DEAR HARRIETTE: My boyfriend and I have been together for about five years. We began dating in college and are still happily together. I have been getting hints and clues that he is planning on proposing to me soon. I love him but don't want to be engaged in my early twenties. Should I say something to Jason before he pops the question or wait to see if he actually does? I see us getting married, just not now. -- Youth, Milwaukee
DEAR YOUTH: If you absolutely do not want to get engaged now, spare your boyfriend the embarrassment and expense of proposing to you by speaking to him about your feelings right away. Express your love for him and your future desire to marry, but also your lack of interest in making that full commitment today.
Beware that by doing this, though, you may be shutting the door on him being your husband. If he doesn't want to wait or wants to be certain that you will not get involved with anyone else along the way, he may reject your rejection. If that occurs, be prepared to talk it out.
It's tricky for young couples who fall in love and believe they are meant for each other but who also want to build their careers. The risks are obvious. If you do not commit, that relationship may end. If you do commit, you may be able to balance career-building with family development -- or not. You have to decide what is more important to you.
DEAR HARRIETTE: Two months ago, I got in trouble for shoplifting $2 worth of photos from a discount store. I got arrested and was incredibly mortified -- only three people knew about this entire ordeal because they were there when it happened. I swore them to secrecy only to hear that "Jordyn" has been telling her friends all about my legal troubles!
I cannot believe she blabbed about my arrest. She isn't the brightest and doesn't understand why I am so upset that something so personal about me is now common knowledge. How can I get it through to her? -- Hush Up, Washington, D.C.
DEAR HUSH UP: You are misdirecting your anger and shame. That even a single person witnessed your arrest means it was probable that someone else would find out. That is human nature.
Instead of expending energy being mad at Jordyn, turn your attention to yourself. If you are going to have to go to court, get ready. Hire an attorney who can help you prepare. Even though you must tell the truth, your lawyer will help you figure out the best way to reveal the truth in order to protect your interests. If you do not have to go to trial and are lucky enough to receive only a reprimand, be grateful and resolve never to do such a dumb thing again.
Also be careful about calling other people names. In this instance, you yourself weren't the brightest, or you wouldn't have shoplifted in the first place.
(Harriette Cole is a life stylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)