Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Real Talk With Rachel: Play It Cool, Real Cool

by Rachel Kurzius

I want to start this week by addressing a very valid criticism brought up by a thoughtful reader last week. You may recall that a “young male professional” had written in to tell me he was stuck in a rut -- feeling romantically lonely and generally without purpose. I wrote back imploring him to find other activities he enjoyed and build on them as he waited for the right woman to come along.

Do you see where I went wrong? One reader wrote back,“How do we know he's searching for a woman? Does it matter?” My head immediately hit my desk.

The reader was right, of course. I combed the letter from “Spinning My Wheels” in search of any lingual hint that he was looking for women right now. None existed. So consider this my mea culpa. I try to pride myself on using inclusive language but I really screwed up with this one. Many thanks to the reader who brought this to my attention.

The advice I would give myself on this one is to avoid jumping to conclusions or making alienating generalizations, gendered or otherwise.

After all, it would have been simple to make my response gender-neutral. I cringe thinking of “Spinning My Wheels” seeking my counsel and finding that I don’t understand him at all, based on an oversight.

Thankfully, this wasn’t the case. I reached out to “Spinning My Wheels” to apologize and he told me that he is indeed interested in women. I got lucky this time. Hopefully, there won’t be a next time.

And now, on to the advice!

Dear Rachel,

We are putting our house up for sale in the near future. A good friend of ours is an attorney who does real estate closings. However, we do not feel comfortable using her based on our last closing, which she handled poorly.  We would like to maintain our friendship with her family and avoid hurting her feelings.

How can we handle this situation?

Closing the House, Not the Friendship

Dear Closing the House, Not the Friendship,

Congratulations on your upcoming move! What an exciting time, though of course, it’s also incredibly stressful. You’re about to pack up all your things in boxes before rearranging them in an entirely new space. The whole thing is enough to make anyone anxious.

But then your friend comes in, stirring the already-anxious pot with another worry. I won’t lecture you about mixing friendship and legal matters, because you’ve clearly been through the wringer for having done so.

I agree with your priorities here. You need to make sure your finances and legal issues are in order. If you don’t trust your friend to handle this situation, then you’ve got to hire someone who can do the job.

In my opinion, the less of an issue you make with your lawyer friend about not rehiring her, the better off. If you sit her down and try to break the news to her gently, it might come off as condescending. I would not mention it at all, or mention it in very casual conversation. You can say that, since your last move, your family has made a habit of not using friends for business matters. (If possible, mention some other incident that has occurred to pepper your speech with legitimacy.)

Your friend may find it odd that you’re not retaining her services. But the less of a big deal you make out of it, the less of a big deal it will be.

To quote West Side Story, play it cool. Real cool.

Good luck with your move. As a final piece of (unsolicited) advice -- I recommend using your family’s scarves to wrap delicate items.

All my best,

Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a news producer. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv,, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel via or advice @

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