Why Hitting on Your Co-Worker is a Terrible Idea

So, someone asked us this question. And I answered it.

“Hi Miss Elle. I found this post as I was searching for advice on being more than friends. You seem to have some sensible views on most things, so I thought I would ask you. I have fallen for a co-worker. I have been working with her for a few years, but I am not sure what happened recently. Maybe it was strong pheromones that day but there was this one time when I was standing by her desk recently, and suddenly there was this strong drive to well, you know (think cave man and his primal instincts and baby creation). I don’t think we have ever touched each other ever, but certainly on my part there is some huge electricity between us everytime we speak since that instance. We certainly have not flirted though. However, I am not sure how much weight you put on these signs but I do tend to find her mirroring my body language and posture when we sit or stand next to each other – again this is a recent observation. On many occassions when we converse, she has her hands, arms, legs mirroring mine. Oh by the way, I didn’t mention, but she does have a boyfriend and lives with him. I don’t hear her complain anything bad about him so I think they are in a good position. But, my instinct says she is feeling that same drive as me. We have certainly paid a lot more attention to each other recently though. Maybe she feels she can’t say anything because I am going through a divorce at the moment but I still wear my wedding ring and she does not know I am currently seperated from my wife nor have any problems in my marriage. I know as far as she is concerned that I am happily married (so there is no easy opportunity for her to flirt or anything with me) but me and my wife are currently going through the divorce courts. I am wondering how I test the water with her – its really tough to get her alone to see if there is anything there – how do I move things forward a litte? Any advice you can give would be very much appreciated. Thanks :)”

*****************************end creepy-ass question, begin sensible advice*****************************

First of all, I’m sorry about your divorce. No matter how amicable, mutual or however much you’re staying friends, a significant split is going to throw emotions into turmoil. Which is what I suspect is happening here. Also, I would venture a guess that your co-worker knows you have a crush on her, because these things are virtually never as discreet as you think they are.

Now first, let’s talk about workplace etiquette for a second.  What’s your plan here? Sleep with this person once or twice and then see her every day for 8 hours with no emotional fallout? You’re clearly an adult so you must know this almost never happens. Think you’re such a good match that you can get her to dump her boyfriend for you? Then find a new job before you try it. Not only do most companies have ‘no dating in the workplace’ rules, most women don’t like to be harassed at work, which is a pretty easy bridge to cross.

You mention that there’s been no attraction to this point, which indicates to me that whatever you’re feeling here isn’t real, it’s a symptom of your divorce. This is precisely how I wound up dating a vegan. I was pretty fresh post-split, and he was there. It was messy and horrible, and we now have the luxury of never speaking again, which is a luxury you won’t have in this situation.

As for mimicking your physical movements, all non-sociopathic humans do this unconsciously. Crossing her arms a minute after you did DOES NOT mean a woman wants to sleep with you (I would also like to point out that most people do this more when the person they’re speaking to is nervous or clearly uncomfortable).

And she’s being nice to you. Or paying attention to you, whatever. There are literally thousands of reasons people are nice to other people, but let me assure you that a woman being nice to you DOES NOT mean she wants to sleep with you.

A woman wearing short shorts, or a bikini, or a slutty Halloween costume, or any other damn thing she pleases in public, DOES NOT wear those things to signal that she wants to sleep with you.

A woman eating a banana in her car on the way to work in the morning IS NOT eating that banana to infer that she wants to sleep with you. We clear?

Lastly, there are two possible reasons you don’t know the details of her relationship with her live-in boyfriend:

1)      They’re unhappy and it’s none ya

2)      They’re happy and it’s none ya

None ya as in, none ya damn business. Which I suspect you know, as you threw it in as an aside hoping nobody would notice.

I suspect you know this already as well, but if she was the type of girl who would be willing to cheat on her partner, and she wanted to cheat on him with you, I doubt very, very much if your wedding ring would have been much of a deterrent.

So make a pass at her if you must, just remember her first call could be to HR and not for hotel reservations.

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Don’t Be Waiting

As Southerners, and as ladies, Miss Elle and I were taught to be polite. But sometimes, especially as young ladies trying to navigate through the muddy, gator-infested swampland of the dating world, we confuse acting politely with indulging bad behavior. What I think we need to teach our young ladies and gentlemen is that being polite is vital — but we must also be polite to ourselves. We teach others how to treat us by what we will and will not tolerate. And it’s never rude to insist that others treat you with respect.

When I was 21 (no, I won’t tell you when that was; a lady never reveals her age), I studied for a summer in Spain. Well, there was a pretty small group of us, and as young, verdant people turned loose in a foreign country are wont to do, people started coupling off, or at least finding each other’s lips and bodies to be rather magnetic. My friend and roommate, whom we’ll call Kate, and I had taken a shine to a couple of gentlemen dudes in our group. We’d started spending time with these dudes, and we each really liked our respective dude a lot. Even though, I must admit, they had not always thus far proven themselves worthy of our liking.

Well, one day, we went to an internet cafe. (Shoot, I’ve just blown my cover. Yes, this was in the early 2000s. Oh well, what’s done is done.) The boys were going to meet us there. Well, Kate and I sat there enjoying our beers and reading our email. (This was an actual bar as well as an internet cafe, with computer screens under glass tabletops. Very exciting.) We both had lots of emails and were there for a while before we realized time was going by. Then, suddenly, we discovered that we were still sans dudes.

“Let’s go,” she said. “I don’t want to be here when they get here.” And I knew she was right. Even though we were both very attracted to these boys, they weren’t treating us with respect. Along with too many other offenses, the details of which I’ll spare you, now they were disrespecting our time. Expecting us to be sitting there waiting for them when they finally got around to joining us. We had to leave, even though we would have much preferred to nuzzle their man-scented necks. But leave we did. And a few blocks away, we ran into those turkeys. And you should have seen their faces when they realized we hadn’t waited. “But… but… we were coming to meet you!” they protested.

“Yeah, but we finished our email, and now we think we’ll go do something else. Nice running into you. Bye!”

Some guys think we’ll wait forever for them. And some gals, too, I’ll fully admit that. They just assume we have nothing better to do than sit by the phone, or in the cafe, or in the restaurant shucking peanuts and throwing the shells on the floor, or wherever it may be, hoping they’ll see how special we are. But y’all, they’ll never see it if we don’t see it ourselves. We have to teach people how to treat us. And the clearest message you can send, even if it may be the hardest, is not to be waiting when they finally see.

Why Gossip Just Isn’t A Good Color On You

Recently, I was a guest at a dinner party. I knew one person there, and was being introduced to their larger group of friends. Y’all. I was so nervous. But my nerves were shocked right out of my system when, not 10 minutes into appetizers and wine, the hostess and other guests began to – there’s just no way to put this nicely – severely denigrate someone whom they all knew, who was not present. I can’t lie, my sensibilities were mortified. In fact, I retreated into my cell phone (I’m fairly sure this is why fortune brought us the android app store, y’all) in order to hide exactly how high my eyebrows had risen.

I would have thought that we all learned the dangers of gossip in high school, when rumors flew like your Aunt Millie’s floral Hanes Her Way at a Jimmy Buffett concert, but apparently we all need little reminders.

I want you to think of a t-shirt form the juniors department at Ross. It might look ok on the hangar, and even in the dressing room, but one trip through the wash and the seams rip out, and the color starts to bleed all over whatever it touches. Exactly the way hateful words are unable to hold their shape after a good scrubbing, and tend to inject their venom into everything around them. In the end, it’s just a cheap covering for your own insecurities, and deep down, honey, you know you’re too old for it.

Now, that t shirt is probably one of those horrible colors that might seem ok in half light. Something like a graying khaki or that neon orange that reflects back into your face, grabbing and accentuating each and every wrinkle, blemish and imperfection in any sort of light, natural and fluorescent alike. Darlin, those stories just make you look ugly.  They grab every single unflattering facet of your personality and reflect off of it. Poorly.

And lastly, the disgusting gossip residue. I like to think of someone who ate a plate of (inexpertly) fried chicken at a picnic and didn’t bother with a napkin. The oily leftovers smeared all over their hands and face start to turn and smell in the sun, and attract flies. And nobody wants to sit near someone with an insect problem.

Now, I won’t hesitate to tell you that I’ll never be friends with hostess from that ill fated and uncomfortable evening.  She had no qualms about trottin’ out her ugly and introducing it to someone she had barely met – and while I wasn’t the most gracious guest,  I’m sure I don’t deserve the review she’ll undoubtedly give me.

In the end, gossip should be thought of just like that alcoholic, overweight and impotent ex boyfriend. Best left on the side of the road in your hometown, as there’s really no room for it in polite society.

Why You Can’t be Friends

Having actually tried this horribly misguided idea a few times I can offer you some advice that isn’t composed entirely of conjecture and bourbon.

Yes, I know you think you’re ‘best friends’ or whatever. You’re not. You’re either totally over the person and just hanging on to them in case they do / say something hilarious or you need a booty call, or you’re hanging on to something that’s not there. If you’re shaking your head here, you’re in denial as well as one of the following 3 situations:

1) You still want to be with your ex and you think that staying friends will allow them to see how wonderful you are, and eventually, you’ll get back together and have 500 babies.

2) You don’t have any feelings for your ex, and are completely oblivious (or just don’t care) that they are ass deep in situation #1.

3) Y’all hooked up at a kegger 8 years ago when you were both sorta with other people and that doesn’t count, sorry. Accept their Facebook friend request already, look at the photos of their bugeyed babies and congratulate yourself on a bullet well dodged.

First, we must address the practicality of a clean break. Sometimes this might not be possible. Y’all might share a mortgage, you might share rugrats, he might still have 2 of your first edition Harry Potter books. I suggest you feign friendship (or at least civility) and choke back any other feelings until you’ve recovered the collectible bourbon or worked out a dog visitation schedule. Then just let it be.

Let’s take a look at a few (totally and completely hypothetical) case studies:

Y’all were a thing ever so briefly and broke it off to ‘just be friends’ (remember when I advised y’all to run, fast and in the opposite direction, if anyone ever suggested this? Let’s say you ignored me) and although you still had feelings for this person, you decided to give it a go. So for months it works. And you’re scoffing at your friends for warning you against it, and for advising you to cut this person out of your life. Honey, let’s be real here. Many many times your friends see the whole situation, when you’re only seeing the dirt you’ve stuck your head in to avoid the reality. Remember that. Listen to them. But let’s say you ignored them. And then let’s say that the person you still have feelings for starts seeing someone else, making it clear that when they said they weren’t ready, or weren’t healed enough, or whatever, what they actually meant was that they just didn’t want to be with you. At this point, your amazing friends will let you be sad and even answer the phone when you want to call and lament about how wrong the whole situation went. Even if they’ve been telling you for the last 8 months or so that you’d end up right where you are now.

OR, maybe you were in a long term relationship, one that was so long and so intimate that it’s virtually impossible to disentangle your lives completely, and even over a year out you realize that you’re STILL untagging photos of them on Facebook and his theater friends are STILL inviting you to their one man shows. This, admittedly, is trickier. A well placed deadline, like ‘whatever you don’t have out of here by the 15th I’m setting on fire in the yard’ works wonders. So does a firm, decided ‘no’ when they suggest you stay friends. Although cutting someone you’re this close to out completely can be terrifying, why would you want to keep someone in your life that hurt you enough to rip apart something you invested so much in? You may need to maintain limited communication to finish some logistics, but as soon as they’re finished, cut them out. Move on. Granny called this the high road. I call it dispensing with the politeness that makes us want to say ‘of course you can call me if you need me’ – choke back those manners and say no. you won’t regret it.

I won’t lie and say you won’t miss them, no matter what your situation was. I won’t tell you that they’ll one day realize what they’ve done and regret losing you. Most likely they won’t. Just remember, whatever you feel, that you don’t miss the person who left. You miss the person you wanted them to be.

On Making the Effort

What day could possibly be better than National Bourbon day to discuss with you a troubling trend that seems to be on the rise – looking like a slob.  I won’t claim I’m not guilty, but I fully intend to blame most of my public slobbish indiscretions on my dog, because that’s whose fault it is that I’m parading around in ugly sweats.  One of the things southern belles are known for is our devotion to making the effort. To looking a little prettier and a little brighter.  Always.  This is something that I’ve noticed lacking out here on the west coast, where I actually caught myself wearing workout shorts and a tshirt to a bar on a Sunday afternoon (it was on the beach but I was still appropriately mortified) and where flannel pajama pants seem to be acceptable eveningwear.

Recently a friend shared a picture on facebook that drove this home. It was a photo of a young woman wearing her engagement ring,  the day after her fiancée had given it to her. Now, what bothered me about this image wasn’t the ring (ohmygod y’all, I’d have said yes) but her nails. They were a disaster. The polish was chipped and uneven, and it made me wonder why she would treat such an incredible occasion with such disrespect. Did she not love her fiancée enough to make sure the ring (and her fingers) looked their best in a photo shared publically? Are ratty nails such a habit for her that she didn’t even think to invest the 45 seconds needed to remove her week-old nail polish for her engagement ring’s close-up? The horror.

I’ve been thinking that this might have something to do with age. When I was growing up my granny always used to tell me that a lady never leaves the house without earrings. As a teenager I scoffed. As an adult, I feel so naked in pubic without earrings that I keep an emergency pair in my desk in case I forget to put them on before leaving for work. I’m guilty of leaving earrings on to go hiking or to the dog park. I’m also guilty of telling friends at the door that I’m on my way down to let them in the building, when in reality I slap on some mascara before I let them in.

I’m not telling you that you need to spend 45 minutes on your face before heading to the grocery store, but how long does it really take to put on mascara? Or to switch from clear lip gloss to tinted? Less than 30 seconds. I promise you. And that can make all the difference – not only in how people perceive you, but in how you feel about yourself. That extra effort we’re known for ladies, it’s not just about looking your best outwardly. It’s about giving yourself an extra boost of confidence, in my case by knowing that even if I’m wearing a pair of yoga pants that say ‘Seminoles’ across the butt, my earrings still make my eyes sparkle.  For a friend of mine, it’s having a truly impeccable (and amazingly creative) manicure. Whatever it is that makes you feel pretty, make it a habit.

Because, darling, drinking your date under the table is much more fun when you look so ladylike that he never saw it coming. 

Code-Red Kissing: How to Back Out Before, Not After

Southern folks are renown for being polite. And also for  not always saying what’s really on our mind, in the interest of said politeness. “Oh, yeah, puse is a lovely color on you. It really highlights those cheekbones.” “OH… y’all want to stay in the guest room for two weeks? Suuuuure, yep, no, no, that’s no problem; we’d love to have you.” “You’re out of sweet tea? OH, HEYELL NO.” (punches fly). (Everyone has limits, even Southerners.)

But one thing it’s really not OK to compromise on is who you make out with. The combination of being Southern and being a woman makes it really hard to say no when we might hurt someone’s feelings. We’re just taught on all sides to put others first — by virtue of being Southern and by virtue of being a woman. And sometimes, unfortunately, that seeps into our love lives. Sometimes it’s just easier to have a quick smooch when you’d rather not, than to make a scene. But we really have to stick to our guns, ladies. When something makes you uncomfortable, just plain don’t do it.

I’ll give you an example.

Say in your early 20s, you went somewhere, like to a corn-bread-cookin’ camp; I’m just throwing that out there. And you met a guy, and you became friends with him, and say you were attracted to him, but you didn’t really want a relationship with him. I mean, he’s great and all, but he’s really not your type long term, and you recognize that. But the circumstances being what they are, it’s fun to meet new people and have a good ol’ fashioned make-out, so you do that with him a couple times, and it’s fun, and it stays innocent, and that’s really where your interest ends. And it happens that you both live in Asheville, NC, or some equally charming Southern town, and you end up hanging out some after cornbread camp ends, and you become friends who DON’T make out. But say he comes to your Thomas Wolfe-themed birthday party, and you’ve had a few two many mint juleps, and you accidentally give him a rather-too-long peck-on-the-lips goodbye, and so then the next time he asks you to hang out, you aren’t sure if he means for it to be as just friends or as a date. And you’re too polite and Southern to make things awkward by asking, so you just go and hope for the best. And being Southern and being raised not to leave the house without looking great, you do, and you go have some drinks, and you’re a friendly Southern lady, so you flirt a little, and then he wants to walk you to your car and you are suddenly 100% sure he is going to kiss you. And in the same moment, you’re suddenly sure you don’t want to! But you know you’ve given him the wrong impression, and you do NOT want to hurt his feelings. So he walks you to the car, and he does kiss you, and you let him, and it lasts longer than you were hoping, and it just feels wrong, but there you are. Finally you pull away, say goodbye, leap into the safety of your car, and obsessively murmer, “CODE RED. CODE RED. CODE RED. CODE RED.” All the way home.

Here’s another example:

A friend set you up with your tall, handsome, successful, sweet and funny friend. You SHOULD be attracted to him, so you go out with him twice or thrice. On that third date, you haven’t kissed yet, and you’ve had a good time, but you’re just not feeling sparks for whatever reason (AND THAT’S OK; DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU IT’S NOT!), but you know he’s going to try to kiss you. And what do you do in that situation?? When this great guy leans in to kiss you, do you say, “No, sorry, I don’t want to kiss you.” How horrible for him! You’re a nice person and you don’t want anyone feeling bad, so you are not going to do this to that nice man. But what you shouldn’t do is kiss him, then run into your apartment and tell your roommate about how he was such a bad kisser, how he fashioned his lips into a little beak and pecked at you with it, and how you have to physically writhe around to shake off the feeling and try to forget the memory. And at some point, you cry, because he was such a bad kisser. Your roommate makes a great point when she says, “Nobody wants to be the guy who’s such a bad kisser he makes women cry.”

Ladies, this is the situation we want to avoid. You should never reach that code red situation. So how do you politely decline, when you may have helped set the stage for his assumption that you might want to kiss him?

Unfortunately, there’s no universal right answer. No matter what you do, things will probably be awkward with this person for a while, possibly forever. So as long as that’s going to happen anyway, you might as well just say no. If you gave him reason to believe you were game (e.g. real, heavy-duty flirting), you can own up to it and apologize. But by NO means does that mean you have to kiss him. The idea of being a “tease” has long been an unfair label that pressures polite ladies into doing things they’re not comfortable with so as not to be labeled one. You have every right to decline, and if it’s awkward, well… too bad. Lots of things in life are awkward, and he’ll get over it.

So, to sum up, it’s better for both of you to experience some discomfort than for you to take it all on yourself. Because, trust me, as much as you writhe around or say, “CODE RED,” it may be years before you can truly forget those little beak lips.

 

How to React When your Mother Tries to Sell you to Some Guy She Met on Craigslist

I’m so sorry it’s been so long. Real life got in the way – something I promise to attempt to minimize in the future. Actually, I did something horrible to the nerves in my neck and I have no shame whatsoever in sharing with you that I spent the last month and a half snuggling with my heating pad and reaching up for the glow in the dark stars on my bedroom ceiling saying ‘wheeeeeeeeeeeee’ and making people bring me butter pecan ice cream, which I totally shared with the dog.

But the drugs wore off, as most of them do, and anyways, and here we are, with a looming trip to visit my mother (yes, The Redcoat) in t-10 days.

I’m sure I’m not the only 30something who has if not disappointed, then a least dismayed their parents by failing to produce offspring. For some of you, the burden is lessened by siblings, may have even procreated already, thereby lessening the desperation of your mothers. This is not the case for me.

I have frequently been subjected to what I assumed was good natured ribbing from my mother, who seems to be in just an awful rush for me to have some grandbabies. At first, this was innocuous – a simple “isn’t this cute?” while holding up some baby-related item, or mentioning how nice it would be to one day have grandchildren. It began to sharply escalate after the age of 28, however (ladies, if you are in a similar situation and are nearing the big 2-8, brace yourselves. I was WOEFULLY unprepared). The comments quickly vaulted to the snide end of the spectrum “maybe you should buy this… you know, just in case?” she shouted at me from across a target ‘seasonal’ display – holding up a toddler-sized (I assume, anyways, the two age categories kids fall into in my head are ‘too young to know how to make me a martini’ and ‘go make me a martini’) medieval damsel Halloween costume.

Then came the endless observations, which quickly degraded form ‘look at how adorable that baby is’ to ‘well THAT woman loves HER mother enough to give HER a granddaughter to play with’ which I also dodged (rather artfully, in my opinion) with the fact that I was unmarried and therefore, totally unsuited to have a baby. This worked. For about a week. When she began again, I had worked out my defense strategy and I calmly suggested that she look into adopting a baby herself, as clearly my reproductive schedule was unsatisfactory. This marked the one and only time my father chimed in this debate, when he called me from the bathroom at midnight on a Tuesday to beg that I take the suggestion back, as ‘adoption made easy’ brochures had appeared on the coffee table.

I believe the catalyst for my mother’s decision to find me a suitable babydaddy was the end of a long term relationship. I’m fairly sure the opportunity of finding me someone to marry and procreate with (in her own zipcode, nonetheless) was almost overpowering. I am not fully versed on the particulars of the lead up to this exact phone conversation, but here’s the brief conversation I was half listening to while looking for a parking space for my giant truck near the beach in Santa Monica:

Mom The Redcoat: “I met a very nice boy for you today”

Miss Elle: “what? In Florida?”

MTR: “I bought a guitar from him. So we can play in a duvet.”

Miss Elle: “A duvet? Is that a pun for a cover band?”

MTR: “what?”

Miss Elle: “You met a nice boy huh? I bet dad’s thrilled”

MTR “No, I met a very nice boy FOR YOU.”

Miss Elle: “for ME?! Where did you meet this very nice boy?”

MTR: “On Craigslist.”

Miss Elle: “Mom, I’ve seen that movie, and it ends with me dead in a ditch.”

I need to make sure that y’all are aware that I am not exactly 100% sure that my mother placed a personal ad for me on craigslist (I’m only like 96% sure). She could have actually been buying a guitar, I guess that’s always a possibility. However, I have chosen to interpret her unmasked zeal for grandchildren as a sign that she loves me and honestly believes that I would be a suitable parent, which I understand is a concept that has more than one of you snickering right now. That said, I will attempt to navigate the waters of the Deep South, which I suspect will be fraught with stories of her friend’s grandbabies, without spilling my mint julep. And if she sneaks baby clothes or crib sheets into my luggage again, I will probably just calmly mail them back to her. After I cover them in fake blood.

La-La, Dixie, Nether: A Journey of Lands

Y’all, sorry it’s been so long since Miss Elle and I have written. We’ve both had a busy couple months, but we’re gonna try to do better. In fact, big changes are underfoot. I, Little Miss Emme, am moving away from Los Angeles, City of Angels, for one year, to Amsterdam, Holland, City of Legal Drugs and Hookers. I cannot mother-lovin’ wait.

It’s one thing to write about the weird habits of LA dwellers, but being in Europe is going to open up a whole ‘nuther sack a’ nightcrawlers. Miss Elle has a little insight into this already, because her mama is one step away from a Yankee: a Redcoat. Yes, that nice lady is straight from Great Britain, and shameless about it, too. (I’ve conveniently failed to mention thus far that my mama is technically a bonafide Yankee: born in Massachusetts, of all places — although she didn’t grow up there.) Luckily, Miss Elle and I both have true-blue Southern daddies to balance things out. My mama says my daddy’s never lived any place but North Carolina and never will;  his heels are stuck right in the tar. (She’s been in the South so long, she’s got a proper accent and everything — so we consider her a Southerner for all practical purposes.)

Anyway, y’all. I’m moving to The Netherlands in the middle of May to act and write at a comedy theatre, and I can’t wait to tell y’all about all the stuff I encounter as a Southern belle in a foreign land. I’ll tell you what I’m not looking forward to, though: the fact that Europeans call all Americans “Yankees.” What’s that about, may I ask, please?

What’s almost just as exciting is that come the second week of May, Miss Elle and I are going to drive my car from LA to North Carolina, and we’re going to write about all the hijinks we experience as we drive from sea to shining sea (almost).  Stay tuned for more Elle and Emme adventures. We’ll see y’all soon!

How to Say ‘NO’ When He Asks You to Marry Him

And you’re trapped in a house with him and his entire extended family. In a state that’s clear across the country.

My mother suggested this topic to me, and at first I was confused, as I have no experience with this. Turns out, y’all, my memory just stinks, and now I FULLY understand why this particular ex won’t speak to me. Thanks mom!

Anyways, I’m probably best qualified to share a list of what NOT to do first:

DON’T say ‘yes’ if you know the answer is no.

DON’T then secretly buy a one-way plane ticket across the country.

DON’T tell him that you’re leaving him three hours before your plane boards, in the same sentence that you ask for a ride to the airport. It’s just poor form.

DON’T try and fly one way with a 1950s sewing machine as your carryon. This is frowned upon by the TSA, turns out.

DON’T expect him to mail anything you left there back to you.

Ok, now that I’ve addressed the big ticket DON’Ts, or, ‘Identified What Miss Elle Did So Wrong,’ let’s come up with some solutions in case you should find yourself in this same sticky, undesirable situation (and I sincerely hope you don’t):

DO come up with a non-answer if you have an audience. Something like ‘can we talk about this privately?’ or ‘oh my gosh, I’m so overwhelmed, I don’t know how to even process this, wow!’ aren’t technically a ‘yes’ on paper, which is what you want to avoid. Don’t say ‘no’ in front of his 25 nearest and dearest, but don’t say ‘yes’ if you don’t mean it. You’re running the risk that his mom will rush out and book a venue for the wedding you won’t have (like that time you sent her a joke ‘we’re pregnant’ card and she had enrolled the kid in school, named it, told her entire extended family and made an offer on the house next door by the time you were able to get her on the phone and yell ‘IT WAS A JOKE!!!’).

DO talk to him about it. You owe him that.

DO stick to your guns. This is your life first, and staying in a relationship that isn’t working because you feel obligated for some reason isn’t a recipe for success of any kind.

DO be honest.

DO take ALL your stuff with you.

And there’s no magical band aid that makes it any easier. You’re probably going to hurt him (or, you know, her). Don’t be passive aggressive – it’s not good for your skin. And if you feel your finger on the ‘self destruct’ button of your relationship, it’s time to end it. Don’t cheat. Don’t lie. Don’t try to be such an asshole that the other person initiates the break up. Always do unto others.

Additionally, I would recommend that you wait until his mother has left town. If at all possible.

Death and the Casserole

 Y’all, this appeared in my mailbox over the weekend:

Dear Miss Elle: Would you kindly explain to Yankees that a death in their family REQUIRES that I supply food to them? If they won’t let me bring them a casserole, they damn well better let me pay for lunch the next time we’re out. Alternatively, please let me know how to express my condolences to these people. I’m getting the vapors just thinking about un-condoled souls!

Yours til death, A Mourning Traditionalist

Oh, My Gracious. First of all, my dear, you are completely correct. I’ve usually started a grocery list before I’m even off the phone after learning of a death. I tend to be a lasagna maker myself, (all that cheese fortifies the soul after such a shock and besides, it freezes well) but I have run into the same situation myself, and I tell you it’s nearly too much to bear. From what I can gather, the prevailing Yankee as well as British social norms dictate that a grieving family be left alone, and no food be brought or visits initiated unless specifically asked. Never mind that it leaves their Southern friends pacing their kitchens wringing dishtowels in a nervous state of culinary collapse.

This very same situation has happened to me as well. A dear friend lost a member of her family, and just wanted to be alone in the aftermath. I suspect this had to do with her believing she would need to host should someone turn up at her house. Let me take this opportunity to assure everyone who holds this belief that nothing is further from the truth. Death in The South is a time when the bereaved party is free to behave as they feel while completely abdicating responsibility for dirty dishes, laundry, cooking and dog walking to the rota of visitors who show up to ‘take care of things.’ My situation ended with a fully cooked and guilt-inducing lasagna assembled and sitting in my fridge for two days until my dear friend was ready to receive visitors and I could get it to her. I won’t lie – my heart rate increased every time I thought about her having to prepare her own food in her bereavement (tearful and stirring something oatmeal-colored, or perhaps at a  – GASP – drive through). Sometimes, though, it seems that all you can really do is to tell your friends to call you if they need anything. And mean it. Sadly, a card may be as much sympathy as they can accept.  I would suggest a mail order cheesecake in truly dire cross-country situations. Also, while a basket of muffins surreptitiously dropped on their doorstep may seem like a balm to your wounded bosom, please keep in mind that nobody in their right mind would eat mystery muffins in Los Angeles, so refrain.

To you Yankees and others so uninclined to accept our cooking your time of need – please know this: We’re just showing you that we love you. We’ve been conditioned by generations of macaroni salad and deviled ham makers to believe that food is the best way to do that. If you tell us that you’d rather have your lawn mowed or your laundry done, we will do all in our power to make your whites whiter than white, or keep your St. Augustine from encroaching on the driveway. We just can’t stand to sit idly by and allow or grieving friends to subsist on fast food and microwave dinners (or whatever it is y’all eat). Our granny would rise from the grave and get after us with her fly swatter if she knew someone had died and we weren’t immediately on hand with a plateful of buttermilk biscuits and a freezable main course. Grieving is a process that should be surrounded on all sides by love. We just happen to show our love wrapped in cheese and bacon.