Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

No Need to Feel Guilty About Saying 'No'

DEAR HARRIETTE: I received a last-minute phone call on New Year's Eve from a female friend, saying she wanted to be my date to celebrate the new year. I was slow to answer her request, because she just broke up with her boyfriend of three years.

I finally answered her by saying that I was invited to a friend's house for a private New Year's party. I felt kind of bad, because I could easily have asked my friend if I could bring a date for the evening, but I didn't. Do you think I was wrong for saying no? -- Happy New Year, Newark, N.J.

DEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR: In a word, no. It would be one thing if your friend's call had not come at the last minute. The fact that she reached out to you so late for such a major occasion means that she knew there was a good chance you wouldn't be able to do it. She took a chance in asking you. It's good that you responded to her, even if only to say that it wouldn't work out.

If you would like to support her during this tender time after her breakup, reach out to her now and invite her for coffee or something similar. But there is no need to rehash New Year's Eve. That is in the past.

DEAR HARRIETTE: How do you deal with an absentee father? I cannot believe this man forgot our son's third birthday. There was no phone call, no text and no email from this man. I was fortunate enough to have my family around, and we had a good time.

My son's father finally called me to say he forgot the birthday. This is the second year in a row that he was not around. How do I express my displeasure? -- Mama Drama, Brooklyn, N.Y.

DEAR MAMA DRAMA: Especially since your son's father is not in your son's life every day, it's important for you to support and nurture their relationship.

You can call and let him know that you were terribly disappointed that he forgot. But don't beat him up about it. Instead, tell him that you will help him remember next year. In this way, he won't feel as if you are constantly testing him. Also do your best to make him feel included. Tell him what you will be doing for the birthday, and invite him to participate. This should help him choose to pay closer attention.