DEAR MISS MANNERS: My boyfriend is an elderly man. He is truly nice, but he is also snide. His comments are sometimes hurtful and ongoing.
If I reply in kind, we both get upset.
I have told him it bothers me, but he just says, “I worked in construction all my life, and that’s just how us men talk.” Suggestions?
GENTLE READER: There is a lot of trouble “them men” have gotten themselves into with just such an excuse, and it is no longer tolerable.
Miss Manners suggests you tell your boyfriend as much: “That is not how I wish to be treated, so if we are going to continue this relationship, your attitude will have to change. If I am hurt, I expect an apology and subsequent change of behavior.”
Unfortunately, he may tell you that his stubbornness outweighs your need for him to change. If that is the case, Miss Manners suggests you put some serious thought into whether or not it is worth it to keep him.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a slightly older friend, a very dear and loving woman, who often seems very anxious over a plethora of small things, including anything in my life that she deems worrying.
I bought a house, and during that lengthy process, she called frequently to inquire about how it was going. It was as if I could hear her mentally wringing her hands. Now my moving date is set, and she has repeatedly insisted I allow her to help me pack, unpack, lay shelf liner, clean the bathroom and cook.
I don’t look forward to having a casual friend going through boxes of my personal items or generally being underfoot while I’m deciding where things should go, etc. I have two healthy adult daughters and sons-in-law who are providing any help I require.
I have repeatedly responded to her offers by saying, “Oh, Sally, I’d really enjoy it if you’d just come over and have a cup of coffee with me and see the house. Please don’t bother cooking, or even think about cleaning the bathroom!”
Her response is something like she “just might have to help, whether I want her to or not.” I have stomach issues that make me very careful about what I eat, so I particularly don’t want her to bring food I won’t be able to eat, which would make her feel awful.
I realize she wants to feel useful. None of her children live here; she is in her early 70s and mostly retired.
I’m trying to think of what I could do to let her feel helpful, as this is clearly so important to her, without feeling like I have my mother hovering over me or invading my personal space.
GENTLE READER: Why not go out instead?
“You know what would really help? A break from all of this moving and unpacking. Let’s go for lunch or a walk so that I can take my mind off all of this.”
Your friend may still well ask to see the new house — and Miss Manners leaves it up to your discretion to oblige. But please make sure that there are firm reservations or appointments in place so that your friend cannot linger and end up rearranging the furniture.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.