Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

It’s a Dog-Eat-Dog World

DEAR NATALIE: I did some pet-sitting last month for a friend, and I haven't been paid yet. Twice she told me she would drop off my payment, and she hasn't. One time she said she "forgot" even though she was in Shadyside to drop off other stuff. I agreed a while ago to pet-sit again this month, but I don't want to if she's not going to pay me. I wish she would tell me what is going on. She isn't good about returning my texts. We are friends, so this is awkward. -- PAY ME

DEAR PAY ME: Money and friendship often don't mix well (sort of like that time in college when you mixed vodka and Red Bull. In the moment it seemed like a great idea until the next morning when you couldn't remember a thing or how you got that tattoo - but I digress). Unfortunately, in this situation, the only thing you can do is to ask her politely, but firmly, for the money once more. Say something like, "I know you have been busy, but if I am going to pet-sit again soon, I would like us to be squared away so that it doesn't become confusing as to what you owe me." If she can't take that hint, put your foot down about pet-sitting again. She may just be taking your relationship for granted and not realizing that you are upset. It's better to cause a little bit of discomfort up front than become resentful of your relationship, causing a wedge to form over time. It's just money, after all. Don't give it any more power than it already has. 

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Be discerning with whom you associate. We all have limited time on our hands; don't waste it with people who are only trying to bring you down. Some people don't want to see others succeed, and being around them will only become a toxic force in your life. Make this the year to fly free from those who would rather clip your wings. 

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

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