Dear Annie: I have known one of my friends, "Pam," for more than 50 years, and at times she has been a very good friend. She and her husband introduced me to my now-ex-husband and were both in my wedding party.
Last year, I had a disagreement with a mutual friend, "Sharon." Quite frankly, I thought Sharon was in the wrong, but I decided her friendship was more important than who was right and who was wrong. I apologized to Sharon and took the blame.
When we all had our 50th high school reunion recently, Pam hung out with Sharon and only briefly said hello to me, though her husband came over to talk to me.
More recently, she sent me an email saying that my ex-husband had come to visit her husband and her. She said that he looked badly, and he told her that my children have not been there for him, which is not the truth. She told me I should speak with my adult children and tell them to visit him more.
I feel that in both instances -- with Sharon and my ex-husband -- Pam judged me without hearing my side of the story. I would never dream of telling her that her two kids were not assisting her or her husband without knowing more. How should I handle this? -- Friends Like These
Dear Friends Like These: It is inevitable that people will make assumptions and judgments about one another's personal business. It's petty, foolish -- and utterly human. Trust yourself and your decisions and put no stock in others' uninformed opinions of your life. You can't manage everyone's perception of you, and you'll go crazy trying.
That said, you can and should tell a friend when she's been hurtful. Share with Pam what you shared with me: You would never presume to tell her how she should manage her personal affairs, and you hope she will put herself in your shoes and see how her comments could come across as judgmental.
Dear Annie: I've been told that young people should use a credit card more often so that they can build a good credit history. I'm 24. I'd like to get a credit card that I can use for small recurring expenses. But I don't really know anything about banking, let alone which of the dozens of option is right for me. I'd like something with travel benefits, such as airline miles. And of course, there are technical things like interest rate to take into account. Can you provide some clarity on credit cards for beginners? I've heard horror stories about credit misuse. But more importantly, there are just so many similar options! No one taught me how to do this. -- Credit Confused
Dear Credit Confused: You don't sound so confused, only (wisely) trepidatious. You've got the right idea about using a credit card for small recurring expenses, such as utility bills. If you fly a lot, choosing one of the airline cards could be a good option, as you'll often automatically get perks such as free checked bags. This is better than usage-dependent perks (e.g., spending $2,000 in the first three months of opening an account), which can end up encouraging you to spend more than you can afford. I'd also recommend looking at not just the introductory interest rate (which is often 0 percent) but the rate after the introductory period is over. However, no advice I could offer can take the place of advice from a good financial adviser. Financial advisers aren't just for the wealthy. Accredited Financial Counselors work with low- and middle-income clients