Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: A woman in my group of friends has suddenly gone from being friendly toward me to being hostile and ignoring me. I live in a small town, so I run into her often, and it's disrupting the harmony of group gatherings -- at least for me. What can I do? I have no idea why she would act this way, and I don't want to avoid everyone just to avoid her. --- Small Town Gal
DEAR GAL: Living in a small place has its advantages -- and its challenges. You always have to be aware that the person you offend will turn up, again and again.
But people are mysteries, even when you think you know them. Consider that neighbors are going through things in their lives that may have nothing to do with you. It is a mistake to take someone's behavior personally when you have no evidence or knowledge that you've done anything wrong.
The next time you see this person, say, "I haven't talked to you in a while. How are you doing?" Depending on her response, you can follow up: "I've sensed you've been a little distant lately, and I've been wondering if everything is OK?" If this brings on something you need to apologize for, then you can do so. If not, carry on, knowing you've tried to be neighborly.
DEAR AMY: I'd like to reiterate your advice to "Indecisive Daughter," the mom concerned about her daughter's discomfort with kisses on the lips from grandfather. I had a visceral reaction as my "perp alert" went off. The entire front page of my paper today had a story about a young woman's fight to recover from sexual abuse by a trusted person. It is not strangers that present the greatest danger to children. It is most often family, friends, teachers and other "trusted" individuals who prey on children. As a 65-year-old survivor of such abuse, I am still dealing with the damage done when I was just a child. Please urge your readers to listen and believe their children. It is more important to protect a child than worry about hurting someone's feelings.
--- Voice of Experience
DEAR VOICE: Some readers felt I didn't go far enough in advising this mother that the red flags were flying over this scenario. To restate your admonition -- parents should always listen to and believe their children. I advised this mother that she should not leave this to her child to handle and that she should confront both of her parents about her father's behavior. She could expect an explanation or denial, but her child's instincts are paramount, and she should always advocate for her child. Thank you so much for prompting me to restate this emphatically.
DEAR AMY: Concerned Friend" questioned arranged marriages and had a very negative perspective, which should be corrected.
Many people in this day and age choose arranged marriages. Often these are educated, professional people who may choose to go this route for religious and cultural reasons. Arranged marriages have worked for centuries, and many if not most of them do develop into true romantic partnerships.
As a Western woman, I see the value in having your older and wiser parents choose a mate for you based on cultural, educational, socioeconomic and religious similarity. Lack of compatibility in these areas is something we often overlook through the haze of love.
Perhaps I would not be divorced today had I gone that route. --- Another View
DEAR VIEW: You had a choice. Your choice for yourself was flawed, but it was your choice. If a young person consents to have her parents choose her husband for her, then she can hope her parents choose well.