DEAR HARRIETTE: My boss constantly hits on me, and it makes me extremely uncomfortable. I don't want to risk losing my job by complaining, but he's becoming too much. He's starting to do it in front of others, and it makes me not want to come in to work most days. I live alone, and I have to pay my bills, so I don't really know how to handle it. I know it may sound strange, but HR at my company is a joke -- they've failed to get people fired for much more. What should I do? -- Creepy Boss
DEAR CREEPY BOSS: I spoke to an attorney about this subject and learned a few things about how to protect yourself in this situation. First, know that HR at any company is there to protect the company -- not you. You are right not to go to them to help you before seeking outside counsel. Explain your situation to an employment attorney. Gather as much evidence as you can to illustrate what has been happening to you. That includes noting any witnesses who may have observed his behavior. With that information, you can go to HR and state your case.
Yes, confronting your boss can put you in a vulnerable position. But your letter suggests that you are already in such a position. Now you need to strategize for what happens next. With your attorney, you can push back and try to get him to be held accountable for his actions. You should also start looking for a new job in case it becomes too hostile at your current workplace. But having an attorney will buy you time because now you will have protection.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently found my boyfriend's old Twitter page, which has been inactive for many years. Some of his tweets and hot takes on there were problematic, to say the least. Even though he hasn't used the account for many years, I still find myself being bothered by the fact that he would ever think it was OK to say those things on a public platform. Should I confront him about this? -- Old Twitter
DEAR OLD TWITTER: If you found your boyfriend's old Twitter, so can others. Out of concern for him, you should talk to him about it. Tell him what you found and ask him about his thoughts. Tell him how you reacted when you read what he had written and that even though the tweets are many years old, they remain disturbing. Get him to explain himself. Listen so that you get a clear sense of who this man is and whether you think you still share values. Don't feel guilty if you feel the need to sever ties. If he continues to believe the views he expressed years ago and that doesn't align with you, it's OK for you to separate. But don't do so without giving him a fair chance to explain himself.
Also, encourage him to delete the posts and the old account entirely. Many people have lost everything when their social media from years back resurfaces. Urge your boyfriend to take it all down. More, let him know that he may need to defend his thinking to others if anyone else finds those disturbing posts.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I've been with my boyfriend for about two months now. When I first met him, I noticed he had quite a few woman friends he was very close with. It was never an issue for me before we began dating officially, but now I find myself becoming increasingly uncomfortable with some of his friendships. On his birthday, one of his woman friends wrote a very long and intimate birthday post on Facebook. Another woman friend sent him what looked like an expensive floral arrangement on that same day. I don't want to seem insecure or crazy, but I think they are overstepping, and I wish he would set some boundaries. What should I do? -- Uncomfortable
DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE: You are new in your relationship, and it seems like you want to deepen your commitment. It's time to talk to your boyfriend. Tell him what you are hoping for with him, and note that some of his woman friends seem a bit territorial and intimate with him. Ask him to get them to give you two space. Suggest that he let them know that you two are exclusive now, and he's off the market.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a feeling that my best friend is lying to me about still seeing her ex. They were together for quite some time, and while he did several awful things to her over the course of their relationship, the final straw for her was when she found out he was cheating with one of her classmates. She cried over him for days and swore she would never speak to him again. That was about two months ago.
We each have access to location services on the other's phone, so I can see everywhere she goes. Most nights -- when she leaves her location on -- I can see that she's at his apartment complex. I understand that in the grand scheme of things, it isn't really my business, but that's not how our friendship works. We're always supposed to be 100% honest with each other and promise not to judge. While I wouldn't approve of them being back together, it does hurt that she doesn't think she can tell me about it. Should I ask her directly? I'm scared to overstep and cause a rift. -- Suspicious
DEAR SUSPICIOUS: Your friend is probably worried that you will judge her. Ask her if she is OK. Ask if she is seeing her ex again. Encourage her to talk about what's going on in her life. Suggest that she spend some time alone so she can sort through her feelings. Remind her that you are there for her -- always.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My friend won't stop making comments about my weight gain. I know that I've gained weight. I'm probably about 20 pounds heavier since the start of the pandemic, but I'm taking the necessary steps to lose the weight now. Even when I feel a bit healthier and smaller, she will still find a way to sneak in an uncalled-for remark. She's someone who has always been on the thinner side, so she has no perception of how hurtful those comments can be. Even when she means her comments as compliments, they make me uncomfortable and insecure for the rest of the day. I'm growing to resent her. Do you think it's worth addressing, or should I cut her off? My other friends think I need to kick her to the curb, but I'm unsure. -- Weight Gain
DEAR WEIGHT GAIN: Tell your friend you want to talk to her, then lay it all on the line. Point out that whether or not she realizes it, her comments are hurtful. You are completely aware of the fact that you have gained weight, and you have started to do something about it. Having her constantly berating you for how you look is not helpful. Tell her that she is constantly hurting your feelings and that you want her to stop. If she cannot figure out how to be supportive, make it clear that you will have to distance yourself from her.
There's a chance that your friend isn't conscious of her ongoing criticism of you. If she honestly attempts to curb her comments, keep her in the friend group. Otherwise, pivot away from her and toward your healthy practices and supportive friends.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I'm starting to suspect that my friend is using me for my platform. I have a music blog that is starting to gain some traction, and whenever we speak, he asks about placement for his music on my blog. To be fair, he was one of the first people who showed support when I began my blog. He was always giving me random shoutouts and reposts, and he "liked" all of my content.
Now that my blog is starting to stand on its own, I'm wondering if the support was genuine. The other day, he asked if I could interview him on my page, and he spent the entire interview plugging his music and merchandise. I still really appreciate the love that he shows to my blog, but it's starting to feel a little excessive. He pretty much expects me to post about him whenever he wants. What do you suggest I do? -- Blogger
DEAR BLOGGER: You can remain grateful to this friend who helped you in the early days of establishing your blog without being beholden to him. Establish criteria for how you create content for your blog. What do you want to talk about? Who do you want to feature? Ideally, what kinds of stories do you want to share? Think about these things very clearly, and write them down as editorial guidelines. This can include guests' product promotion.
As far as your friend goes, make sure you follow your guidelines with him. You can tell him that you have to wait a bit to interview him because you just had him at a particular time, and it's too soon. Point to the guidelines to back yourself up. Remain grateful to him, but stand your ground. You do not have to do what he says.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am an older woman, and I would like to leave the job that I've been working at for decades. I find that my creativity and my desire to do something different are not being fulfilled. I fear that it is too late for me to follow my dreams, and I have too much to lose -- I am in my 50s now, and I have a family to support. I know that people say it is never too late to follow your dreams, but I am trying to be pragmatic. I cannot abandon my job altogether, but I fear if I don't leave now, I'll be stuck here for the rest of my life. What steps should I take? -- Practicality
DEAR PRACTICALITY: Make a plan. Rather than doing anything rash, think about what you would like to do. Perhaps there is a hobby that you can practice that will allow you the creative outlet that you crave. Sometimes adding an activity outside of the workplace can be incredibly satisfying because it also helps you to nurture your whole life, not just your work life.
If there is a career change that you desire, figure out what it is. Do you have the skills, or should you take a class to get yourself ready? Can you volunteer in that area of interest in your free time? Volunteering is an effective way of gaining skills and a soft entry into a new experience. The point: Don't give up. Get creative. It is never too late!
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106