Dear Carolyn:

I'm a 17-year-old male and my love life has been like a long and melodramatic episode of "Dawson's Creek." I am single but recently I have been interacting with my ex-girlfriend. I won't beat around the bush here ... I am still in love with this girl. She was my first serious relationship. We broke up over two years ago but I have never stopped caring for her.

We have been having issues with my feeling for her and her not really wanting to get back into the relationship. Here's the kicker: We go to see a movie, and she decides to hold my hand and lean her head against my shoulder. She also seemed to enjoy poking me playfully in the tummy and giggling. I started to wonder about her feelings again. I mean, that sort of behavior would imply, "Hey, I like you." Afterwards we go out for ice cream holding hands the entire way. However, after I take her back home, she springs her usual reason for not wanting to go out with me again. I then receive a kiss on the cheek and the night is over. What is going on here?

--Dated and Confused

Wait--there's another kind of "Dawson's Creek" episode?

Let's try some more educational programming. Define the following: chump, sap, patsy, rube, tool, stooge, naif, pawn, simpering six-foot sock puppet.

You, you, you, you, you, you, you, you and, uh, you.

I considered the gentle approach, but then I did the math and saw it was time for a good old-fashioned shirt-grabbing: This "serious" relationship ended--ended!--when you were 15! Stop the melodrama! Off with your TV!

You know and I know that 17 can be awkward. You want to be liked, but you're not sure if you are, but you know you're too old to beg, but you can't stop wondering, but you feel like a geek for still caring so much. You love like 25 and doubt like 12. So you crave your ex, your old security blanket, your one and easy. Not the best way to move forward. Do you really want to be the loser who's 30 and still pining for his junior high heartthrob?

What makes things worse is she's pining, too. Sort of. She doesn't want to go out with you--she likes you, but doesn't like-like you. Yet she still wants to touch and be touched, get a movie, ice cream and a kiss, because it makes her feel pretty, sexy, loved. To get these feelings from a boyfriend, she'll need time and luck, not to mention a fair amount of fear and rejection while she auditions various candidates.

In the meantime, she can get a quick, risk-free ego-booster shot: You. You give her all these things, and she can flirt outrageously with you and you'll flirt right back, and she feels all fine and babelike again, and with a peck on the cheek, she goes back out into the world.

And you go home used and confused.

Not a great deal for you, is it. If you want out, you have two choices: Accept that it's over and seek companionship elsewhere, or accept that it's over and enjoy her for what she is: a movie, ice cream, a kiss on the cheek and big insensitive see ya.

Dear Carolyn:

I've been friends with "Aida" for seven years, and she's been seeing "Dan" just as long. The problem is that Dan's mother has been trying to sabotage their relationship. Should I confront Dan myself and tell him to be a man and buy a ring? He has told both Aida and me that he wants to marry her, but that he needs to deal with his mother first. Should she give him an ultimatum?

--Trying to Be a Friend

You should stay out of it. She should run screaming--but seven years and she hasn't connected the dots. Do you really think there's something you can say now to change that?

Hi Carolyn:

My boyfriend often talks about events that happen in his office, about all of his little office coups, how great the office is doing since he got there, etc. I find this completely annoying--I never mention ANYTHING about work after 5, much less go on and on about people he's never met, and how the organization couldn't get along without me. I'd rather talk about books, movies, TV, family, ANYTHING but another anecdote about the VP up the hall! What should I do?

--Philadelphia

No one loves a work freak, but don't you think you should care a little, a scrap, a whit how he spends most of his waking hours?

Note the big flashing neon sign. You can try to care or even try to change the subject, but if your boyfriend's interests bore you, he's boring. If he's boring, you need a new boyfriend.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or tellme@washpost.com, and join Carolyn's live discussion at 8 p.m. tomorrow or at noon Friday at washingtonpost.com/liveonline