Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Mom's Nipple Rings Embarrass Daughters

DEAR HARRIETTE: My sister and I have no interest in body piercings (except our ears). However, our 50-year-old mother recently got her nipples pierced and has started wearing jewelry there -- UGH! Our parents divorced five years ago, and my mother's not in a relationship right now, so it’s not to impress a man. She claims she did it to feel good about herself. She takes off her top to show her girlfriends when they come over, and we can see them roll their eyes, but she doesn’t seem to notice. Now she has started showing off her piercings to our girlfriends. We find this beyond embarrassing. Our friends are polite to her face, but they laugh behind her back, and word about it has spread, which we find embarrassing. If she wants to make a fool of herself in front of her friends, that’s one thing, but we don’t think she has the right to embarrass us in front of our friends. What can we do? -- Nipple Ring Embarrassment, Phoenix, Arizona

DEAR NIPPLE RING EMBARRASSMENT: Your mother is likely experiencing her version of a midlife crisis. For some people, it manifests as a fancy new car or an affair with a younger person. Hers seems to be her nipple rings. It is often embarrassing for onlookers, especially loved ones.

Draw the line. Tell her that you can see that she is going through something important to her. But express that flashing her nipple rings, particularly before your friends, is crossing the line. Be direct. Explain that you find it embarrassing and inappropriate for her to reveal her breasts to your friends. Ask her to stop, or you will have to stop bringing your friends around her.

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DEAR HARRIETTE: Years ago, I found out that I was pregnant while away on vacation. I wanted to tell my mother in person, but I was so excited that I needed to tell someone, so I called my best friend and made her promise not to tell anyone. The next day, I got a call from my mother. She told me that my friend texted her and said I was pregnant. I was furious and called my friend and started yelling, cussing and calling her all sorts of names. We have since forgiven each other, but our relationship hasn’t fully recovered. This friend has lost a lot of friends because she can’t keep her mouth shut and has posted people’s business online. I’ve decided not to tell her anything I don’t want repeated, and now we don’t talk as much.

Five years later, I’m pregnant with my second child, and everyone knows -- except her. I’m visibly pregnant now, so if she sees me, she’ll know and be hurt that I didn’t tell her. Every time I think about telling her, I get angry again. What can I do to stop hurting, and how can I get my friend back? -- Pregnancy News, San Francisco

DEAR PREGNANCY NEWS: If keeping this information from your friend is truly bothering you, give her a call and tell her. Otherwise, focus on your pregnancy, and when you see her, you can both share the joy of the moment. If she expresses sadness for not having known, you can have a heart-to-heart where you explain that you have never fully gotten over her betrayal with the first baby.

(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 | Friends & Neighbors | Etiquette & Ethics