My boyfriend of two years has been living with his parents for four years. He’s 49, and first said he had an apartment near them but never wanted me to come over. I soon caught on, and he confessed he was ashamed of being in debt and living at home. I gave him another chance because we get along well, except for money. (I’m frugal and he can’t hang onto a dollar.) The biggie happened last week. I discovered he’d actually lived in his parents’ basement with his wife and kids for several years before they divorced. I don’t know if I’m more upset because he lied or because he put his wife and kids in a basement for so long.
— Angry Girlfriend

So he didn’t exactly take you on a tour of the home he lived in with his wife and kids: "And here we have the master bedroom…" and you look down on two sleeping bags zipped together on bare concrete next to the furnace. "And here we have the kids’ room…" a big plaid suitcase from the ’70s. (Hmm … maybe the baby slept in the bowling bag?)

Even if what happened in the basement stayed in the basement, there had to be signs the guy wasn’t exactly the financial genius of our time … like, he pays the electric bill by setting up a lemonade stand, and when he picks you up for dates, instead of opening the car door, he helps you onto the handlebars.

Men and women on the make both lie, just about different things. Because men are hard-wired to prioritize looks, women spend hours painting themselves into "natural beauties," and squeeze into "shapewear" with names like "Lipo in a BOX." Because women go for men with money and power, a man’s more likely to be like my friend Frank, who wanted me to take a picture of him leaning on a Porsche so he could send it to the girl he’d been chatting up online.

"But, Frank, you’re going to pick her up in your late-model Nissan and take her to your one-bedroom apartment!" He pouted, "Well, it’s not like I’m saying it’s MY Porsche."

Come on … you’re angry because you found out the guy stashed his wife and kids in a basement? His live wife and kids, not their mummified corpses? This is the kind of thing men who are chronically broke are forced to do. Maybe what’s really eating you is what a bad investment you’ve made: putting in two years with a guy for whom moving up in the world means going from his parents’ basement into his parents’ garage. In his defense, at least he has the decency, if not to put a roof over his kids’ heads, then to mooch one.

In your own defense, you say "we get along well, except for money." Except for money? That’s a bit beyond, "He’s into Muzak and I’m into metal." At 49, the guy’s still working on getting his starter apartment — a reflection of a rather serious character flaw. Has he given you any reason to believe he’ll have it patched up by 50? Instead of pretending not to see the dealbreakers so you can make the deal, be honest about your standards, and hold your dates up to them from the start. If what you really want is a man who’s fiscally responsible, you’re never going to be happy with a man who might be able to bring home the bacon, but only if you give him an advance on his allowance and send him to the grocery store in your car.

Tales from the cryptic

A man who works in my neighborhood seems interested in me, and finally mustered the courage to say hello. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very friendly (I was stressed). To let him know I’m interested, I bought a card, wrote "I see we’re making progress" (meaning our "hellos") and included my e-mail address. He was away, so I gave it to his co-worker to give to him. He’s back now, but still hasn’t responded.

— Mystified Woman

Why write "I see we’re making progress," not "John has a long mustache" or "The goat has eaten the turnips again. Please advise"? One of these tells the French resistance to attack … but which one? There’s a code for letting a guy know you’re interested, and it isn’t an obtuse message on a greeting card passed to his co-worker (very seventh grade), but smiling and acting flirty. Should you accidentally snarl hello instead of saying it, turn it into an excuse to apologize and go in for some good old-fashioned hair-tossing and eyelash-batting. If the guy asks you out, you’ll know he’s into you. If he doesn’t, you’ll still have all the answer you need: he’s married, too wimpy, not interested, or was trying to "make progress" with the guy standing behind you.

(c)2008, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail (