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Picky, Picky

9 Sep

Letterbalm Knife and ForkDear LetterBalm: I’m a fussy eater. Some foods upset my stomach, some make me ill or cause me to break out in a rash. I’m out on my own and have no trouble going out to eat with friends and colleagues. I know what to order and what to avoid and nobody thinks anything of it. Same thing when I cook for others. The trouble is my family. They pester me unmercifully (“Well, what CAN you eat?” “Why can’t you eat this?”) and draw attention to my problem at the table. Holidays are a horror for me. I always bring something I can eat for the whole table and make it an attractive dish. I don’t expect special treatment – I’m perfectly content taking small portions or loading up on bread or lettuce salad. But my family insists on pointing it out. They should know better because I’ve been this way most of my life, and I’ve had a lot of tests for allergies and other food-related conditions. What can I say to end this embarrassing situation?

–Not a Foodie

You sound like you’re doing everything right about your food circumstance. You’re not making a big deal out of it, you’re contributing a dish that you and everyone will enjoy and you’re opting to eat simply if you’re presented with offending foods. Your family can be given a (small) benefit of the doubt: Food, especially during holidays, assumes social importance and bonding. Loved ones gather around the dining table, the grill, the restaurant table as much for love and laughter as for eating. But your family is way out of line to single you out and browbeat you. Ms. L.B. suggests you walk out if things get too heavy and go to a friend-in-reserve who’ll welcome you with no judgment. In the meantime, calmly read your family the riot act (not at the table), but after so many years, it’s unlikely it will work:

Family, I need to talk with you once and for all about my food allergies and problems. You’ve known about them all my life, and you persist in harassing me at the table. This is hurtful and rude, especially as I can’t control it and I’m trying to cope and not draw attention to it. Please understand once and for all, I’m not criticizing or insulting your cooking. I just can’t eat a lot of foods because they make me sick. Doctors have told me, and you know it. If you don’t stop badgering me, you’ll force me to leave the table and go to a friend’s house, every time. Worst-case scenario? I’ll stop coming to family dinners altogether. Now, what’s it going to be?



8 Sep

Dear LetterBalm: Once a year, I get together with old high school friends I’ve known since the 1980s. A few of them come back to our town for Thanksgiving. I’ve always secretly liked one of the guys, but he’s never expressed an interest in me. But last Thanksgiving he started flirting with me. I’ve been thinking of him ever since, and this November I think we’re going to make our move. I told a girlfriend about my plan, and she said it wasn’t a good idea because he’s in a bad marriage and it would just complicate things. Besides, I have a longtime boyfriend, but things are kinda dead between us. Now I need to know what to do about this guy. What should I do?

–Confused Wannabe Girlfriend

Confused? My dear, you’re positively addled. You’re drawing close to entering affair mode. You’re reaching out to flirt with an unattainable guy and not telling your partner about it. How would you feel if he secretly got together with an old crush and didn’t tell you?  You need to answer some questions. Why do you need to go outside your relationship for thrills? What does this suggest about what you and your guy have? What are the symptoms? And, don’t go sniffing around the other guy, who isn’t a good bet (your girlfriend gave you invaluable advice).  Ms. L.B. advises you to work on the relationship you have. If it’s truly “kinda dead”, then end it. If your old friend from decades ago decides to flirt, quash it. Say something like this, short and sweet:

Kevin, last year we flirted, which was fun but an unwise thing to do. It was unfair to our partners. You’re married, I’m in a longtime relationship. Let’s stick with friendship and leave everything else alone.

Labor Day 2015

4 Sep

Letterbalm Labor DayWell, the warm days of summer are drawing to a close with the third big national holiday. Another lovely reason for grilling and friends around the campfire. As she munches on family-recipe barbecued chicken this weekend, Ms. L.B. will ponder the meaning of labor and the satisfaction of work done well, no matter how humble. Look for LetterBalm to resume, philosophically, on Tuesday.