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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Life's Little Etiquette Rules

Have you had it with picky eaters? Learn how to be more patient with guests, kids, your friends and even your family members.

Don't let picky eaters ruin your dinner party plans.

Life's Little Etiquette Conundrums
Q: I've had it with picky eaters. I try to plan a holiday menu only to hear we can't have this dish because so-and-so won't eat cheese or can't stand onions. It's not like I'm serving liver. Should I tell these folks to just eat normally—or bend to their wishes?

A: Ah, the lacto-ovo vegetarian. The gluten-free. The caffeine-free. The zero-carber and the low-fatter. You simply can't accommodate the diverse needs of today's eaters! Tell them beforehand about the menu. Make sure no one is allergic to anything. Then say, "I'll be sure to put sauces and dressings on the side, in case anyone doesn't like them." Listen, if people choose to follow strict dietary rules, it's up to them to figure out how to get fed. Enjoy the company, and realize that if anyone goes home hungry, it's not your fault.

Q: My neighbor's daughter is seven months older than my four-year-old, and until recently, they got along very well. The other girl has started being mean and ignoring my daughter. At first, I chalked it up to "kids will be kids," but then my neighbor rescheduled her daughter's birthday party without telling us the new date (I heard about it through the grapevine). My daughter keeps asking, "When are we going to the party?" My heart aches for her, and it hurts my feelings too. Should I say something?
A: It sounds like your family is getting dumped. But before you confront a woman whose kid is mean to yours, determine if this temporary separation is not actually a blessing. Four-year-olds will change a million times in a million different ways. Let the friendship develop—or not—in its own good time. In the meantime, busy your child with other playmates. Your actions will show her that real friendship isn't something you beg for or demand.

Q: I have a friend who wants me to do everything with him. He'll call me to see if I'm busy. If I'm not, he'll shout, "Pack your bags! We're going camping!" He'll ask me to take pictures with my cell phone so he can see where I am. I'd like to keep him as a friend, but I'm suffocating. What can I tell him?
--Enough Already

A: I'm suffocating just reading your letter. Your friend needs more friends. You can't possibly provide all the attention he needs. Stop doing all the stuff that feels wrong. Taking pictures of what you're doing? Just stop! Gently guide him into clubs, sports, any activities that he enjoys and would widen his circle. If he's a true friend, he'll be able to take it when you say, "You're smothering me."

Q: My 41-year-old husband and his former coworker (a 28-year-old woman) text each other on their personal cell phones. When I confronted him, he told me young people text all the time and she feels comfortable texting him because they are "related" (she's married to my sister-in-law's husband's brother; we see one another once a year). On this month's phone bill, I saw that he had texted her while he was on a hunting trip and during his drive to work. I feel betrayed. He says he loves me and only me and would not cheat with her. Should I be worried?
--Not LOL

A: Icky, icky. I don't like this at all. Texting hubby needs to fess up—probably to himself first. He's getting a thrill out of all the attention from Little Miss Instant Message. Confront him again. If he denies the tingle, ask him if he would agree to start texting you instead of her when he's driving his car or hunting deer (neither sounds very safe to me, by the way). He may reject this as an uninteresting proposal. This is where you say, "Honey, you've got a problem, and now we do too."

Q: I had a wonderful mother-in-law, so I've tried to treat my own daughter-in-law with the same warmth. But after four years, she still runs hot and cold. One week, she needs my help and everything is fine, but if I don't respond or smile at the right moment, my son calls to cancel whatever plans we had. I'm ready to give up.

A: Warmth is born of profound respect for others. It doesn't sound like either of you has it for each other—yet. Emulating your own mother-in-law does not obligate your daughter-in-law to act in any particular way. Go ahead and grieve that you can't simply replicate an earlier relationship, and give this chilly new relationship more time to thaw.

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