Dear Amy: I am a 27-year-old straight man. My closest male friends are married or engaged. I can count on one hand the number of friends and same-age relatives I have who are not in committed, long-term romantic relationships.

I can't shake the feeling that I will never find a long-term partner. I've always heard, and believe, that the best relationships grow out of friendships.

I've had a good deal of relationships before, some explicitly casual and a few that burned like fireworks, but I've never had the experience of "being friends first." I have no idea how that would work.

I feel like I've passed the stage of life where relationships can grow organically out of friendships. It's unusual for me to meet a peer who is single, let alone a single peer with whom I potentially share a deep compatibility.

Even if I did, I'm afraid of misreading it or messing it up. Last February, I asked a friend out on a date while trying to make clear that I hoped we remained friends, either way. She politely declined but has avoided me ever since, and I feel guilty for having put her in an awkward situation.

So, during the pandemic, I'm taking some "time off" to work on myself. This raises the question, what am I working toward?

Since most romantic media, fictional or instructive, is geared toward women, I feel that I have no reference point to judge my experience against.

I'm not worried about running out of women to date, but think I'm getting things wrong.

Any thoughts?

— Always a Groomsman

Always a Groomsman: I think you might be misunderstanding the whole “friends become lovers” story line. Yes, it’s great when Harry and Sally can have a slow-burning friendship that gradually ignites into a great love. But this is not necessarily the norm. “Lovers become friends” is how many couples experience the dynamic.

The most important relationship you will ever have is the one you have with yourself.

When you “work on yourself,” your goal should be to find new ways to experience the satisfaction (and joy) of liking — and loving — the man you are, with or without a partner.

When you’re ready, the way to meet a potential partner is to put yourself out there — telling friends and family members that you’d like to be fixed up, and, of course, using technology to match with women who are also looking. You should use these meetups to continue to thoughtfully work on yourself. We are all works-in-progress, and the work is never done.

I agree that connecting with other men is vital. There are a lot of magazines, websites and blogs designated especially for men; do some research to see which might offer content that appeals to you.

Dear Amy: My sister and her husband are empty-nesters who live about 300 miles away from us.

They visit my wife and me about once a year for four or five days, and they sleep in our spare bedroom.

We would like to travel to see them when it is safe to do so, and we hope they could accommodate us in their three-bedroom home.

We never receive an invitation to visit unless we tell them we are in their area. Then, they agree to meet us at a restaurant, but they never invite us to stay with them.

This means we have the much-added expense of a hotel room.

Is there a polite way for us to ask them to invite us for a few days visit and also ask if we can stay with them in a spare bedroom?

— Traveling From Boston

Traveling From Boston: You might assume that your sister and her husband aren’t happy with the state of their house. People who are uncomfortable with their homes will reflexively avoid inviting people to visit.

The polite way for you to ask to stay is to be straightforward: “We’d really like to plan a visit. Would it be okay if we stayed with you for a couple of days?”

If they demur, accept it.

Dear Amy: "Covid Courtesy" asked about pedestrian etiquette during the pandemic. As a lifelong NYC resident, it is an unwritten "rule of the road" that pedestrians walk on the right-hand side of the sidewalk, the same as vehicles travel on streets and highways in the U.S.

Tourists will discover that Manhattan is a much more friendly city if they would observe these traditions.

— New Yorker

New Yorker: Yes, that should do it.

2020 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency