OTHER PEOPLE'S PROBLEMS 

OTHER PEOPLE'S PROBLEMS

Listen: My friend does this thing. Every time we go out anywhere, she’ll bite on her straw. When she’s finished with her drink, she’ll twist the straw around in her mouth, use it to point to people, or chew on it until it’s soggy plastic pulp and then throw it on the table. If she doesn’t want a drink, she’ll ask for just the straw and do the same thing. It is disgusting. I want to say something, but I don’t think she’ll take it well. Any advice? Okay: That’s gross. Really. I used to have this friend who would, after eating, pluck a hair from her head and use it as dental floss. At the table. This was a habit that looked rather unappetizing (of course she wouldn’t wait until you were done eating) and it wasn’t very good for her hairline, either. So we took a stand. One time she ate her last bite of corn or whatever, plucked the hair and began to seesaw it back and forth on her front teeth and someone said, “HEATHER! Stop that! It’s disgusting. If you’re going to do that, at least take it to the bathroom.” Heather became offended and enraged by the outburst. She felt like we were attacking her, which of course, we were. There was a scene -- hardly the thing you want in a nice restaurant -- and a few weeks of non-speaking. In looking back (so that you can look forward), it seems to me the best answer would not have been to wait until it was annoying the crap out of everyone, but to say something as early as possible. And perhaps to say something that didn’t start out as an indictment. I n fact, I think the best way to go about this is to let your little Miss Manners know that you find this habit of her this side of repulsive, but to not make a big deal out of it. It’s like if someone has a split in their pants or spinach in their teeth. If your buddy’s butt is out in the breeze, for instance, you’ve got the option of not telling them and sparing them the embarrassment of knowing that you noticed. At the same time, when (or if) they realize it themselves later, they’ll be more embarrassed, but buoyed by the secret hope that “maybe nobody saw.” Because of course, they’d say to themselves, if those people are my friends, they’d tell me, right? To spare me the embarrassment of the whole world seeing my whole world? The best option of all would be to act like it’s no big deal and hand them your jacket to put around their waist. That’s a perfect world scenario, but they’re less embarrassed, you’re less embarrassed, and they’re not at home wondering why nobody told them. That wasn’t the best analogy, but maybe you can see where I’m going. She orders a drink and starts to chew on the straw and you pull out a pack of gum and hand her a piece with a few gentle words of ïdon’t do that ever again.’ And if that doesn’t work, go ahead and use the first approach and wait for the fall out. The confrontation wasn’t pretty, but believe me, seeing Heather heading to the bathroom with a roll of dental floss was. Listen: The other day my boyfriend and I were talking and I said something about our future. I’ve been seeing him for about eight months and I guess I assumed that we were going the same direction. I was wrong. He looked at me and said, “You realize this can’t go anywhere, right?” I said no and asked why and he pointed to his Hebrew name engraved on the ring he always wears. I didn’t understand and he said, “I’m Jewish. You’re not. When I get married, it’s going to be with someone Jewish.” I couldn’t believe he would say something like that. We had a huge fight about it. I told him that our religion wouldn’t matter as long as we loved each other, but he disagreed. Now we’ve broken up, but I want him back. How can I make him understand that we can stay together despite our differences? Okay: Religion is a funny thing. For those who don’t have it, it’s just a strange word encompassing weird beliefs, silly rituals, and self-righteousness on the part of others. For those who do have it, on the other hand, it’s at least a small part of who they are, if not something they remain vested in down to their core being. Or so I’ve heard. I mean, have you read the news lately? Religion’s sticky fingerprints are all over the international conflicts of the world right now. You’ve got believers versus non-believers who think they are the real true believers, etc., etc., etc. You want a reconciliation? Try telling that to Israel and Palestine. And good luck. That’s not to make light of their situation or yours; I’m just trying to show how centuries worth of religion dissidence can play out. Even if you don’t think so or you can’t see the importance, you and your boyfriend have a bit of that same religious dissidence. He might want to marry inside the faith because of religious reasons, but at the same time, he might also just acknowledge that being different faiths and trying to be life partners isn’t always the easiest path to hoe. It’s hard to share a life if you don’t share a belief on what life is. What I’m saying is, let it be. You think that your love should conquer all your differences. That certainly could happen if both of you were willing to make sacrifices for each other. (Warning, this might sting a bit) There might be a woman out there whom he would fall so crazily in love with that she would become more important to him than his religion, but you’re not it. If you were, we wouldn’t be having this strange dialogue. It is a little upsetting that his religious beliefs didn’t make him feel compelled to tell you the truth about all this from the beginning. I mean, his religion influences his marital choices, but he couldn’t be up front enough to share that little secret with you? At this point, I would just remind him that everything you do comes back to you threefold or tenfold (depending on your school of thought). And maybe you’ll realize one day that this break-up is probably the best thing for both of you. If only someone could’ve fixed the Israeli Palestinian thing this early on ...

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