Dear Lisa,
I've spent my entire life using public transportation in Manhattan, but I just moved to Portland and have to learn to drive. I'm scared!"
—Laura, Maine

My Aunt Ida went to her grave insisting that Mount Rushmore was a natural phenomenon, and she had a driver's license. Which is to say, if somebody who believes the wind blew dirt into the shape of Teddy Roosevelt's face can parallel park, so can you. Start by finding the most patient driver's ed instructor on earth and remind her to stay that way until you are out of earshot, at which time she may feel free to pop a nitroglycerin tablet under her tongue until the chest pain subsides. Next, this saintly teacher must take you somewhere devoid of all life—a place where you can't bump into an Andrew Wyeth painting or a lobster or whatever else they have in Maine—and there you'll practice, practice, practice! It's okay to be nervous. I'd be nervous for you if you weren't a little nervous. Gradually, you'll move to light traffic, and one of these days you'll be burning rubber in the Indy 500... or at least driving to the market without a second thought.

Dear Lisa,
My boyfriend, Charlie, is very romantic. He writes poetry, feeds me chocolates, draws me bubble baths, sends my mother flowers “for giving birth to an angel”—and I can’t stand it! Last Valentine’s Day he filled my locket with a curl of his baby hair. I recently overheard a conversation in which the words hot air balloon figured prominently. I know a lot of women would be thrilled, but I’m mortified. How can I make him stop?
—Amy, Georgia

My initial thought involves performing the love theme to Titanic by simulating rude noises with your hand and armpit—that'll get a person off romance fast. But are you sure you want to stop all of it? My policy is never to discourage anyone who expresses an interest in feeding me chocolates.

It takes two to tango, and you might be more a funky chicken girl. Charlie's either pushing you into a fantasy of someone he hopes you'll be, or he's just convinced that when a man loves a woman, he fills her jewelry with human hair.

But that's because you, my dear, haven't leveled with him. There's an old Russian proverb: "You can't keep faking orgasm and then get mad at a guy for not knowing how to turn you on." And yes, I did just make that up, but my grandparents were old and Russian, so I'm pretty sure that's allowed. The point is, if going up, up, and away in his beautiful balloon isn't your idea of romance, then tell him before the two of you soar straight into a flock of geese. Take his hand and say, "I appreciate your effort, but I get really pruney in a bubble bath." Suggest watching a Tracey/Hepburn movie over chinese takeout, and offer a compromise: If he lets you eat right out of the carton, then you let him light a few candles. With any luck, you'll both live to love another day.

Dear Lisa,
Alice, my 10-year-old, want to pick her own clothes, but her taste leaves a lot to be desired. Do I let her walk out the door in paisley and plaid?
—Stella, Connecticut

First of all, paisley and plaid must be the navy blue of somewhere. Second, you're asking advice from a woman whose daughter spent kindergarten rocking a pillbox hat and oven mitts. I figure my kid has her whole life to dress for success, so for now she gets permission to play.

You've got to pick your battles. Alice isn't hurting herself, she's not hurting anyone else, and she's not destroying public property. As long as plunging halter tops aren't her thing, tell your little trendsetter she can wear whatever she wants to school. However, for special occasions, you still have veto power. But as you exercise this power, keep in mind that they're mixing a lot of patterns in Paris this season.

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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