Q. My boyfriend and I rekindled our relationship a year ago, after many years apart. We now are (supposed to be) in a committed, exclusive (but long-distance) relationship. We are both mature, divorced adults, and we love each other.
Recently, I visited him at his home for three weeks. We had a wonderful time.
He has been talking a lot about “Miranda,” whose mother died months ago. He said he’d invited her to his home for drinks and “breaks,” while her husband stayed home with the “baby” (who turned out to be a 13-year-old).
During a visit, after a party at his home (her husband had left); “Miranda” put her arms around my boyfriend’s neck while his hands were on her hips, and they kissed repeatedly on the lips. This made me wonder what they do when they are alone, which they often are.
I privately complained to my boyfriend. I felt it was disrespectful and hurtful. I asked him how he would feel if I was kissing another man like that.
He said: “It’s a Southern thing. Her mother just died.”
Then he blamed me for being jealous. I told him that where I come from, we have boundaries, respect for other people’s feelings and relationships and that we treat others the way we would like to be treated.
Every time he brings up the kissing incident and compares it to another grandmotherly friend who kisses him on the check, we disagree, and I burst into tears.
Is this a “Southern thing”? How should I handle it if it happens again?
A. I shared your question with the most “Southern” gentleman I know — the writer and humorist Roy Blount Jr., author of many books, including “Save Room for Pie: Food Songs and Chewy Ruminations” (2016, Sarah Crichton Books).
Roy responds: “I don’t think anybody should get away with anything by calling it ‘Southern,’ any more than I think anything should be put down by calling it Southern. I would say the ‘mother’s-death’ excuse for expanded affection expires, universally, after three to five days.
“The question this raises for me is less about regionalisms than about the Golden Rule, which I feel is flawed in its execution here. ‘We treat others the way we would like to be treated’ is working for Boyfriend and ‘Miranda,’ because they both like being treated the way they treat each other. If either of them were in ‘Southern Exposure’s shoes, they might like being treated to the same behavior they’re treating her to.
“But she doesn’t like it. So Boyfriend has to say, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize how those little pecks on the lips look to you. I’ll bear that in mind. But you don’t think I kiss her the way I kiss YOU, do you? C’mere.’
If he did that and she was still unhappy, she should go back to the air-kissers up North.”
I’ll add that you’ve stated your case. You should not bring it up again. The fact that he does bring this up makes me believe that he’s attempting to gaslight you.
Q. Yesterday after having a bit of skin surgery on my face, I decided to go shopping. I had sutures, which were covered up by small butterfly bandages. I emerged from the store and headed to my car.
I was immediately stopped by an older man who offered unsolicited advice, loudly calling out to me: “Miss, Miss — you know what you need to do? NEOSPORIN, twice a day! That’s what you should do.”
Amy, he repeated this several times — even though it was obvious that I’d heard him. I was startled and speechless! What would have been an appropriate response?
A. This came out of nowhere, but please understand that — just as you were walking around with visible injuries on this particular day, there are also people walking around whose broken places aren’t quite as obvious.
One response would be for you to make eye contact with this person and say, “Hi friend. Thank you! I’ll take it from here.”
Of course, it is challenging to respond in the moment — when something startles you. In cases such as this, stunned silence might be the best you can do.
Q. “Worried Pilot’s Wife” was trying to persuade her husband to stop constantly texting while driving.
I appreciated your response, pointing out the alarming number of crashes caused by texting. But you forgot to point out that texting while driving is illegal!
A. Absolutely. Thank you.
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