Dear Annie: My boyfriend is 43, and I am 38. We have been dating for more than five years, and I think it is time to get engaged. "Paul" says he expects to marry me in another five years or so, but he does not want to be engaged that long.
I get the distinct impression that Paul is waiting to see if anything better is out there, and I worry that he has no intention of marrying me. He says that is not true, but I am not sure. His friends all say run. What do you say? Julie
Dear Julie: Let's see. Paul has been dating you for five years, and in another five, he'll let you know if he's interested in marriage. By then you will be 43. Do you want to marry Paul because you love him, or because you've invested a lot of time in this relationship and think it ought to pay off?
Paul's got a sweet deal going, and he isn't looking to change it by proposing anytime soon. His friends have given you good advice. Take it.
Dear Annie: Any time the subject of alcohol comes up, you are quick to use the label "alcoholic" and suggest immediate help. I am a 41-year-old man, recently divorced. My wife claimed my drinking was a problem, but I disagree. I am a responsible drinker. I work hard, do volunteer work and have a peaceful, busy life. I never drink and drive, and have never been involved in a confrontation while drinking. There are times when I drink every day for a week, and other times when I will not drink at all for a month or two.
I have no desire to change my behavior, because I am not aware of a single problem caused by my drinking. Would you call me an alcoholic and recommend that I seek treatment? Curious in Tucson, Ariz.
Dear Tucson: Only you can decide if you have a problem, but we found the following questionnaire from A.A. most helpful:
UHave you ever decided to stop drinking for a week or so, but only lasted for a couple of days?
UDo you wish people would mind their own business about your drinking and stop telling you what to do?
UHave you ever switched from one kind of drink to another in the hope that this would keep you from getting drunk?
UHave you had to have an eye-opener upon awakening during the past year?
UDo you envy people who can drink without getting into trouble?
UHave you had problems connected with drinking during the past year?
UHas your drinking caused trouble at home?
UDo you ever try to get "extra" drinks at a party because you do not get enough?
UDo you tell yourself you can stop drinking anytime you want to, even though you keep getting drunk when you don't mean to?
UHave you missed days of work or school because of drinking?
UDo you have "blackouts"?
12. Have you ever felt that your life would be better if you did not drink?
If you answered yes four or more times, you probably have an alcohol problem and might want to check out A.A. (alcoholics-anonymous.org).
Dear Annie: My husband and I received a group e-mail inviting us to a birthday party for an acquaintance. The man's wife suggested that everyone bring a card with $5-$20 inside, so the birthday boy can buy a mountain bike he desperately wants. Of course, she said we shouldn't feel obligated.
We don't know this couple very well, and we already have plans that weekend and will miss the party. But isn't this tacky? Anonymous
Dear Anonymous: Unless asked, it is inappropriate to tell people what they should give as a gift, and extraordinarily tacky to tell them how much to spend. Good thing you had other plans.
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