I’m a freshman in college, having an affair with my teaching assistant in one of my classes. I have no idea how to end it without incurring some sizable wrath. There’s a conflict between TA-student relationships, and I know that it was my fault for letting it get this far. I want to end it but am not sure how he’ll take it. He’s five years older than I am, but he’s an admitted alcoholic and drug user, and in many senses more immature than I am. He was the one to initiate the affair, and I was willing because it was close to the end of the year. Now I want to end it but am afraid of what he’ll do to himself and to me.
When you say you’re afraid of what will happen if you end it, do you mean you think he’ll get even with you by giving you a B instead of an A, or do you mean he’ll do you or himself bodily harm? If the latter, pick up the phone and call the campus police. In either case, you are confused and worried enough about a relationship that never should have happened—you mention your college has a policy against teachers having sexual relationships with students—that you should go to your campus counseling office and discuss what steps to take. I spoke to several college counselors, and they said they would help a student sort through such a situation and decide what to do, from assessing any possible threat to concluding whether or not you want to report the TA for this inappropriate relationship. You need someone to talk to, simply to help you realize that you are not at fault—you’re a freshman who was pressured into a relationship by someone with serious problems. And if you were my daughter, I’d want you to talk about this with someone else, as well: me.
My sister, with whom I am very close, married a man who is just awful. He’s a braggart, hypercritical, insensitive, and boorish. The worst example of this was at a family dinner when he asked my sister and me why “no one ever lit a fire” under our brother’s rear end. Prudence, our brother is severely disabled (my mother had rubella when she was pregnant with him), but he is gainfully employed and married. My long-term boyfriend and I are renting a beach house for a week and have included my boyfriend’s children and their significant others. Even in a large house, a couple of the unmarrieds will be on sleeper sofas. My sister learned of our vacation plans and asked if she could join us—hubby in tow. I explained that the house was full. She now wants to stay at a nearby campground and shower, eat, etc., at our vacation house. If it were anyone else, we could probably make it work. But I don’t want to subject my boyfriend’s family to this guy! How can I tactfully let her know that this vacation togetherness is not a good idea? I fear a permanent rift in our relationship.
—Dreading the Summer
You’ve got two problems. One is making sure sister and boor don’t show up at your vacation house. The other is that she will start picking up on the fact that her husband makes your skin crawl. As for the first, just be very firm that your house is at maximum capacity, and you simply can’t accommodate anyone else. For the sake of trying to understand this new phase in your sister’s life, could you possibly offer an alternative—say, suggesting that the four of you go away for a weekend? Once the summer-house discussion is settled, you might want to have a separate talk with your sister. Tell her you’re happy she’s found someone but that you were deeply offended by the crude remarks he made about your brother, as well as other things he has said. Tell her you love her and want to get along with your new brother-in-law, but perhaps she could ask him to tone it down when you’re together. If you don’t speak up, isn’t a rift inevitable, anyway?
I live in a wonderful neighborhood where about six families get together for barbecues and some holiday events. One family moved in recently, and things haven’t been the same for me since. After a party at our house a while ago, my husband walked home one of the women who stayed after the party to help clean up. She was very drunk, and he wanted to make sure she got home safely. About a month later, he was very negative about going to her home. After some prodding, my husband admitted to me that this woman tried to kiss him and grab his crotch. He claims that she had flirted with him for several months prior, but always thought it was harmless. When she made her advances, he pushed her away, and she apologized. She pretends to be my friend, but I want nothing to do with her and try to be very cold. This puts me in an awkward situation, as all of the kids enjoy playing together and the adults enjoy getting together. I wanted to call her on the phone and give her a piece of my mind, but my husband said to let it go. In the meantime, she has made a point of trying to talk to my husband, and then I become livid but don’t act. I am the one suffering for her actions—what should I do? I’m not immune to being confrontational, but my husband keeps telling me to forget about it because she knows he already rejected her advances.
It doesn’t sound as if you think you have any reason to doubt your husband’s version of the events. Take comfort that he was repulsed by her behavior and made that clear, so stop suffering over a pathetic, drunken woman. Instead of giving her the deep freeze, turn the thermostat up to cool and greet her with a little knowing smile, then politely excuse yourself from her. Stop getting agitated in group gatherings, and be confident in your husband and your marriage—you might even try to work up some pity for the husband and children of this woman. It sounds as if they’re going to need it.
I have the good fortune of having a first name that isn’t common or popular: Rita. Unfortunately for me, the Beatles wrote what I consider an annoying little ditty when I was just an infant. I’m used to people singing me a chorus or two when we first meet. And I don’t even mind that they think it’s the first time anyone was clever enough to make the connection. My issue is with one of my co-workers. She takes every opportunity to sing this silly song as we pass in the hall, or when she walks by my desk, or as I’m sitting quietly in the lunchroom. We are in the same department, sit about two cubicles apart, and we see each other a minimum of six to 10 times every day. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but at the same time, I’ve started dodging her in the hallways and scheduling my lunch breaks when she’s back from hers. How can I tell her, in a nice way, to please stop?
—Not a Meter Maid
If only your musical co-worker was named Molly, then you could reply with Little Richard’s “Good golly, Miss Molly, sure like to ball!” Stop worrying about the tender sensibilities of someone who assaults you aurally 50 times a week and speak up. The problem in these situations is that people often wait until they feel like ripping the offender’s lungs out before mentioning that they are annoyed. Since this is the first time your co-worker will hear that you’re not entertained by her song stylings, put on a smile and say with as much equanimity as you can that you would really appreciate it if she didn’t sing that Beatles song to you anymore. If that doesn’t immediately end the choruses of “Lovely Rita,” then drop the smile and say each time she starts, “I’m serious. Please stop.” Of course, some of us are luckier in our Beatles songs. My favorite starts, “Dear Prudence …”