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Q. What's the best way to handle a friend who texts while you're riding in her car? I feel unsafe, but it's awkward to speak up.
A. It may feel weird, but it's the only sane thing to do. Doesn't she follow the news? People of all ages die every day from this practice, and you could easily Google a story or two from your local paper to show her if need be. But start with a simple, pleasant request. Just say, "Marcia, you may think this is silly, but I'm afraid to ride with someone who's not looking at the road. If you want, give me your phone and I'll text for you. Or we can pull over." If she doesn't keep her eyes and fingers off her phone after that, you have no choice but to stop riding with her. Suggest that you drive or that you take your car.
Q. Is there a polite way to quit my book club? It's really gone in a different direction -- I can't stand the books we read now!
A. Ah, well. One person's Jodi Picoult is another person's Jane Austen. Just say, "This has been fun, but I'm going to retire from book club for a while. I love getting together with you guys, but I'm just not finding time to read anymore." Or if you want to be really straightforward, just confess that you haven't been enjoying the selections. If it turns out that others feel the same way, you can either hang around for a review of the selection process or stick to your guns and quit. To soften the blow, consider hosting some other type of event -- like a wine tasting or a clothing swap -- to maintain friendships.
Q. For Valentine's Day my husband always takes me to the same fancy restaurant. Problem is, I hate the food! Is there any way to say something without hurting his feelings?
A. Let me guess -- you don't want to discourage any romantic gestures from your hubby, especially if they're not as frequent as they used to be! I get it. But your special night will be a lot more fun if you can stomach the chow. You need to speak up, but you don't have to come completely clean. Instead, suggest mixing up your tradition this year. Find a local restaurant with a special Valentine's Day menu for your pitch: "Luigi's is great, but I'm dying to try the creme brulee at that new French bistro." Or take over and plan the whole evening. "You always do all the work. Let me surprise you for once!" If he seems sad or confused because you've lost enthusiasm for the beloved routine, make sure he knows that the important things haven't changed -- like how much you love him.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, February 2011.