Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Romance Not an Option for Exchange Student

DEAR HARRIETTE: I spent the summer abroad with a program from my school. While I was away, I met a guy who turned out to be such a sweetheart. We spent a lot of time together and grew very fond of each other. He took me all around to see his country, and it was very pleasant. I'm back home, and he just called to say that he is planning to move to America. In a roundabout way, he let me know that he is planning to come because he wants to be with me. I do not feel the same. I like him and we had fun together, but I do not want to date him. I never led him on in that way, either. Yes, we dated, but we didn't "do anything," so to speak. How can I let him know that I like him, but not like that? I would hate for him to come all the way over here expecting a relationship that is not going to happen. -- Putting on the Brakes, Jacksonville, Fla.

DEAR PUTTING ON THE BRAKES: It is great that you are dating without becoming too intimately involved with your suitors -- this time, anyway. It does make it easier for you to evaluate whether you want your relationship to advance to a more committed place or not.

From this young man's perspective, however, he may not know that you are not interested in him romantically. It is your obligation to let him know, but be kind. If he wants to come to the United States, he should. Ask him why he wants to come. Does he have dreams for his career? What are his motivations? If he says that you are the driving force, then tell him directly that you appreciate that but you are not interested in making that kind of commitment. Tell him you enjoyed your time together tremendously, and if he comes to your homeland, you will be happy to show him around, but that you are not interested in kindling a relationship with him.

You do have to let him know so that he can manage his expectations. If he comes, you also owe him a bit of American hospitality. You can hang out, introduce him to your friends and have a good time without becoming his girlfriend.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I let my friend borrow my favorite dress to go to a fancy party. Yes, you already know the drill. She gave it back to me soiled. She didn't even send it to the dry cleaner. Who does that? She handed it to me in a bag, and I didn't look at it until I got home. It's as if she wore the dress, dropped it in the bag and handed it off to me. So now I have to pay for it to be cleaned. I want to confront her about this. What should I say? -- Appalled, Syracuse, N.Y.

DEAR APPALLED: Be direct. Tell your friend that you are taking the dress to the dry cleaner and that you will let her know how much the bill is when it is ready. Follow up with the price and ask her to reimburse you. Chances are this will jar her into realizing her misstep.