While I'm away, I'm letting you give the advice. The following are readers' opinions on issues they've seen in the column:
• On setting limits with grown (and nearly grown) children who return home:
The compromise I worked out with my first college freshman when she came home on break is that she texts my cellphone with her whereabouts after 2 a.m. That way if I wake up at 3, I can check my phone and find out that she is still watching DVDs at a friend's, rather than in a car accident, or whatever mothers imagine at that hour. If she doesn't do it, we agree that I won't be humiliating her when I call. This has worked well enough to adopt with my second freshman.
• On public debate about antidepressants (or anything else):
It may be that people are suffering from "too much information."
I think it is a mistake to subject your colleagues to conversations that only your friends want to hear. I know from experience that there are people who do not want to hear about your fight with your boyfriend's ex-girlfriend, your episiotomy, your colonoscopy, your illegal use of drugs, or your big plans to screw your ex-wife out of the child support, just to name a few.
If there is a group of people sociably discussing their symptoms and their favorite drugs in public, they need to find some other place to talk. An ongoing, casual, recurrent conversation centering on the topics of how helpless we are and how much we need our drugs can have far worse consequences than a few irritable remarks from someone who does not want to be involved.
I am divorced, and one time when I changed jobs, I got this wonderful secretary with a scathing wit, also divorced. She was very funny, and I enjoyed her stories.
But one day I heard a little sound and looked around a partition to see one of the other women in the office. She was this nice grandmother, who was working because she had taken up responsibility for a special-needs grandchild. She'd overheard a portion of a story, and it had stopped her in her tracks. She whimpered.
I didn't let her know I'd seen her, and she never complained to me. But I put a lid on the divorce humor, because I understood then that no conversation in that office could be considered private unless I shut my door.
Conversations in cubicles are public. So are conversations at parties, particularly the kind with "colleagues."
• On answering personal questions when "bite me" isn't an option:
While in the midst of a painful divorce, I found myself sharing a back seat with an elderly gentleman whom I had never met, but who had been friends with my family for several times longer than I had been alive.
He asked if I was married; I said I was divorced. He asked what happened, and I felt strongly that it was none of his business, but I couldn't be rude under the circumstances (it was my grandfather's funeral).
I don't know where it came from, but I simply shrugged and said, "It didn't stick."
Conversation ended, with no hard feelings (though I may have come off as much more callous than I really was).