Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 6 2007 7:18 AM

My Best Friend's Holiday

Should I start dating my closest friend before I leave on a year-long trip?

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Dear Prudie,
I am a 21-year-old female. After a somewhat hurtful breakup, I decided to take a year-long working holiday in the South Pacific, and am incredibly excited. My best friend, a 24-year-old male with whom I work, is excited for me and plans to visit me. We spend a good deal of time together: soccer, work, and nights out walking, partying, or relaxing; we call each other frequently about dating advice, or any general topic. I know his family quite well and adore them. The problem? When we all get together, the family asks us when we will finally start dating, they've been waiting for such a long time! While I love my friend and would find myself sorely amiss without him, I don't feel we are that couple (we do get harassed about this at work as well). I have wondered at times why we don't date, but something is missing, whether it's that I'm slightly taller and have a solid 20 pounds on him, or that we know each other's habits and don't want to deal with them in a relationship. What I am sure of is that I wish to enjoy his company, and spend time with his family. How do I deal with these hints and questions? Should I talk with my friend to see if perhaps we should date? We do seem to act like a couple already. I want love in my life, but I'm leaving in six months. And I just can't picture kissing him!

—Befuddled

Dear Befuddled,
Part of me would like to see you wrapped in each other's arms on the Tahiti shore, and then I think, "But she can't even imagine kissing him!" Then I think, "Maybe she can't imagine it because she simply loves this guy like a brother. Or maybe it's because she's self-conscious about their size difference, which would melt away if he moved in for a kiss." And I wonder if you wonder if you should date him because everyone else thinks you two would be a great couple, and maybe they're right. Or is it because you're caving in to social pressure? Can I join you in the South Pacific to continue trying to figure this out? At the least, you should talk to your friend. Why not ask him how he feels about what his family and the people at work keep saying, and how you two should respond to the questions? Maybe he'll give you an adamant, "Can't they understand a man and a woman can just be friends!" Or maybe he'll say, "I guess they all see how good we seem together …" In which case, it might help you envision that kiss.

—Prudie

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Dear Prudence,
I am a 48-year-old divorced father of two. My children (13 and 18) have lived with me since the divorce, as their mother is constantly in and out of psychiatric hospitals, so there isn't much of a stable mother figure for them. My problem is that I have terminal cancer. It's inoperable and essentially untreatable (according to all of the doctors that have reviewed my case), but I have maybe five or six years before the effects of the cancer are debilitating. I have not informed anyone of my medical situation, although I have known the diagnosis for several years. My children are very sensitive and were devastated by the divorce (six years ago), and my oldest suffers from depression. I fear telling them, as it may upset them too much, but it's getting more difficult to act as if nothing is wrong. I get tired easily and can't do the more active things they want to do anymore. Since my ex-wife is not really an option as a support mechanism for my children, and their extended family lives quite a distance away, I'm at a loss about creating a safe, supportive environment. My youngest should be at least 18 when I can no longer care for them, but I worry about them not having a reliable parent while in college and early in their postgraduate lives. Is it better to tell them now and have all of us learn to live with the eventuality, or should I wait until my health deteriorates more and my youngest is older and (hopefully) more capable of dealing constructively with the situation?

—Worried

Dear Worried,
I am so sorry about what you and your children are facing. I'm sure you feel they have had enough pain in their lives, and it's understandable that you want to protect them as long as you can from what's coming. But they surely suspect something is wrong, and as terrible as your news is, they need to hear from you what's really going on. You also say you haven't told anyone else. This is too much of a burden for you to bear alone. Your friends can be a resource—from just listening to your worries to pitching in with your kids. And even if your extended family is far away, it's time to include them in what's happening. I hope you have many, many years ahead of you, but there is time now to start making stronger connections with your family so your children feel they aren't so alone. Also consider seeing a counselor with your children. Perhaps there is a clergy member you feel comfortable with. The Psychology Today Web site has a referral page that allows you to look up practitioners in your area who have experience dealing with loss and grief. Please get help from as many sources as you can. It will be a relief for you not to feel you must deal with everything alone.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I am a college student who is applying to law school. The question on college applications about ethnicity leaves me morally confused. One of my parents is American and one is Mexican-American. I hate that these applications force me to pick one ethnicity, and I believe one's ethnicity should have very little to do with higher education at all. But I know it has plenty to do with it. I received a full scholarship from my college, and with my transcript and activities, this was far from unexpected. My sister, however, also received a full scholarship from my school, and while she is a wonderful person, very few of her gifts show up on a college application. So, I am forced to conclude that the scholarship award was at least mildly influenced by her claim of being Hispanic. With law schools as competitive as they are, I know I will not shine quite so brightly as I did in undergrad school. Is it right for me as a half-Mexican to claim minority status, knowing it may help me gain scholarships in law school, but also leaning toward being against affirmative action? Thank you for any guidance you have.

—Confused Student

Dear Confused,
A law school asks you to fill out an extensive application, then decides how to hand out scholarship money on the basis of the whole package of information you supply, which in your case includes truthfully checking off a box that says Hispanic. It's not hypocritical to accept that aid; you have not sought out special status for yourself. Given the crushing cost of a law-school education, why saddle yourself with more debt than you have to? Even if you get a scholarship, you can hone your views of affirmative action during your law-school years with a clear conscience.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
One of my best friends and I recently started dating; he is wonderful, smart, ambitious, and makes me so happy. We met a few years ago through a mutual friend with whom I'd had a brief sexual encounter (that the new boyfriend has known about). My boyfriend's last relationship ended because his girlfriend cheated on him; I've been in his position before and know of its tremendous pain, so when he asked me not to spend time alone with this mutual friend, I was understanding, and haven't done so since. My girlfriends and family, however, are mortified that I'd accede to such a request. Even though it doesn't bother me, they think I ought to have stood up for myself and claimed that there is no reason for him to think I would cheat on him. I would never cheat on anyone, but I understand his sensitivity; I don't want to disrespect him, but I don't want to disrespect myself either by agreeing not to spend time alone with a friend. What is your take?

—Desperate

Dear Desperate,
You say his request doesn't bother you, but then you say you don't want to disrespect yourself by acceding to his demand, and you sign yourself Desperate. I wonder if the last girlfriend cheated on him because that seemed like the most expedient way to blow up a relationship with an overly controlling guy. Yes, it's painful to be cheated on. This does not give the cheatee the right to lock his next girlfriend in a chastity belt so he never has to experience such pain again. I'm with your friends and family on this one—his request is unreasonable, and you have to establish some clearer boundaries with your wonderful new guy.

—Prudie