No benefits, all friends?

It’s that time of year. Summer is in full swing and the fever pitch is HIGH! No more bundling up your chakras, you say, it’s time for some “sex on the beach”! Okay, but let’s get a few things straight before we high-tail it outta hibernation and into free love. First, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch (or love), at least not that kind of love. And unless you are immoral or completely without a conscience, you need to make sure you brush up your relationship skills in your tool belt. That goes for all you married and partnered folks, too. Sometimes in the warm breezes of summer you might want to fling yourself somewhere you ought not!  All I am saying is, yippee! and proceed with appropriate caution.

A few summer fling tips: 1) Pay attention—who is this person? Pay now or pay later; 2) Think it through. Make sure the good outweighs any potential side effects 4 to 1…okay, 3 to 1; and 3) WEAR A CONDOM no matter who they say they are or know. No, I am not promoting sex to anyone under (or over for that matter) the age of 18, I am just saying…

Listener question: “I met this girl at school and ended up falling for her. However, at the time she had a boyfriend who was moving to France. I saw her a couple of times before they officially broke up and then asked her out on a date. She said yes, then flaked on me twice (both times legitimate-ish reasons such as her grandparents’ anniversary do, and something else).

"We eventually went out a couple of times and texted each other a bit, then suddenly after our second date when I kissed her goodnight on the cheek she didn’t text me for over a week and just ignored my email (I tried to contact her three times). Then she started to talk again and we have seen each other about every two weeks since. I have kissed her on the cheek a couple of times and once on the lips, but that’s it. She is naturally really shy and difficult to read and sometimes takes a day to reply to my texts.

"When we are out, we have such a good time and get along great, and although there is not much physical contact she flirts back. She has since then invited me to go on holiday with her and her family. I’m just not sure where I stand. Are we going out? Her old bf is in a relationship but she isn’t going out with anyone else and never talks about other guys with me. On Valentine’s Day I gave her a card and chocolates, and she gave me the same. She lets me pay for coffees and other things like that. But my question is: Who am I to her, a friend or a boyfriend?"—James, UK

My answer: First, my dear James, I gave chocolates and cards to several boys on Valentine’s Day…when I was in first grade. I don’t suspect any one of the dozens of silly suitors who reciprocated thought they were going to get laid. If you want to turn your chocolate kisses into more, you’re going to have to use your words. Most women like a man who knows what he wants and says so. So ask her. Find out straight up if she likes you “like that” or if she just wants to be friends, and put yourself out of your self-induced misery.

That said, given you say you’ve already fallen for this shy, coquettish nymph, prepare for your landing: people who fall for people who are ultimately not interested or available are setting themselves up to get hurt (hence the metaphor). So unless you’re a masochist, find out what’s really going on, whether or not she wants more than your cozy friendship & caffeine or if she’s using you to buffer the pain of being separated from her old boyfriend. And don’t kid yourself: unless she wearing a chastity belt, is a Quaker or just left a monastery, odds are she’s not shy, she’s just not that into you.

Listener question: “Every time I meet someone and we wind up liking each other, it always turns out she just wants me as a friend. Even though they all tell me they would date me. Is there any way I can stop winding up being the 'best friend'”? —Nick, US

Nick, are you related to James by any chance? Never mind. Let’s get to the point. You want a girlfriend. And what you’re getting is the friend part without the benefits; hugging, smooching, public displays of affection, the juicy stuff that goes with being more intimate and exclusive. I am a “results girl,” and I say let’s look at what you have been doing and subtract it from what you want, and see what’s left over. Let’s start with unwinding what it means that you mysteriously “wind up liking each other.” And then look at how they tell you cleverly they “would date you” but don’t tell you why they aren’t.

See, females are tricky when it comes to hanky-panky and relationships. We haven’t been afforded the luxury of saying exactly what we want and mean for at least the last two thousand years, primarily because it hasn’t been safe. Please feel free to reference any good history book about being burnt at the stake…or, forget history, pick up a current paper and you can read about how some woman who dared to take off her burka and tell a man she wanted to be “more than friends” was doused with gasoline and burnt to death.

So, I feel you, and yes, it is confusing to de-code “woman-speak.” Anyway, until you are clear about what you want you’re just going to keep getting more of what you’ve got. So, back to the math. Success in almost any area of life requires a few things; knowing what you want, having a plan and then executing the plan—okay, some luck is helpful but not always necessary. So, Nick: 1) Go find someone you actually want to be with who meets your basic criteria; personality, values, looks, etc. 2) Ask her if she is available for a date. Girls know the difference between a date and an invitation to hang out, so actually use the word “date.” 3) See what happens. A clue: even a nice girl will likely give you a real kiss (tongue and all) if she wants to be more than just friends after the third or fourth real date. Let me know what happens!!