DEAR HARRIETTE: I really put my foot in my mouth. I was celebrating a member of my family when I was speaking in a public forum, and I said something that hurt my aunt’s feelings. I feel so bad about that. My intent was to raise her up and let people know how great I think she is. I have apologized, but I wonder if there’s anything else I can do. She said it was all right, but she definitely was not happy when we talked about it. -- Mend a Fence
DEAR MEND A FENCE: What occurred is over. What happens in the future, you can control. Do you know exactly why your aunt was hurt? Was it what you said or how you said it? Be clear on the nature of the offense; otherwise, you could unwittingly repeat it. Moving forward, do not tell stories about people in your life, naming names, unless you have checked with them first. Make sure that they agree to have their identities revealed before you talk about them in a public forum.
I say that, all the while knowing that one of my favorite writers, David Sedaris, writes in detail about his family all the time -- without their permission. And he has said that sometimes they get mad. He does it anyway. Even though he has made millions of dollars off of what some might call exploiting his family, I don’t recommend it. Check with them first.