It's a call to arms between him & muscular girlfriend

DEAR ABBY: I'm average, fitness-wise, and work in an office. My girlfriend, who is naturally athletic, has belonged to a gym for a year. Our two fitness paths collided when I was enjoying a coffee with her and her training partner, "Trixi," at her place one day.

Trixi made a muscle. When I complimented her on her impressive arm definition, she responded I should see my girlfriend's. When my girlfriend flexed, her bicep popped up so high my eyes bulged. Trixi then prodded me to flex. I didn't want to because I knew my muscle wasn't as developed. Trixi felt both our arms and declared mine softer. She then pushed us to arm wrestle. I'm 3 inches taller than my girlfriend, and I'm a man, so I thought I would win.

Anyway, two times on the right and once on the left, I ended up with the back of my hand securely pinned down to the table to their extreme amusement. I felt embarrassed because there was nothing I could do to stop her stronger arms driving me down.

The upshot is, I feel there has been a power shift in our relationship. My girlfriend will now teasingly flex when she wants something. She also enjoys challenging me in public. I have now been defeated in arm wrestling in front of her parents and a group of her cheering girlfriends.

How should I adjust? Must I just accept her superior strength, tell her to tone down her showing off or get myself stronger at the gym?

- Outmuscled in Australia

DEAR OUTMUSCLED: A wise person asks his or her physician before starting a diet and/or exercise program. Then, if you get the go-ahead, go to a gym and gradually begin a regular exercise program. While you're there, ask a trainer to help you get started with the weights and machines so you can learn proper form and build yourself up rather than tear yourself down. If you do, it will not only increase your strength, but benefit you in other ways.

And by the way, your girlfriend must be very immature to deliberately emasculate you in front of her friends and family. By all means tell her to knock off the showing off at your expense because it's demeaning.

Friends abuse

store memberships

DEAR ABBY: I'm wondering how to deal with friends who want to take advantage of my big-box store memberships. I don't mind helping out sometimes, but it seems like they are avoiding the cost of membership while reaping the benefits at my time and expense. They either ask if I mind picking up a particular item for them, or if I will take them so they can shop for themselves. That means spending half a day while they scrutinize every aisle and every item.

Some of these friends are well off financially, so it isn't that they can't afford the membership. Am I wrong to feel imposed upon?

- Indiana shopper

DEAR SHOPPER: You are only as imposed upon as you allow yourself to be. If it isn't convenient to take these people shopping, no law says you must. If you want to make sure a user never asks again, all you have to say is, "Great! And afterward you can take me out to lunch/dinner."