Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Friend's Death Brings Up Question of Condolences

DEAR HARRIETTE: I belong to a boat club, and I see the same people every summer. One guy who has been part of the community for years came back this season as always, but he looked thin and unhealthy. My husband finally asked him what was up and learned that he had cancer. He has subsequently died. We are so sad about this. None of us knew he was ill, and he didn’t mention it to our friend group. He wasn’t old. He was like most of us, in his early 50s.

I’m not quite sure what to do now. I want to show my respect. We know his family a little bit, but we only hung out at the club. His mother is still living. Would it seem odd to reach out to her? I met her once before. -- Losing a Friend, Washington, D.C.

DEAR LOSING A FRIEND: I am so sorry for your loss. It can seem odd and off-putting to lose a friendly acquaintance whom you see only once a year. Those bonds that you form during your summer fun are meaningful, and the loss cuts deeply.

You should reach out to your friend’s mother and let her know how saddened you are that her son is gone. Check to see if you can be of help in any way that you can manage. She will appreciate it. You may also want to hold a memorial service at your club to acknowledge this man’s passing.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My 14-year-old daughter’s best friend wears provocative clothing all the time. She is tall and thin and often wears short shorts or mini-dresses and high heels. I think it’s because she has an older sister and wants to compete with her. In the end, it’s hard for me to let my daughter hang out with her. I don’t let my daughter dress like that. I’m no prude, but I teach her about modesty. It seems like this other girl’s parents just let her do whatever she wants. I do tell my daughter when I think her friend is dressed inappropriately, but I wonder if I should say something to her parents. -- Too Provocative, Dallas

DEAR TOO PROVOCATIVE: Your daughter is at an impressionable age, yes, but she still has your guidance and support. I wouldn’t ban her from hanging out with this girl. If she believes she is her best friend, she will likely try to spend time with her anyway. You should continue telling your daughter what the boundaries of appropriateness are in your house. Be careful not to judge her friend. Just say what your guidelines are and where you draw the line.

In terms of telling the friend’s parents, be careful. It is likely that they know what their daughter is wearing and have allowed it. You have influence over your daughter. Stay focused on her.

(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.)