Tormented? Driven witless? Fear not, help is just a short letter away
ENEMY WOMEN AT WORK
DEAR E JEAN, I’m having trouble with my co-worker “Jane”, a condescending know-it-all who treats me like an intern while at the same time acting all buddy-buddy with me. I don’t trust her. It all started years ago, when I unintentionally insulted her. She was fired as the art director at another company and I was hired to replace her, and I redid all her work (it was honestly not usable). I believe Jane heard about it. Over the next couple of years, our paths crossed many times at conferences, but she always pretended that she didn’t know who I was and that we had never met.
Now we actually work together, and E Jean, I can’t stand this woman! She’s a phoney. She texts me privately over our company message server to ask how my day is going. She shares information about me with our former co-workers (“I told Mary that your husband passed away, and she is so sorry to hear it”). We’re not friends – she has no business telling people these private things! She’s constantly telling me how wonderful it is that we “get to work together at last”, and continually dropping compliments. I’ve never encouraged her to be chummy, but I’ve always treated her with respect. Recently I stopped responding to her – and she will not let me be. She’s beginning to affect my attitude about work. I know I need to be careful of her – she’s good friends with the owner of our company – but how do I get her to leave me alone? – Nowhere To Run RUN, MY ROCK Don’t lunch with her. Don’t lend her money. Don’t braid her hair at a slumber party. Do watch your back (and your front). While I suppose it’s possible that her former co-workers didn’t tell her that you changed her work, and possible that she never recognises people at conferences, and possible that she’s crushin’ on you like Emma Woodhouse on Harriet Smith, I think she’s actually scared of you. She sees you as a threat. (And women like you, who are quick to recognise threats and dispatch them, rise in business, sports and politics. Lord knows I wish Hillary Clinton had recognised Donald Trump’s threat sooner!) As to what lengths she will go, it’s impossible
to guess. I’ll just say that her pestering you with compliments is perhaps the least of it. The major concern is her gossip. And here I pause with the greatest sympathy to say how sorry I am that you lost your husband. This woman using his death to slather you with her bullshit warmth and false compassion is vile. So it’s a fight, and your talent is your sword.
Be polite, be professional, but kill her soppy texts by replying with emoji (no words), frown at her compliments, never give her critical work information she doesn’t need, never gossip with her (or about her) and never, never rely on her. Life is rife with enemies. At least you know yours. Keep an eye on her.
HER VERY OWN BOYS’ CLUB
DEAR E JEAN, Should I ditch my boyfriend because he won’t get down on one knee, put a ring on it and take me to Paris? For three years, I’ve dated this handsome, kind, feminist man, who’s secure enough to cook me dinner and play house-husband while I work at my demanding job as a chemist at a nuclear plant. Our home life is perfect, but I like to travel and want someone to strip me naked in an open-air hotel room in Greece or Barbados, and he’s not the adventurous type. Also, he can’t commit to me or marriage.
How long do I wait for him to come around? Do I jettison him for someone who will sweep me off my feet – and lose my steadfast domestic partner? I’m normally a logical lady scientist, but this one has me stumped. – Confused Chemistrix CHEMISTRIX, MY CUMQUAT Tut-tut. Mr Handsome Dinner has been cooking for you over your own Bunsen burner for three years and you’re asking Auntie E “How long do I wait for him?”. And you’re a scientist! You know your Darwin. You understand that of all the mating questions posed by all the females of all the species in the world, “How long do I wait?” is the feeblest. (And the one least likely to lead to success.) Yet a fantastic future awaits you. Because when a man tells you he “can’t commit”, a spanking new world of possibilities opens.
Now, everything is permitted. You can hold the most freeing conversation you’ve ever had in your life, viz: “Darling, since we’re not committed, and you don’t want to be, I’d like to date.” And then you may proceed to tell him what you really want – a sweet “home life” with him and a lad stripping you “naked in an open-air hotel room in Greece”. Because, come on, does a good-looking genius with azure-coloured hair and a diamond stud in her eyebrow who is solving the problem of global warming (I looked you up, honey!) really want an unadventurous guy to commit to her? What about your need for passion? Wouldn’t it be better to keep him at home and take a rambunctious lover? You’re simply a bright woman who, when she has everything she wants, soon wants something else. And Auntie E? She’s simply a woman who will receive a pile of exasperated letters from readers because she advised you to enjoy more than one chap.
THE SEARCH FOR MEANING
DEAR E JEAN, I’m feeling like an absolutely worthless human being. On paper, my life looks quite desirable: 26 years old, a high-paying career at a famous advertising agency, an apartment in a coveted neighbourhood. But I feel desperately unfulfilled. I come to work each day and instantly become bored. I have virtually no work to do, and no responsibility. I’ve asked my manager multiple times for a larger workload, but to no avail. He ignores me. My most noteworthy day-to-day accomplishments are reading the entire internet and going to the gym. I’m sometimes paralysed with guilt because I’m so well paid to do nothing, and so many hardworking people are trying to make ends meet. I feel devoid of purpose and direction. Some days I can barely motivate myself to get out of bed. What should I do? – Dealing With My Misery DEALING, MY DUCK Never utter the word workload to a boss. It wraps its sucker-lined letters around the brain of whoever hears it and squashes your future. Just tell that poor dingbat, your manager, “Dickie, I have an idea that will bring in $80,000 over the next three quarters. Do you have five minutes to hear my pitch?” If he puts you off more than twice, then pitch his boss. I suspect the man is either too dull or too overwhelmed with his own work to supervise anyone else’s projects.
So here’s what to do: your days at Deadwood are over. From now on, you’ll be creating four or five killer ideas for your agency, gabbing with co-workers about their projects, decorating your desk, listening to music, schmoozing the CEO, visiting museums to be inspired with more ideas, etc. That you didn’t think of doing these things on your own shows me how very uninterested you are in the advertising game (or what a dum-dum agency you’ve landed in). We’ve all chosen the wrong job at some point. So now may also be the time to begin thinking of new paths and fresh possibilities. Good luck!
DEAR E JEAN, I have an awesome relationship with my 16-year-old daughter. She’s smart, funny and beautiful. A couple of weeks ago, her boyfriend of 18 months broke up with her and she was devastated. So I let her stay in my room to comfort her – and now she won’t leave! I’ve gently indicated it’s time to return to her own bedroom, but she just says, “Nope.” How do I get her out without hurting her feelings? Or do I allow her the time she needs to heal? – Mummy Wants Her Own Space MUMMY, YOU MAGNIFICENT WOMAN You have performed your motherly duties most admirably. Let your daughter stay in your room. And you? You move into her room and add the following items: 1. A poster of her favourite band. 2. A television. 3. A stack of classic movie DVDS. 4. A pile of ELLES. 5. A tray of fab eye shadows. 6. A bowl of hot, buttered popcorn. 7. A mini fridge full of ice-cream.
If your daughter hasn’t moved back to her room after 20 minutes, add a kitten.