The man I am dating recently “surprised” me by taking me to dinner at a sushi restaurant. I really, really don’t like sushi. He was disappointed when I was not thrilled. Shouldn’t he have asked me first if I ate sushi?

Yes, he should have, since sushi restaurants generally have pretty limited menus and if one isn’t a fan, it’s not a choice one might make. It was nice he tried to surprise you with what he thought would be a treat, but it would probably be a better idea, in the future, to surprise you by taking you to a restaurant he knows you especially like.

We have been invited to my nine-year-old niece’s dance recital. My question is, should we take her flowers?

Presenting performers with flowers is a custom that varies from community to community. It’s never incorrect, but if you are worried that it isn’t done where your niece lives, just ask! Tell her mom you would like to bring a bouquet but wanted to check that this would be ok and wouldn’t embarrass your niece.

My best friend has asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. I am honored, but she is to be married in California and I live in Connecticut and I can’t afford the cost of the flight plus the dress and accessories plus a wedding gift. Can I tell her that and ask if her mom can pay my costs?

No, you can’t. You have to call your friend and tell her how honored you are to be asked and how much you want to be there, but that it simply isn’t affordable for you, so you have to regretfully withdraw. Then write a follow-up letter that says you hope she understands and can forgive you, but circumstances simply make it impossible for you to be able to be with her on her wedding day. Be sure to keep in touch the same way you do now to make it clear that you treasure her friendship. If she is upset and perhaps doesn’t understand, persevere in your efforts to demonstrate how much she means to you.

I have a friend who is extremely upset because I didn’t return her phone call soon enough for her. Is there some sort of rule about this? And what about responding to personal emails?

Yes, the guideline for returning calls is that you do so within 24 hours, assuming that you aren’t out of the country or are otherwise unavailable.  Respond to emails within one or two days. If you are going to be unavailable, leave an “away” message so friends understand that you will get back to them when you return. If the situation is reversed and you don’t receive a reply to a call or email within a reasonable amount of time, don’t assume disrespect. There may be a reason that the recipient hasn’t gotten back to you, so follow up with a second call or email.

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