Words to Avoid When Consoling a Friend
Dear Annie: My husband and I enjoy your column and often read it out loud to each other and discuss possible answers before reading your response.
In regard to "Grossed Out in Georgia," about the brother-in-law who licked his fingers or plate to "get every drop of dinner," we would counter that the writer simply wait until it starts to happen and then immediately remark: "Oh, George! Let me get you some more! I am so happy you like my cooking!" Then she could jump up and hold her hand out for his plate, ready to serve him a bit more. Maybe he really likes her cooking and he doesn't eat as well when he's on his own! She could even make some extra for him to take home when he leaves. Or maybe just mentioning it will snap him into awareness of what he's doing. -- Being Proactive
Dear Proactive: Thank you for your kind words and wonderful suggestion. I love seeing the brother-in-law's table manners through a positive lens.
Dear Annie: This is a suggestion for "Grossed Out in Georgia," who can't stomach her brother-in-law's habit of cleaning the last bit of food from his plate with his finger (or tongue).
My dad was raised "country," and it was considered good etiquette to return plates "clean." Guests were always provided a slice of bread (butter optional) to accomplish this. They used it to sop up gravy, push peas onto their forks and sponge off every last crumb from the plate. This ensured there was no waste, the diners were sufficiently full and plates were easier to wash without having to be scraped and rinsed.
Advise "Grossed Out" to tactfully offer her brother-in-law a slice of bread. If he doesn't know what it's for (but I bet he does!), she could say, "It's sweet that you love my cooking so much you don't want to waste a drop, but I bet it would be easier with this!" She could even demonstrate. -- Butter Side Up
Dear Butter Side Up: A great number of you suggested that he use bread.
Dear Annie: I've been a grief therapist for 37 years, and I find that there are some "experts" who often need to change their language when offering advice to grieving individuals.
Your comments answering a gentleman's confusion on whether to replace his wife after their lifelong love affair was poignant and beautifully said. But please refrain from using the trendy term "new normal."
Once someone loses the love of their lives, their life never becomes "normal," whether it's new or old. Rebuilding a life filled with love and lessons from loss experiences helps us to understand and navigate through life without that partner who was always our "other half."
I strongly recommend the writings of Megan Devine, who is a brilliant educator and writer on grief and loss.
Many thanks for your input on often extremely difficult life circumstances. -- Grief Therapist
Dear Grief Therapist: Thank you for your letter. Your counsel based on a lifetime of experience is much appreciated.
"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to email@example.com.