You are the go-to person for workplace bathroom etiquette, and I have a problem with a colleague of mine. Every time I use the bathroom and he is in a stall (I know it's him because we work in a small office), he flushes the toilet about seven times before he is done! Admittedly I am a bleeding-heart environmentalist, but this one really bugs me because we live in California, which is suffering from extreme drought. I think it is incredibly offensive to be wasting so much water. Is there any way I can bring this up? Would it be rude to do so? Can I do it anonymously or can I maybe incorporate it into a teasing-style joke that maybe he would get the hint? Should I just keep quiet? I wish this kind of stuff didn't bug me so much, but it does.
—Flush With Anger
I have always wanted to be an expert at something, and it’s so gratifying to know that I have achieved this life ambition! There is a socially arrived at agreement that the other stall is what in international law is described as terra nullius, or land belonging to no one. Sure, when someone settles into the stall, it briefly becomes occupied territory, but what goes on there is supposed to be off-limits to acknowledgement or conversation. (There is an exception when someone appears to be endangering themselves or engaging in illegal activity. But most people would rather butt out than investigate this.) What your colleague is doing is strange, and I’m going to guess he may be dealing with a compulsion. But since you’re the one consumed with counting how many times a co-worker flushes, try to be more sympathetic to someone struggling with useless obsessions. I understand that your state is parched and everyone must do their bit to conserve water. But you won’t solve the drought singlehandedly by curtailing your co-worker’s bathroom habits. If it will make you feel better, when you get home, try to make up for his profligacy by flushing less and taking shorter showers. And just think, if you consume less water at work, you’ll spend less time listening to what’s going on in the next stall.
I’m a gay man and I’ve been dating a wonderful man for the last four months. I’m in my late 20s and he is in his early 40s. I just got out of the Army, living under “don’t ask, don’t tell” most of that time, so I have very little relationship experience and he has a lot. Valentine’s Day is coming up and as this is my first one with someone really special in my life. I'm the type of guy who on a special occasion likes to be surprised with flowers or taken out to dinner. But I know it’s unfair of me to expect him to plan anything over the top, especially without my hinting that I would like him to. But telling him what I want would ruin the chance of a surprise by him. I do plan on doing something fun and special for him because I realize Valentine’s Day is a two-way street. What should I do or say?
—Overthinking the Big V
Four months is a difficult point for a new couple to find themselves facing their first Valentine’s Day. You’re far enough along that you can’t just ignore it, but you’re generally not so established that you’re sure of what to expect or ask for. Since you lack relationship experience, this Valentine’s Day will be a good way for you to get some. Don’t be coy—just tell your guy what you’ve told me. That is, you’re really looking forward to Valentine’s Day with him, and you want to make it something special. Mutually agree upon some suitable restaurants and snag a reservation. Then get him a nice, but not over-the-top, gift. It’s wonderful when the man of your dreams seems to be able to read your mind and fulfill every romantic desire. But remember that for some people, checking to make sure you have enough oil in your car is a surer display of caring than buying the most extravagant bouquet.
More Dear Prudence Columns
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“Confessions of a Favorite Daughter: My parents’ blatant favoritism made me a narcissist and my sister depressed. Is it too late for me to stop it?”
More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
“My Life as a Sugar Baby: In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman on whether to stay mum about having dated rich men for money.”
“Tongue Oppressor: In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend obnoxiously licks her face.”
“My Creepy Keeper: In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman whose brother-in-law “watches over her” by peeping through her bedroom window.”
“Don’t Look, Ma!: In a live chat, Prudie advises a man whose wife refuses to hide a nude print the next time his mother comes over.”
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