Dear Harriette: My girlfriend invited me to meet her parents; I was nervous, but still went over for dinner. I brought her mom some flowers and planned to be on my best behavior. When we arrived, what happened was definitely unexpected: Her mom told me I had to take off my shoes. She doesn’t let people wear shoes in the house. Don’t you think my girlfriend should have told me that? This is so weird. I took them off, but I felt so self-conscious. I was dressed nice and all, but I was worried that my socks smelled — I had worn them a couple of times. Plus, I just didn’t feel comfortable without shoes. It was nice to meet them, but I felt so uncomfortable. How can I feel better when I go back there? — Off My Game
Dear Off My Game: Tell your girlfriend you need to talk. Let her know how uncomfortable you were arriving at her parents’ home and being told to remove your shoes. Ask her why she didn’t give you a heads-up about her parents’ rules. Make it clear that you need the two of you to be on the same page, and that must include sharing details about how you grew up and any idiosyncrasies there may be. As long as the two of you stay close and supportive of each other, such odd moments shouldn’t throw you too much.
FYI: Many people require guests to take off their shoes when they enter their homes, so it is wise to wear clean socks from now on!
Dear Harriette: My daughter is a good student and a sweet girl. Her friends do OK in school, but not as well as she does. She has become uncomfortable talking to her friends about schoolwork. She says she doesn’t want to tell them her grades because she doesn’t want to make them feel uncomfortable. I agree that she doesn’t have to talk about her grades, but I want her to feel proud of her accomplishments and continue to strive to do her best. How can I encourage her while helping her keep her friends? — Encouraging My Daughter
Dear Encouraging My Daughter: Your daughter is wise not to brag about her grades or share them with her friends. To remain close to them without being either competitive or braggy, she should continue to do her best work and keep her scores to herself. This is a practice that some progressive schools employ with the intention of having children compete against themselves rather than others. It is worthy of your daughter’s consideration.
Your job is to remind your daughter that you support her. Reinforce her practice of keeping her grades to herself while you remind her that she is smart and that this is important for her future. When her friends ask about grades, she can deflect and say she did her best and she hopes they did, too. She can offer to tutor them in subjects that she is excellent in — if it feels right. Otherwise, she can simply continue to be their friend and count that as enough.
Dear Harriette: My boyfriend has invited me to go to visit his family in another country. It sounds like a great trip, but I have a problem: I do not have a passport. I have never been out of the country, and I’m worried about traveling to Mexico at this time. There’s so much talk about the border and how dangerous it is to cross, I am worried about traveling there and about whether my boyfriend will be safe coming back. He has a green card, but everything is so volatile right now, it makes me nervous. What should I do? — No Passport
Dear No Passport: First of all, it is smart for you to have a passport that you keep up to date. In this way, you can freely move anywhere in the world if you so desire.
Beyond that, be careful not to make assumptions about visiting your boyfriend’s family based on watching the news. Mexico is a huge country. Where does your boyfriend’s family live? Find out what the politics are where they are located. Many parts of Mexico are safe. Some are even thriving tourist areas. Do your research, which should include talking to your boyfriend about what he expects the trip will entail. Find out how often your boyfriend travels back and forth to see his family. You have to be careful not to buy into stereotypes. If your boyfriend is legitimately able to travel to and from the United States, his travel should be easeful. Find out as much as you can about this journey before you make a decision. Do not allow the inflammatory discourse of politics to derail your plans.
Dear Harriette: My husband likes to smoke marijuana. He has been smoking since before we met. I got him to agree to smoke outside and reinforced it after our son was born. He was disciplined about it for a while, but recently he has gotten sloppy. He smokes in the house sometimes. This really bothers me, as our son is a teenager, and this is the worst time for his father to be smoking weed. I do not want our son to pick up this habit. Regardless of what happens with legalization, I do not think it is a good idea for our boy to get into smoking weed now. He is a good student, and I want to keep him focused. How can I get my husband to work with me? — No Weed Inside
Dear No Weed Inside: You have to sit down with your husband and have a heart-to-heart chat about the future and his role in helping to guide your son’s steps. Restate your opinion about your son and smoking weed. Be crystal clear about why you do not want your son to smoke. Let your husband know that you need his help in enforcing the rules that you believe will help your son to be successful in life. Tell him that you know you cannot control his choices, but implore him to stop smoking inside and stop being an example of what you consider to be reckless behavior. You both need to recognize that whatever you do, your son will interpret as what he should do. Talk about that and reconsider your actions through that lens.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.