Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Feels Bad About Letting Down Friend

DEAR HARRIETTE: An acquaintance of mine asked me to read a script that he had written, but I have never gotten around to reading it. It was such an awkward moment when he asked me to read it, in person in a restaurant, that I felt compelled to say yes, but then I was either too busy, uninterested or forgetful to complete the circle. I see this guy occasionally, and I know he remembers. This was something he had worked on for a very long time. I feel bad that I agreed to do something and then reneged on it. I have no idea where the script is anymore.

This happened years ago. I bring it up now because I expect to see him at a reunion of our school in a couple of weeks. Should I apologize to him for letting him down? Should I act like it never happened? What should I do? -- Unscripted, Albuquerque, New Mexico

DEAR UNSCRIPTED: It will probably mean a lot to this man for you to acknowledge that you dropped the ball. For him to know that you didn’t mean to blow him off could lessen the blow that he has felt and possibly harbored over the years. Apologize for not fulfilling your promise. Be mindful, though, not to agree to read it now -- unless you actually will. Just say that you are sorry that you flaked years ago, and ask for his forgiveness. You can also ask how his career is going and if he ended up writing scripts.

Read more in: Friends & Neighbors | Etiquette & Ethics | Work & School

DEAR HARRIETTE: All of my friends who still have their parents are dealing with the fragility of their parents in one way or another. That includes me, by the way. It seems like every few months or so one of them dies.

I feel horrible, but I don’t always remember who is living and who has passed on. I made the mistake last year of asking about the father of one of my friends, only to be told that he had died months earlier. I was mortified. What should I say to friends if I am uncertain about their parents' mortality? -- Aging Parents, Pensacola, Florida

DEAR AGING PARENTS: Start by getting organized to the best of your ability. Make a written list of your friends and acquaintances, and write down their parents’ names and whether they are living -- to your knowledge. To verify, you may be able to check online, or ask friends who are close to them. When someone passes, make a note of it on your list. This may seem morbid, but it’s practical. It helps you to keep track of how to honor your friends and their parents. If you record the dates of the parents’ passing, you may even choose to be extra sensitive with friends on those anniversaries.

When you are unsure, be vague, and keep your questions about your friend. You can ask how the person is doing. That open-ended question often leads to a rich harvest of information. If you listen, you will likely learn the status of parents -- and many other personal facts.

(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 | Death | Etiquette & Ethics | Friends & Neighbors