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Money Manners: Being a good friend means not condoning humiliation by ex

Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My good friend “Amy” recently went through a very ugly divorce. As it happens, the man she divorced and I are both members of a local young professionals organization, a group that’s important to my career. Because he cheated on her, then behaved very badly when she filed for divorce, Amy expects me to give her ex the cold shoulder whenever I see him. But I don’t see why I should be unfriendly when he and I are at the organization’s events. It’s not as if I’m endorsing his behavior toward Amy; I only want to keep things pleasant on a professional level. Am I wrong?

– Trying to be Fair, Buffalo

Dear Trying: To whom are you trying to be fair? Only yourself, as far as we can see.

Look, you don’t get to not take sides when a good friend has been humiliated. It’s not as if Amy expects you to verbally accost her ex whenever you see him or to criticize him in front of the other members of your group. All she’s asked is that, by being cool to him, you show him that you disapprove of the way he treated her and that you value your friendship with her more than your relationship with him. Unfortunately, however, it sounds as if your instinct is to look out for yourself at the very moment you should be standing up for your friend.

Sorry, Trying, but you need to try harder.


Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My sisters and I are having a disagreement over some jewelry that belonged to our mother. Here’s the story: A few years ago Mom lent my sister “Nancy” a necklace-and-earrings set, which Nancy never got around to returning. Now Mom has died, and Nancy wants to keep the set and pay my other sister and me its value (Mom’s estate is to be divided equally among the three of us). That’s fine with everyone, and so is the price, $1,200, which is what an appraiser says the set is worth. However, while my other sister and I think Nancy should pay us each $600, Nancy says she owes us only $400 each, because she’s entitled to a third of the $1,200 herself. But since she’s keeping the necklace, shouldn’t we get the whole $1,200?

– B.D., Santa Barbara, Calif.

Dear B.D.: In a word, no. Since your mother’s estate is to be divided equally among the three of you, then each of you owns one-third of the necklace-and-earrings set, and each of you is entitled to one-third of whatever amount the set sells for. If the set were sold to a jeweler for $1,200, then you, Nancy and your other sister would each be entitled to $400. The fact that Nancy, and not a jeweler, is the buyer doesn’t change the division. Nancy isn’t obligated to pay for the third of the set she already owns.


Dear Jeanne and Leonard: Every year there’s a Christmas party at the office where I work. A few weeks before the event, there’s a Secret Santa drawing in which each person gets the name of another to buy a gift for. The gifts are then exchanged at the party, and that’s when the trouble starts. Once the exchange is completed, people start stealing other people’s gifts and replacing them with the gifts they were given but don’t like as much.

I guess because the gifts don’t cost too much (around $20), everyone thinks this is funny. But I don’t. What do you think?

– M.A., Greater Toronto Area

Dear M.A.: We’re not laughing our socks off. The antics you describe sound, at best, juvenile, and at worst, wounding to the givers of the rejected gifts. But if everyone else is enjoying themselves, we suggest you grin and bear it. After all, Christmas comes but once a year.

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