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Handyman For All Seasons

My girlfriend and I broke up last month, after a year together, and agreed to be "friends." Last week, we planned to go hiking. She told me to pick her up at 7 a.m. When I arrived, she wasn't there. She pulled up five minutes later in pajamas, claiming she'd gone to the store. Okay, but no bags? I've heard she's seeing someone new. (I have no idea if she knew him when we broke up, and whether he's the reason.) Two days ago, she went on a trip and asked me to watch her dog and drive her to and from the airport. I did, but when I picked her up, she was all distant. So, when she wants something, she's friendly and flirty; after I do it, she's cold. I do care for her, but I want to move on, and when she pays attention to me, it makes me feel like she still wants me. When she's distant, I feel empty and I end up missing her. Do you think she's using me as a "comfort zone"? —Standby Guy

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line — unless you're an ex-boyfriend or a commercial airline. Fly enough, and you'll learn that an airline ticket is merely an expensive suggestion of where you'll be traveling, and a "nonstop" flight from Point A to Point B may leave you stranded squarely between them — probably on an orange plastic airport bench with molded one-size-fits-none butt cheek indentations.

Relationship departures work much the same way. It seems like it shouldn't be a big deal, flying direct from boyfriend to friend. And it isn't — providing inclement feelings don't reroute your itinerary. Unfortunately, there's a big difference between moving on after a relationship and having every intention of moving on. That's what bumped you off the nonstop from "I love you" to "I'm loving being friends with you," leaving you on indefinite layover in "I'd love to repaint your house, snake your drain and rotate your tires."

Your detour couldn't come at a better time for your ex, who probably has only limited use of the guy replacing you, since he's too new in her life to have all his boyfriend-type functions fully enabled. While she might have fond feelings for you, she also knows a good thing when she sees it: an ex who's forgotten that he used to get something for all the helpful boyfriend-type stuff he did; namely, treated like a boyfriend.

"Post-girlfriend" is like "post-modern": two really easy words that come together into a term you can't, for the life of you, understand. You know what a post is — a big wooden thing. And you know what a girlfriend is — a girl you're trying not to love. So, maybe it's as simple as beating yourself over the head with a big wooden post until you no longer love this girl. Of course, in lieu of giving yourself massive head injuries, you could just set up a no ex-girlfriend zone: time off from her company so you can reprocess where she fits in your head and your life — if at all. This should give her time to think, too, perhaps about the meaning of friendship — which, as far as I've heard, isn't supposed to involve one person always expecting the other person to answer the phone, "How can I provide you with excellent customer service today?"

The Spy Who Gave Birth To Me

My mom is the nosy queen. If my husband and I buy something, she always wants to know how much it cost. She manipulates us to tell her with the "I want to know because I want to buy one, too" song and dance, but she has no plan to buy anything. How do I respond to her rude, prying questions?—Accounting Nightmare

You never know when your mom's going to sell the secret of how much you paid for your fruit dehydrator to some foreign power. If you feel it's your patriotic duty to yank her security clearance, start with "I love you, but ..." and find some tactful way of explaining that you love your privacy more: "I'm a private person, it makes me uncomfortable, please don't ask, blah, blah, blah." Then again, what does it cost you, giving an old lady a peek at your price tags? If that's big drama and excitement for her, she must not have much of her own — well, save for that time she turned the Deutsche mark into the monetary equivalent of a sheet of Bounty with news of your double couponing.

Copyright 2003, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail [email protected] (

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