Answer Lady: October 2009
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Answer Lady: October 2009

This month our wise and witty expert takes on a friend with a potty mouth, neighbors bearing gifts, and unflattering photos that show up on Facebook.

Q. A family friend took some horrible candid shots of me -- granny glasses, no makeup, and three chins -- and then plastered the photos all over her Facebook page. What can I say to her without seeming petty or vain?

A. It's not a bit petty or vain to ask your friend to take the pictures down, and it's well within your rights. And if she intentionally chose unflattering photos, it's mean of her (and very seventh grade) to have put them up in the first place. Just be frank: "I know you think these pictures are hilarious, but I'm embarrassed to have them online. If I thought I usually looked that bad I'd crawl into a hole and stay there." Remember that while you cannot take down photos that other people have posted on their Facebook pages, you can at least untag them so they won't be linked to your profile.

Q. My good friend's husband swears like a gangsta rapper. The constant stream of four-letter words no longer bothers me but I'm certain my other friends would be offended by it. Consequently, I feel as though I shouldn't invite the two of them to a dinner party. Any advice?

A. One approach is to talk to your friend and admit that you've been reluctant to have her and her husband over for a group dinner because of his, uh, colorful vocabulary. It's hard to believe this has never been an issue for her -- presumably the two of them have dined at some point with her parents or uptight relatives -- so you might want to suss that out a little. Has she ever asked him to tone it down? Would she be willing to ask again? If you don't feel comfortable having this conversation (and I wouldn't blame you), another way to view the problem is as a challenge to your hostessing skills. For example, you could invite only your most tolerant friends, the ones you're confident will give your friend's husband the benefit of the doubt until they get to know him. Finally, consider the possibility that you're overestimating your friends' sensitivities. After all, they're grown-ups and most likely take four-letter words in stride.

Q. The couple next door, who just moved to our town, asked my husband and me to help them rake leaves off their lawn. As a thank-you they gave us a $150 gift card to a home improvement store. That's simply too much. Should we give it back?

A. It's awkward to have to return a gift, but this one is over the top. You don't want the relationship to get off on the wrong foot, however, so why not return the card along with a note saying that while you're touched by their generosity, they really don't need to pay you back for lending a neighborly helping hand. "Count on our help when you need it and we'll do the same." Another choice would be to keep the card but use part of it to buy them a housewarming gift. Leave the gift on their doorstep with a note: "You're way too generous! Welcome to the neighborhood."

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, October 2009.

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