Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I’m a man living in a particularly diverse liberal neighborhood of a diverse and liberal college town. I frequent a great organic market/sandwich shop in our town center, staffed by an eclectic group of friendly young folks, including a person in the early stages of transition (male to female). I am in there several times a day and always friendly and chatty with the staff. This morning, the person in transition rang up my purchases. As she handed me my change I said, “Thank you, sir.” I’d like to chalk this up as a senior moment, although she is 6 feet 3 inches tall with a sturdy, masculine build, so it may have been somewhat subconscious. I was immediately mortified, but my snap decision was to let it go rather than correct myself or apologize. I didn’t want to add insult to injury, and make an awkward situation worse. I could see she looked a bit upset. I wondered if she was insecure that she wasn’t convincing as a female. Am I overthinking this encounter? Part of me wants to say something the next time we interact, but I don’t want to embarrass her and call undue attention to her transition. I would never have deliberately hurt her feelings. What do you think I should do?

Feeling Guilty

DEAR GUILTY: I don’t think you should call attention to this faux pas publicly. I do think you should learn her name, and use it.

If you are a frequent patron of the shop, knowing the names of some of the counter and wait staff will ease all of your encounters.

The next time you happen to interact with her, you can say, “By the way, I’m in here all the time; I’m ‘Charles.’ What’s your name?” Tell her, “It’s nice to finally meet you,” and greet her by name from now on.

DEAR AMY: My friend, “Dave,” has been dating his girlfriend “Polly” for more than a year. When I was visiting, I asked her why there was half-eaten food everywhere, and she said, “Oh, I’ll just leave that for Dave to clean up.” At this point Dave was working 35 hours a week, plus college, while she, fresh out of high school, had no job or obligations of any kind. When I talked to Dave about this, he said that things would change when they officially moved in together. Guess what — nothing has changed. She works part time and Dave is working nonstop. I told him he needs a helpful partner, and now is the time for Polly to start growing up. He said he’s afraid to have that conversation with her because he doesn’t want her to get mad. I’ve wondered if I should speak directly to her. I think she’s suffering from Princess Syndrome. He’s killing himself trying to provide for her and she, seemingly, will not lift a finger. I’m worried for my friend, Amy. He used to be so adventurous, but now he’s just overwhelmed and tired. I’ve tried to talk to him, but the boy is too love-struck to see sense. Is there anything I can do for him at this point?

Worried Pal

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DEAR WORRIED: You have spoken to your friend about this. He has told you that essentially his girlfriend holds sway over him. Either he is afraid of her anger, or he is afraid that she will leave him. That is the very essence of being “love sick.” Love, as you seem to know, should not make a person sick. Love should make a person soar.

Surely, you could confront “Polly” with the imbalance you perceive in this relationship, heaping on your “Princess Syndrome” theory. But — what would change? In fairy tales, the princess tends to win when challenged.

Stay close to your friend. Don’t harp on this issue. But do continue to demonstrate to him what healthy relationships look like. Let your friendship be an example of one.

DEAR AMY: Thank you for your stance against spanking. When my son was a challenging 2 year old, I thought to myself about all the pain that he might suffer in his life (disease, injuries, accidents, bullying, fighting, crime, etc.), and I decided that none of it was going to come from me. He’s grown into a kind, self-confident and empathetic adult, and if he gives us grandchildren someday I know that he will treat them kindly, as his parents treated him.

Not a Hitter

DEAR NOT A HITTER: Beautiful.