Q: I went to pick up this girl I've been dating, and she had a big cold sore on her lip. I didn't want to make her feel ashamed, so I didn't say anything, but I was freaked out. I'm really into health, and phobic about germs. When the date was over, I gave her a hug and left her at her door. I haven't talked to her since. It's been a couple of days. She's a real nice girl, and I've been thinking about asking her out again, but I'm not over seeing that thing on her lip. I'm very protective of my sexual health and not sure what to do.

Steve: It's time for you and this nice girl to have a friendly conversation. Millions of people get cold sores, also known as herpes simplex virus-1. There are antiviral creams that can limit breakouts. She should have a discussion with her doctor about how to keep the virus in check.

Mia: Dude, you're right to be concerned. The virus that causes cold sores is extremely contagious. It's also very common. More than half of all Americans are infected with it by the time they reach their 20s.

Use common sense to keep from catching it. That means no kissing when she has an active fever blister. Keep in mind, though, that she still may be contagious even though no lesions are present.

Carriers of the virus can also pass it during oral sex, so refrain from that when the virus is active. Even when she thinks the virus is inactive, use safe-sex techniques during oral sex. Keep in mind that latex condoms don't cover all areas where the virus might lurk.

Oh, and Steve's right about talking to your friend. Go ahead and call her. She'll probably be relieved to hear from you.

Q: I very much want a romantic Christmas. Can you two help me set the mood with some music suggestions? All I hear at the mall and on the radio is the same old stuff.

Mia: Ooh, I like how you think. I just downloaded Leslie Odom Jr.'s Simply Christmas. It's not exactly a romantic CD, but it'll help you relax. I'm also a big fan of Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas is You. Put those songs on, light a fire, pour some spiked egg nog, and have a little fun by the Christmas tree, already. Ho, ho ho!

Steve: If you ask me for help, you've got to like soul and R&B. Start with "This Christmas" by Donny Hathaway, then "Sleigh Ride" by the Ronettes, "May Ev'ry Day Be Christmas" by Irma Thomas and finally - bam! - "Merry Christmas Baby" by Otis Redding.

Between them, Steve and Mia have logged more than a few decades in the single-and-dating world. They're also wise to the ways of married life. They don't always agree, but they have plenty of

answers. Contact them at S&M c/o Daily News, 801 Market St., Philadelphia, PA 19107 or steveandmia@phillynews.com.