En­joy lunch, but hold pri­vate de­tails

Orlando Sentinel - - OBITUARIES - By Amy Dick­in­son [email protected]­dick­in­son.com Twitter @ask­ingamy

Dear Amy: I will be turn­ing 60 this year and have no­ticed a sort of trend among many of my friends, ac­quain­tances, and co­work­ers. It seems like ev­ery time we get to­gether, some­one starts to talk about a loved one who is very ill, dy­ing or has died.

This of­ten sets off a mor­bid com­pe­ti­tion of who can come up with the most heart­break­ing — and graphic — de­tails.

Ob­vi­ously, we’re all at an age where we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced this type of loss. Both my par­ents and three of my sib­lings have passed on, but I would never re­veal de­tails of their deaths in a ca­sual, mixed­com­pany set­ting.

If we’re out, I’d rather not hear about a beloved aunt’s coura­geous but los­ing bat­tle with can­cer.

I’m not an un­sym­pa­thetic per­son — quite the op­po­site. But there is a time and place to re­veal this per­sonal in­for­ma­tion.

My ques­tion is: How would you han­dle this tricky so­cial sit­u­a­tion with­out com­ing across as a cal­lous jerk?

My next ques­tion: Am I be­ing a cal­lous jerk?

— Buzz-killed in Bos­ton

Dear Buzz-killed: I don’t know if I would call you a cal­lous jerk, mainly be­cause you got there be­fore me. I ex­ag­ger­ate, but I do be­lieve you sound ... in­tol­er­ant.

Per­haps you re­mem­ber your own life about three decades ago, when your peers (and pos­si­bly you) were all talk­ing about preg­nancy, child­birth, the ter­ri­ble twos or your ter­ri­ble bosses.

Yes, back then there were prob­a­bly peo­ple who laid on too much graphic de­tail in re­count­ing their child­birth sto­ries. I’d ven­ture th­ese might be the same peo­ple who of­fer up too much de­tail (for you) re­gard­ing their loved-ones’ ill­ness or death sto­ries.

How­ever, what your co­horts are do­ing is not tact­less talk. They are nar­rat­ing their lives. What you de­scribe as a “mor­bid com­pe­ti­tion” might oth­er­wise be seen as “re­lat­ing.”

You may de­clare that re­port­ing on, re­count­ing and re­mem­ber­ing your loved ones is bad form, but (in my view) this is a mat­ter of opin­ion. I agree that go­ing on and on in a larger so­cial set­ting and de­scrib­ing (pri­vate) med­i­cal de­tails about a per­fect stranger is not po­lite or proso­cial be­hav­ior. But, any­one who wants to talk about or re­mem­ber a loved one is wel­come to sit by me (and that in­cludes you).

If some­one is en­gaged in a topic that makes you gen­uinely un­com­fort­able, you can gen­tly try to change the sub­ject by say­ing, “I’m so sorry to hear all of this. I seem to re­mem­ber that you are plan­ning a long trip this sum­mer. Will you still be able to do that?” Or, you could pull the per­son off of sharing med­i­cal de­tails by ask­ing pointed ques­tions about the sub­ject’s life, such as how they lived, ver­sus how they are dy­ing.

Dear Amy: My sis­ter-in­law had mi­nor surgery.

I made a few frozen casse­role “com­fort food” dishes for her and my brother-in-law.

When I next saw them, they re­turned one of the casseroles, say­ing that it is a dish that they don’t care for. I know that it is some­thing they eat.

Am I wrong to think it would have been kin­der to sim­ply regift the dish, or sim­ply dis­pose of it, rather than re­turn­ing it to me?

— Casserolle­d

Dear Casserolle­d: Be­cause a casse­role is a word de­scrib­ing both a baked dish and also the dish it is baked in, I take it that this dish was re­turned to you, food in­tact.

I agree with you that this is strange and rude. When re­ceiv­ing gifts of food, there is no rule that this food must be con­sumed and en­joyed, but the dish (sans food) should be re­turned, clean, and the giver should be thanked.

Dear Amy: This is for “Dis­ap­pointed,” your reader who thinks that a man grab­bing a woman’s crotch is a mi­nor in­frac­tion.

Any form of sex­ual mis­con­duct should be called out. Pub­lic cases show how long an abuser gets away with this be­hav­ior when it is not re­ported.

Re­port­ing an event can help to pre­vent this con­duct from be­ing forced onto oth­ers.

— Up­set

Dear Up­set: Many readers have re­acted to the ques­tion sim­i­larly. If this sort of be­hav­ior goes un­chal­lenged, then it con­tin­ues. In a worst-case sce­nario, this sort of drunken grop­ing could es­ca­late into a more se­ri­ous as­sault.

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