Q: I just finished my junior year of college. For most of it, I hung out with this super nice guy. He is smart and funny, and the sex was good. We went to parties and had lots of fun. But then he asked me if I wanted to "get serious." Honestly, I didn't. I just wanted to keep having fun. So, at his request, we stopped hanging out in May, and I kept having fun, which turned out to be less fun without him. I miss him and would like to try "getting serious" now, whatever that means. Do you think it's too late to go back to him? If not, how do I do it?
— Casey, Dallas
A: When I was waltzing out to parties at your age, my mother often warned me, "Don't stay too long at the fair." I had no idea what she meant. That took time and much listening to Bonnie Raitt ("Won't you come and take me home? I've been too long at the fair, and Lord, I just can't stand it anymore") and Barbra Streisand ("The merry-go-round is beginning to taunt me. Have I stayed too long at the fair?").Some of us learn the hard way: Fun wears thin.
It's only been 60 days since you turned down this fine fellow. And you are going back to him a wiser woman. Assuming you didn't laugh in his face when he made his offer, I think the odds are good that he may welcome your change of heart. Just be sure to let him know that he is responsible for it. Say (do not text): "I didn't realize how important you are to me. I'm sorry for that. If you can forgive me, I would love to 'get serious' now."
If he is game for second chances, it would also be a great time to lock down what he means by "getting serious." But even if he refuses, don't despair. You've learned a valuable lesson: Staying too long at the fair can often be more depressing than not going at all.
Coolest head prevails
Q: I share an apartment with several roommates. But I own most of the furniture and appliances. I keep my fan in the living room so that everyone can stay cool. But one roommate seems to think that because it's in a common area, it's up for grabs. She keeps taking it into her bedroom. I have already sent out a group email to my roommates asking them to leave the fan where it is, but she continues to take it. Ideas?
A: Ever heard of targeted marketing? It's getting your message to the people you really want to hear it. So when my new upstairs neighbors took their sweet time putting down a rug in the room above my bedroom (or lent it out to Savion Glover for midnight tap-dancing workshops), I didn't write a group email to every resident of my building. I walked upstairs with a smile on my face (but not in my heart) and said: "The bare floors in your bedroom are making mine noisy. Could you put down a rug, please?" And Charlotte, they did! Try this same direct approach with the fan filcher.
Peaceful, uneasy feeling
Q: My mother-in-law of two years is a gem: warm and generous. She has been married to my father-in-law for 45 years, and he has cheated on her continuously. In the five years that I've known them, he has left her twice for the same woman (who is 25 years younger). He came back both times. Now he's announced that he is leaving her for the third time — for the same woman! I have strong opinions about what my mother-in-law should do next. (I, too, have a cheating partner in my past.) Should I speak up?
— Heather, Brooklyn
A: Unsolicited advice on delicate matters is usually as welcome as moths in a cashmere factory. Keep a lid on your "strong opinions" (or share them with a pal, if you must). But as an in-law of just two years, you have probably not earned the free pass required to air them. Better to be extra loving and supportive of your mother-in-law during her hard time and leave advice out of it. Even if she asks for your opinion, temper it. She will probably take her husband back again (even though we all wish she wouldn't). Being too frank with her now will only create (more) awkwardness in the family later.
Fine art of hosting
Q: Extremely generous friends of my parents put me up in London for a week. They also fed me and gave me theater tickets. Now they're coming to New York and staying in a great hotel. I want to reciprocate, but I'm pretty broke. What can I do?
A: Don't get hung up on swank. Be imaginative and generous with your time instead. Put together a delicious picnic and invite them to lunch in Central Park. Then take them to the Met Breuer to see the new Diane Arbus show. With a little thought, you will be remembered as the host with the most.