Answer Lady: August 2009
Q. My friend's 16-year-old daughter treats her appallingly: She calls her names, talks back to her, and refuses to cooperate. I can't count the times I've almost said, "Tracy, stop speaking to your mother like that!" So far I've held my tongue, but it kills me to see my friend abused this way. Should I say something?
A. There's a slight chance you might get through to the little brat, but it's just as likely that she -- and her mom -- will be furious at you. Conceivably this could be a bonding experience for them, but I guarantee it will be no fun at all for you. Before you put in your two cents, have a talk with your friend. How does she feel about her daughter's behavior? Does she agree that it's "appalling"? Has she tried to establish some rules of civil communication? How? When? Realize that you will have to proceed with extreme caution even to broach this conversation. We parents have a way of getting defensive when others point out our kids' flaws even when we're hyperaware of those flaws ourselves. In any case, your friend is the one who has to decide that she won't tolerate any more disrespect. Unless and until she makes that decision, I'm afraid that saying anything to her daughter would be a waste of breath.
Q. I never know what to do when I have a dinner party and a friend shows up with a bottle of wine. Am I expected to serve it that night, even if I've already chosen a different wine?
A. Bringing a bottle of wine (or, alternatively, flowers) to a dinner party is not only an accepted practice but an excellent and courteous one. It's a gesture of appreciation, and you can simply add the bottle to the household supply. Should it come in handy that night, great. If not, save it for your next dinner together.
Q. I am all but certain that a coworker I'm friendly with will be laid off in the next few months. She and her husband are about to buy a new home with a hefty mortgage. Should I let her know what I know?
A. Well, the first thing I want to know is, how did you get this information? Would you be in trouble if it were discovered that you'd leaked it? I ask because as much as you might like your coworker and wish to protect her, you don't want to do anything that could land you on the unemployment line alongside her. Probably the best option for you is to frame the news in a general way. Tell her you get the idea that layoffs are in the works and that many people are vulnerable. For all you know, she and her husband have already considered this possibility in thinking through their mortgage payments. But if they haven't, you might be doing them a favor by stimulating the conversation. Just make sure you don't put your own job at risk in the process.