A charming manipulator

The man my friend is infatuated with propositioned me at a party. Should I warn her of his predatory ways?

Published January 25, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

Dear Mr. Blue,

A good friend of mine -- I'll call her Carol -- is infatuated with a
co-worker of hers who is engaged to be married to someone else. She is
convinced he will leave his fiancie for her (even though he's told her he
won't). She says he is deeply in
love with her. I was skeptical, but I wasn't going to say anything about it,
because people in love hear only what they want
to hear. But then I finally met this guy at a party. I could see why she was
so smitten; he is exceptionally charming. And then,
when Carol was out of the room, the little troll made a pass at me. He
asked if I wanted to have a threesome with him and one of his
friends. He was serious. I politely declined, but now I'm wondering if I
should tell her about it. This guy is nothing but a charming manipulator,
and serious bad news. What should I do? I'd hate for her to get mad at
me instead.


Dear Perplexed,

It's a perplexing problem. Ordinarily, one would leave
two adults to work things out between them and not barge in with one's
own revelations, but this weasel is in such a blatant predatory mode,
one might make an exception and warn the chickens. So much depends on
how good a friend your good friend is, I guess. If she's only a passable
good friend, she might resent it, not believe you, and you might lose her;
if she's a really good friend, a boon companion, a soul mate, then you're
under a heavier obligation to share information about weasels, but you
also stand to lose more. And now, as I am just on the verge of telling you
what to do, I have lost my nerve. Your call, my dear.

Dear Mr. Blue,

Were you a bit lost at 26? Is there a map? I'm currently in New
York City, reporting and writing, hoping to make a career, but I can't
stop thinking about the people and the small city where I lived and worked
for the
daily paper. I was happy there, and I have wonderful friends there. Career
opportunity, though, is nil. Should I go back home or try to start over?

In Need of Aspirin and Advice

Dear In Need,

I was more than lost at 26 and couldn't have navigated
New York on my own, but never mind that. You're experiencing a wave of
nostalgia, kid, and you should enjoy it and lie in bed at night and recall
those kind hearts and gentle people, and then get up in the morning and go
to work and make your career. Nostalgia isn't a great basis for building a
life; a better one is having work that you love. This is the great lure of
New York for a young person -- to get in a good situation that has an
elevator, to work in an organization that prizes ambition and smarts, and
to rise swiftly in the world and take your rightful place among the larger
cheeses. Give it time.

Dear Mr. Blue,

My seven-year marriage had been decaying for the last year and a half
when I caught my husband in bed with his secretary (how trite). Hurt and
angry, I packed my bags and filed for separation. That was two years
ago. My husband has expressed his regret and I forgive him completely,
but I have not gone home to him. He will always be a part of my life and
we maintain a long-distance friendship.
A few weeks after I moved out I started dating a wonderful man. Our
has blossomed into love, and I consider myself very lucky. But I
miss my husband. It doesn't seem right to give up my new love to go back
to what was a bad situation, but I think of my ex every day. Is this a
signal I should pay attention to, or normal heartbreak? I miss him

Once Burned

Dear Once,

You leaped into the new romance rather suddenly, and surely
there was an element of revenge in this, a determination to show your trite
husband that he was two-timing a pretty darned attractive woman (you).
And now you find that you've not settled things with him. If indeed you
miss him terribly, you shouldn't ignore this. But the long-distance
friendship may be susceptible to an element of fantasy and longing.
Putting the secretary out of your mind, think about the year-and-a-half
decline in the marriage: What happened? If you are unclear in your own
mind about this, perhaps this is what troubles you. The easy advice is,
Give the new romance some time and don't make hasty moves. I hope it's
the right advice.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am 25, just started a fabulous job and after a year of post-college
confusion/sadness and low-paying temp jobs and living with parents, I
finally feel like my "adult" life is getting off to a good start. I
have been dating a great guy for about a year and a half, who is solid
careerwise, mature and very kind (in other words, husband material). But
now that Mr. Solid is starting to make references to the future, I am
having doubts about whether or not I
want to marry. I am afraid, though, that the longer I wait, the worse the
man selection
will be. Should I just go with the flow or abandon Mr. Solid and be young
and foolish
for a while?


Dear MissGuided,

Men are not appliances, this is not the January white
sale and yes, indeed, the selection does narrow dramatically when you get
into your 30s. But if you're having doubts, heed them, and put
marriage on hold. This is not a flow you should go with.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am a graduate student in psychology. I was living with a guy when I
became attracted to one of his friends and started sleeping with him and I
got very confused. My boyfriend didn't know. And then my boyfriend told
me he had fallen in love with someone else.
I was shocked. The worst thing was that he was actually happy when he
learned that I had been sleeping with one of his friends. He said he felt
relieved that I wouldn't be alone and that I had someone to show me that I
was lovable. This destroyed me. I realized that I didn't want to separate
anymore. I tried to convince him that we have moved on too quickly, but
he is happy with the new woman and he says it's better this way. My
heart aches. Will I ever be able to fix this huge mistake? How can I
convince him to give us another last chance? That we are meant for each

Never say Never

Dear Never,

The only advice I can give is the advice you don't want, that
it's over and done and you should move on and turn your young face to
the sun and away from the shadows. This is easy advice to give and it
does nothing for your heartache at all and I'm sorry. You can't fix the
mistake because it involves another person who doesn't consider it a
mistake; and you wouldn't be happy living with a man whom you had to
campaign for and convince to return to you. You can't convince someone
of love. It's not a case to be argued. If you can't bear to give up, then
don't, and be patient, and hope, but life does keep going and time passes.
And if I were hurting and someone gave me sensible advice, I'd resent
him terribly.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am a 35-year-old widow with a small child reinventing my life after my
husband's death three years ago. I am finishing my doctoral studies and
planning to move abroad soon. My dilemma is this: I met the most
wonderful, kind, patient gentleman and we've been together nine months,
and I am falling in love with him. He has suggested that we live together
so I can concentrate on my studies and we can share the bills. My
daughter adores him. But what if it doesn't work out a year from now?
My daughter's heart will be broken! I don't want her heart to be broken
again. Is this a risk I should take? I had decided I would not marry again.


Dear Confused,

This is a question that needs more time and nobody else can answer it.
Life is ever a risk, of course, but one does try to avoid the larger
potholes. Few people decide not to fall in love based on a fear of eventual
heartbreak. But you can decide how fast to proceed.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I've been married 10 years, have two kids, a decent
job. My husband lost his job under extremely stressful
circumstances about two years ago, which we are just
now recovering from financially. Two summers ago, seeking escape from
all this stress, I
found a man with whom I had a random affair for almost a year and a
half. He ended it this December, saying he felt "overwhelmed with guilt."
I can't stand it. I am confused, heartsick and
wretched. I never tried to lure him away from his wife
and children -- it was just an occasional meeting. But he made me feel
desired and sexy -- which hasn't happened in
my marriage for five years or more. I'm back to feeling like my sole
raison d'jtre is laundry and working to pay for the groceries.
Advice, please?


Dear Not,

You are standing on a road you've hiked for miles and miles
and it ends at the river. No bridge. No shallow place to ford the stream. A
painful moment. You stand and look at the distant hills that now you'll
have to reach by some other route and you indulge yourself in as much
grief and recrimination as you feel entitled to, and then you turn and
retrace your steps. And this whole experience -- don't hit me when I say
this -- is making you a better, richer, deeper, more compassionate person.
And so will your search for your raison d'jtre. This man wasn't your
raison, he wasn't even your grape; he was only a small town on the road
where you stopped for a cup of coffee. Onward. The story of your life
demands to be known. A raison as big as the Ritz awaits farther on, and
when you reach it, you will be grateful to the gentleman for cutting you

Dear Mr. Blue,

We've been married for 35 years, shot our children, arrow-like, into the
sky, built successful careers. We get along well, respect one another, but
there's not an ember of passion left glowing, not a scintilla of interest in
sexuality, nor even a flicker of flirtation. I have a worrisome heart
condition, she is exhausted from working 80-hour weeks. I'm gregarious,
she wants to be left alone. She has grown large over the years and I am
unable to get hard the few times a year she evinces an interest. So here I
am, 55, wondering what to do about these troubling circumstances,
cognizant of fleeting time and limited chances for any sexual (or even
sensual) experiences. Damn!? I'd like to feel more alive than I do right
now. Any ideas?


Dear Forlorn,

It's good that you and your wife get along well and respect
each other after all these years, and perhaps this is as good as you can
expect. One could say, Seek Counseling, but surely you have thought of
this. I will be hanged in effigy for saying this, but I think you should
consider finding a sexual surrogate. You seem to find yourself boxed into
a sad and grievous corner and a good surrogate may be able to help you
pleasantly past this dysfunction, which is surely all in your head. This may
be better than throwing the marriage into an uproar over your sexual
needs, and if you can somehow have a pleasant and sensual time with a
surrogate, you may find that you can then be a more loving and confident
and imaginative lover to your wife.

Sex, really, is such a small thing,
crucial as it is, and it's a shame to let this pebble of a problem overturn
the matrimonial carriage. The usual American solution is divorce, and the
husband takes up with a fresh young thing and the wife goes off and sulks,
and there is enormous suffering and misery and guilt and expense. It
seems much more civilized for you to try another route. And, most
important, you should pay more attention to your wife, coax her to spend
time with you in casual and pleasant ways, conversing, dining, walking,
going to performances that give you both pleasure -- in effect, start to
date her again.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I have written professionally for many years, first as a reporter, later as a
copywriter and now as a technical writer. But my true love is fiction. I
have written many thousands of pages in the past 10 years -- two novels, two
plays, several dozen short stories. None of them published. (I consider
them my apprenticeship.)

But the increasing complexity of my life has become an obstacle. My wife
and I have had three children. I have a serious drinking problem. I have
had several girlfriends.
Things came to a head this week with an explosion of anger from my wife
while I was sitting down to write. I fell into depression, and the next
morning I destroyed everything I have ever written.

I feel like an empty shell now. I wonder if it's time to give up writing and
try to find love and peace with what I have. Any ideas?

Running on empty

Dear Running,

I hate to say this, it being a clichi and all, but the root of
your problem may very well be your drinking. And some clichis are true.
Find a man you trust who is objective and knowledgeable about alcohol --
a doctor, a counselor, a friend -- and describe to him in absolute clear
detail exactly what your experience with alcohol is, how much and when
and under what circumstances you drink. Put your problem on the table,
and take a look at it. Ask his advice. Alcohol can be a potent force in a
person's life, as you well know, and one that the drinker is unable to
judge clearly. The frustration, the depression, the fit of destructive anger,
certainly could be the result of drinking.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am married to a wonderful man. He has his faults, but I think we make
each other pretty happy. With him, I have made great strides in my
personal life and my career, and have developed new hobbies. He is the only man
to whom I have been completely faithful. It has been hard. I have trouble
committing to just one person. I love my husband dearly and I want to be
faithful, but I notice that my eye wanders more than it used
to. How do people stay faithful? Is the love enough to keep you on the
straight and narrow? I think I missed that lesson growing up, and I don't
know where I can learn it now.

Steady Heart, Roving Eye

Dear Steady,

You make each other pretty happy and you give each other a
solid base of loyalty and love, which makes you braver and happier, and
this is a good marriage. Hew to it. Don't brood about the illicit. Don't
incubate secret friendships. Whoever your eye is wandering toward, invite
him or her home to meet your wonderful husband.

By Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor is the author of the Lake Wobegon novel "Liberty" (Viking) and the creator and host of the nationally syndicated radio show "A Prairie Home Companion," broadcast on more than 500 public radio stations nationwide. For more columns by Keillor, visit his column archive.

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