June 13-19, 2007

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Ask Sydney

This advice column is penned by a Sonoma County resident and our new weekly sage. Go ahead! Ask her anything.

Dear Sydney, I'm moving in with my boyfriend. Neither of us wants children. We both seek out holistic healthcare, avoid prescription drugs, etc. We've been relying on a cervical cap and tracking my menstrual cycle for birth control. The cap has not been ideal, and since we'll now be living together, and able to have more regular sex, I'd like us to revisit our birth-control choices. I think it would be ideal for him to get a vasectomy, but he's freaked out about being altered in this way. He does have a history of some difficulties with his genitalia--emergency testicular surgeries, unexplained urination difficulties and so forth--so I do empathize with his reluctance to further "mess" with his business. However, I feel frustrated that birth control seems to be up to me. What do you think I should I do?--Too Much Information

Dear TMI: It's understandable that your boyfriend would find the idea of a vasectomy frightening, especially considering his past experiences. But even without such a history, many men find the vasectomy option, well, not to be an option at all. The colloquial assurance that "it's just a little snip, snip," usually accompanied by slicing movements of the fingers, does little to assuage these men's fears. The best way to proceed is to do an extravagant amount of research. Do the research yourself, and then make it readily accessible to him. Maybe if he does enough reading and has a chance to let the idea settle, he will change his mind. This is a big deal, and he should not have to go into it in fear.

Go to your gynecologist and talk to him or her about getting an IUD as an interim measure for avoiding pregnancy. The IUD is only appropriate for people in monogamous relationships, as the little string that hangs down acts like a wick for STD's, sending them right into your uterus. But as long as the two of you are monogamous with each other, the IUD is a miraculous device. Let your partner know that this is a temporary fix, but one that you are willing to do while you research and decide, together, if a vasectomy is the best and safest way to go for both of you.

Dear Sydney, I have a number of friends who have obsessive relationships with messed-up people. There seems to be this "I'll save you" dynamic going on that I see repeated over and over again. I get dramatic and emotional calls from my friends at all hours, asking for my support because of their messed-up relationship. But when I try to give them honest advice, no matter what I tell them, they seem to fit it into their own vision of things. They ask for help, but they don't want to hear it. What is my obligation as far as being a support system to friends in negative relationships? How do you help and support someone who seems to have a twisted vision of the facts?--Unplugging My Phone

Dear Unplugged: You're under no obligation to help them at all. However, part of being a friend often means acting as a sounding board when the people you care about have something that they need to talk about. It's up to you to draw the line, to define how late in the evening and how early in the morning you are willing to accept calls, and to decide how many of your waking hours you want to spend listening to someone, no matter how dear, wax on about the miserable nature of her relationship.

What you have noticed, and seem to be taking umbrage to, is not so much that your friends can't find the sort of love you feel they deserve, but that they refuse to listen to reason. When other people say negative things about the person we love, we often become defensive and act as if we're being personally criticized--and yet we reserve the right to talk about how horrible our loved one is until the sun goes down. The fact that many of us do this doesn't make it any less irritating.

Let your friends know that if they don't want your honest opinion, if all they want is someone to listen to them vent (as if you were their own personal diary page and they are painting you with their miseries), then fine, as long as they are up front about it. And let them know in advance that you would prefer if they didn't ask you for advice if they don't want to be in any way receptive to your answers.

Dear Sydney, what's going through the mind of the guy who pulls into a local market's parking lot driving a huge audacious truck with giant knobby tires, rips into a parking spot, taking up two, and almost running over a number of other drivers in the process? I wonder if he has a sort of global counterpart, some big burly guy who is parking his ox cart somewhere in the world, running other people off the road and sauntering into their equivalent of our local market. Is this guy just an arrogant American? Or is this personality type to be found across the world? I guess I'm wondering if this is a problem with humanity, or what.--No Parking

Dear No Parking: Though this specific brand of male may exhibit traits that exemplify machismo in our culture, there are traits across the world that men in other cultures must imitate if they want to be studs. I know that most liberal Americans feel obligated to America-bash, a habit that has only grown worse since the re-election of George W. Bush and the onslaught of this despicable war. I hear good liberals across the country echoing disgust for their own countrymen over and over and over again, and it's hard not to get discouraged, to wonder, 'How is life on this planet going to keep on going if this is where we place value, in our egos and the size of our trucks?'

Personally, I prefer to look at egocentrism and lack of regard for others as a global problem. Maybe this isn't a good liberal attitude, maybe I should be more self-flagellating about it, but I can't help but feel that ignorance and stupidity are not American conditions; they are global ones. If they weren't, then why are people across the globe actively destroying the earth and each other with as much verve as they can muster? Though I wish that ignorance were something confined within our borders, I see no solid evidence that this is the case.

'Ask Sydney' is penned by a Sonoma County resident. There is no question too big, too small or too off-the-wall. Inquire at or write [email protected].

No question too big, too small or too off-the-wall. Ask Sydney.