Even a loving loan should come with a note

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Chicago Tribune advice columnist Amy Dickinson and Chicago Tribune reporter Jenniffer Weigel discuss McDonald's removing items from the menu. (Posted on: Feb. 28, 2013)

Dear Amy: My girlfriend and I have been together for a few years. We've had our share of ups and downs. We live a few blocks from each other. Recently, we discussed our tight money situation. A few days after that conversation, she asked me for a $1,000 loan, which she would pay back over the next couple of months.

She needed the money to pay off a settlement with an attorney she had used during her divorce. Not having the $1,000 readily available, I told her I would have to withdraw the funds from my son's college savings account. I replied to her loan request by agreeing on the condition that she sign a promissory note for the loan.

She says this is the last straw, and proof that I don't really love (or trust) her. We haven't spoken since. Was I out of line?

— K

Dear K: Not only were you not out of line, but my thinking is that the person asking for a $1,000 loan should approach this respectfully by offering up front to sign a note, without being asked.

You report that money is tight for both of you. This should give your lady friend some insight about how high the stakes are for you. Because you would have had to withdraw the money from a college fund, she was essentially mortgaging your son's education to pay her debt. Putting this in writing is not too much to ask.

Dear Amy: My husband, best friend and I like to go out together. Here's the typical scenario: They ask me what I would like to do, what restaurant to go to, or what movie to see.

I make a suggestion and they say they don't want to do that, so do I have any other ideas? Basically, I tee up ideas and they swat them away. I feel like a human batting cage. We invariably end up doing something they come up with.

This seems crazy to me. What is going on here? Should I simply stop coming up with ideas?

— Why Even Bother

Dear Bother: The next time this happens you can say, "Well, every time I tee up an idea, you two swat it away, so my first suggestion is that baseball season is almost here. Let's go to Cooperstown!"

If you have something you really want to do, then you'll have to be firm. Otherwise tell them, "Next time we go out you two can come up with all the ideas, make the arrangements, and I'll happily go to bat."

Dear Amy: It's impossible to drive anywhere without seeing the back window of the car in front of you with those cute stick figures of family members and pets.

These families are displaying their family pride and enthusiasm for their hobbies. Has anyone considered that displaying this information is providing any predator with valuable data?

Today I saw a rear window display of a father, mother, two small children and a cat. That tells a predator that all he has to do is to follow that woman home. Her husband will be at work. And he will be free to do what he wants with only the cat there as witness.

— Aware

Dear Aware: You are making tons of assumptions: that the husband works, the mother is at home, etc., but I do take your admonition to heart. We all give away a lot of information unthinkingly, and it's wise to be cautious.

Dear Amy: I'm responding to letters about how to take a compliment. Many years ago, I was a young lawyer and had a case in an unfamiliar county. A well-known attorney represented my client's adversary. I was intimidated by her, and afraid of being "hometowned."

After the case, she invited me to join the county's bar association at their monthly luncheon meeting. I accepted, but put up more of a battle over payment than she thought necessary. I will never forget her words: "Just say thank you graciously." A wise woman!

— Senior Judge Kristena LaMar

Dear Judge LaMar: It was also wise of you to take this lesson to heart.

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