Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Contributing to Society Comes in Many Forms

DEAR HARRIETTE: I’m in a weird position. On one hand, I feel for people who are in need, like the ones who beg for money or food on the street and who are obviously in a bad situation. But I’m annoyed by people, especially young people, who sit on the sidewalk, beg for money and get an attitude when I don’t give anything to them. I may look good, but I am struggling too, and I have a job. The last thing I’m going to do is give money to somebody my own age when I wish I could be asking for money from them.

How do I bow out gracefully and not give to random people on the street but still be a meaningful contributor to society? I am not coldhearted, but I do not have a budget for charity, at least not yet. -- Drawing the Line, Jersey City, New Jersey

DEAR DRAWING THE LINE: You are not alone in feeling conflicted about how to take care of yourself and support your fellow human. Take a moment and consider what form of public service you can do now. You can volunteer at a charity, a church, a shelter or some other organization that helps people who are in need. You can select a charity and give it a monthly financial donation or an annual donation. By the way, the amount does not have to be big. Give what you are comfortable contributing.

As far as people on the street who ask you for money, you do not have an obligation to give them anything. Simply treat them with respect. You can wish them a good day, smile and keep moving. Some may yell that what they really need is money, but more will likely welcome a kind glance.

Read more in: Money | Etiquette & Ethics

Strong Cologne Turns Off Date

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have gone out with a guy on two dates. He always looks nice when I see him. He seems nice enough, but there is a problem that I don’t know how to address. He wears very strong cologne and too much of it. Without even touching him, I end up smelling like him. His car reeks of the fragrance, and it’s overpowering. I think he puts on too much cologne out of nervousness, or maybe he doesn’t realize how strong the smell is. Whatever the reason, it’s intolerable. How can I tell him without making him feel self-conscious? -- Over the Top, Boston

DEAR OVER THE TOP: The best thing to do is just tell him. You can sweeten it by saying you appreciate that he is always so pulled together. Compliment him on how he looks and how he treats you. Then tell him there’s one thing that you need him to know: You have a sensitive nose and his cologne is too strong. Ask him if he would be willing to not wear any fragrance for a while. If he likes you enough, he will try to make you feel comfortable, even if that means not spraying himself anymore.