Q. Pets Aren't Children?: I do not have children of my own, so my pets have become my children. I love each and every one of them as much as my friends with children love their kids. Last week a neighbor's dog attacked and killed one of my beloved cats. My deceased cat was only 4-years-old and was sweet and funny and feisty. I feel raw grief and emptiness over losing her, especially so violently. Four years ago my good friend Claire lost her daughter in a drunk driving accident. (Claire's daughter was the drunk driver.) I told Claire I understood how she felt about losing her daughter so horrifically. Claire flew into a fury and raged at me, calling me crazy for equating the loss of her child to the loss of my pet. I know many people wouldn't agree that pets can be children, but I didn't mean any harm by my comment. I wanted Claire to know I was feeling pain like she had and that we could support each other. What should I do to repair our friendship?
A: Write her a letter apologizing. Say that out of your own sadness you made a horribly insensitive remark which you deeply regret. Say your heart breaks at the loss of Claire and you never meant to denigrate the pain your friend will always feel. Say you hope she can forgive your blunder.
Q. "Sugar Baby": This is a real thing? Why didn't anybody tell me? I was a cute girl in my 20s. I could have done that. Instead I just worked. What a sucker I was.
A: Lots of women are writing in about how they wish they'd known there was an easier way to finance that law school education. Sure, there must be rich men willing to pay for the company of an attractive woman. But my impression is that rich men don't tend to have trouble finding such people without drawing up contracts. Of course, one celebrity (can't remember who) who got caught up in a prostitution scandal explained there was a reason he paid when so many women would do it for free: "You aren't paying for the sex. You're paying for them to leave."
Q. Was Happy To Be "Just Friends": During the rough times of my recent divorce, a woman friend of mine provided great support. We'd been friends for many years. Never anything untoward (she wasn't the reason for the divorce). We became even better friends. After the dust settled, I let her know that I was attracted to her and would she like to take the relationship "to the next level"? She let me know, kindly but unequivocally, that she did not want to go there. I accepted that and was happy to continue being "just friends." We continued to have dinner or go out to events together. Fast forward a few months, and I've met a woman whom I care for deeply. New girlfriend is even happy to know that I have a woman as a "best friend." However, suddenly my "best friend" stopped talking to me and shunned me at social gatherings. I was sad, but ready to move on. Now she is telling stories on her blog (which is read by many mutual friends) that I walked away from her because I was unhappy that she wouldn't be my girlfriend—far from the truth—and included disparaging remarks about my new girlfriend. How do I respond to this?
A: She didn’t want you, but she didn’t want anyone else to want you, either. Since you were friends (I’m deliberately using the past tense), ask her to go out to dinner. Say that you’ve seen the things she’s posted on the blog and they are both hurtful and untrue. Add that if she was unhappy with you in some way, you wish she’d come to you instead of blasting it publicly and request that she stop. I’m hoping your mutual friends not only have better things to do than read this blog. I also assume they will find her nasty invective disturbing and odd. You could also mention to a few reliably chatty people how disturbing this incident has been. You accepted that Maria was not interested in you romantically, but you can’t believe that she would insult a lovely person she doesn’t even know who is.
Q. Brockovich Syndrome: My business partner (we are equal partners) is an attractive, fit woman in her 40s. She has a not-so-conservative taste in clothes, but since our office is tilted toward casual wear, that doesn't cause issues there. Lately, though, when we go outside for business meetings, her manner of dress is what I would call "club wear:" high and low cut dresses revealing lots of thigh and cleavage combined with "stripper heels." Last Friday we met for a possible contract with execs from a professional firm, and my partner dressed in such an over-the-top revealing style that it distracted the meeting badly. I had a call this morning from their spokesman asking me to supply additional credentials. I'm sure it’s because they thought we purposely distracted them with her to deflect from the deal's details. I have never addressed this issue with her, and I need some guidance.
A: You’re a businessperson who goes out and sells your work to potential clients. This takes a lot of cool and confidence, so surely you can apply those same skills to telling your partner that her attire is distracting from your presentations. You don’t have any evidence that the recent call was a result of your partner’s clothing, but if she made you uncomfortable surely everyone else was, too. Suggest she go to one of the major department stores and get the services of a personal shopper so that she can start building a professional wardrobe that doesn't send mixed signals.
In a new approach, we’re publishing the chat transcript in shorter, more digestible pieces. You will still be getting all the questions and answers, and we may even publish bonus letters Prudie didn’t get to address during the chat hour.