DEAR HARRIETTE: I was doing the laundry and found a condom in my 16-year-old son's jeans pocket. I was in shock. My husband and I have talked to him about sex, and they have discussed it at school too, but I never expected he would be sexually active this young. I know I can't control his behavior, but he is not a mature kid. I can't imagine this is going to turn out well. I suppose I should be happy he has a condom, but I'm worried. How can I talk to him about this without alienating him? I need to know what's going on. -- In My Face, Boston
DEAR IN MY FACE: Without judgment, sit down and tell your son you need to talk. Let him know you found the condom in his pocket. Ask him if he is sexually active now. This is important, as having a condom doesn't mean he's using it. Ask him who his partner is if he says yes. Then tell him you know this is an uncomfortable conversation, but you need to have it.
Encourage him to tell you what he's doing. Acknowledge the value of using a condom. At the same time, discourage him from being that intimate with another at this age. Point out that taking relationships slowly and getting to know a person well is most important. Have your husband talk to him too. If he is sexually active, you probably can't stop it, so have a more in-depth conversation about STD prevention and pregnancy prevention.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I had a huge argument with a woman who used to be a close friend. I had backed away from her a few years ago because I found her to be extremely negative. She would constantly talk about other people in the nastiest ways. I didn't want to listen to any of that. Even though we don't talk much, I contacted her recently to refer a potential business contact to her. That turned out to be a bad idea. She didn't appreciate the referral. When we talked about it, she then went in on me, talking about me like a dog. That ended our friendship as far as I was concerned.
I saw her walking down the street the other day and didn't know what to say. I wasn't sure if it would turn into an argument, so I turned my head and didn't go over to speak to her. Should I have talked to her? -- Friendship Gone Bad, New York City
DEAR FRIENDSHIP GONE BAD: There is nothing wrong with walking away from a potential altercation. If you believe the friendship is finished, you had no obligation to go over and speak to this woman. If you happen to see her again and it would be awkward not to speak, you can be cordial and say hello but keep moving. Do not stop to engage if you have nothing to talk about with her. Don't leave space for another blowup.