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First dial 1, then face the new reality

Have a partner who's several time zones away? Get a cellphone plan -- a big one. Or start crying.

March 08, 2007|Howard Leff | Special to The Times

SORRY to say, but my very own girlfriend has turned geographically undesirable. If you think driving from say, Pasadena to Hermosa Beach sounds agonizing, try England. That's quite a hassle, even when traffic's moving.

Honestly, long-distance relationships rarely work, unless you count the one I recently had with Zsa Zsa Gabor. Well, her husband was out of town a lot. I believe it was due to him being a prince. Of what, I don't know, but I'm guessing it's similar to how Queen Latifah's a queen.

Still, there's hope. Just because your girl/boyfriend has moved far away doesn't automatically mean you have to give up on the whole romance thing. Heck, some very robust relationships are exclusively long distance, generally because the two people have only communicated online. These pose other challenges, since you might never know if your new girlfriend, for example, is actually a girl.

So what do you do when that special person in your life decides to live far away? First, announce in a loud, firm voice that you totally understand and support the move. Then, try to stop them with a combination of guilt and/or groveling. Most men will reconsider any decision when faced with watching their girlfriend cry, even though this technique hasn't seemed to work for Jennifer Aniston.

Women, on the other hand, respond better to guilt since the sight of their boyfriend on a middle-of-the-night crying jag might inspire them to hit the road even sooner. Try this, gentlemen: "But honey, I'll miss you soooooo much!" Failing that, you can go with old-fashioned manipulation: "Gee, with you so far away, I really can't guarantee the safety of either one of these cats."

But if they insist on leaving, and you still want them, here are some tips to keep your long-distance relationship together:

1) Make sure they still want you.

Well, they did leave, didn't they? I'm just suggesting you get an honest sense of what's going on before you spring for the extra-large cellphone plan. Unless you have a really stable, committed thing going, you have strong reason to believe the other person could really do without you -- or at least your current hometown.

2) Get an extra-large cellphone plan.

So you think you two have a shot? Perfect. Then don't sit there watching the clock every time you guys are yammering away the hours. Nothing's less romantic than, "Hold that thought, darling! I have to check my minutes again. Do you know if this call began during my peak time?" Spring for the big dollars upfront and save your embarrassment later.

3) Be careful with those "intimate" calls.

Uh-oh. When the conversation strays into "make-out" territory, resist the urge to click over to call-waiting even if your agent's on the other line offering you a really quirky role in "Little Miss Sunshine 2." Example: "Your skin's so soft, sweetheart, I'd really -- hang on, it's Jason at ICM. Stay right there. Better yet, let me give you a jingle when I'm through."

4) Keep track of the time.

Even though it's 3 a.m. "her time," you don't have the right to sit around and hit on bartenders. Besides, the sight of two watches on your wrist will no doubt hurt your chances. Yes, it's still cheating, despite the fact that the love of your life has crossed state lines.

And remember, even the best long-distance relationships aren't designed to last forever. Give it a year. If you're still hundreds -- or even thousands -- of miles apart after all that time, I'd consider breaking up. Sad, yes, but just be honest with the other person.

Tell them you need your space.

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