DEAR AMY: I'm a man in my 50s working in a small office. My workplace problem is extremely insignificant and frankly embarrassing in the scheme of things. Honestly, it is like something out of a "Seinfeld" episode. I'm on friendly terms with my co-workers. Occasionally "Donald" goes out at lunchtime and picks up sandwiches for the group. Donald goes around the office and takes the orders. He does this for everyone except me. I've never been included (sniffle, sniffle). What's worse is that Donald isn't discreet about it. He'll yell from across the room, "Hey, Kim, what kind of cheese do you want?" Then he'll call the sandwich shop and give long detailed instructions for each sandwich, for everyone to hear: "OK, next is salami on Dutch crunch. Everything on it. No cheese..." He seems to take great pride in his position as master sandwich organizer and orderer. I don't know what's more upsetting: Not being invited, or the blatant way it's done in front of me. Is it rudeness, meanness, or just insensitivity? It's actually so ridiculous it's almost funny. Friends and family suggest I invite myself, but that would make things even more awkward and is not my style at all. It's fine if he doesn't consider me a friend. I cannot control something like that (although how hard is it to include another order and collect $10?). Any insight into why this is happening, and how I can stop resenting it?
George wants Pastrami on Rye!
DEAR GEORGE: First off — yes, this is an ideal "Seinfield" episode. I can see it now: George — frustrated and whining about being excluded by the Master Sandwich Orderer, while everyone around him weighs in with their own absurd solutions. However — you are not George. You aren't whining. In fact, your reaction — to see this as an absurd situation and to see the "rye" (get it?) humor in it — means that you are handling this frustration with some perspective. You are also being emotionally honest. This hurts! Where you are failing is in your refusal to say, "Hey, 'Donald,' next time you do a sandwich run, can I get in on that?" You could also offer to go on a sandwich run yourself, but that might unleash an absurd escalation ("Newman!") Donald might have made an assumption about you at some point in the past — that you're not a "sandwich guy." The way NOT to resent this is to ask yourself, "What would Jerry (Seinfeld) do?" and train yourself to let this periodic absurdity trigger a smile.
DEAR AMY: After 25 years of marriage (which has been fine by all outward appearances), it has dawned on me quite suddenly that my husband may have (mild) Asperger's syndrome. So much of what I've read online about Asperger's matches up to our experiences, and it would explain so much that has been odd, hurtful and frustrating for me over these years of marriage. Should I share this possibility with him, and if so, how, and then — what next?
DEAR WONDERING: Asperger's is not an illness or disease. It is simply a unique way of thinking, seeing, and interacting. Yes, you should share your insight with your husband. Manage your expectations when you do. You have to imagine that your husband might wonder why his own (normal, to him) behavior has been misinterpreted by you — and others — throughout his lifetime. I have heard from many people over the years who say that an adult diagnosis of Asperger's has been revelatory and ultimately liberating. Don't present this as: "Ah-ha! I finally know what's WRONG with you!" Pose this as a possibility: "I've been reading about Asperger's. Have you ever read about it? Some of this information reminded me of you, and I feel like I understand you a little better."
DEAR AMY: "Upset" was concerned about her best friend hanging out with Upset's abusive former boyfriend. I am now free from a marriage that held similar circumstances. While kindness is very important to me, I've learned its equally important (and incredibly freeing) to no longer be passive when it comes to my safety or needs. Being kindly direct with people can really go a long way. Upset should say: "You know my history with him. Your friendship with him makes me feel very unsafe. I've loved our friendship, but if you are going to rub shoulders with him, you and I can no longer be friends."
Healthy After Abuse
DEAR HEALTHY: This is empowering. Thank you.