DEAR AMY: My husband and I are friends with a couple — “Rose and Jack,” who enjoy entertaining in their home. Here is the problem: Jack and Rose have a beloved cat that has the run of the house, including tables and countertops, as well as the kitchen sink. This has always made my husband and me uncomfortable, but it does seem to be typical cat behavior, so we try not to think about it. During a recent buffet gathering, the cat jumped up on the dining room table several times, licking and nibbling the food until someone noticed. Then Jack scooped up the cat while Rose draped foil over the food in an attempt to deter the cat. Neither the “nibbled” food nor the cat were removed. We are dreading the next invitation. My husband has declared that he can no longer eat there. I (reluctantly) feel the same. We do invite Rose and Jack to our home, but they rarely go out. Clearly they adore the cat and are not bothered by it. Do I dare say something to them? They are very sweet and generous people and we value their friendship.
DEAR NOT HUNGRY: Pet owners often lose perspective about how intrusive their animal companions can be; when I was a child my mother jokingly said she would someday write a cookbook called: “After the Cat Has Licked It.”
Having an animal walking around on the table where food for people is being served is gross and unhealthy.
Your discomfort is perfectly understandable, but your hosts aren’t telepathic, so you are going to have to say something. Before the next gathering, tell them: “We would love to come, but is there a way to keep Tuffy away from the food? We aren’t as used to her as you are, and it makes us uncomfortable when she’s up on the table.”
If they really are great hosts, Jack and Rose will see to their human guests’ needs first, and find a compassionate and low-impact way to deal with their animal companion while there are other humans in the house.
DEAR AMY: One of my mother’s guests at her home over the holidays was a bishop in our church. He made a derogatory comment to my mother about my husband. Later my mother repeated the comment to me. According to her, he said, “Your daughter is so beautiful and talented, what is she doing with a loser like that?” Mom made me promise not to tell my husband. I am miffed at the man’s comment, and I’m wondering what you think of my mother’s decision to repeat it to me.
DEAR MIFFED: When someone repeats an unkind comment, the best response (in the moment) is a simple one: “Why did you repeat that to me?”
You are right; both parties have acted badly here. This guest shouldn’t have said anything about your husband to your mother, and your mother shouldn’t have repeated it to you — or sworn you to secrecy. That’s unfair, childish and manipulative. Worst of all, you are still thinking about it, many moons later.
In this case, the best thing for everyone (especially you) is to let it go. If your mother brings up the remark again, or repeats this behavior, be firm but polite and tell her you don’t want to discuss it, and you think her decision to tell you this piece of bad gossip was a poor one. Otherwise, chalk this up to a holiday party faux-pas, and move on.
DEAR AMY: “Rosalind” was upset by an older man who stopped her in a public place and loudly offered her unsolicited advice about how to handle a health matter. Your advice was to make eye contact and say, “Hi, friend. Thank you! I’ll take it from here.” Why? Why, why, why? When are we as a society going to stop telling women they need to respond in a “friendly” way to men who stop them in public and loudly offer advice, opinions, etc.? When? Why should she thank this complete stranger for interfering in her personal life, loudly, in public? Why?
DEAR MARGARET: The person offering this “advice” was elderly. He repeated himself several times. I saw this as a respectful way of dismissing an elderly person who did not seem to be well. My advice would have been the same if both parties were men, although, speaking to your point, perhaps men don’t do this to other men.