A: I hope you’re not the person at the movies watching an alternate feature on your iPad. It’s one thing to bring a special bottle of wine to a restaurant and pay a corkage fee. It’s another to bring in your own food and expect the establishment to supply you with utensils. If you spend every lunch hour with the same two people and you don’t even feel comfortable enough with them to discuss alternate lunch plans, then you’ve got the backbone of a piece of lettuce. Once the weather is nicer, you can suggest you all occasionally get your own food and meet outside in a park, for example. If they aren’t interested, then you’ve got to face the fact that a couple of days of the week you may be on your own for lunch. Maybe you can even screw up your courage and sit with some of the other kids in the high school cafeteria—I mean co-workers in the office’s coffee room. The problem here doesn’t sound like your finances or your weight. It’s that you can’t imagine a life in which you don’t eat lunch with these co-workers every single day of the week.
Q. Nosy Ex-Boss: I’ve been getting calls from my now retired boss for about a year now. Thankfully not at home as I have a unlisted number and he didn’t have my new cellphone number. But he calls me one-to-two times a month at my work numbers wanting to chat. The issue is I really don’t want to talk to him. He does (thankfully) stick to just polite chat about his family and work-related projects. But we've become so busy I can’t carve out 20 minutes to chat. If I don’t pick up he just calls around until someone else does. We’ve talked to our supervisors about this but it doesn't seem to do any good. I don’t want to be horribly rude. I don’t see how I can convey that to him without sounding like I’m being cruel to a retiree who comes across as bored and lonely.
A: I can understand that your supervisors feel that adults in the workplace should have the skills to politely decline to talk to someone who no longer supervises them. If all of you actually liked the guy, why don’t a group of you have lunch with him every few months? In the meantime, when he calls you can say, “Derek, you know better than anyone what the deadlines are like around here. I can’t talk now. But I’ll get a small group together for lunch in early spring and we'll get back to you with a date for it.”
Q. Moving in With Boyfriend, Plus Cats: My boyfriend of more than a year and I have recently started discussing moving in together. The problem, I have two cats and he has a daughter with a minor cat allergy. The mother (several states away) has custody of the child, with the daughter visiting her father for a few weeks in the summer. I have a relative with a cat allergy who frequently stays at my home and is fine as long as I vacuum thoroughly and keep the cats out of their bedroom. I’ve also offered to have a professional cleaning service come before his daughter visits. He says it’s not good enough and that the cats will have to go. I respect him wanted the best for his daughter. However I feel it is unfair to make me give up my cats, whom I love and have had for 10-plus years, and forever live in a cat-free home, just for someone who will only be affected by the cats for at most a few weeks out of the year. Am I not being sensitive to the needs of a child or is he not caring enough about my happiness?
A: What a tenuous relationship—only seeing your father for a few weeks a year. I wonder why he doesn’t get to see her over Christmas, on spring break, or long weekends, etc. However, in answer to your question, don’t do any moving now. When the daughter comes, get your place professionally cleaned, and have her come over and see if she can stand it. It might also be that an over-the-counter allergy medication, approved by her doctor, could get her through limited time with the cats. But if your letter is an illustration of your ability as a couple to try to work things out, you may permanently want to keep your own place.
Q. What Can an Auntie Do?: A terrific friend of mine is in an abusive relationship with her husband. About a year ago, he attacked their teenagers (one hers, one his) and she took them and left. But she went back and of course it happened again. She at least took my advice and called the police this time, but omitted that he was holding a knife. I'm happy to take them all into my home, but his daughter is only 17 and my friend doesn’t have parental rights. My friend’s son is going to stay with me for now, but my friend is planning to stay in the house with her stepdaughter until she turns 18. These kids are like family and I'm so afraid for them. Is there any more I can do to help?
A: You have good reason to be terrified about a father who would threaten his children with a knife. At least your friend now recognizes the severity of the problem. But unfortunately, on some level she continues to protect this man who is a potentially lethal threat. First call the National Domestic Violence Hotline and get advice for how best to protect everyone. You are potentially in jeopardy if this man gets wind you are harboring one of the kids. The police absolutely need to know how dangerous the attack was. You could tell them yourself, but it really is important that it comes from a direct witness: your friend. Maybe you can offer to go to the police with her so she doesn't feel so alone. Your friend and her stepdaughter might need to be in a shelter—this man could get very enraged if he thinks his estranged wife is keeping his daughter from him. Call the hotline now so this family can start getting the protection it needs.
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