DEAR HARRIETTE: My hair has been mostly gray since I was in my early 30s. I can thank my mom for that. Her hair turned white by 35. I have been dying my hair for years because I'm not ready to go "natural," so to speak.
My new boyfriend keeps trying to get me to let my hair grow out. He says I'm beautiful as I am, and I don't need to worry with hair color. That's sweet and all, but I'm not ready for this. I think that it's hard enough for women to make it in the working world as we get older. I'm in my 40s, but I still look pretty young for my age. I am fit and take good care of myself. For me, dyeing my hair helps me to keep a youthful appearance. That is important to me. How can I get him to appreciate my decision to continue to dye my hair? -- No Gray
DEAR NO GRAY: Thank your boyfriend for loving you so completely, and ask him to extend his love for you to the ways in which you want to express yourself. For you, natural is not gray, at least not now. You enjoy dyeing your hair, and you would like for him to like it as well.
Tell him your thoughts about aging and the workplace. Get him to see your side of this topic. Acknowledge how nice it is that he doesn't care about your hair color and that he values you the same. Point out that he is not your boss or your industry. Ask for his support in your decision-making.
DEAR HARRIETTE: A young lady just started interning with me for the summer. She is very eager to do a good job and a bit nervous, which is normal at the beginning of a work relationship. The one thing that is bothering me is that she wears way too much perfume. It is overwhelming in our small office. I haven't said anything yet because I didn't want to make her feel uncomfortable, but I can't take it. The smell is so intense that it is nauseating. How can I bring this up to her? -- Aromatic
DEAR AROMATIC: At the end of a workday, take her aside and tell her that you need to share something with her. Tell her that you are extremely sensitive to smell, and you have noticed that she wears either a lot of perfume or a strong fragrance. Ask her stop wearing it or to apply less. Explain that the office is small and the fragrance is overpowering the space. Chances are, she will be embarrassed at first, but it has to be addressed.
You should know that when people are nervous, they often do things excessively, from fragrance and makeup application to overtalking. Sometimes these things settle over time. In other instances, they have to be addressed.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I always carry a handkerchief because my parents told me that it was proper. It has come in handy over the years. What I'm unsure about is what should happen to a handkerchief after I offer it to someone in need. A friend recently had a sneezing spell, and the only "tissue" available was my handkerchief. I offered it to her, but I have never gotten it back. Do I ask her for it? -- Bye-Bye Handkerchief
DEAR BYE-BYE HANDKERCHIEF: In a perfect world, your friend would launder your handkerchief and return it to you. You can ask her if she still has it, and if so, request it back. But one unintentional side effect of your good manners and generosity is that you may end up losing a handkerchief or two along the way.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a pretty busy person. I have a full-time job and a full social calendar, and I love spending the free time I do have just relaxing. My friend recently brought up the idea of joining a book club with him. I love to read and find that it relaxes me when I'm stressed, so my initial reaction was to say yes. When I went home after accepting the offer, I started to doubt my decision. I read when I feel like it, not when I'm told to. I'm afraid that being part of this book group with make me feel obligated to finish the book on a timeline, which I'm not sure I'll like. Have you had any experience with book groups? Does being in one ruin the relaxing experience of reading? -- Book Club Newbie, Akron, Ohio
DEAR BOOK CLUB NEWBIE: Many people enjoy book clubs because they create the opportunity for a social experience designed around a particular topic. If you like talking about the storyline, plot, character development and other aspects of books, you may enjoy this type of engagement. These clubs work best when the size of the group is manageable -- no more than a dozen or so participants. They tend to meet once a month or even once a quarter. Yes, the discussion can veer toward the social, but the books do get discussed. You should try it out.
DEAR HARRIETTE: Two years ago, I met an older woman in my town's deli. She was eating alone and having trouble reading the check, so I went over to help her. We got to talking and became close friends. Ever since that day we meet up once a month for lunch. She is very old and needs help walking. She rarely gets out because she is afraid she will fall, so I like to take her out from time to time. I think she is great company, and I love listening to her fascinating stories.
My girlfriend finds the elderly woman rude and does not like that I spend time with her. I enjoy going to these monthly lunches, but I can see how it is a little odd. Do you think it's normal, and should I continue my friendship with this woman? -- Friends With an Elderly Woman, San Jose, California
DEAR FRIENDS WITH AN ELDERLY WOMAN: I think it is wonderful that you are spending quality time with this woman. Too often, when people grow old, they do not have family or friends around to keep them company. It is admirable that you noticed this woman and struck up a friendship with her.
In terms of managing your girlfriend, tell her you are sorry that she and your elderly friend do not click. Stop inviting her to join you during your dates. Do not lie, though. Just make it clear that you enjoy supporting this woman, and you realize that she has come to rely on you.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My father passed away seven years ago. After he died, my mother came to live with my family and me. Because my children have essentially grown up with her living with them since they were babies, their relationship is nothing less than amazing. My kids look to her for advice and support, and they love her dearly. Unfortunately, last year my mother was diagnosed with dementia, and in the past few months it has become progressively worse.
With my husband and me working full-time jobs and the kids in school, we have reached a place where we are unable to give her the care that she needs. I have made the decision to move her into a nursing home; however, I am so scared to tell my kids. They are still relatively young and have not dealt with her dementia diagnosis very well. They feel that if we send her to a nursing home, we are "giving up on her." How do I get my kids to understand that in order to help her, we need to move her? I am worried that her daily absence will hurt my kids. -- Dementia in the Family, Baltimore
DEAR DEMENTIA IN THE FAMILY: You have to control the narrative. Explain to your children and your mother that it is time for her to live in a place that offers more support and that you will see her frequently. Do your best to establish a regular visitation schedule. Perhaps every Saturday or Sunday, you and the children can go to visit your mother. Bring her to your home for a family meal on the weekends. This consistency should help everyone. You will also need to talk to your children about the inevitable memory loss that is affecting your mother. Do not scare them, but let them know that your mother may be forgetful sometimes. Make sure they know that this doesn't mean she has stopped loving them.
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