Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Friend's Tardiness Irks Reader

DEAR HARRIETTE: A few days ago, I waited for my best friend to come outside of her home for 30 minutes. I ended up leaving and eating at a restaurant alone so I could continue with my day. She never apologizes when this scenario happens because she justifies it I can always carry on with our plan without her. Should I cease the invites until she figures out how to read a clock? -- Get Out, Philadelphia

DEAR GET OUT: Let’s start with a few questions for you: Did you ring the bell to see what was taking so long? Do you know if she was in her house? Why did you wait that long? In order to wrestle free from whatever hold your “best” friend has over you, you must look honestly at how she treats you. It is unacceptable to make you wait for so long with no excuse -- worse, that she does it repeatedly.

Stop making plans to meet your friend. Plan activities for yourself that do not include her. Do your best to consider how you can comfortably broaden your network of friends. You have to find healthy ways to do other things that do not involve your so-called “best friend.” When she calls you on it, tell her that a best friend wouldn’t treat you like that. Ask her to treat you with respect by showing up on time.

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics | Friends & Neighbors

Reader Trying to Close Gap With Stepmother

DEAR HARRIETTE: My stepmother has never been a welcome member of our family due to her role in my parents' divorce. My siblings and I have never gotten her a present for her birthday or Christmas, and we usually send her a generic birthday or holiday text. Now that we are in our 20s, I brought up the idea of purchasing “Melanie” a gift for her birthday and was met with resistance from my sister, who cannot understand why I’d want to bury the hatchet.

Would buying Melanie a birthday present seem like I’ve forgiven her for her past? I just don’t think it’s healthy to drag out drama from decades ago. -- In the Present, Phoenix

DEAR IN THE PRESENT: Congratulations on attempting to turn the page in your family. Whatever occurred years ago is in the past. Your effort to acknowledge your stepmother in the present is smart for everyone. Believe it or not, holding on to grudges is more harmful to those holding on than on the object of their scorn. Letting go and forgiving is liberating for you and everyone else. You all deserve a fresh start. It doesn’t mean that you forget the past. It means that you choose to live in the here and now and figure out a way forward, preferably together.

Stay your course. Encourage your siblings to let go of their old wounds and to focus on today. Ask them to follow your lead and view your stepmother in terms of who she is and how she has been involved in your family over time. Make a concerted effort to establish a meaningful bond with her. She will never replace your mother, but she can and should be a positive part of your family dynamic.

(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.)

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Marriage & Divorce | Holidays & Celebrations | Etiquette & Ethics