Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Family Serves Food Reader Can't Eat

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am lactose intolerant, and my family knows this. Yet whenever I come over for dinner, they serve creamy food. Heavy sauces and cheeses are in virtually every dish. I don’t understand it. I believe they love me. I remind them that I have dietary restrictions, but they don’t take my needs into account at all. I take Lactaid with me so that I don’t get sick, but I really don’t want to put all of that milk in my body in the first place. What can I do? -- Allergic to Family Dinners

DEAR ALLERGIC TO FAMILY DINNERS: It’s time to start cooking. In anticipation of your family gatherings, whip up a couple of dishes that you can eat and that can contribute to the overall meal. Since you have a sense of what they prepare, create your lactose-free version of one of those dishes, or simply bring something that you love that may appeal to others.

You can let them know that you are coming with dinner contributions or simply show up with them. If you are challenged about why you suddenly started bringing food, tell them that you cannot eat most of the food that they prepare, and you need some alternatives that are healthy for you.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I really put my foot in my mouth this time. I was hanging out with my young adult niece whom I adore, and I ended up barking orders at her when we were rushing to get to an event. I didn’t realize that my comments affected her at all at the time, but I noticed that she was in a bad mood later that evening. I was told later by another family member -- confidentially -- that my comments sparked her bad mood. I am mortified, but I was sworn to secrecy.

What can I do to make up for my unconscious behavior since I promised not to let my niece know that I was told what I did to offend her? I love my niece. The last thing I ever want to do is disrespect her. -- Forgiveness Vs. Secrecy

DEAR FORGIVENESS VS. SECRECY: Do not betray the trust of the person who informed you of your bad behavior. That will add salt to the wound and damage their relationship. Instead, know that you made a mistake in the way that you communicated with your niece, and pledge to yourself not to do that again. Since you and your niece generally have a good relationship, you should continue to strengthen that. Keep your communication rhythm going, and pay attention to how you speak to her.

Sometimes it can be challenging for adults to shift the way that they react to young people as they blossom into adults. We can be much bossier than the moment calls for. Check yourself if you notice that you are doing that with her. If you do it again, apologize for your behavior in the moment, but don’t bring up the past.

(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.)