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THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HALLMARK
Dear Short Answers: A very good friend invited me to a fancy dinner party at her home for Valentine's Day. I thought it was a wonderful idea since my husband died this past year and I knew that Valentine's Day was going to be hard for me. A few days before the dinner, my friend called to ask me who I was bringing to the party. I told her that I was coming alone. Then my friend told me that since this was Valentine's Day, it was "couples only" and that if I didn't bring a "date," I shouldn't come. I was stunned but I didn't go to the party. Do I say nothing to my friend and let this bother me forever? Or do I try to explain how cruel and thoughtless she was? Or is she right and Valentine's Day is just a horrible holiday designed to make widows and single people miserable?
- Sad Dear Sad: 1) Your friend is no friend. She is cruel and thoughtless. Dump her. 2) All holidays tell us a lot about the culture. In America, most holidays are built around a corny, celluloid view of life and family in which everyone is young, in love and surrounded by happy, intact, traditional families. 3) Those who continue to believe they have greeting-card lives should exchange them. The rest of us can happily explore the brave new world we really live in. CLOSED THIS SEASON Dear Short Answers: Since I have a home in Florida, this is the time of year when everyone wants to come visit. I try to keep guests to a minimum (and only the ones my husband and I like), so I have started to lie to people and make up excuses. I tell them that our guest room is booked (even if it isn't) or that relatives are coming (even when they are not). I hate myself for lying so much, but it's much easier than simply saying "I don't like you enough to invite you." Should I keep lying and feel guilty or tell the truth and hurt people's feelings?
- Over-Guested Dear Over-Guested: Lying is bound to catch up with you and it is humiliating to get caught. Why not tell these folks that you and your husband have decided to take the season off and recommend a nice B&B? THE COURAGE OF ONE Dear Short Answers: My friend is very charming and very beautiful, but she is a bully. She bullies her friends and her family, her boyfriend and her employer. Everyone puts up with it because no one incident is that bad and she can be very volatile. What should we do?
- Speaking for Friends and Family Dear F&F: A group intervention is rarely a good idea. We suggest that you get some guts and address each incident as it happens. Forget past sins and leave the gang out of it. If several of you push back, one at a time, she is likely to get the message. MAKE IT STOP! Dear Short Answers: Since airlines have stopped serving meals, more people seem to be boarding with steaming, smelly cartons of airport junk food. I actually saw a woman spill hot coffee on a seated passenger as she struggled with her carry-on and what appeared to be a 5-course meal. Help!
- Weary Road Warrior
Dear WRW: We think we saw that same woman! Ugh. It would be great if travelers limited their carry on food to a piece of fruit or a bag of pretzels - no smell, no mess, no nasty confrontations. But sadly, there's not a lot we can do about it.
Send your questions anonymously on our website (www.shortanswers. net) or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.Jeff Johnson has worked as a psychologist for New York State, New York City and the federal government as well as teaching at the graduate level. He is a Williams College alumnus and lives in Pownal, Vt. Paula Forman has worked as a professional "trend spotter" with high-profile clients such as Procter & Gamble. More recently, she taught sociology in the New York City university system. She lives and writes in Hudson, N.Y.