Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Engagement Rings at the Office

DEAR NATALIE: My friends and I are debating about something. They all wear their engagement rings to their professional-level jobs, while I choose to just wear my plain wedding band. They think I am nuts, but as a young professional woman, I find that I am taken more seriously at work without it. I feel that my employers will think that if I am wearing a flashy ring, it is a sign to them that I don't really need this job, that my husband can take care of me, and they will pass me over for promotions and such. I work really hard and want to be taken just as seriously as the men around me. Do you think this is crazy (like my friends do), or do you understand my dilemma -- Ring Problems

DEAR RING PROBLEMS: No I don't think you are crazy at all. In fact, I've never thought of this as a possible dilemma, but I could see why it would work against you in certain fields to "show off" a glitzy rock. It could be looked at as frivolous or, as you said, make them take you less seriously. Even though women always have been a part of the workforce, sexism (yes, I said it) always has existed in obvious and subtle forms. And while you can be both married and in the workforce, I can understand your underlying concern of being overlooked for promotions and such because of that fact (even though it is 2015 not 1915). I don't see anything wrong with playing down your personal life while at the office. You aren't hiding the fact that you are married, but you aren't flaunting your personal life or wealth while there, either. It is a savvy strategy, and if your office seems old-school enough for this to even be a thought in your mind, then you are doing what is best for your career trajectory. Your girlfriends just may not understand. So, just agree to disagree on this one.

DEAR NATALIE: It's been a little over six years since my husband died from cancer. I feel ready to date, my kids are out of the house, and I want to start a new chapter. I'm not yet 60 and feel I have a lot of life to live. But, my kids are not happy about me dating. My daughters (ages 22 and 25) feel as though I should wait longer, that it is somehow a betrayal. I've gone on a few dates in the past year, but the girls made me feel so guilty about it that I just stopped. I'm lonely, however, and I want to get out there. How do I do this without hurting my girls? -- Left Behind

DEAR LEFT BEHIND: Your girls are being selfish. They are both out of the house, living their own lives, and they have the audacity to guilt you into a nun-like existence for the rest of your life? No thanks. I'm very sorry to hear that your husband died. It must have been incredibly hard on all of you, but you are still here. You took care of your family, and now you are on your own. And they want you to be alone because to them it's a betrayal to have dinner with another man? Only you know the relationship you had with your husband, but any loving spouse would not want to see his or her partner be lonely forever. You are allowed to find a new kind of happiness. It doesn't take away from the love you had with your husband. Your girls need to know that, but you also need to make it clear that now is the time for them to support you in this new chapter of your life.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Please don't overshare. When you first meet someone, the nerves can make it easy to just keep talking, but you don't want to tell your whole life story in the first five minutes. Keep your conversation upbeat and friendly and don't forget to ask questions! Networking is about building rapport, after all.

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to nbencivenga@post-gazette.com 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.)