Q: I’ve been with my boyfriend for two years, and there’s one thing he does that bothers me: He makes a lot of noise when he eats. I’m talking a lot of noise: I can even hear him over the dishwasher. When we started dating, he was on his best behavior, but now it’s hard for me to sit in the same room with him when he’s eating. And it hasn’t exactly gone unnoticed by my friends, who make all kinds of embarrassing comments when he’s not around. I love him and want to marry him eventually, but how do I get him to keep it down?
—I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT, QUEENS
A: First, a little perspective: He doesn’t cheat on you; he doesn’t belittle you in public. On the bad-things-that-men-do-and-women-endure meter, this barely nudges the needle. That said, you, a human being, deserve a mate who doesn’t grunt and slurp and gurgle like a beast. And the longer you suffer in silence, the more likely you’ll end up a bitter, high-strung 90-year-old who erupts in fury whenever her husband so much as reaches for a cracker. So as soon as possible, surreptitiously record his performance. Then the next time you two are alone at the dinner table, tell him his eating habits are intolerable and that even your friends have complained. He may be incredulous, at which point you should roll out your secret weapon, the recording. Assure him that you love him, but be brutally frank: He must learn manners or risk losing you. This should shock him into compliance. If not, write back for earplug recommendations.
Q: I’ve been laid up recently with a nonfatal but life-altering illness that leaves me tired and cranky and at times needy—of both cheering-up and physical assistance. People have come out of the woodwork to help—which has its drawbacks. One woman, a friendly professional acquaintance, now calls me nearly daily to “check in” and has even shown up in my lobby with a box of rugalach. Frankly, she’s wearing—not to mention weirding—me out. But how do I say no to such kindness when not even all of my real friends are coming through?
—SICK AND TIRED, SOHO
A: You’ve heard of ambulance chasers? Well, not all of them have law degrees. There’s a certain breed of friend you may not hear from when all is well—but sniffle once, and she shows up, rugalach in hand, to make herself utterly indispensable. That’s because her so-called kindness isn’t about you; it’s about her need to feel needed. You’re being finagled into more or less taking care of her now, and there’s one way out: Graciously ask her not to drop by unannounced, and screen your calls so that she can never drop by announced, either. Tell her you’ll let her know if you need anything. And while you’re at it, pray (though of course you wouldn’t wish anyone any harm) that someone else she knows gets sick pronto.
Q: I just met a woman, and we hit it off immediately. But she made it clear that she’s seeing two other men. When we’re together, nothing else seems to matter. I know I will soon become highly uncomfortable with her dating other men, so when do I say “Choose”?
—THREE’S A CROWD, NEW CANAAN, CONN.
A: This is a test. by mentioning your rivals, that is, she’s testing you. Here’s how you pass: Resist every urge to ask about these other guys, and carry on as if you alone were courting her. Let this be your mantra: What do I care about them? I’m the man. The law of the jungle applies here, and the cowardly lion doesn’t get any. If you’re convinced she’s really for you, tell her that seeing you means seeing only you—or else you’re gone. Strongly imply that the latter would be an undesirable outcome for her. There’s a fine line between sexy self-assurance and revolting cockiness, though, so watch your step.
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