Is it ever appropriate to date a friend's ex? I have a longtime friend who has been divorced for the last four years. Her ex has made it clear he would like to see where things can go with me. I am attracted to him, consider him a good friend, but don't want to lose my close friendship with his ex-wife.

If it came down to choosing a friend, I would choose her over him. The divorce was initiated by him. Do I steer clear of this man?

- Wants It Both Ways

Answer: That depends on your friend's state of mind (and heart) about the divorce. Certainly there are divorces that leave people feeling liberated, at one extreme, just as there are those at the other extreme that leave people feeling devastated. What you're considering is, to some people, an unforgivable betrayal; others go out of their way to try to fix their exes up with their friends. (What their friends and exes think of that is another column.)

Presumably you know how your "longtime friend" felt four years ago, and feels now, about her ex. You probably even have an idea of how open-minded she is about loyalties, romantic pairings and whether love indeed does conquer all.

And because you signed it, "Wants It Both Ways" (translation: wants to get away with one?), I suspect that you suspect she wouldn't take it too well.

Fortunately, you have a fairly accessible tiebreaker at your disposal. If you fear even asking her about this would set her off, then you know: You can either have the friend or the guy, but not both.

And if you feel certain she'd be laid-back about being asked, then ask.

By ask, I mean ask how she'd feel about it, in order to make an informed and compassionate choice. You're not asking for permission to see her ex - humans don't own other humans, not even their exes, hard as the angrier ones may try.

Q: I've been a vegetarian for 18 years. We'll be visiting my cousin and his family. He is a part-time farmer, part-time engineer who raises a few turkeys and chickens. He has a habit of talking about them as if they were people while serving them up ("I hope you all enjoy Tom"). I find this kind of offensive, and others in his family have told me it bothers them also. Should I say something to him? And, if so, what would you recommend?

A: How about, to start: "I have a lot more respect for meat-eaters who raise their own food, instead of relying on some abstract manufacturing process to insulate them from the reality of livestock and slaughter"? Because a vegetarian of all people would be in a position to appreciate the integrity of what your cousin is doing, even if you don't agree with the fact (or the flourish) of it.

Then, if you still regard the dead-bird naming as more than silliness and/or more than your gullet can take, you'll be in a much stronger position to gain his sympathy. A gentle plea, along the lines of " . . . but please humor the squeamish and don't anthropomorphize the dead," doesn't sound like too much to ask.