The Cringe Worthy

Q
I want to know if I'm the only one that is bothered by this....one of my biggest pet peeves!!! Why is it that people think it's o.k. to call you, sweetie, honey, dear, etc when they don't even know you? I had one waitress call me sweet heart!!!! It feels like they are patronizing me. It also seems to be going on a lot these days. How can you let the person know you dislike it without being rude, which I have been at times.
Anonymous
A

As tempting as it is, I would avoid the obvious snarky replies: “No problem, Poopsie.” or “I’m not your sweetheart!”   Most of the time, pet names are just misguided niceties and responding rudely is too aggressive, like in your waitress example.  But that doesn’t mean you should have to put up with feeling demeaned.  Instead, say in a really friendly way, “My name’s [Alexandra].  Nice to meet you.” Shake the person’s hand, get their name, and at the very worst you’ve put a halt to their “endearments”; at best, you’ve just made a new acquaintance.

Now, if you’re not much for confrontation, I’d say the same advice goes for those times when “baby cakes” is coming from someone less benign (like the dirty old man I’m always running into at the gym).  You’re not likely to change their actions and taking the high road will be the simplest way to get your point across.  But, if your self-control wanes for a moment, and something a bit harsher just happens to slip out, I don’t think anyone would fault you. 


Q
I was out at a bar a few nights ago when I saw my married cousin with another woman. He saw me, too and we said hello, but he didn't introduce me and they left when I went to get a drink. We're not hang-out-together buddies, but I definitely see him and his family during the holidays: what the hell do I do?
Anonymous
A

I mean, at the end of the day, you don’t really know that he was cheating on his wife.  There are a million weird reasons he could have been there with another woman.  Maybe your cousin has an open relationship with his wife.  Maybe she was just a coworker, but he thought it looked like he was cheating and he got awkward.  Maybe she was a jeweler he was hiring to create the beautiful ring his wife had always wanted….yeah…maybe…

But okay, chances are good that something seedy was going on.  Even if you caught him with his hand on her ass, though, my advice would stay the same – don’t do anything.  You don’t have enough insight into his marriage to be able to really assess the merits or consequences of outing him.  You don’t want a ruined marriage on your conscience and you DEFINITELY don’t want the decade of awkward family get-togethers that are sure to follow regardless of what happens. You will not turn out to be the good guy in this situation.  Live and let live.  And enjoy your Thanksgiving turkey guilt-free – you have no responsibility here.


Q
I work in a pretty small office and we just hired a new employee to assist one of the more senior employees. This assistant was just relocated to sit right next to me and i recently discovered she possess all of the annoying attributes that i believed a single human could not possess. She talks incredibly slowly, talks and mumbles to herself and drags her feet as she walks. Now, this wouldn't be such a big deal but she now sits right next to me and i can't deal with her anymore. Please help!
Anonymous
A

There isn’t much you can get away with saying without making enemies with zombie-lady and you’d probably still be putting up with her muttering. I assume the option to move desks doesn’t exist or you would have settled into your new cubicle faster than this woman could say good-bye.   I want there to be an easy solution to your problem, but there just isn’t.  Annoying colleagues are part of life’s deal. 

So, remember that New Year’s resolution you had for self-improvement?  Here’s your chance.  Think about the most patient person you know and channel their energy.  Make an effort to get to know your new co-worker and find some things to like about her- it’ll help counter-balance her annoying qualities.  And at the very least, once you have a rapport with her, you can get away with letting her know you get distracted when she talks to herself without her feeling attacked. 

If that doesn’t work, just be glad you don’t have to work with this woman.


Q
recently, a co-worker - who i saw as a mentor/father-like figure - told me he had feelings for me and kissed me. it took me by surprise, which is why i let the kiss happen for a minute. i made an excuse and left; but he keeps calling. my feelings for him are so confused. i mean, i'm definitely NOT interested in him romantically. he's 30 years older than me AND married with children - but i did respect him, and feel so let down by this incident. seeing him at work will be awkward. what do i do?
Anonymous
A

Isn’t it unbelievable how someone else can behave totally inappropriately and yet you are the one left feeling awkward and like you need to be the one to set things right?     Don’t get me wrong, it’s understandable to feel the way you do - but it is not fair.   Take this guy to task and make him responsible for the consequences of his actions.  You’ve done nothing wrong here and shouldn’t have to be worried about figuring out the next move.

Let Mr. Married with Children know that you have no romantic feelings for him and that you feel taken advantage of.  Then outline the terms of communication that would make you feel most comfortable (e.g. work-related emails and discussion only).  Let him know that if he continues to pursue you, you’ll have to notify someone at work.  Hopefully, once you clear up where you stand, you’ll be a bit more at ease in the office.

I know this doesn’t address your feelings of betrayal and confusion – it sucks, but that’s something that will take a little more time.  My guess is that this guy allowed himself to misinterpret your friendship for something more in an attempt to fill unhappiness in his life.  He had probably convinced himself that you might feel the same, and didn’t consider how hurt you could be.  It was selfish and wrong, but hopefully it’s easier to move on when you see his transgression as something more pathetic than malicious.  


Q
my coworker nat and i struck up a close flirty friendship and after a off-site boozy office happy hour briefly held hands before parting. we each are happily in loving relationships of 10 or more years, but the friendship may have gotten too close: when nat went on vacation I got a gchat saying he/she was in love with me and though i was happily unavailable if anywhere in my mind i had doubts he/she wanted us to be together. I don't though, I just enjoy nat's friendship - what do I do?
Anonymous
A

Sounds like you’re in a bit of denial here.  Nat isn’t in a happily loving relationship- he/she (we’ll say he for brevity’s sake) is offering to dump his gf for you.  And yes, you enjoy Nat’s friendship - who doesn’t love it when someone is pining after them, especially someone you connect with as a person.  

I get it - sexual tension with a forbidden friend is a thrill - and makes going to work a bit more exciting.  But your situation with Nat came to a head- there’s no more pretending that your friendship is just playfully innocent.  You’ve got to make it crystal clear with Nat that you want to be in your current relationship and don’t want to be with him.  You can continue to be nice to Nat, but distance yourself a bit and stop with the flirting- its not fair for anybody. 

You’re going to keep on meeting people that you could potentially spark with and that “new relationship” feeling is an exciting thing.  But unfortunately its the tradeoff for being in a stable, long-term relationship.  Tempting yourself with flirty friendships is only going to distract you from the “happily” part of your unavailability. 


Q
How do i know if my new coworker likes me? I'm a dude and so is he. I'm not interested in dating him, i just want to know if this is something i need to address.
Anonymous
A

You don’t need to address it, at least not directly.  Consider:

Scenario #1: He likes you.  You call him out on it.  He reacts the way most people do when they get rejected: immaturely, angrily, and/or passive aggressively.  Your time at work just got less enjoyable.  

Scenario #2: He doesn’t like you.  You let him know you think he does.  He reacts the way most people would when they are accused of coming on to someone they weren’t: standoffish, defensive and like you’re a narcissist.  Again, not the ideal work environment.

Give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s just a friendly guy.  When he’s acting borderline flirty, respond matter of factly and change the topic to something more comfortable for you.  Keep doing that and he’s likely to adapt his behavior accordingly.

Caveat: I’m assuming this guy isn’t doing anything that would be considered sexual harassment, in which case, it doesn’t matter if he likes you or not, you need to put him in his place or file a complaint with HR.


Q
Dear Layla - I lent my good friend a few hundred dollars to pay her rent. When we discussed it she said she'd pay me back within a few months. It's been almost a year, and I see her often enough, and we talk about it, but she still hasn't paid. I feel bad continuing to pry because she suffered a car accident last year that has damaged her memory, both short and long term, and is really sensitive about forgetting things. How can I get my money back while not hurting her feelings?
Anonymous
A

Jeesh, that car accident really throws in a curveball.  However, if you guys still talk about it, sounds like its not her forgetfulness to blame.  She may just be too stressed out about her medical issues to focus on paying you back.  

You need to get closure on this issue so you can move on with the friendship without feeling taken advantage of.  Next time you guys are together, tell her that you’d like to come to a decision about the money so that you don’t have to keep discussing it.  If she’s unable to pay you back right now, consider letting her off the hook if you aren’t strapped for cash.  You’d probably end up feeling guilty forcing her to come up with the money anyways.  If she can pay you, decide on a timeline and the best way to make it happen that doesn’t involve you having to remind her.  

No matter what happens, don’t let it ruin your friendship. A good rule of thumb when lending money to a close family or friend is to assume you will never get it back.  Good friends are worth more than the cost of a nice pair of shoes - and sounds like this girl could use a break.


Q
There are always shit stains on the toilet in our office bathroom. It's almost as if he shits sitting backwards on the seat. I wasn't sure who it was until a week ago when it was only me and one other guy in the office and it happened. It's really gross and I want him confront him, but I'm not sure how to bring it up. Ideas?
Anonymous
A

I mentioned this to a friend, who told me that sometimes his male parts hit the front of the toilet bowl when he’s sitting- which adds an even grosser element to the issue.

But, I digress…go out, buy a toilet brush and place it in a prominent position in the bathroom with a note: “Please clean up your tracks!”  If that doesn’t work, try a more subtle confrontation to minimize the awkwardness.  Tell him you’re sick of the toilet being messy and ask him if he’ll join you in trying to keep it clean.