Q: A nice-sounding professional man contacted me through an online dating site. After a phone chat, we agreed to meet for coffee. Forty-five minutes before the meeting, he called to say he might be "just a few minutes late." I showed up on time, but he still hadn't arrived after 30 minutes. I phoned and got his answering machine. I left a message that it didn't feel good to wait any longer and I was taking off. It's the next day, and I haven't heard from him. Now I'm wondering if I should have waited longer or left a message asking him to call so we could reschedule. Should I call him now? I guess I wanted to put the ball in his court to gauge his character. I have a history of men not calling or showing up as promised, and I'm tired of it.

Steve: My dear, you have already determined his character. No further calls are necessary. A gentleman would've called to apologize and reschedule. This professional man is no gentleman. Continue to discard the cads; eventually, you'll meet a man who respects you.

Mia: No way should you have waited any longer. The guy is a dud. Get back online and see who else wants to take you out.

Q: The other day an acquaintance called whom I hadn't spoken to in nearly a decade. A few days later, I got an e-mail from him saying that he and his wife were behind on their rent and would I be willing to send him a couple of thousand dollars. I was so taken aback that I didn't know how to respond. Then another friend e-mailed me and asked me for money, too. I didn't respond. Now when certain friends call, I feel nervous. Are they going to ask me for money too? I'm worried about my job. Do you have any advice on how I should handle this?

Mia: With so many Americans out of work, this is something a lot of gainfully employed people are experiencing. But the hard truth is that although you want to help your friends, you have to put yourself first.

Would it hurt you financially if you lent money to a friend who never paid you back? I'm all for helping those experiencing hard times, but you shouldn't do it if it winds up hurting your own bottom line. Your friends, if they really are your friends, will understand.

Steve: Any kind of financial transaction with a friend is usually a bad idea. There may be other ways to help, though. Perhaps you could take them to lunch. Or, if they have children, send them some gifts. Listening as friends share their worries and offering advice can help, too. But you needn't feel guilty for not doling out cash.