DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a divorced mother of two. My children are both in college, so I live alone during the year, and they come back for the summer. I met a great man a little less than two years ago. We have been dating for a year and a half and recently went on vacation together. While we were on vacation, he proposed to me. I was panicked and completely caught off guard, so I said yes. We hadn’t spoken much about marriage, and I certainly did not see it on the horizon for myself. I didn’t want to ruin what we have. I love most of his family, and his children are amazing.

I feel like everything is happening too quickly. Everyone is asking when I’m marrying a man I haven’t even known for two years! I want to calm down the hubbub, but I don’t want to ruin our relationship. I can’t break off our engagement, right? I just don’t know how to go about integrating our families, sorting living situations – my oldest was supposed to move in with me after college – and meshing traditions. – New Older Bride, Jackson, Mississippi

DEAR NEW OLDER BRIDE: Rather than breaking off the engagement, start the conversation about what your life will look like together. Talk it out over as much time as needed. Admit to your beau that you hadn’t really thought about marriage, and when he asked, your knee-jerk reaction was to say yes. In order to build a life together, though, you two have to sort out how and where you will live. Don’t feel pressured to walk down the aisle until you figure it out.

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DEAR HARRIETTE: I was born and raised in Britain, but now I live in Boston full time. I hate the British stereotype that we are all uptight. Just because I have an accent does not mean I am a stuffy person! I like to have a laugh, and people are surprised that I don’t laugh at British humor only.

It does take me some time to warm up to people, but I think people perceive me a certain way as soon as I open my mouth. I admit I dress conservatively and can have my moments, but people have assumed I genuinely don’t enjoy partying just because of the way I speak and carry myself! I don’t want to be labeled as stuffy, but I don’t think a disclaimer about how I can be fun is necessary. How do I step out from behind my British-ness and have people see that I can be as fun as everyone else? – Across the Pond, Boston

DEAR ACROSS THE POND: Stop worrying about what people will think about you, and just be you. If you resist being caught up in stereotypes, you create space for those around you to do the same. Be your natural self. Connect with people in ways that are meaningful. When people discover who you are, they will more easily lose their notions of who they think you should be.

— Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to [email protected] or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.