Wiener wonderland 

Q: I am a woman in my mid-30s. Intellectually, I understand that many people struggle with the concept of monogamy. I certainly am no angel. I have cheated and been cheated on in the past. My last boyfriend was an Olympic heartbreaker, but I was faithful to him for five years. My current boyfriend (of two years) claims that he has been faithful in all his committed relationships, but I've discovered letters to the contrary about his past relationships, as well as a condom in his jeans that is not our regular brand. Still, I have no proof that he is or has been unfaithful to me. I do know that if I keep accusing him of doing the wild thing every time he's out of my sight for more than an hour, he's going to split. I guess I'm afraid of being the one left holding the bag in case he turns out to be like much of the human race — unfaithful. —Creeping Suspicions

A: Yes, a lot of people struggle with monogamy. What matters is where they struggle with it — while staring forlornly out the window of Latte World or while playing hide the Polish-Irish-Italian sausage in their drunken coworker's bed. The sausage wrapper you found in your boyfriend's pocket doesn't necessarily link him to the latter location. These days, various disease-concerned organizations toss out flurries of the things everywhere heavy breathers are found — bars, parties, concerts, the street corner. Who knows — maybe it fell on his head during a random condom fly-by — you know, the way the Allies used to leaflet the Germans during World War II. Maybe there's an equally random explanation for how it found its way into your pocket. Maybe you discovered it while combing his laundry for evidence — I mean, matchbooks and spare change. I'll suspend disbelief on the condom excavation, but you'll have to help me with the letters: Did they leap out of his drawer, bend paper clips into little canes, start line dancing on the desk and singing their contents ... perhaps to the tune of the title song from Cabaret? Come on. You've been with this guy for two whole years. This should have been time enough to discover, in the immortal words of Glinda to Dorothy, is he "a good weetch? Or a bad weetch?" Well? Weetch one is it? Really, it's not so hard to tell. If he's the type to stiff the waitress when he thinks no one's looking, then he's a prime candidate to, uh, stiff a coworker. But, if he doesn't seem to be suffering from underactive character, chances are the problem is your own overactive imagination glands. Let's gallop along with them for a second: Imagine that your boyfriend does cheat on you. Maybe, probably, your relationship will explode into little pieces. OK, so it won't be your day in Disneyland, but it isn't going to lead to the liquefying of you and all other life-forms on the planet either. Once you accept that relationships do end, maybe you can start having one that revolves around more than your suspicions that other women have been shopping in your sausage section.

Q: Why do women use their friends to check guys out? Last week, I was digging on this woman at a bar. I thought she was into me too, especially when she invited me over to her table with her friends. They all started asking me questions; the entire conversation revolved around me. I left without having much of a chance to speak to the woman who'd invited me in the first place. What's a guy to do when he is surrounded by a new chick's friends, and just wants a few minutes to get to know the girl he's interested in? —Rubbing My Chin

A: Compliment some girl on her sweater, and you find yourself strapped down on a bar table-turned-gurney, having your liver checked for excess toxins and your credit checked for unpaid gambling debts by a tribunal of her peers. Some girls don't get that this is a bad dynamic. Others want help in guy-picking or worry that they won't have much to say. Whatever the reason, you're the one who gets stuck with the group substitute for the stern father: "What are your intentions?" "Rutting like crazed weasels, sir." No, no ... don't say that. And don't accept the cards you're dealt. Tell the truth squad that you're going to spirit their friend away to the bar. Barside, get her number and ask her out. (This is where two-seater sports cars come in handy.) Then again, if she brings a friend on your date, you'll be the one who gets roped to the back bumper en route to the interrogation room ... uh, restaurant. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail

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