In this week’s edition, John responds to readers’ questions about bathroom banter, an office holiday party gone wild, and a perfume-induced malaise.
I’ve been dating a woman for a few months who is definitely a free spirit in ways that I am not. That’s one of the things I like about her—in general. She was recently relaying an anecdote that I was having trouble processing because it contained what were, to me, two mutually exclusive circumstances: she was carrying on a conversation with her two sisters and her brother-in-law. And she was going to the bathroom. When I asked for clarification, she assured me I had it right: she was literally sitting on the toilet jabbering on with these three people, including her brother-in-law, in the bathroom with her! I replied that I found that to be downright weird; she dismissed my response as another example of how “uptight” I am, which is a bit of a theme with her. I’ll admit the description fits—a little. But that just makes it harder to think clearly about this situation. So I’m asking you: is it normal to have other people follow you into the bathroom so as not to interrupt a conversation? Or is she a little too … whatever the opposite of uptight is?
I don’t think either of you is “a little too” anything, but you very well may be mismatched.
First of all, there is nothing uptight about wanting privacy in the bathroom and expecting others to want it, too. Inviting everyone to join you so as not to miss a scintillating moment of the conversation about who wore what at the Golden Globes makes her the outlier here, not you. And the fact that they all apparently piled in reveals that this is a family whose boundaries regarding personal space are a little unusual.
That’s hardly a big deal. People have different comfort levels with this type of thing—I once read that President Johnson would oftentimes summon advisors into the bathroom to confer with him while he was perched atop the presidential throne. What is a bigger deal, in my opinion, is how your girlfriend attributed your opinion to your overall uptightness. Maybe you are, but I don’t think that’s what we’re talking about here. In the long run, you may both be better off with partners whose ideas about personal space and privacy are more in sync with yours.
I’m a middle-aged woman in a pretty stable and mostly good marriage. My husband and I have been married for 15 years and have three children. Every year the company that I work for has a holiday party for employees—spouses are not invited. I have gone to the party over the last several years and have always had a nice time. This year I went to the party, drank too much, and ended up having sex with a colleague who is also married. He and I have resumed a normal working relationship and have vowed never to tell anyone. No one else knows about this indiscretion but I’m feeling like a horrible person. My husband would just be disgusted and he might possibly leave me if he found out, but I feel like I should be honest with him and tell him what happened. What do you think?
I’m going to go out on a limb here: I don’t think you want to tell your husband about your tryst because you feel guilty. I think you want to tell him because on some level, you want to blow your marriage up.
You say you feel like a horrible person over this, but your letter has an oddly detached, matter-of-fact quality to it. And you don’t say your husband would be hurt or devastated by what you did, but “disgusted.”
I don’t think you should be wondering whether to tell your husband about this. Instead, you should be wondering whether you want to stay in this marriage. If you do, there are a number of things you should do. First, stop drinking altogether. The fact that you would do something so destructive to your family while drunk makes it unwise for you to drink at all. And second, talk to your husband about going to couples counseling together. Telling your husband about your one-night stand is something that should be done with a therapist’s guidance.
It may well be too late to save your marriage. But I think your chances will be bolstered with professional help.
A group of friends recently took a trip to Paris. I was not able to go for financial reasons and admittedly was a little jealous. My closest friend fell in love with a French perfume on the trip. She bought a bottle and she wears it constantly in generous amounts. Here’s the thing: the smell of the perfume literally makes me sick. We run together and she’ll frequently be wearing the perfume because we usually run after work. The run is hard enough, but the perfume makes me feel like I can’t breathe, and if I do, I feel like I’m going to throw up! I’m afraid if I tell her that her perfume makes me nauseated, she’s going to think it’s about me not being able to go on this trip.
So what if she thinks this is about you not being able to go on the trip? And for that matter, maybe there’s some truth to that. Or maybe you’re having some kind of allergic response. The bottom line is she is wearing a scent that makes you nauseated. Explain to her that there’s some ingredient in her new perfume that is causing you to have this reaction, and would she mind not wearing it when you’re going to be together? If she’s as close a friend as you think, she should be more than willing to accommodate this simple request.
John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at [email protected].