Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Difference in Parents' Ages Causing Problems

DEAR HARRIETTE: My parents have been married for over 15 years. They met in medical school. (My father is a surgeon, and my mother was a nurse.) There is a big age gap between them, as my father is 10 years older than my mother.

Growing up, I never noticed the age different, but as we all get older, I can see how such a huge age gap affects their relationship. My father is very traditional in the sense that he doesn’t bother with new trends in the world or updating his lifestyle. On the other hand, my mother is more up-to-date with technology and knows more about the way the world works nowadays. Yesterday, they had a huge argument about getting a new car. My father wants to keep the car our family has now, but my mother wants an updated, safer car. Is there a way I can help my parents solve this dispute? What is your take on martial age gaps? -- Parents' Age Gap, Memphis, Tennessee

DEAR PARENTS’ AGE GAP: It may be that the issue here is the age difference. It may also be that your father prefers to be in the role of decision-maker and doesn’t appreciate your mother’s pushback. Strategy may be useful here. Perhaps your mother can invite your father to go for a test drive of cars that she finds interesting. She can pose it as a fun activity that does not need to involve buying a car. She should ask him to humor her by going along for the ride -- literally. Exposing him to the new technology firsthand may open his eyes to what is available on the market and how much it costs. If your mother is able to give him this experience, they may be able to move past the rigidity that is currently standing in their way.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a pretty busy person. I have a full-time job and a full social calendar, and I love spending the free time I do have just relaxing. My friend recently brought up the idea of joining a book club with him. I love to read and find that it relaxes me when I’m stressed, so my initial reaction was to say yes. When I went home after accepting the offer, I started to doubt my decision. I read when I feel like it, not when I’m told to. I’m afraid that being part of this book group with make me feel obligated to finish the book on a timeline, which I’m not sure I’ll like. Have you had any experience with book groups? Does being in one ruin the relaxing experience of reading? -- Book Club Newbie, Akron, Ohio

DEAR BOOK CLUB NEWBIE: Many people enjoy book clubs because they create the opportunity for a social experience designed around a particular topic. If you like talking about the storyline, plot, character development and other aspects of books, you may enjoy this type of engagement. These clubs work best when the size of the group is manageable -- no more than a dozen or so participants. They tend to meet once a month or even once a quarter. Yes, the discussion can veer toward the social, but the books do get discussed. You should try it out.

(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.)