I know that religious speech makes some uncomfortable, and I also have genuine ethical and moral objections about using religious expressions so superficially, but I feel like it is expected from my boss, who after not hearing a "bless you" after her sneezes will respond with an exaggerated, "BLESS ME!" I don't want to be rude by forgoing the blessings, but I also hate going against my principles just to make others happy.
I feel like it would be a terrible professional move to make my religious beliefs known, and I've tried saying "Gesundheit," but it feels just as phony as "bless you" because I'm not German. What should I do when others achoo?
Emily Yoffe: This is not about religion; it's about etiquette. Saying "Bless you" is simply a customary remark after a sneeze; it is not the equivalent of taking a communion wafer. Forget thinking you are being forced into religious speech or violating your ethical code by the silly, but expected, act of acknowledging someone else's sneeze.
Silver Spring, Md.: My frustration with a group of good friends from high school is getting out of hand. I am constantly making the effort to keep in contact with them, whether it be phone calls or coffee dates. They tell me how much they miss hanging out, but somehow they are constantly busy and can't make time for me. I try to make plans with them months in advance, but it never fails that some other obligation gets in the way. These girls are very important to me, and I am worried that we will grow apart if our friendships aren't nurtured. But it seems like it might be one sided. Especially when they all keep in contact with each other, aside from me—at least that's the way it appears. I know that people who were once very close sometimes grow apart, but how do I know when to give up hope? Especially when their words express one thing but their actions don't translate. It's very frustrating to plan a holiday party with ample notice hoping that your close friends will be able to make it—this time—and have them RSVP "no," again.
Emily Yoffe: I don't know how long out of high school you are, but this situation sounds like the worst of high school in perpetuity. You are constantly making an effort to keep in touch with these people; they say, "Oh, we miss you, too!" then blow you off when it comes time to actually get together. And it appears they do socialize with each other, leaving you out. You could have a discussion in person—if you can actually get any of them to show up—with one or two saying that you know everyone's busy, but you feel your friendship is fading away, and you're going to leave it up to them now to stay in touch or get together, because your attempts just keep failing. Keep in mind that high school is over, and it would be best for you to make friendships with people who didn't snub you in glee club and with whom you have less history.
No Libido, Va.: I'm a 50-ish divorced woman with no sex drive. I used to have a moderate sex drive, a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10, but now it's about a 1. My doctor thinks the change is related to several medications I am taking for chronic health problems, which have sexual dysfunction as a side-effect. I finally realized that this is part of why my dating life was so disappointing, so I've stopped dating, and it has made me a much happier person. I have an active social life, mostly with women friends and group activities. I don't feel a need or desire for a relationship. The problem: What to do when men approach me and want to date me? I don't want to tell all of my business, but I don't want to be rude or hurtful, either. I've said that I don't date, but they want to know why. I've politely said I'm not interested, but they take it personally, and some even get hostile. I don't like to lie, but I have considered saying I'm involved with someone. How should I handle this?
Emily Yoffe: You're a 50-ish single woman and your problem is that too many men are asking you for dates?! The issue here is not how you get rid of them but what's your secret for attracting them. I look forward to reading your book, but until it comes out, just smile (alluringly, apparently) and say you're not available.
Washington, DC: "But divorced parents just need to learn to act like adults at these milestone events, and not draw everyone else into their dreary, endless drama."
AMEN … but not just divorced parents. Just about everyone needs to take this advice. Weddings, bar mitzvahs, graduations, etc. ... PEOPLE, GROW UP!
Emily Yoffe: Yes, but it's against my own interest for everyone to be perfectly mature and reasonable, because then there wouldn't be that much to chat about here!
Thanks, everyone, talk to you next Monday.