DEAR HARRIETTE: All my friends are having babies these days. A few years ago, most of them were getting married. I feel like I am in a time warp. I am stuck somewhere different from my closest friends, and I am lonely. Don’t get me wrong -- I am happy for them, but it seems like we are growing further apart.
I don’t have a boyfriend, let alone a husband. There is no baby on the way, either. I suppose I’m not a traditional girl, but my friends kind of are. Does this mean it’s time for me to get new friends? How do I stay close to my oldest friends and find a comfortable place for myself? -- Left Behind, Philadelphia
DEAR LEFT BEHIND: There is no right answer here. You should stay close to your friends to the extent that you are comfortable. As “auntie,” you can grow close to them and be of help if you choose to baby-sit when the parents want to get away.
Beyond the friends with babies, though, you do have to expand your friend base. You need people who share your life experiences so that you can feel fulfilled and not inadequate because your life choices have been different from theirs. Do you have a hobby? Pursue one that involves other people, like salsa dancing, drawing, museum hopping or bowling. Think of something that interests you and explore. By doing so, you will naturally meet other people. In time, you should be able to include one or two others into your social circle, which should help to ease any discomfort that you may have in your core group.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am the black sheep of my family, or at least it feels that way. I am my mom's first child, and she never married my dad. She married my stepdad six years later, and they had three more kids who are all completely different from me.
My frame is large, even though I’m not tall. The other kids are small-boned and skinny. I don’t fault them, but they do fault me. Whenever I gain a pound, somebody from my stepdad’s family is always commenting about how they can eat a burger or a pint of ice cream and be cool. Me, if I eat a spoonful of ice cream, I blow up. They laugh at me. It’s awful. I don’t want to hang out with them anymore because I’m going through a rough patch, and I don’t want to be criticized. I love my family, and I would love to be with them. Can you tell me something to tell my family so they will be kinder? -- Feeling Sensitive, Jackson, Mississippi
DEAR FEELING SENSITIVE: The best thing you can do is tell them how you feel. They may not realize what they are doing. Speak to the person you feel closest to, and explain that it hurts your feelings when your family is insensitive to you and your issues. Point out that you know that you do not have the same body size, and it makes you uncomfortable when they pick at you for being larger than they are. Ask them to stop.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)