Dear Ask Annie,

So there's this girl...

Okay, here's what happened. We got to know each other this year- we were both juniors in high school, we'll be seniors when school starts in a couple of weeks- because we both did musical. We've been talking all summer, and I told her I was going to ask her out when school starts, when I can actually see her. Except I said that back in June, so I'm hoping she's forgotten about it, because what I need to know now is how to get out of it.

I mean, it's not like there's anything wrong with her. She's smart (but not too smart, and she's definitely not a teacher's pet, in fact she's kind of a smartmouth to the teachers, which I like), she's really outgoing and nice and all that other stuff, and she's also hot, believe me. And it's not like we just don't work together- we have a whole bunch of inside jokes and things. She's one of the few people that actually thinks I'm funny when I'm just being weird. All that sounds really good, and it is, and actually, that's the problem, because it's not like I can come up with something wrong with her or 'us' that I can use as an excuse.

The problem is, I've had issues with my ex-girlfriends. I mean, when they were still my girlfriends. I really don't want to admit this to the entire public, but I kind of have to for you to get the point- well... I cheated on my first girlfriend. Then the next one, I swear I was going to break up with her, except she found out I liked this other girl first, and that didn't end pretty. But I ended up going out with the other girl, and- I mean, you get the point. I am not good with girls. Well, I'm good with getting them, I'm just not good with keeping them. I'm, like, out of control. I'm not proud of this, I swear, and like I said I really don't want to put it out there for everyone to see- is there some way you can answer this without putting it in the paper?- but you need to know this to get the point.

And the point is- now how do I tell this new girl that I can't go out with her because I'd probably end up massively messing it up and making her hate me? I don't want to do it in a way that would upset her now, but whatever I do it has to be better than asking her out and then crushing her later.

So how do I break up with her before I even ask her out? And without making her too upset?

Not a Good Guy, Trying to be Good

Dear Not,

Okay, I've figured out the real problem here, the one you were trying not to mention- you don't really like her.

Think about it. You're trying to rationalize to yourself all of these reasons you should want to go out with her, but you still have a major reason that you won't let yourself.

I bet she's the one who brought up the idea of you two going out, didn't she? Then you probably talked yourself into the idea by saying all of those things you said in your letter- she's pretty, she's smart, she has a good sense of humor- but you set a date way off in the future hoping that something would come up to make it go away before school started.

But it didn't, and now school's about to start and you're worried about actually having to go out with this girl you really don't want to.

How do I know? Next time come up with a better excuse. If you really liked her in that way, you'd be willing to change for her. You'd be so sure that you wouldn't do anything to hurt her that it wouldn't even cross your mind to let it stop you.

So the solution to the real problem here is very simple. Just tell you that you don't really want to go out with her. Tell her that you felt pressured to ask her out for some reason- you don't have to blame her- and that over the summer you decided you really don't want to, and you want to (and you realize this is a cliche) just be friends. It's not your fault, and it's not her fault. Some people are meant to just be friends. Make sure she knows that you don't think there's anything wrong with her, like you said, and that you really do still want to be friends with her, and then just let it go and see where things go from there. You'll probably have to keep reassuring her that there's nothing bad about her that turned you off. You'll probably also have to give her some space until she gets over it. I hope you two manage to stay friends, though. You're a guy who didn't want to hurt a girl so much that he almost asked her out when he didn't want to. There aren't that many guys like you in high school.

Annie

Dear Ask Annie,

I just wanted to say thanks for convincing (even though you didn't mean to...) my boyfriend to ask me out a couple months ago. And while you were wrong about a lot of things, you're right about him being a pretty special guy. That's why I like him.

The Girlfriend of a Very Good Guy