DEAR STEEL ADVICE: I was recently out to dinner with a friend, her elementary school-age children and my son. She ordered a pizza and salad, which she planned on sharing with the kids. I ordered an entree of ravioli. When my dinner arrived, she offered my ravioli to be split among the table. She is very frugal and thinks Americans eat too much. (She is not an American citizen.) I had not intended to share my dinner. Considering the fact that I paid for it and, quite frankly, more than my share of the bill, I would have expected to be able to take any leftovers home.
I am, by nature, a very generous person, but I'd like to be the one making the offer. What should I have said when she commandeered my meal without asking?
-- PUZZLED AT THE PIZZA PARLOR
DEAR PUZZLED: The other mom was being aggressive when she divvied up your food. You were caught off guard. If you had no intention of sharing your dinner, you should have stopped her and said you planned on taking half of your meal home for lunch the next day. Future meals with this woman will require you to think ahead. Best advice is to always ask for separate checks and try to order portions that you and your son will be able to eat without sharing with the table.
DEAR STEEL ADVICE: I have a former friend, Liz, that I see quite often when I am at my child's school. Our friendship ended when I chose to assert my own personality. Liz prefers friendships where she is the alpha dog and everyone else follows. (When we walked together, she always made sure to stay a few steps ahead.) Liz does not like when friends attempt to become equals in the relationship. My question is how to handle it when I am around Liz and she acts as if I am invisible. It is very strange to stand next to a person and not be acknowledged. I am not asking her to be phony, but how hard is it to give a simple "Hello"? I'd say it's as if we never met except that anyone would say "Hello" to a stranger. What is worse? My not saying "Hello" and feeling rude or saying it and being ignored?
-- THE INVISIBLE WOMAN
DEAR INVISIBLE WOMAN: Continue to be yourself. Say "Hi" when you see your ex-friend and then go about your business. Liz is ignoring you in an effort to reassert her power. The more you ask for an acknowledgement from her, the more control she has when she offers you the cold shoulder. Do not permit her snub to ruin your day. Be friendly but not needy. Practice saying "Hi" to a tree in your yard and then in the same tone, say "Hi" to Liz when you see her. Her behavior confirms why you are former friends. You are not invisible.
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