DEAR HARRIETTE: It is prom and graduation season, and my cousin is preparing for her big days. My cousin and I are extremely close, especially since we are both only children. I've always made it my duty as the older cousin to set stellar examples and to be a shoulder to lean on. Her mother has always appreciated our closeness, and my mom even helped raise her. For my cousin's graduation gift, I wanted to take her to Jamaica to celebrate, but her mother refused. I couldn't believe her response and asked why. My aunt's response was "because (she) said so." The conversation came as a complete shock. I've left it alone since then, but I'd love to revisit this situation. I am not sure how to approach her for the second time. Any suggestions? -- Taken Aback, Detroit
DEAR TAKEN ABACK: I believe you should revisit this with your aunt. Before you do, consider a few things. Going overseas is something that frightens some parents. There are too many news stories about young people who have gone missing or gotten hurt. I bet your aunt is basing her strong response on a potentially unfounded fear that she has about letting her precious baby go away. Though she probably does trust you, she may not be ready to let her daughter take such a big step.
Jamaica is a beautiful island. My husband is from there, and we have visited many times. As anywhere else, there are some sensitivities regarding safety on the island, but that does not mean that one should not travel there. In your aunt's mind, however, it could mean that she does not think you have the ability to protect her child. I would venture to say that your aunt's reaction was partly due to the reality that her daughter is growing up and otherwise due to her own agenda, which she obviously did not choose to share with you. By all means, ask her why she responded so strongly. Remind her that you love her daughter and would never do anything to put her in harm's way. Ask her to share her thought process with you. Maybe she will.
DEAR HARRIETTE: Your advice regarding not buying a car and following the gut is spot-on. I bought a car from my wife's friend. Everything the friend told me about the car was untrue: The car had been in an accident; I needed to replace the catalytic convertor to the tune of $1,800; I had to replace the brakes; I had to replace the transmission shifter cable; and I paid $8,500 for a 5-year-old Toyota Corolla. I was experiencing financial difficulties at the time and was trying to be nice. I might have still bought the car, but I would have known what I was getting into.
We no longer have a relationship with that friend, and I did not keep the car for very long. Go to CarMax -- best way not to be taken advantage of. -- Been There, Washington, D.C.
DEAR BEEN THERE: I second your motion! Stick with professionals and keep your friendships in tact.