A: It’s too bad that, “Hey, you two, get a room!” didn’t make them realize they needed to get a room. However, now that you’ve spoken up, she is seething with hostility. That perhaps is preferable to watching them French kiss. So what you do now is ignore their bad behavior no matter what form it takes. If she’s uncommunicative, then people should excuse themselves and go refresh their drinks. If the two of them start humping each other and turn every piece of furniture they’re on into a love seat, you just get up and sit somewhere less exciting. Keep in mind either these two will break up, or they will stay together. If it’s the latter, in years to come you can all titter among yourselves about your memories of when they couldn’t keep their hands off each other.
Q. Food Cop Co-Worker: I am a 24-year-old woman who recently started a new job as part of a small team. At my workplace, food (cookies, etc.) is frequently left out at meetings. Since I’m already a bit curvier than I’d like to be and the easy access to unhealthy foods wasn’t helping matters, I decided to start a more health-conscious diet—one where unhealthy foods are limited instead of forbidden. My new lifestyle has been going great, but I’ve been having problems with a co-worker who seems to be bent on narrating the caloric content of everything that I eat. He’ll loudly decline dried fruit and nuts left in the office because they’re too high in calories, and anytime I reach for a cookie he loudly explains why he himself is abstaining. Worst of all, on one occasion he inquired whether my ethnicity made me prone to weight problems! I have no idea whether he is himself dieting or whether he’s just trying to “help me out,” but his remarks honestly make me want to wolf down a whole box of donuts out of spite. How do I politely tell an otherwise nice and friendly guy to butt out?
A: You ask to talk to him in one of your offices if you have a door to shut, or find a place that does. Then you explain that you are uncomfortable with his narrating the calorie content of food and remarking on your weight. Say he may not even know he’s doing it, or he may have the best of intentions, but you hope he understands that you don’t want to hear it any more. Be professional and friendly and wrap up this brief conversation by thanking him for his understanding. Let’s hope he realizes that making the office an uncomfortable place for the new hire is not a path he wants to go down any further.
Q. Family, End of Life: I am estranged from my parents, with whom I cut contact after over 12 years of therapy. They were emotionally abusive, and I still have panic attacks when I visit friends in the area in which they live. My question is the following: My grandmother, whose side of the family recognizes my mother’s abuse and has been supportive of my decision, is in her 90s and recently went on hospice. I know that a funeral will be approaching. I also know that my parents will be attending the funeral when it happens, and I panic when I even consider being around them. None of this is my extended family’s fault, however. I do not want to attend the funeral, but I am worried about what they will think of me if I don’t. I should also mention that I have bipolar disorder, and my parents are my worst trigger. Should I suck it up and go to the funeral out of respect for my other relatives? (I leave my grandmother out of this, since she won’t know whether I’m there or not.) Thanks for your thoughts on this.
A: You must do what is best for your mental health. You’ve made a strong case that attending your grandmother’s funeral will be a setback for you, so that means you have to stay home. You don’t have to offer a lot of explanations. But to those in the family who know and understand your situation, you can say that you need to avoid interacting with your parents, so since you knew they would be at the funeral, you were unable to go. Then you can ask that a smaller group of you get together for a meal to tell stories and pay tribute to your grandmother. You can raise a glass and say how she came to your emotional rescue, understood the pain of your childhood, and was instrumental in your healing.
Q. Friendship: I had a destination wedding a little over a year ago. My best friend of a decade, “Erica” did not attend the wedding. Instead of calling to tell me that she could not make it, Erica declined our invitation via the RSVP card. I found it strange that she never indicated that she would not be attending during one of our frequent phone conversations. I understand that not everyone has the time or money to attend an out-of-town wedding, but I know Erica had the financial means. Given how close we were, I am perplexed and hurt about Erica’s absence. After my wedding, I explained to her that I was upset about how things had transpired and that I would be needing some space. It has been over a year now, and I have not reached out to Erica and she has not tried to contact me. At times I miss our friendship, but I’m not sure I can move on without receiving some sort of explanation or apology. Am I being unreasonable about this? Should I consider reaching out to Erica?
A: Let me throw something else into the mix. You say Erica declined the wedding via the RSVP card. But unless you had no wedding party, I would assume that a longtime best friend would be among the bridesmaids. Perhaps this is the source of Erica’s grievance. If so, she should have gently said something about your bridal party given what you say was her standing in your life. If this was not an issue, then yes, it’s odd a best friend would decline via card and never mention how sad she was that she couldn’t swing attending the wedding. But this sounds like a festival of passive-aggressiveness. You didn’t address your feelings with Erica after the wedding, you essentially told her to get lost. So now a year later it probably won’t be productive to say, “Erica, it’s been a year. I’m ready for your apology now.” If you want her back in your life take steps to clear the air. If you’d prefer to nurse this inexplicable wound, stay silent.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks everyone. Talk to you next week.
Check out Dear Prudence's book recommendations in the Slate Store.