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Last fall, I was stuck. Two dear friends had invited me to their birthday parties ... on the same night. In Los Angeles, party-hopping from one side of town to the other is impossible, especially on a Saturday night, and neither of these parties was the drop-in kind. One was a sit-down dinner at a fancy restaurant, and the other was a girls’ night out with a planned itinerary involving a limousine.
Yes, this was a problem. A good one to have, but a problem nonetheless.
I found the solution while strolling down a country lane with a third and equally wonderful girlfriend, who didn’t know either of the first two.
She helped me lay out the dilemma in a simple way. In that short conversation, I saw the answer clearly.
Sometimes that’s all it takes to help you sort out your problems—a friend who will listen and lend an impartial ear. Someone who isn't getting distracted by your emotions and all of the details that seem to complicate what is really a simple situation at its heart.
That’s where I come in. As my pal did for me, I routinely help friends and colleagues navigate the murky waters of social, business and parenting etiquette in this digital age. While the Internet comforts us with kindred spirits and stories that make us feel less alone, it can also crowd our minds and confuse us.
It is my firm belief that any sticky situation can be fixed if you take a deep breath and get to the very heart of it, which is often surprisingly simple. Most people are looking for the easy way out, which, alas, is not often the right way. I’ll tell it to you like it is—and then help you figure out how it should be.
Come to me with your frustration about your mother-in-law's overbearing nosiness. Ask me if quitting your job to stay home with the children is the right thing to do. Find out how to deal with that friend who won't stop texting during your precious few happy hours. Ask me your questions about when and if to send a thank-you note. (Answer: always, and yes. Even in 2012.)
Bring me your mundane, silly or gut-twisting problems, and I will take you under my wing and remind you that underneath all of the exhaustion, frustration and endless mind chatter, you really are a good person who wants to do the right thing.
I'm like the big sister you never had … or at least the big sister who actually gives you good advice. Just ask my little sister.
And yes, even I need a girlfriend’s advice sometimes.
Those birthday parties? Even though I got the Girls' Night Out invitation first, the other friend had come through for me with invaluable support on more than one occasion. After discussing the issue with my wise third-party pal, I realized this was an opportunity for me to show my appreciation. I chose the fancy sit-down dinner, and not just because I like food and wine better than limo rides and dancing on tabletops. It was also the right thing to do.
Are you in a quandary that you can’t tell anyone else about? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org,and I may choose to answer it in next week’s column. I’ve got your back, sister.