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BOYFRIEND HAS FONDNESS FOR FLIRTING

Carolyn: How does one handle a boyfriend who flirts incessantly with waitresses? The guy in question is an extremely outgoing individual who talks to everyone when we go out . . . but I have to say I'm getting sick of having our conversation interrupted by flirtatious banter with waitresses or comely bartenders.

-- Philadelphia

A: He talks to everybody, or every comely body? You're vague about which, yet there's a major affability distinction there. You have to squint past any jealousy to see it: It's light vs. lecherous, jolly against drooly, a global high-five or a personal slap in the face. It's an outgoing guy or a guy you can't trust going out.

And it's a distinction that doesn't matter if the interruptions themselves are what you have grown to despise. In that case, he could be the friendliest feller on Earth; he's just not the feller fer you.

He talks too much

Dear Carolyn: How do I learn the skills to shut up? I'm a 26-year-old guy and have some strong opinions on world issues. When I get started in a conversation, I have a habit of dominating it and realize way too late that the other people really don't care. So to try to work on that issue, I do my best not to get started and I go to the other extreme of not saying anything. How do I find the happy medium of being part of a conversation but not taking it over?

-- Va.
A: Someone who admits he's boring can only be so boring. Take (some) heart.

Besides, shutting up is not a skill so much as an understanding: that other people might have something to say. You wouldn't fill entire conversations with your words if you thought others' had value. Self-interest does have its charm.

It might take awhile, though, for you to become one with your informational limitations (in case there is some question -- yes, you have them). In the interim, it'll help you and the silenced majority if you warn them upfront. When world issues rear their complex conversational heads, ask your friends to interrupt you, please, when you get so worked up that you forget to let them speak. If you're going to be flawed, you might as well be likably so.

Give it a rest

Dear Carolyn: A guy friend with whom I've spent a great deal of time in the past few months, and who had admitted romantic interest in me, has suddenly become too busy to even talk to me on the phone. I asked if there was a reason behind this change, he said no, I believed him and dropped it. Nothing's changed, and in the few times I've seen and talked with him, he's never mentioned another girl.

Logical conclusion: He's lost interest and it's just me he's too busy to talk to. Do I try to get at the truth, or let this, whatever it was, die a natural death?

-- Anywhere, USA
A: Um. Other logical conclusion: He tried, he failed, he is now getting on with his life. You did say no, yes?

Maybe he did lose interest, but he may also have disappeared because he didn't lose interest. Not everybody can proceed merrily along with a friendship after expressing more-than-friendly feelings -- especially if the object of those feelings (you) still calls all the time and wants to remain really really close in every which way but love.

It's great that you want to stay friends. I swear. It's not great to assume he can turn off other, stronger feelings just by flipping a friend switch. Unless your pining for him is romantic, let the issue rest where you dropped it. Let the guy do what he needs.

The game of love

Carolyn: I was dumped by my girlfriend of two years for a very logical but emotionless reason: "There are 6 billion people in this world, I think we should try and find a better match for each other."

This was my first serious relationship and I dove into it headfirst only to be rudely initiated into the dating game. Now after such an abrupt breakup I have adopted a very cynical view on "love." Love is a game where we always try to "trade up," and, if we cannot, fear to or run out of time, then we settle for the closest competitor. Could it be that in this individualistic and capitalistic society we have trivialized this sacred bond called love?

-- Being Cynical, 23 Years Old
A: Or, love is still love and you're just bitter because you got dumped. Either way, you're going to answer your own question by (cue the strings) falling in love again, which is why this "game" is so great.

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