Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Birthday Celebration Is a Great Place for Mingling

DEAR HARRIETTE: My birthday is at the end of June, and I'd like to go to a concert with my friends. The trouble is that none of my friends are friends, and some of the friends I'd like to be there do not necessarily listen to the music that will be played at the concert. Also, I am dating someone, and I'd like for him to be there. There is a lot of room for awkwardness, and I do not want to worry about trying to make things mesh. My last-resort option would be to have dinner with my friends so I can moderate the situation should there be awkwardness, and just go to the concert with a selective group of people. I don't want people to be offended. What should I do? -- Keeping the Peace, Saginaw, Mich.

DEAR KEEPING THE PEACE: Think about your birthday wishes and which friends would enjoy helping you fulfill specific desires. Then, invite the people to the concert who would enjoy it. And invite the people to dinner who would enjoy that. Do not fear blending your friends. Instead of anticipating awkwardness, think of the similarities between your friends and create an ice-breaking activity at the dinner where you share fun facts about yourselves, or even everyone's relationship to you, as a way of starting the conversation.

DEAR HARRIETTE: How does one politely ask for money as her No. 1 desire as a graduation gift? Ultimately, I want to be able to divide up my money and assign it toward specific things. I am a bit picky with gifts because I do not want a gift to collect dust if I do not like it -- I don't really want people trying to outfit my dorm room, for example. I do not want to hurt anyone's feelings. -- Gift Strategist, Jackson, Miss.

DEAR GIFT STRATEGIST: This is where your parents come in. If they are hosting a party for you or otherwise informing your loved ones of your graduation, they can tell people that you would appreciate money as you plan to go to college. They can gently explain that you have big plans for your dorm room and would be grateful to have support in executing your plan.

If you are asked directly what you would like as a graduation gift, you can say that you hope people will give you money toward your college kitty. I would not say that you are deciding on the big gift you want to buy yourself or that you may not like their gift. (I realize you would not say that, but in case anyone thinks that is a good idea, it is not.)

I recommend further that you think expansively about what you might want to spend money on for your graduation. As you head off to college, I encourage you to consider investing some part of whatever money you do receive in a long-term savings instrument. Saving may be the best gift you could ever give yourself, even if it does not seem sexy now.