Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Friend's Use of Slur Shocks Reader

DEAR HARRIETTE: I heard somebody who I thought was my friend use a slur about immigrants specific to my country of origin. He didn’t know I was listening, but I am shocked to learn he speaks this way about any immigrants, and specifically those from my home country, behind my back.

I haven’t spoken to my friend since. When he calls me, I let it go to voicemail. I have claimed that I'm too busy to hang out with him, but I’m afraid this excuse won't work much longer. Do I owe this person an explanation as to why I refuse to speak to him anymore? In my mind this isn’t a loss of a good friend, but I know he will be confused when he realizes I have iced him out. -- Cut Off, Savannah, Georgia

DEAR CUT OFF: The only way for us to turn the tide of xenophobia is to confront it. Walking away from your friend without letting him know why creates confusion without resolution. It is critical for you to contact your friend, sit with him face-to-face and let him know what you heard and how you feel about it. Tell him how hurt you are that he would speak in such a derogatory way about any immigrant group and that it was especially hurtful knowing that he was talking about your heritage.

Ask him to explain himself. Why would he speak like that? Does he realize how inappropriate his comments were? Ask him how he would feel if he heard you talking negatively about him or his people.

Yes, this conversation will be hard, but you need to remember that you have integrity on your side. Stand up for yourself, for your immigrant community, for humanity. Let your friend know that his words cut you to the core. You know now that he is not your friend. Make it clear to him why.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a mother of two children and nearing 50. I feel good about myself at this stage in my life. While practicing yoga, I usually wear spandex shorts. I now am becoming self-conscious about my workout apparel, considering I don’t look like the 20-year-olds also wearing spandex. When is too old to wear spandex? I am not out of shape, just am more mature than most studio attendees. -- Yoga Pants, Cambridge, Mississippi

DEAR YOGA PANTS: Your age is less the issue here than your fitness. Many women in your age group today are fit and look fine in form-fitted clothing. When you look in the mirror, front and back, and see a healthy, fit body that is dressed for the occasion, you can breathe easy. You do not need to look like your younger classmates. And you should not feel like you are in competition with them.

Because you are feeling self-conscious, you may want to make a couple of adjustments. One way to keep the sleek look that spandex gives you is to wear tight bottoms with a looser top or a top that covers your hips. Being a bit more modest is a way for you to feel more age-appropriate while you continue your very important workouts.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)