Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Elementary School Bully Reaches Out to Woman

DEAR HARRIETTE: When my friend was in elementary school, there was this boy in my class who would constantly harass her. His bullying was so severe she was almost always crying and would ditch weeks of school just to avoid him.

This was over 10 years ago. Now she is an adult and has completely moved on. She is doing much better. She has a good-paying job and a large group of friends. However, recently, her bully messaged her asking if she wanted to meet up with him and “catch up.” She called me in hysterics, and it left me at a loss for words. I told her not to respond if it made her uncomfortable. Now she has been getting constant messages from him, and she is unsure of his intentions. Any tips? -- What To Do

DEAR WHAT TO DO: Your friend should face this guy from a position of strength. There is a good chance that he is reaching out to make amends, meaning to apologize for his behavior in the past and to attempt to make things right between them. This is not to say that she should make space to welcome him into her life. She can be crystal-clear with him about how she feels -- including that she does not want him to contact her anymore.

If she agrees to meet up with him, it should be in a public space during daylight hours. If she feels more comfortable with someone accompanying her, that’s fine, too. She should be in control of the meeting. She can give him a moment to explain why he has resurfaced and ask him directly what he wants. She should let him know that she has no interest in speaking with him anymore. He was rude, disrespectful and mean to her when they were in elementary school, and she has no interest in establishing any type of relationship with him now. If he asks for forgiveness, I recommend that she agrees to that. It will help to soothe her conscience. To forgive is not to forget, but it can clear the air.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband goes on and on about aliens, saying that they are living among us. Now there is a cable channel devoted to them, and he is even more passionate in his arguments -- though, honestly, they seem nuts. When we are hanging with friends and he starts in about aliens, I cringe; I can see that most of my friends don’t want to hear it. How can I get him to tone down this talk? It’s embarrassing in public and overbearing in private. -- No More Aliens

DEAR NO MORE ALIENS: When it’s just the two of you, you can excuse yourself from the conversation. If he wants to know why, tell him that you are not interested in the subject and that it bothers you how obsessed he is. You may want to add the recommendation that he curb his enthusiasm about aliens when you’re hanging out with friends. Suggest that he notice how people react when he goes on and on. As with any other obsessive conversation, people typically don’t want to be held hostage listening to 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 askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)