THANKS BUT NO THANKS Dear Ms. Teri:, You’ve got to help me. Last weekend I let my boyfriend borrow my car. He and his friends had plans to go out for the night, but his car was in the shop, and I didn’t think a thing about letting him take it. When he brought it back the next day, he was extra sweet, and told me how much he appreciated the favor. Everything seemed fine. I don’t know if I’m being paranoid or what, but when I got in my car to go to work on Monday I noticed that he had done a bit of redecorating. Any signs indicating that this was a girl’s car had been totally erased. The channels were all reprogrammed on the radio, my hair ties were off of the gear shifter, and he even took down the little angel I had hanging from the rearview mirror. I don’t want to think that I can’t trust him, but the only explanations I can come up with don’t lead to good conclusions. I love my boyfriend and don’t want to lose faith in him, but I don’t know what to think… Signed, Driven to the edge Dear Driven, Out of curiosity, is your boyfriend the type with a cell phone and a pager? Just wondering. I’d say there are two possible scenarios here. On the one hand, your manly man may be the type who breaks into a sweat at the though that a guy could possibly have a feminine side. But this is easy to detect. If you find that your man’s normally romantic nothings go guttural cave man at the sight of another guy, you’re probably just dealing with an extreme case of cootie-phobia. Perhaps your poor misguided lover thought that he might sprout breasts and accidentally admit his fondness for the sonnet if he allowed any signifiers of femininity to taint the sacred institution known as guy time. Though sad, there’s hope for recovery if this is the case. On the other hand, this could be the sign of a much larger problem. I don’t want to put the image in your head of your special someone careening down the highway with a gaggle of topless dancers, but there is the possibility that there’s something awry here. Has he ever borrowed your car before? And if so, did anything similar happen? It could be that he was trying to show respect and protect your things from dirty man paws, but a thorough erasure of all things “girlfriend” smells of trouble. I’d say you should confront him--but be sly about it. Casually mention that you found a barrette in the glove box that wasn’t yours. If sweat starts to pour down his neck or he runs from the room crying then you’ve most likely got a case of double-dealing going on. But if he nods disinterestedly and asks you to pass the onion dip, then don’t worry. He might grow up someday.. Dear Ms. Teri, Recently I let a friend of mine come to stay with me. We’ve known each other forever, and they’ve been having a hard time, so giving them a place to crash is the least I can do. But there’s one little problem. This friend of mine isn’t working, and has been trying to help out around the house as a way to pay me back for the room and board…but they don’t have a clue what they’re doing. It seems like every time I come home I find something else “fixed.” By fixed I mean stained, ruined or otherwise dismantled. I love my friend to pieces, but I’m having a hard time telling them that their handiwork is neither necessary nor wanted. I mean, I want to keep my things intact, but I know that this friend feels that the “help” is the only way to pay me back…any suggestions? Signed, The Fixer-downer Dear Downer, Sometimes there’s a fine line between friendship and property damage. Confronting a friend that’s in the midst of a life crisis, however, can be a slippery slope to say the least. That being said, though, you’ve got to nip this in the bud now if you don’t want to end up on national television being chastised by Judge Judy as you hurl inane insults at one another concerning how one of you has recently achieved a really bad haircut. One of the cornerstones of friendship is helping one another in a way that is reciprocal. To be sure, your hammer-wielding roommate is trying to fulfill this role, albeit with the finesse of a figure skater in combat boots. But this doesn’t make it OK, and breaking your things in the name of improved décor While you’re off working to pay the bills does not fit into the category of reciprocity. Nor does Prego on your Prada. At first, I’d try the gentle art of the obvious hint. Something like, “hey that hole you just made in the wall looks really neat in a Daliesque kind of way, but I think the room might be a bit too drafty for it.” I know the guilt trip is kind of lame, but it’s often a lot more effective than a blunt statement a la “Helen Keller would make a better interior designer than you do, so knock it off.” If the hint doesn’t work, you could try nailing everything down and throwing out anything that could be used as a tool, but this would be entirely too arduous. The bottom line here is that this person is in your home, which means that they are living in a place for which you are responsible, and thus means that they need to back off, all good intentions aside. The easiest remedy might be to have a house meeting, where you can secretly relegate responsibility in a way that keeps this friend from meddling where their coordination stands as a detriment to your right to own things. Tell them that you find hanging pictures and moving furniture to be a cathartic experience, but that you’ve been really stressed about how you’re going to find the time to organize the cotton balls. Try to come up with some things they can do to “help” that don’t entail the use of anything heavy, sharp, color altering or dangerous. Then have them go sit in the yard and work on it.

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