Q  How do you deal with an olive in your salad when it has a pit? Options: spit it at your dinner date, swallow it, try to put it back on the fork, or store it in your cheek for the rest of the meal…excuse yourself to the rest room, go to the parking lot or what?

A  Your suggestions are all excellent, and we find especially humorous the possibility of storing it in your cheek for the rest of the meal, but the real answer is that you bring a spoon (or your fork) to your mouth and gently push the pit with your tongue onto the spoon. In a very casual situation, you may use your fingers to remove it. In both cases, you then place it at the edge of your plate.

Q  Three friends and I were asked to be bridesmaids in another friend’s wedding out of town. She just notified us that we have to be there three days early to clean the chapel where she’s going to be married because it hasn’t been used in years. We can’t take that much time off from work. What do we do?

A  You say no, you can’t do that. Bridesmaids are supportive of the bride, attend what events they can, they consult on plans, deal with wrapping paper at showers, wear what she tells them to wear, look their best, help her dress, and stay near at the reception and tend to her needs, but heavy cleaning is not among their responsibilities. She needs to re-examine her budget and find the funds to hire professional cleaners or, if this isn’t possible, find a different place for her ceremony; one that only requires a little decorating, not a full scale scrub-down. No guilt for saying no. It’s an unreasonable request.

Q  A neighbor has twice borrowed something from me and returned both things broken. All she said was, “sorry, the handle fell off” and “sorry, the plate got chipped.” I thought the correct thing would be for her to replace the item or offer to pay for it, not just casually act like it didn’t matter. Should I have asked her to do this?

A  You are correct, that’s what she should have done, but since she didn’t, your lesson is “live and learn” and in the future you don’t loan her anything that you care about. The odds seem to be against her taking care of what she borrows or doing the right thing if an accident happens. While it would have been difficult for you to ask her to replace what she broke, you certainly can say something the next time she wants to borrow from you. “Sorry, Melinda, but the last two things you borrowed came back broken and you didn’t replace them, so I have to say no.” Hard to do? Yes. But fine to do, nonetheless. If she didn’t know the rules before, your response may give her some guidance.

Send questions for Catherine Michaels in care of [email protected]

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