Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Small Dog People Aren't The Same As Big Dog People

Vincenza Marie asks:

I have a small dog that is very well behaved. She doesn't bark when the doorbell rings, she doesn't jump on people, and she's generally just a lap dog. Every time I go to my brother's house, his huge dog jumps on any guest who walks in. The dog listens when my brother gives it a command, but then the dog gets bored I guess (she's 2 years old) and tries to engage people by jumping on them and putting her paws on their shoulders going face to face. This is fine for some people, but I don't like big dogs. I do not like that they are very strong when they jump on you. This dog also has a thing for feet, and will slober on my (or any guest's) feet, and start trying to chew the laces off of the shoes I am wearing. Even though he stops the dog, I hate going over there just because I know the dog will start annoying me. I think when I start to get annoyed, the dog thinks I am playing. Everyone, including my fiance, think that i should lighten up because I have a dog, and they think that I am too mean because I won't acknowledge my brother's dog. I am tired of having this dog's saliva on me when I am at their house. Is it wrong of me to not want to have anything to do with this dog?

It's not wrong of you to expect your brother's dog to be disciplined when you visit, especially given that your brother knows you have a problem with it. If the dog is so good at listening to commands, then why isn't your brother commanding it not to jump on people when they open the door? Having a dog that jumps can be dangerous. What happens when a small child or elderly person visits the house? It may be worth pointing out to your brother that owning a large dog comes with certain responsibilities, and he's not living up to them.

Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like your brother is willing to change his behavior, so it's up to you to change yours. Here are a few things you can do to make your interactions with the dog more bearable.

1. Ask your brother to confine the dog to another room when you enter the house. Not having the dog greet you at the door will enable him to hear your voice and get used to your presence before he sees you. It will also give you a minute to relax and greet your family without having to worry about the dog.

2. Once you and the dog are in the same room, practice Cesar Milan's method of "no talk, no touch, no eye contact." If you ignore the dog he'll soon learn that you're no fun to play with. If the dog jumps on you, turn your back, cross your arms, and stand still until he goes away. Once the dog is calm and quiet you can speak to him and pet him.

3. Remain calm. This one is easier said than done, especially if you're intimidated by the dog. However, dogs truly do feed off of people's energy. If your nerves cause you to act excitably (jumping backwards, flailing your arms, etc.) the dog will take this as play. Instead, breathe deeply and stand your ground. Again, the dog will decide you're boring and move on to the next victim.

4. Don't wear laced shoes to your brother's house. If you know a certain item of clothing provokes bad behavior, stop wearing it.

Absent of proper training on your brother's part, none of these is going to be a cure-all for this dog's behavior. However, by understanding his limitations and yours, you might be able to make visits at least bearable.

Also keep in mind that you like your brother more than you dislike his dog (I hope). Sometimes you have to take a little bit of bad with the good. Do you really want to give this dog the power to ruin your relationship with your family?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Do the Opposite of Hoarders

Angelina writes:

I have absolutely no idea how to decorate my house. I don't even have an idea where to begin. It's clean, clutter-free, but otherwise a hodgepodge of things I'm not interested in or attached to. I would like to make a change however. Can you please advise a good place to start?

Magazines, the internet, and HGTV.

Pull out or print pictures of everything you like. I mean, everything. If it's a color, a pattern, a particular piece of furniture, a pillow, a painting - anything can be an inspiration, and since you say you have no clue where to start, pull out everything that appeals to you at all.

After you've amassed a good number of images, take a long look at all of them. What things do they have in common? It might be geometric patterns, a color scheme, or even that everything is glittery. And that's your starting point.

From there, you should be able to get a better idea of how you'd like your house to look. Keep in mind what kind of entertaining you do, and if you have or plan to have children: I have a crazy hard-on for all-white couches, but with a little kid in the house, that would just be asking for disaster. If you do a ton of entertaining, you may want an over sized dining table or a lot of little tables scattered around your living room for people to eat on. If you have pets, you may want to look into easy-clean upholstery and carpets.

I always ask myself two questions when I think about buying a piece for my home: Do I like it? and Is it practical? Not everything in your home needs to be practical - art pieces, for example - but you absolutely should like everything you bring home.

Feel free to mix and match - if you like it, it probably has something in common with other things in your home, and will find a place to fit in. Don't be afraid of thrift-store finds or Craigslist coups: any place that sells what you want is a place you should look for it.

And most importantly: Have fun! Decorating is like fashion. You should feel free to play with it, to treat it as an experiment. Your tastes and needs will probably change over time, and you'll be able to change things up as life goes on. Enjoy yourself!

Narcissus, Party of One

Christy (no relation) writes:

Every time I go out with this one friend of mine, she manages to make backhanded comments about me in front of people we know. Like for instance, if we meet new people at a bar, I'll talk light-heartedly with the new people and she will giggle and tell me that I never have anything smart to talk about. She'll also tell me that I care too much about my makeup and spend too much on my clothing. Yet when we are not with anyone else, she is so nice and complimentary. I confronted her about this, and she said that I am reading into her behavior and she isn't doing anything wrong. I feel bad for her because she is often depressed and will call just to talk if she's having a bad day. She also has a very mean mother who often sends her letters by email threatening suicide, so I know she has it rough. But before I completely ditch her, how else can I tell her that she is abusing my friendship? She doesn't seem to believe me.

Simply put?

You can't.

You've already told her she does this, and she didn't believe you. She continues to do it, so you know she wasn't simply saving face before becoming better behaved. She has, in fact, blamed you for her shortcomings as a friend.

About the only option you have is to suggest she see a professional counselor. From what you've mentioned in your letter - the depression, the "suicidal" mother - it sounds like your friend probably has some mental issues that could do with addressing. It is not your job to be her unpaid therapist. You're not, I'm assuming, qualified to deal with a serious personality disorder, which this sounds like. Even if you were, you see her socially, so it's still not up to you to fix her problems.

I'd let this one go, and not feel too badly about it. When even dogs have shrinks, no one with problems should avoid having them treated. She chooses to be depressed and not deal with her mother; you don't have to choose it, too.

It's Bugging Her

Leslie writes:

A friend of mine recently stayed over my house after a night of drinking. I knew she had bed bugs a few weeks back but I thought they were taken care of, she even bought a new mattress and linens. But now I noticed I have some bed bug residue on the bed in my guest room! can I ask her to buy me a new mattress since she's the only one who has slept in there recently and is probably who brought the bugs in with her? I do not want an infestation!

Since only the one friend has been in the bed, and since you didn't have bedbugs before she visited, I would advise disinfecting the mattress and treating it before demanding a replacement. Regular vacuuming after a thorough steam-cleaning should do the trick.

I see no problem with asking your friend to chip in for the steam-cleaning, but I would frame it gently. "Friend, I was so happy that you came to visit! But I have to tell you, I found some suspicious residue in the bed after you left, and I know bedbugs are so hard to get rid of, so I'm going to have the mattress cleaned." If she's a good friend and a polite person, she'll offer to pay her share; if not, well, a gentle prodding - "It's $X, so I figured we could go halves" - should do the trick.

You absolutely need to tell her, apart from any monetary concerns, because while she's replaced her mattress and bedding, the bugs can nest in her bed frame, in her walls, or any other convenient place. She may not have gotten rid of the infestation at all, and she'll need to take further action to eliminate it. In light of the costs she's about to incur, your demanding a replacement mattress immediately is less than friendly. Start with the cleaning; if you still have problems in the near future (and are certain it's her), then you may want to broach the possibility of a new bed.

Oh, I Was Supposed to Keep Those Vows?

Name Withheld writes:

I cheated on my husband and now I am pregnant, and I am not sure if there is a chance it may not be his, we weren't even trying for a baby! How do I break the news, he's so happy for a new baby? The two guys look alike so I may be able to keep this to myself for a while, right?

If you want to save your marriage, shut your mouth.

Yes, that's right. Don't say a damn thing. Your husband is excited about this child; he wants to be a loving, functional family. You don't know that it's the other man's baby, and it might not be, so stop the affair and shut up. The only thing you'll accomplish by confessing is breaking up your family and spreading the guilt around. It won't make your husband's life better. (It might make the baby's life better, but that's only if you do the right thing and give it up for adoption instead of raising it by yourself.)

And then solve the problems that led you to cheat in the first place. I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt, here, that those problems are fixable. If you're just a terrible human being who cheats for fun, then yes, you should tell your husband - right before you divorce him and give the baby up for adoption. If you're the most important thing in your world, there is no room for husband or child, and you do them both a disservice to pretend you care when you don't.

I hope you shape the fuck up after this. I really hope you do what's best for that child. I have to say, I'm not holding my breath on either count, so I'll end with this: Invest in a box of fucking condoms.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Two For Price Of One

Michele has two questions:

Can you get crabs while you are pregnant? I don't mean the kind you eat such as blue crab or king crab, but the genital kind. Thanks!

Also, can you eat crab when you are pregnant? For this question, I DO mean blue crab or king crab. Thanks.

And the answer to both questions is yes.

Pregnancy does not make you immune to STIs. If you can catch it when you're not pregnant, you can catch it while you are pregnant.

Cooked crabs (I hope you woudn't eat them raw) are perfectly fine during pregnancy. It's uncooked shellfish, such as oysters, that you want to avoid. The Mayo Clinic offers this list of foods that should not be eaten during pregancy.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Let's Discuss Religion and Politics Instead

Claudia writes:

I grew up one of five kids in a less-than perfect family life situation. One of my brothers is married to an awesome girl - who grew up an only child in a very different (much more functional) family life situation. She and my mother see life so differently. She is a good mom - just a very different mom than my mother was/is. Here's my issue - whenever my mother comes to my home, she (and my dad) always bash my sil, saying what a horrible mother she is. I've tried sticking up for her, asking why they feel the way they do - and changing the subject. But it's the same thing each time they visit. It makes me wonder what they say when I'm not around! I need a sure-fire way to stop the conversation when they start this - because I really do care for my sil, and think that it isn't fair to judge her parenting style - whether they agree with it or not. Anyone who is a parent knows how hard it is - and unless you are neglecting your child (she isn't) no one should judge you. Do you have any good one liners to shut up my parents??

"This subject is closed."

Yes, it's direct, and it may be abrupt the first time you use it, but you've said you don't wish to have these discussions, and nothing else shuts them down. I think it's time to bring out the big guns - politely, of course, but firmly.

If you want to give a little more detail, you can: "Mom, Dad, I know you did things differently, but SIL's kids are wonderful, and I won't allow you to badmouth her in my home. Goodness, what do you say about me when you're at her house?" Hopefully they'll realize how bad they sound. If they don't: "This subject is closed." And then move on to how your kids are doing, or what new business is coming to town, or what movies you'd like to see this summer.

My husband and I have some rules for our daughter that our relatives find fault with, and there have been comments made. We used this technique to shut down that line of conversation immediately, because we just didn't care that So-and-So didn't like Daughter's name, or that Such-and-Such thinks we're foolish to deny her Disney movies. She's our child, and unless she's been abused, it's none of their business. Same thing goes for your SIL, and I applaud you standing up for her. She's lucky to have an ally in the family besides her husband.

Good luck!

Rapunzel, Rapunzel!

Sallie asks:

I have long hair. If I leave it down, it gets tangles at the nape of my neck. if I wear it up, it looks like I am going to work out. Any advice on how to leave my long hair down without it turning into a rat's nest underneath my beautiful locks?

I, too, have easily-tangled hair: it's very fine, and it seems even looking at it wrong can cause a knot. I also used to wear mine long - down to my waist - and I would just have my dad or my roommate trim the ends to keep it from getting too scraggly.

You don't say if you have an actual style to your hair, Sallie, but once I cut mine and had some layering added in, the tangling problems were much, much less, even when I wore it down.

If getting a cut-and-style isn't an option for you, there are plenty of ways to wear your hair besides ponytails and hanging loose. Google "long hair styles" or "long hair braids" and you'll find a ton of sites, many with instructions. My go-to hairstyle when it was long was a French braid updo: I parted my hair in the middle, made two French braids, and coiled the ends against my scalp, holding everything together with decorative hair clips. You can learn to do a modified French twist with a big hair claw; barrettes can be employed to decorative and practical effect. A little spritz of hairspray to finish it off, or a quick dollop of mousse beforehand, will keep everything in its place.

Failing all that, you might want to look into leave-in conditioners. Leaving it in your hair will discourage tangling and make brushing it out easier. And keep a wide-toothed comb in your purse for quick touch-ups whenever you have to use the ladies' room.

Good luck with your luscious locks!

When Did Pale Go Out Of Style?

Lana writes:

My sister in law just used some self tanner and it looks really fake and very streaky. It is a good alternative to the sun, but her application went horrifically wrong. I know she paid at least $60 for the cream she used. I feel bad saying that she looks terrible because it takes days for her tan to fade even if she exfoliates. Should I say something anyway? It's ridiculous, and kind of funny that she paid so much to look so silly, but I like her and don't want her to be embarassed. Unfortunately but the time I saw her the last time it was too late for her to go home and wash it off because it was a family event.

There are certain situations in which you should bring something potentially embarrassing to someone else's attention. Friend with spinach in her teeth; a coworker who tucks the back of her dress into her tights. That kind of thing.

But you say in your letter that it will take days for this tanner to come off. She's already been to a large event, and presumably she owns a mirror. What will pointing this out accomplish? What do you hope will happen?

The only outcome of telling her now is that she will be embarrassed, and you will look cruel. When there's no way to fix an appearance snafu, there's also no need to address it. Pretend you never noticed. If you're convinced she'll do it again, suggest a "Tanning Day" at your place, so you can both help each other get even coverage - and then actually help her.

Mom, I Get It Now

Elisalynn asks:

My 16 year old daughter wants her boyfriend to sleep over, and we are okay with it as long as he sleeps in the guest room because he lives 2 hours away. But she wants him to sleep in her room and insists they have a virtuous relationship. I want to keep it that way, by having him sleep in the guest room. She tells us that she will just go sleep at his house if he is not allowed to sleep in her room. How do we enforce our house rules since she is only 16?

The answer to this one is simple. You parent. This is your daughter, not your friend. It's not your job to make sure she's always happy and never disagrees with you on anything. It is your job to make sure she grows up knowing there are certain expectations she needs to meet and that she can't always get what she wants.

When she's an adult she won't be able to tell her boss that if he doesn't give her a raise she'll just stop doing her work. Because she'll get fired. Because her actions will have consequences.

Does she have consequences now? It doesn't sound like she does. You have good reason to believe (because she told you) that if she spends the night at her boyfriend's house she won't be following your rules. So you don't let her spend the night at her boyfriend's house. And you don't believe her when she tells you her plans changed and she's just staying at her friend Beth's house, either.

Only you know what kind of punishment will hit hardest for your daughter. Maybe it's spending every Friday for the next month babysitting her little brother. Maybe it's taking away the car. Whatever it is, you need to make sure she knows without a doubt that by defying you, she's choosing that punishment.

(We'll ignore the part about the 16 year old being a in a long-distance relationship. Shouldn't she be hanging out with boys from her own school, or at least her own town?)



Saturday, June 26, 2010

When Aunt Flo Stops By The Office

Ursula asks:

Got any ideas for cramp relief at work besides pills? HELP!!

I feel your pain. There's nothing worse than sitting through a staff meeting while the Devil tap-dances on your ovaries. Unfortunately, grabbing a stiff drink on your lunch break is usually frowned upon.

During the winter, I swear by Thermacare patches. You can apply the heat-pack right to your stomach, they're thin enough not to show through thick clothing, and they last all day. During this time of year though, the added heat might just make you more uncomfortable.

My doctor once recommended doing back bends. I assume the logic there is that stretching the abdominal muscles will help them to relax. Unless you have an office with a locking door though, I don't recommend this for work.

My favorite remedy, however, is chocolate and soda (or pop, or Coke, or whatever you call it). I was once told that the caffeine helps to dilate blood vessels and can relieve pain from cramps and stress headaches. I'm 95% sure this is nonsense, but i still reach for both whenever I don't have access to actual painkillers. If nothing else, the delicious snack helps me get my mind off the pain.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Toast Masters

Laura asks:

I am attending the wedding of someone who, up until she was engaged, was perfectly normal. Since she started planning her wedding she's become a crazed psycho. She talks of nothing except her wedding, changes all subjects to be about her wedding, and seems to have forgotten her friends exist.

I pray she comes back down to planet Earth after her wedding.

She has asked me to give a toast at her wedding, but right now I can think of nothing nice to say. Should I decline or suck it up?

It sounds like your friend is one of those people who doesn't realize that no one cares about her wedding as much as she does. If her behavior has devolved to the point where you can't think of anything nice to say about her, you might want to say something to her.

For the sake of her relationships with all of her friends, it's time for someone to pull this girl aside and let her know--in the kindest terms possible--that there's a lot more going on in the world than her wedding, and that turning every conversation back to herself is rude, self-centered, and boring.

If you're really uncomfortable giving a toast, then politely decline. Giving her your reason may compromise your friendship, so if you wish to remain close you can blame it on stage fright or nerves.

But remember that this will pass (at least until she gets pregnant and thinks she's the first person in history to reproduce). If she goes back to normal when the wedding is over, will your friendship go back to the way it was? Will you regret not having done this? Wedding planning can be overwhelming, and it's been known to consume the lives of more than a few young brides. If you think this is a case of temporary insanity, you may decide it's worth it to reach into the depths of your memory and base your toast on the person she was before the diamond ring ate her brain.

How Does He Feel About Green Eggs?

Torn writes:

I have a magical hambone (powers were bestowed upon it by the high priestess of my circle of believers). My boyfriend does not share my religion and thinks the hambone is gross.  There are bits of meat stuck to it still and it attracks flies and gnats.  He wants me to boil it to "clean it up a bit" but that was not the state it was in when blessed by the high priestess.  He says he is going to move out if I don't do something about it because he can't sleep with the flies (right now it hangs over our bed to protect us in the night).  I think I can maybe put up a mosquito net to help for a while.  How long until the ham bits will rot away and quit attracting flies?

Differing beliefs can be a major problem in relationships; this is why many religions discourage interfaith marriages. It can be very difficult to have a loved one tell you that any part of your belief system is "gross." If your magical hambone is a dealbreaker to your boyfriend, then you're going to have to decide whether or not it's a dealbreaker for you. It's good that you're having this conversation before you're married. You may have to make the difficult decision that this isn't the man for you, but think of how much happier you'll be when you meet someone who treats your hambone with the reverence it deserves. Alternatively, you may decide that this man is more important to you than your faith. Both are valid decisions, but they are yours to make.

If you are looking to reach a compromise, perhaps you could hang it outside--maybe over the back door--until the ham bits rot away. I'm not really sure how long the rotting process takes, but I imagine being outside in the elements would hasten it. And, while it's outdoors, your hambone will be able to protect your entire home during the night, rather than just your bedroom. You and your boyfriend will have the added comfort of not needing to worry about the sanitation issues involved with sleeping in a room full of flies.

Allow Us To Clarify

Shmily asks:

How come in all of the advice you post, you place all blame on the poster? Is it because you don't know the whole story? I ask because I find it hard to believe that every single person who's written in for advice bears the entire responsibility for what they've written about. Even if you have to play devil's advocate, maybe once in a while believe that the OP didn't do anything wrong (like the shy person in the office for instance - being excluded hurts).

First, I will freely admit that in several cases we've found the question asker mostly to blame for their problem. I don't believe that's been the case for all or even most of our submissions.

In general we have less patience for writers who speak with vitriol and hatred about a person, especially when the perceived slight turns out to be minor. If we think your attitude is wrong, we'll let you know, often in harsh terms.

It's always possible we don't have all the information, but we can only base our answers on what we're given. There have been situations where we've asked our writers to comment with additional information, and we do post follow-ups from writers in order to provide the most complete story and the most correct advice.

Finally, our motto is, "You can't control other people's actions, you can only control your reaction to them." In the case of the woman who felt left out at work, I completely agree that being excluded hurts, and I absolutely don't think she did anything wrong. My point, however, was that her coworkers do, otherwise she'd be part of the group. Replying with "Being excluded hurts. Your coworkers are mean for not including you," doesn't really help. Our advice is not meant to place blame, but to provide the writer with positive steps they can take to change their situation.
We hope this helps you to understand where we're coming from. As always, we welcome all comments and encourage our readers to agree, disagree, or let us know when we've missed something. 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bad Cooks Can Still Be Good Hosts

Bad Cook asks:

A family member will be staying at our house and spending a few days with us this weekend.  I don't enjoy cooking and get especially nervous cooking for people other than me and my husband.  Is it rude to plan to eat almost every meal out while our visitor is here?  I intend to pay for every meal, but does it somehow seem as if I am trying to coerce the guest to pay by going out?

I don't think it's rude at all to plan to eat out, especially if you think your cooking is less than stellar. Going to restaurants will give you more time to visit with your guests (since you won't be worried about cooking and cleaning), and will give your guests a chance to experience some of your local fare. If there's a restaurant or a type of food that's particularly famous in your area (ie, Chicago style pizza, Buffalo wings, Philly Cheesesteaks, etc), make it a point to add those places to your itinerary. That way you can disguise your dislike for cooking as sightseeing.

As far as payment goes, if you take the check and insist on paying at each meal, your guest will have no reason to think you're trying to coerce them into anything.

This is All Kinds of Uncomfortable

Itchy asks:

A few weeks ago I left my friend's house with tiny bug bites on my feet and ankles that I suspected were flea bites.  She has invited me to come over again later this week.  Would it be rude to ask if her flea problem has been resolved before accepting the invitation?  I can't say for sure that the bites came from her house, but it is the most plausible explanation as to where my bites originated.

If you don't know for absolute certain that they're flea bites and that they came from your friend's home, I think asking her if the problem is resolved is too blunt.

Perhaps mention that you're covered in bites, and nonchalantly ask if she's ever experienced something similar. Or casually mention that since it's flea and tick season you're having your pets checked, and suggest that she does the same. If she doesn't take the bait, you have three options:

1. Politely decline the invitation.

2. Accept the invitation. Make sure you're wearing long pants, shoes and socks, and long sleeves for your visit. Don't sit on the furniture and don't put your purse down.

3. Accept the invitation and pretend nothing is wrong. If you get bitten again, then you'll know with much more certainty that the bites originated with your friend. In this case, it would be much more appropriate to approach her and tactfully suggest that she call an exterminator.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Don't Talk to Strangers

Karen asks:

is it weird that if someone smells good I tell them so, and ask for their scent or soap? Usually if I approach a stranger I have never met on line in a store for instance or on the bus, they think I am weird. I just think it's a compliment when someone smells good! Is it rude? Should I stop?

It's not rude, per se, but it is weird, and yes, you should stop. Most people on the bus or at the store don't want anyone to talk to them about anything, so always err on the side of keeping your mouth shut.

Personal aroma is a private thing, and while many people go to great lengths to make sure they smell pleasing, it doesn't necessarily mean they want you to notice. It's one thing to make a comment to a close friend or significant other, but strangers? Really? Commenting on someone's scent implies an invasion of personal space. Perfume, lotion and soap used correctly should not have scents strong enough to be smelled outside of a few feet. When a person can be smelled from a distance, it's usually not a good thing.

So take a step back, and keep your thoughts to yourself.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tuesday Quickies

Squeegee asks:

What is more rude: letting the elevator doors close as someone is running towards them, or yelling out "Thanks for not holding the doors" when the doors close as you get to the elevator?

Yes. They're both rude. Refusing to hold the elevator for someone obviously hurrying is needlessly boorish, but calling someone - especially a stranger - out on his rudeness is just as bad. So nobody wins in this scenario - except your humble bloggers.

# # #

Dog Mama writes:

I usually feed my little dog twice per day. Lately she has been refusing to eat in the morning but is ferociously hungry in the evening. Could she be pregnant? Is this morning sickness? She was fixed as a puppy, but maybe it didn't work.

I guess I could try to use a home pregnancy test if I could catch her mid-stream in the yard. Do human pregnancy tests work on dogs?

Wait, you have to pee on those things for them to work? I thought your husband just stuck them up there in your sleep, and that would give an accurate reading.

No, I don't think your dog is pregnant, DM. Since this is a new development, I would call and ask the vet/ vet tech for her opinion, and then make an appointment for a checkup if that seems necessary.

And no, human pregnancy tests do not work on dogs.
# # #

Zipper asks:

Can a microwave let out radioactive waves even when off?

Zip, I'm unable to find the actual answer to that specific question, but I have some answers that may allay any fears you have about microwave radiation. A quick tour of the Wikipedia page devoted to microwaves reveals that "[t]he cooking chamber itself is a Faraday cage which prevents the microwaves from escaping." And studies have shown that the radiation emitted by microwave ovens doesn't carry the same carcinogenic risk as other types of radiation, such as X-rays, even after prolonged exposure. Microwaves can damage the skin by heating it, as with any cooking device, which is why they're built with a switch that prevents the oven from functioning when the door is open.

So go forth, and microwave happily: it's not going to kill you unless you stick yourself inside it.

You Get What You Give

B asks:

I have 6 coworkers all female. We started at the same time, and are very friendly. Some, more than others. I, being, the others. They never acknowledge my birthday in the 5 years we've all worked together, even though it's in a quick reference file that all of our birthdates are in. But they very obviously plan to celebrate for each other. Last week, one of the ladies was out of the office, and the other 5 started to privately/openly plan who was bringing in what for a lunch they were planning. They did not purposely exclude me, but they did not include me. For instance, as we're all working independantly, coworker 1 would whisper "I am bringing chips and salsa, what do you want to bring?" to coworker #2. Again, not on purpose, but they said it loud enough that I heard but softly enough that I was not part of the conversation. So today they are all having their lunch, and when I saw them all unpacking what they brought, one of them said, "Oh you're more than welcome to have some!". But I didn't because it feels weird to not have brought anything in myself.

So should I say something, should I not say anything and let it go? Or should I chime in next time and include myself? I'm not one to impose on others, but I think it's odd we all work so closely together and I am not acknowledged as part of the group.

Sometimes shyness is interpreted as standoffishness. It's possible your co-workers don't include you because of a vibe you're giving off. Sometimes it doesn't take much. Turning down a lunch invite once or twice because you're busy may be interpreted by them as you preferring to eat alone. It sounds like you don't get involved when they're planning birthday celebrations for each other. If that's the case, you really can't blame them for not going out of their way for you.

It's hard to jump into an established group of friends without feeling like an outsider. Choose one or two of the women that you feel most comfortable with, and start making a more of an effort to connect. Ask if they want to try the new sandwich place across the street with you, or suggest a mid-afternoon ice cream break. As you get closer, that person will hopefully keep you in mind when the rest of the group is planning something.

If they don't think of you, don't be afraid to speak up. The next time you hear of something being planned, mention that you have an awesome brownie recipe and offer to bring them in. Better yet, if you know someone has a birthday coming up, be proactive and ask someone what the plans are.

Just keep in mind that friendship is something you have to work for. Good luck.

Skip to My Lou.

Sharona asks:

Do I have to formally break up with an acquaintence or can I just skip away and just not reply to her emails thinking she'll get the hint? She's nice enough, but after speaking to her a couple of times I just don't care to persue a friendship. I feel badly because she's nice enough, I just do not want to pretend to like her when I don't. Or should I suck it up and try harder?

An acquaintance? Skip away. If you've only spoken a few times you have no obligation to tell her anything. In fact, saying something will probably just hurt her feelings. There's no need to add insult to injury. I don't even formally break up with friends unless I've known them for over 10 years or know I'm going to need to continue interacting with them on the regular.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Black Socks With Bermuda Shorts, Too, Right?

Sickened writes:

My coworker smells so bad, it's like feet. it's warmer out these days so it's gotten worse. I put a fan on my desk to blow the stench away from me back onto her, but it does get overwhelming. I even started to talk about how many times a day I shower in the summer because I hate thinking I might smell. No dice; she doesn't fall for it. Is there a better way that may work to tell her she stinks like a foot? Passive aggressive doesn't work. We're not very friendly but we do have to work in the same office. I don't gossip, but I am sure I'm not the only one offended by her aroma. She usually wears tyvek sandals with socks, so I wonder if it IS her feet.

Sickened, does your company have a competent Human Resources division? Usually I like direct, polite confrontation, but this is one of those areas that can go bad with lightning speed, so I suggest you make a discreet inquiry to HR about your options with a coworker who has poor hygiene. They'll hopefully already have some sort of policy in place to either pull Smelly aside and deal with her directly, or some way to notify Smelly's immediate superior that something needs to be done - without getting you involved.

Also, I'm dying to know what you do that wearing sandals with socks is appropriate work attire. I mean, from a fashionable standpoint, sandals and socks are never appropriate attire, but in the workplace? No. You might suggest a change in dress code, too, while you're at it.

At Least You Got The Question Right

Sad Mom asks:

I have a 7 year old child, but I hate his personality. I feel bad because he's a cute kid and very smart, but he's a brat and a half. I feel like I need therapry because I love him more than anything in the world - I'd DIE for him, he's biologically born from my body. He just has a personality I do not like. What is WRONG with me??

I'm sure Kate is going to want to chime in on this one as well. Some may say I have no business commenting on someone's parenting, given that I don't have children. Perhaps my response to this will change when whatever magic bounty of common sense that comes with producing spawn is bestowed on me, but I highly doubt it.

Honestly, Sad Mom, your problem is that you raised a bratty kid. He wasn't born from your body with a bad attitude and a sense of entitlement. I can't tell you what it is exactly that you've done wrong, but you've done something.

I can tell you that children are highly intuitive, and hate is a strong word. I can guarantee you that your son knows that you have strong negative feelings toward him. That probably doesn't inspire a lot of trust or respect.

You do have the power to turn your child's attitude around. Start by modeling good behavior. If you're matching his temper with your own, you're teaching him that tantrums are a valid way to approach your problems. If he doesn't have clear rules and boundaries,  put them in place.

Just as importantly, praise him for his good behavior. Reward good grades, good manners, etc. Let him see that you do notice and recognize his good qualities.

Things aren't going to change overnight, so don't give up or give in. And if you continue to have these feelings, do seek therapy. No child deserves to have a parent that hates them.

You Can Pick Your Friends, But You Can't Pick Your Family

Snap writes:

I don't know how to handle this situation. About a year ago I met some really cool people at my cousin's wedding. One of the people I met is her new sister in law, her husband's sister. She's a cool chick, and likes to go to the same clubs I like. We talked and texted a lot since the wedding, and saw each other occassionally at the same places, oftentimes with my cousin/her new sister in law.

I made plans this past weekend to hang out with her, without my cousin. My friends were all there with us, and they are generally my age, around 24-26 years old average. This one is 32, and she just lives a fantastic life, or so I thought.

She drove her new car to the club we were all hanging out at, and I guess she forgot she drove and got super sloppy drunk. My boyfriend is a great guy, and did not drink at all, and couldn't let her leave by herself in good conscience. he offered to drive her car and take her home to get her home safe, and we'd have our friends follow us so we could have a ride back home also.

That's when it all went downhill. He got in the driver's seat, and had a hard time starting the car. She smirked and asked, "What's wrong with you, don't you know how to drive?" And he told her he never drove a BMW. She became really sarcastic about this, and told him he must not do anything for me because he doesn't have enough money for a BMW. So she showed him how to start the car and we went on our way. We thought she was just drunk and acting foolish, so we let it go, because she still had to get home safe.

Then she passed out in the backseat and wouldn't respond when we asked where she lived. I remembered that her parents live in a nearby town about 15 miles away, so we started to drive there. We got in front of the house, and she started to scream, literally scream, "Where did you take me? Why would you think I live here?" So I told her I thought this was her parents' house, and she said that she doesn't live with her parents she lives in an apartment a few blocks from the club we were at. My boyfriend was starting to get annoyed, but figured this was a friend of a friend and wanted to keep peace. We drove back to where we came from.

On the way, she started to complain that she was hungry and asked if we could stop, and since I was hungry also, we stopped at a 24 hr McD's. She fell asleep again and woke up in the parking lot and started yelling about how she doesn't eat shitty McD's and what kind of person do we think she is.

Since we were close to her home, we told her we were tired and we were just going to drop her off. We parked the car, she cursed at us, told us to go F--K ourselves because she was too good to be seen with us because she just went to St Barth's and hangs out with celebrities. She also threatened to beat me up as she was walking into her building. She didn't, she was just peacocking. Needless to say, we will not be seeing her socially again.

I told my cousin what happened, and my cousin said that she's just an angry drunk and to just not hang out with her anymore, but I think my cousin is impressed with this chick's BMW, fancy vacations, and socialite behavior. Do I say something to my cousin, or do I just let it go and hope to never run into this chick again? I don't want things to be awkward because she is close with my cousin since they are in-laws, but at the same time, I don't take this abuse from anyone.

You already said something to your cousin, and she told you not to hang out with her sister-in-law anymore. What more do you want to get out of this?

I agree that this is not a woman that you should continue to see socially. I don't believe that drunkeness is an excuse for bad behavior. In fact, I think actions taken while drunk are more of an indicator of a person's character than actions taken while sober. So yeah, this woman is a classless assbag and you shouldn't care if you never see her again.

Unfortunately, it's a lot easier to cut an acquaintance out of your life than it is to cut out family. This woman is your cousin's family, and if you continue to make an issue of this you're only making your cousin's situation worse. The fact that your cousin acknowledged that her sister-in-law is a bad drunk and suggested you not pursue the friendship leads me to believe that she's already aware of this woman's shortcomings. If she's willing to overlook them for the BMW and the socialite lifestyle, so be it. She's not forcing you to continue the friendship.

So let it go. Stop returning her texts and emails, don't hang out with your cousin if this chick is around, be friendly when you cross paths at family parties, and go about your life. Anything beyond that isn't your business.

Why Are You Waving That Red Flag In My Face?

Zendria writes:

My boyfriend and I have been dating for about 4 years and have talked in depth about getting married and we already live together for almost 2 years. I forgave him for several indiscretions that took place before we moved in, and so far he has been very apologetic for hurting me that way. Recently he's made mention that once he gets married he knows for sure he can promise to be faithful but says that he knows that he's still single until he's wearing that wedding ring. I think he's trying to hint that he wants to push up a wedding date, and get engaged, but I haven't said anything because I don't want to ruin the surprise. I would like to plan a romantic night to let him know I am ready for him to propose, and I even have a date planned out for our wedding date! Any ideas on how to make the night a special one?? I want to let him know I am ready and he doesn't have to be scared of the changes, because I know it's tough for him to have all of this single temptation. Thanks!!

Do not propose to this man. Did you get that? DO NOT PROPOSE. He cheated on you before you moved in together, he's hinting that he wants to cheat now, and your answer for this is to push up the wedding date?! NO. DTMFA, Zendria: Dump The MotherFucker Already.

This guy has no respect for you, for your relationship, or for fidelity in general. A wedding ring and some vows aren't going to change that, and I can guarantee you he'll cheat when you're his wife. You need to leave, leave now, and don't look back.

I know it's hard, but do you want to live with a cheater for the rest of your life? He's telling you that he won't stop philandering: Listen to him.

Good luck.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Enough About MIL: Let's Talk About You

Len writes:

How to deal with an intolerable mother in law? I know some can suck, but then there is mine and she sucks so bad that I sometimes wonder if my wife is going to turn into this monster of a beast. She comes over whenever she wants and my wife apologizes, but never tells her mother to announce herself so we can tell her if it's a good time. Then she comes in and my wife gets mad when I retreat to my den to hang out on the computer because she thinks I am not being social, and her mother complains that i am so rude. But I play it off, saying I am letting them have a private visit together! Why would she want to see me anyway? Whenever I am in her company she tells me what she doesn't like about how I look that day or how I can dress better if I go to the higher end stores. And it's my house, so if I like to keep my overflow of pots and pans in the stove (I do the majority of cooking), that is my business, right? It's not like the place is a mess. WHAT to do?

Well, I assume your wife was close to her mother before she married you, yes? I mean, this can't be news, that MIL wants to visit, and Mrs. Len wants to let her. This is not a MIL problem, Len - this is a you-and-your-wife problem.

First of all, the impression you paint in your letter is of someone who hates his MIL, is rude to her, and keeps a dirty house. People generally try to make themselves look good when describing their problems, Len, and if this is the best you can do, I really have to doubt that your MIL is the "monster of a beast" that you describe. She sounds like someone who thinks dropping in is perfectly OK, and who responds to rudeness with rudeness. Certainly, she's not perfect - no one is - but I think you have to look at your own behavior before you start pointing fingers.

Have you discussed that you don't like drop-ins with your wife? If her mother thinks dropping-in is fine, chances are, she does, too. If you don't tell you wife that you would prefer if she tell her mother to call first, you can't be angry when she doesn't. And don't tell me that she knows it's wrong because she apologizes: if my husband stormed off without even trading chit-chat with a visitor, my instinct would be to apologize, as well, if only to soften the blow of the chewing-out I'd give next.

Which brings me to my next point: You're rude to your MIL. No, you're not "letting them have a private visit". You're ignoring a guest in your home, to the point where both the guest and your wife have called you on it. This woman is part of your extended family. If you can't stand to chit-chat for ten or fifteen minutes, why did you marry your wife? Did you think that somehow she'd just drop her family when she married you? No. You agreed to be, at the very minimum, polite to her relatives when you said "I do". That doesn't change because you're disgruntled.

Is MIL wrong to criticize your clothing? Perhaps. Then again, I'm not in the room when she does it, and what you hear as criticism may simply be her saying, "Macy's is having a great sale on men's shirts this weekend. You should check it out." Given your description of "pans in the stove", I doubt your sartorial choices are even clean, let alone fashionable.

In this situation, you have to give a little to get a little. Clean your house, put on a good shirt, and be nice. You might be surprised at how far that'll get you, Len. If it doesn't get you anywhere at all, go ahead and fire us off another letter: we'll be happy to provide more help.

No, Seriously: He's Just Not That Into You

Confused writes:

I have been in love with my best friend for years....which he knows since I've flat out told him such. He's never said that he couldn't feel the same way, just that there are several obstacles to us being in a relationship, mainly distance.

Because of my feelings for my friend it drives me nuts when he's in a relationship with someone else. I want him to be happy, but it breaks my heart a little each time he finds someone else. It doesn't help that he usually ends up dating women who are clingy, jealous and think it is OK to use and abuse him. I have a low self-esteem to begin with, but I'd like to think that I'm at least better than these women. However, I can't wrap my head around why he'd want to date people like this rather than giving me a chance.

A few months ago we ended up sleeping together. It was a one time thing and I knew it wasn't going to mean anything to him emotionally and promised myself that I wouldn't let it get to me when he moved on to the next lame girlfriend....and I successfully kept my promise, but after that relationship ended he and I started getting closer and interacting on a level we'd never been on before and I was really starting to think that things were headed in the direction I wanted them to.

Now out of nowhere he's in a new relationship with another girl and I don't know how to cope with it. I want to be supportive as I really do want him to be happy, but the closeness we were developing makes it hurt that much more. How can I call myself a good friend when I'm sitting at home secretly hoping that his relationship will crash and burn so I can have a chance even though it will probably never pan out the way I want it to? Is it bad to stay in a friendship where my heart gets broken constantly? And is it wrong to feel hurt, betrayed and even a little bit angry at him even though he is technically doing nothing wrong and I'm creating the problem with my own feelings?

Oh, honey, no. Don't keep doing this to yourself. This asshole is using you, plain and simple. Whenever he's missing the ego boost of a girlfriend, he knows that you'll be there, because you never go anywhere else, and he can just swing by and get his fill of adoration before he moves on to his next relationship.

So stop letting him. Stop being there. Yes, stop being his friend - because this guy has neither respect nor affection for you, and hasn't been your friend probably ever. Run. Run fast, run far, and don't give him your forwarding address.

Will it hurt? Sure. Will it be hard? Of course. Is it the absolute best thing for you? HELL YES.

And to prevent its happening again, take some time to work on yourself and your self-esteem issues. Get some therapy. Pick up a new hobby. Volunteer. Join a MeetUp group that interests you. Absolutely do not get involved with another guy, even platonically, until you're sure that you'd like to date you, because that will give you the ovaries you need not to stay in a one-sided clusterfuck like this.

I've been where you are, and it sucks, but I hope that soon you'll be able to look back at this and see how far you've come, and realize how happy you are without this jerk. Good luck!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Seriously? No.

In honor of our first letter that I refuse to publish, I think it's time to lay out some ground rules.

1. We're fine with foul language, we use it ourselves. However, don't be crude. We reserve the right to determine what crude is.

2. We will not publish identifying information. If we can redact names or locations from your letter, we will do so. If we deem it impossible to do so, you will not get an answer on your site.

3. We are not medical doctors, and honestly we don't want to know about your rashes, growths, or whathaveyou. We don't care if it's less embarrassing to write to an advice blog than it is to to see an actual doctor. We're not responsible for your health, you are. (Shamalamadingdong, this is as good an answer as you're getting.)

4. We reserve the right to amend these ground rules at any time.

That's it. Keep the letters coming, and happy reading!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Dealing with Debbie Downer

Tired asks:

My friend has a chronic illness.  Her family is out of state and not very supportive.  I am her go-to when times get tough, which is all the time (going on five years now).  She is never, ever, ever having a good day.  If it isn't her illness, it is some other friend that has been insensitive to her or something going wrong at work, etc. When I have a hard day, she points out to me that at least I am healthy and makes me feel bad about ever venting my petty problems. When I or one of my kids are sick, she points out that at least we will get better and she won't.

She had a bad experience with counseling several years ago and is not open to trying to again.

I am getting to the point that I dread seeing her name pop up on my phone although I immediately feel guilty for that feeling.  Sometimes I feel like a very wet sponge, unable to mop up any more of her pain.

She was such a good friend before she got sick.  How can I keep being her friend without sacrificing my sanity?


A few weeks ago, I published a question that was almost the exact opposite of your situation.
In that response, I said
I think there's a lot of pressure for people who are going through incredibly rough times to keep their spirits up. You want to be known as the one who always had a great attitude, not the person who constantly bitched and complained about what a raw hand they were dealt.
Obviously, this does not apply to everyone. It sounds like your friend thrives on pity, and it also sounds like her attitude has driven most everyone off but you. There's a good chance she's depressed, and I think you're right in that she needs counseling.

You're a good person for wanting to preserve this friendship. Not a lot of people would. Good for you for recognizing that however difficult she may be, she does need support. I wouldn't feel guilty at all, as you've already dealt with far more than is required of you. If you need to let her calls go to voicemail every once in awhile, so be it.

That said if anything is going to change, she needs to realize how her negative outlook is affecting her relationships. Not many people are willing to be blunt with someone like this; they'd rather just drop the friendship.

If you're going to confront her, you need to do it calmly and with empathy. Attacking her for always bringing you down will only make her see you as another insensitive person who's making her life worse. First sit down with her and tell her you're worried about her. Explain that you know she's had trouble with counselors before, and offer to help her find someone she can better connect with. Maybe packaging it differently will do the trick. If you know she won't take help from a counselor, suggest a life coach, a spiritual advisor, or hell, a psychic. At this point, anyone she can talk to that isn't you is a help.

As far as her not allowing you to have bad days, I'm of two minds. On one hand, you're likely blessed with far more friends and family than she has. Vent to people who understand and don't mind hearing it. That way she doesn't feel the need to fake concern for issues that she may consider petty, and you get the empathy you deserve for things you're entitled to vent about.

On the other hand, this is just another example of how her rotten attitude has driven people away, and maybe realizing this will help her bring some people back into her life. Try giving her a taste of her own medicine. Every time she starts a pity party, reply with "Well, hey, at least you're not [something worse]." Eventually she'll get the hint.

You've Gotta Fight! For Your Right! To Throw Awesome Paaaaaaar-Ties!

Fancy writes:

Is it weird to have index cards of conversation topics hidden in my purse when I go to my get together? I won't whip em out, but I am afraid I'll forget what I want to talk about!

Weird? Maybe. Brilliant? Definitely.

Anyone who's ever had a pang of social anxiety can surely identify with the fear of being unable to say anything intelligent, or of having the conversation stop dead entirely. I think a note card is a fantastic idea. In the best-case scenario, you'll never have to use it. In the worst-case scenario, dead silence falls over the room, but because you've just consulted your card in the loo, you know exactly how to save the day: "So, limited liability: Good or bad? Let's discuss!"

Good luck, and have fun!

# # #

Bernice writes:

How early would you send out shower invitations for a baby shower that needs the headcount 14 days prior to the event? Also, please recommend if you think it is sufficient to provide a phone AND email or if I should just need to provide a return phone number for RSVPs. Last question, are postcard invitations tacky? Thanks so much!

A month before the response date should be fine - or six weeks before the event. Make sure to make your respond-by date a few days before the actual count is due at the caterer so you have time to follow up with any response slackers. Providing phone and email gives people some extra leeway in responding, and with more options, you're likely to get more responses.

And I think postcard invitations sound great, as long as the postcards are in keeping with the theme of the shower or the personality of the guest of honor.

Have a great party!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

More Things We Should Have Discussed Before The Wedding

Sandra asks:

My husband is not my daughter's father but he likes to be treated as such, because her own dad isn't in the picture. But I don't like the way he treats her and even she is starting to get annoyed, she's 12. He likes to think that she needs to do whatever he needs because she's a kid and kids ought to licten, and that is fine to a degree. He is the step dad and deserves a role in her parenting. We're married 2 years, living together as a family for 7 total. If we don't have bread to eat with dinner he'll ask her to go to the store to get bread even though we've already sat down. If he is watching TV on the couch, he asks her to go gethim things to drink. How do I explain he can do these things himself? Or is he right to make her do some of these chores to learn responsibility?

I do think that step-parents should be able to play a role in parenting, especially when the children are young and the other biological parent is not in the picture. You are a family, which means handling certain things as a unit rather than as individuals. Telling your husband that he can't tell your daughter what to do simply because he's not her father is only going to confuse your daughter and build resentment between you and your husband.

That said, I don't think it's appropriate to send a 12 year old to the store alone, especially when the family has just sat down for dinner. Occasionally asking her to grab something for him--as long as she's up and/or closer to the desired object--doesn't bother me, but him making her his personal errand-girl does.

It could be that the two of you just have different parenting styles. This would be a problem whether or not your daughter was biologically his, and should be addressed between the two of you. It's possible that he was raised to do everything his parents said, and sees this as an acceptable behavior. Explain to your husband that while you do want him to be an equal partner in terms of disciplining, educating, and maintaining the health and well-being of your child, you have to draw the line at making arbitrary rules or requirements just because she's the kid. Come up with a list or a set of standards that you both think are appropriate chores for a 12-year-old, and stick to it.

It could also be that your husband has control issues stemming from the fact that he's not your daughter's biological father. Maybe there's a degree of respect that he thinks he deserves but does not think he's getting, and these demands are his way of forcing it. This is a problem that probably requires the help of a counselor, especially if you plan on having more children. The last thing you want is for him to treat your children differently because some are "his" and others are not.

I would suggest that at least your early conversations about this issue happen without your daughter present. Involving her at this point is just going to create an "us vs. you" atmosphere, which won't be productive at all.