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Eat, pry, love

I have a suggestion for the woman wondering whether her boyfriend really has money or is carrying a million in debt: run a credit check. A friend's daughter almost married a wonderful guy who turned out to be a gambling addict. After that, my friend started running credit checks on every guy his daughter started getting serious with (she was over 30 at the time). Some of us aren't the greatest choosers, and talented liars pick partners who can't or won't confront them, so a little sleuthing isn't unreasonable. — Been Bitten

There are some good liars out there, but even the craftiest can't hide everything all the time. Something will eventually slip through the cracks. Sometimes, a femur. Remember, Scott Peterson didn't have a gambling problem. And sure, a credit check would probably pick up on a man who does. Unfortunately, it's illegal to do one without permission. And since the credit check, and who ordered it, will likely show up on the person's credit report, what you're suggesting is like throwing a brick through somebody's window, but taping your business card to it first.

Your friend apparently fails to see the irony in taking the devious approach to helping his daughter avoid the devious. He probably tells himself he's just protecting his little girl — his little girl of 30-plus, who he never managed to teach to vet men for herself. He could really mess things up for her, should some nice guy find out Daddy's been feeling up his finances. Being in a relationship isn't license to gallop through a person's privacy. "Make yourself at home" means "my fridge is your fridge," not that you should feel free to scoop up hair and nail clippings and bribe somebody at the crime lab to run them through "Trace."

If you're continually ending up in the arms of con boys, you don't hire Nancy Drew; you work to change that. Don't assume you're a poor chooser. You might be an excellent chooser — excellent at choosing the best partner to replay whatever number Mommy Dearest did on you. But, chances are, you're desperate for love — making you desperate to ignore pesky inconsistencies that scream "That isn't his yacht, he doesn't work for the CIA," and in worst cases, "Get out before somebody has to get you out — by digging between the rose bushes for your remains."

Of course, most bad guys you'll meet are serial jerks, not serial killers. To avoid them, lose any romantic notions about "love at first sight," which is really idiocy at first sight: deciding somebody's "the one" because they have a cute cowlick and broad shoulders and you haven't had sex for six months. This doesn't mean looking for love should give way to looking for evidence, just that you should reserve judgment until you've had ample time to see somebody's true character, which comes out in those little moments when they think nobody's looking.

To catch particularly clever cons, Dr. Barbara Oakley, author of Evil Genes, advises talking to "the little people" — a receptionist, janitor, someone who knows them in passing: people they aren't trying to win over. You should meet the medium-sized people (friends, family and co-workers) and see if you all seem to be talking about the same guy. Most important, you have to be comfortable enough being alone to want to know who somebody really is — before they steal your heart, then head to the pawn shop to see what they can get for your iPod and TV.

Speak now or forever hold your piece

I have a crush on my neighbor of two years. I don't rush into dating — I like to get to know a girl so I see we'll be a good fit. Typically, I end up making more friends than girlfriends. I now see this girl's everything I'm looking for. Unfortunately, she now has a boyfriend. I don't want to break anyone up, but I'd still like to say something. — Late

It is wise not to rush into asking a woman out. At least wait until she turns around so you can see that she's a woman — one you happen to be attracted to — and not a guy with really pretty hair. Be honest: You're yet another guy floating what he hopes is a plausibly deniable wimpout: a creative excuse for being too big a weenie to risk rejection. You get to know a girl by dating her. If you don't like what you get to know on the first date, you don't ask for a second one. If you must say something now, try this: "Got any cute friends?" Should you meet one, see that you ask her out before you're so far into the friend zone that you're French-braiding each other's hair.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or adviceamy@aol.com. Read her blog and more at advicegoddess.com.

  • Most bad guys you'll meet are serial jerks, not serial killers.

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