Monthly Archives: February 2009

Inside Tip?

Abby published a letter on tipping this morning–I always read these with great interest, because I am an awkward and unsure tipper and am afraid of doing it wrong and offending someone. The one place I thought I had tipping down was in restaurants, where the rules are (as in Legally Blonde) “simple and finite.” Right? Hmmm…maybe not. Can someone let me know if you agree with Abby or not? If so, I’ve unwittingly wronged hundreds of servers in my life….

DEAR ABBY: When dining out at an establishment where you order your food at the counter and then they bring your food to the table, is a tip necessary?

Also, when going to coffee shops, tip jars frequently sit on the counter. How obligated should I feel to tip the people behind the counter? — JAMI IN NASHUA, N.H.

DEAR JAMI: Food servers often earn minimum wage, which they supplement with the tips they receive. If your server is efficient and pleasant, you should leave a tip. The usual amount is between 10 and 20 percent.

At a coffee shop where there is a tip jar, assuming that you did not sit down to be served, you should put your spare change into the jar.

Coffee shops I’m fairly comfortable with and often drop my change in the cup. But these counter restaurants–I’m picturing Culver’s, Noodles and Co., or some Paneras (rare–they usually use pagers for pickup), where you order and pay at the register, get your own drink, bus your own mess, but sometimes take a number to your table and your food gets dropped off. I don’t usually (OK, ever) tip in these situations….you don’t have the face time to tell if your server is “efficient and pleasant” because they don’t actually interact with you–just drop the food (I’m not complaining about this–just suggesting that their job is not the same as “serving”).

I also don’t typically think of them as “my server,” but as someone who works the register, answers the phones, mans the drive-through, mops the floor–and sometimes brings trays over to tables. For example, if there was a problem with my order, I would not go looking for the person who brought my food to me, but would probably go back to the cashier, or whoever was immediately available. If I wanted something additional, I wouldn’t ask the person who brought my food, but would go up to the counter and order it–at which point an entirely different person might bring it out a few minutes later.

Of course Abby is right that SERVERS depend on tips because they receive such a low wage. But am I right in distinguishing this kind of broad, hourly service-industry work from that of a person whose ONLY job is waiting tables, and who is only paid (a low hourly wage) to do that task, and therefore expects to make ends meet from tips? Or am I in the wrong here?


Flipping the bird…at Margo

Ever since Margo’s whiny “open letter to Amy Dickinson” a few weeks ago, I’ve had less and less patience with her. Especially when she’s neither sympathetic nor helpful. Like today:

Dear Margo: After 29 years together, 26 of them married, my parents are getting divorced. My father has always been a functioning alcoholic who a few years ago ceased to function. His life was down to watching TV and drinking. My mother eventually tired of his refusal to do anything and his constant complaining when he actually had to leave the house. She moved in with me while looking for a new home and has never been happier in her life. She laughs, goes out, has a few drinks two nights a week with friends, and has even started dating. My father is devastated. He drinks more, calls my mother “to make sure she’s OK” and calls me repeatedly if she doesn’t answer the phone. He lies to my younger brother (who is away at school) and tells him she drinks too much and is never home. My brother is angry and resentful with my mother and me. My father is a train wreck — he has admitted he was unhappy before she left, but doesn’t understand why they shouldn’t be miserable together. I’ve begged him to talk to someone, but he “doesn’t want to air their dirty laundry.” My mother tries to keep me out of the middle, but my father is determined to put me right there. In the process, he’s destroying our usually close family. I don’t know what to do. I love them both, but I’m being pulled in three directions!
— Tugged Too Far

Dear Tug: First, hurray for your mother. After 29 years with Jim Beam, she can at last have a life. Second, your brother, unless he was anesthetized while living at home, should know enough family history to take your word over your father’s, and if you’ve not set him straight, you should. About all you can do for your father is to tell him your mom is doing well, and now that his life is essentially ruined, he might want to consider getting some help of the AA variety.
The “dirty laundry” excuse won’t wash, pardon the pun. I believe you can end being the bird in a badminton game if you are firm in what you say. — Margo, perseveringly

Really Margo? The friggin’ birdie? What does that even mean? And in what way is getting smacked from all sides is better than getting tugged three directions? Her response is useless on multiple levels: it doesn’t make the writer feel better, it doesn’t give any concrete help and her metaphor totally falls apart (boooo!). Tell off/ignore everyone in the family? That will work well, especially since mom is living-in and dad won’t stop calling. And no suggestion of any support (friends? family? neighbors? clergy? counseling? Al-Anon?Journaling? Kick-boxing?) for this person who is clearly trying to remain the (only) stable hub in this family?

The evidence suggests this person is about my age, give or take a year or tow. Now, I don’t know much, but I know that if my parents suddenly split, my mom moved in with me, my dad was a wreck and my brother was abdicating all supportive duties by kicking and screaming in denial, I would need a LOT more guidance and a LOT more solace than Margo gives here. As Mr. Knightley says…..Badly done.

It’s not what you say….

Abby’s column this morning and the Classic Ann Landers posting for the week treated two very similar situations, and gave advice that was, for all practical purposes, identical. And yet, though I agreed with them in both cases, I found Abby’s response really off-putting. Here’s the letter, and her response:

DEAR ABBY: I am 19 and have been with my girlfriend for the last four years. I want to take a break and see what else is out there, but I don’t know how to tell her without freaking her out and making her cry. Abby, how do I tell a girl who loves me that I want to take a break and see other people? — TEEN IN MINNESOTA

DEAR TEEN: Do it in person and in plain English before you waste one more minute of her time. When you do, be sure to tell her that the reason has nothing to do with her and everything to do with you. Be prepared for the fact there may be tears. However, not every relationship is permanent, and breaking up is part of dating.

So…I don’t know. Abby is right, of course–honesty, straightforwardness, and promptness are key here. But not even a nod to the fact that they’ve been together since they were 15? And that splitting up could be–in fact almost certainly is–the best thing for both of them? She’s right to emphasize the need to just suck it up–fear of hurting the other person is a terrible reason to stay together, and I can say from personal experience that it undercuts the very honesty, straightforwardness, and promptness that would make the break as respectful, if not painless, as as possible. And I suppose that in that painful moment, it’s MORE important to emphasize the honesty and respect than to try to convince the angry and hurt party that really “this is all for your own good, too.”

But I get the feeling that Abby thinks this guy is just a jerk who’s been keeping the girl around until something better comes along, and that’s unlikely. (If it were the case, why would he be writing at all?) Dating through high school, and finding that college (or work, or travel) opens up a vast new world is an old, old story. It doesn’t have “nothing to do with her and everything to do with him.” It’s growing up and growing apart.

Ann Landers gave virtually the same advice, but with less of a slap to the face:

Dear Ann Landers: My girlfriend and I have been dating for more than a year, and we’ve been having sex for the past 10 months. We are both 18. She seems certain I will marry her, although I never actually have proposed. I guess after we had sex, she assumed we would marry.

The problem is I don’t want to continue this relationship any longer. Our personalities don’t seem to mesh the way they used to, and she is beginning to get on my nerves. But I am afraid to break it off because it would be awfully hard on her. She has no idea that my feelings have cooled.

How can I end this relationship before it’s too late? I do love my girlfriend but don’t want to spend the rest of my life with her. What’s the best way to do this without hurting her? — Hopelessly Entangled in New York

Dear New York: There are times in life when we have to be cruel to be kind. This is one of those times. Tell your girlfriend as soon as possible that you have come to the conclusion that you are both too young to be making any lifelong plans and that you want her to date other guys because you’d like to date other girls. Say, “We might end up together, but we both need to explore other options.” AND NO MORE SEX. Period.

I like that Ann acknowledges that if a person who has made no lifetime commitments wants to end a relationship because they think there are better options out there, he or she has every right to do so (without being judged–please!). And that these people are really young! “Cruel to be kind” is cliche, but it fits the bill here. Carolyn Hax always puts it in terms that I like–everyone deserves the opportunity to find someone who loves and appreciates and wants to be with them more than anything–by staying in a relationship with someone you feel mediocre (or less) about, you’re taking that opportunity away from them.

The only thing I take issue with is the “We might wind up together….” I don’t think there’s ever really any point in delivering this in the middle of a breakup, even if you really really do mean it, and in this case I don’t think the guy wanted to give that impression at all. “Our personalities don’t mesh,” “she is beginning to get on my nerves,” and “don’t want to spend the rest of my life with her.” Doesn’t sound to me like he has any interest in maybe winding up together, and to suggest that he does, and then hope she’ll forget or change her mind, does NOT soften the blow.

At 18, I ended a fairly serious relationship because I knew it just wasn’t a good match for the long term and didn’t want things to get any more serious than they already were. However, I did it clumsily, awkwardly, and out-of-the-bluishly, despite the fact that I’d been pondering and pondering and pondering it for a very long time. I think both Abby and Ann would tell me I should have been more careful with and respectful of a person who had always treated me well, and whom I, well, cared about and respected, and I should have been. I have a friend who at 21 was on the receiving end of a very painful, convoluted break up–they’d been together almost 5 years and it totally overturned her “life plan.” But now, 3 years later, she wouldn’t go back to where she was then.

Honesty and promptess are key. And there’s often no way to avoid hurt feelings. But I think that for 18, 19, 20, etc.-year-olds to wriggle out of their high school relationships is a liberation, not an irresponsible failure to commit. I didn’t do it well, and I wish I had done it better. But in terms of shaping the direction of my college experience–the people I met and the things I chose to do–it was probably one of the most important steps I took.

Happy "Out-of-line’s" Day! (pt. II): in which we hear from actual columns, not just Becky’s ranting

OK, I guess I’ll just proceed….chronologically? Which means with Amy, since she jumped the gun by publishing a V-day question yesterday. Actually not a bad idea, since it gave the person some time to adjust their plans/attitudes. This first letter is exactly the kind of Valentwhiner that drives me nuts.

Dear Amy: Well, Valentine’s Day is approaching once again, and I find myself alone. Once again.

I am a woman in my mid-30s, was briefly married many years ago and have had few relationships ever since. I feel as if I’ve tried absolutely everything to find a mate, and the results are, well, not great. Lots of dates, lots of duds.

I can’t believe I have to suffer through another Valentine’s Day with this feeling of loneliness deep in my heart.

Do you have any ideas? — Sad Single

Oh come on! This woman has this problem 365 days a year, and that’s what makes me nuts. If you’re sad about being single and desperately seeking a mate, that’s an issue of its own. It takes what really might be a sad and depressing thing (I’m trying to give her some leeway, although people who fear singleness would be happier all around if they worked to get beyond that) to the level of ridiculousness when your reasoning behind wanting a mate is “I can’t believe I have to suffer through another Valentine’s Day with this feeling of loneliness deep in my heart.” Let’s not forget that the reason we celebrate is because St. Valentine suffered through St. Valentine’s Day with feelings of horrific pain deep in his entire body. Amy wisely ignores the fact that it’s Valentine’s Day, and just treats the woman’s real issue, her desire to make herself desirable.

This is a long one, and I might have enjoyed it more if I weren’t so anti-schmoop. Basically this person advocates doing Valentine’s Day just how I think it should be done, and most enjoy it myself. But they’re just so….well, schmoopy about it. Again, I like the attitude they’re advocating. I just can’t stomach the bitterness topped with schmoop and nostalgia with which they’re advocating it.

DEAR ABBY: I clearly remember my first Valentine’s Day. I was in first grade. A few days before, my mom asked how many kids were in my class, and we went to a store and bought large packages of valentines — one for every child in the class. The cards were all the same size and said, basically, the same thing.

When I arrived at school, each classmate had a small box on his or her desk. At some point during the day, I went around the room and gave each child a valentine. [So did everyone…you’re not like the magic fairy of Valentine‘s Day…] There was one for the quiet one in the back, the most popular girl in class, the prettiest and even the boys. This was long before society taught me that such a show of affection had to exclude people of the same gender as me. By the end of the day, everyone had a full box of valentines to take home.

One desk, one box … the love of a child.

As I grew older, society taught me to narrow my offering of affection, picking only those I chose to be special or worthy. Eventually, I was taught to limit my valentines to only one person. More time went on, and then a card was not enough. To show that really special person what she meant to you, you needed to send flowers, candy and jewelry. [You don’t! You don’t!]

Apparently, as we grew older it took more and more to fill those boxes. Now we absolutely could not give to more than one person. People hire detectives to make sure that the person isn’t filling anyone else’s. [Yes, Valentine’s Day means flowers, candy, jewelry AND FIDELITY. Society is asking too much!] And if you had no one to send you anything, you were saddened by your big, empty box filled only with sadness and despair. [empty box of sadness and despair? Jeebus.]

Today, I am taking back from society what it has taken from me. [You go!] I’m counting how many people play a role in my life, and I am buying “virtual” packages of cards. I have one for every single one of you — man or woman, young or old, straight or gay, married or single. Each card is the same size, they all say the same thing — that I appreciate who you are and what you have to contribute to each other. [You could buy a pack of NON-VIRTUAL valentines and ACTUALLY SEND THEM to the people you care about….]

I invite each and every one to do the same, so that no box is empty and the shy ones, the pretty ones, the popular ones and those who are less so go home tonight with a full box of valentines.

One virtual desk, one virtual box, and the love of a child at heart. I wish you all a happy Valentine’s Day. — ERIC IN LOS ALAMITOS, CALIF.


And on to Carolyn’s live chat (my link-maker isn’t working right now, so I’ll try to link it up later), which has a number of delightful and less delightful bits and pieces from all types.

Washington, D.C.: Dear Carolyn,

My fiance (of three months) threw a lamp at me. It missed me and hit the wall leaving a big hole in it. I don’t know if he was aiming specifically for me. (He would say he wasn’t trying to hit me, and that he was just mad. We’d been fighting a little that night and he was trying to go to bed when I interrupted him.) He told me to sleep on the couch, which I did. I packed up my things and left his house the next morning. It’s been seven days now, and he has not called me to apologize, or anything. I’m almost 40, he’s 46, and I really wanted to marry this man who I still love very much. Should I forgive him, should he eventually call me to apologize profusely?

Please, what do you think I should do? It’s Valentines’s tomorrow, and I wonder if he’ll send me flowers. Pathetic, I know.

— Still holding my breath.

Oh no! Oh no! Just so you know, Carolyn puts this woman straight in touch with the appropriate services to get her safe, and help her realize that she DOES NOT WANT FLOWERS FROM THIS GUY. If Valentine’s Day can twist our minds around this much, THAT is a problem for sure.

Not as bad as a lamp, but…: My fiance and I had a big, yelling (non-violent) fight yesterday and have been cooling off, so to speak, since then. I haven’t called him and he hasn’t called me either, by mutual agreement. With Valentine’s Day tomorrow, though, I’m wondering whether I should suck up my anger and drop by with the gifts I had bought him. I don’t want to intrude on his healing space before he’s ready, what do you think?

Another one–no violence, but letting valentine’s day affect the course of the relationship–Carolyn advises her to focus on her own healing and health, and then the fiance’s, and not obsess about the stupid gifts.

And less traumatic:

Valentine’s Day: With all of these very serious issues coming up regarding Valentine’s Day, I’ll share a not-so-serious one. I work at a museum. Someone called yesterday and asked, “Are you open this Saturday, even though it’s Valentine’s Day?”


Hypertension City : My boyfriend is on a diet and trying to drop 50 pounds. For V-Day, I want to cook him a big, delicious dinner to celebrate all the progress he’s made–and also just because the dish I’m making is one of his favorite dinners. I don’t mean it as sabotage, just a nice thing to do for him. Is this sort of morally wrong of me?

Carolyn suggests it is at least unsupportive, and that gifts of food should support the new lifestyle change that losing 50 pounds involves.

and again with the Valentwhiners:

Getting a Grip on Valentine’s Day: Any advice for how the single with no prospects 30-something can get through this weekend without silently going postal?

Carolyn Hax: Welllll … you can remind yourself that it’s silly, and that it’s celebrated with the most gusto by people under 7 years old … which actually makes it very not silly, but you get what I mean.

And, if that doesn’t stick, then I would suggest using tonight and tomorrow to reach out to people who could really use the attention you want so badly to receive. A local hospital, senior center, homeless shelter, food bank–place a few calls to see who’d be happy for a couple of extra hands. Even if tomorrow is too soon to plan for a visit, you can spend the day making/gathering/buying something to deliver next weekend.

Thank you Carolyn!!!!!! And this guy :

New York, NY: Why not make a few valentines cards for veterans at a local VA hospital? Most of the guys that live there are widowers or don’t have a lot of family/friends left. A card (or a visit, even better) makes a huge difference in their week.

And another:

30-something with no prospects: I understand the advice to look outside yourself when you are feeling lonely, but please don’t dismiss the 30-something question as a matter of seeking attention. It’s more anxiety than that — it’s worrying whether you will ever meet the right person, whether you will ever have the children you want, whether you’ll be able to afford a home on a single income, etc. It can be a hopeless feeling (I was 30-something with no prospects once too). And Valentine’s Day just makes it more in-your-face.

Carolyn Hax: I know. I do understand. But I think you misread my answer–I wasn’t referring to attention-seeking of the look-at-me variety, I was referring to the loving attention of an Other. It’s an ache for something you can’t just go out and get. The best I can suggest, in those cases, is to give, which is something you can control. That’s all I meant by it.

That, and to try to detach it from the holiday.

Exactly! All of these problems are real, but have nothing to do with Feb. 14.

And to wrap up:

Single and V-Day: I’ve always been single on Valentines Day. I’ve come to think of it like a Jewish holiday. I’m Catholic so I don’t celebrate them but I think those who do should celebrate with gusto.


Oh—probably should explain the title. Carolyn coined “Out of line’s Day” because so many of the issues that came up in her chat (most of them unrelated to V-Day actually) involved people being totally, unreasonably, irrationally out of line.

And with that–enjoy (or don’t) your day in the manner to which you are accustomed!

Happy "Out-of-line’s" Day! (courtesy of Carolyn)

Valentine’s Day is here which, along with Christmas and wedding season, seems to be for advice columnists what tax season is to accountants. (Hm…I thought it was a clever analogy but I didn’t express it very efficiently. Alas.) Today’s post will feature a selection of Valentine’s Day questions and concerns published in the last couple of days. The issues vary…it’s a real hodgepodge.

Before we begin, I’d like to lay out my Valentine’s Day perspective (even though most people reading this blog have already heard it 100 times…). I really like that Valentine’s Day exists, and choose to celebrate it mostly like second grader: giving out lots of cards and consuming lots of candy. My favorite part of Valentine’s Day each year is when I get a Valentine from my grandma with $1 in it. It’s completely inexplicable, the amount has never been adjusted for age or inflation, and I love love love it every year. This year my $1 will support the purchase of a pitcher of beer at “Bad Decision Thursday” happy hour. The picture is me celebrating uber-classy Valentine’s Day 2007 at the Pub II in Bloomington Illinois. With my friend’s husband, Adam. Which isn’t as sketchy as it sounds.

I’ve spent Valentine’s Days with SOs and without and like the platonic, widespread cards’n’candy part the best no matter my status (more on this later from an Abby contributor). That being said, I have nothing against people who choose to do hearts and flowers and jewelry (although I admit escalating it to a day of “hard” gifts–metal and jewels–is a bit excessive). If that’s what you like, do it.

What drives me NUTS around V-Day are the aggressive, bitter folk who 1) “don’t know how they’re supposed to get through ANOTHER Valentine’s Day in this state of lonely singleness” and 2) Bitch and moan that they hate Valentine’s Day and think it’s a stupid overcommercialized holiday in which they’re pressured to spend too much money and express their love in artificial ways. Because really? You’re not. If you want to do it, do it. If not–don’t, and enjoy the half-off candy the next day (more on this attitude later from Carolyn’s live chat).

So that’s the view from where I’m standing…on to the remaining perspectives! Hm, this post got a little long, so maybe I’ll post the contributors separately. Yes, I will.

(Not) Kissing Cousins

This delightful person was published in Ask Amy this morning:

Dear Amy: Please help me think generous thoughts regarding an invitation to a wedding “reception” I just received from a cousin in another state. All my siblings got an invitation, even the one who lives 1,000 miles away.
We cousins rarely meet up. We all have little kids, and it’s a no-kids evening reception, a three-hour drive from our homes, with no indication that a baby-sitter will be provided, though a motel’s business card was included with the invitation.
This couple is not young. They’ve been married for a few months now, so it’s just a reception at a VFW, and at that late hour, dinner is probably not even included.
If she really wanted more distant relatives to attend, she would have planned a more hospitable event, right? Or she could have sent an announcement — to let us off the hook.
I probably will send something out of a sense of obligation, but my heart’s not in it. At least no registry junk was in the envelope. But honestly, isn’t this invitation just a grasp for gifts?

— Hunting for Good Will

JEEBUS! Really? I guess this means I can cut from my list all those people our parents want us to invite–I mean God knows I don’t want them to feel obligated. This person is a real pill. “If she really wanted more distant relatives to attend, she would have planned amore hospitable event, right?” Yes. Because the wedding reception is actually designed to be dinner and a show, a free date for you with babysitting for your children. Given the attitude this person is displaying, I find it hard to believe the couple would even want them there. Likely they invited them NOT for the gifts, but to placate either their own parents or the cousins’ parents (B&G’s aunts and uncles). And most likely they invited the most distant one because they felt it would be rude to include some but not all of one group of cousins.

I have to say the whole thing is even MORE distasteful precisely the because B&G seem to be having a reasonable, well-contained event. This letter doesn’t say anything about their personalities or tastes, but for an older (well, not overly young) couple to have a late evening reception at the VFW several months after their wedding (elopment? Destination wedding?) suggests a low-key, informal, fun and festive celebration with friends. They didn’t include their registration stuff with the invitation because they’re NOT tacky and trolling for gifts. And because you’re never ever supposed to. Just because you get together “rarely” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the effort at major events like weddings and funerals…though if I were the B I would be praying this sourpuss didn’t show. Or even send a gift, because I know my thank you note would be misconstrued and judged.

Also, this is the second condescending mention of a “VFW wedding” I’ve come across in less than 24 hours (the other one was in a Carolyn Hax chat transcript from 1999, but still). I didn’t know there was such a rage against holding the reception in a VFW. I mean, if you’ve had lifelong dreams of your princess wedding, it might not be ideal–but then no one’s FORCING you to do it there–you could be at a park, a restaurant, someone’s home–work it out. If you’re a GUEST commenting on the lameness of a VFW wedding….you have no soul.

The cousin has kids and speaks in the royal/married “we,” so likely has been through a wedding of her own–perhaps she’s harboring bitter memories about it? The gift she didn’t get from this cousin? Or the fact that she cut this cousin because she couldn’t afford to host her, and now feels like she’s being shown up and judged because she HAS been invited to this one? Who knows??

Thanks, Amy, for telling this person off:

Dear Hunting: Please forgive this couple for having the nerve to invite you to a party to celebrate their wedding. Evidently this event is not to your liking, but I have been to many rollicking good parties at the VFW, featuring beer, chicken wings, music and dancing. This modest party might be all the couple can afford, and if so, then they should be commended for adhering to a reasonable budget.
If you don’t want to attend this reception, then don’t. If you don’t want to send a gift, then don’t. But don’t blame this couple for throwing a party and inviting you to it. That’s just rude.

The Lunch Crowd

From Miss Manners:

Dear Miss Manners: I am appalled that on more than several occasions, I have had friends, family or employers assume that since they don’t have lunch (during an entire day when I’m helping them), neither do I.

At the very least, I would like them to state, “I don’t have lunch, but you’re welcome to do so at this time, if you chose.” I don’t think it’s my place to bring it up, since I’m on their turf.
I end up very starving and very angry. In my opinion, it’s highly disrespectful to assume that someone who is helping you has no interest in lunch. I would never let a friend, relative or employee go without lunch, and I am amazed that people even consider conducting themselves in this manner.

Gentle Reader: Feeling grouchy, are we? Have a sandwich; you’ll feel better.
Miss Manners cannot offer you one at the moment, but she can offer you the means to get one. Simply ask, “When are we breaking for lunch?” While your hosts certainly should have offered, it is not odd for you to ask because, you point out, lunch is part of the normal routine.
Should the answer be “Oh, I never have lunch,” you can cheerfully reply, “Well, I do, so I think I’ll take a break and go get some.” In cases where you are doing a favor, you might add,
“So maybe we should break for the day.”

I can definitely see this from both sides of the (lunch) table. I get cranky when I don’t eat and need to if I’m to maintain my sanity and to keep working through the day. But I’m also known for not breaking for official meals. I’ll snack or graze, or decide to take lunch at 4:30 or something, and tend to feel constricted by folk who need to stop and sit down with a sandwich, a milk carton, an apple, and a cookie at precisely noon for Lunch. Nevertheless, the folks who do are smarter than I am: they know they need the break and the fuel, and take it. Everyone’s different and runs on a different schedule.

I have to say though, that as a sporadic eater who half the time forgets to feed herself, it can be exhausting to keep track of which people you’re working/socializing with need to eat specific meals at specific times and make plans to meet all of their needs. As Miss Manners suggests, if this is you, I think you should just say so and take care of it yourself. (This is different when you’re a guest somewhere and your host has the responsibility for making sure you have the things you need–this can still wear me out as hostess because I forget–not because I’m evil and sadistic–but it’s still my job and one I took on).

When you’re working on a project together (at work or with friends or relatives) it’s your own job to stand up for yourself and eat when you need to–don’t expect others to take care of it for you. Especially “during an entire day when [you’re] helping them”–these kind of help-days are more common, I think, with older relatives. They may not feel the need to eat as much, or may not have the means to treat you to lunch. Alternatively, workaholics may get so into what they’re doing they have no idea how much time has passed.

Just as you shouldn’t have to skip lunch to accommodate them, they shouldn’t have to stop working and eat because you want to. Just eat (or don’t) as you choose!