Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: My dad set up a meeting with a girl who is also going to my college so that we could make a friend before school starts. The girl is the daughter of his friend's friend, and her mother was insistent on arranging a meet-up. I was happy to agree, but I realized upon our introduction that the girl in question is not someone I am likely to be friends with in the future. I do not mean to sound shallow -- she was sweet and all -- but in truth, we are very different types of people. Still, her mom was concerned about her going into school without anyone, so I feel a certain responsibility. I would never be mean to someone or ignore someone because of our differences, so I will obviously be kind to her and be a helping hand when she needs one, but I am nervous that I might be tied up in a friendship that is forced. Is it silly to be stressed about something like this? -- Fallacious Friend, Racine, Wis.

DEAR FALLACIOUS FRIEND: It was kind of your father and the girl's mother to make the effort to put the two of you together. I am certain that you two will look out for each other to a certain extent. What you do not need to do is believe that you are responsible for each other. You do not have to become her friend. What would be great is for you to keep an eye out for her and check in from time to time.

If you are worried that she is going to try to shadow you, set limits for how frequently you interact. Take the time to establish your own personal relationships at school. Do not reveal your class schedule to her to avoid her trying to mimic it. Be mindful of her as you create boundaries for how much she can be in your daily life.

DEAR HARRIETTE: Often, I find that I have food stuck in my teeth after a meal. I actually think it happens more often when I am at a restaurant, which brings me to a very pressing matter: What is the etiquette for getting food out of your teeth in public? It sounds silly, but I would rather not continue to smile or chat while I have lettuce in my gums. I would never raise a hand at a dinner table and start picking at my teeth, but leaving the table to go to the restroom seems excessive. What if I actually need to use the restroom, and then I come back and get food in my teeth? I would have to leave again! I see no polite way for getting out the food! -- Stuck, Scarsdale, N.Y.

DEAR STUCK: If it is easy to dislodge the food with your tongue, you can hold your napkin up to your mouth and quickly move it. You can take a big sip of water and swish it around momentarily to see if the food will move. If these measures fail, go to the restroom. There is nothing wrong with going to the restroom more than once!