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Lite Romance : Men Love to Love Women. But Why Don't More Men Love Them Forever?

June 14, 1987|PAUL CIOTTI | Paul Ciotti is a Los Angeles Times Magazine staff writer.

ON THE TELEPHONE,JULIAN EXPLAINSit all rather simply. He is a 29-year-old TV producer who, after many years doing drudge work in commercials, now has a chance to break into big-time television and produce his own series. There's a lot of pressure, a lot of work, and he doesn't have time, he says, "to service" a relationship. Instead, he and his girlfriend spend three or four nights a week together without making demands or long-term commitments. "It's a low-maintenance, low-stress, low-salt relationship."

Is his girlfriend content with such an arrangement? Or would she rather be married?

It's not an issue, says Julian. They've been together for a year and a half, "and it literally has never come up." Besides, he says, he can't make a commitment in 1987 to love someone "in the year 2010."

Why not?

"This is the '80s now. I'm into Lite Relationships."

Lite Relationships?

"Like Lite beer--all the taste but half the calories. All the relationship but half the baggage."

Q: What's the matter with men?

A: You give so much of yourself and then they freak out.

--HELEN, 42, EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, WEST L.A.

Q: What's the matter with men?

A: I don't know what it is about L.A., but the men here aren't interested in a serious relationship.

--FAY, 32, NEONATAL INTENSIVE CARE NURSE, SAN FERNANDO VALLEY

Q: What's the matter with men?

A: They fill your head with, "Oh, let's get married and have children." And they are hot and heavy for a week or a month. Then they disappear.

--HELEN, 32, FLORAL DESIGNER, SANTAANA

IT'S A WARM SPRING MORNING INElin Guthrie's bright, airy second-floor apartment in West Los Angeles near Pico Boulevard. There's a sewing machine on the dining-room table, a Commodore computer on a desk in the bedroom and potted plants in the living-room fireplace. Elin is an entertainingly articulate Mt. Holyoke graduate who supports herself reading scripts for the movie industry. She's wearing white slacks and a Hawaiian shirt. She has wrathful red hair, porcelain-white skin and a mordant wit. None of this has helped her figure out what's wrong in her relationships with men.

"I was never eager to get married when I was younger," she says. "I didn't even worry about it. But now I'm 36. I'm not married. I haven't had a boyfriend in three years."

It's not, says Elin, that she's unattractive or shy or has such incredible standards for potential mates that no man could ever meet them. "I'm not asking that he look like Don Johnson. I'm asking that his socks match."

It's gotten so that she even hates to go out anymore--it's too humiliating to go around "begging all the time."

Begging?

"The best part of the evening is getting dressed. 'Oh, what am I going to wear?' You find something. Put on your makeup. You look fabulous. But then at the party not a single man speaks to you. And the ones you speak to, they walk away."

Elin's friends tell her the problem is that she's "too pretty" and that this intimidates men. But if that's the case, she asks, "How come every box boy in town isn't the slightest bit intimidated? Or tow-truck drivers? They are forever asking me out. Here I am wearing a $150 pair of shoes. Do I look like I go out with tow-truck drivers?"

Elin likes men and always has, but sometimes men are so mean. "If you don't go for them, they call you a 'frigid, lesbian, screwed-up, hostile broad.' I have never told a guy who wasn't attracted to me that he must be a homosexual. Men say anything to you. They have no respect at all. They do not care what they say to women. Anything goes. They will lie, cheat and steal. Anything."

A couple of years ago Elin had a date with a guy who showed up drenched in cologne, wearing earth sandals and mismatched socks. Since Elin knew they had no future together, she told him up front, " 'Let's just think of this as getting together and not a date.' And this is what he told me. This is an exact quote. 'If you don't want to sleep with me, I don't want to know you.'

"Many men have said the same thing," says Elin, "but no one so succinctly."

"Why me? This wasn't supposed to happen to me. My parents were married for 40 years."

--ROXANE, 43, ACADEMIC COUNSELOR, SHERMAN OAKS

AS TO WHY MEN WON'T commit, there are nearly as many theories as there are single women in L.A., ranging from male character flaws, to a fear of responsibility, to the alienation in modern life, to the belief that the grass is always greener in some other woman's bedroom.

Some women blame the climate here for making life so easy and laid-back that men never feel any pressure, as the poet Gary Snyder once remarked in another context, "to stick their spears in the ground," stop their indecision and make a commitment.

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