Dear Carolyn:

A really close friend of mine got married in England the week before Christmas to his British girlfriend. They had originally set the wedding date for October 2000, but suddenly moved it up by almost a year. The only notification was an e-mail from my friend explaining that he was having difficulty getting a job, which was why they were getting married earlier. I sent my friend a long e-mail criticizing him for making such a hurried decision. I told him he was being foolish and taking a great risk by getting married while unemployed, especially in a foreign country. A week later, I got an e-mail from his fiancee blasting me for being insensitive to their problems and for not being supportive. I responded to defend my position.

I offered this opinion based on my own failed relationship with a Japanese woman in which we had considered marriage to obtain her green card but then realized that would be the wrong reason to tie the knot. I am a very straightforward person and don't like to sugarcoat things, but I am worried I may have lost a friend because of this.

--R.M.

An opinion for you, Mr. Cream-and-Sugar-Is-for-Saps: If you're going to take it upon yourself to be the clear-eyed caller of the cosmic play-by-play, do it without the bag on your head.

You are absolutely right about not marrying for a green card. Unfortunately, what you are absolutely right about has absolutely nothing to do with your friend. Your buddy was already engaged and therefore prepared to get married for all of what usually pass for as the right reasons. Reality simply pushed for an earlier date.

The proper response to which is "Congratulations."

There's nothing wrong with advising people from personal experience (she said self-interestedly). But before you flick on the wind machine, do this three-point nuisance inspection:

1. Has anyone asked me?

2. Can I make a difference?

3. Am I right?

You offered unsolicited criticism of a fait accompli based on facts that didn't apply. Also known as "0 for 3." Your apology should make gushing mention of such--and not by e-mail, please.

Dear Carolyn:

I am a 20-year-old college senior preparing to enter the real world or grad school. The field I'm in (acting) is extremely hard to break into, and graduate schools tend to want people who have "real world" experience and are willing to commit themselves to a high-level program.

I don't know--I think I have the tools to succeed in a grad-level program, but then again I've never been to graduate school. Many of my friends say I should take time off and try to get work as an actor. My parents just confuse me by asking if this is what I really want.

I feel like this is finally the point in my life when I get to make a decision all my own but that will affect me for an indefinite period of time, like forever. Know any good ways to start figuring this out?

--S.M.

Acting. I do hear that's popular.

Let's start with your progress so far. You've consulted your friends and your parents (whooie, that was a real curveball they tossed you), you've written to your let's call it "friendly" neighborhood newspaper advice column, and you've plumbed your innermost yearnings, burnings and fears. So what does that leave?

A: People with actual knowledge of acting.

Meet with your drama professors, and shake them down for every phone number they have of working and nonworking actors, as well as anyone who admits, coaches, hires, fires, directs, critiques, writes bad dialogue for, waits tables with and takes early-career naked pictures of the thespian set. Call them. Ask them. Buy them a cup of coffee.

One bonus suggestion: Please resist all urges to refer to "real world" anything. What are you now, fake?

Hi Carolyn:

I read with interest your response to the man whose mother-in-law derides his wife. He described the mother as a "Vodka Mop," which signals to me that she could have a drinking problem. I was hoping you would direct them to Al-Anon, a 12-step program designed for people who have friends or family members with drinking problems.

I have been going to Al-Anon for four years and I find that, although the alcoholic in my life is sober now, Al-Anon continues to teach me how to relate to those difficult people we all have in our lives in a straightforward way without losing my cool. Al-Anon is in the phone book, there are no membership dues or fees, and the only requirement to join is that you know someone with a drinking problem. It has really changed my life.

--Grateful Member

I think we can call the alcoholism a safe bet--and Al-Anon is an excellent suggestion, thank you. The toll-free number is 888-4AL-ANON (425-2666), and the Web address is www.al-anon-alateen.org.

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.