Dear Annie: I am doing graduate work online for professional development in my field. The courses require a lot of reading. My manager approves of my course of study, but our organization's policies do not allow eating lunch at the desk, because of the possibility of getting food in the computer keyboards. I bring my lunch to work rather than go to a restaurant, not only because of the cost but also because of food allergies. I need to use my lunch hour for reading my textbooks.
The lunchroom is the only place where I can eat in the office. At lunch, the rest of the staff gathers in there, gossips and shares pictures and videos (think baby pictures and kitten videos). Because I do not want to seem rude by ignoring the gossip and kitten videos, I have been driving off-site at lunch, to a nearby shopping center parking lot, and eating lunch and studying in my parked car. However, that takes extra time. I would like to just be able to eat and read my textbook while the others are gossiping and sharing their pictures and videos.
My co-workers know about my graduate work, and no one has put me down for it, but I am concerned that ignoring their gossip and kitten videos for a textbook in their presence might be construed as rude. So I ask you: Is it rude to study at noon in the office lunchroom? — Bookworm
Dear Bookworm: Don't worry your well-read head. Your co-workers all understand that you're completing graduate work, and they should be supportive of your study habits. To prevent anyone from taking your focused reading the wrong way, offer a disclaimer, such as: "I promise I'm not trying to be rude by ignoring everyone. I just need to buckle down and get some work done. But please feel free to talk and hang out here as normal." I would recommend using noise-canceling headphones and white-noise (or binaural beats) apps to help you get in the studying headspace no matter your physical space.
Dear Annie: I am overwhelmed by my husband's sister. We are in our mid-70s, and I have been in the family for 30 years. Not once have I ever been invited to her main home or vacation home (nor have I ever stepped foot in her homes), yet she has been in my home for lavish meals on countless occasions. She has also dined in restaurants with her husband and us at our expense. As children of the South, we were taught that when you accept an invitation in polite society, it is understood you then reciprocate. If you're not willing to reciprocate, you shouldn't accept the invitation.
She has always been as well-off financially as my husband and I are. I am shocked at her continued feeling of entitlement. My husband thinks the way she treats me is OK. Why? I am very angry with both of them. — Child of the South
Dear Child of the South: It sounds as if someone missed her lessons with Emily Post. It's not just Southern hospitality that encourages people to be welcoming and thoughtful to guests. It is common decency, and your sister-in-law has worn through your hospitality. You should ask your husband what is going on. It makes no sense that all invitations go one way. Until you get to the bottom of it, you should hold off on inviting them back to your house.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]