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Terri Clark opens up about dating, loneliness and surviving tough times

Story by Bob Paxman

Terri Clark's most recent hit may be called "I Just Wanna Be Mad," but the broad smile she's wearing as she sits in her manager's Nashville office says she's anything but angry. And why shouldn't she be grinning? She's got her first Top 10 in four years, a successful tour under her belt and a new album, Pain To Kill.

Terri is reveling in a lifestyle that most women would envy - she's single, beautiful and famous, in the prime of her life at 34.

But as it turns out, Terri's seemingly charmed life isn't all smiles, though she gets by with a little help from her friends. "If I'm going through some unhappy times, I call my friends and they give me a boost," she admits. "I also have a great family in my band and road crew - they are some of my best friends. I try to draw the line as an employer and not get too close to the people on the payroll, but sometimes you can't avoid it."

Naturally, she turns to her mom in Canada when the going gets rough. "I call Mom a lot," Terri confirms. "She's a good fountain of wisdom, and very intuitive about people."

Mom's intuition has rubbed off. "I have gotten pretty good at reading people's motives," says Terri. "I am by nature a very open and trusting person - my mom actually worried about that when I was first starting out," she adds with a smile.

"I'm also a people pleaser. I want everyone to like me, which doesn't always work to my advantage."

Terri sips water and stretches in her chair. She confesses that she has learned to watch herself - as well as those who might want to become a part of her life.

"When you've achieved a certain amount of notoriety," says Terri, "and people see you on TV and think that you've got a whole lot of money, some people who don't have the best of intentions want to be your friend."

Terri eventually figured that out the hard way. "I have gotten close to people as friends," she recalls. "You take them into your confidence, and the next thing you know, they're dropping your name all over the place. Then, you start wondering why they wanted to be your friend, or wanted to go out with you. That kind of thing hurts."

That particular pain, however, is one that nearly all stars face. "That's why some throw a lot of walls up around them, and I can't really blame them," says Terri. "It's safer that way. As for myself, I don't choose to operate like that - but I'm definitely more careful than I used to be about who I get close to."

Including guys she might wish to know better.

"Oh, dating!" Terri exclaims with a mix of amusement and resignation. "That's another set of circumstances altogether. It's one of those things where you're going, 'Do you like me for me? Really? I don't believe you!' That gets confusing.

Get Terri's philosophy on dating, relationships and her views on her latest album, "Pain to Kill," in the current (2/18/03) "Newsstand Issue" on sale now!