Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Woman Questions Socially Constructed Gender Roles

DEAR HARRIETTE: We have several gender stereotypes and expectations in our society. Specifically, men are viewed as the ones who are supposed to chase and approach women. They are also supposed to be the ones to propose marriage. This causes many women -- like myself -- to miss out on opportunities and relationships. We do not take the chance or make the first move on men. Do you feel that times should progress into a more gender-neutral society, or should these gender roles remain traditional? -- Changing Expectations

DEAR CHANGING EXPECTATIONS: Depending upon who you talk to, expectations have already changed dramatically for many people. And yet, some of the so-called classic behaviors remain desirable for some people. I think it is perfectly acceptable for you to invite a man out if you are interested in him. It is OK for you to approach someone you like. What happens too often is that the nice guys who are sometimes shy and not as forthcoming as the more experienced guys do not make moves at all. And then, sadly, some people never get a chance to connect. For initial interactions, then, I think it is OK for either women or men to “make the first move” and express interest.

When it comes to asking to get married, ideally both parties have a good sense that they are ready. The idea of getting married should come because both partners have come to be close to each other and are choosing each other for the long haul. Having mutual love and respect should lead to the next step -- marriage. While it is romantic and old-school to entertain the idea of a man swooping in to ask your father for your hand in marriage before asking you, it is also perfectly fine for you to present your own invitation to your beloved. Making a commitment that includes marrying the family -- because you really do -- is what’s most important.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a small consulting firm, and I am working to build my clientele. One of my new clients is nice but difficult. He is always late for meetings or reschedules at the last minute. I don’t want to walk away from this client, but I can’t afford to sit around and not accept other work only for him to cancel at a moment’s notice. I’m nervous about charging a kill fee or full fee for a no-show, but I’m not sure what else to do. -- Value My Time

DEAR VALUE MY TIME: You should make guidelines for your clients that explain your terms for no-shows or late-comers. If you have a standard policy that you follow, no client should take it personally when you charge them for time that they have squandered. While you may feel nervous about losing this client, you will need to assess whether it’s actually worth it for you to keep him if he is so unreliable that it’s costing you money.

Since you have not previously instituted a kill fee, you can let him know that moving forward you will now be instituting this fee, and you hope he understands.

(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.)