I am part of a friend group with four other women. They are going on an amazing international trip and didn’t invite me. I have traveled successfully with one of the women and less successfully with the organizer of the trip. (That led to some distance between us, which we have since repaired.) I am really hurt and deflated by my exclusion. I love to travel, but my partner can’t afford trips like this, so I rely on my friends as travel partners. I also like and respect these women, even if they’re not my closest friends. But this experience makes me feel that I’m not important to any of them. What’s my best move? Talk to the organizer? Confront each of them? Or back away from the group?
I know you want a specific outcome here: to board that plane in a party of five. That’s probably not happening, though. (I’m sorry. I know it hurts to be excluded.) But if you look beyond this one trip, you may see other opportunities and — more important — decide these women are still your friends.
Logistically, traveling as a foursome is much easier than as a quintet. Tables for four are more plentiful in restaurants than tables for five (which are really tables for six). Four people can fit in one cab and share two hotel rooms. What’s more, traveling well with other people often boils down to personal rhythms: When do we like to wake up? How active are we? How much time alone do we need? These factors, and even your bad trip with the organizer, say little about the quality of relationships, though. Your friends’ (possibly pragmatic) decision is not evidence of dislike.
Now, you say your partner can’t afford international travel. So, why not plan an amazing domestic trip? You also hint at closer friends. Hello? They sound promising. There’s certainly no harm in telling the international travelers that you would be keen to join them next time. Honor your hurt feelings, but don’t blow this one episode out of proportion, OK?
How Soon Should Other People Start Saving for My Kids’ College?
I am planning our annual backyard party to celebrate my children’s birthdays: My son is turning 7, and my daughter is turning 4. We are inviting a dozen families. I would like to let our guests know about our 529 college savings plans for the kids and the option of contributing to them as an alternative to buying gifts. My children don’t need any more toys, and it pains me to see a $50 toy ignored when that same $50 could help pay their tuition someday. Is there a polite way to let guests know about this?
I applaud your foresight: Planning for the ever-rising costs of college with a tax-advantaged 529 savings plan is a smart move. Let me note, too, that I am not the party czar. You get to make this call for yourself. In your place, I would probably feel comfortable letting family and very close friends know about the accounts.
But I don’t think a backyard birthday party for small children is the right venue for soliciting contributions to college savings plans. I may be out of step here: I would not be giving children $50 gifts, either. (Put me down for a book or a fun craft project at $20 a pop.) Personally, I would save the 529 option for more momentous occasions: elementary-school graduations and other rites of passage.
Save It for the Scrapbook, Will Ya?
I remember when expecting friends to look through a stack of vacation photos was considered rude. Isn’t it just as rude, if not more so, to push an iPhone in a friend’s face to make her look at vacation pictures? “Look at our hotel lobby in Naples!” “Look what we had for lunch in Rome!” How do I get out of this situation without ruining friendships?
If only this annoyance were limited to travel photos! I am frequently shown pictures of ordinary kitchen renovations, run-of-the-mill brunches and children in every activity. (And don’t forget the dead time while friends search their camera rolls for that perfect shot.) Still, criticizing people for common behavior, even nicely, rarely succeeds.
Here’s my script: “Please put your phone away! I look at screens all day long. I’m interested in you. Tell me more about your trip. You can send me the photos later.” Note: It sometimes works.
No Plus One? But What if He Doesn’t Shed?
A friend of ours asks — every time we invite him over — if he can bring his cat. Is he for real? We don’t want his cat at our house. How bad is it that we say no every time? We can’t truthfully claim to have allergies, but we will do so if it helps.
You mean, bring the cat in a carrier? I have never heard of bringing a free-range cat to a social event. Still, the ordinary rules apply: As hosts, you are entitled to create your guest list. It may be hard to refuse your friend repeatedly, but you are doing nothing wrong. Just say, “We’d rather not have your cat.” Even if your friend refuses your invitations, everyone will live to purr another day.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.