Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Estranged Daughter Receives Mystery Mail

DEAR HARRIETTE: My father and I haven’t spoken in about two years. I had a baby out of wedlock, and he disowned me the moment he found out. I lost my dad, mom and sisters and was estranged from the family on his orders. He doesn’t allow anyone in the family to communicate with me. The last time I spoke to them was the day he told me to collect my belongings and I had to move in with my boyfriend’s family. They don’t even know my child’s name or gender.

This week, my boyfriend gave me a piece of mail addressed to me that was labeled as coming from my father. My heart sank when I received it, and I have been sick ever since. I haven’t opened it and don’t know if I should. My 21st birthday just passed, so maybe it’s a birthday card. After not seeing or hearing from my family, though, why now? I have been so fortunate and peaceful since being kicked out. I don’t want to see anything that is going to shake my peace. Should I open the letter? -- Excommunicated Daughter

DEAR EXCOMMUNICATED DAUGHTER: Open the envelope. Whatever it is, you can handle it. Not knowing is eating you up. You might as well know. Sit with your boyfriend if you believe he will be supportive, and open the mail together. Whatever your father says, know that you are now an adult with a child and a family. You are already taking care of yourself and making your way without your father’s help. Of course you miss your family and are hurt that you are disconnected from them, but it’s essential that you remember that you have proven yourself capable of fending for yourself without them.

Now, open the letter. If it is conciliatory, you have your opening to reconnect to the family. If it is not, you will decide how to proceed. Do know that children have a way of melting hearts. Even when parents start out judgmental based on religious or other values, connecting to those little angels often can heal. You might want to send photos of your baby to your family with a note saying how much you miss them.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My girlfriend and I just started dating, and her birthday is coming up. I want to do something special for her. When I asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday, she said not to worry about it. If I have ever learned anything about women, I’m just going to assume she doesn’t actually mean that. I would like to take her word for it, but I just can’t be the boyfriend that actually does nothing.

My girlfriend is an interior designer, so she pays attention to detail and is very over-the-top, but she hates surprises. So I am stuck. Do I go big? Do I do something small? Should I tell her or not? She already gave me an answer, but I feel like her asking for nothing has put me in a more difficult position. How do I know how to give her what she wants? -- I Don’t Speak Girl

DEAR I DON’T SPEAK GIRL: Your effort is noteworthy. I wouldn’t surprise your girlfriend. Instead, invite her to a special socially distanced dinner with you at a local restaurant or invite her to a meal that you prepare with all of her favorite foods. Tell her that you want to do something special for her that she will appreciate and that you hope she will welcome 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 or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)