Dear Annie: My sisters and I have this cousin who is always confrontational and angry over the littlest things, and it has become very frustrating to us. When we get into conversations and someone makes a statement, she thinks it is pertaining to her when that is not even the case. When we go out to a restaurant or just stop in a store and someone happens to be laughing or happens to look her way, she thinks it's all about her.
She gets mad and starts raging if things don't go her way. She always quits jobs because of all the confrontations she has with people and always says it's their fault. This has become so frustrating to us, and we don't know what to do. It's just like stepping on eggshells. Any little thing will set her off. One time, we went out to dinner, and afterward, she was upset and sent a text saying we could have told her about a stain on her blouse. (None of us had noticed it.) How do we handle this? She has been like this for years, but it seems to be getting worse. — Frustrated
Dear Frustrated: This little steamboat is always ready to blow. If you all had in fact told her about the stain on her blouse, she'd very likely have been upset about that, too.
It's time to bring her into port with some real talk. Stage an attitude intervention with the help of your sisters. Express concern rather than make accusations. Tell her that you feel her perspective is often pretty cynical, and say you're wondering where that's coming from. The worst she could do is fume at you, and from the sound of it, she'll be doing that anyway.
Dear Annie: This is in response to "Grossed Out," who is disgusted with over-the-top displays of affection in public and wanted to know whether she is just too old-school.
It can be awkward to know how to respond when couples' PDAs go over the boundaries of propriety, and I struggle with it myself. I did a bus trip at night recently, and given the murmurings from behind me, I could tell it was getting hotter and heavier. The bus was just about completely dark. I turned my head to see the woman half in the aisle and half all over the man in the seat across the aisle. What burst out of me was, "Ma'am, if you're going to get sexual, you need take it off the bus!" A friend she was traveling with, sitting on her other side, chimed in, "Come on, knock it off. I don't want to get put off the bus. I need to get home."
The woman did stop and go back to her seat, to the relief of several of us. I had addressed my remarks to her mostly because it had been clear from their audible comments that she did not know the man at all at the beginning of the trip but had been steadily coming on to him. (Of course, he was complicit, as well.) Was she drunk? Stoned? Mentally ill? I was sad about it, as well as disgusted. But perhaps my remarks helped her not go home with someone not only sleazy but dangerous. — Glad I Spoke Up
Dear Glad: Kudos for speaking up even when it was awkward to do so. I encourage everyone to be so brave when it counts. If you're a bystander to a similarly dicey situation and you don't feel safe, get the attention of a security guard (if one is available) or call the police.
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