Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: I got into a long, drawn-out conversation/argument with my sister the other day, and after a while I got defensive. That's when I really messed up. I lashed out and basically told her about herself. She can be really harsh and mean. I know she is supersensitive, so I have never said that to her before, but I socked it to her this time. I could tell immediately that I hurt her feelings.

I feel awful. I can't take back what I said. It was all true, but still, I didn't mean to hurt her. How can I mend this fence? -- Sad Sister, Jackson, Miss.

DEAR SAD SISTER: Sometimes it takes just a spark to set off a huge brush fire. But guess what? That might not be so bad. Maybe you have unearthed something about your relationship with your sister that is worth exploring.

Reach out to her and apologize for hurting her feelings. You are legitimately sorry about that. But then go further. Although she is sensitive, it sounds as if you are, too. Tell her that the way she says things to you sometimes hurts your feelings. Often people who think they are communicating in a direct manner do not realize that their words may come off as harsh. Describe a scenario and tell her how it made you feel. Listen to her reaction. You two may have a breakthrough as a side effect of a stumble in your previous conversation.

DEAR HARRIETTE: Honestly, must your reader offer up her body -- with the presumption that sex will be the reward for compliance -- to get her husband to observe basic hygiene by showering before bed? As a man, I resent the implicit manipulation in trying to appeal to our baser instincts.

If the writer's husband is so clueless, stubborn and unwilling to make such a small concession to his wife, her retreat to the sofa or spare bedroom might help the dolt see the error of his ways. Why, in your mind, must the woman walk on eggshells, resort to subterfuge and ultimately degrade herself by seducing a moron who refuses to budge an inch in doing something so basic as washing up before bed? -- Disgusted Husband, Washington, D.C.

DEAR DISGUSTED HUSBAND: I fully accept your view on this and, indeed, believe that the husband in question -- and anyone else who does not value hygiene before going to bed -- should think twice about that. Regrettably, I will also say that I have talked to many women who have used reason in imploring their husbands to bathe before bed, to no end.

I suppose moving out of the bedroom is a viable way to get him to pay attention, but it seems equally as strong as my recommendation. Your route looks like shutting the door; mine, like opening it. Both are extreme measures.

I hope any spouse reading this who is guilty of going to bed dirty will realize that it would be so much simpler to just clean up!