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Just Good Friends

Not doctors, not boyfriends



Hey McGuinty!

I have a friend who is overweight and smokes constantly. I worry about this friend's health, but can't think of a way to express my concern without coming across as judgmental or patronizing. We both operate under a certain live-and-let live philosophy, so it would feel like a violation of some sort of unspoken code. Am I just being a scaredy-cat, afraid to talk about real stuff? Or should I trust my impulse and leave personal health choices personal?


— Conflicted Much?


Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, eh? There's no asterisk that says "unless said pursuits shorten said life." We can and do whatever we want with and to our bodies. It's pretty much the only control we have over anything in this crazy world.

It's painful to watch loved ones ruin their health, but if you were to intervene, the overweight smoking friend is as unlikely to say, "Oh, wow, you're totally right," as you would be if someone questioned you about your unhealthy habits. Neither of you are apt to think, "Wow, this person really loves me and confronting me must have been difficult, so I'm going to stop smoking, eating high-fructose corn syrup, etc."

Families are torn and marriages split every day over one person trying in vain to change the unhealthy behaviors of another. Person A feels controlled, Person B feels unheard and unloved, and in the end, people learn they can't change another's behavior. Cliché? Sure. But true.

I'm sure you could talk to your friend without being judgmental or patronizing. That doesn't mean he or she won't hear it that way. If it's not a close family member or spouse, I have to advise against it, especially since it's in line with your impulse. Odds are this person knows his or her habits and weight are unhealthy. You didn't mention any drug addiction, so I'd leave this one to his or her family and/or doctor. There is still plenty of other real stuff you two can talk about, especially since you'll be remaining friends.

Hey McGuinty!

A friend I'm crushing on introduced me to another woman, saying she was "wing-manning" for me. Since my friend has a boyfriend, I took the intro. The other woman was great, but I am a one-woman man, and the whole thing just felt odd. I got the other woman's number, but whatever happens with this crush, just friendship or more, my attentions are firmly fixed. What should I do with the number?

— Just Friends

Just Friends!

Call the new woman. It's commendable that you're a one-woman man, but this friend is making it known that she's not available and she's not asking for your fully-fixed attention. In fact, she's finding you other women to focus on. Is she wing-manning for you as a friend or brushing you off? Who knows. She's taken, you're not, and you said you actually liked this new woman. Ask yourself this: If you'd met her independently of your female friend, would you still be wondering if you should call her? My guess is no.

Call her. Talk and vibe out if you still like each other, and if you do, suggest coffee or something equally mellow. If you don't vibe as well, leave it with, "I enjoyed meeting you and wanted to call because I said I would, but for several reasons I'm not ready to date you," and leave it there. It's not as harsh as it sounds. If she asks or you feel like revealing, you can say that it's because you have feelings for a friend, but that's really not necessary.

It's not healthy for you as an individual or for your friendship to let these feelings for your friend get in your way. When you say, "whatever happens with this crush, just friendship or more," I'm concerned you're hoping too much for something that sounds unlikely.

One last thing I'll throw out there: What if your friend decided she liked you better than her boyfriend? That'd be great, right? You got the girl! How long until you start wondering if she'll leave you for another guy friend? She's set clear boundaries. Abide by them, and call the new woman.

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