May 30, 2024
A rude reply comes to mind. What should I say instead?

Dear Amy: Often when I meet someone new, they’ll ask me if I have children. When I say no, they will then ask if I have pets.

I’m always tempted to ask them why they think a dog or cat can replace a child, but since I know that would be rude, I keep my mouth shut.

Do you have any suggestions for something I can say to them that would indicate their question is inappropriate, without sounding rude?

– Childless, Petless, and Happy

Dear Childless: Like you, I do wonder about the great leap from raising children to raising animals, but, unlike you, I don’t necessarily think this is a rude query.

The overall category here is: “Living Things: Sharing Space With.”

It sounds as if these new people are trying to find some common ground as a way to try to get to know you.

Approximately two-thirds of Americans do have pets in their homes, and so there is a likelihood that this question would lead to a conversation, instead of you thinking their interest or curiosity is inappropriate.

One way to respond to a query you don’t feel like addressing directly is to respond: “Hmmm, that’s an interesting question. Why do you ask? It sounds like maybe you have pets?”

Or you can end this awkwardness and possibly segue into a more interesting conversation the way you’ve signed your own query, by saying: “I’m childless, petless, and happy! How about you?”

Dear Amy: My husband of 50 years died over two years ago. I was happy and content with my single life and have had no interest in dating.

Last year I went on a group trip to Spain. There were several single older people on the tour. I was totally shocked when a gentleman asked me to join him for lunch when we returned home.

Both our spouses had died at about the same time, and we had a lot of similar interests.

Over the last year we have become great companions.

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The trouble is that one of my daughters is adamant about not wanting to meet him.

I am not interested in marriage, only friendship.

He has no local family. I would like to have him meet her family and I’d like to have him celebrate with us for holidays.

She says that she will let me know when she is ready.

I feel very bad that I have to exclude my friend when my daughter is around.

I am sure that she would not come to my home for Thanksgiving if he was invited.

How should I handle this situation?

– Sad Mom

Dear Sad: Your daughter has told you that she will meet your male friend when she is ready. So – take her at her word.

You might not be able to knit this group together the way you’d like to in the time frame you’d prefer.

You do not have to exclude your friend when your daughter is around, thus letting your daughter control your friendship.

Your daughter can make her choices based on her own preferences and priorities.

I hope you will talk with her about this. Reassure her that you have no desire to replace her father and have no thoughts of marrying again. This gentleman and you have both lost spouses, and this friendship has helped you to move through your loss. Ask your daughter to share her own feelings or fears about this relationship, and listen with compassion. (Would she respond this way if you enjoyed companionship with a female friend?)

And then – move forward. Before inviting him to spend the holidays with your family, you should start with an invitation for coffee, and ask your daughter to join you. If your daughter won’t share this time with him, be patient and trust that she will come around when she is ready.

Dear Amy: “Bugged in a Small Town” was repeatedly called by the wrong name, despite repeatedly correcting the woman who did it.

I once had a boss who had the exact same name as me. She chose to call me by a different name (one more “ethnic”).

She kept this up until I started calling her by this same name when addressing her.

She informed me that it was not her name. I told her it was not mine either, and because we had the same name it shouldn’t be so hard for her to remember it.

That cured her.

— No Longer Bugged

Dear No Longer Bugged: Instant cure. Good for you.

You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.

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