Answer Lady: March 2009
SPECIAL OFFER: - Limited Time Only!
(The ad below will not display on your printed page)


Answer Lady: March 2009

This month, our wise and witty expert takes on the problems of a chronic case of cyber guilt, an excitable terrier (and its clueless owner), and a greedy niece.

Q. Our family is on a tight budget, so we tap into our neighbors' wireless networks. I feel a bit guilty that they're paying for Internet access while we get it for free. Should I?

A. Piggybacking on someone else's Wi-Fi connection is a common practice: When I use my laptop in a friend's backyard, I hop on any open network that shows up. "Open" is the key: If people want to keep their networks private, they can password-protect them. But if you're a heavy user, you could be slowing down their connection. Moreover, some state and federal laws prohibit piggybacking. True, you're unlikely to find local law enforcement pounding on your door ("Sorry, ma'am, but we need to see your modem"). Still, in 2007, a Michigan man was fined $400 for using a coffee shop's Wi-Fi while sitting out front in his car! Best solution: Find a local Wi-Fi hangout and spring for a latte.

Q. A friend of mine has an absurdly spoiled terrier that goes wild and jumps all over me whenever I visit. My friend can see I'm terrified but does nothing. She has a baby and finds it hard to get out and socialize. Any advice?

A. It's hard for us dog lovers to believe that not everyone feels as we do about our darlings, so we can be a bit dim. You think your friend can see your terror, but love may make her blind. The only solution is to talk to her about it, leaving the words "absurdly spoiled" out of the discussion. Explain that, regrettably, her dog makes you so nervous that you can't enjoy your visits. If she can't put him in another room -- one where the barking won't disrupt your conversation -- could she and the baby come to your house? Or start the visit with a walk, the baby in her stroller and the dog on his leash. With luck, this will wear out the dog, lull the baby to sleep, and give you two some time to chill back at her place.

Q. When our niece got married 18 months ago, we gave her one of the priciest gifts in her registry. A mere eight months later she filed for divorce. Now she's getting remarried -- and has registered again. Do we really have to pony up for a fancy present a second time? We do plan to attend the wedding.

A. Too bad her mother -- or some other wise person -- didn't stop her from reprising the registry. (Or maybe she's thinking ahead: Now Hubby #2 will have a set of dishes if things don't work out.) But you don't have to play along. Instead of letting her order up a second round of booty, why not give something sentimental this time? A pillow personalized with their names and the wedding date. A plaque for their entryway. A book of love poems. Or chip in with other repeat victims to buy them a weekend at a nice hotel -- a second honeymoon, to use when they need it (maybe sooner than they think). If you don't feel like being this creative, just pick from the low end of the registry. But I do think you'll feel awkward giving nothing at all.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, March 2009.

Send your etiquette dilemmas to our expert at