I lost him after a week

Here's another contest: I'll be speaking after this Thursday's performance of "The Drowsy Chaperone" at the SpeakEasy. It's a funny show -- a great pre-wedding show -- and after it's over, I'll get to chat with the audience about marriage ultimatums, wedding ridiculousness, and other fun things. If you want tickets, email me at meregoldstein at gmail dot com by 5 p.m. today. Put DROWSY in the subject line. Tell me who you want to bring to the show and why. I'll email winners by 11 a.m. tomorrow. OK?

Excuse the length of today's letter. I edited it a lot, but she had a lot to say.

Dear Meredith,

I'm an avid reader. I frequent the comments under an alias and often submit entries for your various contests (and have won!). I've not yet written in about my own search for love ... until now.

The facts: 27-year-old single female, active lifestyle. I am resilient, extremely caring (admittedly sometimes to a fault), thoughtful, very happy, and energetic. My friends often come to me for advice. Many times a bridesmaid.

Relationship background: 7-year, off-and-on roller-coaster relationship (now very close friends and only friends, finally, thank god), some fun flings, one 5-month relationship -- 9 men in total. Some of my friends describe me as a hopeless romantic with the mind of a teenage boy. I absolutely love the sweet stuff/affection yet I'm slightly driven by that other part of my brain.

I decided at New Year's that I needed to expand my dating pool and not get so attached so quickly -- and NOT think with my "teenage boy" instincts. After reading your advice to so many people about relaxing a bit and not paying attention to the big push around your late 20s and 30s to find THE ONE, I decided I'd be patient and date and see what happens. And so began the numbering system. I decided to keep all the guys I dated numbered in my phone to remind myself this is just #4, there will be a #5 and #6 and so on. I tried to take on a more masculine approach to dating. If I kept them numbered, I'd stay detached and learn from them and just have fun. Little notches rather than huge pieces taken from my heart.

My friends found it hilarious. I went from the overzealous hopeless romantic to, well, the "dude" in the relationships. I called the shots. I was disappointed when things didn't move forward physically rather than emotionally. I sometimes dated four of them at a time (to be clear, I was never physical with more than one at a time and I was always safe) and I stayed levelheaded and really learned a little more about what I was looking for from each one ... until stupid #9. I didn't number him in my phone because he seemed completely my counterpart. Literally zero red flags. He is extremely social, outgoing, active, loyal, caring, genuine, and incredibly sweet, so I didn't run in the other direction. And after a week (yep, one week), I was slipping out of my detached dating scheme and into the "Oh man, I'm a goner" phase. We texted all day, every day (again, for a week). I found it completely impossible to keep my hands off of him. He came back to my house after our dates and while the grilled cheese and playtime was fun and irresistible, I did resist (barely) sleeping with him. Friday, I met up with him and his friends (I brought a friend so I had back up as well) and things seemed to be going great. And then he disappeared. No goodbye, no "gotta jet," no anything. His friends mentioned he does this sometimes. They all stayed and we all continued to hang out but I was completely baffled. Of course, no response to texts and calls. Two days and still nothing. The typical "He wasn't that into you" seems the obvious answer. But I guess my real question is ... how can I prevent this? One week? One week and I was in tears over a guy? I feel completely pathetic and also resentful because he broke me ... again.

I understand the dating rules, that it's all about trial and error and someone is bound to be a little more disappointed than the other when things don’t work out. I know all this -- yet this one seemed to be just as much a kick in the stomach as the end of the 7-yr relationship ...

Lola Wants More, Boston

You've read this column for a long time, right? So you probably know what I'm going to say about dating. Yes, LWM, it can be awful. And yes, it's high risk. But you have to do it. And you can't manipulate it. You can number these guys, assign them nicknames -- whatever you want to do to make them seem less human -- but as soon as you meet one you actually like, your silly rules and games will go out the window.

My advice is to mourn this one, but not for too long. In the end, it was just one week. You listed this guy's qualities -- but there's no way he could have proven himself to be all of those things after just seven days. You were projecting those attributes because you wanted No. 9 to be THE ONE.

As you look for No. 10, don't try to be a "dude." Because "dudes" are just like girls. Really. They can number women (or men) and date 15 of them at a time, but as soon as they meet their own version of No. 9, they go soft. They wait around for a call back. They cry if they lose someone they liked after a week.

Don't gender your dating experiences. Don't listen to one part of your brain and ignore the other. Let yourself cry. Embrace your interest in the emotional and the physical. Try not to make assumptions about a guy's character until he proves that he can be consistent. Remember that these awful experiences make the good stuff that much better.

And now I'm going to say what I always say to 27-year-olds who are sick of dating and scared of getting hurt. Let's say it together, shall we? Relaxxxxx. Keep on truckin'.

Readers? Why was No. 9 so significant? Can she protect herself by numbering her relationships? Can she speed up the mourning process? How can she avoid becoming miserable with the dating process? Is this what the movie "I Am Number 4" was about? Discuss.

– Meredith