Story #1 Uninvited Dorm Room Guests
Oh, E-Hell, I need advice on how to deal with a perpetually rude “friend”.
My roommate Sarah and I are in our first year of college and live in the dorms. During the very first week we were here, we met Kayla, who lived in our building. We got along okay and ended up frequently sitting in the dining hall together by default, since we didn’t know many other people. About a month or so in, we started noticing certain habits of Kayla’s that made us a little irritated and uncomfortable.
Kayla is from a very big city thousands of miles away. Now, the town we go to school in isn’t exactly a bustling metropolis, but it’s an extremely diverse, good-sized college town in the mid-west, and it’s never boring. Apparently, this isn’t what Kayla expected. “This city doesn’t have a train system? Wow. Are there really farms outside of town? Gross. You guys call it pop? Uh, it’s definitely called soda.” Constant bashing! Having lived most of my life in this area, some of her comments really strike a nerve.
Kayla also takes it upon herself to be the social chair of our group of friends. Sarah and I are more homebody, keep-to-ourselves types, and in the fall Kayla decided she was going to change that and have a dinner party. At Sarah’s house (about 30 minutes away). Using Sarah’s kitchen. Sarah and I, along with about 5 of Kayla’s friends (who we have met, but aren’t particularly close to) received a text telling us we were invited to this party and we each needed to contribute $20 or so to cover the cost of food. I’m not sure if this is reasonable or not, but because I come from a poor family and can only afford college on a lick and a promise, I told Kayla that I wasn’t able to attend because I could not afford it. She made fun of me, telling me that I was using that as an excuse to not have to socialize.
Although Sarah and I have been dealing with Kayla inviting herself into our room unannounced for hours at a time all year, the kicker came last night. Kayla, along with her roommate and a friend, came into our room (which we still haven’t figured out how to politely deal with!) and announced that we were all ordering pizza. Sarah and I already had some leftover Chinese and weren’t really in the mood for company, so we politely declined. Kayla said, “Oh, okay, we’ll just get one for us, then!” and ordered a pizza for the three of them, which they ate in our room after spilling a glass of water on our carpet (which Kayla did not offer to help clean up, but her friend and roommate did).
She stayed and chatted with her friend for the next two hours or so, while Sarah and I were quite obviously studying. At one point, Kayla seemed to notice and said, “Oh, you guys are studying, maybe we should get out of your hair” to which we agreed, but she still did not leave! Her friend and roommate even started lounging on Sarah’s bed!
Our room smells like pizza, Sarah’s sheets have a light coating of shoe dirt, our carpet is damp, and we’re very confused. Unfortunately, this is not the first time something like this has happened! Should Sarah and I confront Kayla about her presumptuous behavior? How do we deal with her constant unwanted comments and “parties”? 0422-13
I can imagine a plethora of Ehell readers crying in unison, “GROW A POLITE SPINE!” You and Sarah might as well have “Doormat” tattooed across your foreheads and a sign on your dorm room door that says, “Spineless Doormats Live Here”.
First, who cares what Kayla thinks about your home town? Confident people who are secure in their beliefs are not going to be bothered one iota with someone who disagrees with them. “Hitting a nerve” only exposes the fact that you have a nerve that can be manipulated and tweaked by people who take pleasure in getting a rise from others. I do my darnedest to make sure no one places me in that kind of vulnerable position of reacting emotionally to their opinions.
Second, if you and Sarah are studying, close your dorm room door. Lock it. An open door is an open invitation to enter and socialize whereas a closed door sends the message that you are serious about studying with no distractions. If you choose to answer a knock on the door, promptly tell your guests that you are in the midst of studying and can only take a short break to socialize and then you will have to get back to work. Chit chat for 10 minutes and then look at the clock and say, “I’m sorry, I have to get back to studying for this exam. I enjoyed this brief break with you. Perhaps we can meet at the dining hall at 7 for dinner?”
Story #2 The Frazzled, Spineless Secretary
Our company secretary, “Janie,” was late to work today. Why? Because her late husband’s brother’s ex-wife (got all that?), “Dolly,” had phoned her at 9:00 last night and did not hang up until 11:30, after a conversation so emotionally toxic that Janie was unable to get to sleep until after 3 a.m.Janie told me the story during our coffee break.It seems that three years ago, Dolly’s husband, “Rick,” cheated on Dolly and Dolly asked him to leave. Rick promptly went to his elderly and ill parents’ house and has been sleeping there ever since.“Sleeping” is the correct description, because even though Dolly and Rick are “separated,” Rick still drops by:*Whenever he wants to see the grandchildren;*Whenever he wants a home-cooked dinner;*Whenever he wants to pick up some clothing, most of which is still stored there;*Whenever he wants Dolly to update the books for his business.In other words, Dolly is still providing access to their grandkids, feeding him, keeping his clothes and mementos stored, and doing his books. But they’re “separated.” And Dolly wonders (seriously!) why Rick won’t leave Her and come back home.That’s not the issue.The issue is that Dolly, who grew up in foster care, is 60 years old and unable or unwilling to take responsibility for her own actions and their consequences. She has a well-used lineup of blame dolls all standing in a row behind her and she will stick a pin into whichever doll suits.It’s Rick’s fault that Dolly is a wreck.It’s Rick’s fault that Dolly’s finances are a mess.It’s Janie’s fault that she stayed up talking on the phone for 2 1/2 hours.It’s their 30-year-old daughter’s fault that she had five children and criticized Dolly for not being available for free 24/7 child care and made Dolly feel guilty.It’s Rick’s parents’ fault that they are giving aid and comfort to their son.It’s Rick’s fault that he won’t file for divorce.Etc.Janie, our secretary, is tired, sick, and worn-out after approximately the six thousandth time of being put through the emotional wringer. Why is Janie always the sounding board? Because neither Rick nor their two grown children are willing to put up with Dolly’s insecurity, need for control, fear, and manipulation. Dolly seems to be afraid that if she ever made a decision, she would have to live with the consequences.Janie asked for my advice.I advised her to grow a Polite Spine. I even gave her a little script.“Dolly, how nice to hear from you. I’m sorry, this isn’t a good time to talk. It’s getting late and I have a few chores to do before I go to bed. I’ll talk to you later. Bye!” And hang up. Repeat as needed, even if that means 30 or 40 repetitions.I advised Janie to interrupt Dolly or talk over her … simply talk while Dolly is talking … because Dolly sounded to me like one of those very experienced kvetchers who is capable of talking in such a way that she never pauses for breath, never comes to the end of a sentence, and never lets a word in edgewise.“Do you object to hanging up on or interrupting telemarketers?” I asked. No, Janie didn’t.“This is like that,” I said. “Dolly is taking your time to bend your ear about something you have been over with her many times before, and you’re not interested in buying. She won’t take your advice and she won’t change her behavior. Just like you feel OK with hanging up on a telemarketer, it’s OK to hang up on Dolly.”Janie said: “Then she’ll bad-mouth me to (other relatives).”Who are they going to believe, I asked, you or Dolly?Janie was grateful for a sympathetic ear, but I’m not sure she’ll quite be able to grow that Polite Spine.Tell me, fellow E-hellions, was my advice on target? Is there anything more I can do, short of possessing Janie during these phone calls and cutting Dolly off myself? 0417-13
Story # 3 Doubting The Polite Spine
I’m wondering what the admin and the fellow Ehellions would have done in this situation.
My mother-in-law is someone who is known for requesting odd things. She and her siblings were throwing together a huge birthday bash for her father’s 80th birthday who lives over 1500 miles away. The weeks leading up to the party she had asked my husband a couple times if she could have some pictures of me and my husband as they were planning on putting framed pictures up at the party of her father’s children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren etc.About a week or two before she left, I e-mailed MIL a couple different pictures of myself and her son. Despite this, one day before she left to fly across the country she asks me, “Can I borrow the wedding picture of yours already framed in the living room?” I proceeded to ask “in my living room?” I knew she had her own framed wedding picture of me and her son because we had given her one after our wedding, so for some reason I thought maybe she was asking permission to take that. She said, “Yes, the one sitting on your end table.”I basically proceeded to tell her that I was sorry, but could not accommodate her request. I felt a little bad about it, but I also told myself (and her) that the frame our wedding picture was in was an expensive one from a family member and I wouldn’t want anything to happen to it during extensive travel. It is also one of my home decorations. The fact that she requested to borrow a displayed, framed wedding picture, fly it across the country and give it back to me who-knows-when, seemed odd.I later asked my husband if it was rude that I told her no, but he reminded me that I already sent her pictures of the two of us a week or two before and that her lack of planning did not justify her traveling across the country with one of my favorite home decorations!Should I have just given it to her?