Advice

Miss Information

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Have a question? Email erin@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content and clarity.

   
Dear Miss Information,
I’m a girl, and my best friend is a guy. We’ve been platonic friends for five years now, and we get along great. My problem is his behavior when we go to bars and clubs. He acts standoffish and makes little excuses to ditch me, because he’s single and doesn’t want people assuming we’re a couple. I have a boyfriend, and I understand that it’s hard to be single, but he’s being very rude. I don’t want to stop going out with him. I can’t invite more people because I don’t like going out in big groups. Help! — Insignificant Other



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Dear Insignificant Other,
It’s hard to have fun with a friend when it’s Friday night and your libidos have different agendas. You want face time, Friend Boy wants nookie and phone numbers. The mixed-gender friendship adds another complication. I don’t care what they say about women-as-wingmen, most of us are going to go for the dude who doesn’t have a lady beside him. It’s like criminals and "Beware of Dog" signs. Whether Rover is real or not, it’s much easier to move on to another dwelling.
My friend Kevin and I worked the bar scene successfully for years, with very few throwdowns. He’s married now and has a couple of kids, but here are a few tactics we employed back in the day:
1. Decide at the beginning of the evening what kind of evening it will be (picking people up or spending quality time), and choose the venue accordingly. You can leave it up to your moods that day, or do something more formal, like taking turns or flipping a coin.
2. Once it’s been decided, the single person has to support the coupled person and vice-versa. I’m not talking about showing your boobs to a stranger if you’re married and it’s pick-up night, or turning down a once-in-a-lifetime invitation from the International Naked Roller Derby team if you’re single and it’s designated-friend night. Just do what you can to help the other person.
3. Experiment with an O.B.F.R. (Open Best Friend Relationship). I loved Kevin to itsy-bitsy pieces, but as best friends we pretty much lived in each other’s ass all the time. Sometimes I’d look at him and think "Goddamn, you’re annoying." I know you prefer one-on-one, but more friends equals more options, and a good fallback if Friend Boy doesn’t respond well to training.



Dear Miss Information,
 
My boyfriend John and I have been together for two years and are very much in love. Recently, John noticed that our friend Tom was acting strangely around him. Lingering looks, a few caresses on his thigh, a tentative game of footsie under the table. After talking it over with me, John finally approached Tom and asked him what was going on. Tom admitted that for the past year he has been considering his own bisexuality, and had somehow been reading their close friendship as potentially sexual. John let him know, gently, that this was not going to happen.

First, what steps should John take to preserve their close friendship? Second, one of my best friends actually thought having a secret affair with my boyfriend was okay. How am I supposed to react? Now What?


Dear Now What,
Gay, bi, or whatever, exploring one’s sexuality isn’t a license to act like a skeezer. Tom wasn’t exhibiting world-class levels of respect when he hit on your boyfriend. The fact that it happened repeatedly demonstrates premeditation, and is harder to forgive than if he made a pass at John-boy one night when he was sozzled or depressed.
I would forgive him, though. Or at least not yell at him. He’s new at this, and it could be that he needs some more time to get it right, to learn the signals and know what’s appropriate. I can tell from your letter that you and your boyfriend really value this friendship, so give it another try and look at the next few months as probation.
The best thing John can do right now is make out with Tom and send me a video. Ideally they’ll both be wearing those little colored briefs that look like grown-up Underoos and you’ll dub in a little Peaches for the soundtrack. Thaaaaaaaaaanks. The second best thing John can do is go against the instinct to distance himself. It feels good in the short run, but avoidance builds tension and makes everything that much weirder than it has to be. John should also ensure he’s not doing anything that could be misinterpreted as flirting, and adopt a "No venting to Tom" policy about any couple-related squabbles. When you’re attracted to a friend, you’ll view such kvetching as a sign that your friend might be interested in leaving his significant other for you. Not entirely unreasonable; it’s the way a lot of new couples form. But in this case, it’s not, and we don’t want Tom to get more confused.
And now, the obvious: if Tom continues unabashedly hitting on John, don’t feel like you have to continue being friends out of some sort of respect for his newfound sexual orientation. "We’re all sensitive people," sang Marvin Gaye. But that doesn’t extend to people hitting on other people’s boyfriends. Word.

Dear Miss Information,
I’m a guy in my mid-twenties, and I don’t have much experience dating. I rely mainly on the advice of friends. One of them, a female, says that buying a woman a drink is the best way to get a conversation going. My other female friend says that‘s clichéd. What about gentle teasing? The kind that’s not mean. I think that’s okay. Am I right? H.S.C.


Dear H.S.C.,
The last time a guy teased me during a pickup attempt, it was about my gaudy necklace. "Thanks! It belonged to my grandma. She died four years ago this week!" I admit, the ‘this week’ part was embellishment, but the rest was true, and the look on his face was fourteen-carat comedy. I still talked to him, because he was cute, and because I’m not a total bitch, but you might not fare as well, H.S.C. Insults and teasing imply a level of familiarity that reads as rude to many people. I do have a few female friends who like to verbally spar with strangers, but they’re also the ones with the most issues regarding anger and aggression. And alcohol. The three A’s. If you come across a chick who’s willing to rip on your beer choice and call you a pussyboy, you’re probably better off forgetting her name.
As for buying drinks. I might not win any friends among underage drinkers or alcohol advertisers, but my opinion is that it doesn’t really make a difference. Pheromones and attraction are what you’re judged on, not whether you bring home the beverage. If you’re already chatting and her glass becomes empty, you can definitely offer to buy her another round. But buying a drink for a woman as a prerequisite to going up and talking to her? Bad for business, my friend. Too much money, too early in the pipeline.
My friend Salah calls Kix cereal "a blank canvas" that’s "brilliant in its subtlety." Obviously, he takes his breakfast foods a little too seriously, but I think his words could also be applied toward opening lines. "Hi." "How’s it going?" "Having fun?" All are simple, classic, and wide open for interpretation.

 


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