Cruddy buddy 

Q: I have strong feelings for the ex-girlfriend of one of my best friends. She feels strongly for me, too. She and my friend dated for two years. During that time; he cheated on her five times (unbeknownst to her). Actually, he never treated her very well. They broke up more than two months ago. A week after they broke up, he started seeing another girl. It was then that I told him I liked his ex and he said he didn't mind. Then, she and I wanted to start hanging out. I asked him if it was OK and he said yes. She and I started doing stuff together and now we really like each other. As soon as my friend saw this, he started trying to pick up where they left off. If I continue to make a play for her, my friend won't be friends with me anymore. I value my friendship with him, but I'm falling for this girl. I've actually decided to back off from her for awhile, even though I'm nuts about her. —Confused Mess

A: You've got a friend who's worth his weight in gold-toned plastic. "When you're down ... and troubled ... and you need a helping hand," dial his number, and he's sure to let the machine pick up: "Dis is da Ukrainian Embassy. Nobody is here to take your call at this time. Eeef, however, you know of any good parties, leave the addresses at the tone." A friend in need ... well, you know. Maybe this isn't entirely fair. After all, he has, over the past few years, bestowed his friendship upon many — as many of the lonely, sex-deprived girls as he could convince to sleep with him. During that time, he was a friend to his girlfriend by keeping the details of his career in public service from ruining a perfectly mediocre relationship. Whatta guy. He might have been more of a friend to you if only getting you to pull down your pants hadn't held limited appeal. Mess, honey, you're in dire need of a friend-u-cation. A friend is not simply, as you seem to think, somebody who has loitered in your life for a bunch of years. To qualify as a friend, actual action must be taken by this person in your behalf. And not just when it's easy for them, as in, "Oh, I was just tossing this crumpled ex-girlfriend out with the recycling. Be my guest." A friend is somebody who cares about your happiness even when doing it puts them out. Exactly how out is your "friend" being put by your budding romance? Well ... it is possible that his tiny little heart aches with longing for his ex, but it's far more likely that his id is doing the throbbing. After all, there's no woman quite so attractive to a man as the woman in another man's arms. Before you back off in the name of friendship, remember two things: 1) This guy twice gave you the thumbs-up to proceed with his ex. 2) This guy isn't your friend. He's merely an acquaintance with tenure. Show him that you can be the kind of friend he deserves — the kind who's moved to a new apartment (preferably with his ex) and has left no forwarding address.

Q: This relationship I'm in has had its ups and downs, but I'm not sure if we can overcome this particular down: Today, my boyfriend told me that he has a huge crush on my sister. This really upset me, because most of the guys I've had relationships with (and not just dating relationships) have eventually hurt me in one way or another. I never thought he would be one of them. He told me that he doesn't want this to damage our relationship, but he understands if I want to break it off. What I really need is your opinion: Should I go through with the relationship? If so, how should I deal with his feelings for my sister? —Hurt Again

A: At birth, in all the commotion, things get left behind — sweaters, watches, wallets ... backbones. Let's see ... should you keep seeing a boyfriend who has the hots for your sister? That's a toughie. That you even have to ask says it all — it's time you made a trip to Backbones-R-Us and got yourself a nice snap-in spine to fill that long empty space in your back. You aren't among the frequently stomped on because you're just unlucky, but because you lack standards. Figure out what you'll stand for in friendships and relationships, and stand up for those things without exception. You will, in turn, eliminate the need for a delicate way to ask your sister to wear a bag over her head whenever your boyfriend comes to dinner. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com

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