DEAR HARRIETTE: I was invited to a bridal shower but was unable to attend because of a last-minute scheduling conflict. I feel bad because I really like the woman who is getting married. I was wondering if I should get her a gift anyway. I already know that I will not be able to attend the wedding. It is a destination wedding, and a little pricey for my wallet. But I want to do something for her. Do I get her a shower gift and a wedding gift, even though I won't be attending either? What do you recommend? -- WHAT TO GIVE
DEAR WHAT TO GIVE: Think about the bride and what she would appreciate. If she has a registry for the shower and for the wedding, peruse each of them. You may be able to find affordable items that show your love for her without breaking the bank. You might also consider writing a check that you put in a lovely congratulatory card for your friend.
While you do not have to give her anything, a small token of your love for her and her new life with her husband will be greatly appreciated.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I used to like to shop with my friend from work. We like similar things and enjoy going to the mall or to little boutiques. It's a fun way to pass the time, and it has enhanced our friendship.
I have noticed recently, though, that she has begun to buy identical things that I buy. We will be looking for clothing or shoes or accessories, and I will make a decision. Next thing you know, she has either bought the same thing at the same time, or later she will go back and pick it up. I'm talking same item, same color -- identical. I don't like that. I have my own style. There are enough items in the store for the two of us to make our own independent choices. How can I get her to stop copying me? -- COPYCAT
DEAR COPYCAT: Sounds like your work friend has gotten a little too close for comfort. She may not even realize how off-putting it is for her to co-opt your style so directly and regularly. It's true that, as the saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But your friend has taken it too far.
How can you stop it? Stop shopping with her, for starters. When she asks you to shop with her, tell her no thank you, and go by yourself. You may need to research alternative stores or brand names too, so that you make it more difficult for her to sleuth out your next purchases.
Beyond that, it is likely that this friend will ask you what is wrong and why you don't hang out anymore. When she is ready to ask the question is when she will be most able to hear what you have to say. Then, you can tell her how disappointed you are that she chose to copy you so precisely. Explain that her habit of buying whatever you buy is crossing your privacy line and making you feel very uncomfortable.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)