DEAR AMY:

Fifty years ago I began writing to a “pen friend” in Europe. My friend and her husband invited my wife and me to stay with them for a few days during a European trip.

A few years later I went back with my son for a short stay with them and their daughter. We had a great time and parted friends and continued to correspond regularly.

We have repeatedly invited this family to stay with us so we could reciprocate, and although they made several trips to the United States over the years they didn’t accept our invitation.

A couple of years ago my wife and I contemplated another trip to Europe to visit a relative.

My friend had mentioned in a letter that several relatives had stayed with them recently, so I asked if we might stay with them again. She answered that they would be happy to meet us for a drink but could not accommodate us for a stay.

She didn’t give a reason, so I wrote and said I had only asked because she had mentioned that she had relatives who stayed at her house.

She understood what I was implying and now she has suggested that our friendship seems to have run its natural course.

That’s fine, but I still feel we were slighted. I also understand that it was audacious of me to question her. What do you think?

-- Unhappy in the Northwest

DEAR UNHAPPY: And they say Americans are pushy and won’t take “no” for an answer!

Your friend could have any number of reasons why she won’t host you and your wife for an overnight at her house — including the possibility that she likes you best from a distance.

Hosting family members can be quite different from hosting pen friends from another country, and for you to bring this up is deliberately embarrassing.

Your pen friend has been gracious enough, and in return you have pushed your very long association off the cliff.

The fact that you say you still feel slighted indicates that you don’t understand that her polite refusal was not an invitation for you to be audacious.

DEAR AMY:

Our son is leaving for college this fall. With money we have saved plus scholarships he earned, we are looking at a balance of about $4,000 for his first year.

My husband wants to accept several more thousands of dollars in student loans so we can have the cash in case a household need arrives.

I feel strongly that we should live within our means and pay off the school balance without the help of a loan.

I know from experience that if a large amount of cash were in an account, my husband would tap into it.

He thinks it’s foolish not to accept it. I don’t want to rack up debt that will need to be repaid (with interest) upon our son’s graduation.

Do you have any advice for us?

-- Indebted

DEAR INDEBTED: You don’t say exactly what kind of loan this is, but educational loans can only be used to finance an education, not for “household expenses.”

Your husband should explain his logic to your son: “Son, we’d like to take out several thousand more dollars than we need in loans in order to increase our debt load — and not spend it for your education. Then when the loan is due we’ll owe a hefty percentage for interest. Does this sound like a good plan?”

Your determination not to mortgage your future could be an important part of your son’s education.

DEAR AMY:

“Disgruntled Granny” was bemoaning how rude her friends are to take nonessential phone calls while they are entertaining her and her husband for dinner.

I am sure they are rude in other aspects of their lives as well.

I work at a major department store and am so sick and tired of listening to customers’ loud and mundane phone conversations!

-- Sick of Cells

DEAR SICK: I’ll present the flip side of this issue and add that it is also frustrating to try to purchase an item from a clerk who is on the phone.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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