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May 16-22, 2007

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Ask Sydney

This advice column is penned by a Sonoma County resident and our new weekly sage. Go ahead! Ask her anything.

Dear Sydney, I'm friends with two people who are in an intimate relationship. I recently found out that one of them has been "hanging out" with some new guy. My girlfriend asked me not to say anything to my other friend, who is being cheated on, about this situation. But I know that if he knew about it, he would not be happy and would not consider me to be a true friend if I had not told him what I now know. I consider both of these people to be my good friends and feel pissed off to be put in this situation. What should I do?--Anonymous

Dear Anonymous: Think of the situation from a reversed perspective. Would you want your friend to tell you if you were the one being deceived? There are plenty of people who believe what goes on between two people in a relationship is their business and theirs alone. But you're probably right, and if you say nothing, you run the risk, when your friend finds out, that he will feel betrayed by your silence.

Instead of going directly to your friend, first discuss the situation with the cheater of the party. Express your frustration with the situation and give her the chance to share her point of view. Just be aware, there's something distinctly rotten about getting involved in another couple's dysfunctions. Most of us have enough of our own without dealing with anybody else's. So don't make this your business unless you're prepared to suffer the inevitably nasty consequences.

In the future, consider discussing this potential issue with your other close friends. Ask them how they would like you to deal with the situation should it come up. Think of it like the writing of a will; it may seem unnecessary at the time, but there's nothing wrong with being prepared. Maybe your friends will tell you, "Don't tell me, I don't want to know," or maybe they'll say, "You better tell me, or else." In either case, at least then you never have to worry about being put in this predicament again. When it comes up next time, you'll know exactly what's expected of you, and then you can act accordingly! It would behoove most of us to be trained in "affair" etiquette, thereby eliminating the chances that we may inadvertently exacerbate the situation, hurt a friend by omission or say the wrong thing.

Dear Sydney, I have a new boss at my old office, and I run hot and cold about staying with him or not. He's a nice guy and all, it's just that I worked for my last employer for 17 years and it's hard for me to accept change. I'm just not as happy now as I used to be. I applied for a different job at a local clinic, and they may be offering me a position, but it would mean a $3 an hour pay cut. I talked to my daughter about it and she said for me to ask Sydney, so here I am. My gut feeling is to stay where I am, but I'm not sure. Since the new job would be at a clinic run by the state, they offer good benefits, but what I'm really concerned about is retirement, and I think there will be a retirement plan offered to me where I am now. At the new clinic this might not be the case. What would you do?--Itching to Quit

Dear Itching: A $3 an hour pay cut is significant enough to be taken seriously. I'd look at my finances very carefully before making any sort of sudden change. I might quit anyway, but at least then I wouldn't be shocked when my first paycheck came. Decide if you can afford and are willing to live on about $400 less per month. Then ask yourself, what makes you think the new place will be better? How unhappy are you in your current position? If you current job makes you very unhappy, and you can live without the $400, then ask the new place what their retirement packages look like. Just remember, if the difficulty lies in your inability to accept change, as you suggest in your letter, then an entirely new job may not bring you the sense of security you're seeking. Changing jobs is a big decision, and you're right to take it seriously, but ultimately it's your overall well-being that is the most important--more important than $3 an hour, benefits or retirement. Try not to forget, therefore, to wager your contentment into the final calculations.

Dear Sydney, my dog had puppies and my 21-year-old son wants one. He lives in an apartment where he signed a lease that said no pets, but he says that he talked to the property owner and he said that it would be OK. My son got a cat a few years ago, and it's been living at my house for two years now because he didn't want to keep on moving the cat around, so he left him here. My fear is that when he gets tired of the puppy, it will be at my house too, and he denies this every time I try to talk to him about it. He doesn't want me to talk to his property owner, but I don't want one of my puppies to have a confusing life, and I'm not sure if it's really OK. I'm a ridiculous compulsive animal lover. What do you think? He's very upset (the fact that I am giving a puppy to his older sibling does not help), and he hasn't been speaking to me for the last five days over it.--Confused

Dear Confused: To whom you give your puppies is completely up to you. You're under no obligation. Having a dog is a huge responsibility, and you, above most others, are in the primary position to be able to assess your son's level of preparedness. Don't hold the cat against him, however, when making your decision. The cat was two years ago, and just because he has an abandoned cat in his closet (as so many of us do), doesn't mean he'll do the same with a dog. Make a checklist of the qualities he will have to demonstrate in order to be considered as a puppy owner. First, does he really have permission from his landlord? If you can't trust him to be honest about this, then your probably can't trust him with a dog. Second, does he have enough space for a dog? Third, does he have a schedule that can accommodate training? Fourth, does he have enough income to pay for food and vet bills? If he passes all four points, then give him a chance. If he doesn't, then stand your ground. If he wants a dog that bad, he can always get one somewhere else, and as for his sister getting one, well, I imagine she must have passed your rigorous inspection. Too bad he has yet to do the same.

'Ask Sydney' is penned by a Sonoma County resident. There is no question too big, too small or too off-the-wall. Inquire at

No question too big, too small or too off-the-wall. Ask Sydney.