Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: I'm getting married in a few weeks, and we have a formal dress code. I talked to my cousin today and asked what she was wearing. She said she was wearing a shirt and pants. Everyone will be in suits or tuxes, so I asked if she had a blazer or suit jacket, or if I could buy her one for the event. She responded that wearing a blazer would make her incredibly uncomfortable and stressed out, and she couldn't do it, that wearing a dress shirt and pants was already making her uncomfortable.
I'm incredibly confused by this: It's just a blazer, and I'm not asking her to wear a dress, just to follow the dress code and offering to pay for it.
Am I allowed to ask her mother to try to convince her? Or do I need to accept that this is just my cousin's odd comfort level and that she cannot follow the dress code and enjoy the wedding?
My concern is that I personally would feel uncomfortable and stressed out going to an event I was underdressed for, and I'm not sure she truly is understanding the dress code.
Answer: Drop it. You tried, she resisted, one person will not ruin anything, and as a host, your priority has to be the comfort of your guests versus conformity to your theme. If you can have a blazer handy to provide if she asks (i.e., not to offer), that would be a kindness.
Question: A "good" friend of mine moved down the street from us with her family last fall. I put "good" in quotation marks because, although we've been friends since elementary school, she can be snarky, judgmental, and passive-aggressive. It's just tiring to deal with, and I'd rather spend time with people who don't do that rather than try to "fix" this relationship.
However, she lives down the darn block from us. Our husbands are friendly. Our daughters play together all the time. And we have this 20-plus-year history. How do you suggest I save my sanity by limiting our interactions without making things too uncomfortable or ruining things for the other family members who do get along?
Answer: Why don't you just keep interacting with her as your history, proximity, and families demand, and simply not take her nonsense? Kindly and plainly. When she's passive-aggressive, ask her to say what she means. When she says something snarky or judgmental, say there's no call for that - or just, "Really?"
Not to "fix" anything, but to indicate in a friendship-friendly way that these habits of hers annoy you and that you're not having them anymore.
She might surprise you by catching herself. Old habits with old friends go both ways, and she might be reverting to an outdated version of herself that she's more than happy to leave behind once you make her aware of it.
If, instead, she responds by calling you too sensitive, keep on the calm path. "Maybe so. I just find life easier when people are kind and direct."
Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.