Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother and I are hosting lunch at our house in celebration of my high school graduation. It is mostly a family gathering with the exception of a handful of friends, which includes a young man who is not just a friend. I'd like to introduce him to everyone just as I would any of my girlfriends, but what I do not want is for my family to gang up on him or interrogate him. I'm afraid of this because my family is forward and they will want to know if he's my boyfriend and every little detail about him. It's important to me that he be there, and he wants to be present. Is there any way I can deflect attention away from him and keep things light? It's a joyous occasion, and I do not want him to be put on the spot. -- Fierce Family, Scarsdale, N.Y.

DEAR FIERCE FAMILY: Your family will want to get to know any young man you bring to the house. It is only natural. You can prepare him by letting him know that they are inquisitive. He should be ready to talk about himself, his plans for his education and his life. He should also be ready to say what his relationship is to you. That may mean that you two need to be clear about it. If you are dating, you can say so. If you recently met and are getting to know each other, you can say that. Yes, it can feel awkward to have to answer to family members who are curious, but it is to be expected.

Meanwhile, you can prepare your family by telling them that a nice young man will be coming to the party. Tell them something about him that can serve as an icebreaker. And ask them to be nice to him. If, during the event, you find that he needs to be rescued, just whisk him away.

DEAR HARRIETTE: In the question from "Innocent Bystander" about an argument that ensued after a person yelled at another passenger talking on the train, the story doesn't mention whether this was a commuter train, but I suppose it doesn't really matter.

In my opinion, the woman across the aisle was the one at fault -- she was very rude and self-centered. The woman on the phone was causing no more disturbance than a person carrying on a conversation with someone sitting next to her. Would she have been asked to stop that? We do not exist on this planet alone; other people have rights, too. Maybe this was a busy woman who was taking her free time to talk with a friend or family member she had not had time to get in touch with before. We need to mind our own business and be more tolerant of other people. -- Tolerant, Cleburne, Texas

DEAR TOLERANT: I agree that trying to teach somebody a lesson by yelling does not usually work. Unfortunately, many things on trains, out in the public, etc., are annoying. One way to not escalate annoying behavior is to ignore it.