Q. Beware the “revenge dinner.’’ I'd like to warn other women against looking up old boyfriends as a possible resource for help with employment. I did this one night while sitting in front of my computer trying to figure out what stones I had left unturned. I Googled a guy I'd been involved with as an undergrad at Berkeley and a while thereafter. I found he'd been a top exec in Asia for the past 15 years. I contacted him to congratulate him on his great success and, by the way, to ask if he would help circulate my resume. On a trip to San Francisco, he asked me to dinner only to tell me he had been deeply in love with me and never found anyone else. He'd basically been set up in an arranged marriage as his sister intended. (They are Chinese, and she was dead set against a Caucasian sister-in-law.) Though on the surface he seemed to be grateful to have rediscovered an old friend, the dinner was just for emotional revenge, as he denigrated my resume, reduced my work experience to nothing and told me, “You're on your own,’’ as he handed me $800 “to help me out’’ even though he's a billionaire industrialist in Shanghai. I was depressed for months after the wrenching put-downs, especially knowing he could have given me $1 million, and it wouldn't have been a great sum to him.
A. I have to tell you, holding it against a guy because he didn't give you $1 million after dinner blows my mind. I would have hoped you'd have rejected the $800, but I think that did not happen. I also have to tell you that while looking up old boyfriends doesn't usually lead to a “revenge dinner,’’ it's a bad idea. In his mind, he was punishing you for dropping him, whether his sister's meddling was involved or not, and his behavior makes him quite awful in my view, as he should be in yours. I am sorry you were depressed by this dreadful reunion, but you must reorganize your thinking about rich people. Just because you need it and they have it does not mean it is coming your way. I hope by now you have found a job and can stop thinking about this strange mess.
Q. Our book club is falling apart because of an overly talkative member. Whenever someone makes a comment, this woman one-ups it with a personal story of her own. It’s not that her contributions are unworthy; it’s simply that they dominate things to the point where we're all bored stiff. Members are dropping out right and left. What to do? Help!
A. It is interesting that book clubs have proved to be petri dishes for all kinds of interactional difficulties. I would think a number of members dropping out would have inclined someone to tell the teller of personal stories that her contributions are a little off topic and not what the club is for. It is not unheard of for a member of a book club to be asked to drop out. Someone needs to say something to her, and if the message doesn't get through, I suggest you all re-form a new book club — without her. I am never in favor of being held hostage to anyone’s poor judgment.