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Secret Love

By Mink Stole | Posted 5/2/2001

For two years I have been in love with my good friend Brad, but he has been in an intense on-again/off-again relationship with another friend of mine, Carol, so I've kept my feelings a secret. This would be hard enough, but to make things even more agonizing, I've let myself become their go-between whenever they break up. So the time I spend with him is all about his broken heart, and my time with her is all about persuading her to take him back. And I spend my time alone in tears. I can't take it anymore, but I'm afraid to tell either of them how I really feel. What should I do?

Need a Break

Dear Needy:

You've not only cast yourself as the victim in this overwrought melodrama, with your friends as the unwitting and unsuspecting villains, you've become director and producer as well. Yes, it's a way to stay involved with him on an intimate emotional level, and that can be hard to abandon, but be warned: That scene where he suddenly realizes his feelings for Carol have been nothing more than a mad infatuation and that you, his noble, self-sacrificing friend, are his real true love is not in the script. And without that guaranteed happy ending, you'd be smart to leave the theater before the curtain comes down on your head.

You don't have to bare your soul to anyone to get out of this, and it's better if you don't. Just tell your friends you've realized your participation in their romantic turmoil doesn't help them, and distresses you (you don't have to give details, just say it's a sort of contact unhappiness), and that they need to figure it out on their own. Then stay away from them for a while; give yourself time to detoxify. Keep yourself busy. This could be a great time to repaint your apartment, start a new workout program, or maybe--since you seem to have a flair for it--take an acting class. Time will tell what will happen to them couple-wise, and, if they don't make it, you'll stand a much better chance of winning him for yourself (if you still want him) if seeing you doesn't remind him of his old misery.

It's the 21st century, and we're dealing with new technology in a new age. So why does it seem like the wild, wild West? People are firing off their cell phones everywhere! You can't drive in traffic without dodging some distracted jerk or dine in a restaurant without some bimbo barking out her private conversation at the next table. They're showing up in theaters, libraries, gyms, churches, and schools. With these new micro-headsets, you run into the village idiot at the grocery store shouting out his private life for all the world to hear. Maybe I'm succumbing to my own new phenomenon -- Cell-Phone Rage. Help me, Mink. How do we conduct ourselves civilly until the new sheriff arrives in town?

Rage Against the Cell Phone

Dear Rage:

As I've said before, we are just starting to deal with the problems of cell-phone intrusiveness, and, pardner, I am right there with you. I dream of rounding up a posse to shoot the vocal cords of every loud-mouthed jerk who can't keep his hands off his flip phone in public. Not to cause permanent damage, mind you, just to render him or her temporarily inaudible. But since that's not practical, and I don't really approve of vigilantism, I've had to think of other ways to cope.

Remember those creepy, nerdy types who used to make faces at smokers, wave their hands around wildly, and say incredibly annoying things like, "Excuse me I' m trying to breathe here"? Well, as irritating as they were, they eventually turned public opinion around, and voila! a public place to smoke is harder to find now than cheap gasoline. Well, without reaching such heights of obnoxious passive-aggressiveness, we need to learn to speak up. We need to politely ask that guy shouting into his StarTAC at the next table to lower his voice. And I've written my congressperson to ask for legislation banning cell-phone use while driving. No one should die because some idiot gets so wrapped up in conversation that he or she forgets what a brake pedal's for.

A cell phone is a great thing to have in an emergency. And even in nonemergencies they're wonderfully convenient. But we need to learn respect. Other people's one-sided conversations are rarely interesting, and the sooner the average man-on-the-phone learns that he's bothering more folks than he's impressing, the better off we'll all be. No one minds a subdued tone of voice, but yelling is yelling. And if the sound quality in anyone's phone is so bad he has to raise his voice to be heard, he should either get a new one or go somewhere out of earshot to use it.

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