DEAR AMY: My husband of 40-plus years, “Paul,” is an elected official in our city. Paul is also involved in politics on the state and national level. He is clearly respected. People often engage me when he is not around and ask how he feels about a certain issue or candidate. If I answer, I often find myself embroiled in an uncomfortable conversation. I have tried redirecting people to Paul, but they usually barge ahead with their comments. Because of my marriage, they seem to assume that politics is “my thing” too. This is getting more and more challenging, especially in today’s political climate. I’m trying to come up with a statement that will let people know I want to stay away from political conversations. Should I say, “Could we please talk about other things — I’m on a political fast?” I want to be both tactful and clear about my intentions. What can you suggest?
DEAR WIFE: I like your response — it is clear and polite. Following up your statement with a question directed at your inquisitor might further redirect the conversation, although it does occur to me that even a polite query about the weather (“Wow, can you believe this drought?”) can be made political these days.
I further suggest carrying a supply of your husband’s business cards. You can hand one out and say, “I can’t speak for my husband, but his email address in on here; I hope you will feel free to get in touch with him.”
I face this issue (to a lesser extent) because of the work I do. And so when I’m having coffee at the local diner and someone approaches me with a personal problem they would like me to try to fix, I will sometimes say, “That sounds like a good question for my column. Why don’t you send it to me and I’ll see if I can tackle it?” This is a way to try to differentiate between the personal and professional, which is what you are politely trying to do.
DEAR AMY: I went out with a girl over three weekends in a row. Then we had school holidays, so I haven’t seen her for three weeks. I feel that she was (hopefully still is) very attracted to me. I think she sees that I am attracted to her, too. Yesterday, I sent her an instant message to ask her out again. She said Saturday was possible but that she didn’t know if our routine of meeting once a week was good for us. She asked if this was good for me. I said, “Yes!” She said, “I just feel it’s not good for us to make a routine of our dates. My intuition says it’s not good.” I responded, “OK, but we can meet this weekend, right?” She said, “I can’t. I am sorry!” I think I know what’s happening. I think she feels our dates are maybe too intense in this early stage. I was thinking of texting her tonight and asking her to tell me exactly what her problem is, and asking her if she doesn’t want to go out with me anymore. What do you think? What should I do?
S, in East Asia
DEAR S: Asking someone, “What, exactly, is your problem?” is negative, and a little aggressive. This girl is telling you that she wants to put the brakes on the speedy progress of your relationship.
The kind and respectful thing to do is to respond, “OK, I understand. Let me know what works for you. I’ll wait to hear back from you.”
Stepping back a little bit and giving her the space to make her own choice may inspire her to move forward.
DEAR AMY: I asked my hairdresser for her opinion on the question from “Too Old for This!,” the hairdresser whose manager was passing over older stylists in favor of giving work to the younger, less-experienced ones. My hairdresser said that managers sometimes deliberately assign “walk-in” clients to less-experienced stylists, in part to test the younger employees’ capabilities. This might not be age discrimination.
DEAR READER: “Too Old” described other workplace practices on the part of the young manager that were, at least, unprofessional. I appreciate you asking about this, and hope that these older hairdressers can find ways to be more proactive in terms of marketing their own services within the salon.