Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I met a charming, handsome man while travelling to my friend's house in southern Ontario. We stayed at the same bed and breakfast and it was a heart-changing experience. When I got back to Winnipeg, I tried to make contact with him and discovered he had given me the wrong number.
It wasn't that I mixed up a digit or two -- this number was pure invention. Then I looked him up on computer and you guessed it: he has a wife and I saw references from the past four years of the two of them going to big events. He is quite high-profile in his province. Why did he do this to me? -- Disappointed Traveller, Charleswood
Dear Disappointed: This big shot was flexing his flirting muscle, so don't take it personally. It could have been any woman at a B&B or in a bar on his road trip and he would have given them a bogus number. He may have done it before: flirting is exciting and fun and not available to do at public events for high-profile people with an image to maintain.
As for your part, always ask a guy who's flirting with you point blank: "Are you married or in a relationship? Got pictures of your wife and kids?" That will cool things down fast if he's married. If not, he'll laugh and say, "No, I don't have a wife and family," or, "I don't have a partner at the moment, but I do have kids, dogs, cats, whatever." In a way, you're asking, "Permission to flirt freely?" He could still lie to you, but it's less likely, since you won't appear to be the gullible type.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: My three best friends and I went up to the lake to open one guy's cottage and do some fishing. While playing cards and drinking heavily, a guest mentioned that he's thinking of leaving his wife. Everything went suddenly quiet. The rest of the weekend turned into an on-and-off group-counselling session with him at the centre.
I went there to relax with friends and the weekend was hijacked by this guy with a problem. I'm sure he got hundreds of dollars of free advice from the other two guys -- we're all educated professionals in the helping arena. I also felt uncomfortable with the secret we suddenly shared. I know his wife, for God's sake. Now I'm holding a secret that could change her life. Maybe I'm selfish, but wasn't he a jerk for blabbing that stuff and ruining the mood of the weekend? -- P.O.'d, Winnipeg
Dear P.O.'d: Your buddy probably had no plans to let loose the secret, but getting drunk changed the game. It's hard not to blab a big problem when you're away from home, drinking with close friends. Having said that, there are ways to limit a conversation that might end up in a weekend of free therapy. The wise host (or some brave person) says, "OK, we've spent time on this important subject, but it can't take over the weekend. If any of you guys want to talk one-on-one about personal topics, enjoy the deck, but we're going to have a fun game of Texas hold SSRqem in here." The guilty party might be a bit annoyed with you, but everyone else will be relieved.
As for holding the possible breakup secret, tell your friend as he's leaving: "You've told this secret to several people here and they might tell their mates, who might tell their best friends. Consider going home and discussing your serious concerns about your marriage with your wife so she doesn't hear it from someone else."
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