Every week, Emily Yoffe answers questions from readers in a live chat. Now she’ll be answering a few additional questions for Slate Plus members only.
Q. Proposal Pressure: My boyfriend previously had an almost-fiancée. He bought a $12,000 ring and had a romantic proposal plan, but he ended up not proposing. When I found that out, I told him he better come up with something really good for me, something even more expensive and more romantic. That was years ago, back when I was still insecure about his ex, but now I think he took it seriously, and it has come back to bite me. We’ve been together six years, and I think he wants to propose but is putting it off because of pressure to buy an expensive ring and plan something amazing and perfect and expensive. I’m just ready to get married. How do I tell him I’m OK with something not expensive (although amazing and romantic would still be nice)? I’d rather not wait another year if it is just so he has time to save up for a trip or skywriter or whatever.
A: You mean you don’t want him to wait until he’s saved up enough to pay for the $30,000 ring, the proposal being beamed on the Jumbotron, and the whole thing announced by Michael Buffer? You may indeed have been bitten by the law of unintended consequences. But what you describe is a deeper issue for your relationship than how big a rock your boyfriend feels he needs to present. I hate the whole ring-and-proposal business because it puts the power solely in the hands of the man. You two are a couple, so you should know where you’re at and what you both want out of life. If you are both long ready for marriage, but you think he’s not proposing because of a stupid challenge you issued years ago, talk about it! Tell him what you want (to get married) and what you don’t want (a ruinously expensive engagement ring and a ridiculously over-the-top proposal—OK, you may want that, but say you don’t). Then see what he says. Maybe you will get engaged on the spot. Maybe you will find out that what’s been delaying the proposal is that he doesn’t intend to issue one.
Q. Embarrassed for Him: I have a co-worker who I assume has Tourette syndrome. I say “assume” because he has never told me, but I gather from his frequent tics, grunts, sniffs, and throat-clearing that he does. Our department is all used to it, and it’s a nonissue. But every time we have a training facilitated by another department or outside vendor, they make comments about him needing a tissue or being sick, apparently reading his tics as cold symptoms. One refused to shake his hand (because of germs), and another said it was “painful to listen to him.” He always just ignores it or laughs a little, but I imagine it’s really embarrassing for him, and I always wonder why he doesn’t just tell them privately at the start that he has Tourette’s. My question is whether I should ever advocate for him or otherwise intervene. For example, when I mention my son has a cold and someone says, “He wasn’t hanging out with Bill, was he?” I feel complicit in not speaking out, but if he’s not comfortable sharing, I don’t want to “out” him. Any advice?
A: I agree that you should take your cues from Bill. It is distressing to think that someone has a condition that could be simply explained and doing so would make his life easier but that he may be too embarrassed or fearful to do so. But how to handle this is for Bill to decide. Of course, you don’t know if it’s Tourette’s, but Bill certainly fits the bill with his display of tics; how great that among his co-workers this is a nonissue. I think you can take a middle ground here, respecting Bill’s choice but also shutting down the “He’s dripping with germs” conversation. If someone says something that indicates Bill is perpetually ill, you can say, “I’m sure Bill is fine. Lots of people have repetitive habits like sniffing or throat-clearing that have nothing to do with having a cold.” I would avoid the word tics because all Bill needs is for that to be misunderstood as ticks and then have it go around that he’s infested with vermin.