I let my friends stay at my lake house for a long weekend while I was away. I returned to six loads of laundry, furniture moved all over the place, and a pile of water toys in my shed, without even a thank you note for letting them stay. I was upset and I let him know. Not only were they unapologetic, but they criticized my reaction (and questioned the amount of clothing left behind). I feel enlightened. These people are like my family, but I’m not sure I can forgive them. His response to my complaint was worse than the original inconsiderate behavior. What I can do?
Listen, I’m going to give you some advice that may be difficult to follow: don’t do anything (for now). There’s no question your friends misbehaved, although you almost have to admire their audacity to object to the amount of dirty laundry they left behind. It’s annoying when people deflect legitimate objections with a policing tone.
But let’s look at something else you wrote: “These people are like family to me.” I don’t take it lightly. So assuming your friends normally enrich your life, give them some time to own up to their mistake and come back to you with a sincere apology. Many people may be defensive about criticism initially (you’re writing to one of them), then regret their bad behavior and goofy responses.
Now, some readers may prefer the (apparent) rigor of Maya Angelou’s familiar wisdom: when people show you who they are, believe them the first time. But “who they are” may be dear friends who need a minute to admit they’re wrong. If you can’t tolerate this delay, stay away from them. Otherwise, give them two weeks and then gently restate the issue.
the disgusting factor
I went to a coffee shop to buy an iced coffee. As I waited for my drink, I watched a food service worker cough into her latex-gloved hand and then continue making a sandwich. I was horrified and called her to change her gloves. She looked at me blankly and then continued making the sandwich. I repeated my accusation and the store manager muttered that she hadn’t coughed into her hand. I decided I had made my point and left the store. Was it my business to continue with this business?
I totally get your hygienic fantasy that food service workers will never put their hands in their mouths or on any germy surfaces for hours at a time. (The alternative is gross!) I hope they go out of their way to change their gloves if they do, but they’re only human. And the risk of contracting diseases like covid-19 from a sandwich prepared with a cough glove is relatively low.
However, yelling accusations at workers from across the room is probably not productive. Next time, approach the worker or their supervisor directly and share their concern privately. Because it is also in our nature to protect ourselves from public humiliation and shame.
Before pooping at the party
I work in a small non-profit organization. I supervise a department and some interns. A recently started intern is socially awkward: asking inappropriate questions and sharing too much information. He asked if he could host a dinner and game night for members of our department at his home. I immediately said no. I think it’s inappropriate (although long-term employees have hosted dinners before). He was right?
I have no doubt you were trying to protect your team. But it’s not inappropriate to invite colleagues to a party. Being socially awkward, or new, is not a crime. And there is probably no one in your organization with less influence than a summer intern. It would be exquisitely easy for anyone to decline his invitation.
Generally, I don’t see supervisors as arbiters of what employees or interns do after hours. And there was practically little reason to pour cold water on party plans: the only people who would have come were the ones who wanted to.
just a number
I am a 76 year old widow. For two years I have been dating a man who is 12 years younger than me. (I look 10 years younger than my age). My boyfriend knows I’m older than him, but he doesn’t know by how much. I have never lied to him, but I have refused to discuss the matter. Now we are talking about living together. I know I should tell him my age before he moves out, but I’m afraid that will end our relationship. I am riddled with stress over this. That I have to do?
If your boyfriend really cared about your age, he probably would already know. Your refusal to tell him would not be the last word here. So, you may be worried about nothing. It’s also possible that the age difference, and your insistence on keeping it a secret, scared him off. (So far, I’ve been a great help, right?)
The biggest problem, as I see it, is your stress level: it’s better to tell it and let things fall where they may than to constantly worry about something you can’t change. You will find out eventually.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, Philip Galanes on Facebook, or @SocialQPhilip On twitter.