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Do Not Go Sleeveless After Forty Just Trust Me On This One

Updated on May 9, 2011

Just Say, "No" To Sleeveless! - Don't Get Me Started!

In talking with a friend recently who is about my age, she was telling me about this dinner party she went to and how everyone there was telling her how pretty she looked. She was thrilled as she knew she was carrying extra weight but alas, she thought that the camouflage she had draped herself in had managed to fool the public. When she excused herself and went into the bathroom, there was the dreaded full length mirror. Taking a glance and then a real look, she saw what they saw and it wasn't pretty at all. In fact, she thinks that they were giving her the "you look so pretty" pity party instead of honest comments. When I asked her what she was wearing, she began with, "Well it is sleeveless." I stopped her right there. Just say, "NO" to sleeveless! - Don't Get Me Started!

No one over forty (male or female) should wear sleeveless and let me tell you why. Even if you have the most buff arms in the world, a sleeveless shirt on a forty or older just translates as a desperate cry to the world that you think you're still in your twenties. I'm here to tell you that you aren't and you need to stop it. The worst part is that often these shirts (in the case of women but yes, I've seen men do it too) are often partnered up with a pair of Capri pants. Now unless you're going to be digging for clams you need not wear these either...ever. I get that your whole life you've lived to look like Mary Tyler Moore on the Dick Van Dyke show but come on people, look at yourself in these outfits in a full length mirror and I defy you to not see yourself for the dumpy creature you've made yourself by dressing this way.

I get it that some of you are going to say, "You're only as old as you feel." But sometimes you have to act (or in this case) dress your age. I'm not saying you have to wear something that is completely polyester or without style at all but I am saying that it's about time to retire the overall shorts, kids. You also need to realize that just because the "kids" are all wearing something doesn't mean that you should wear it too. Yes, to some of us, all of this seems so obvious and has no need to be repeated but look around the next time you're in a grocery store or at a mall and I'm telling you right now these words will come back to you and you'll see that I was right, that it needed to be said.

Here's a little help for you to figure out if what you're about to wear out should be seen worn by you or not. Put the whole thing together, pants, socks, underwear (for those that wear it), shirt and whatever accessories you're going to put on and stand in front of the mirror. Do you have a knit cap on with a skull and cross bones? Remove it immediately. Do you have a shirt on with some "cool" phrase like, "Jimmy's lube shop?" Take it off. Are your pants Capri length or so baggy that they look as if they were featured in a rap video? Get those off too. Now take a good long, scary look at yourself. Unless you are Jack LaLanne or Jackie Warner from Bravo's show, Work Out, most likely you're going to want to cover up but what to put on? Go back in the closet (albeit briefly) and pull out something that fits and looks good on you - no, not the shirt you let the twenty year old at Hollister talk you into (you thought you were doing great with him while he was thinking about his commission on an $80 t-shirt) or the pants with the "whiskering" you think makes your crotch look bigger. Somewhere in there are clothes that make you look good and are appropriate for your age, find them.

I'm thrilled that 40 is the new 60 or that 50 is the new 30 or whatever the crap they tell us to buy more supplements and work out. I'm glad that we can all look so young and healthy but let's also be realistic. Sometimes you just have to spend some real quality time with yourself and determine if you want to be someone that people look at for the right reasons or because they can't believe someone your age still thinks they can pull off a tank top. Just say, "NO" to sleeveless! - Don't Get Me Started!

UPDATE: Okay, so many people have gotten sooo upset about this hub that I wrote a all of you just need to get your panties out of a wad and get over it, it's not like I'm saying the simple black dress should go the rebuttal here (after reading Joe's comments)...


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      Rose 3 years ago

      I think its true they should dress with sleeves, look like old shades that might think they are new...dress age appropriate, not like a kid, not old somewhere in between, at least when you are out in public, what you do at home is up to you.

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      SheShe 4 years ago

      Have never seen a age appropriate how to dress book, and I would hate to see your attire. People should take a good look at how they look, and if you are gay I'm sure you get a lot of roll eyes just because. Who cares about people that you don't know and what they think...Why even look their way. It's your opinion , and mine is wear what you feel good in, and F### what people who are meddling think!

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      karen 5 years ago

      Oh Please...enough with the don't wear this or that after this age or that...Gets on my nerves...some 3 year olds can't pull off the sleeveless look.

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      roByn 5 years ago

      asshats should not be allowed to breathe.

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      Someonewhothinksuranidiot 5 years ago

      You are an idiot

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      Eleni 5 years ago

      I must say the person writing this obvioulsly has huge issues and i must agree with the other poster "mindless".

      I am forty five, i have the best body i ever had and feel better than i ever have. I will be going out on the weekend and sorry to tell you but i will be wearing a bustier with skin tight black crop pants, and believe me if you see me you will be rolling your eyes and thinking how good i look and you would never ever guess my age either. So if you have issues which is quite evident keep them to yourself and too bad for you but the rest of us that feel secure within our bodies and have confidence will be damned if we allowed some insecure reject to tell us what to wear. Shame on you!!!!

      You know i would really like to see a photo of you in a tank top, just wondering it's probably bad if you actually had to write such a tastless article. To the rest of the women reading this if you are in your forties you are at the prime of your lives so wear those tank tops and the tight jeans and don't forget the high heels, have fun!

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      cz 5 years ago

      Hey somelikeitscott, who died and made you fashion guru? I'd really like to know what you look, how you dress, and how old you are? Do you think people are old at 40 and that life is ending for them? Wow!! I could maybe (maybe) expect to read a comment like yours pertaining to 60 year olds but 40 is way harsh. I just turned 40 this year and still can't believe it. I'm not one these people that try to act or dress like I'm in my twenties but the average age people guess me at is 25. I have taken care of myself over the years and I have been blessed with youthful skin from good genes. I have two daughters, ages 19 and 20, and people often mistake us for sisters. That being said, I in no way compete for attention with my girls and never dress to blend in with them. They definately dress more youthful and age appropriate as I feel I do. I do agree with you on the name emblazed on the clothing. I personally won't do it because I feel it does make me feel like the older person trying to fit in with the younger crowd, and the heavily decorated denim jeans, those are also for the younger generation. To tell a 40 year old to put the tank tops and clam diggers away is inappropriate. Those were a few staple items on the tv show Desperate Housewives and I do believe all of those ladies are 40 and over. Your going to tell me, toned or not they looked bad, I don't think so. Your comment should have said put away the daisy dukes and spaghetti strap tanks. I see alot of this which at 40 (and 30 for that matter) does look inappropriate whether you think you can pull it off or not. I will no longer wear the short shorts, but I do where shorts, and my capris and tank tops which is VERY appropriate for someone my age, or any age, really, who is dressing appropiately for their body type, climate and still feels young at heart and wants to be fashionable in a tasteful, age appropriate manner.

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      Lala 5 years ago

      ..personally could care less about what the fashion police or anyone else thinks..get real..dont need anyones approval..wear a toga if you want who cares..just dont loose you job over it..

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      Brandi 5 years ago

      My grandmother wears sleeveless button up shirts with capris and sandals or keds on a regular basis. She looks wonderful in it. She looks carefree and breezy and completely comfortable but she still looks presentable and put-together. I'm 28 and can't pull off a sleeveless shirt... It really just depends on your body type, the look you're REALLY going for, and your confidence.

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      ellathibodeaux 5 years ago

      Wow. It's not about your age, it's about your body. Twenty year olds are not perfect either and they can't wear everything. When I was 20 I was perfectly slender 35-24-34 but I could NOT wear a miniskirt to save my soul. I had skinny, "chicken" legs. Some 20 year olds have big flabby arms as well that should be remain hidden. So it's not about being over 40 specifically, it's about an individual person's body. Does Michelle Obama look terrible in her sleeveless? She's nearly 50.

      So your advice is OFF and so are you. It's better to say if your arms look like X don't do X and leave age out of the equation.

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      DavidinChelseaMA 5 years ago

      I'm gay, I'm 46, and am in the gym ten times a week. Six days of weight training and three to four nights on elliptical. In my thirties, people thought I was barely 21. In my early forties, people thought I was 30, at the most. And now, in my late forties, and working out more than I ever have, I am usually mistaken for a guy in his early thirties. People don't even believe me when I tell them my actual age. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing a sleeveless top if your arms are buff. That is simply a fact.

      If your body fat percentage is low enough, and you are muscular enough, you can absolutely wear a sleeveless shirt. I go to Provincetown alot in the summer and get checked out by guys in their twenties all the time. You should NEVER generalize.

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      sd 5 years ago

      I just turned 49. I am 5'6" and 120 lbs and I am in total agreement with everything you say. Just my opinion.

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      chiarina 5 years ago

      I agree about the sleeveless shirts but not about the capris. What is so exclusively youthful about capri pants? Since you are so opinionated about clothes and what is appropriate to wear it would be nice if you made more suggestions. Why does society have to dictate to women (and men, but mostly women) what style they should wear. I do think common sense is important. I cannot stand some of the styles now---how about "shrugs"--they are hideous in my opinion on any women!!

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      Sally Sleeves 5 years ago

      Thank you!! I am a very attractive 50 something that does not like mine or any women's arms over 40 .. It's just aging folks, cover them up.. not to mention underarms... ewwww

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      think_for_yourself 7 years ago

      Bullshit, tell that to Michelle Obama she got better arms then many teenagers girls and twenty year olds. Wear what you want ladies, don't let anybody try to dictate to you what you should or shouldn't wear. Many clothing manufacturer don't make enough garments with sleeves on them. You got to buy what's on the rack!

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      Karma1 7 years ago

      I was googling what is appropriate attire for a woman over 40 at an evening wedding because I do not have any illusions about my age (43) and don't want to make a fool of myself. I long ago gave up mini skirts and midriffs and things of that nature, but I totally disagree with this advice which paints too broad of a brushstroke. I don't think anyone could argue that our classy first lady looks anything less than fabulous in her sleeveless dresses. And I am of the same mind as those other posters from the Deep South - I refuse to be miserable because of what someone like you might think. I will wear tasteful sleeveless tops, skirts and capris - even to work! - until this oppressive heat and humidity lifts sometime in late Sept/early Oct. (And I still wear [gasp!] a bikini to the beach) Now mind you I work hard to maintain a size 2-4 figure, sweating buckets during morning runs and doing push-ups several times a week to keep the arm flab at bay because I would not be comfortable showing so much skin otherwise. So I agree with those who say simply to look in the mirror and honestly assess whether YOU look appropriate before leaving the house.

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      mia 7 years ago

      Oh I do have to comment- even though this is an OLD post- I think it's got nothing to do with AGE- I see plenty of very YOUNG girls wearing low rise jeans , and sporting that very common 'muffin top' roll of flab. My god- COVER UP. These same YOUNG girls wear tight tees and sleeveless tanks- and we are all treated to yet another perfect viewing of FLAB. Young men wear LOW pants with a crotch that is down to their knees, making it difficult to walk, and resembling a baby thatt has crapped their drawers - NOT CUTE- PULL UP THE PANTS BOYS. I see many lovely, fit older women with bare, sleeveless arms- looking great. I think the conclusion is- LOOK IN THE MIRROR- notice what you look like. Over 40 has NOTHING to do with it clearly.

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      Anne 7 years ago

      I think theres a big misunderstanding about woman our age. We have to have our own individual style. Self-expression is #1 in my books. I just designed one of Persona's charm bracelets online ( and can't be more happy. It's the same for clothing. I know if I try to go and copy a runway look. I'm only going to be upset with the fit. We have to be true and express ourselves at this point in our lives.

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      Barry 7 years ago

      I really looked this article up and thought you might have something useful to say. I was disppointed and it appears you cannot express an argument successfully.

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      Lydia 8 years ago

      I often hear lists of what not to wear from sagging, out of shape 40-50 year old women. I am 52 and have more fit and firm arms then many twenty years younger. If you let your body go at 20, 30, 40, or 50 then say no to all revealing clothes. If you are fit and look great, wear it! Because you have body flaws from neglect, please don't tell other women what to put on their fit and beautiful at any age bodies!

    • Lifesrich profile image

      Lifesrich 8 years ago from Southern California

      Scott. I had to revisit this HUB... Sunday I ran out sleeveless only for about 45min too long. I had a flash back of what I read here. I hurried home and was proud of myself. Never will you find me flapping in the wind. Ro x

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      GlamGals 8 years ago

      After 40, some of us (not everyone) might start seeing some sagging going on. If this is the case, then you want to be discreet. If you want to wear sleevelss, make sure to have a nice lightweight gauze long sleeve top to wear over your sleeveless. You can unbutton the top, roll up the sleeves and look great!

    • Lifesrich profile image

      Lifesrich 8 years ago from Southern California

      Oh my gosh, you wrote this 2 yrs ago and I'm just reading it tonight. Thank you for the great advice. Even though family and friends say I should go sleeveless. I do look in the mirror before leaving home.

      It's me who sees "utter arms"... yep I have UA. The way a cow looks after just having been milked...

      See if we were good friends you could say that to me.. And the UCLA Burn Center would have been happy with my donation.

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      Daniel Munday, Sydney's Fat Loss Expert 8 years ago

      Not every woman looks ordinary sleeveless. Take a look at Michelle Obama

      she looks awesome and is a great role model for women over 40.

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      Christine 8 years ago

      I should clarify I coudn't agree less with not going sleeveless after 40.

      I am 60 and proud of my fitness level and my body and I am not making a desperate cry for anything. I have nothing to prove to anyone. And I am probably more fit than most 20-year-old these days. Your opinion proves ageism is alive and well.

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      Christine 8 years ago

      I couldn't agree less

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      Shelly Hertzler 8 years ago

      I am 50 and I can get away with wearing almost anything I want and so I do! It has nothing with me being stuck in my 20's...if it looks good on me, I wear it!!

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      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      The English have an expression for what you're talking about......"mutton dressing up as lamb". I found it here too....the definitions there are funny.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 8 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Two more "Do they ever look in a mirror" for women: strapless wedding gowns and low-rider jeans or pants.  Only five women in the world ever looked *great* in a strapless gown: Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Princess Diana, and Marilyn Monroe singing "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" and...I forget the other one. But notice those I mention were from the age of great designers who really knew how to structure a gown to focus on a woman's best features and play down the bad.  The abominations being snapped up by brides in the last few years do nothing but enrich the shops that sell them.  Twenty years from now, these women will look at the wedding album and wonder why someone didn't mention the roll of fat above the bodice under her arms, or that she should've covered up those bony shoulders.  Not to mention these gowns are all so *plain*!  Wedding gowns used to be *gowns*, not just a few yards of satin with no adornment whatsoever. And for the same price as ones that used to have beading or lace *somewhere* that made them truly beautiful.

      As for low-riders, unless you wear a size 0 and have NO - I repeat - NO flab across the middle, leave them in the store.  The waistband on low-riders hits right below the point where anything that *can* sag *will*.  Get over thinking they'll make you look like Britney Spears.  Only in your dreams.  Pot bellies aren't pretty OR sexy. 

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      Katie 8 years ago

      My mom is 50 and looks adorable in capris! Same with my boss. I think capris can be super classic on older women.

      You seem awfully judgemental and limiting. I'm just saying.

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      Diane 9 years ago

      When walking in a public place, I have seen a few people that don't seem to dress for their age. When it is drastic, it doesn't seem too appealing to me. But these days a differential appearance with age and dress isn't always unattractive. If you get a chance check out my <a href=""&am... shirts blouses</a> blog.

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      Taunya Millet 10 years ago

      OK, Somelike it Scott!! I said I agree. I was just saying that comfort is very important for me. I thought you lived in a really hot climate like I do. I think it is an art to cope with people's natural bodies. I just get tired of people being so shallow. We have the fashion police on tv, and frankly it is getting really really old to have to read about what is appropriate and what is not. Personally I like to have a sleeve on my clothes generally, but I still reserve the right to go sleeveless if I feel like it, and I also like to cope with others who may have the jiggles but they are comfortable with what they are wearing. Let me ask you this. "What is wrong with a little bit of old skin?" There comes a time when we see beauty deeper within people.

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      somelikeitscott 10 years ago from Las Vegas

      Tawnwebsurfer, thank you for your comments. I need to make it clear that I am in fact over 40 and what I'm talking about in this hub is people who are trying to dress too young for their age. As I stated in one of the comments above, I get it, my grandmother used to wear a sleeveless blouse almost every day of her life. I was talking more about the 40-something gay men who think they look like Abercrombie and Fitch wearing their sleeveless shirts when they really look like bad Field and Stream!

    • Tawnwebsurfer profile image

      Tawnwebsurfer 10 years ago from ELP

      OK SomeLikeItScott--I understand what you mean about not wearing sleeveless clothes after 40. Perhaps you are just a young person who doesn't realize that beauty is only skin deep. Also, just because someone is under 40 doesn't mean that their arms are beautiful, and the reverse is also true that some older women have beautiful arms. Age doesn't always mean that you know what is appropriate. Nevertheless, three quarter length sleeves are safe for women who don't want to be rediculed by shallow people. The fashion police or fashion snobs could use an attitude change because I for one, at 59 years old will wear what I like to wear. I happen to look ok, since I workout regularly.

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      somelikeitscott 10 years ago from Las Vegas

      First of all, good for you for living in Florida. I could never do it. That humidity is like sitting on a damp rag all day. And good for you for keeping your body in shape. And for all of you who are so determined to go sleeveless and yell at me for saying that you shouldn' the end of the day are you really going to change your life based on one guy's opinion on the Internet? If so, please send me all the money in your checking account and begin praying to heads of lettuce because obviously I have power I never knew I had! Finally get the hell over it as I shall continue to say that I don't want to see any of us "over forties" sleeveless or in capris. Oh, and thanks for writing in, it's changed my life as much as I've changed yours. (This moment sponsored by casm de sar - figure it out!)

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      webgal318 10 years ago

      I live in Florida too and it is HOT here. I pride myself in keeping my body is shape. If capris and sleeveless tops are out, what is a person to do? Does being 58 years old (and in good shape at that) preclude us from dressing comfortably?

    • Saroj Jaede profile image

      Saroj Jaede 10 years ago from Midwest

      You should wear what makes you comfortable whatever your age. To attribute not wearing sleeveless styles after a certain age group is rather ridiculous. If someone looks good in a sleeveless top and has the arms to carry it off while being 60, then more power to her for wearing sleeveless.

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      Teddy 10 years ago

      I still like to remember my mother coming to school dressed like a mother should look. Not like one of the girls setting next to me. What happened to modesty?????

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      joan 10 years ago

      Good grief. I fought buying the Capri pants for so long and now i went out and bought them about 3 yrs ago..........hey I live in Fla........NO LONG pants unless I am going somewhere like the theatre or some night time event. And NO sleeves.......I just can't stand the thought of sweat armpits in sleeved shirts especially during the summer down here.......oh and I am 55

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      Stacie Naczelnik 10 years ago from Seattle

      When I'm over 40 and it is 105 degrees out, I'm going to wear a sleeveless top...without any delusions about being 20. I'll just be happy that I'm comfortable with my body to wear something weather appropriate. I do get what you mean about clothes that aren't appropriate--sometimes those short shorts are obscene whether you are 20, 40, or 60.

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      somelikeitscott 10 years ago from Las Vegas

      DJ - First of all, I am over forty. Second, as my response to "joe" in the form of a hub says (see link above), I was really talking about gay men who are trying to look twenty when they're fifty.

      The last time I checked, having an opinion didn't make one mindless as you suggest, though thinking that everyone has to agree with you and share the same opinion would make me agree with you on the crazy comment. We're both entitled to our opinions.

      By all means, wear your capri pants and sleeveless "soft blouses", we'll all just roll our eyes as you walk by.

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      DJ_SPEAKSout 10 years ago

      Are you crazy!!! Whoever said age has anything to do with style? You should be ashamed of yourself for even suggesting that women over 40 should refrain from wearing any specific type of style. You dare to go further to say that women over 40 should not wear capris either. Okay, that means no shorts, and if no shorts, no walking shorts either and if no walking shorts -- definitely no capris! You are crazy! We should wrap up a in long sleeve shirt, long pants and maybe put a skull cap over our face to hide the age. Would that make you feel better about yourself? Sign me: Old enough to have enough money and enough sense to know what I should and shouldn't wear.... and smart enough not to listen to an idiot like you! Over 40 and loaded with a closet full of short sleeve beautiful, soft blouses and t-shirts and more than a dozen capri pants and walking shorts!

      People under 40 should not write about subjects they know nothing about. That's why you shouldn't believe everything you read on the internet. Some people are just mindless, i.e., crazy.

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      joe 10 years ago

      i could not disagree more. my mother is in her early 50's & she looks amazing. tan & beautiful & doesn't look a day over 39.

      perhaps it was a bad mirror or perhaps she just has the insecurities of every other gal in the world. you cannot see yourself accurately in a mirror, especially if it's not in your house.

      ew. to forbid anyone on anything other than a shop for teens is just...ew. women's bodies are different & all people have their little problem areas that they're self-consious of. for you set an age limit on sleveless shirts is ridiculous. go on a case by case basis.

      i would hate to be your friend. no one should trust you.

    • Veronica profile image

      Veronica 10 years ago from NY