Annie's Mailbox for Feb. 9, 2011: Best friend stealing spotlight with men

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Dear Annie: I have been best friends with "Claire" since junior high. She is nothing short of a knockout, with a sweet personality to match. We have always been very close, and I treasure our friendship.

The problem is, when we are out together, men are interested in Claire but feel she is unapproachable because she is so beautiful. Instead, they talk me up to try to get their foot in the door with her. Quite frankly, I am fed up with men only talking to me because they know I am friends with Claire. Then, when she isn't interested in them, I have to let them down. It's exhausting.

I am successful, educated, smart and funny, and I'm not bad looking, either, but men are only interested in my hot friend. This has been going on since high school, and I'm 35, for heaven's sake. How do I break this cycle or, at the very least, tactfully tell these men that I am not the key to Claire's heart?

— Invisible

Dear Invisible: You are always going to suffer by comparison to Claire, so we strongly urge you not to try to meet men when you are with her. Her bright light makes everything else seem dim. On other occasions, when you are in Claire's company, it is perfectly OK to refuse to intercede. If you are approached about Claire, simply say, "Sorry, but if you are interested in my friend, you'll have to talk to her directly."

Dear Annie: We recently had dinner at a local restaurant with three other couples. Usually, a tip is automatically added with parties of six or more, but this time, the server did not do so.

Our friend who handled the check added the tip to the total bill, including the fairly hefty tax, and then divided by the number of couples to see what we each owed. I was taught that one gave a tip on the price of the meal, not including the tax. Who is correct?

— Wondering in New Hampshire

Dear N.H.: You are, although we are sure the server appreciated the extra money. Since it bothers you, we recommend you handle the check next time.

Dear Annie: This is in response to "To Gift or Not To Gift," whose daughter-in-law was talking about a divorce. "Gift" wanted to know if the daughter-in-law should be taken off the annual gift list.

It is always best to take the peaceful way in a family matter. I did and never regretted it. When my son and his wife split up, I told them both that I love them and their child and would not make my granddaughter choose between her parents. I included my daughter-in-law in all family gatherings.

They separated, but never divorced. When my son was killed a few months later, I said as far as I was concerned there was no separation. I included my daughter-in-law in planning the funeral and the obituary. People had the nerve to say I shouldn't have been so inclusive, but I told them I was the mother and this is what I wanted. I did it for my daughter-in-law, my granddaughter and our family.

We are still close, and my granddaughter stays with me quite a bit. Had I made enemies with my daughter-in-law when they separated, I may not have had the chance to spend so much time with my son's daughter. I say give her the gift, and the next time she complains about your son, simply say, "You are talking about my child, and it hurts me to hear negative things about him. Please don't put me in the middle like that." You will be surprised how fast she will respect your wishes.

My daughter-in-law once asked whether I minded if she still considered me to be her mother-in-law, even if she someday remarries. I told her I would be honored.

— A.G.

Dear A.G.: You did it right. Brava.

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