Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Birthday Girl Distressed by Dinner Tab

DEAR HARRIETTE: On my last birthday, my boyfriend got in contact with my best friend to plan a celebration. He was really sweet, because he invited two of my closest friends, and it was a surprise. However, my best friend told him that an expensive Italian restaurant was my favorite. That was not true. I don't even like Italian food. The bill was so expensive, and my boyfriend paid for everything.

I feel like my friend sabotaged me. I had a nice evening, but I never would have asked my boyfriend to spend all that money on food I didn't even really like. She bragged the whole night about all she had done to plan the birthday.

I think she's jealous. She doesn't have a boyfriend. She keeps saying how great my life is, but I feel like she's trying to either mess it up or insert herself in it. It leaves me with a bad feeling. How can I get her to chill out? -- Not Happy, Denver

DEAR NOT HAPPY: Your friend sounds a bit confused about how to be friends with you right now. On the one hand, she wants the best for you. On the other, she is envious of all the good things that are happening in your life.

Sit down with her and gently tell her how you feel. Thank her for trying to make your birthday special, but mention that it didn't seem like she actually had your best interest at heart. If she is your best friend, she should know what type of food you like, as well as whether you would appreciate having your boyfriend pay for such an expensive meal. Talk to her about how uncomfortable her actions made you feel. Ask her to think more about you next time.

DEAR HARRIETTE: "Need a Vacation" should not let her husband hold her back from living life! Last year, I wanted to visit my brother in San Diego for two weeks, but my husband said he couldn't get that much time off work. He stayed home and took care of our cats, while our 10-year-old son and I flew to California. We had a great time, including visits to Disneyland and Sea World!

The two of us are going back to San Diego this summer, and my son is so excited. He asked if Daddy was going with us this time. When I said no, he replied, "I guess it's just you and me, pal!" -- Independent Mama, Philadelphia

DEAR INDEPENDENT MAMA: Thank you for sharing your story. I think it is important for families to figure out what works best for them as they navigate life. As you discovered, there may be times when family members do things independently to ensure that dreams are fulfilled. As long as you work together to make your decisions and you have buy-in all around, you can maintain a healthy, happy household and do things together and separately.