Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Girlfriend's Mom Makes Guests Take Off Shoes

DEAR HARRIETTE: My girlfriend invited me to meet her parents; I was nervous, but still went over for dinner. I brought her mom some flowers and planned to be on my best behavior. When we arrived, what happened was definitely unexpected: Her mom told me I had to take off my shoes. She doesn’t let people wear shoes in the house. Don’t you think my girlfriend should have told me that? This is so weird. I took them off, but I felt so self-conscious. I was dressed nice and all, but I was worried that my socks smelled -- I had worn them a couple of times. Plus, I just didn’t feel comfortable without shoes. It was nice to meet them, but I felt so uncomfortable. How can I feel better when I go back there? -- Off My Game

DEAR OFF MY GAME: Tell your girlfriend you need to talk. Let her know how uncomfortable you were arriving at her parents’ home and being told to remove your shoes. Ask her why she didn’t give you a heads-up about her parents’ rules. Make it clear that you need the two of you to be on the same page, and that must include sharing details about how you grew up and any idiosyncrasies there may be. As long as the two of you stay close and supportive of each other, such odd moments shouldn’t throw you too much.

FYI: Many people require guests to take off their shoes when they enter their homes, so it is wise to wear clean socks from now on!

DEAR HARRIETTE: My daughter is a good student and a sweet girl. Her friends do OK in school, but not as well as she does. She has become uncomfortable talking to her friends about schoolwork. She says she doesn’t want to tell them her grades because she doesn’t want to make them feel uncomfortable. I agree that she doesn’t have to talk about her grades, but I want her to feel proud of her accomplishments and continue to strive to do her best. How can I encourage her while helping her keep her friends? -- Encouraging My Daughter

DEAR ENCOURAGING MY DAUGHTER: Your daughter is wise not to brag about her grades or share them with her friends. To remain close to them without being either competitive or braggy, she should continue to do her best work and keep her scores to herself. This is a practice that some progressive schools employ with the intention of having children compete against themselves rather than others. It is worthy of your daughter’s consideration.

Your job is to remind your daughter that you support her. Reinforce her practice of keeping her grades to herself while you remind her that she is smart and that this is important for her future. When her friends ask about grades, she can deflect and say she did her best and she hopes they did, too. She can offer to tutor them in subjects that she is excellent in -- if it feels right. Otherwise, she can simply continue to be their friend and count that as enough.

(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.)