Keep Pats to Yourself

Posted May 25, 2018 4:15 p.m. EDT

Q: I work at a catering company. At an event, I patted a co-worker (another guy) on the back and asked how he was feeling. He replied: “Don’t [expletive] touch me!” Witnesses agreed he was unduly harsh; one reported the incident to our manager. Still, I was suspended until I meet with the manager about the touching. I wrote him that I was only concerned about a colleague in the grip of cocaine addiction; I suggested they test his urine for drugs. I also wrote my colleague a note of forgiveness for his nasty outburst and told him I only want him to get better. Thoughts? ANONYMOUS

A: So, you’ve forgiven a co-worker for your unwanted touching after ratting him out to the boss for drug use. How generous! And still, it seems not to have dawned on you (after a cavalcade of abusive men brought low and the whole #MeToo revolution) to keep your hands to yourself. Even when we mean well, others have a right to their bodily integrity. This includes drug addicts and people who use expletives.

I suggest changing tacks before you meet with your manager. Apologize to him and your co-worker for the touching, and promise it will not happen again. Unless your colleague has asked for your help, his alleged drug use is none of your business. And his “nasty outburst” argues for keeping your distance. Our good intentions often take a back seat to the reception our actions inspire.

‘I Draw the Line at Butt Smacks’

Q: My close friend and I (in our 20s) are engaged to guys we’re wild about. But I’ve been frustrated at her frequent, albeit mild, public displays of affection with her fiancé. When we played mini-golf together, they kissed after every hole. After particularly good shots, they would pat each other’s butts. I never thought of myself as a prude, but I draw the line at butt smacks while children are present. I’m also slightly jealous that my fiancé isn’t publicly affectionate with me. Should I speak with my friend about this? ANONYMOUS

A: “Prude” is such a judgy word. Why would we all share the same comfort level about something as individual as sex? That said, a consensual love pat after a hole in one on the mini-golf range is probably tame enough for “Sesame Street.” You and your fiancé don’t have to do it. But policing other people’s displays of affection, when your judgment may be colored by ambivalence about your own, is a bad idea.

Make this discomfort useful to you. Your jealousy of your friend’s PDA shows self-awareness. It’s also a terrific subject to explore with your fiancé. Maybe you’ve set some limits on your (and his) behavior that you’d like to revisit? Talk it over. Or give him a kiss when he putts through that windmill on the sixth hole. It might feel great — or gross. Just work out what you want. Your pal is a red herring.

Not Your Disneyland Fund

Q: I have been putting a chunk of money in a college fund for my niece’s daughter every year on her birthday. I want her to have a head start when she graduates from high school, whether that’s for college, trade school or travel. This year, my sister asked me to contribute the money to a trip to Disneyland, instead. But other family members can help with that. I’d prefer to keep contributing to the college fund. What should I do? M.G.

A: Saying no to children where Disneyland is concerned can be a rough business, particularly if they have passing familiarity with the soundtrack to “Frozen.” Happily, this request came from an adult. Two options: Say, “I’d rather not.” (“No” is a complete sentence, as the pop gurus tell us; it requires no explanation.) Or: “Sorry, I’d prefer to keep making my donations to my great-niece’s college fund.” And do not feel guilty for one second.

Bothered by the Buffing

Q: I work in an open-plan office, where we sit about 3 feet from each other. One man near me polishes and shines his shoes daily, sitting at his desk, leaning his shoes over a trash can. I respect his desire for a neat appearance, but I feel this is something he should be doing at home or in the restroom. It’s unsanitary: He’s brushing dust and dirt into shared space. When I alluded to this, it fell on deaf ears. Am I wrong? ANONYMOUS

A: Hang on! Did you “allude” to dust and dirt, or did you ask him to knock it off? No sense hinting. The shoeshines wouldn’t bother me personally. I have fond memories of a delightful Eastern European guy who made the rounds at a law firm where I worked, buffing and polishing as he went. I don’t recall upset office mates or clouds of dust. But if it annoys you, in principle or in fact, speak up: “Please stop shining your shoes in our shared space. The dirt bothers me.” If he doesn’t, email your manager. Or start waxing your eyebrows at your desk. (No, don’t do that.)