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Miss Conduct

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What to do when a hot flash strikes in public. Plus, the mysterious case of the tip skimmer.

> As a newbie to hot flashes, I would really appreciate your advice. Should they be acknowledged or ignored in a professional setting? When a flash hits, this fair-skinned Irish girl turns beet red, and the inevitable sweaty face follows. This happened recently in a job interview. I didn’t say anything, but you should have seen the looks I got.

J.H. / Newburyport

Questions like this remind a person — me, to be exact — that the personal really is political. When hot-flashing, there ought to be no more burden on you to soothe or enlighten your audience than there would be if you sneezed. That this isn’t the case says unhappy things about our culture’s views on women and age.


Which isn’t to suggest you turn into a Militantly Menopausal Millie, especially at a job interview. Say “Excuse me, I’m having a hot flash’’ if your immediate company needs an explanation. Unless you’re with lady friends, don’t make self-deprecating jokes. Then take a deep breath, a sip of water, and dab your forehead with a well-ironed handkerchief of excellent quality, perhaps monogrammed. Learn how to do this with deliberation and ease, allowing it to be a moment when everyone else can quickly check their smartphones, blow their noses, or organize their own thoughts. A moment that enhances your authority, rather than undermining it.

Shorter version? Those of us old enough for hot flashes are old enough to be role models. Behave in the confident, assured way that you’d like to see your own daughter, niece, student, or protege act when it’s her turn.

> I recently found out that a friend who goes to dinner with me and two other women and takes our money so she can use her charge card has been cheating us. We give her 20 percent for the tip, but one of the women saw that she was only putting 15 percent. I feel as if she’s stealing from us. What should we say?


E.B. / Middleborough

“Stealing’’ is swiping candy from a drugstore. What you suspect Perpetrator Friend of doing is more properly described as “embezzling.’’ That said, on a $200 tab — a reasonably generous estimate of what dinner and drinks for four women might run — the difference between a 20 percent tip and a 15 percent one is $10. Perp Friend is skimming off less than $3.50 from each of you (in cop-show lingo, the “Vic Friends’’). Doesn’t that seem odd?

Are you sure Witness Friend is right about what she saw? If so, are you sure Perp Friend couldn’t have made a simple error? That certainly seems the most probable explanation. The fact that the three of you are assuming foul play leads me to suspect you don’t particularly like Perp Friend in the first place. If that’s so, there’s no need for a confrontation — let the group lapse and then regroup as a troika after a bit.

But if you have the slightest skepticism of eyewitness testimony — which you should — or the slightest faith in Perp Friend — only you can speak to that — then have one more dinner. Come cashless and armed with a credit card. If it turns out you’ve foiled a nefarious scheme, it should be obvious from her reaction.

 Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.

NEED MISS CONDUCT’S HELP? Write to her at missconduct@globe.com . And read her blog at boston.com/missconduct .