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Sunday, September 13, 2009

When Does a Relationship Cross the Line?

We just finished exams in an AP class. I did okay. My friend was off the charts. Then I found out that she and some others had the answers. I called her on it, and she blew me off, saying grades are just a game. I want to tell the teacher, but I'm afraid I'll be ostracized. What can I do?
-- Peer Pressure

Dear Pressure,
Congratulations for having the courage to confront a friend—and for playing fair. You won't be ostracized if you tell your teacher anonymously that some kids had the answers. The teacher's next "lesson" might help your friend back onto the straight and narrow. High school has unique social pressures. But you're on the right track for college, where there's usually an honor system that requires students to report cheating when they see it. You might remind your friend of that.

I caught my first husband red-handed fooling around with my best friend. I'd ignored the signs, like "harmless flirting," walking her to her car and taking a half hour to say goodbye. I kicked him out. Last weekend my current husband and I were at a party. Everybody was outside except him and a new neighbor alone in the sunroom. They ignored the hosts, others and me. I was getting that déjà vu feeling in my gut. That's how it started: innocent conversation, hubby being witty, private giggles. Am I overreacting or being smart to see the warning signs?
-- High Anxiety

Dear Anxiety,
You have a right to be sensitive. We all form impressions relying on the past for clues. Surely your new hubby knows your history and your sore spots about infidelity. Sit down with him, being careful not to accuse him of wrongdoing, and tell him your fears. If he can't dispel them, you two need counseling.

My neighbor is a gung ho saleswoman. Every time she calls, it's sell, sell, sell—cosmetics, vitamins, juice, you name it. If she invites you to her house, it turns out to be a sales presentation. Whether you buy or not, a product turns up on your porch with a bill. How can I hide from the huckster without hurting her feelings?
-- Shopworn

Dear Shopworn,
Someone has to stop her. Be the neighborhood hero! First return all unordered goods to her porch with a note to "Customer Service" saying "Did Not Order." Then the next time she invites you over, ask plainly if it's for coffee and conversation or a product pitch. Tell her you like her company but don't need the products.

Companionship, Work Issues and Innappropriate Relationships

My mother is in her mid-40s and spends every free minute online IM'ing and joining tourneys. She has given out her home address to some "best friends" because she is desperate for companionship. I'm afraid for her. What can I do to help?
-- Real-Life Son

Dear Real-Life,
Send her an instant message: It's foolish, if not downright dangerous, to give out personal information to strangers. Ask her real-world friends, a relative or your clergy to step in and allay her loneliness.

I took a job in sales at a fast-paced store. Three of us work up front. The other two are quicker and smarter than I am, and I'm intimidated. The boss hasn't yet noticed how much longer it takes me to do everything. She's actually been complimentary so far. But I'm scared. I think I'm going to be fired. Should I worry?
-- Salesgirl

Dear Salesgirl,
Why not assume the boss is right? Take those compliments and stand proud. You may have attributes, such as kindness and a welcoming attitude, that your boss values more than those of Speedy and Smarty. Don't worry—your pace will pick up over time.

Question of the Month
For years, a family friend and our daughter have had a close relationship. He's taken her shopping and to the movies. Now she's 18, and the relationship is making me uneasy. I found out they call every night at 11 and he's invited her to his company party. He's 40 and married. Should I be concerned?
-- Wary Mom

Dear Mom,
I don't like the sound of this. Your daughter may be legally allowed to make her own choices, but tell her that this is a bad one. Becoming emotionally entangled with a married man twice her age is no way for an 18-year-old to learn the lessons of love. Confront this family "friend" and demand he behave responsibly and distance himself from your daughter.

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