Carolyn:

Do you think it is hypocritical to be friends with someone whom you would in no way endorse to the opposite sex? You know, the whole "I'm friends with him, but I wouldn't let my sister date him" mentality? How principled should we be in the company we keep?

-- D.C.

Having had friends I wouldn't wish on anyone as a mate, I had envisioned a one-word response: no. We all befriend people with whom we'd never dream of sharing a home or a life, so no hypocrisy there. Except that there is, along with some rank condescension. If you choose to be friends with someone in spite of some deal-breaking flaw, like an ism -- let's use sexism -- then you also need to be prepared for others to overlook that same flaw, your sister included.

You can warn your sister that the guy has a sexist streak, particularly if it's something you've called the friend on yourself -- and you're under no obligation to introduce them, even. But beyond that, your choice to spend time with this friend means you have to respect someone else's right to make the same choice.

Which also means you don't let the word "let" make its way into the conversation when it comes to your sister's dates.

Assuming you could live with the idea. If this friend were so compromised that you couldn't bear the thought of his going out with your sister, then, yes, you'd be due for a principle check.

Dear Carolyn:

I'm a senior in high school and am so frustrated with males my age. I'm probably bitter because they don't ask me out, and I probably won't have a date to prom. However, I keep hearing from people that college will be different. I guess I expect some kind of radical change in the dating scene, and I'm not sure if I'm just setting myself up for disappointment. Even my mom tells me I should be "putting myself out there" more, but I have no idea what that means. Do you have any advice for seniors who will be checking out the college scene next year, hoping to start over?

-- My Prince Charming Must Be a Toad

College will be different because your mom will have to mother you by e-mail instead of in person.

Other than that, nothing will change if you don't. Show up bitter, and the dating scene could be directed by Cecil B. De Mille (look him up) and there still won't be a role for you in it, unless it calls for a bitter chick with no dates.

Being urgently optimistic about college won't help you much, either, because it's based on the same mistake: that the "scene" is somehow responsible for your happiness. How you fare socially is up to you. Granted, there are friendly environments and un-, and college by sheer numbers is better than high school, which is better than, say, a cheerleading convention, which is better than solitary confinement. Arguably.

But still, you have to adapt. If you want to go out, then ask somebody out. Girls, guys, groups, pairs. If they say no or if there's no one compelling around, then get resourceful about joining things and/or amusing yourself. No problem was ever solved by the mere assignment of blame.

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