Posted by Merissa Nathan Gerson
I have a friend who comes over for lunch or dinner once or twice a week. He never brings any gifts or offers to help clean up or takes me out to eat or invites me over to return the favor. While I do enjoy being generous and give without the incentive of receiving, I do expect some show of appreciation. Should I say something to my friend?
In the words of Mother Theresa, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” In the words of me, tell this guest to get cleaning or get out. I am not completely sure the gentle way around a greedy grubber, but I do know the feeling of giving until you are exhausted of all energy. There is no written law that insists you have to enjoy giving when the receiver begins to leave you drained.
Gentle suggestions, “How about you cook next week?” Or “Would you mind helping me with the dishes?” often suffice. Another option is to reel in the generosity. Sometimes when we think we are being generous we are, in fact, addicted to being needed. Figure out your role in this situation, as much as the free loader’s. Why have you been able to set up this dynamic continually, despite the energy suckage? What are you afraid of in simply asking for reciprocity?
Reciprocity and forced gratitude are very different. “Hey, could you bring lettuce for the salad tomorrow?” is not the same as, “You ungrateful shit, I can’t believe you have never thanked me, or even bothered to lift a finger. I am not your slave wife.” Be good to yourself by learning to ask for help. You might be pleasantly surprised by how willing your guest is to rise to the occasion.
If that doesn’t work, and this person continues to feed off of you, get nasty. You aren’t obliged to be generous unless it makes you feel good, with or without a thank you. Don’t cheapen your gift-giving nature by dishing it out half-heartedly. Create a scene where giving in and of itself makes you feel full.
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January 28, 2010 | 5:12 pm
Posted by Merissa Nathan Gerson
I have been dating this guy a few times and he has an obnoxiously loud voice. Every time he speaks when we are at dinner I want to crawl under the table because everybody is staring at him. When is it too soon to tell a guy you have been seeing that he talks too loud?
To make matters worse, when he wants more water he waves his glass and shouts “hello, hello” to the waiter. Last night we went out for sushi and he demanded a spoon and started shoveling the sushi in his mouth. I am totally embarrassed. What do I do?
- Desperately Seeking a Normal Boyfriend in the Big Apple
Well, for this one I summoned the powers of my mother, who said flatly, “Get rid of him.”
My own first question would be to ask why you are dating him, what are his redeeming qualities? Do you like him for him, or are you sitting and enduring these dates simply because he likes you? Is there something fantastic about this rude boy that makes you want to overlook his flaws? Or, are they what take the cake?
My mother says that you can’t tell him what’s wrong with him. She says you need to find another man, or learn to love this one’s weirdness, you can’t change him.
I think it is important to look closely at the ticks that are bothersome about another person. Why does his loudness agitate you? His yelling at the waitress like a slave? Is it something in you, or something in him that needs to be changed? The insensitive details you listed lead me to believe that this man’s flaw is a basic lack of self-awareness and lack of respect for those around him. Why would you want to keep dating someone like that? What does he give you? Also, what kind of bozo eats sushi with a spoon?
There is, though, the possibility that he has something valid wrong with him, in which case choosing patience would be up to you. Again, a decision based on what he does that is positive and enriching in your life.
Only you know what kind of man you are looking for, what kind of things turn you on and off, and only you know if there is more to this story or if the buck stops here, table manners reflective of his general personhood.
Step one in finding New York’s finest dating prospects, in your case, would be drastically raising your standards and believing you deserve the very best in table manners, respect and general enjoyment. Also, knowing what you are looking for in a man makes dating less torturous. This way, if he doesn’t have what it takes you don’t have to agonize over it, you just know. Patience is key when searching for a worthy match. That, and remembering that you should have the very best.
January 26, 2010 | 5:07 pm
Posted by Merissa Nathan Gerson
I recently went out with a charming and cute young lady. However, up
until last week, I was pretty sure she was exclusively into other
women (from common acquaintances and context). But we hit it off
really well, and we have great chemistry when we dance. I’m sure she
could be bisexual in this day and age, but I don’t want to offend her
by trying to make out with her if she is really only into girls. I
also have no desire to ask her, “Are you gay?” Any suggestions?
Barking Up the Wrong Tree
Dear Barking Up the Wrong Tree,
When you like a straight woman, how do you know she is into you? Would you just walk up to her and start sucking face to express your lust? My guess is, no. Bi and gay women aren’t politically correct specimens, waiting to be offended, they are just women.
List the signs in your mind that indicate a green light with a straight woman and then apply them to your relationship with this new woman. There isn’t a huge difference when a woman is or isn’t into you, if she is also into women. The same rules apply, your mind just gets more wrapped up in the possibility of rejection when all genders are competing.
Give this one time, test the waters, do what you do, gently, nothing too intense, to show her you are looking for more than friendship. Go slow and watch, like you might with any woman who you are truly interested in. If she takes the bait, then keep moving in the romantic direction.
Gay and bi and straight are just labels used for identity markers, politics and convenience. She might be gay, she might be bi, she might be into you, and she might not be. Treat her like a woman who you find appealing, and just see if those feelings are reciprocated. Also, “this day and age” is perpetual, you never know, never knew if a woman you were with initially wanted a woman more than she wanted you. Again, you never know. Just jump.
January 24, 2010 | 4:55 pm
Posted by Merissa Nathan Gerson
I am not happy. I have an amazing son, good job, a beautiful home to live in, but every time I try to smile, tears fill my eyes. I try to blame this feeling on my divorce, my paranoia that my co-workers hate me, or the fact that I have given up on pretty much every dream that I have ever had because I am so tired all the time, but pushing the blame on things does nothing but remind me how pathetic my life has really become. I’m lost in a life that keeps spinning and piling up on top of me, and I don’t know which way is out. What do I do?
Step one: take a deep breath. When life starts to strangle you, teeny tiny baby steps are the only way to dig out of the hole. I would say start by taking inventory. Pause after your darling son is asleep and take notes on a number of things. A) Who do you have in your life that you CAN trust? That you CAN lean on? Seeing who these people are on paper is a helpful reminder that you aren’t alone. B) What have you done right, and well? This can be things that seem small but are really huge, like sustaining the life of a healthy child. This is a giant accomplishment. Note the little things, he is clothed, he is fed, he is not ignored. You would be surprised by how important these things are.
An inventory is really a way of gently shifting a mindset. If you think you are falling in a hole, it will be easier to lose your grip. But if you believe you are grasping and climbing out, this will begin to happen. It sounds like you have had a real run for your money in the past few years. Another inventory you can take is on how to begin to be gentle and loving with your exhausted self. Keep tea stocked. Take baths, invest in bath salts. Find a massage school near you and get a cheap treatment while a friend babysits, maybe offer to buy them a massage in return. Money doesn’t buy relaxation, investment does. Treat yourself with care in those tiny in-between moments when motherhood and work are not taking the reigns.
Do you have health care from your job? Can you find a therapist to support you, while you are supporting your family? You would be amazed how nice 50 minutes about you a week can feel. Also, stop, notice, breathe and write. Write it all down. Get creative, get crazy, work out all that divorce angst bottled up inside what looks like a perfect exterior life. Purge the feelings so you can be present, and see how wonderful you and the life you have created are.
And finally, re-visit your dreams. You are not dead, honey, just raising a child alone. As shut as all the doors seem, you need to be patient and remember that time brings change. Think of Langston Hughes and “A Dream Deferred.” List those aspirations that you think you completely lost, and remember that in time your son will go to school and become more independent and your dreams, on layaway, will explode again. Also, remember how you once dreamed of having children, and now you do! Enjoy that precious child.
January 21, 2010 | 5:17 pm
Posted by Merissa Nathan Gerson
As seen at www.askyouryenta.com
My friends come to my bar and I give them at least a couple of free drinks. Do they not realize that they’re supposed to tip me? What is an appropriate tip on a free drink? On a drink that’s only 2 dollars? On a drink that’s 10 dollars?
I was once an extremely generous tipper. I learned this habit from my restaurateur, bartender, barista and service-working co-workers. It was a revelation to me, how people who earned not a huge amount still were able to give so much back to other servers. No rich person of the many I had dined with had ever dished out so much dough. In the service industry there was a code of conduct and I learned to follow.
This meant, if you sat at someone’s bar and they gave you free drinks, you tipped at least 20% of the would-be price, or in our case, sometimes we would leave up to a hundred dollars on the bar. If you hadn’t been drinking for free, those bar stools would have been occupied by paying customers. While a bar seemed like a party to us on one end, our buddy behind the counter was earning a living from our good time.
My friends got free diner meals as managers and still left a twenty on the table every time. It was a way of saying thank you, of saying, “I know even though I am eating free that you are still working damn hard.”
Later, a rich friend of mine from childhood came into my restaurant and I saw that she tipped my co-worker 10%. This was after sitting and using a seat, asking for water, and taking up potential revenue space for hours. I was ashamed of my friend in that moment, and then realized it wasn’t her fault. If you never worked in the service industry, you never learned a number of things.
For one: what is a tip? A tip, in America, is not just a sign of gratitude for service. European customers often tipped a dollar or two for a forty-dollar meal. This wasn’t because they were rude, it was because they came from a whole other world of tipping culture where waiters were paid in full, and tips really were just an extra perk. In America, generally, service workers are paid around $2.75 an hour, expecting that the rest will be made in tips. This means, in theory, by tipping ten percent, after taxes, etc., your server ends up paying to bring you your meal.
It is standard to tip 20% everywhere you go. This includes a snack counter, where it seems like they aren’t working: but honey, they are. Tips, often unbeknownst to the untrained tipper, can make or break someone’s day. I had customers who left a twenty after ordering a $2 cup of coffee, and others who dangled dollars and lewd compliments in front of my face after ordering $100 worth of alcohol.
My boss on a farm once taught us that a customer’s bad mood is an opportunity to change someone’s day. He revolutionized how I saw rudeness, less as an affront, and more as an opportunity for change. Moral of the story? Tip, tip always, and tip well. If you are given a discounted meal, tip 20% of the original price. The server should never get stiffed because you were given a freebie.
If you order a $2 coffee, tip at least one dollar. Always round up. I would tip at least $2. $10 drinks: tip at the very least, $2. If the bartender is your friend, tip double. I would probably leave $5 for a $10 drink if I knew the bartender. Remember that bartenders often deal with horrible human behavior. Your tip is not just about money so much as about extra appreciation for not having to mix your own martini in your living room.
These tipping moments won’t bankrupt you; they will pass on the love. You don’t need to be as gung ho as servers are with each other, but you do need to give back appropriately upon receiving.
No matter what, it is still a deal. Money at a bar is less a payment and more like applause for a fabulous show. You want to applaud and give appreciation for the human busting ass to keep you drunk and happy. Also remember that a service worker serves everyone, the good the bad and the ugly, and that they deserve a little cushioning in gratitude for enduring the public and all that comes with it.
For more on tipping in other situations, go to TippingGuide.org.
To pose a question anonymously, click here and send your e-mail to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com.