Dear Harlan: When I was a freshman in high school, I met a boy from another state on a social networking site. We talked quite frequently then, but eventually lost touch through the years. We recently reconnected over the summer, and he seems too good to be true. He talks to me like I'm his princess, and I'm completely head over heels for him. I've never met him in person, but he wants to meet me in a neutral location for spring break. We are both 20 years old and in separate colleges. The real kicker is that he wants to stay in a hotel together for this weekend trip. Should I trust my gut instinct that he's not a dangerous predator and stay with him? What do you advise? – Long-Distance Internet Lover
Dear Long-Distance Internet Lover: It could be hot – the best night of your life. Or it could be the biggest mistake – or last night of your life. I know you don't think it's a flawless plan, or your gut wouldn't have told you to write to me. There's a part of your gut that says, "Maybe I shouldn't stay at a hotel in the middle of nowhere with a boy I've never dated because he might be a dangerous predator." I know – you don't want to mess things up or miss out on the experience of a lifetime, but it's the wrong decision. Let me be clear – HE COULD HURT YOU, RAPE YOU OR KILL YOU. Chances are none of this will happen, but it's a possibility. Tell him this plan makes you uncomfortable and see if he's motivated to find another plan that works. If he pressures you, discourages you or makes his needs more important than your concerns, he is NOT too good to be true. He's not sweet, nice or kind. Remember, there will be plenty of vacations to meet at a neutral place and share a hotel room. And really, what's this about a neutral place? You should meet in a place that is smart, safe and totally not neutral. Want a better plan? Have him visit your town. Have him stay at a hotel by himself. Go on a date. Then start a face-to-face relationship that feels 100 percent comfortable.
Dear Harlan: Why are guys such jerks? Why do they act as though girls' feelings are non-existent? Please help me. I am so tired of getting hurt by men. – Jerk Magnet
Dear Jerk Magnet: I'm so sorry you're hurting. Beyond getting professional help, if you're always getting hurt, ask yourself three questions: (1) Where am I meeting these jerks? If you're meeting the same kind of men in the same places, start meeting men in different places (while they are sober and during daylight hours). Daylight and sobriety are jerk filters. (2) How fast am I moving before getting naked? The longer you wait before getting physically naked, the easier it gets to spot jerks before getting hurt. Men who want to use you will NOT stick around or work to meet your needs. (3) Do I make excuses for men who hurt me? The first time a man treats you poorly, tell him. The next time he does the same thing, say good-bye. Getting hurt is part of love. But time, location and boundaries are powerful ways to filter out the jerks. (c) Harlan Cohen 2012. Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.
Harlan is author of "Getting Naked: Five Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life (While Fully Clothed and Totally Sober)" (St. Martin's Press). Write Harlan at harlan(at)helpmeharlan.com or visit online: www.helpmeharlan.com. All letters submitted become property of the author. Send paper to Help Me, Harlan!, 3501 N. Southport Ave., Suite 226, Chicago, IL 60657.