Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Fighting over where to spend the holidays? First date went awry when you discovered he was a very bad tipper?

DEAR NATALIE: With the holiday season upon us, my wife and I have been fighting a lot about where we are going to spend our time for Christmas. She wants to go south to visit her mother, who is awful, and her sister, who is worse. I want to stay here and be close to my mother, who is in very poor health and my brother who recently is recovering from a heart attack. When I told her to “have fun” in Georgia, she flipped out and said no way would she be going alone. We have two grown daughters and they don’t want to visit their grandmother in Georgia over the holiday, either. This is becoming a huge point of contention for us. Do you have any ideas for a solution?


DEAR HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: Considering the fact that your mother and brother are not in the best of health, I think you have every reason to stay home for Christmas. But, you could have been a bit nicer about your delivery instead of a sarcastic “have fun” before mentioning that you would not be joining her. While she was insensitive about your family, you should apologize and smooth things over before offering a solution. Then, offer a compromise and spend Christmas with your family and then either invite your mother-in-law and sister-in-law up for holiday or visit them some time in December or January for a holiday weekend. There is a path forward here, but you have to realize that she has the right to see her family this season just like you.

DEAR NATALIE: I went on a dinner date recently and everything was going great until the bill came. He paid it and went to the bathroom. Well, while he was gone, I took a peek and saw that he left our waitress a three dollar tip. The dinner was more than 80 dollars. I was totally mortified and so I fumbled through my purse to find some cash. I tried sticking more money in the check holder but he came out and saw me. He got really upset and said that he doesn’t believe in “automatic tipping” and that the service was “subpar” at best. I disagreed and we left the dinner very annoyed with one another. Well, after a week, he texted me and asked me out again. He said he wanted a “do-over” and apologized. Now I don’t know what to think. I really did like him, but I’m not sure I can get over what happened. Any thoughts? --TIPPED OFF

DEAR TIPPED OFF: In the words of the very wise Maya Angelou: “People show you who they believe them.” Unless he apologizes and tips like a Rockefeller from here on out, I would be very wary. Not just because of the tipping incident, but if he is stingy with his money, what else is he going to be stingy with? Time? Affection? The ability to compromise or see the world from other perspectives? Does he lack empathy? Laugh if you will, but I believe that how a person tips defines different parts of their character and I bet that you do, too, considering that you snuck a peek when the bill arrived.  I believe in giving second chances, but really pay attention to how he treats not only waiters, but other service providers, as well. There is nothing more unattractive than a snob.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Do the upcoming holidays make you feel like reaching out to others? Volunteer your time in ways that not only uplift your community, but make you feel good, as well. You never know who you may meet while spreading the holiday cheer!

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email,; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)