DR. WALLACE: I have been dating a sweet guy for about two months, but he does have one habit that really bugs me. We both perform in our high school's drama classes, and often during rehearsals, he will hug and kiss some of the other female cast members. He does this when I'm around and can see it right in front of me and, I'm told, when I'm not around. He seems to think that he is the life of the party and everyone loves him, so he swoops right in and hugs up a storm with as many attractive girls as he can. He even started pecking them on the cheek, but lately the pecks have moved right to the lips! And when he hugs, he really hugs hard and tight! I see him pull the girls in really tight to his body, and once, I saw his left hand drift down a little below this one girl's back for a few moments. I was very uncomfortable seeing this and must admit I found it a bit creepy.
When I question him about his flirty behavior, he says kissing on the set is "Hollywood" and doesn't mean anything other than "professional friendship." I've told him that we are not professionals; we are high school students performing a play. I really like this guy, but I don't like that he thinks a kiss doesn't mean anything. It means a lot to me, and I don't want him sharing kisses with any of the other female cast members. And, by the way, he never kisses or hugs the other guys. All of his actions are directed at attractive girls. Is his behavior as innocent as he claims it is, or am I right to be concerned here? — Wondering About His Wandering Lips, Costa Mesa, California
WONDERING ABOUT WANDERING: This guy's self-esteem is probably low, and flirting gives him a macho feeling; it makes him feel he is more desirable to females. Remind your guy that even though Hollywood is only about 50 miles north of Costa Mesa, he has little in common with the professionals who work there. Tell him that if he doesn't change his ways now, the curtain is about to fall on your relationship's melodrama, and once it does, "The party is over."
TECHNIQUES TO AVOID ANGER
DR. WALLACE: Whenever I'm faced with a difficult challenge, I get really upset if I can't solve it right away. So whenever I fail, I pound my fist on anything around me, I scream and sometimes I even say bad words out loud. What's funny is that I normally never use those words; they just come out of me like a volcano when I'm frustrated. What can I do to stay calm when I can't solve my problems quickly? — Boiling Over in Bellevue, Bellevue, Washington
BOILING OVER: When something doesn't go your way, try to let it go for a little while. Take a "stress break" and do what you can to defuse the emotional buildup, which has caused you to previously act out in the first place.
Start by diverting your attention away from what caused you the frustration. Take a walk, breathe in deeply and exhale very slowly. Repeat this process 10 times while you are walking at a semibrisk pace. You'll soon feel refreshed, and when you return to the problem later, you'll likely have a much better perspective on how to solve it. At the very least, you will reapproach it in a calmer manner from a calmer perspective. In addition to taking a walk, you can always call a friend to talk about issues unrelated to the source of your frustration. Other ideas include taking a shower, treating yourself to a favorite snack or exercising in any manner you prefer.
The key is to end the frustrating activity for a period of time and to cool off before you restart thinking or working on the problem. Force yourself to try some of these suggestions; I trust you will find one that works for you.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.