DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: I'm 18 and met a sweet girl at a party who's attached to a lot of people I know. We went for coffee part way through the party because we were so attracted and wanted to talk and hold hands. It turns out the reason we know so many people in common is she's actually the new best friend of my ex's younger sister. My ex-girlfriend was not at this party, nor was her sister. I really got treated poorly by my ex and her family after their daughter dumped me. They cut me right out of their lives. I really missed the family, and thought we were close, but it was a quick chop, onwards and upwards, and she had another guy three weeks later. I really like this new girl I met, but I'm afraid I could be wandering into a painful situation. What do you think? -- Worried, Winnipeg
Dear Worried: Go with your gut feeling. There are lots of sweet single girls out there in their late teens. There's no need for you to get into a hurtful situation where your presence will be questioned and you will feel uncomfortable and awkward. So try to back off this girl, and go looking in another direction. Relationships are hard enough without built-in problems right from the start. Wherever possible, it's nice to be surrounded by friendly people who want you around.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I'm a little surprised you'd find something wrong with a woman protecting herself by checking into a man before going on a date. The dating game has changed a lot. With the onset of dating sites, came the awareness that there are a lot of creeps out there. It wasn't that long ago that when someone asked you out you already knew a little about them or you could ask someone else about their character. I refuse to believe that you would have accepted a date from a man you just met without doing some checking with friends or colleagues. My sister was asked out by a man who seemed perfectly nice, had a good job and no "red flags," she checked him out on The Court Of Queen's Bench and found out he had multiple restraining orders against him. Protecting yourself doesn't show a "need for control" as you put it, it just means you're not stupid. -- Insulted On Her Behalf, Winnipeg
Dear Insulted: There are degrees of caution and protection a person should take. One dinner in a public place with a 32-year-old local teacher she'd met in person, is not very risky especially since teachers must be checked out. A date with a guy who has wives/girlfriends/children in his past who won't have anything to do with him is another thing. Often, first dates are casual information-gathering events, there's no real spark, and it leads to nothing. If she wanted to start dating him regularly (and he was interested) that would be the time to check, especially if he seemed secretive or if his life story didn't hang together, or he showed anger (even road rage) or mood swings. This is a small city where people tend to know people who know people, and yes, you can do criminal checks and should do them in some cases. But, this woman's stand-offish reply of "maybe" and further explanation that she would be getting him checked out before he got an answer back about dinner, was hostile. How would you like a guy to tell you he'd have to get YOU checked out out before he had a simple dinner with you?