“I hate my guy’s friends!”

By Julie Weingarden Dubin

I’ll never forget the guy I dated whose three best friends were like a group of seventh-grade (mean) girls. His pals needed to “approve” me, gossiped way too much and spent more on clothes and hair products than I did. Ick. I just couldn’t get past his high-maintenance trio.

We’ve all been there: Great-seeming guys, nightmare friends. How do you know when to deal with his buddies and when to run? We asked psychotherapist and relationship expert Ellen Chute whether each of these types of friends could be tamed:

Hateful Friend #1—The inside jokester
Elizabeth, 32, of Chicago, was on the fence about a guy she’d been dating a few months, but when she met his friends, she knew that she needed to make a break. “The guy was intelligent, but he had low self-esteem,” she says. When she met his friends (who all worked in the same IT department), they didn’t include her in any conversations but instead made weird inside jokes all night. “It was awful,” she says. “His friends seemed to lack the basic social skills necessary to talk to someone they didn’t already know, and I started to see my date was no different.”

How to make nice: First, let your date know you feel left out. Believe it or not, he may not realize you’re not hanging on their every word. Try saying: “Hey, it seems like you guys are really close, but when you tell all those stories about work people, I feel like an outsider.” If he says, “We just get like that when we’re together”—that’s not good. But if he apologies and promises to steer the topic away from inside references to middle-school hijinks, then you know he has a sensitivity chip. And who knows? You may find his friends are actually more socially-evolved once they get talking about mainstream topics like Barack Obama or the post-writer-strike TV options.

Hateful Friend #2—The Vince Vaughn type
This is the guy who — like the characters Vince Vaughn inevitably plays — tries to convince your date that women are balls and chains and he’s better off without you. Briana, 31, of Los Angeles, can relate. She fell in love with her boyfriend right away, but loathed his best friend. He constantly put her down and tried to persuade her boyfriend to give Briana the boot. But she wasn’t going to let one jerk scare her away from a great guy. So she decided to be the bigger person and reach out to his friend. “When I needed to book a speaker for work, I called him, and he hooked me up with someone,” she says. “He was great and made me shine at work—and I made him shine.” He ended up apologizing and telling Briana he had her pegged all wrong. “I think he gained respect for me when he saw that I was able to separate work from our personal problems.” Now, Briana, her beau and his bud all hang out happily.

How to make nice: Remember: This pal isn’t your guy. And just because your man thinks his Old School-ish pal is amusing, doesn’t mean he values his opinion. Chances are, the VV type is jealous that your man found someone great. Or, he feels threatened that you’re taking his best friend away (really!). Do let your date know if the guy says something truly jerky (“You two will last maybe three weeks”). If he knows his friend is being rude to you and doesn’t do anything, or says something like, “Let it go” or “He talks to everyone that way,” then do yourself a huge favor and move on.

Hateful Friend #3—The player
How do you know this guy can’t keep it in his pants? Because he flirts with you! When Alison, 34, of Philadelphia, started dating Sam, his best friend propositioned her. “I never told Sam about Jude coming on to me because I felt like I could handle it,” she says. “When Jude suggested that we get together alone, I said, ‘No thanks’.” But Jude continued to make her feel uncomfortable, and Alison soon realized she didn’t like Sam enough to put up with his best friend, Mr. Octopus.

How to make nice: If it’s just a glance or two in your direction, try ignoring it (some guys just can’t help drooling over women). But if he makes a clear advance or says something truly suggestive, say something right away: “I’m dating Jason and am not at all interested in you.” And do tell your date, just in case he hears a twisted version of the story (“Man, it was crazy, your lady came on to me outside the bathroom”). Chances are, your date knows that his friend is a dog with women, and will (a) tell his pal to keep his hands off, and (b) keep you two apart as much as possible.

Hateful Friend #4—The mooch
So you’re dating a guy whose roommate thinks it’s fine to tag along for Thai food or to the movies? It happens. Amy, 26, of Farmington Hills, Michigan, was annoyed when her date’s roommate felt it was fine to hang out with them in front of the TV on an early date. She thought: What’s with a guy who lets his roommates join in a date? But she didn’t know how to get the roomie pal to quit hanging out with them.

How to make nice: Some folks are just clueless—and if your guy happens to room with one of these unfortunate souls, you shouldn’t hold it against him. That said, it’s not a good sign if your date can’t let his buddy know he’s not welcome on his dates. Let your date know you’d love to hang out more with him—and just with him. Let him know nicely that you’d prefer if the pal didn’t join. If his friend continues to show up, show your date to the door.

One last word of advice: A guy’s friends are very important to him (just as yours probably are to you). So know that you may have to tolerate some times with a less than favorite person, but if your guy’s a keeper, it’s worth it!

Julie Weingarden Dubin writes for Cosmopolitan, Redbook, and Shape. She is the author of How to Plan an Elegant Second Wedding and lives in Huntington Woods, Michigan.

[via MSN]

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Our surprising first date!

By Chelsea Kaplan

What does a “date” mean to you? If you automatically say “dinner and a movie,” you don’t know what you’re missing. Sure, that strategy was fine the first time around, but now that you’re more mature, self-confident, and back on the dating scene, it’s time to think outside the first-date box. Take a cue from these folks who broke out of the old stand-by evening and opted for more unconventional settings.

Home (Depot) is where the heart is
“Alton and I planned to go on a picnic for our first date, but it was pouring down rain, so we decided to go out to a restaurant instead. But beforehand we stopped at Home Depot because Alton was building a new house since his wife got theirs in the divorce settlement. I forget what he needed, but I can tell you that our very first kiss was in the cleaning-supply aisle! Our relationship has been soaring ever since, and we are getting married this September. Now every time I see a Home Depot, it makes me smile.”
– Susie Langerhaus, 37, Emmitsburg, PA

Lights, camera, action!
“I met Amy at a friend’s party, and we immediately connected because we are both huge movie buffs. I suggested we catch a movie for our first date, but we had trouble deciding what to see—there were so many good ones out. So Amy suggested we see them all. We watched four movies back-to-back, lunching on popcorn, candy and soda and chatting between each show. Not only did we catch up on all the movies we wanted to see, but we had a fantastic first date.”
– Mark Hobkin, 53, St. Louis, MO

Be open to the pots-ibilities
“I like to know what a woman enjoys doing before we go out so I can plan our first date accordingly. When Julie said she likes those paint-your-own-pottery places, I wanted to kick myself. I was in far from the best mood when we met, but her enthusiasm and fun-loving attitude immediately got the best of me. We joked around, painted silly things on vases, and occasionally on each other. I can honestly say it was one of the best dates I’ve ever had.”
– Jonathan Millstein, 38, New York, NY

Theater act
“When I felt like I was ready to begin dating again, a friend fixed me up with Don. She said he was perfect for me because he loves his kids as much as I love mine. Before our first date, Don asked me if I enjoyed the theater, and I enthusiastically said yes. You can imagine how confused I was when we pulled into an elementary school on our big night out. But I soon realized what was up. We saw a fourth-grade production of Stone Soup featuring Don’s daughter. I never would have pegged that as my ideal first date, but I was impressed that Don wanted to show that his children were his top priority. We began dating exclusively soon after our ‘theater’ date!”
– Linda Bridgham, 44, Highland Park, IL

Salsa, anyone?
“When I was in my twenties, a typical date was dinner (meat and potatoes) followed by big-band dancing. So when Paul asked me out for dinner and dancing, that’s just what I imagined. Instead, we went to a crowded Spanish tapas restaurant with salsa music. After a dinner of blood sausages, smoked meats and olives, Paul gave me a salsa lesson. Though the food wasn’t my norm and the dancing was a bit suggestive for a first date, I must admit I totally enjoyed that unconventional night!”
– Miriam Hodges, 65, Winter Park, FL

Poker perfection
“I usually take a first date to my favorite Italian restaurant around the corner. But once, I opted for a day trip to Atlantic City after I realized she and I both loved to play poker. We lost some money but had a great time. And I found myself even more attracted to her after I witnessed her card-playing skills.”
– Frank Brenner, 48, Cherry Hill, NJ

Now that’s amusing
“I hadn’t been to an amusement park in years — probably since my kids were little — so when Kris suggested we go to Six Flags for our first date, I was a little taken aback. We ended up having a blast—we ate funnel cakes, rode all of the roller coasters and Kris even won me an enormous stuffed giraffe. A few months later, we went again with all of our kids, and now that we’re married, we’ve made it a family ritual to go every few months.”
– Debbie Resnick, 55, Conyers, GA

Sowing the seeds of love
“When Tom and I spoke before our first date, I casually mentioned I was going to plant some herbs that weekend. When we met up, I thought we were visiting an art museum, but instead, he had loaded up the back of his car with all sorts of herb plants plus hoes and soil. We spent the afternoon gardening and getting to know each other. I was impressed that Tom showed an interest in one of my hobbies. Plus, focusing on an activity alleviated a lot those first-date awkward moments. My herbs are still thriving, as is my relationship with Tom.”
– Sue Poston, 60, Fairfield, CT

Animal behavior
“A date once took me on an afternoon trip to the zoo for a first date. It just so happened that we went during mating season, and the animals were all quite amorous, if you know what I mean. It set an interesting tone, to say the least, but I think we both felt a bit more relaxed from all that laughing.”
– Ricardo Colon, 44, Phoenix, AZ

The (pedi)cure for the common date
“I met Claudia through the New York Road Runner’s Club when we were both training for the New York City Marathon. Our feet were in terrible shape from all that running, and we constantly joked about it. I was nervous about asking Claudia out, probably because my divorce was fairly recent. Luckily, she took the lead. One day after a run she mentioned she was going for a pedicure and dared me to get one with her. I took her up on it and we spent our first ‘date’ at one of those drop-in nail salons. After, we walked our pretty toes — hers red, mine buffed — to lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon getting to know each other better.”
– Jeff Lai, 46, New York, NY

Writer and editor Chelsea Kaplan’s work has been featured in Men’s Health, New Woman, Bridal Guide, The Mommy Times, and www.thefamilygroove.com.

[via MSN]

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Your man’s mood swings

By Elise Nersesian

Trying to figure out the best time to broach a touchy topic, ask your guy a favor or convince him to do something you know he’ll dread? Well, it’s easier than you think if you learn how to tune in to his body clock, says Gabrielle Lichterman, founder of Hormonology.info and co-author of 28 Days: What Your Cycle Reveals About Your Love Life, Moods, and Potential. While women, we all know, experience hormone-induced mood swings on a monthly basis, Lichterman attests that men, too, are affected by hormonal highs and lows—only their levels fluctuate daily. Want to get his hormones working for you? Read on.

If you need his help moving, fighting, or fixing something…
Ask: from 9-12 a.m.

It should come as no surprise that guys wake up bursting with testosterone. And aside from the obvious frisky factor, this surge in hormones makes him ambitious and determined, says Lichterman. This is the perfect time to ask him for a favor, particularly one that makes him feel like Mr. Fix-It. Buying a car? Indulge his competitive streak, and drag him along to help you haggle with the salesman and score a great deal. Or, cash in on his peak in spatial thinking and ask him to move your couch, or measure your closet space. He’ll feel heroic, and you’ll reap the benefits.

If you want to get him to agree to your plans…
Ask: from 3-4 p.m.

Trying to convince him to sign up for ballroom dancing lessons, commit to your new book club or otherwise agree to do something that would normally send men screaming in the opposite direction? Then this late-afternoon window is the perfect opportunity, says Lichterman, since his super-low testosterone levels will make him mellow and amenable to pretty much anything you throw on the table.

If you want to broach a touchy topic…
Ask: from 8-10 p.m.

At this hour, another hormone called oxytocin — a.k.a. the “cuddle hormone” due to its intimacy-inducing effects — is on the rise in his bloodstream, says Lichterman. That means this is a prime time to resolve a lingering spat (“It hurt my feelings when you didn’t call today”) or get a grievance off your chest (“Will you please shave your goatee?”). You’ll probably get met with nothing but a sincere apology and the promise to change his ways. Sure, his sweetness may be as much due to timing as a true desire to please, but hey, who cares as long as your wish is his command?

Elise Nersesian has written for Redbook, Stuff, and other publications.

Article courtesy of Happen magazine, www.happenmag.com.

[via MSN]

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Coffee and Calcium Loss

By Robert H. Shmerling, M.D., Harvard Medical School, for MSN Health & Fitness

Q: For years I have read that drinking coffee may lead to calcium loss in the bones and worsen osteoporosis. Is this true?

A: Osteoporosis is a condition marked by reduced bone strength and an increased risk of fracture. Aging and, in women, the loss of estrogen during menopause are major risk factors.

Other risk factors include:
  • Female gender (although osteoporosis is also common among men over the age of 70)
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Low intake of calcium and vitamin D
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Taking a glucocorticoid (steroid) medication
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Prior low-impact fracture
  • Low body weight (especially if it leads to loss of menstrual periods)
  • An overactive thyroid (or taking too much thyroid medication)
Coffee intake is not considered a significant risk factor for osteoporosis. But there has been concern about coffee’s impact on bone strength because coffee can impair absorption of calcium from the digestive tract. This probably matters most when coffee intake is high (e.g., four or more cups of coffee daily) and calcium intake is low.

While many high quality research studies have not found that coffee consumption increases the risk of osteoporosis, a few have suggested otherwise. When a potential risk factor has a modest impact in some studies and no effect in others, it’s probably because the studies used different methods. At any rate, it’s likely that the impact (if any) of coffee on bone strength is small.

It’s tough to study the effect of coffee consumption on the risk of osteoporosis because one must rely on self-reported consumption and because coffee intake alters other risk factors. For example, people who smoke cigarettes also tend to drink lots of coffee; one might conclude that coffee intake increased osteoporosis risk in a particular group of people when it was really the smoking. Also, big coffee drinkers may drink less milk than people who don’t like coffee. In fact, several studies found that the possible negative effects of coffee consumption on bone strength were mostly limited to people with low calcium intake and that the problem could be overcome by increased calcium intake.

The bottom line
There are much more important risk factors for osteoporosis than coffee intake. So, enjoy your coffee and do what you can to modify the other well-established risk factors listed above.

Do you have a health question you'd like to ask Harvard Medical School's experts? Send an e-mail to experts@microsoft.com. Please include Ask Harvard in the subject line.

Our experts respond to one question each week and the responses are posted on Mondays on MSN Health. We regret that we cannot provide a personalized response to every submission.

Robert H. Shmerling, M.D. is associate physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. He has been a practicing rheumatologist for over 20 years at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

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