Answer Lady: May 2009

This month our wise and witty expert takes on designer knockoffs, friends with (and without) money, and the problem with a public profile on Facebook.
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Q. I recently bought a "genuine" Prada handbag on eBay. The item I received is almost certainly not genuine -- it cost far less than one would ordinarily pay -- but it is beautiful and I love it. My question: Is there really anything wrong with using a knockoff that parades as the real thing?

A. You say you love your fake bag, yet part of that affection clearly stems from its pretending to be the real McCoy. And that, for the record, is illegal -- no small matter. But to my mind, the morality of designer fakes has less to do with whether you're cheating Prada than with whether it's okay to try to fool people about the price of a pocketbook. If you're not a happy faux-Prada person (as in: "I love your bag! Is it real?" "Lord, no, I bought it on eBay for 10 cents!"), then donate it to Goodwill and carry a bag commensurate with your means.

Q. For years my husband and I have gone out for monthly dinners with two other couples. Our friends don't know this, but our income recently took a nosedive. We want the tradition to continue but cringe when they choose an expensive restaurant and then order wine and appetizers while we stick to water and a moderately priced entree. We wouldn't dream of suggesting separate checks, which seems petty. But we do need to lower our costs.

A. Times are tough for everybody these days, so surely your group will understand if you suggest moving to a less-pricey venue. You don't have to give them a complete financial statement, just say you're cutting back on high-end indulgences. Chances are they've noticed your water-swilling and forgoing appetizers and may even be relieved. Like you, I deplore separate checks among friends. I'd rather see you call for a potluck at your house (bonus: retail-priced booze). After all, the reason you guys get together is because you enjoy one another's company. Who knows? Your bond may grow even stronger without the high-rent surroundings.

Q. Like many forty-something women these days, I'm an active member of Facebook. Recently two colleagues from work have "friended" me. I don't particularly want these women to have access to my full profile, yet if I offer them only limited access I know they'll be insulted. What do I do?

A. This situation is less awkward than you might think. There are discreet ways to limit Facebook access. You go into your privacy settings and decide which parts of your profile each friend can see. For example, you can block some photos from a specific person. When that person looks at your profile, every thing will appear normal even though she can't see the item you've blocked. (You can preview what the profile will look like to each friend.) In short, your colleagues won't even know they're limited. If they do suspect and have the nerve to mention it, say, "Yeah, I'm shy about putting stuff on the Internet." That way they won't feel singled out.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, May 2009.

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