Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR READERS: I've stepped away from my column for a few days. Please enjoy these "Best Of" columns in my absence.

DEAR AMY: I have been an executive assistant for many years. My boss, the CEO, recently purchased another company. One of the top executives at this new company is quickly becoming my boss' favorite consultant. The man is very nice and we developed a good friendly relationship early on, but then it happened -- he hugged me when I dropped him off at the airport. I tried not to worry about it, but the next time he visited he hugged me hello. Then he hugged me goodbye again. I don't want to make things awkward, but how do I professionally say to an executive in whom my boss has placed his confidence that I would prefer to keep our relationship on a handshake-only basis? I am usually very straightforward with people, but in this instance I feel like I'm on shaky ground.

Struggling

DEAR STRUGGLING: You're not on shaky ground -- he is. This man is doing something you don't like, but instead of giving him the benefit of being honest, you are putting him in the position of being accused of something far worse than he may realize.

Before you do anything else, you should ask him to stop doing the thing that bothers you. You can say something along the lines of, "It's so nice to see you, Mr. Davis, but I'd prefer a handshake." He should respect this request immediately. If he continues to hug you, notify your boss. (April, 2005)

DEAR AMY: I agree that breast-feeding is a simple fact of life, and I am not offended by it when it is done publicly. Urination is also a fact of life. Any idea why I got arrested when I did it in public?

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Carl

DEAR CARL: Actually, I think that public breast-feeding DOES offend you. Otherwise you wouldn't compare it to public urination.

If men could breast-feed their children it would not only be a completely acceptable and preferable way to provide nutrition for babies, but it would probably be an Olympic sport by now. Public places would offer clean and comfortable places to feed your babies quietly, so you wouldn't have to nurse in a bathroom stall, and people wouldn't be too bothered if they occasionally caught a glimpse of you feeding your baby in public. (July, 2005)

DEAR AMY: If a married woman answers the door wearing only a bath towel when her husband's brother (who happens to be married to me) is at the door and her husband is not at home, is that appropriate? She shows no regard for modesty. In her yard she will carelessly bend over in a loose-fitting tank top (bra-less, of course), not even trying to hold up the neck to spare those in her presence the view. My husband and I have argued over this issue, and everyone knows my sentiments on this "misconduct." I feel this behavior is disrespectful to me. My husband should consider my feelings and honor me by telling her that this conduct is inappropriate. When I suggested that he tell her that her behavior is offensive and unwelcome, he became defensive and said that I was behaving jealously. Am I crazy because I have a "problem" with this?

BS

DEAR BS: Whether the conduct you describe here is inappropriate, the important thing is that you don't like it. Your husband either doesn't mind this behavior or may in fact enjoy it, so I think that rather than you insisting that HE step in to stop it, you should express yourself.

I would think that a few suggestions along the lines of, "Belinda, you must be cold, let me grab you a sweater," might do the trick. Since your husband and his brother seem to be passive about this, you're going to have to speak up.

If your sister-in-law's conduct doesn't change, you may need to find a way to spend less time around her. Obviously, it would be a good idea to try to limit your husband's "exposure" to her as well. (August, 2004)