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Miss conduct

Eloping regrets

Feeling sad over a daughter's canceled wedding, plus dealing with co-workers’ “cold” shoulders.

December 12, 2010

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My 28-year-old daughter informed me she was eloping because her fiance’s family was trying to run the wedding. I feel like I have been kicked in the stomach. Her future mother-in-law has already experienced a wedding with her daughter and should not interfere with my daughter. I really don’t get to enjoy my daughter on holidays, which hurts me, and now I won’t see her get married. Do you think I am wrong? I suppose next is grandchildren, who will probably only be on their father’s side.

S.R. / Dorchester

I’m sorry for your pain, S.R. I can’t tell you that you are right or wrong or give you easy answers. I can make some observations, though. First, a wedding is only one event in a person’s life. It’s not the culmination of her entire relationship with you (or even with her fiance!). Second, no matter how domineering in-laws may be, it’s biologically impossible for your grandchildren to “only be on their father’s side.” Your DNA will have its say.

You are describing a good deal of distance between you and your daughter without explaining the details. What do you mean you “really don’t get to enjoy” her on the holidays? Why do you fear that grandchildren will be kept away from you? Perhaps her future in-laws are, indeed, coming between you. If that’s the case, her decision to elope suggests that she’s wising up to their interfering ways. But perhaps the problem is between the two of you instead. If you and your daughter are drifting apart, invite her out for a girls’ night and talk it through with her – and be willing to hear things you might rather not. And don’t make the wedding the sole focus of the discussion. The point isn’t to argue her into having a wedding that you can watch, it’s to figure out what each of you wants from your mother-daughter relationship and how you can best show each other your mutual love and respect.

> I recently got a bad cold. I saw a doctor who gave me antibiotics and told me I was OK to return to work. Some of my co-workers who noticed I was sick said things like “Get away from me” or “You shouldn’t be here.” One co-worker even accused me of getting her sick, as though I did this deliberately. I am really offended by these comments. I understand no one likes to be sick, but since it happens to everyone sooner or later, why be rude about it? I would love your advice on how to handle these comments politely, since I feel less than polite.

P.L. / Brighton

When you return to work after an illness, particularly one that has lingering effects, send out an e-mail to your work group letting everyone know that although you’re still gross and snuffly, you’re no longer contagious. You can then courteously refer people to the e-mail if you’re questioned. If a co-worker accuses you of giving him or her your cold, brush it off with a joke: “Yeah, sorry I went in and licked your keyboard last week, I don’t know what got into me” or “I got it from my husband, so I guess that makes us sister-wives,” or some such. Some things are just too silly to take offense over, and if you treat them that way, the “offender” will usually wise up.

And, of course, everyone in an office who is sniffly or snuffly or sneezy should put on a bit of security theater for their office mates: Use hand sanitizer ostentatiously, keep Lysol at your desk and spray your phone before you leave, avoid communal food, and so forth. Even if there’s no way people can get your cold, this saves them the worry that they are going to get it. (And saves you from picking up their various bugs while your own resistance is down.)

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a Cambridge-based writer with a PhD in psychology.

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