Carolyn:

This past weekend was my brother's wedding. After all the toasts were done, I asked him and my other brother to be my "best men" -- in place of a maid of honor -- for my wedding next year. I'm getting lots of flak for it from family and friends. They think it's weird and in bad taste. They've said it'd be better to make them groomsmen instead. What do you think?

-- C.P.

I think your family and friends are meddlesome old cows (cattle?). It's a fine idea. But don't completely flout tradition: Make them buy $300 mauve tulle tuxedos they'll never wear again.

Dear Carolyn:

I won tix to a concert and took a longtime female friend, and we had a blast. She invites me along to her social functions -- happy hours, barbecues, etc. We also both know the other is on a string of fun-but-failed relationships. Basically we both suck at long-term dating and know all the weaknesses about each other. How do we avoid disaster if we try the Harry-met-Sally method?

-- Virginia

The surest way to meet with disaster is to start a romance with an eye to avoiding disaster. You know each other, and you enjoy each other anyway. Trust that. See where it takes you. Bon voyage.

Hi Carolyn:

J. is a good-looking black man, and interesting, and fun. We've been out several times. Now here's the problem. I've dated several white men in the past, but he expresses such disdain for this practice that I haven't told him. Now I feel like I'm holding back something because HE'S closed-minded. Should I try to open him up, or just move on to other open doors before I start to really feel for him?

-- D.C.

Actually, you're holding things back because YOU'RE afraid to confront him. When he expressed his opinion, knock knock, that was your cue to argue the other side. I hope you're not always this passive with your dates.

Next time you see this guy, why don't you find out? Tell him, noncombatively, that you'd like to reopen the debate on interracial dating. If he finds your past repugnant enough to stop seeing you, then you'd be no worse off than if you dropped him yourself. Measure in terms of integrity, and you actually fare better.

Carolyn, HELP!

My best friend is off traveling the world this summer and writing me e-mails and letters that make my heart stumble, and has expressed that when he returns we might pursue more than friendship, which I would love. But here's the catch -- or, rather, the two catches. In August I was planning on going to visit my ex abroad. He and I have some stuff to work out 'cause we never quite broke up, just moved away from each other, and who knows where that will lead. And also, I've met this other guy who is hot and brilliant and wonderful and wants to see me now. So . . . I want my best friend, of course, but I don't want to lock off my exits before the room is built, uknowadimean?

-- Past-Present-Future?

Oh you poor scrumptious in-demand little thing.

If I were your architect, I'd design your room with doors, windows, vents, escape hatches -- and no bed. If there's no one person in your life, by all means, let anyone in that you want. The only rules are, no skeezing, no lying, no games -- particularly when you're dealing with your best friend. Just keep your pants on, literally and figuratively, while you figure out how you feel about each of them.

Except maybe the overseas ex. Unless you really see the two of you as a couple again, you can safely say that your "stuff" has worked itself out. Why torture it?

Dear Carolyn:

When I was a young lad of 13, I met a girl, and all through junior high and high school she was an out-the-corner-of-the-eye object of my affection. Now this wasn't stalking or anything; the two of us have always had this really interesting connection.

Lately she came home from school and we started to see more of each other. The problem is she has a boyfriend, who nine months out of the year is also her roommate. I'm confident I could win her over, but once she leaves I'm fairly sure he'll reemerge as the suitor of choice, strictly on a proximity basis. My friends say leave her in the dust, but I know she's worth keeping. How can I win her away from the evil forces of the roommate?

-- Second Suitor

Pardon the generalization, but proximity strikes me as more of a guy thing. If you manage to persuade Junior High Dreamgirl that it's you she loves, then it's you she'll love. Granted, your real rival is distance, and it's ruthless -- but that's no reason not to try. You've got a month. Get to it.

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