Answer Lady: May 2010

This month our wise and witty expert offers advice on how to deal with impolite dinner guests, a frumpy-looking friend, and a sister who's grieving.
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Q. My friend has been looking for a job for months. I know it's competitive out there, but I think she'd stand a better chance if her wardrobe wasn't so frumpy. How can I bring this up?

A. Believe it or not, I recently found myself on the receiving end of a similar situation. One of my friends told me I might have better luck in the romance department if I traded my baggy mom jeans for some sexy fitted ones. It wasn't exactly easy to hear, and at first I brushed it off as a superficial suggestion. But ultimately I bought new jeans -- and actually scored a few dates! So my advice to you is don't hold back. You won't come off as critical if you say, "I bet you'd feel more confident going into these interviews if you wore a really great outfit. Why don't we go to the mall and shop for a new pencil skirt and cardigan?" If she says she's on a tight budget, suggest a trip to an upscale consignment shop or, if you're the same size, offer to lend her some clothes.

Q. My sister just had a miscarriage and she's devastated. I know Mother's Day will be hard for her. What can I do to help?

A. For women who've endured a pregnancy loss or who have fertility issues, just seeing the word "mother" plastered all over the place for most of April and half of May can be extremely trying. The most useful thing you can do is to give your sister the chance to talk. Call her, tell her you're thinking about her, and mention that you realize how hard all the attention on Mother's Day must be. Then follow her lead. She may just want to ignore the occasion completely. Or maybe she'd like to do something with you that day -- see a movie or go for a long bike ride -- to take her mind off it. Unless your sister has ruled it out, it's fine to send her flowers or a card to mark the holiday. (You can actually find greeting cards that are tailored to this situation. Go to your card shop or find them online at Whatever step she decides to take, she'll know you're there for and thinking of her.

Q. Whenever my neighbors come over for dinner they stay way too late. Is there a polite way to nudge them out the door?

A. The next time you invite them over, preempt the problem by mentioning both the start and end times of the evening. "Why don't you come at around 7? That will give us plenty of time to hang out, since I'd like to wrap it up by 9:30." When the hour comes, mention the time and say, "Wow, how did it get to be so late already?" Then start clearing the table. If you want, you can say something like, "The kids have an early soccer game tomorrow" or "I've been up since 6 and I'm wiped out." With luck they'll take the hint. If not, for your next get-together arrange to meet them at a restaurant, where you can end the evening on your own timetable.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, May 2010.

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