Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Single Mom Unsure of Friend's Adoption Plan

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a single friend in her 40s who has a good job and is a solid person. She told me that she is researching adopting a child. She says she loves her job and her life, but she always wanted to have children and doesn’t want to miss that chance. She wants me to support this idea.

I have two children and am a single mom, though I didn’t start out that way. I love my kids, but it is hard to manage my life, work and children. I bet this woman will be a great mom, but she needs to build a network of support. We are not close, and I cannot sign up for childcare. What can I say to her that will be supportive? -- Adopting a Child

DEAR ADOPTING A CHILD: You can be a sounding board without becoming a backup caregiver. This woman has reached out to you probably because you have children and are a single mom. You have firsthand understanding of what it takes to rear children, work and attempt to have a life. Speak honestly with her about your experiences so that she has a clear picture of what she is facing. Encourage her to talk to other moms about theirs. As you know, many women and men succeed at being single parents, despite the challenges.

If she is prepared to navigate this amazing experience, encourage her to identify and cultivate her network of support. Let her know that you do not believe you can be an active part of that network. You are stretched as far as you can go -- for now.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Friends & Neighbors | Etiquette & Ethics

Parent Questions Why Son Is Wearing Nail Polish

DEAR HARRIETTE: My son has started wearing nail polish. He has always been artistic, but this is a new practice. He is 16 years old and quite independent as he comes close to the end of high school. I know he wants to explore his personality and interests without our intervention, but I am curious about the polish. I know it doesn’t necessarily mean that he is gay, but I do wonder about this choice and what is on his mind. I am open to whoever my son is becoming, and I want him to talk to me. How can I get him to open up? If he is gay or exploring it, I want to know that, too. -- What Nail Polish Means

DEAR WHAT NAIL POLISH MEANS: Stop making assumptions and talk to your son. Ask him why he started wearing nail polish. Listen to see what he says. While most straight men may not wear colored nail polish, polish itself is no clear sign of someone’s sexual orientation. At my nail salon, for example, at least 30 percent of the men coming for manicures and pedicures appear to be straight men who care about their grooming.

If you are curious about your son’s sexual orientation, ask him directly and without judgment. Tell him you want to be able to support him as he becomes a man, so you want to know what is going on in his life. Encourage him to open up to you. Know that nail polish may only be a sign of creative exploration of his personality.

(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 | Sex & Gender | Teens