Hi Carolyn!:

I'm 17, and I have a group of friends who want to be like this one girl. I admit she is pretty and talented, and I like her well enough, but I wouldn't want to be her because she is kinda flaky and forgetful, too. But these friends of mine have started to dress like her, laugh like her (Imagine the sound of hyenas being tortured. Three hyenas.) and talk like her. Even this one friend of mine, whom I know to be smart and steady and reliable, has begun to do stupid things and blame it on her being "such a ditz." I really am having trouble watching these people become total fakey wannabes, when I know they have great personalities beneath all of that falseness. My first question is: What the hell is wrong with them? My second question is: How do I tell them to cut it out? Without starting a war?

Me, or Someone Like Me

The line you want is "I wouldn't want to be her because she's not me," but, hey, close enough. And nice touch on the hyenas (but let's keep it between us, or you'll just sound bitter).

What's wrong with your friends is easy. This girl's pretty and talented and apparently some sort of alpha chick, so even though they have their own personalities, they've decided hers is, like, totally better. It's called "insecurity." So now they're using her personality instead, and it fits them as you'd expect it to, given that it was custom-tailored for someone else. That's called "embarrassing." Why do you think the entire population over 25 flinches at the words "high school"?

What you do about your friends is harder. You can leave them to natural selection, which, sooner or later, turns anyone wearing the wrong personality into a miserable, lonely mess. But that will take time, and besides, Darwinism is a bit chilly between friends. Better to just ignore them when they're in pack mode, and talk to them like their old selves when you get them alone. Even if they don't drop the act for you, you'll have cast a subtle vote in favor of their real selves.

Note to all you "I'm such a ditz"-es: Keep it up and I'm going to have to slap some sense into your excessively made-up heads.

Dear Carolyn:

I'm currently in a long-distance relationship. My boyfriend and I love each other and are best friends. We haven't seen each other in four months. We've been keeping in touch through e-mail, phone and letters. We'll be seeing each other again during the summer for a week.

Meanwhile, there's this guy at work who asked me out. I told my boyfriend and he said he knows we trust each other completely and he would be 100 percent supportive of whatever I decide.

I spend a great deal of time by myself. I would like to say yes to the guy at work, but I'm not sure. What do you think I should do?

Anonymous

Anything, please, that gets you out of your house.

Not that you should set your relationship on fire on your way out. On the contrary, it sounds remarkably healthy. You acknowledge doubts! You communicate! You support! You trust!

But you have one social week in seven months! Which is remarkably unhealthy. You don't say whether your separation is open-ended or closed, but if you guys ever do reunite, he'll be all the life you've got. Forget distance -- that's pressure few loves can sustain.

Accept the date, don't accept the date. I won't tell you what to do. If you feel you need to put your current relationship in perspective, go. If it's your only answer to loneliness, find a better answer. Friends, clubs, classes, pets, charities, water ballet -- they're all fine alternatives to spending a great deal of time reluctantly by oneself.

Hey:

My co-worker is very smart and, granted, in a difficult position, with a lot of work being dumped on her unfairly. Whenever I have lunch with her, she proceeds to vent about everyone she works with. Recently she was excluded from a brainstorming session that was extremely relevant to her job, and that she should have attended. This was a huge snub, and I have a feeling it's because of her negative attitude. How do I tell her this without hurting her feelings or making her defensive?

New York

During her next round of venom-spewing, pat her down and pose an innocent, offhand little question: "D'you think they've picked up on your hate vibes?" That way she can dismiss it and save face, but your point will still have been made.

A recent study suggests, by the way, that "venting" doesn't relieve anger so much as encourage it. But save that for another lunch.

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