Dear Lisa,

I'm 23, and my boyfriend of eight months is 33. Lately he's begun talking about marriage. He keeps pointing out that all his friends are married and already having babies. But I had only one real boyfriend before Ron, and my mom and dad are divorced, and I'm scared. How do you know when you're ready to settle down? —Erica, Detroit

Hey, Erica,

I can't tell you what to do (and believe me, I've got parents, a kid, a husband, two editors, and a podiatrist who'd all kill to hear me say that), but I can tell you that Ron's buddies' having children isn't a reason for you to stay with a guy until death do you part. I can also tell you that at 23, I couldn't decide on a shampoo, let alone a life partner. And I can say that it wouldn't be a bad idea for you to get a little relationship counseling to make sure you and Ron are on the same page.

Still, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that my friend Jan got married at 23, and she has one of the loveliest relationships I've come across. Furthermore, the fact that your parents split up doesn't mean your fate is sealed—divorce is not hereditary.

Most of all, Erica, I want you to know this: Boyfriends are technically within their rights to talk you into seeing the new Captain America movie. They're also permitted to occasionally push you into ordering anchovies on the pizza you're sharing. But under no circumstances are they allowed to strong-arm you into getting engaged. In the words of your fellow Detroiter, the ever-supreme Diana Ross, "You can't hurry love."

Dear Lisa,
Is it okay to pretend that you actually made the carrot cake you're serving at your dinner party? —Sara, New York

Hi, Sara (I'll assume your last name isn't Lee),
There's an ancient saying that I've always cherished: "The truth means never having to worry that someone will stumble across a bakery box in your garbage." If anyone does have the nerve to complain about how a dessert was born, you must make an example of him: Scrape the delicious cream cheese off his slice and loudly announce that he's just lost his frosting privileges.

Dear Lisa,
My best friend, Ruth, has become a conservative Republican while I remain a liberal Democrat. It's very hard for me to understand her feelings, and I'm pretty sure she thinks I've lost my mind. How do we keep from arguing under these circumstances? —ELLA, SANTA FE

My Dearest Donkey,
Let's say you've got a tummy full of bad Bolognese. Would Ruth take your misery as an opportunity to explain why we should repeal Obamacare, or would she get you strawberry Jell-O and ginger ale? And let's say Ruth has an ex who makes a point of asking if she's put on a few pounds whenever he runs into her; would you lecture her on why the death penalty isn't appropriate, even for him, or would you sit up all night dissecting every aspect of his pathetic personality? If the answer is that you'd care for your friend without hesitation or judgment, knowing full well she'd do the same for you, then it doesn't much matter whether you're in a blue or red state of mind.

You have to look at the elephant in the room—in this case, Ruth—and realize that love is love. And come November, the two of you can walk arm in arm to your local polling place, step into your respective booths, and cancel out each other's vote. That, my friend, is the American way!

Lisa Kogan is O's writer at large and the author of Someone Will Be with You Shortly: Notes from a Perfectly Imperfect Life. To ask Lisa a question, email


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