DEAR HARRIETTE: I work in a conservative office where most people wear dark suits every day. I have conformed as much as I feel comfortable, but I hate wearing dark clothes all the time. Before this job, I wore bright colors every day. I don’t want to rock the boat too much, but I feel unhappy when I cannot express even a little of my personality through my attire. I want to add pops of color in my blouses, dresses or accessories. Is this too radical? -- Too Dark
DEAR TOO DARK: Looking professional should not require that you completely extract all of your personality from your wardrobe. Yet you still want to be strategic about how you present yourself for the work at hand. Why not do a test? On days when you do not have important meetings, add a bit of color. Go subtle for starters. A brightly colored blouse under a dark jacket can be a good trial. Gauge the reactions you get. If you can balance the conservative nature of your office with a bit of your personality, you may be OK.
You might also think of your office attire as your uniform that you wear for work but that you can take off as soon as you get home. Colorful flowers on your desk might help to keep the sunshine in your environment, even if you aren’t wearing it.
DEAR HARRIETTE: You missed an important point in your response to the mom of the pregnant daughter who is in college. Whether or not the daughter is with the baby's father and whether or not he is willing to help with the baby, he is legally responsible to support the child.
If they decide to keep the baby, they need to take support action against this man and legally establish paternity. This is essential -- not just for the monthly support payment. But if the man becomes disabled or dies, for instance, then the child would also be eligible for Social Security benefits. Other benefits could be available, such as medical and life insurance benefits, veterans benefits and rights to inheritance. Not to mention emotional support from the father. This affects the child for his or her entire life. -- Know Your Rights
DEAR KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: Very good point! The fact is that babies come into this world because of two participants. The father should be responsible whether or not the couple stays together, and even if the parents are young, as in this case when the mother is a college student.
A question that is hotly debated in this country is what to do when you become pregnant and do not have the resources or the desire to care for a child. There are two clear camps regarding reproductive rights. But the area gets much more nuanced when it comes to what happens when a child is born and the parents are not prepared to care for it. My challenge to families is to think through all options and make an informed decision that includes all parties. When you bring a child into this world, you need to take responsibility for caring for it. If it takes legal action to enforce that responsibility, so be it.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)