Dear Annie: My husband and I have become friends with another couple from church. They are very nice, but the wife is extremely controlling. My husband and I don’t feel as if they even know us, because the wife always interrupts and talks at me and in my face. We have tried to back off of the friendship, but she keeps inviting us to do something almost every week. Short of switching churches, how can we gently back out of the friendship? — Awkward Sundays
Dear Awkward Sundays: Start by giving yourself permission to say “no” to people. I admire your desire not to offend, but you do not have to be best friends with everyone. It takes all kinds of people to make a world, and not all of them are going to mesh. That’s OK.
Once you’ve dispelled some of the guilt you’re feeling, politely saying “no” to the couple’s invitations will feel like less of a big deal. And almost surely, over time, the invitations will become less frequent. But either way, don’t let it stress you out.
Dear Annie: When I read the advice that was given to “Quiet for Now,” about calling out sexual harassment immediately, it reminded me of something that happened to me about 40 years ago. I was in my early 20s, and a friend and I took the crowded city bus together every morning. One morning, we both observed a well-dressed man in his 50s sitting beside a girl of 18 or so. He put his hand on her leg and ran it up and down it, looking ahead the whole time. She was obviously very shaken; she had tears in her eyes. My friend and I were so shocked and disgusted, but we didn’t do or say anything at the time. A few weeks later, I was on the bus by myself. This same man came and sat beside me. He lifted his one arm and laid it along my hip. I pulled my arm up and hit him in the chest with my elbow as hard as I could. He pulled away and didn’t touch me again.
I’ve often thought about this man, who I now assume did this to a different girl every time he thought he could. I wish my 20-something self had instead pushed him onto the bus floor and started yelling what he was doing on the bus every day and made the driver call the police. It would be what I would suggest to a young woman today. The time needs to come when these creeps face immediate repercussions. You are right; if “Quiet for Now’s” husband’s so-called friend is assaulting her, which is what’s happening, then they don’t need him in their lives. — With Hindsight
Dear With Hindsight: I’m so sorry that you had to experience that situation on the bus, but I commend your bravery in sticking up for yourself and jabbing the creep in the chest. Instead of regretting what you didn’t do in that situation, try to look at what you did do by avoiding what could have been even worse. Hindsight is always 20/20, and it sounds to me as if you did the best your 20-something self could in that situation. Try not to look back too much. Remember that the front windshield wiper is a lot bigger than the rearview mirror. Your enthusiasm on the subject may inspire young girls who would not otherwise have been willing even to elbow a creep like this away.
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to email@example.com.