Q: My wife just gave birth to our first child. Yes, little Judith is irresistible, but does that mean the doormen in our building must constantly nuzzle, tickle, kiss, and caress her? It drives me and my wife nuts, and she’s bugging me to make them stop. I realize that I have a new obligation to be a man and protect my family (and that if I don’t do anything, my wife will hold Judith’s every sniffle against me), but we have to live with these guys. What should I do?
MR. CLEAN, Upper East Side
A: It’s natural for a first-time parent to be uptight. The chandelier may fall on the baby, the cat may suffocate the baby, the alarm clock may transmit coded messages that turn the baby into a deadly assassin … A little paranoia goes a long way, but unless you encase Judith in a bubble, you’ll have to get used to the fact that germs are everywhere, not just in the saliva of the help. (And do I sense a subtle classism in your singling-out of the workers? Certainly your white-collar friends smother the baby with kisses, too; is that a problem?) As for the microbes themselves, there may be evidence that the more exposure children get to germs in infancy, the stronger their immune systems are later in life. So in addition to the daily favors your doormen do you by signing for your FedExes and hailing your taxis, by drooling on Judith, they are saving her from who-knows-what maladies down the road. Be a man by telling your wife that instead of reprimanding the doormen, you insist on giving them bigger Christmas bonuses this year.
Q: I am a journalist. A couple of years ago, I discovered a juicy and mildly embarrassing fact about my girlfriend’s father, who runs a well-known business. Needless to say, I kept it under wraps. Since then, the woman has dumped me. Do I write about her dad now? The story reveals nothing criminal or dangerous but would likely offend his customers and lose him business. (I should add that her father and I got along, and that I have no beef with him—just with his two-timing little girl.)
SECRET SHARER, Midtown
A: Revenge can be perfectly acceptable behavior—many great journalistic endeavors, after all, are rooted in outrage—but in this case, your instinct for it feels misplaced. Since your ex is a grown-up and not supported by her father’s work, you won’t be hurting her by hurting him. And it’s not as if your former flame’s opinion of you will change; in fact, you’ll only be making another enemy, and for what? A story that might turn out to be a one-day item on “Page Six”? Keep it to yourself, and bask in the private warmth that comes from having taken the high road. One doesn’t get to do that very often.
Q: The deli-counter guy who pours my morning cup of coffee has been greeting me with “Hello, Miss Carla” for more than a month now—ever since he asked me my name. Not only have I forgotten his name (which I recall being vaguely unpronounceable), but he’s mispronouncing mine (which is actually Cara). It feels too late to go through the introduction thing all over again. Is there a graceful way to fix this?
A: Listen very carefully, Cara (more carefully, that is, than you listened to your deli man when he introduced himself). You’re right: It is too late. But does it really make any difference what he calls you? The typical young New York woman in your position would be relieved to know that a deli guy—especially one this off-puttingly friendly—didn’t know her real name. And here’s a man who’s dispensing a scalding liquid that you’re going to be drinking—shouldn’t you think twice about potentially riling him up? You have two options: Either find another establishment for your morning cup, or start thinking of “Carla” as your mysterious, coffee-drinking, deli-going alter ego. Because one of the great pleasures of living in New York is that everyone is allowed to take on multiple personalities in different circumstances without even having to be clinically insane.
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