DEAR AMY: I feel like I'm drowning in office parties.
I am a supervisor in a government agency in which two other supervisors want me to throw a cake party for two of my staff members who just recently earned degrees (a bachelor's and master's, respectively).
The other supervisors say the purpose is for the entire staff to recognize them for this huge accomplishment. They say it promotes team spirit. I disagree.
Both staff members are in their 40s. The office friends of the person with the bachelor's degree already had a party for this person. And the person with the master's degree is having an invitation-only party, which includes office staff. I do not feel it is my responsibility to provide cake and do a third celebration.
These same supervisors wanted to celebrate another co-worker's 60th birthday, even though the person was adamant about not wanting this and actually took a vacation to avoid the celebration. I refused the pressure to throw a party.
This office celebrates major birthdays with decorated rooms and cakes, and does cards and flowers for immediate family deaths, farewells, etc. I believe it is necessary to draw the line somewhere. What is proper office protocol for birthdays, weddings, pregnancies, graduations etc.?
— Staffed Out
DEAR STAFFED: I'm going to try to avoid taking a swipe about government efficiency, but with all the celebrating going on, it's a wonder you get any work done!
When I've tackled this sort of problem before, readers have responded with suggestions for how they handle these celebrations in their own offices.
The one I like best is when offices mark a month's worth of celebratory moments (birthdays, etc.) on one day — say the last Friday of the month — with a simple catch-all cake.
On this day, the head of the party planning committee can announce the birthdays, accomplishments, etc. of all staff members. Then you can snack, back-pat, be done with it and get back to work.
If staff members want to throw additional celebrations, they should do so off-site.
DEAR AMY: I am a man in my 50s and come from a big family. I go to one of my siblings' house two times a week to visit their family. In the last few months, I have grown attached (in an uncle/niece way) to my 17-year-old niece.
Recently, I sent her a note explaining that maybe in time we can be friends as well as uncle/niece. My idea for a friendship is that if she had a problem she couldn't talk to her folks about, she could come to me or if she needed a few dollars, she could ask me.
She has now been avoiding me and won't talk to me at all. Family members told me I spooked her. Amy, I did not mean anything by it. She must have taken it the wrong way. I miss her terribly, all because I was honest about how I felt.
My question is: Do I leave her alone until she comes around or what?
DEAR UPSET: Yes. Leave this alone before you do any more damage. The special "friendship" you described wanting is actually a pretty typical relationship between a young person and her uncle or aunt.
There was no reason to reach out beyond your current relationship and ask for anything more from her. To do so was inappropriate, at best.
Your niece is 17. I'm sure she is bewildered and put off (and maybe creeped out) by your declaration of a special attachment to her. You could apologize for putting her on the spot but after that you must respect her choice to keep her distance.
DEAR AMY: You put the call out for "worst wedding" stories. Here's mine: I spent the entire service (in a Catholic church, mind you) truly believing that the top-heavy bride, despite constant full-on, elbows-out tugging, would fall completely out of her strapless wedding gown.
I remember nothing else.
— Your Fan
DEAR FAN: It doesn't matter how large or small a person is. If you go strapless, you are practically begging for a wardrobe malfunction.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.