Dear Annie: I work in an office with mostly wonderful ladies with whom I, in general, get along well with. I have one lunchtime irritation.
There is a certain co-worker, "June," who always has a comment to make about what I'm eating for lunch. She never says anything so blunt as, "That is unhealthy! How can you eat that?!" However, her comments often make me feel that she actually thinks that. She will make a remark such as, "Oh, pasta? Well, I guess that tastes better than my protein smoothie."
I know that in itself, that is a pretty innocent comment and nothing to get flustered over, but it happens every time she and I have the same lunch hour -- or even when she happens to walk in the break room while I'm on lunch. Several times, she has even made a joke when I've ordered from the sandwich shop across the street (which I do only once or twice a month), saying that I must be single-handedly keeping the place in business.
I realize that I'm possibly being overly sensitive, but I just feel that people should have more tact when talking about what others eat. Actually, I don't see the need for others to ever comment about that at all! Why do people think that is OK? And do you have a suggestion for how I could tactfully tell June that her comments really bother me? -- Fed Up
Dear Fed: June needs to mind her own lunchbox. It sounds as if she is fixated with dieting and is envious of your ability to enjoy what you eat. I don't think she's consciously trying to make you feel bad, so you might first try gently bringing her attention to what she's doing. Every time she mentions how good your lunch looks, offer her some. She'll most likely decline and for a moment be forced to consider why she made the comment in the first place.
If the comments persist, then it's time to be direct. Let her know that you're sensitive to the remarks about your diet and that you'd appreciate her not commenting on your lunch unless she's asking for the recipe.
Dear Annie: I am writing in response to your reply to a woman who received an invitation to her friend's combination birthday/retirement party with the notation "Donation: $60." She wanted to know whether she is expected to take a gift -- after already paying to attend the gathering. Your answer: no gift. But you missed the bigger issue, or so it seems to me.
When you host a party, you offer your guests the best you can afford; you do not expect them to pay. A cash bar is the only exception, and I don't even think that's such a good idea. Your friends are your guests. You provide the food and beverages. My husband and I wouldn't accept an invitation requiring us to pay to attend.
For the most part, we agree with your advice. My husband and I are old, so things we think to be important are often not so. But that's probably been the case since the beginning of time. -- Betsy in Moorhead, Minn.
Dear Betsy: I focused on whether guests should bring gifts because it was a guest who had written to me. But don't discount your and your husband's opinions. Etiquette is still very important, if not always observed.
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