Dear Amy: This holiday season, my cousin and his wife will visit after five or six years. He and I are close but the wife, apparently an introvert, enjoys her own space, which is fine. The times we have been together she is always on devices, also fine. However, she has an annoying habit of “fact-checking” everything anyone says. It really grates on me.
I am a retired editor who did this for a living, but now I keep my mouth shut unless consulted.
How can this be handled without causing hurt feelings?
I think it is rude and inconsiderate. She has no clue about sourcing, and her comments often are inaccurate — making it all the more annoying.
– Corrected to Death
Dear Corrected: I’ve passed your query along to my own longtime editor, Tracy Clark. In addition to saving me from my own errors “on the regular,” Tracy is the award-winning author of a wonderful series of crackling crime novels, all set in her hometown of Chicago. Her latest is: “Runner (A Chicago Mystery)” (Kensington, 2021).
Here’s Tracy’s response:
“Be strong, my friend. The Fraternal Order of Fact-checking Editors Who Must Tick-a-Lock to Save Christmas (FOFEWMTSC) sees you. We feel your pain.
We are the ones who drive past a highway billboard, see a comma in the wrong place, and lament the fact that we cannot fix it.
We are the ones who stand in the “15 items or less” line in the grocery store rolling our eyes in aggrieved silence.
And you are the one who must smile and nod at your cousin’s wife when she swears up and down that the Yalta Conference took place in the spring of 1944, not the winter of ’45.
In short, in the words of the immortal bard, “Elsa,” you must simply “Let it go.”
No good can come from arguing with the woman.
You’ve laid down your blue pencil. Your job is done. You don’t see a podiatrist examining every foot at a family christening, do you? No, you do not.
When your cousin’s wife starts up, go for another cheese ball, or hum “White Christmas.”
Pad over to the window and watch the snow fall, secure in the fact that you have single-handedly averted a family donnybrook.
Breathe, dear Corrected, and smile. The FOFEWMTSC is with you in spirit. Be secure in the knowledge that you have survived Christmas ... correctly.”
Dear Amy: Many people (myself, included), have anguished over how to respond to those facing cancer.
I am now facing cancer, myself.
I understand and appreciate receiving positive vibes, prayers, “…You’ve got this,” etc. from friends, family and medical professionals.
Encouragement definitely has a place.
But it would also be helpful to LET me be scared, and to be scared with me from time to time.
Sometimes the positivity spin feels dismissive. To me, it can also seem like an overreaction to a situation that has many ups and downs.
Love and positive intentions from people are good, but I wish that people would let us share what we are feeling without trying to gloss over it.
It’s cancer, and it could end in death. Please don’t liken it to a root canal!
– Responding to Cancer
Dear Responding: I’ll toss another response onto the pile: “My cousin/sister-in-law/college roommate’s brother” had that and it’s no big deal.” (Or – even worse – noting someone they knew who suffered and died of the same disease.)
Oftentimes, the best response to another person’s tough personal news is to say, “I’m so sorry. That sounds tough. How are you doing with it?”
I agree completely that it can be a relief for someone to respond to your own sadness by expressing their own sadness about it – as long as you don’t end up having to comfort the other person through your own trauma.
Thank you for offering this helpful advice; I wish you all the very best.
Dear Amy: My husband and I faced the same dilemma as "Decluttered,” the parents who were overwhelmed with too many gifts for their children.
We asked our extended family members to consider giving each child one gift per occasion. If they wanted to do more, they could contribute to savings accounts we had started for them.
We eventually turned these into investment accounts.
The one stipulation before they got control of the funds was to attend a financial money management class.
– Been There
Dear Been There: A great gift, made more beautiful because it was from the entire family.
©2021 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.