Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Nephew Wants Friends to Crash Small Dinner

DEAR HARRIETTE: My nephew is in town visiting with some of his high school buddies. We agreed that he would come to dinner with my family and me one evening.

As I was preparing for him, he called to ask if he could bring his group of five to the dinner with him. I planned a small meal for four people, not for a group of nine. I hated to tell him no, but I was not prepared to accommodate everyone. I also didn’t appreciate him springing that on me at the last minute. Had we made such a plan, I could have purchased enough food and hosted them all. In the end, my nephew did not come to dinner with us as he wanted to stay with his friends. I saw him the next day briefly before he headed out of town.

How can I address this with my nephew so that he understands I did not mean to reject his friends, but he did not handle his request to me well at all? -- Crasher, Cincinnati

DEAR CRASHER: Feel free to follow up with your nephew by phone. Check in with him to learn how he enjoyed his trip. Express your disappointment that you did not get to see him for a longer period of time. Then tell him that you wish he had been straightforward about wanting to bring his friends to dinner in a timely fashion. Explain that you would have hosted them given ample time, but you literally did not have enough food for all of them with last-minute notice. Tell your nephew that the poor timing of his request made for an awkward situation for everyone. Ask him to plan ahead in the future. It will help to clear the way for a great experience for everyone.

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DEAR HARRIETTE: I went to visit my family recently, and I was shocked to see how much weight my brother has gained. I want to say that he is probably 50 pounds bigger than he was last year. Naturally, he seems to be uncomfortable in his skin. His clothes don’t fit. He’s a mess. I know he is an adult, but he’s my brother. I feel like I should say something, but I don’t know what to say so that I don’t hurt his feelings. -- Big Brother, Boston

DEAR BIG BROTHER: Too bad you didn’t talk when you were face to face. The next best thing is to call him. Tell him you want to speak to him about a sensitive subject. Ask for his permission to proceed. Then tell your brother that you are concerned about him. Reveal that you noticed that he has gained a lot of weight since you last saw each other and that you are worried, given how quickly he put it on. Ask him what happened. Find out how he is feeling. Even if he is unwilling to talk about his weight, you can also encourage him to get a physical to ensure that he has no major health issues.

(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.)

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