Ask Amy

Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 10:00pm
Amy Dickinson

DEAR AMY: My husband and I are of a different faith than his family.

We never discuss religion or condemn them for their faith, but one of his sisters blasts us for our faith.

She hosts family gatherings on Sundays and gets very upset if we choose church instead.

I would just give in and go to her home, but my husband's biggest beef with her is that she curses like a sailor and smokes like a chimney around my children, ages 10 and 8.

Believe it or not, I love this sister-in-law to the bottom of my heart.

To have dinner out or talk to her on the phone is a joy because she doesn't smoke at all and doesn't curse as much in either situation.

But in her home ... wow! She told me that she told another sister-in-law that it was her house and she could smoke all she wanted. So, I got the point.

We have never asked her to quit cursing or smoking around our children lest we be labeled judgmental, but I truly believe I wouldn't want my children to breathe that or hear that no matter what faith I was.

Is it good manners to smoke like a chimney in your home if you have non-smoking guests? Is it bad manners to curse around small children? Should we go to these family get-togethers to keep the peace?

— Nancy in Indiana

DEAR NANCY: If you go to church on Sundays, then that's what you do on Sundays. Your sister-in-law is aware of this, and so she shouldn't count on seeing you during the hours you spend in church.

I can't imagine why you would be torn over attending to your faith versus spending time with someone who trashes you, smokes like a chimney and curses like a sailor (though I don't imagine sailors curse any more then other people).

Of course it is bad manners to curse and smoke around small children — even in your own home. Secondhand smoke poses a significant health risk to everyone.

However, you can't control what someone chooses to do in her house, and so if you want to spend time with your sister-in-law, it should be in an environment where she is better able to control herself.

You don't have to make a big deal about it, but you and your husband should behave with consistent clarity regarding where you and your kids spend your time.


DEAR AMY: We work for a large company but in a small department.

Our department is composed of several middle-age females and a thirtysomething single male.

Each and every day, this male burps very loudly and never once has said, "Excuse me." He does this while he is at his desk, standing at one of our desks, in our department meetings or in the elevators.

We generally pretend this doesn't happen, but in reality we're all wondering why he doesn't realize that this is rude behavior for an office environment and an individual of his age. How can we deal with this? — Tired of the Noise

DEAR TIRED:
One technique calls for you to more or less embarrass your colleague, which is impolite but might get your message across.

When he belches loudly, you say, "Whoa. Are you OK...? Can I get you a Pepto or a gastroenterologist?"

Otherwise, your group could elect one member to reach out to your colleague to say, "I know I'm not your mom, but could you do me a favor and just say, 'Excuse me,' when you belch out loud?"


DEAR AMY:
I'm responding to "Frustrated," who is getting collection agency calls for her brother-in-law.

You suggested that her husband may have co-signed for a loan and that she should call the agency "to get to the bottom of their household's entanglement" with the brother-in-law's finances.

Allow me to disagree. Collection agencies find as many avenues as possible to collect their money.

I used to get calls for my stepsister's ex-husband, and she and I never even had the same last name!

I suggest ignoring the calls.

— Patti

DEAR PATTI: Many readers wrote in to correct me, relaying stories and advice similar to yours. Thank you all.

Send questions to askamy@tribune.com

Filed under: Lifestyles

1 Comment on this post:

By: courier37027 on 5/20/09 at 8:55

Dear Target of Tired of the Noise,

Keep on burping. I would think after hearing years and years of your female co-workers' stories of ungrateful, deadbeat husband and perfect children you should fight back with a belch. Goodness knows you have to listen to light rock at work. Your female co-workers likely lumped you in among "all men" in their gripes. Next time, try cropdusting.