Advice Column

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"If a friend is in trouble, don't annoy him by asking if there's anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it." --Howe

Chatter at School Bus Stop Turns to Uncomfortable Money Questions 

(taken from 2/4/20 "Dear Abby")

 

LETTER: I need help dealing with a neighbor problem. "Diane" and I have been neighbors for five years. We both have daughters in elementary school who ride the bus. At the bus stop, Diane always manages to point out something about my daughter or me that makes me uncomfortable. She'll ask things like, "Are those new shoes?" "I like that jacket. Was it expensive?" "You have a new hairdo; did it cost much?" Or "Wow, how can you afford such nice clothes for your daughter?" "Are those new jeans? How much were they?"

I find her prying annoying and quite rude. Most of the other parents avoid her, probably because of this behavior. I work to afford the things I have, and I don't feel I need to discuss what I spend for my child or myself with anyone. Other than this, she's a nice neighbor. What's the best way to get her to stop asking these questions? I try to ignore them, but this has been going on for years, and I'm at a loss. 

Abby suggested the direct approach. Courtesy of Skillz, here's another approach:

SKILLZ SAYS: "Are those new shoes?" "No. In fact, they were mine when I was a child."

"I like that jacket. Was it expensive?" "Not sure. I found it in the back of a taxi."

"You have a nice hairdo. Did it cost much?" "No, I have some dirt on the person who did it."

"Wow. How can you afford such nice clothes for your daughter?" (Which may be the rudest question I've ever read doing this feature) "Let's just say I know the right people."

You get the idea. Never admit what you're spending because it's none of Diane's business, but at the same time have some fun with her. These type of answers come with a risk; your neighbor sounds like she carries mega gossip potential, and while she may let up on the questioning,  before you know it the "other parents" you mentioned will be believing you're in a crime syndicate. Or at the very least, morally bankrupt.

 

You could also avoid Diane like the other parents do—perhaps drive your kid to school now and then, and when that's not an option, sidle up to the bus stop as late as possible to minimize the contact. WIN! You're welcome.

My Pesky Co-Worker Thinks I'm His Personal Google

(taken from 12/28/19 "Ask Amy")

 

LETTER: I am a woman working for a corporation. I have a male co-worker at a similar professional level who asks me questions about his/our work on a daily basis. None of my other co-workers ask me as many questions as he does.

Sometimes these questions have a simple answer, like confirming deadlines, and I give him the benefit of the doubt and provide the answer when I know it.

More frequently the questions are, “How do I…?” I feel like these should be directed to a supervisor, since my job responsibilities do not include training other employees.

My response is usually to grudgingly help if I have the time, or an “I don’t know, sorry” if I don’t know or don’t feel like answering.

I’m torn between being a team player and being a tattletale. While I don’t mind helping out when I can, I honestly feel his questions are directed to me too frequently. Sometimes he finds the answer himself only a few minutes after sending me the question, which makes me feel like I’m his first option and that he doesn’t care if he wastes my time.

 

Should I pretend I don’t know the answers and hope this discourages him, while keeping the peace, or do I need to be assertive and tell him he should be asking our boss these questions instead?

Amy gave you a short spiel to offer him if his bugging continues. Skillz has a couple of ideas, too:

SKILLZ SAYS: Do not, under any circumstances, tattle on this guy—you obviously want to preserve workplace harmony and this could turn him into an enemy.

Rather, the next time he asks you in person something you can claim to not have the answer for, burst into tears. Loudly and embarrassingly. "I'M SUCH AN IDIOT! YOU ASK ME THESE QUESTIONS AND I TRY TO HELP AND I TRY TO HAVE THE ANSWERS BUT I'M SUCH A LOSER! I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING!!!" He will console your sobbing and hopefully feel too guilty to ever seek answers from you again.

Another option is to make thing so awkward between the two of you that he stays away. You could do this by: waiting near his car after work and letting him catch you peeing on the ground. Or letting something not-so-innocent fall out of your purse in his presence; I'm thinking a toy, if you follow.
Last resort: next time he emails you a question, respond with a Photoshopped image of the two of you together attached to the legit answer, with no other explanation. (This will especially work if you are unattractive.)

Any normal person will be too uncomfortable to make anything but the most necessary of contact with you going forward. WIN! You're welcome.

Young Adult Must Keep Debt, And Dad, At Bay

(taken from 11/8/19 "Ask Amy")

 

LETTER: I'm 23 years old and currently in a lot of debt. I've been doing my best to pay it off.

For the last year, I've held a well-paying job. However, my dad is constantly curious about how much money I have.

I loaned him $1,200 nine months ago. He said that he just needed a little help with some bills.

How my parents handle their bills is none of my business. I've talked to my mom about it and she thinks it's wrong of him to be asking his youngest daughter to pay his bills. She is also lending him a lot of money. Amy, I just gave him another $400 to pay his cellphone bill.

A couple of days ago I was on the phone, telling him about a situation I was in. He interrupted me, asking me to put more money into his account.

He has never paid me back anything, even though he says he will.

 

I don't even want to answer his calls anymore because all he wants from me is money.

I love both my parents very much. Any suggestions?

 

 

Amy wants you to have a reasonable discussion with Dad. Skillz presents an alternative:

SKILLZ SAYS: Seriously, does your father have an addiction??? I know I'd personally have to be on drugs to even consider borrowing that much dough from anyone, let alone my kid.

Let's assume for the moment that he is not an addict, because the problems stemming from addiction go well beyond the scope of our expertise. Let's just say he's a financially-stunted human being.

The first thing I want you to do is make your dad feel as small as possible. Yes, I can see where you wrote how much you love him but your goal is to stop him from seeing you as his personal ATM. One of these days, YOU call HIM asking for money. But before he can stutter out an answer, immediately add, "Oh, wait, I forgot. All your money comes from me already."  Then quickly disconnect.

Send photos of you with things you want but cannot afford, with passive-aggressive messages attached: "Wanted this car, but was $1200 short of the down payment. Darn!" Post to social media if possible, especially if Dad has an account.

Another social media avenue to travel down: make it known you are turning to others for help besides your papa. "Dead broke and ran out of gas today, luckily I can count on my (pastor/dentist/landlord/butcher) to come through in a pinch!"

And if none fo this stops Dad from again sticking his hand out, make him do stuff for the cash. Make him mop your apartment, change your oil, something. Even if it's just for your amusement. Remember: the guy is asking you for hundreds of dollars so it's not unreasonable for YOU to want HIM to perform a little dance for the money. (And if he IS willing to humiliate himself for the $, I say he's earned it; don't ask for it back. You probably wouldn't get it anyway.) WIN! You're welcome.

Helicopter Dad Won't Leave Son Alone

(taken from 9/10/19 "Dear Abby")

 

LETTER: I'm a 23-year-old man living in Texas. I am a college graduate and on my own now. My parents are very caring, but my father has an unhealthy obsession with me.

He messages me multiple times a day. It never stops. I'm currently looking for teaching jobs, and he tries to intervene by looking for them for me. He's like a wasp that will not go away, and it is making me very uncomfortable. Even though I am an adult, he tries to tell me what to do and how to do it. I am so confused; please help me.

 

 

Abby said talk to your parents, which Skillz doesn't think will work:

SKILLZ SAYS: Confused? There's nothing confusing here. t's pretty clear the first thing you should do is tell your father you have a job, even if you don't. That eliminates what sounds like the biggest part of the problem.

As for the overall obsession, pretend to be your own girlfriend. When he sends a barrage of messages, angrily respond "This is (name's) girlfriend and I'm trying to pleasure him sexually BUT YOU KEEP BUZZING THE DAMN PHONE!!!" The one risk here is your father beginning to pester you about your relationship, but I feel the odds are low and the risk is worth it.

Another option: pretend to take his (likely useless and outdated) advice, but report that it backfired horribly. For example: if he tells you to change your own oil, report that your HOA busted you for a $1,000 fine. If he tells you to get a guard dog, report that said dog bites you in the junk multiple times a day. Do this enough times and you'll have the perfect avenue to tell Dad "ENOUGH with your crappy suggestions!" WIN! You're welcome.

2009 Topps #116 Omar Infante, Braves