DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who yells whenever she talks to me. No matter what the conversation, she is virtually screaming at me. It can be embarrassing, especially when she is talking about sensitive stuff. Like one time, she was telling me about a situation with her husband that was very personal, and everybody in the restaurant where we were eating could hear. When I asked her to lower her voice, she looked at me blankly and kept talking at the same level. Another time, we were at the movies, and she started to tell me a story and other people started shushing her. Honestly, they could hear her all the way across the theater. I think she has a hearing problem, but I don't quite know how to bring it up. -- Sensitive Friend, Washington, D.C.
DEAR SENSITIVE FRIEND: It could be that your friend has compromised hearing. It is also possible that she doesn't realize her tone at all. I recommend that you speak to her directly and sincerely and tell her that you are concerned about her hearing. Describe to her a few incidents when she has spoken much louder than the moment warranted. Suggest to her that she have her hearing evaluated. It is a painless experience that should be covered by insurance. Offer to go with her to the doctor if she seems skittish.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I do not agree with your response to "Next Step" from Memphis, Tenn. I know that in the past, dating with children was almost taboo. But in reality, I believe it can be beneficial to the child to see healthy relationships develop. I am not advocating for family-type dates immediately, but she has been seeing him for more than a year, and his excuses are that he is busy with his child? After a year, I am sure that this is more than casual dating. If not, she might want to consider that the relationship isn't going anywhere. If it were me, I would mention it. If he offers excuses, then I would consider it over. If he agrees, perhaps she can see more of him and how he interacts with his child. -- Dated With Kids, Chicago
DEAR DATED WITH KIDS: Thank you for your letter. You bring up some important points. I agree that if after a year the man is not willing to include this woman in his personal life, it indicates a lack of seriousness or commitment on his side. If Next Step wants a committed relationship, she needs to discuss itdirectly.
My point about waiting to introduce a date to one's children is a bridge back from the old-school thinking. I don't believe you have to wait until you are ready to get married. I do believe that it is unhealthy to bring too many casual dates into a family. This can cause unnecessary feelings of instability and conflict in children. But your point is well taken about the yearlong engagement.