Answer Lady: December 2010/January 2011
Q. My friend has recently become much more religious. She makes judgy comments and tries to get me to go to her church (I have my own!). How do I tell her she's crossing the line?
A. She probably means well. Your friend just rediscovered her faith, so naturally she's excited enough to shout it from the rooftops! But if it's straining your relationship and she doesn't tone it down, you'll need to lay it out for her plain and simple: "If we're going to continue to be friends, we'll need to stop talking about religion. For me, faith is a private thing and I'm happy with my church. It makes me uncomfortable when you try to get me to join yours." When she makes judgmental comments, say, "Jane, we seem to think very differently about things these days. I think we're better off just avoiding this topic." If that doesn't get her to back off, you might have to downsize or even end the friendship.
Q. One of my friends is always late for my dinner parties. Do the rest of us have to wait for her before starting to eat?
A. As a rule of thumb, and depending on how your food will hold up, you don't need to wait more than 15 minutes. You could fib and tell her to come 30 minutes early next time. This, of course, will probably work only once. Better yet, be straightforward: "I've invited people for 7 p.m. and I'm serving at 8. If you're not here on time I'll save you a plate." When your tardy guest finally makes her appearance, serve the course everyone else is having and don't apologize. Just give her a big smile and say, "Glad you made it!"
Q. I'm worried about people drinking too much and driving after our office holiday party. How do I express this without being a party pooper?
A. Glad you asked, since it's much more effective to preempt this problem than to try to deal with it once the party's in progress. Don't feel shy about addressing the issue -- even colleagues who plan to limit themselves to a couple of drinks will be relieved to have a safe option. Start by talking to the staffer who's organizing the party. These days it's not uncommon for companies to provide transportation. If you can't get your company to make a formal plan, canvass coworkers to find designated drivers, ride shares, or people to split taxis. Unfortunately, no matter what you do some people might just try to stagger out the door to their cars. Be forceful. "Marie, we're not going to let you drive home. The police are out in force at this time of year and it's just not safe." Remind her how awful it would be to cause an accident or get a DWI, then put her in a safe car or a cab.