Dear Annie: I have a longtime friend who has become quite difficult to be around because she talks nonstop about herself. She is a single professional woman who is intelligent and talented. But I think living alone causes her to unleash all of her thoughts on me. Honestly, I sometimes don’t even make an effort to talk about what’s going on in my life.
This has not been a huge problem for me, because “Sue” lives in another state and I see her only a couple of times a year. When I speak to her on the phone, she usually talks for about 30 minutes without a pause. As soon as I speak, she says, “I have to go.”
Recently, however, Sue told me she plans to move to my area when she retires. This isn’t so far into the future. I need to address the imbalance in our relationship for our friendship to continue, but I don’t want to hurt her feelings. How should I handle this?
-- Tired of Listening
Dear Tired: A certain amount of hard feelings may occur no matter how sensitive you are when telling Sue she doesn’t let other people talk. She is not “trained” to listen to anyone else. Retraining is best done in person and will take repeated efforts. It’s also possible that Sue talks incessantly in order to cover a hearing loss.
The next time you see her, touch her arm to get her attention and say, “Sue, can I get a word in?” She may be unaware that she monopolizes the conversation. You also can tell her how much it would mean to you if the conversations were more give-and-take. And you can ask whether she’s having difficulty hearing you. We can’t promise things will change or that Sue won’t be offended. But if she wants to remain friends, she will make the effort.
Dear Annie: My wife and I are in our early 60s and enjoy eating out several times a week. We can cook perfectly well at home, but are happy to pay a 20-percent gratuity in order to have someone else do the cooking and clean-up.
We recently ate out with three other couples at an upscale restaurant. It was not crowded. However, it took more than an hour for our dinner to arrive, the bread basket was long gone, water glasses were not refilled, and then the orders were misplaced. Twice I had to find our waitress, who was busy texting on her phone, just to get some information. When our dinners finally arrived, the cook had to come out and help her sort our orders, as she had no clue.
The food was excellent, and the restaurant, as is customary, added an 18-percent gratuity for the large party. We paid in cash to the exact penny, wrote a note on the bill about the horrid service and left no additional tip because there was no service.
I realize that things happen in the kitchen that are beyond the server’s control, but when this happens, a good server should communicate this to their customers. Bring a free round of drinks or hors d’oeuvres. At least keep the water glasses filled. It’s not that difficult.
-- Still Steamed
Dear Steamed: Your complaint is quite valid. However, if there was an 18-percent gratuity added to the bill, you did indeed pay for service. If you intended to teach the server a lesson, you may have missed. Better to complain to management.
Dear Annie: “Native New Yorker” took issue with people asking “Where are you from?” because he had a raspy voice. I have been asked that, too. A couple of times I responded, “From the womb.” Once, someone actually asked, “What state is that in?” I had the presence of mind to respond, “I believe it’s in the state of matrimony.”
-- Pedro from Guam
Dear Pedro: We love it!
Dear Annie: “An Anxious Mom” was reluctant to give money from her late husband’s will to her 58-year-old unemployed son who is living on his veterans benefits. One of your suggestions was to put the money in a trust.
Please suggest she check into creating a Special Needs Trust for her son. If she gives the money directly to him, he will probably spend it very quickly, but he could also lose his VA benefits. She will need to consult a lawyer knowledgeable in these matters.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org