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Advice for Everybody!

Our experts, Miss NForm and Ida Ngo are here for you. If you have a question, we have an answer.

email: advice@clevermag.com and we will respond in the very next issue.

Here's the archive of previous advice given a few years back. If these questions were asked today, the answers would still be relevant.


DearClever is here for you

Relationship questions:

DearClever: Why can't I find a really cool relationship-minded guy? I go out to bars and clubs regularly. Where are they? In-search-of

Dear In-search-of: ...somewhere else, obviously. Miss NForm

Dear In-search-of, Well, the truth is that the available guys ARE there. Unfortunately, they're buried behind 42" waistlines, mangy goatees, and obnoxious laughter. The truth is that there's no finding Mr. Right. Quit searching and just wait for him to come to you. Ida Ngo

DearClever: My boyfriend refuses to tell me his loves me. He tells me lots of other stuff that I can't repeat here but he just can't say The L word. Should I dump him? Lovelorn

Dear Lovelorn, Your boyfriend is either...
a) one of those types who lacked sufficient love as a child and thus
does not realize he's holding anything back that may be desirable in a relationship;
b) afraid of getting locked-in to family dinners, shared bank accounts
and all the trappings that go with making a commitment to another human being;
c) not in love with you.
Whatever the answer, you're not going to get what you want until he
straightens his own shit out. Believe me, you don't want to get wrapped up with someone who has yet to unpack his baggage. Save yourself, Woman...get out before it's too late. Helpfully yours, Ida Ngo

Dear Lovelorn: You should go with your instincts here and throw him back. He's definitely not a keeper. Miss NForm 

DearClever: This isn't really a serious problem, but I hope you can help me anyhow. My problem is the so-called "coffee date." You see, I hate coffee. What can I do about that? No coffee for me, please

Dear Please: Coffee date, shmoffee date. Why do coffee drinkers get to set the standards for our cultural traditions, anyway? It's been clinically proven that beer is a lot more effective in easing those first-date whim-whams. I don't know why people insist on doing the Starbucks thing. Come up with a few backup suggestions for those instances when you're making plans and don't hold back in stating your disinterest in the coffee house scene. Stand tall! You are not alone! As ever, Ida Ngo

Dear Please: Don't take the "coffee" part of the date too literally. There are times when a coffee shop is the perfect place to meet. Look carefully at the Starbucks' menu. There's probably something else you can drink. If not, ask the waiter to make you a plain hot chocolate with lots of whipped cream. You'll enjoy it, no matter what. Miss NForm

Dear Clever: Mine is a common problem but I never remember the answer that Dear Abby gives when she gets this one. So maybe you can help me. I have a boyfriend, I'll call him Sam. We've been "dating" for six months now and have what I think is a pretty good relationship. Sam wants to move it to 
the next level, which means moving into my apartment with me. I'm a little nervous about this whole thing for one reason: my cat. Tiger is a feisty little thing, who thinks she lives in the jungle. She hides under chairs and attacks Sam's feet. She jumps on him and bites his toes at the most inappropriate times. She even growls at him. I don't think she likes him very much. Sam, on the other hand, really likes her but he just can't seem to make friends with Tiger. I don't want to give either of them up. What shall I do? Perplexed.

Dear Perplexed: I've heard this question before. There is a simple procedure you can follow to get your cat and boyfriend well-acquainted with each other to the point where they can co-habit in peace. First thing is that you need to get a baby-gate to be able to close off one room to give your cat a sense of 
security and mastery over her own territory when introducing a new person into your home. Leave your boyfriend in a closed-off space for 7 to 10 days, where Tiger can sniff him and become accustomed to his scent without feeling threatened about sharing her space. Be sure to provide him with fresh water and food at least twice a day. After 10 days, allow him to explore one new room at a time until the kitty lovingly accepts him and is willing to share her space non-aggressively. Good luck! As Ever, Ida Ngo

Dear Perplexed, Miss NForm does not support the practice of  unmarried couples living together. Perhaps there's a message in Tiger's strange behavior.  Think about it.  Pets are intuitive.
Sincerely, Miss NForm

DearClever: I've met somebody new, possibly the love of my life, but here's the thing: I simply cannot bear to throw out my ex's old love letters and tokens. What's up with that? Starting Over

Dear Over: The old stuff from your past relationship is a part of your personal history. You don't have to deep-six it to get involved with someone new, unless of course you're reading the cards every night and crying into the pressed bouquet from your first anniversary. If that's the case, see a therapist and resolve whatever unfinished business is keeping you wrapped up in something that no longer exists. If you're through with your ex and ready to start anew, toss the stuff in an envelope, bury it in the bottom of the box with all your high school yearbooks, and stash it in the back of the closet. You'll be ready to part with the memories when you rediscover them while packing up to move in with Mr./Ms. Wonderful. Ida Ngo

Dear Over: Maybe you're just in love with love. Some people are. The memories of the process itself is evoked by those trinkets. It's probably healthier to get rid of them. They would be hard to explain if your new partner stumbled onto them especially if they were hidden away, tear-stained and tied up in ribbons. Sincerely, Miss Nform

DearClever: How do I handle the following situation? My longtime boyfriend and I have a great relationship and neither of us are overly-possessive but lately, a friend of mine who recently ended her relationship has been overtly flirting with my boyfriend. He's flattered and hasn't acted on anything --yet. I don't want to have the big confrontation and make a fool of myself, but I'm going from tinted to "hunter" green real fast.  Thanks, Hunter

Dear Hunter: If this is your longtime boyfriend and you have a stable and supportive relationship, you should be able to talk to him about it without the conversation becoming a "big confrontation". Tell him your concerns and ask for some reassurance. If you're still feeling jealous and threatened, you've probably got some deeper issues related to your own self-worth to work on, and you should immediately get some therapy. If he DOES end up cheating on you, he's obviously an enormous jerk and you should dump his ass ASAP. But the simplest solution would be for you to just chill out and not worry so much. Take up meditation and walk barefoot in the garden. Think about starving children, genital mutilation, and the Holocaust, and realize that there are REAL problems in the world. Sincerely, Ida Ngo

Dear Hunter, Shame on your girlfriend.  Flirting with her friend's guy violates the unwritten law of friendship.  I suggest to you that the only thing you can do is to tell both your friend and your boyfriend, in a nice, sincere way, that it hurts you for her to flirt with him. Try not to show anger when you do.   Say something like, "There is something bothering me.  We are close  and I value our friendship so much that I think you would want me to be honest with you...."

You can kill more flies with honey than with a shotgun. Something similar happened to me once.  My guy and I weren't going steady but I cared a lot for him.  I wrote him a letter and told him I thought it was tacky of him to enjoy my friend's flirting in front of me, and that he was free to see anyone he wanted to, but if he was going to be dating my personal friends that I didn't want to see him again.  This approach did stop the action and we are all still friends, He never saw my friend again and she is now married.  Good luck to you. As Ever, Miss NForm

Dear Clever: An acquaintance of mine told me that the boss is having an affair with one of the secretaries. She made me promise not to tell anyone. But now everybody's talking about it. Do I still have to stay mum? Anxious

Dear Anxious: Ah, I'd follow the path of the Buddha on this one. I think it was he who first coined the phrase "Gossip is the poison Bodhi tree of the mind," (or something similarly profound). My advice is to separate yourself from all forms of other people's nonsense. We have enough unavoidable stuff foisted on us by politicians, corporate giants, and other scourges, that we should immerse ourselves in peace and clarity of mind whenever possible. If you want collusion and drama, limit it to Thursday nights (via your local CBS affiliate at 8 pm on Thursday nights). Sincerely, Ida Ngo

Dear Anxious: I, on the other hand, hereby give you permission to tell all, embellish the story as much as you like, and wallow like that proverbial pig in this scintillating little tale. Why not! This could be the most fun thing you'll do at the office today or any other day. Sounds like the boss deserves all the mud slinging you folks can dish up. Miss NForm ;-)

DearClever: Lately my boyfriend has been hinting about choosing rings and getting married but I guess I haven’t really thought about whether he's the right guy. It’s starting to freak me out because I really like him but I’m not sure I want to get married right away. Signed, Undecided

Dear Undecided: If you have to think about it, he's not the right guy. Think about this--if you decide to get married, you are going to be with this person EVERY SINGLE DAY for the next god-knows-how-many years. When he's sick, you'll have to take care of him. For Christmas you'll have to go to his folks' and you'll have to hang out with his buddies on the weekends. If  the thought of any of these possibilities makes your skin crawl, your gut is definitely trying to tell you something. Also, remember that men's lives improve 75% when they're married, whereas women's happiness remains the same or, usually, decreases. Don't push yourself into this arrangement before you can face up to the reality while maintaining consciousness. Sincerely, Ida Ngo

Dear Undecided: When in doubt, do nothing. Maybe you've just got a case of jitters. Ask for a few days to think about it...and then really think about it. Ida's advice is very good (this time). Married life is difficult for everybody, but living alone isn't so great either. Miss NForm

DearClever: My girlfriend is a shameless flirt. She says it's all just in fun and I'm being too uptight about things, but it irritates me. What should I do? Seeing Red

Dear Red: One thing I've noticed is that shameless flirts seem to have it in their blood--they don't turn it off and on. Surely she has acted this way since you first met her, but back then her attentions were mostly directed at you. Some of her qualities most attractive to you are more than likely her friendliness, bubbly personality, and hospitality towards others. If she toned down her flirtatiousness, she wouldn't be herself anymore, the one you fell in love with. 

I imagine your discomfort lies with other people being on the receiving end more often than your are, which is probably due to the closeness and comfort of your relationship. Let your girlfriend know that you miss the feeling of being "young lovers" and create some games or play scenarios to act out secretly when you're out socializing together. This plan will undoubtedly intrigue her and redirect her flirtatious energy to you. But, as always, Ida Ngo

Dear Red: Sounds like maybe you don't like her so much anymore. Maybe she's just not your type. When she shined her light on you, it was fun, now it's turned elsewhere. I'd say, move on.
Sincerely, Miss NForm

DearClever: My boyfriend and I recently went to Las Vegas. We decided to put the expenses on his credit card and share the costs later 50-50. I've repaid my share of the hotel bill, the airfare and the meals, but I haven't reimbursed him for the cash withdrawals for gambling. He did most of the gambling and I stood and watched over his shoulder. He says if I don't repay him, he'll take me to Judge Judy. I don't think I should have to pay for the gambling because I didn't even get to pull the handle. What should I do? Signed, Scared of the camera

Dear Scared: According to my vast knowledge of Judge Judy, doing well in her court really depends on attitude and preparation. If your boyfriend is a loudmouth jerk with no respect for authority, which I'm willing to bet is the case, the odds will be strongly in your favor. Sounds to me like your relationship is  about at its end, if he's not willing to be fair and compromise with you. On the other hand, you did make an agreement to share the expenses 50-50, so whatever charges came up on his credit card should be split right down the middle. You can bet the Judge will bring that up. Here's the thing: don't be afraid of J.J. If you firmly believe that you are in the right, bring copies of the checks you paid to your boyfriend, written lists of where you gambled, what games you (he) played, and for how long, and just go in with a respectful and humble attitude. My money's on you taking the win. Then dump the loser.
As ever, Ida Ngo

Dear Scared: Hmm. You have to ask yourself this question: if he won would he have split the cash with you? If the answer is "yes", then you owe him half. However, a good rule of thumb is never to go to Las Vegas if you can't afford to lose a little money. And if you ever go again, take your share and pull the handles yourself. And one other thing, gamblers are not supposed to welch out on a promise. That's the Code of the West. I think you need a new boyfriend too.
Sincerely, Miss NForm

DearClever, I'm a 32 year old young professional woman who is in wedding hell and it's not even my wedding! I have three friends getting married this year and this is becoming an expensive proposition for me. There are engagement gifts, showers, hotel reservations (2 of the weddings are out of town) and the gifts. I haven't even included the cost of my own dress. How do I tactfully tell my friends that I can do some of these events but not all. Penniless Bridesmaid

Dear Penniless, Wow, that's a toughie. As I'm pondering your quandary from south of the border, I'm being inspired by the local traditions in Jalisco, Mexico. It is a common understanding in the local pueblos that engagement gifts are frivolous and basically unnecessary. If you feel obligated, a healthy chicken ought to do (and will only cost a few pesos!). As for travel, you MUST have a distant cousin or friend of a friend of a friend in the out-of-town wedding locations. Bring a bottle of tequila as a gesture of gratitude and crash on the floor. Gifts do not have to come off the registry and DON'T need to have the tags still on. You can find some very nice crystal items in any Goodwill or assorted thrift shop. Follow these tips from our thrifty neighbors to the south and you should find yourself out of debt before you even get there! Cariñosamente, Ida Ngo

Dear Penniless: Let me try to interpret Ida Ngo's brilliant answer. Being invited to a wedding is an honor, so it's taken for granted that you will attend come hell or high water. Keep the gifts simple, but thoughtful. Do some bargain hunting. If you must stay overnight, try to find someone to share a room with or look up lost relatives and beg for a bed and breakfast sleep over. Plan on wearing the same outfit to all three gigs, unless of course, you're going to be one of the bride's maids. If that's the problem, you might consider bowing out as an attendant and just go as a guest. I think it's permissible to ask to be excused from those duties if you simply can't afford the tariff. But, you must resign your bride's maid-ship from all three weddings. You cannot be penniless for one and not for the other one or two. Sincerely, Miss NForm

Should I be pissed off that my boyfriend reads my diary? He denied it at first but then admitted it. He accused me of cheating on him. He had read my diary. Pissed Off

Dear Pissed: Your relationship is clearly not based on a solid foundation of honesty--you're cheating and he's invading your privacy. I've never heard of a relationship that survived without a basic bond of trust. Bail out now before you both drown in this sinking ship. Ida Ngo

Dear Pissed: Throw away your diary and concentrate on your boyfriend. Miss NForm

DearClever: It's my boyfriend. See, he has this rather exotic pet that I'm really, really creeped out by -- it's an iguana or something like that. Anyhow, it's a large, crusty-looking dragon like thing that smells bad and has beady eyes and a long scaly tail. It gives me the shivers, especially when I sleep over. This thing sleeps in bed with us. I really like my boyfriend but not his pet. How can I keep this relationship going without demanding he get rid of it? Iggie

Dear Iggie: You can't win this one. Throw the bastard out and start over. Ida Ngo

Dear Iggie: I'm afraid I agree with Ida on this one. Your boyfriend sleeps with an iguana every night of the week. It's his buddy. How can you ever compete with that Most girls are creeped out by such things. He's toying with you. I think he must be the weakest link. Miss Nform

: Is it really better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? Lovesick

Dear Lovesick: If you can find it in a Burt Bacharach song, take it as gospel. Ida Ngo

Dear Lovesick: Yes. 

Well, I guess maybe you want a better answer than that. If you've never been in love before, then you're clueless about the whole thing, but since you are asking, we must assume that you've been dumped. Most of the love songs are speaking to you. That's because it's a common problem. It does hurt but you'll get over it, eventually, and then remembering those old feelings will bring comfort to you in the rest home. In the meantime, get back up and have another go at it. Sincerely, Miss NForm


Questions about manners:

DearClever: Is it appropriate to send an email thank you note? Missing Manners

Dear Missing: Thank you for your question. We really appreciate your interest in Clevermag. 
Sincerely, Ida Ngo

Dear Missing: Better than no thank-you note at all, I'd say. Miss NForm

Dear Clever:
Here's something that really bothers me. People keep telling me to smile. I'm not glum, I just don't feel like smiling. Can I tell them off? Nothing to Smile About

Dear Nothing: Yeah, what's up with that, anyway? What is so lacking from those people's lives that they need us to be smiling away all the time? Is it that the subdued tranquility of a contented person only magnifies their own deep-seated feelings of inner turmoil and angst? Whatever it is, they gots to chill and keep their hyper-anxious needs for constant cheer and elation to themselves. You know how when someone's going to take a picture, they tell you to "Say cheese"? Well, I find that a lovely smile also goes very well with the phrase "Shove it". Try this response the next time someone demands to see your pearly whites. Grr, Ida Ngo

Dear Nothing: So the Smile Police are at it again, huh? Yes, by all means give them a small piece of your mind. Run from them, frowning all the way. 
Miss NForm :-(

DearClever: My problem is when I am laying in bed almost asleep, I think of the best way to tell that pesky telemarketer off. When I wake up, I can't remember that great idea. This has been going on for years. Do you think I need to see someone? Puzzled

Dear Puzzled: You may have noticed that referring people to therapy is one of the pat  answers Ida Ngo generally falls back on. In this case, however, the fact that you think your concern may require professional attention suggests that you actually may be suffering from a disorder technically called molehill-into-mountainism. 

Your complaint is one which actually pertains to all types of great ideas and not just the pesky "delayed snappy-comeback". Who knows how many ingenious inventions, best-selling novels, and million-dollar business ventures have been lost to the nighttime "Oh, I'll definitely remember this in the morning's. To relieve your anxiety, leave a notebook in your bedside table and record those gems of wisdom when they come to you in the wee hours. No guarantees from Ida that they'll sound quite as brilliant in the light of day, however. As ever, Ida Ngo

Dear Puzzled: If you do need to see someone, take me with you. You might try, "What part of no don't you understand?"  Or tell them about your dream last night, slowly and in great detail. You have been, Miss N. Formed

DearClever: Is it acceptable or is it crass to blow your nose into the cloth dinner napkin? Sniffles

Dear Sniffles: Gr-oss! The fact that you’re even asking this question means that you shouldn’t be let out without intense supervision. Consider yourself permanently scratched off my guest list. I mean it, Ida Ngo

Dear Sniffles: Bring along a few clean tissues. It's a small thing to ask and everybody will appreciate it. Current social etiquette says it's only appropriate to barely use your cloth napkin, even accidentally staining it with a little wine or lipstick is a serious social error. I've stayed at guest houses and bed and breakfasts where I was given the same "used" napkin for days on end. I wouldn't want the hosts to have to sterilize my napkin before the next guest had a turn at it. Miss NForm

Work Related Questions:

DearClever: I have a problem -- it's my boss. One day she's my friend, the next day she's my worst enemy. I love my job, but not my boss. Help! Confused

Dear Confused, Bosses are rare pieces of work...somehow the most incompetent and dysfunctional types always seem to rise to the top. I've found moodiness to be among the most insufferable qualities in a manager. You seem to be dealing with a real gem, and she's luring you right into her den of chaos. Best thing to do is go Zen with it...be like the rock, stable and consistent in all conditions. Let her swirling confusion fester around her like an irate hive of bees. You stay smiling all the while, despite whatever stings or honey come your way. As always, Ida Ngo

Dear Confused: You've got to find a way to reach the middle ground with her, not too friendly, but business-like. It's truly difficult. But hang in there, maybe she'll self-destruct. Usually that type is playing the same game with everybody, and that's hard work in and of itself. Miss NForm

DearClever: At work there’s this menopausal woman who has hot flashes and needs to take many breaks during the day to get some relief from her problem. The boss keeps grumbling about it and threatening her. Does she have legal recourse against her boss because he won’t let her go? 
Worried Worker

Dear Worried: Wow. I’m sure there’s some code in some legal book somewhere that can answer your question, but I have neither access to that book nor desire to discover it. I feel empathy for your menopausal friend, but if her physical condition is impairing her ability to do her job, I think she should seek help. There are lots of treatments, including traditional hormonal therapy, herbal remedies, and homeopathic remedies. If she’s not willing to get help for her condition, I recommend she take up ice sculpting, meat cutting, or professional hockey. Ida Ngo

Dear Worried: What a mean boss! I don't know about the legal end of it either but I think the compassion police should be called in at once. And it seems to me that this is a case for adding a bathroom break amendment to the constitution. Sisters all over the world should rise up. Miss NForm

Pet Problems:

DearClever: I hate the sound of a contented cat purring in my ear at night. Is something wrong with me? No Cat-hater

Dear No: As lovable and cuddly as kitty-cats can be, their midnight demands for loving are almost always unwelcome, aren't they? If your cat is purring in your face and licking your nose when you're trying to sleep, I can understand your complaint. But cats will often just purr while they're going about their business (very important business, at that) because they are generally happy at home and at peace with the world. Once they settle down to sleep, their motor gradually winds down. If this more closely resembles your situation, you might want to practice some patience and take joy in the fact that you are providing such a comfortable home for your little furball. Sincerely, Ida Ngo

Dear No: Yes, I'd say there is something wrong with you. Would you prefer snoring?
Grumpily yours, Miss NForm

DearClever: I get a little tense when I see large dogs being walked on skimpy leashes, and even tenser when there is no leash at all. Do I have a problem? Fraidy Cat

Dear Fraidy: Yes, try Paxil. Ida Ngo

Dear Fraidy So do I. Pass the Paxil. Miss NForm

Personal questions:

DearClever: I like to watch the shopping channel but my friends kid me about it. Am I getting old before my time? Julie

Dear Julie: It's not about getting old so much as getting ripped off. By the time they add on all the shipping and handling fees, you probably could have bought two of those "luxury items" at your local K-Mart. If you're just browsing the merchandise as a virtual window-shopping activity, it can't be any worse than the crud that's on your 499 other channels. Repeat this mantra ten times daily: "I am NOT what I watch". Sincerely, Ida Ngo

Dear Julie: Maybe you need to do something more interesting to amuse your friends. They might just be trying to tell you to get out of the house a little more often. So put on some of those great clothes and wonderful jewelry you bought on QVC and really give them something to talk about. Miss NForm


DearClever: I belong to a club and every couple of months we have a raffle to raise funds for the club. We are supposed to bring a nice, wrapped gift that costs about $5.00. We then buy raffle tickets and wait for our number. You cannot believe the junk I have won. Used jewelry that dates to my mother's time and cheap at that. Stuff I wouldn't ever think to give. Today was the end. Cheap used jewelry. A picture frame that had the $1.19 price tag still on. A bottle shaped like the boot of Italy with brandied cherries that had been around for a very long time. The label was so faded you could hardly read it. I have had it. How do I handle this. Fed up in San Jose

Dear Fed Up: I hope you are in a position of power in your club. If not, get yourself into one, and fast. Scrap the raffle and have everyone contribute five bucks to the bank on a regular basis. Cheapskates will never be changed so, unfortunately, you'll have to change the system around them. Remind the members what the club funds are used for to renew their enthusiasm around contributing. If people LOVE the raffle, for some odd reason, keep it and just use it to augment your baseline bank account. Then accept the crap you win with a smile and feel good about donating to your favorite charity or garage sale.
Sincerely, Ida Ngo

Dear Fed Up: Sounds like you've lost your sense of humor. Perhaps it's time to suggest a new fund raiser. I imagine you're not the only one on the receiving end of that stuff. Maybe the charm of raffles is wearing just a little thin with this group. Come up with a new idea or just grin a bear it.
Yours Truly, Miss NForm

DearClever: I have a diet question. I feel bad when people offer me treats, snacks and other no-no's, especially around the holiday season. They are always so fattening and sinful. I usually say "no, thank you," but they keep urging me to have one. How can I say no and mean it without being mean? On a Diet

Dear Diet: Your idea that eating a tasty goody is a sin leaves me quite concerned for your moral compass. I find that the ancient rule of "turning the other cheek" can be translated for modern use into "eating the other brownie". Rejecting another's generosity and hospitality is far less ethically sound, in my reasoning, than putting aside superficial preoccupations with your waistline. 

In recognition of health concerns, you may opt to select very small portions and praise mightily the deliciousness of the treat. Then get your host talking about him/herself, and they'll be sure to leave your gastronomical participation to your own preference. Happy holidays, Ida Ngo

Dear Diet: Why do hosts feel this compulsion to force food down our throats? Perhaps it's because they went to a great deal of effort to prepare it. Or they don't like leftovers. Or perhaps it's a all part of a holiday conspiracy to balance things out. We all must pay the fat piper for all the fun we're having. Whatever the reason, just eat a little something. Just one won't hurt -- too much. Miss NForm

DearClever: I fall asleep in front of the TV, but when I go to bed I'm wide awake. Any ideas? Insomniac

Dear Insomniac: Put the TV in the bedroom, set the "sleep" timer for 30 minutes. Works like a charm. Yours, Ida Ngo

Dear Sleepless: Some people sleep better when the cooler weather starts, so maybe your luck will change. Otherwise try these ideas: 1) ease up on the double espressos; 2) don't snack on chocolate before bed; 3) get up and do something -- pull out your ironing, work on you tax returns, start reading War and Peace. Last thing that comes to my mind when pondering your problem, maybe something is really bothering you. Try solving your life's problems before you get under the covers every night. Miss NForm

DearClever: Is it kosher to count the number of items the person ahead of you has in his or her basket while we're standing in the express line, and then tell them they have too many things? I really get irritated when shoppers with brimming carts take advantage that way. Up to Here

Dear Up to Here: If you can't look the other way with this problem, take action! I have found it useful to enlist the aid of the checker, many of whom seem to be more responsive lately to line management issues. Ask for a confirmation of the maximum number of items in the line, quickly scan your basket to pretend you're concerned about your own honesty, then look pointedly (but kindly) at the person ahead of you with the grocery overflow. 

IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER--you are NOT the keeper of the food-
store law. If the scoundrel does not admit their transgression and move out, just trust karma to catch up with her/him in the end. You never know who you're dealing with and the five minutes that you are delayed will not affect your overall lifespan in any way. Stressing over the situation will. If the store does not enforce it's own policies, view it as an open invitation to read magazines in line for entertainment during the extra wait. 
Sincerely, Ida Ngo

Dear Up: Goodness, gracious, my dear, I believe you need a nice, nice cup of tea. Haven't you ever snuck into the Express Line with a few too many items? Do you count 3 apples in one plastic bag as 1 item, or 3? Perhaps you need a stress management class. You've definitely got your knickers in a twist over nothing. 
Yours truly, Miss NForm

DearClever: Life just doesn't seem to be worth living any longer. How can I get a life, or get over it? Lifeless

Dear Lifeless: Have you considered becoming an organ donor? I'm serious. I don't mean heart, lungs or corneas. That might be fatal. But you could start by donating blood or bone marrow. Then move on to a kidney, you won't miss one of them. You might not even miss part of your liver or a patch of skin, maybe a hank of hair. And get this, there are people out there who would benefit from this little piece of you and who would be extremely grateful for it, even if you don't give a damn about your life. Sincerely, Ida Ngo

Dear Lifeless: Ah, come on. It can't be that bad. Just turn that frown upside down. Things will get better for you, I promise. Just think of tomorrow as the first day of the rest of your life. You've been Miss Nformed

Legal questions:

DearClever: I saw some little kids stealing candy at the 7-11 the other day and I told the owner. He went nuts and called the cops. Now I feel guilty.  Have I damaged those kids for life? Guilty

Dear Guilty: I'm sure your intentions were not to inflict major scars upon those kids. If they suffered any damage, it will just be more reinforcement for them to stay on the straight and narrow path in the future. You have my gratitude for intervening and helping to teach those kids a lesson which will make them better people. Good for you for stepping in. It takes a village, they say. 
Sincerely, Ida Ngo

Dear Guilty: Let me get this straight: you're feeling guilty because the owner of the 7-11 called the cops when he found out kids were shoplifting. Hello, Guilty! It's not you who should be feeling guilty, it's those kids and the kids' parents. If they are scarred for life, let's hope they remember how they got those scars. You rock, Guilty! Miss NForm

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