Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Should she run off with younger man? Bridal shower snafu?

DEAR NATALIE: My mom and I have been at odds about my new boyfriend. He and I have been together about five months. He is a lot younger than I am. I’m 31, and he’s 24. We are in love and talking marriage, and my mom says that he is way too young to marry me. She also worries that he is taking advantage of me. He is an actor and is living with me, taking auditions and working odd jobs. I told her that this is the time he should be trying to go for his dreams. I work in health care and have a stable income, so it doesn’t matter to me. What do you think? Should I put wedding plans on hold because of her, or should we get married and tell her after the fact? -- WILLING TO ELOPE

DEAR WILLING TO ELOPE: Slow your roll for just a second. Let’s back this love bus up. First, as my grandma always says, “You should weather someone a year before you make a decision about them.” Let’s see what he’s like for the next seven months before eloping. Second, mothers are often forces in our lives that can seem bothersome, but in actuality, they are the only ones willing to hold up the mirror. Put aside your annoyance at her and try to think about what she is saying. Assuming she wants the best for you, maybe it’s worth thinking this through. Right now you are in the “I’m so in love and I don’t care who knows it!” phase. This is awesome, congrats, but let’s see what happens when the rose-colored glasses are taken off. Does he contribute to your household? Maybe he can’t pay his half of the rent, but are there other things he does to help you? How does he treat you? I appreciate that he wants to pursue his acting dreams and that you support that, but have you thought about what lifestyle that will mean? Lots of travel, lots of temptation, and he’s only 24. My advice? Listen to your mama. Take a minute. Think this through. Don’t do anything that involves paperwork and see what happens a year from now.



DEAR NATALIE: I recently was asked to be in a large bridal party for one of my dearest friends. I don’t get along great with some of the other girls, and a few of them (let’s call them Lila and Molly) are taking the reins on the bridal shower. They want to have this big, over-the-top party for her, and I offered to help. They haven’t really given me any of the details, and when I asked for a break down of what they were going to spend, they called me “cheap” and said, “This is your best friend’s special day. You shouldn’t ask about money.” Well, I think I have every right to ask about the money considering they want me to pay for a third of it. Why can’t all the bridesmaids chip in? There are nine of us! That would reduce the cost substantially and make it easier to share the work. But Lila and Molly want total control, and I don’t know what to do. Obviously, I don’t want the bride to find any of this out but not sure what to do? -- BRIDAL SHOWER SNAFU

DEAR SHOWER SNAFU: You are not cheap. You are reasonable. What’s not reasonable is the fact that two of these ladies think it’s cool to plan everything secretly and not give you a breakdown of costs. Because this is a delicate situation and you don’t want to cause any unnecessary drama, tell them: “I won’t be financially contributing until I see a breakdown of costs. I’m willing to give a portion of the total, but until I know what it is and why we are spending what we are spending, I can’t give you anything.” Or, another way is to just offer them a flat amount like: I’m happy to pitch in $100. It’s what I’m comfortable with. Why don’t we ask the other bridesmaids if they could offer something as well to reduce costs for everyone?” If they are aghast at that notion, wash your hands of this whole thing and say, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to plan together if you can’t completely include me.” See if they change their tune. But whatever you do, don’t repeat this to the bride. She doesn’t need this petty nonsense clouding her special day!



Natalie’s Networking Tip of the Week: Use social media to your advantage. Connect with potential contacts in various ways like direct messaging, comments and “likes.” Giving them little reminders that you are around and supportive of what they do can facilitate relationships in “real” life, too.



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