DEAR AMY: We live on a lovely little street where we frequently socialize with five other families, often in a large group.
We’ve all become very close and have even taken trips together. Here’s the problem: One of the men in our group, “Stan,” doesn’t like another man in our group, “Dan.”
The last few times we’ve hosted a group gathering, Stan drank too much and became quite rude and hostile to Dan. Stan takes cheap shots or makes snide comments just loud enough for only those close to hear — including Dan.
Dan has never complained about it, but we feel it isn’t fair that Dan be treated so badly when he is a guest in our home.
Others in our group agree that Stan’s drinking is getting out of hand but know that mentioning it to him or his wife will cause hard feelings as they are both thin-skinned (they get quite pouty if they aren’t included in everything).
We’re planning another neighborhood barbecue and are hesitant to invite Stan due to his bad behavior. If we don’t include them, we know the friendship will be over. It seems like a no-win situation.
Any suggestions? — Trouble in Paradise
DEAR TROUBLE: The nice thing about “no-win” situations is that because you don’t have to worry about winning, you can blunder onward, trying.
In this case, if this thin-skinned couple will sever ties with you regardless of what you do, you could give “Stan” the gift of a lifetime by being honest with him about his drinking and its effect on you.
Try this: “I am worried about you. When you drink you become belligerent, and it makes us uncomfortable. If you drink too much and this happens again at an event we host, we’re going to call you on it.”
DEAR AMY: I may be accused of being sexist, but after spending over 20 years around health-care nursing stations and hospital break rooms, I continue to be mystified and appalled by the way my female colleagues routinely violate the confidentiality of others. I’m referring to personal information regarding friends and co-workers, not their patients.
Gossip about extramarital affairs, financial woes and substance abuse — there seems to be no subject that is off-limits. And frequently the statements I hear make it clear that the so-called facts being traded like some kind of currency are no more than secondhand innuendo.
Away from work, I spend lots of time with groups of male friends, but I simply don’t experience the same cavalier treatment of others’ personal information. Is this a gender-based phenomenon? — Puzzled in the Pacific NW
DEAR PUZZLED: I’ll probably be accused of being sexist for agreeing with you, but I do. I’m not necessarily appalled by this, however.
One (kinder) explanation of this stereotypical gender behavior is that women tend to use intimacies and personal information as a way of pulling the group together (that’s why women call it “sharing”), while men trade in impersonal problem solving as a way to attain and maintain status (which women think of as “withholding”).
DEAR AMY: You wrote that a husband who cheated on his wife should apologize to the wife’s family out of compassion for her, because she is missing family gatherings now that her husband is a “persona non grata” among her relatives.
In Italy we have a saying: tra moglie e marito non mettere il dito, which basically translates to “you don’t snoop into the private matters of husband and wife.”
If the wife chose to forgive him, then nobody else is entitled to hold a grudge or ban this man, as they are still a family, no matter how hard it could be to know that your daughter/sister has been betrayed. They are only making her suffer more, because she is forced to choose between her husband and her family. By acting like this they are being unsupportive of her choice. — Valentina
DEAR VALENTINA: Other readers made this very wise observation, but you’re the only one to do it in Italian. I agree with this correction and appreciate it.