Dear Abby: My husband and I go out to dinner once a month with a couple we have known for years. “Joe” is an active conversationalist, while my husband is fairly quiet. The problem is Joe addresses only me and stares at me throughout the meal. I think it’s just a bad habit he has acquired. To no avail I have tried various seating arrangements to avoid the constant stare. It makes me very uncomfortable. I feel bad for my husband, who is totally ignored, but doesn’t seem to care as long as the food is good!
How do I get Joe to include my husband in the conversation and rest his gaze elsewhere? I would never say anything to “Mrs. Joe” about it because I don’t want to make her uncomfortable, too. I really want to continue the friendship and the socializing, but I’d like to feel more relaxed at the dinner table. Any suggestions?
– Distressed Diner
Dear Distressed: You are not helpless. The next time Joe directs his comments and questions only to you, toss the verbal ball to your husband and say, “Honey, what do YOU think about that?” It will give him an opening to enter the conversation.
As for the staring, Joe may not be aware of what he’s doing. You could bring it to his attention by simply saying: “You keep looking at me, Joe. Do I have food in my teeth? Is my lipstick smeared?” Then haul out a compact and make a show of checking for yourself. It may help to curb his discomfiting habit.
Tip friends off to body odor
Dear Abby: I’m 14 and in the eighth grade. Some of my friends have problems with body odor. It makes it hard for me to be around them. They all are nice people, but sometimes I can’t breathe when I’m near them. Some of my other friends say I should tell them, but I’m not sure how without hurting their feelings. The odor ranges from breath to body. Abby, they are known throughout our school for being the “smelly ones.” How do I tell them without offending them?
– Breathless in Beachwood, Ohio
Dear Breathless: I agree that telling people they have bad breath or body odor can be embarrassing. But to do so is not hurtful; in fact, it is doing the person a huge favor. The way to do it is PRIVATELY. This is important because your friends are probably not aware that they have a problem or have been causing one.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 60069.