Advice columnist Carolyn Hax answers letters about a slow-moving relationship and a rude party guest.

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DEAR CAROLYN: So, long story short, I met this woman with whom I am infatuated. I think she likes me, too. The problem, however, is that only a few short months ago, she broke up with her boyfriend of four years. I am looking to develop a long-term relationship; she said she is not ready for that yet. But she still wants to keep in touch with me.

Is it ever prudent to wait around for someone, or is it just fruitless? I have been hurt in the past by wanting someone who was unavailable, so I feel scared about getting hurt again. I think she’s a good person and so is not intentionally keeping me on the hook, but, still, I am worried about that stabby feeling in my back. Any advice?

— Rebound?

DEAR REBOUND: The only sure chance you won’t get hurt is never to care about anyone again.

If what you’re worried about is getting hurt in an exact replay of past hurts, then that makes more sense — but it’s also less of a threat than you think, because you have your experience to inform you. Are there familiar signs that you ignored in the past and shouldn’t ignore now?

In that case, then it’s fine to say to her, “No, thanks” — or even, “Sure, let’s keep in touch,” where you then see if she means what she says.

If instead you see no signs you’re chasing someone unavailable again, then go ahead and cultivate the friendship.

The effort might still be fruitless in this case, but that doesn’t automatically mean you should feel around for steel between your shoulder blades. Her intent in saying “Let’s keep in touch” can be honorable, and honorably come to naught. Whose fault would it be if she hoped to fall for you but didn’t?

Proceed slowly, make sure your efforts are being reciprocated, and keep your expectations in check — that’s really all you can do to lessen the chances that you get sucked in again.

DEAR CAROLYN: I am still in shock over a recent incident between a party guest and the host. Guest yelled across the crowded room, “Host, there is something on the plate I picked up; that’s disgusting.” She was not kidding. The host looked flabbergasted and embarrassed and finally said, “Well, then please get another plate.” I am friends with both of them, but I was appalled by Guest and felt so bad for the host, who spent a lot of time and money putting a great party together.

My boyfriend said I was right not to say anything, but I feel like I should have defended the host. What is your take on this?

— Bizarre

DEAR BIZARRE: I think a comment to Host shortly after the incident, along the lines of “Great party, you’ve outdone yourself” would have been just right.

But, even then, it’s OK to trust that Guest was the only one who looked bad. Though Host was no doubt embarrassed, Guest was so rude that you could safely assume everyone sympathized with Host.

Victims of subtle rudeness tend to question themselves, and thus need validation. That’s the one beauty of shocking rudeness: It elevates the victim to hero by default.

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