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Successful Simple Icebreakers

Dear Didi,

I freeze at the thought of having to attend holiday parties, but I know it is good for me to get out and about. I’m excruciatingly shy. To loosen up and become friendly I need a couple of glasses of wine. At least two. Can you give me some tips on how I can be less shy and socialize more easily at a party without having to get high first in order to make conversation?

–AW, East Greenwich, RI

Dear AW,

Ahead of time, before you know you're going to be socializing, whether you'll be meeting people you don't know or getting to know an acquaintance better, watch the Amy Cuddy 'Power Pose' TED talk (the link is below) to see how to improve your body language to be more approachable. It will prepare you to enter a social situation with aplomb. Remember in a social situation such as a holiday party, you want to think of yourself as the hunter not the prey. You are the person doing the shopping, you’re not the shopee; you’re looking to meet people interesting to know, which means you'll be asking a lot of questions.
  • Start by saying something positive to a person of interest about the party, host, music, or food. Then introduce yourself: This is cool space for a party. By the way, I'm Zoe Brown. As you offer to shake his hand while he introduces himself as Earl Grey. Repeating his name and yours helps you both learn the other's name.
  • Carry on with inquisitive open-ended questions: Is Earl Grey your name for real or are you putting me on? Earl Grey is my favorite tea. How did you come to be named after a tea?
It is far easier for a person to respond when you’ve offered parallel information that Earl Grey is your favorite tea flavor and then ask how they came to be named Earl Grey. Were you born in India? I'm going to India next Fall. His answer gets him talking about his world. This exchange, of course, isn't a real one, but it should give you an idea of how to keep a conversation going.
  • Everyone wants to be appreciated. So, ask a favor: Will you walk with me to the bar to get a drink? (Or, Let's find something to eat in the other room?) The favor draws him into spending more time with you.
  • Be curious and ask more questions: How do you know our host, Tom? His answer may provide a conversational opening.
  • If not, make a broad statement: This California wine is quite excellent. Making such a declaration will encourage him to respond with his opinions about wines.
On the other hand, when bumping into someone you know: Don’t ever use annoying trite cliches:
  • You look great for your age. --Instead simply say: You look great.
  • You look tired. --Instead say: What have you been up to?
  • You’ve lost weight. --Translated loosely, referencing your body size - even if it is flattering - is a turn-off. --Instead say: You look great.
  • When is your baby due? --Unless you know for sure that she’s pregnant, don’t assume that because she has gained weight that she is in fact pregnant. Don't even go there.
  • Have you found a job yet? --Simply say: What's going on in your life?
  • How is your illness? --Merely ask: How are you doing?
  • Are you divorced yet? --Again, don't even go there.
Steer clear of two words: always and never. Because nobody always or never does it all the time. Rather, instead say: I notice you do this often. What's not cool to say:
  • You always forget my name. --If he always forgets your name, simply introduce yourself to help him learn it.
  • You were always too good for him anyway. --Instead say: It's his loss.
  • You never remember that we’ve met several times before. --Simply introduce yourself again and again until it sticks.
  • There is always a reason for everything. --When you know someone close to the person died, simply say:  I'm so sorry for your loss.
Stay cool when you're 'breaking the ice' and concentrate on being:
  • Optimistic and open-minded
  • Curious about the other person
  • Interested in learning something new
  • Fun to be with
To learn about the 'Power Pose' and how to have body language that will make you feel more confident, download this Amy Cuddy TED talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks_Mh1QhMc


What To Do When Nobody Likes A Relative

Dear Didi,

Nobody likes my mother-in-law. She’s rude, mean, and says whatever is on her mind without thinking of the consequences. She says hurtful things to the children such as, “You’re too short for your age.” “Tell your mother to clear up that acne?” “A boy your age should have better table manners.” How do we control her at Thanksgiving dinner?

My father-in-law is no help because he has selective hearing and only listens when the topic of conversation is football or politics. There will be six children between the ages of three and thirteen, and we don’t want their feelings hurt. Any suggests as to how to handle her?

–J.K., Providence

Dear J.K.,

This is a common problem with relatives when the generations get together. There are several ways to reduce chances for your mother-in-law to criticize the children. Invite your in-laws to arrive closer to the Thanksgiving dinner hour. The shorter the visit the less time she'll have to do damage. Ahead of time think of things to keep her occupied by asking her to pitch in and read to the younger children or play a board game with them. When it is time to sit down have a separate children's table where the older children can help the younger ones with their dinner. *Make a specific timeframe for your in-laws, say, 5:00 until 7:00. If you're serving the dinner at five o'clock invite her to come "after 4:30." *Have the children greet your in-laws with pictures or other artwork they've made for them, which they'll have to admire and remember to take home. *When possible have a separate children's table. They'll love it. *Keep your mother-in-law busy making place cards with the children; she writes the name and they decorate the card. *Put someone in charge of making sure your mother-in-law's wine glass is not being replenished frequently. *Stick to the end time so there is no lingering after the meal by having all the children kiss their grandparents goodnight. Lastly -- but most importantly -- between now and Thanksgiving be optimistic and talk up your in-laws. The probverb "Little pitchers have big ears" is never more apt then when it comes to family gatherings. Children overhear what grownups are saying about someone more than is realized. Within hearing distance talk about your mother-in-law generously in a kind and loving manner. Encourage everyone else to do so, too. images-40


Your Ugly Duckling Speaks Up

Dear Didi,

How do I pose for pictures? During the holidays when family members post pics of us, I am always the ugly duckling. To be perfectly honest, I’m an ugly young woman. Because I’m so self-conscious, I always look as though I got caught off guard. When I try ducking out of a photo, I get called back. So it is better to go along with being the ugly relative.

–H.B., Providence

Dear H.B.,

These dos and don'ts for posing for pics can of course be used year round. When possible, suggest that the photos be taken outside, because the natural light is always more flattering. Inside, face a sunny window if you can, but don't stand under any overhead lighting as it will accentuate those imperfections that make you self-conscious. On the other hand, if you're the one taking the photo, stand with your back to the light. After three o'clock, but before dusk, the outdoors light is ideal. Take care with what you wear. If it's the holidays, a vibrant color will look more cheerful; preferably the same color as your eyes. Your shoulders and hips should be slightly turned in the same direction, and at an angle, whether you're sitting or standing. Don't look down or away from the person who is taking the photo. Whatever you do, don't appear to look timid by leaning on anyone else or hiding partially behind someone. Be aware of your posture: shoulders should be back, your posture should be straight, and stick in your gut. Forget about saying "Cheese." Think of someone you love as the camera is clicking. Makeup, especially around the eyes, always helps to accentuate them. If your face looks shiny in pics the way mine does, use a dusting of transparent face powder to blot out any shine. Lipstick helps to make you look more glamorous. Before you leave for an event like Thanksgiving, look picture perfect; it will give you confidence knowing that you look your best because you've prepared. Style-wise, always wear a clever conversation piece such as dangling earrings, a pretty necklace, well-made eyeglass frames, or a colorful scarf tied around your neck. When you arrive at the event, immediately go to the restroom to check your makeup and make sure your hair is in place. Smudgy mascara and lipstick on your front teeth shouldn't be a focal point for whomever you're talking to. Now you're good to go. It's OK to look different.    


Your Benefits as Grandparents

Dear Didi,

Good morning! We’re two seniors living in South Carolina, who have two grown married daughters in Washington, D.C.. Every year they invite us up, and we drive up, vowing never to fight the traffic again. This year they want us to come because it’s the first time they will have hosted thanksgiving and they’ve totally renovated their houses which, by the way, we saw and visited just four weeks ago. We had a great time since it was just us, and didn’t have to share our only grandson with anyone else. We don’t really have a relationship with Robert’s in-laws at all… Can’t we just stay here and see them over Christmas when they always come down and we host? I don’t want to hurt their feelings but it’s too long a drive and too much togetherness for us!

–Anonymous, South Carolina

Dear Anonymous,

Your question about how grandparents can set limitations on what they are able and willing to do and what they cannot do, or don't want to do, is a concern to many of us. How to handle boundaries with success is not so simple. As you've discovered, they often lead to feelings of guilt; or, on the other hand, of having been slighted. This year begging out of the Thanksgiving tradition should be easy because you recently drove to Washington, D.C., to see your daughters in their newly renovated houses. I understand their wanting to include you in the holiday housewarming festivities at their newly refurbished digs. Nonetheless, the current theory is that babies and very young children need to bond with grandparents often so that they remember them when they reappear, say, at Christmas with a sleigh full of gifts. As very young children are often territorial, they are apt to be rude to interlopers unless there is a lot of prompting ahead of time by their parents. Or, as in your situation where your grandson will come for Christmas, and could  possibly become withdrawn or overreact in other ways to the unfamiliar surroundings. Your daughter wants you to bond with her child. On the other hand, it is OK to tell your daughters what you've told me. Thanksgiving is a miserable time to be on the roads and you would rather be snuggled up at home than stuck in gridlock. Remember, your children don't understand that for you and your husband, your comfort is becoming more and more important. If any of these statements apply, here is a list of things you can say to get you off the hook: *As much as we love being with you and the tradition itself, Thanksgiving is the worst time of year to take a road trip. *You no longer drive long distances after dark. *You've made a commitment to friends who have nowhere else to go for Thanksgiving dinner. *This year you're volunteering at the local soup kitchen to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless. *It is too long of a trip for you to take for such a short period of time. *Your dog is slowing down and since the wretched drive would be too uncomfortable for him, you don't want to leave him in a dog motel for such an extended period of time. In other words, you love your family and its holiday traditions and are especially looking forward to their coming home for Christmas, but you are not up to being on the roads at Thanksgiving -- the most traveled holiday of the year. You don't want your daughters feeling guilty because they're not with you, and you want to say no gracefully. On the other hand, you could compromise by starting out on your trip a day earlier and driving back to South Carolina a day sooner to avoid the most congested travel days.  


Allergen + Cellphone-Free Thanksgiving

Dear Didi,

No matter how hard I try to get my family all together and abide by the allergen-free drill, someone is always disappointed. One apparent fussy eater doesn’t like Brussel sprouts and the next day I find them on the floor under the table. Or the lactose-free ice cream had disappeared the night before. The gravy is not gluten-free, there’s too much sugar in the cranberry sauce, and not enough salt in the mashed potatoes.

And yet Thanksgiving is the greatest feast of all. Even for the vegans. One year I added a Tofurkey to the menu; it didn’t go over well and I suspect there were vegans who ate more meat than just the sausage in the stuffing — even though I also made a veggie stuffing. But one of them couldn’t eat that because it had onions. The pecan pie was not nut free.

There is always a family member who can’t get away to attend, and that’s my biggest disappointment. The other thing I can’t control is cellphone use. Everyone is constantly on their iPhone or iPad. It’s annoying. But I don’t want to be the cranky host who says No Cell Phones. What can I do?


–M.M., Boston

Dear M.M.,

Congratulations on conquering the allergens and, yes, there is something quite sensible you can do about the cellphones. Pick a timeframe, probably starting when everyone sits down to dinner and ending after the last pie plate is cleared, when your home is strictly in the No Cell Phone Zone. Meaning that all the cellphones go into a basket during the allotted timeframe. Ahead of Thanksgiving, let everyone know that due to the proliferation of cellphones when you all get together, you're initiating the No Cell Phone Zone -- say, between five and seven o'clock. Stick to it. Make it clear to the adults that there will be no exceptions. If the kids see them checking their email, they'll want to check theirs, too.


Winter Wedding – New York, New York

Dear Didi,

I am a fifties-something woman going to a 3:00 pm November wedding in New York City followed by a reception and I’m wondering what kind of dress to wear and what color? Since I’m coming from Florida, I want to be in step with what other women my age are wearing.

–Maria Eugenia Gallego, Miami, Fl

Dear Maria Eugenia Gallego,

What we love about New York City is being able to  wear a little black dress and dress it up -- or down depending on the occasion. Nothing is more perfect for a three o'clock wedding than a LBD, with great shoes and a pretty, but chic evening bag. Our favorite go to website what2wearwhere.com recommends these five little black basic dresses to wear in the fall and winter of 2015-2016. There is one to suit your style whether you like to go sleeveless, or if you prefer short sleeves, or a dress with three-quarter length sleeves: lbd We also like the website halsbrook.com for women over forty looking for a polished and professional look for work and play. See below. Since you will be coming from Florida and I don't know the extent of your winter wardrobe, take a look at this two piece ensemble below that will give you three different looks for your trip to NYC: A chic suit that has a coat length jacket to wear to the 3:00 pm ceremony, which can also be worn with slacks when you get off the plane in NYC, or can be used as a coverup for the little black dress (already in your closet) that you wear to the wedding reception that evening along with a pop of jewelry and a small evening bag. You'll only need a beautiful pair of comfy black pumps to wear on the plane and when walking around NYC, and fabulous heels for dancing at the wedding reception: 1Piece_1 Look at it this way. You will need some sort of coat in NYC for the weekend, and if you're traveling light, these three outfits could be your solution. Accessorize with a small, elegant evening bag, fabulous shoes, and a bit of fashionable contemporary jewelry, or your favorite pearls. fashionmain  


Rustic Wedding — North Carolina

Dear Didi,

I am invited to a Rustic wedding in North Carolina in November with the reception being held at a southern country restaurant at 4:00pm. When I asked what I should wear, I was told something for a Rustic wedding, but no further details were forthcoming. Can you, please, suggest something for a sixty-five-year old woman to wear to a Rustic wedding.

–Ann, Wilmington, NC

Dear Ann,

As this isn't a costume party, wear what you would wear to a cocktail party, birthday party or shower in the early evening in November. The quality of the clothing is more important that the dressiness of the outfit. The wedding couple are having a relaxed rustic, country wedding; the kind that often takes place in a renovated barn, but this one is being held in a southern country restaurant. It is not a Black Tie wedding with men in tuxedos. The men probably won't be donning jackets or ties and the women will be wearing their chicest rustic clothing: think bohemian, retro hippie, hipster, country, mountain. There will be crochet dresses, shags, lots of fringe on jackets, skirts, and boots, as well as modern hippie style -- long skirt with a pretty blouse belted and dangling earrings or cool necklace. x354-q80-1 Here are photos of rustic weddings taken recently in North Carolina to help you get a feel for what the festivities will be like:   Unknown-5 images-40 images-38 Ford_Richardson_Fox__Owl_Studio_d4_low-590x383   996AB0A7EFC14DE3ED1C8C1E290481DC If that's not your style -- and since we don't know anything about your tastes or body type -- go with a fresh and modern look like an outfit from Eileen Fisher that focuses on form and texture, such as this easy long velvet tunic from eileenfisher.com: 15r1-velvet-03    


Family Friend Dilemma — Teenage Pregnancy

Dear Didi,

Our oldest family friend had a baby when we were in our mid-teens. Nobody knew but we and her parents that she was pregnant and had to give the baby up for adoption. She was sent away to have the baby and came back when she had “lost the baby weight.” Since that time, for the past fifty years, our friend has been plagued with physical aliments not resolved by dozens of  operations; she is a semi-invalid. The quality of her life seems unfair for someone who is such a genuinely good person.

We’re wondering, if we helped her reunite with her child would it alleviate some of the physical-emotional pain that our dear friend (and possibly her first child) endure because of the adoption? How do we politely offer to find her long lost first child?

We know the first name of her daughter (named after one of us), the name of the adoption agency, and the important dates. Our friend is married to a different man and they have three adult children. However, we feel that she would like to know about her first child — the one she unwilling gave away. If it will make her better, we’d like to reunite mother and daughter before what could be her last operation. Are we totally crazy? The killer is that she is a really great mom and wife. That’s what she is: a great mom.

–Anonymous, Rhode Island

Dear Anonymous,

In my opinion, it is none of your business. However, the fact that she confided in you both all those many years ago makes you silent partners in the story of your good friend's teenage pregnancy. Tread lightly. Go slowly. Your friend may not be able to handle a reunion. What if the now adult child has no interest in meeting her birth mother? What if your friend's husband and children know nothing of their mother's teenage pregnancy? This is heavy stuff to surface, and explain, all these many decades later. Then, if you find the now adult child, do you tell her about her birth father? Will she want to discover who he is and meet his family -- her half-siblings? Does the birth father even know that your friend had his baby? Let alone, does his family know about any of this? Be cautious. Assume that they know nothing. You need to find out why this has been such a the huge secret ever all these decades. Why dose it remain so today? Because your friend is afflicted with physical -- and one imagines, psychological -- pain makes her life seem perhaps unbearable at times, take the initiative? You both know your friend, so be cautious. Do some ground work with the agency about the possibility of finding her first child and to learn if she ever sought out the identity of her birth mother. She may have tried to find her, but your friend may not have been strong enough to handle a reunion. Your right to any facts will be limited so you will have to enlist the cooperation of the birth mother in order to find out any information about the child who was adopted. It is quite possible that she has never been told that she was adopted. If the daughter knows, and has a family of her own, does her own family know she is adopted? The impact is complicated. Put it this way. If you don't have your friend's full cooperation, your pursuit may be fruitless. CHARGES MAY APPLY __Subject: On 2013-01-29, at 5:17 PM, Pereira, Tania wrote: Teen pregnancy Teenage pregnancy Pregnant teen dreamstime dreamstime_l_24320720.jpg


Family Friend Dilemma — The Apology

Dear Didi,

Many years ago I was assaulted by a family friend after he escorted me home from a party. I asked him to leave and we never spoke of it again. I never forgot the incident and chalked it off to the fact that he had had too much to drink. It was our first and last date, although we had grown up together.

At his mother’s funeral reception years later we barely spoke. By then we were both married with children. His sister and I remain very good friends and a couple of months ago I confided in her that the reason I was not still friendly with her brother was because he had forced himself on me.

I told her I had totally forgiven him, and that I didn’t know why I was telling her about the incident now. By then he had been in recovery for many years and was apparently happy and healthy.

Shortly after I told his sister, he phoned to tell me that she had told him what he had done and was calling to apologize. Rendered speechless because I thought I could confide in his sister my good friend — and because I was truly, deeply touched by his regret, I accepted and appreciated his apology.

I understand why his sister told him as she is also in recovery and owning up to past painful acts committed is part of the process. However, I feel I was put on the spot once again.

I would like to know what to say to him next time we meet at a family event. “Thank you for apologizing for having assaulted me?”

I feel the wound has reopened and blame myself for scratching the scar. I don’t know why I brought the assault up to his sister after all those years. How do I thank him for apologizing and tell his sister that I forgive her for telling him?

–Anonymous, Chevy Chase, MD

Dear Anonymous,

In our time a woman's odds of being assaulted by a fellow soldier are far greater than being harmed by the enemy. Also vastly under-reported is the number of rapes on college campuses that pride themselves for being intolerant of violence. Sadly, the sex-violence connection is an inherent obstacle in the male-female dynamic. Men who assault women are more often than not following a social script -- the pressure of group social norms. When the social script dictates that flirting is followed by foreplay that leads to intercourse, he naturally thinks he's merely following the script. Only fairly recently is it assumed that women are intellectual equals qualified for careers in science, banking, politics and the armed forces. We take for granted the changes in the laws and cultural consciousness and find it unbelievable that we still live in a world where a woman isn't physically safe on her college campus, at her US Army post, or in the company of a childhood family friend in her own home. Subconsciously you asked your good friend his sister for an explanation -- in some kind of form of an apology -- for the assault when you divulged the information that her brother had abused you. She listened and told her brother. He called you and apologized. You acknowledged his apology. You can forgive him, but you won't forget the assault. It doesn't sanction their egregious action when you forgive someone; it simply empowers you from being their interminable victim. You've said all that you need to say. Do you really want to thank him for apologizing for assaulting you? It is questionable as to whether he deserves any more respect than you gave him.


Family Business Dilemma

Dear Didi,

We have a family business dilemma. In the 1960s our father, who owned several prominent apartment buildings, rented a large apartment to a cousin but never had her sign a lease. My father, who is now deceased, was a very generous man and never raised her rent despite increasing rises in the cost of maintenance, improvements and taxes. We have heard through the family grapevine that one of her grandchildren is planning on taking over the apartment after she dies.

How do we politely tell this elderly cousin that we have to increase her rent to make it on par with the other tenants’ rent? By the way, our cousin the tenant is a very rich woman, who can well afford to pay the fair market value of the rental.

–E.P., Geneva, Switzerland

Dear E.P.,

About your family business dilemma. It makes perfect sense to increase your cousin's rent but I understand your father's and your hesitation to do so -- seeing as he was such a really generous person. However, your father did not rent the apartment to his cousin's grandchildren. Assuming you have discussed this family business dilemma with your lawyer, you must be looking for a polite way to discuss the situation with your cousin the tenant. Have yourself invited to tea and bring along a box of handcrafted chocolates and/or a bouquet of flowers, then once you are cozy into your tea or coffee and sharing family stories tell your cousin about your plans for making improvements to the building. Then ask her for suggestions. Since she has lived in the building for 55+ years she must know of any flaws. Ask her for suggestions and then gently ask her to start paying the fair market rent for the apartment starting January 1, 2016, which would help with the cost of the improvements.  That will give her time to adjust her budget or find new digs. Should she need a couple of months longer to finalize a plan, be generous and encourage her to come up with an alternative month to start paying the increase in her rent. If that does not work, and you're worried about another family member moving in or possibly subletting the apartment out for the going rate, have your lawyer make up a letter agreeing that as of January first her rent will be _____ per month. Bring the month-to-month lease with the new rent to her to sign in your presence. Again, take along flowers and/or chocolates; a gentle gesture to pave the way. Be willing to strive for a workable compromise. If, for instance, she says she cannot pay that much a month, have her sign a month-to-month lease at a slightly higher rent than she is currently paying and include an increase in rent schedule. The particulars will have to be worked out between you and your lawyer. For instance, even though it sounds complicated, her rent could increase in increments every month until the amount of rent she pays reaches the full fair market value. Make it clear that you are your father's son and you will never evict her from her home, but in all fairness she needs to pay her share of the rising upkeep of the apartment building because these old buildings are becoming more and more expensive to maintain.
panoramic view of Geneva, Switzerland from Cathedral Saint Pierre; Shutterstock ID 69454222

panoramic view of Geneva, Switzerland from Cathedral Saint Pierre; Shutterstock ID 69454222


Halloween — Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF

Dear Didi,

Our children are vegans, have food allergies and don’t eat sugar or any of the other ingredients found in traditional Halloween candy, but we want them to be able to participate in Halloween festivities in an educationally fun manner. Even when there are trick-or-treat options for the kids to choose from, we are wary of cross contamination concerning nut allergies. Because it is a bit harsh to dress them up and send them out to collect candy that we end up throwing out, we’re looking for a healthy way for them to celebrate Halloween. Any suggestions?

–Matthew, Dover, MA

Dear Matthew,

Because in the past many Western religions encouraged abstinence from meat on All Hallows' Eve in favor of eating vegetarian, Halloween sounds like the perfect holiday for your vegan children. Centuries ago children trick-or-treated for spare change instead of candy, and now you have a Halloween teaching opportunity. Have your kids Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF (a United Nations program that supports humanitarian aid to children in developing countries). It was the first kids-helping- kids movement -- a way for kids to help kids in need of more than candy -- where small UNICEF boxes are used to collect spare change instead of Mars bars on Holloween. With a slogan like It's scary how much good you can do! -- you can discuss with your older children the recent refugee and immigration situation affecting children in other countries right now. Ahead of time, help your children memorize the gee-whiz facts: $5 will feed an undernourished child for five days. $15 will supply a child with a year's worth of clean drinking water. $30 will provide measles protection for 100 children. $100 will provide malaria protection for 100 kids. $400 will provide a pump to enable an entire village to have clean drinking water. Go to trick-or-treat for UNICEF for small and large UNICEF Halloween collection boxes and more information.


Let your kids go wild with their choice of costumes and feed them a hearty vegan supper before giving them their UNICEF boxes in which to collect spare change instead of candy.

Unknown-3 UNICEF2


Fall Cocktail Dress Code

Dear Didi,

Would you please tell me what the cocktail dress code attire would be for a six o’clock birthday party cocktail party?  There will be heavy heavy hors-d’oeuvres. I’m forty-one-years old and want to dress appropriately, but also for fun.

–Kim, NC

Dear Kim,

For a cocktail party starting at six o'clock, the dress code would be a knee-length cocktail dress. If slacks are flattering on you, wear a well-made pair of slacks with a beautiful blouse or top. A party such as this -- a cocktail party with the twist of being a birthday party -- is more about the quality of the clothing than the dressiness of the outfit. A cozy fringe shawl, beautiful shoes and a small evening bag would add to the look. Above is the perfect fall look from oliviapalermo.com, where you can see more sophisticated styles. This is a fun fall pant-look from renttherunway.com -- Derek Lam'a Pendulum Button Rop that gives a bit of festive flare. We like Rent the Runway where you can rent, buy or just browse the latest fashions from the most popular designers. DLM3 Here is LBD option. A little black dress with a fringe, anything with a fringe is popular right now. 3302934-p-multiview-1 A Green Light Dress from ERIN erin fetherston for the holidays: EF74-1  


Burial Mishap

Dear Didi,

My husband’s father was buried in a place that was not of his choosing. Sorting out his files after he died, I found handwritten instructions that specified a different cemetery and a different method of burial. After her husband died, my mother-in-law said he should be buried, after being embalmed, in a different cemetery close to their home. The handwritten instructions said he wanted to be cremated and buried in a cemetery a few towns away where his own father was buried.

My mother-in-law died shortly afterward and was buried next to my husband’s father. Knowing what we found out, should we have moved my father-in-law to the other cemetery after having him cremated? Should we move them both now? If they weren’t religious and not affiliated with either church does it make a difference?

–S.S., Wilton, CT

Dear S.S.,

To avoid a burial mishap, not only should a responsible person leave burial instructions, but they should also tell those around them their wishes. Offering up the information by talking about the disposition of their body and the location of the burial lot should be as important to talk about as who gets grandmother's diamond ring -- if not more important. It sounds as though either your husband's parents didn't communicate or they weren't interested in discussing the inevitable. Your mother-in-law voiced her choice as the only choice. Let it be. img_4542


Annoying Dinner Guest

Dear Didi,

Is there a way to encourage a RSVP from an invited guest? My ever-so-charming brother-in-law never accepts or regrets an invitation until the day of the event which makes him very hard to seat. He usually accepts, but then he’s ambiguous about whether or not he’s bringing a date.

The problem is that I assign him next to a star guest, but when I haven’t heard from him, I shift someone else into that seat. I even go so far as to call him twice to ask him again if he’s coming. “I’ll let you know,” he says.” “Will you be bringing your partner?” I ask again. “I’ll let you know,” he says. Then when he arrives and sees that he’s not seated next to a star guest, he sulks and once he even left before dinner as a statement that I’d let him down.

–Anonymous, Boston

Dear Anonymous,

Sadly, your guest from hell is your beloved brother-in-law. So the sooner you set boundaries with him the happier you'll be. At some point soon, before you shoot him off another invitation, explain the drill. He may be so self-absorbed that he can't empathize with your plight as the hostess. Describe your process: you plan the seating and hope everyone accepts. When people haven't accepted at some point you redo the seating so you're not stuck at the last moment, stressing. If you haven't explained that clearly enough to him, go ahead and spell it out again.


If that doesn't work, the next time you invite him, don't follow up with reminders that he hasn't let you know if he is coming and if so, if he is bringing a date?

Then when he calls at the last minute, tell him you don't have a place for him. You didn't hear back from him so you invited someone else to fill his seat. Sounds tough, but that may be the only way you'll persuade this naughty bachelor to commit to a night at your dinner table.