Wednesday, November 14, 2007

When a Problem is Not Your Own

Dear Mrs. T.
My friend, I will call her "Pam" wants to go off and drive a truck cross country. She wants me to go to her home everyday and change the cat litter for about 6 cats and feed them. I do not want to do this. What should I tell her?
--Worried in Mineola

Dear Worried,
Pam is very welcome to drive a truck cross-country if she chooses. By doing so, she is also choosing the consequences that come of leaving one's home for an extended period. If that means that animals will be left behind, whether one cat or an entire menagerie, it is Pam's responsibility to make suitable arrangements for their care. The material point here is that it is not YOUR responsibility to manage their care. If an agreeable arrangement between the two of you could be made for their care, bless you both. Unfortunately, this is not a task you are up to. Whether you are unable or simply unwilling is irrelevant and Pam should be accepting of this fact if you tell her directly. "I'm very sorry, but I am unable to perform this task," would do nicely. If, however, she refuses to accept your perfectly reasonable answer, please do not worry over it. We all have problems to worry over, but this one is just not yours, my friend. Rest easy letting it go.

Yours ever,
Mrs. T.

Myspace or Yours?

Dear Mrs. T,
Recently, I joined one of the popular social networking sites to get in touch with old friends and who knows, maybe meet someone new. Unfortunately, as much as I like getting in touch with old friends, I’m now getting friend requests by people I purposely lost touch with. I know it’s seems like a little thing, but if I accept them they will see my private photos and thoughts and if I deny them, it might cause a rift with mutual friends. Is there a graceful way to get out of this?

--Lost in Myspace

Dear Lost,
To get at the root of your problem, let’s pretend that your social networking site is instead a live social networking place, like oh: a bar. By walking into this bar or signing onto this web site, you indicate that you are potentially accessible by others who are also sharing that space. Even so, it is unlikely that when walking into a bar, you would have your age, hobbies, photos from summer camp, 50 Things About You, and your email address posted on your t-shirt or make this information public to anyone who simply requested it (I do not exclude various bands and hipster organizations). That being the case, act accordingly and do not be apologetic about it. You wouldn’t apologize to a sleazy man attempting to extort your phone number and neither should you now. But do remember your manners and use a polite “No, thank you,” or in your case, a silent click of the “Deny” button, to excuse yourself. And if that doesn’t work, you can always call in the web master. As to your alleged friends who might be miffed by the construed slight, one of the lucky merits of the cyberworld is that it’s never too late to send them back to the nether regions of the extended network either.

Yours ever,
Mrs. T.

P.S. I advise all my readers that even password-protected information is accessible to someone, so exercise caution when availing private information to a public web site.

Dear Mrs. T.,
I’m attending a birthday weekend out-of-town for a close friend who happens to be the cousin of an ex-boyfriend. I am married now and so is he. We bear no ill will towards one another, but like most people, I prefer not to spend time with my ex-boyfriend. I realize that for the sake of my friend’s celebration, I will endure it, but my question is—how do I greet him? Is a hug required? I prefer not to hug, but a handshake seems cold to the point of ungraciousness. However, I dislike hugging people in general, especially since my husband and two children will be there. Please help.

--Hands Off, Please

Dear Hands,
Many is the time that Mrs. T has wished to revive the 19th century custom in which ladies and gentlemen of good breeding only ever bowed their heads amiably in acknowledgement of shared company. However, as we benefit from the dispensation of the girdle, so must we graciously bear the other trappings of modernity. Fortunately, your options are not so limited as you might think. If you can find some way to make your person unavailable (ketchup on your hands, perhaps, or holding your children if they’re small), you may still take a page out of Jane Austen’s book and offer a friendly smile and a vigorous head nod. If busy hands are not an option, consider a handshake with both hands, in which your left hand jovially pats your ex-boyfriend on the arm, still allowing you to keep your distance. Better still is forgetting about it entirely and going with the flow. Some huggers are determined and you may not be able to avoid them, however much you strategize. It’s unlikely that you’re alone in your dilemma as he is likely to feel awkward about it, too. That being the case, be a sport and hug if it seems right, remembering that an ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure.

Yours ever,
Mrs. T.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Kniddy as a Knid

Here I go, about to embark on my umpteenth blog. This one, however, will fulfill my lifelong ambition of becoming an advice columnist. You know the old adage: do what you love and love what you do. To that end, I'm here. Mrs. Toucanella is open for business and ready to advise you. Or as the Whos might say "WE ARE HERE! WE ARE HERE! WE ARE HERE!"