DEAR READERS: Your questions and dilemmas never take a holiday, but occasionally I must. This year I’m spending a week pursuing a rigorous summertime schedule of mini-golf, water slides and go-kart racing. This week’s “best of” columns come from deep within the Ask Amy vault. Like a soft-serve twisty cone, they are sometimes even more enjoyable as a second helping.
DEAR AMY: Is it ever appropriate to ask people the cost of items in their homes? I don’t think so, while my husband maintains that it is fine to ask this question of family and close friends.
The issue arose when my father-in-law asked the cost of an aerial photo of our home that I had recently given to my husband as a gift. Does it matter if the questioner is actually considering a similar purchase or is just curious?
Finally, if you choose not to answer, what is the gracious response? — Brought up Differently
DEAR BROUGHT UP: I’m with you; I don’t think it’s appropriate to ask the cost of an item. If your father-in-law was curious or considering a similar purchase, he could politely ask, “Was that really expensive? I’d love to have that done at our home.” This leaves an opening for you to say, “Well, it wasn’t too bad. Actually, here’s the number of the guy we hired.”
One gracious response to a question you simply don’t want to answer was taught to me by a dear friend from Atlanta.
Just look the offender in the eye, pat him warmly on the arm and say, “Why, aren’t you sweet to ask!” That’s it. (August 2003)
DEAR AMY: My sister and brother-in-law often tell their children to “shut up.” I cringe every time those words are used because they seem so demeaning and crude.
Recently I spent the day with my 3-year-old niece. She told me to “shut up,” and I told her that wasn’t nice and she shouldn’t say that.
Because I do not have children and fear being told either to mind my own business or that I wouldn’t understand raising children, how can I suggest they use “be quiet” rather than “shut up,” or should I just stay out of it? — I’d Rather “Be Quiet”
DEAR QUIET: Some parents mistakenly think that the only “foul” language they shouldn’t use in front of the kids is that of the four-letter-word variety. But some language is far more hurtful than swearing. To my thinking, “shut up” is just about the worst thing you can say to a child, for the reasons you state.
Your niece handed you an opening with your sister. Tell Sis that her daughter said “shut up” in front of you, and act a little shocked. Say, “Whoa, I was really surprised. Do you see that she is repeating you?”
Truly, I’m not optimistic that you’ll have much of an impact here, but I applaud you for wanting your nieces and nephews to be respected (and respectful). You’re a good influence. (September 2003)
DEAR AMY: I’m a senior in high school and have a love-triangle problem. A friend with whom I am not very close has been dating the same boy for almost four years. The problem is that I have fallen in love with him.
I keep trying to tell myself to just wait until I leave high school and then find someone else, but I also know that he is very attracted to me as well. There is a very good chance we will be attending the same college. He is completely unaware of how I feel.
Should I keep trying to get over him or reveal my feelings to him and see what happens? — Head over Heels
DEAR HEAD: First, catch some reruns of “Felicity.” I think you’ve covered the back story to the first season in your letter.
It is very bad form for a young woman to attempt to move in on a guy who is otherwise involved in a long and committed relationship. Truth be told, 18-year-old girls have been known to ignore that rule, though I certainly hope you won’t.
College is around the corner. I predict you’ll have calculated the third angle to your love triangle before you figure out how to do your first load of laundry. But wait until then. (May 2004)