— Well Now THAT Really Stunk
Dear Well Now • Your question reminds me of the time a guy sitting right next to me on a flight from SLC to New York quietly passed gas as he slept. Which was for most of the trip. It didn't occur to me that I had any options except to hang my head out in the aisle and hate my life for the next five hours.
Here's the deal. If your remark at intermission, which the young man and his father clearly heard, didn't shut him down, I doubt confronting him directly would have, either. Meanwhile, I reached out to friends who are involved in the theater to ask how problems like the one you've described can be dealt with. The general consensus was that if the behavior of another audience member crosses the line, you should let the house manager know. These individuals have experience in dealing with such situations politely and discreetly. Michael McCurdy, managing director of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, does point out that unless a problem is clear-cut (a crying baby, for example), mediation can be tricky. Heavy perfume is a common complaint. But, he says, it's important to remember that "the offending party has spent as much money as the offended to be in the theater. Usually we handle these situations by moving the offended — if possible — not necessarily pointing out the offense to the offending."
Meanwhile, people, let's all recommit to keeping our smells to ourselves, shall we?
Dear Ann Cannon • How do I tell my new boyfriend that his table manners are atrocious? I love everything about this super cute guy — he picks up after himself, likes his mom, roots for the right teams, loves to read, lets me rant about politics, eats anything I cook (and I'm not a good cook). But he eats like a pig — a loud, sloppy one. I'm mortified.
Dear Mortified • How new is "new"? If the relationship is just getting started, I'd give things a little time. Maybe his bad table manners will end up being a deal breaker for you. Or maybe you won't notice them anymore.
If the relationship progresses and his table manners still bother you, then you can bring up the subject. Old married couples do this with each other all the time.
Dear Ann Cannon • My grandmother didn't give me a birthday present this year. It's not that I necessarily expect a present from her, but I was surprised. When I mentioned this to my mom, she said my grandmother has decided to stop giving gifts to the grandkids who don't write her thank-you notes. This seems like a heavy-handed way to make a point. What do you think?
Dear Gift-less • I think your grandmother is doing you a big favor, is what I think. Formal thank-you notes are not as de rigueur as they once were, which is a shame. To paraphrase Shakespeare, a thank-you note blesses twice: the recipient, who feels appreciated, and the sender, who has a chance to once again reflect upon the generosity of others. Write your grandmother a thank-you note.
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