Dear Ann Cannon • I am doing my best to practice self-isolation and, when that is not possible, social distancing. My wife, not so much. She knows all the arguments in favor of staying home and only going to the grocery store rarely for essentials, but I can’t see that she has changed her routines much at all. Any suggestions? I’m not ready to move out of my home or kick her out.
— Frustrated Husband
Dear Ann Cannon • When the coronavirus pandemic started, I made the decision to be in the presence of only my 90-year-old widowed mother and my 70-year-old husband. Both of them are mostly healthy, but they have a few challenges that make them vulnerable to the disease. However, neither of them is worried about getting sick, and they think that I am crazy because I am taking precautions suggested by the experts. I am afraid that one of them will get sick because they are not careful, and then the other will be infected too. How can I be a loving wife and daughter and keep them both safe?
Dear Frustrated and Dear Stuck • Like a lot of other people right now, you’re both dealing with Virus Deniers, i.e. people who aren’t taking the pandemic as seriously as they should. And, frankly, there’s a part of me that understands how they feel. It’s hard to believe that mere weeks ago, we were carrying on as per usual — dining out, going to movies, hanging with large groups of family and friends, working from an office instead of from home, or even just working, period. It’s hard to believe that life as we knew it has turned on a dime. Which it has.
So, what can the two of you do? Keep following the precautions made by experts. And keep nagging your loved ones to do the same, while realizing at the same time that you can’t really control their actions. Hopefully, they’ll soon come to understand the seriousness of our current situation.
Meanwhile, do your best to manage your own anxiety, which no doubt has been compounded by the behavior of your family members. Take long walks and deep breaths. Remind yourself that this too shall pass.
Dear Ann Cannon • This is a First World problem, but what do you do when a neighbor or relative gives you a gift, for which you thank them profusely because you genuinely appreciate the thought, but then they interpret your gratitude to mean that you love the particular gift they gave you even though that isn’t really the case? And so they give you the same gift year after year. Maybe it’s dark chocolate or Aplets & Cotlets or raisin cookies. Should you continue to gratefully accept these gifts year after year, or is there a way to gracefully let them know that you don’t really like a particular treat they’ve offered?
— Drowning in Aplets & Cotlets
Dear Drowning • Actually, your First World problem feels … refreshing. It’s so nice to think about something other than the virus, even if it is Aplets & Cotlets.
Here’s the deal. Normally I would have said it all depends on who’s giving the gift. If the giver is someone you’re really close to — a parent or a grandparent, a sibling or a good friend — I would advise you to gently tell them the truth, i.e. that you don’t love yourself a whole big heap of Aplets & Cotlets. You could say something like, “I know, I know. I told you I love them because I really appreciated your thoughtfulness. But the truth is, I’m not a fan. I’m an idiot and I’m sorry I misled you.” If, on the other hand, the giver is someone you’re not particularly close to or someone who’s easily offended, I’d just say thank you year after year and leave it at that.
So that’s the advice I would have given before the world felt like it was falling apart. But now in this uncertain time I think I’d just express gratitude for any and all gifts that come your way.