When your boyfriend is a flirt

I'm at a party. Samantha's on my left. Didi's on my right. My head's swiveling back and forth like a weather vane: I'm trying to entertain them both. Suddenly I'm aware of two hazel-green eyes shooting lightning bolts from across the room-straight at my head. They belong to my girlfriend, Sarah. I think I'm in trouble. I think I'm in big trouble.

Was I flirting? Tough call. I definitely wasn't doing what my friend Drew does-Drew, aka Drac, who feeds on female affection and ricochets from one girl to the next like a human pinball. But I also wasn't quite as innocent as my friend J.J., who has tons of girl "friends" but really has eyes only for Jaime, and everyone knows it including Jaime. The fact is, whether or not I was flirting wasn't what really mattered.

What mattered was that I was being uncool to Sarah (who's a pretty cool girl)-and the way she handled it is one of the reasons we've lasted as long as we have.

See, there's no set formula for identifying when your boyfriend's a flirt, but there is a point when you have a right to say something about his, well, abundance of affection for other girls. That point comes, simply, when his behavior starts to bother you. Of course, if you freak every time he looks at another girl, check your jealousy meter: You may be making demands he's not willing (or required) to meet. And if you serve him up with an ultimatum, face it: You're taking a risk.

That's what happened with J.J. and his ex Diane, who exploded when she found female voices on his answering machine. "It's me or them," she barked. He (reluctantly) picked them-which later became Jaime-but I think eventually neither J.J. nor Diane regretted his choice, once they got over the initial sting of a romance gone sour. J.J.'s better off with Jaime, who's confident enough to deal with his slew of girl "friends." And Diane's now in hog heaven with Wally, who's never been a real social guy (and who worships the pavement she walks on).

Drew's current flame, on the other hand, has chosen to put up (and shut up) when it comes to Drew's antics-which isn't easy for her. "I love Drew when we're alone, but as soon as we step out the door everything changes," she told me a while back.
"What can I do?" I didn't have the heart to tell her that not even a ton of garlic would persuade old Drac to retire his cape; I figured she'd pick that up soon enough herself and dump him for a guy who's a little less of a slimeball (sorry, Drew!).

As for Sarah and me? I'm happy to report that I'm the one who changed my ways-with help from Sarah, who handled things in her usual cool way. "You were flirting," she said, gently but firmly (once I had finally extracted myself from Didi and Samantha). "I was just being friendly," I countered. "You were flirting," she repeated. "You know I don't mind you being friends with other girls. But do you need quite so much affection from Didi and Sam when you've already got all of mine?" She put it that simply, and after about two seconds, I realized she was right. It just wasn't worth losing Sarah to have a few more minutes of attention from Didi, Sam, or any other girl. Not that I've become antisocial or anything. I'm just a little less "friendly". . . and now I've got the best of both worlds.