Question: I have a group of friends from college, and we are quite close. One of them pursued a career while the rest of us balanced career and family ambitions. She was recently named to the board of directors for a major nonprofit that she has supported for a long time. She was thrilled, and I was thrilled for her.

Last week, my husband and I were invited to a $100-per-plate benefit for her nonprofit. Since we would also have to purchase new clothes and a baby-sitter, this event is a bit out of our reach at the moment. I RSVP'd no.

Yesterday, my friend told me she was hurt I wasn't attending and asked why, because this nonprofit is important to her. I told her it was simply too expensive. She was quiet for a moment, and then told me she attended wedding showers, my wedding, baby showers, three christenings, and numerous birthday parties for my kids (this is true). She told me that after all that, it would mean a lot if we could attend a function for her.

I was floored by this. Is she "bean counting"? Also, isn't she still able to have all those events in her honor should she choose?

Finally, those costs were spread out; a $25 gift here and there is different from a $500 expense in one evening.

Attending this would not be impossible, but it would be very difficult. My husband thinks we should make a $200 donation and not attend the event. Is this a fair compromise? Do I even have to compromise?

Answer: Yes, at a minimum. I suggest you do better, though: Apologize, then assure her you'll scrape up your pennies and go.

She's right, and your defensiveness says you know it. "Bean counting"? "A $25 gift here and there"? "We would also have to purchase new clothes"?

Holy excuses, Batman.

What your friend has rightly pointed out is that she waved your flag again and again and again — and asked you to do the same for her exactly once.

And you begged off on an inconvenience. She's not scorekeeping; she's exposing your bias.

You and I both know you can arrange a baby-sitting swap with another family you know, or call in a favor.

You can pull a Scarlett O'Hara and wear the curtains.

That's what friends do when it's time to come through. They don't say, "Well, if you find a husband, I'll buy you a vase."

Q: There's this guy I always thought was cute, but he had a girlfriend. In the last few months, though, we both became single, started flirting, then dated. It was a lot of fun; there was great chemistry, we have a lot of interests in common, and he is very into me, relationship-oriented, available, and sweet.

But a few weeks in I started getting uncomfortable and ended it. A lot of our conversations were devolving into his expressing his insecurities, and my either reassuring him or expressing my own fears in order to somehow level the playing field. His long-term relationship was a painful one, in which he felt like a victim of his partner's ups and downs. I think he's been a part of a lot of insecurity-based interpersonal drama in the past.

So I told him I didn't think the time was right for us. He was disappointed but took it well. Since then, we've been in casual contact as friends.

I've been on a number of dates with guys I met online since then, but none seems as enthusiastic about me or as compatible. Do you think there's a way I can embrace or at least accept this guy's sensitive side, or does it sound like a big liability? I myself am not always the totally secure, confident individual I imagine myself dating. I don't want to jerk him around or give him false hope, but I also don't want to dismiss him if he's just a diamond in the rough.

A: Can't it just be that he needs more than "a few months" to get over his ex?

To answer your question: When you're not sure about making a certain choice, it's helpful to imagine it in the bluntest possible words.

Such as: "I dumped him because his drama got on my nerves, but several failed dates have me thinking he might be the best I can do ...?" (better than I initially thought, better than nothing?) "?...?and he's cute enough for me to rationalize it."

If you think that's accurate, then you know what to do with this diamond-in-the-rough idea.

If that's not accurate, then you need to make a 100 percent desperation-free accounting of what, exactly, makes him a just-right-for-you diamond, now, as-is. Anything less than that is teeing up to whack him twice.

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