Several months ago, I sat down to dinner with a dear friend and by dessert, had decided I needed to turn this space into an advice column. People could ask me questions about relationships and I, ever wise and all-knowing, could answer them with my vast array of psychological knowledge and Oprah-isms. It's what I spend a great deal of time doing anyway. Really. My friends and family call me on the phone and I listen to their problems while I'm making dinner or getting ready for work or just lying on my bed and then I give them my advice. It's not like I mind or anything. I like knowing what's going on in my friends' lives and, honestly, conflict is so much more interesting than "My fiancee and I are so happy" and so much less annoying than "We are so happy because we are so perfect; Are you seeing anyone perfect right now?" My own life is always so horribly painful that those people just have to be cut out, like tumors. Plus, I have a sneaking suspicion that anyone who thinks their relationship is perfect is lying. Either to me or to themselves, and I only broker in truth, baby. Just the other day a woman I know called in a panic: "One of my best guy friends has just professed his love for me with an expensive diamond bracelet. And I always thought he was gay!" I immediately sprang into Dear Abby mode: "which one is this again? how long have you known him? how much do we think this bracelet cost? what else has happened between the two of you?" It came out there were some other issues as well, a well-meaning husband at home, an indiscretion, other details that I'm changing to protect the innocent. Her problem was that she wanted to keep the friendship intact, but was already committed to, not to mention madly in love with, someone else. I won't go into the whole thing, but I told her she had to give back the bracelet. Or, at the very least, FedEx it to me. And that relationships where two people want very different things (companionship versus the nookie) seldom work out all that well. Especially when one of the parties involved is still reeling from the rejection of their amorous feelings and having an expensive piece of jewelry thrown back in their face. Which she should do as gently as possible. Then I told her what I tell everybody after I finish giving them advice: Don't do anything I say. In fact, do the opposite. Or don't do anything at all. All I ask is that people listen to my advice and then make their own informed decision. I mean, the fact of the matter is I'm not a licensed therapist, just a woman with a telephone and, apparently, a lot of free time on her hands. I just try to provide a different and objective perspective. This morning I received a call from a friend whose inner office romance went sour. (By the way, I am rarely judgmental with people who get themselves into situations that are bound to turn out poorly.) The office is now divided into people who are with her or, sadly more common in this story, against her. I told her to think about asking for a transfer. Either that or start playing real nice real fast. So now I want to share my gift of knowledge with the world. I mean, if you can't afford to lie on a psychotherapist's couch, it's actually really good advice. And I'll try to discuss the burning questions of gender warfare, such as "Can men and women be friends?" "Is it okay to date a married person if all you want out of the relationship is sex?" and "Will the conflict in Afghanistan ever end?" So feel free to send me a letter detailing all your loverly woes; if you don't, I'll just have to make them up. I can't promise conflict resolution or even a clear answer to your crises, but I'm bound to be counseling people anyway. I might as well counsel you.


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