Avoiding a holiday hookup

The results of the Romance Rumble are in -- and I lost. Film Critic (and Romance Rumble winner) Wesley Morris explains it all here. I'm trying not to be a sore loser. I bet Lloyd Dobler watched a lot of "Casablanca" before he got on that plane with Diane Court.

Wesley and I will host the Romance Rumble pre-party on Friday (Dec. 10) from 7 to 8:30 at Orleans in Davis Square. All are welcome. No RSVPS/movie tickets necessary. Feel free to show up at 6:30 to get a good seat. I'll be there with plates and plates of food. A note to straight, single men: I'm not stereotyping, but Love Letters events tend to draw a number of nice, single, straight women. Fish. In. A. Barrel. Really. (Just be nice to the fish.)

At 8:30, Wesley and I will walk to the Somerville Theatre for a quick Q&A and screening of "Casablanca." If you haven't seen it, please join us. If you have, please see it again. It will be wonderfully cozy night and a great way to watch a classic. Tickets for the movie can be purchased here.

Dear Meredith,

I could really use your help this holiday season before I make a huge turkey of myself. Here's the back story: I'm a single mom in her mid-30s and I've been separated and divorced for five years. My problem is with my ex-boyfriend, whom I dated for a little over a year. We broke up one year ago when he moved away to go back to school.

To say I had a hard time with the breakup would be a bit of an understatement. I knew it was the right thing to do, particularly since he is significantly younger than I am, but my will is awfully weak when my heart is involved. It didn't help that he was one of those "I love you, but -- " and "let's be friends" kind of ex-boyfriends. My dating experience at that point had been really limited, and I didn't realize that still communicating but not getting any caring out of it would be so destructive. After nearly a year of frustration, we stopped talking for awhile, and I started feeling like myself again. Dating has been horrible so far, though; just a series of awkward first dates with no connection whatsoever. I can't seem to find anyone I like as much as I liked my ex (nor, to be honest, as much as I like my mail man, my chiropractor, and the friendly check-out guy at Whole Foods).

Here's the problem with my ex: we're friendly again, and e-mail very occasionally. However, when he comes home for holidays, it's a different story -- he writes and calls often, making it very clear that he's between girlfriends and wants to hook up. He has always claimed that he loves me and that I'm the only person in the world who understands him -- but I know the truth about such things. Even knowing this, though, I have to confess that I am so weak-willed that I have taken him up on his offers. The memory of love is strong, and it's hard to not want to revisit it. And even though it's usually just for a day or two, it's awfully nice to have someone care about you for awhile.

I'm at the point where I'm forcing myself to go out of town (all my family lives out of state, which doesn't help) for the holidays, even though I'd rather stay home. I know he'll be here for the holidays and looking to "reconnect," and I know also that, while it gets easier to say "no" as time goes on, saying "no" to even a single day of love and attention isn't something I can do easily even though I know it's the right choice.

Can you please give me some advice for keeping my distance? Other than making up a fantasy boyfriend (I tried that once, but it fell through pretty quickly), is there anything I can say to him that will make a difference other than "no"? I'd like him to understand that you can't treat people like this, but somehow I can't reach him. Oh, and if you could throw in a side dish of consolation for those of us who feel like we're going to be alone and disconnected from humanity for the rest of our natural life, I'd be grateful!

– Better Than a Booty Call, Newton

BTABC, my advice is to be startlingly honest with him. If he comes over for a pajama party, say something like, "I'm so happy that you still find me attractive because I'd really like to get back together and revisit the issue of commitment!" Then watch him run away. If he says, "No one understands me like you do," fire back with, "You're right -- let's get hitched!" I'm telling you, nothing ruins the hook-up mood like a blunt wish list that involves exclusivity and accountability.
The bigger problem, of course, is what you so brilliantly call "the memory of love." I don't blame you for wanting to revisit the relationship when possible, but perhaps there are other ways to fill the void. Maybe it's time to tell all of your friends that you're ready for set-ups. Maybe it's time to take an exciting trip. Maybe it's time to make more single friends so that you can sit around with peers and talk about the availability of the mail man. What I do know is that it's your job to set boundaries. It's difficult, but you can't count on your ex to learn a lesson and remove himself as a temptation. You have to fend for yourself.

And if you really need a side dish of consolation, I'll give you this: I guarantee you that at some point during the holidays, probably on Christmas, someone will Google you. Maybe it will be a guy from your childhood or one of those men who took you on a terrible date. Maybe it will be your ex. I have no idea. But someone will be feeling lonely without you. Someone will be wondering where you are. It's inevitable.

It's also inevitable that you'll eventually go on some not-so-terrible dates. Eventually. Just stay in the mix and continue to be honest about your intentions. Be upsettingly honest. That'll keep you out of trouble.

Readers? Is my side dish of consolation any good? How do you stop yourself from having a destructive hook-up? Should she stop herself? Is there potential with the ex? Advice for the lonely during the holidays? Discuss.

– Meredith