Question: I’m in my late sixties and have some age-related health challenges, which mean I’m occasionally caught short and need to use the ladies’ room rather urgently. This happened today in a popular Seminyak restaurant where I was in the one ladies’ room stall for about ten minutes. No sooner did I get in there, when someone pounded loudly on the door. I said I’d just be just a few minutes as I was helpless to leave at that moment, and the pounding stopped. After about another minute, the pounding started up again. Again, I needed more time and said I was sorry, that I’d only be a few minutes. I suspect that I’m not the only one in the world with issues of this nature, and I was being as quick and polite as I could be.
When I was able, I completed my business, washed my hands, and opened the door to find a woman of thirty-something standing in the hallway with a scowl on her face and a raised fist. “Goodness gracious, lady,” she snarled. “There are four people out here waiting to get in there.”
I looked around and saw only her. “Maybe you ought to have used the men’s room,” I suggested.
“Instead of standing there arguing, why don’t you just get the hell out!” she said very loudly. By now, people in the environs were looking at us although they were attempting not to meet my eyes.
Then – and I’m not proud of this – I said, “Why don’t you go fuck yourself?” and collected my shawl and purse in a leisurely fashion while the other woman reared back and gave a Victorian-maiden impression over my use of the f-bomb. Nobody in the place would look at me as I left. I don’t feel like I can ever go back there, which is unfortunate because they have a wonderful menu. I feel humiliated and powerless since that was the only comeback I could think of. What should I have done?
Dr. ZZ: Socially acceptable substitutes for the f-word are “WOW” or “EXCUSE YOU” but, in this instance, you are probably better off taking a page from Dame Helen Mirren, who regrets not telling people to “fuck off” more in life. The other woman probably had to use the restroom urgently too and was not at her best in the moment. That, however, is not your fault. Your suggestion about using the men’s room was, in my opinion, a good one. Abusing you was not a solution, and you don’t have to care about her feelings. Let her clutch her pearls forever while you go back to that restaurant to enjoy the menu any time you feel like it.
Question: I have a friend who is lonely and under-socialized. Often, when he enters a conversation, he does not respond to the flow or the attempts of others to change the subject. Instead, oblivious to signs of disinterest and boredom, he waits until you’re finished, and says something like, “Cool. So about the story I was telling . . .” and picks up where he left off. His stories are usually fairly mundane, and in a group of people, he will make sure every new person hears his pet tale of the day – no matter how many times the other people there have heard it already.
Although he comes across as being self centered, I suspect that he is instead insecure, oblivious and eager to socialize. He’s a nice person when he gets out of his own way, and I am willing to help him expand his circle of friends – if I can do it without being talked at for hours while feigning interest.
Last night, for example, I was out with him and a couple of other buddies, and once again he managed to dominate the conversation for hours. This was exhausting and disappointing because I had wanted to catch up with my other friends, and instead we were all subject to his show. Is there anything I can do short of sitting him down and telling him that he is boring? It’s not fun to hear for anyone, and this friend in particular will likely be hurt.
Dr. ZZ: You do not have to take on the project of overhauling your friend’s loneliness and social life. When you want him around and want to hang out, invite him. When you don’t, don’t. In his presence, you need to take care of your own boredom levels. Let him know when you’ve heard his story already, and excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, get a breath of fresh air, order another cup of coffee, or whatever. Other people who want to hear the story will stay; those who don’t may accept your lifeline to take a break.
You can also always start a side conversation with someone else you are interested in. When another person else tells a story, ask them a follow-up question. You don’t have to take care of anybody else’s possible boredom. If a situation like last night happens, where your oblivious friend dominates the conversation and ruins your evening, see if you can pull him aside and ask him to ease off. Or tell him the next day that you’re glad he had a good time, that your other friends seemed to enjoy meeting him, but that his two or three hours of telling the same old story put a damper on your evening. Set bright boundaries with him about how much you can be talked at without being unkind. Taking care of yourself around these interactions will probably be some of the best “help” you can give him.
Dr. ZZ has a Ph.D. in Counseling and a doctorate in Natural Healing. Drawing on a background of over thirty years as a professional therapist, she offers self-help in the areas health, relationship and personal growth. All queries are answered by email and, if they appear in print, are subject to editing. Please email your questions : <firstname.lastname@example.org> All identifying information is kept strictly confidential.
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