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SEX CETERA: 19-year-old charmed by thirtysomething

Q: I just finished my first year of college and my roommate invited me to her parents' Shore house because her brother was throwing a party. While there I met a really nice guy. We talked all night long. He was really sweet, which was a welcome relief from a bunch of frat guys who were just trying to get in my pants. He didn't try anything physical. I spent the entire next week thinking about him. When I told my roommate, she started laughing and told me that guy was in his 30s. I couldn't believe it. I acted like I was turned off, but in reality I would really like to see him again. Do you think that at 19 I would be a fool to pursue him? He's single and doesn't have kids.

Steve: "Hey Nineteen

"No we got nothing in common

"No we can't talk at all

"Please take me along

"When you slide on down"

Sorry. Your letter gave me a Steely Dan moment. An age gap that big is easier to take when you're much older, so I'd say the chances of this relationship working out are probably slim. Unless you decide that the Cuervo Gold and the fine Colombian could make tonight a wonderful thing.

Mia: But they do say women mature more quickly than men, which I guess is why age gaps in marriages are so common. Still, I think he's going to find the fact that you can't legally enter a bar something of a drag. I'd only pursue this one if he calls you.

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Q: I have a dating dilemma. I just turned 40, and all the rules seem to have changed while I was married (I got married at 22 and am now single). Who pays when you're dating? I went out with a guy and he paid for the first date. On the second date, he paid for dinner and I left the tip and paid for drinks. Now we're splitting the bill. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, or maybe he's cheap. Help!

Steve: The old rule was: The man always pays. Now, in the age of equality, it's a bit fuzzier. I favor a Marxist approach to dating: "From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need."

In other words, the one with the greater salary ought to pay the most, with the lesser-salaried partner chipping in what he or she can afford. If he's a cheapskate, you'll find out soon enough.

Mia: I like the old rule. Especially if a man asks you out, I think he should pay on the first date. And he should just choose the place based on what he can afford. But it is a nice gesture to offer to pick up drinks or something. In my experience, after more than a couple of dates you usually start going dutch or taking turns.

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Q: My only son is engaged. I have no daughters, so I feel his wedding is the only one I'll be part of. But the bride's family says they'll pay for everything. I know I oversee the rehearsal dinner, but is there a way for me to offer to help with the wedding - and I mean participate - without stepping on my future daughter-in-law's toes?

Mia: This could be tricky. I would give your son's fiancee a call and tell her that you'd love to be involved, if there's a specific task - like picking flowers or menus or dress-shopping - that you could help with. Then she could include you in some aspect of the day. Unfortunately, you will have to deal with the fact that her mother will likely be far more involved than you. You could also turn your attention to the rehearsal dinner. Perhaps you and your son would enjoy organizing it together.

Steve: I have another idea: Tell your son's future father-in-law that you want to help. I'm betting he might see a way to reduce costs and aggravation and would welcome your participation. But if not, don't push it. Tradition is tradition.

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