Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat with readers about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. An edited transcript of this week's chat is below. (Read Prudie's Slate columns here.)
Emily Yoffe writes: Good afternoon. I look forward to your questions.
Q. A Ticket to Rudeness: I have some dear friends who went to visit my old hometown on the coast. Because they are avid nature lovers and expressed some interest, I managed to secure some tickets to the local aquarium. Imagine my horror as they "live tweeted" and Facebook-posted their utter contempt for the place. They criticized the exhibits as chintzy, pathetic, and dull, even posting photos of themselves pointing, laughing, and being bored to tears while ridiculing the animals. The aquarium is small, funded via donations and grants, and is dedicated to rehabilitating injured animals. They managed somehow to find fault with this, stating that they found themselves stuck watching "retarded, gimpy things" and how grateful they were that they didn't have to pay to see them. I have been to this aquarium many times and applaud the efforts they undertake to help animals. I have no idea how to respond, if at all, to the drubbing my friends inflicted. I feel personally ashamed for some reason and don't even want to talk to these people again. My partner said I should let it go, but I can't help but think these people should have handled their disappointment, and my gift, differently. Advice?
A: Who knew that the wonders of social networking would allow guests to live broadcast their insulting commentary on the hospitality of their hosts! What a clever way of getting out of the need to write a thank-you note, since the hosts have already been able to read what a rotten time they provided. Your experience makes me doubly angry since I'm one of those people who loves small, local enterprises such as your aquarium. Their charm is their intimacy and dedication. How awful that you have found out that your "dear friends" are actually ungrateful boors. I don't think you should let this go. How can you, since they virtually baited you to respond to their denigration? I think you should tell them that since you are Facebook friends and follow their tweets, you couldn't help but see how much they disliked their experience at the aquarium. Say that you expected they would enjoy the excursion and are sorry they didn't. But you were hurt to read their stream of commentary about how bad a time they were having. If they aren't abashed and don't apologize, then I agree, you may have to rethink this friendship.
Dear Prudence: Meddlesome Matchmakers
Q. Boulder, Colo.: How do you know when someone is gold-digging? I went out on a first date last week and the woman said to me that if a guy doesn't lavish a woman with expensive dinners, gifts, vacations, etc., he's just showing her how cheap he is. Throughout the meal she was trying to subtly determine my income. She also let me know that she'd never date a guy who didn't drive a Mercedes, Audi, Cadillac, or comparable car. I'm not going out with her again, but she seemed to be digging for gold big time. I do pretty well for myself (I own my own business), so what other signs should I look for to make sure someone's dating me for me and not my money?
A: Beyond the neon dollar signs that flashed each time your date blinked her eyes, another good sign that she's a gold digger is if she shows up with an auditor who requests your latest tax statement and the password to your 401(k). Look, this woman was worth her weight in gold as a great story to tell about your adventures in dating. Who in the world fixed you up with her?
Q. My Boss Wants Me To Let My Students Draw My Blood! Help!: I have a fantastic job teaching at a local career college. Faculty at my school are encouraged to foster relationships with students outside the classroom by getting involved in student groups, fundraisers, etc. I'm all for it, and I actively and frequently participate in such events. However, my boss often asks me to participate in one activity that I don't care for: blood draws. Our nursing students are required to draw blood on a set number of people in order to pass a particular class. They practice on each other, but my boss will often drum up volunteers among the faculty and staff to help the students reach their blood draw quotas. My boss is a fantastic person, but she can be fairly persistent when it comes to getting faculty to volunteer for this. I've reluctantly agreed a few times, but I'm generally a little uncomfortable having my students stick me. In past, I've had students incorrectly draw my blood, which left bruising and soreness for a week or so afterward! A friend of mine (who's a doctor) told me that it's not in my best interest to continue to allow nursing students to practice on my arms, as repeated injury to the veins can make it difficult for professionals to draw blood and insert IV's when I actually need it done. However, every few weeks, my boss strongly encourages me to help my students meet their quotas by rolling up my sleeves. How can I best tell my boss that this activity makes me uncomfortable, and that I don't want to participate anymore?
A: I know vampire stories are all the rage right now, but actually having to have your blood taken at work is taking things too far. I know some offices demand so much you feel you're giving blood, but this is ridiculous. You are justifiably sick of your boss sticking it to you, and I hope you don't feel threatened in your career if you say you're now drained. I know these students have to learn, but an incorrect blood draw can do damage, and you've suffered enough. If you feel you have to give an explanation beyond, "No, thanks," say a physician counseled you about the dangers of scar tissue and your days of giving at the office are concluded.
Q. Office Etiquette—Scooching Professionally: Here's an office etiquette question I am curious about. A few days ago, we had a big office meeting in our company's auditorium. The room was pretty full when I got there, and as I was looking for a seat, a group of male colleagues offered me an empty seat in their row. It was really very nice of them. But, the seat was about six people in. No one stood up to let me in, so, I had "scooch" through the row to get to the open seat. I scooched facing the front of the auditorium, trying to stay as close as possible to the seats in front of me but am now embarrassed that my behind was pretty much at their eye level during what felt like a very long, slow process of getting to my seat. Should I have faced backwards for the scooching? Less butt-in-the-face for my colleagues, but also pretty awkward and fraught with potential for knocking into the heads of the people in the row ahead. Any advice? What would you have done?
A: I wonder if they are just a bunch of clods, or if they were deliberately enjoying a little show by forcing you to rub past them. If there is not enough room for a newcomer to comfortably squeeze into a seat, then it's the obligation of the seated to rise so the new person can get in. They also could have all just moved over one seat, freeing up the chair along the aisle for you. If things were too close for you to comfortably scooch by, especially since you knew these guys, you could have said, "I hate to make you all stand, but I'm afraid I'll trip over your feet." There's nothing to do now. But if you find yourselves in the same situation with these guys again, stand your ground until they stand for you.