The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Carolyn Hax: If you give up on the friend zone, is that winning, or quitting?

(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)

Dear Carolyn: Can you ever get out of the friend zone?

I dated a guy, "Larry," a few years ago. Really just a few steamy dates. We slid into a friendship. We are both divorced and like the same activities. He seemingly loves doing things with me and comments on how much I make him laugh. So put simply, he likes me but he doesn't "like me"-like me.

I broached it slightly once, and he said something about how great I am but there is not the right chemistry. Also, he is a nerd who has come into his own and I think he is enjoying the younger, flirty girls while he is single.

I am feeling like a masochist, hanging out with him wishing for more, although I really enjoy our time together.

Should I give up or is there hope that he will change his mind about me the more fun we have?

— Waiting for More

Waiting for More: I am a firm believer in giving up.

Sweet resignation!

Good decisions use what we have. Even when we’re projecting and trying to make a decision about what’s possible in the future, even when we all understand change of some kind is a certainty, we’re more successful when we use what we have. The habits we have, for example, not the better habits we want. The savings we have, not the windfall we want. The strengths we have, not the ones everyone else seemed to get.

If something does change? Great! Then you can adjust your decisions accordingly.

You are attracted to a friend who is not attracted to you. That’s what you have. So make your decisions based on that, vs. on visions of what could be.

This doesn’t mean you ditch the friend, necessarily; I’m just saying to ditch the hope. How you handle the friendship is a separate decision.

But either way — whether you keep enjoying activities with him on strictly platonic terms, or whether you opt out — that decision, too, will be better for its foundation in what you actually have. You have good company, shared interests, painful asymmetry in your feelings and no hope: Are the benefits worth staying for, or the drawbacks worth leaving for? There’s no wrong answer if you get there using the truth.

Dear Carolyn: I have a bad knee. I walk comfortably but, when in a group, I am always left behind. It embarrasses me. I walk as fast as I can. No one seems to notice or offer to stay behind. I get there when I can.

Is it appropriate to say anything, or do I just make the best of being left?

— Anonymous

Anonymous: Walk your walk. Get there when you get there. Tell your embarrassment to [step] off. Because, why not? What do you have to hide or feel embarrassed about?

We all have stuff; it’s just more or less apparent.

If it’s company you want, or assurance you won’t lose the group, then pick out one person to ask to walk with you. “Bum knee.” Enough said.

When we do have stuff, often the best adaptation is the smallest possible one that gets the job done. Although, again — there is no shame in walking alone at your very own pace.