Daily Archives: February 11, 2009

Bedside Manners?

I feel like I’ve been pushing Abby a lot the last few weeks–her columns have just been more interesting, featuring issues slightly more outside the norm (from “my neighbors think my son is my secret lover!” to “my friend may be harming her child by keeping her booze in his line of sight!“), funny writers, sassy answers, or all of the above.

There’s nothing too wild about this one, but it’s the second most entertaining issue of the day (after the son/lover issue linked above).

A woman has a question about etiquette. Or does she?


DEAR ABBY: My husband and I are having a “debate,” and I hope you can help. When dining out in a restaurant, is it proper etiquette to ask for a taste from another person’s plate? — WHAT’S MINE IS MINE IN MAINE

Of course, she doesn’t clarify if the food-sharing is going on between herself and her husband, or if others are involved, but I can’t help but think that “etiquette” doesn’t really apply within a marriage. And I don’t think that to say that is the same as suggesting that married folk shouldn’t treat each other with as much respect and politeness as they would others. They should–but there’s also a level of comfort and intimacy there, or should be, since it’s, um, a marriage (sorry for the excessive commas…)

If this woman doesn’t want her husband to eat off her plate, she shouldn’t choose (or need) to recourse to dining etiquette. She should be able to say, “please don’t do that,” and he should respect her request. No mediation necessary! (Actually, I feel like you should be able to do that in any social situation….no need to say “You have broken rule 142.A.62 of dining out at a mid-scale chain restaurant on Tuesdays.” Personal preference can have just as much weight, and in many cases deserves as much respect, as etiquette.)

Abby, like me, made a speculative stab at what the real heart of the issue was:

DEAR W.M.I.M.: I have never heard of any rule of etiquette that forbids asking for a bite. If you’re afraid your husband will take too much, place a small portion on your bread plate and pass it to him.

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Why Must You Be Such a Secret Young Man?

From Abby, 2/11/2009:

DEAR ABBY: I have tried to have cordial relations with my neighbors, but do not have particularly close friendships with any of them.

A little over a year ago, a young man started coming to my home on a regular basis whenever my wife was out of town. After a while, he began spending the night with me when she was away.

Evidently, some of my neighbors noticed these visits and started gossiping about it, spreading the rumor that I am gay and that this young guy is my lover. More recently, however, he has spent the night when my wife is present, so now my neighbors think something kinky is going on.

At times I am puzzled by this. At other times I am angry at their arrogance and gall. The explanation is simple: The young man is my son from a previous relationship. Because we were prevented from having contact when he was a child, we are now trying to establish a relationship — and we are making progress. My wife and other children have been wonderfully supportive in all this.

I really don’t want to tell my neighbors what’s going on because it will inevitably lead to a disclosure of some things that are really none of their business. But I am troubled by the rumor that I have a young male lover. What do you think I should do? — I’M HIS DAD IN VIRGINIA

I love the way this guy structures his narrative so that Abby, and presumably us as well, will be tricked into making the same incorrect assumption that his neighbors did. Rather than explaining his problem and asking for help, he throws in the son as a surprise twist at the end. Ha!

I wonder how he knows what they think, or where he heard the rumor…and how he reacted to that information. A simple “What? No, Josh is family!” to whomever he heard it from might have ended things without requiring full disclosure.

Also, I mean, of course this guy has a right to meet up with his son on any terms he deems appropriate, and his neighbors shouldn’t be spying out the windows…BUT…doesn’t seem a little odd to develop your relationship with your adult son in your home in the middle of the night while your wife’s away? Why not meet for coffee or lunch? Or come over for dinner and, um….not stay the night? Yes, his neighbors are in the wrong for making presumptions, and more so for spreading rumors. But they probably wouldn’t all be coming to the same conclusion if this guys’ comings and goings didn’t come off as clandestine. Do they assume all guests to the home are secret lovers? There’s probably something generally secretive–perhaps demonstrably so–about this. This guy seems to like toying with his neighbors as much as he likes toying with Abby and her readership.