Q. Dear Mr Know it All,
I’m in a relationship with a guy who I like quite a lot, but the problem is that he is different when he is hanging around alone with me, and different when we’re with a bunch of people. When we mingle with friends, my usually loving, attentive guy becomes slightly obnoxious and competitive — he has even started putting me down in front of my friends and his friends, making cracks about how my job is less serious than his, and how I don’t drive as well as he does, and how I’m always nagging him. Then, when we’re alone again, he acts like he’s done nothing wrong and treats me like a princess. What’s going on, and how do I get it to stop?
A. Let me tell you a little story: When we were in third grade, my friends and I entered a weird but apparently customary phase where the boys stopped talking and playing with the girls and girls started rolling their eyes at everything the boys said or did. Both the groups made a silent pact amongst themselves to forever hold the other in contempt. I’ve never been a fan of such twisted societal norms, so conniving little brat that I was, I found a way around the problem and made my own secret pact with a few select girls that I really liked being friends with. According to one of the sections of the treaty, the girls and I would amenably ignore and poke fun at each other in front of the others and even show a little hostility if a situation demanded, but continue to be friends behind the others’ backs, never taking the hurtful ‘you stink!’ and other spiteful put-downs we jabbed at each other to heart.
The reason I’m telling you this is — and I’m sure you’re already beginning to understand the moral of my story — that everybody goes through that phase as a kid. Unfortunately, not everyone completely grows out of it. It’s not unusual for grown men and women to poke fun at their partners when they’re in the company of common friends; it’s called the incessant battle of the sexes, and there’s no way you and I can bring it to an end with our good looks and acumen. It’s all quite innocent and silly, really, and you too should join the party instead of sulking like a beleaguered housewife. Seriousness of jobs, driving skills, weight, ex’s, hormones and average propensity to nag are all good topics to get things started … pick one and meet your guy in the battlefield!
Q. Dear Mr Know It All,
I am a very capable worker, and I have begun to feel like my boss is taking advantage of my work ethic. I am a perfectionist, and I usually make sure everything I work on is perfect — and yes, I work overtime often to make sure things go smoothly. Problem is, now my boss has started handing me most of his work too, while he slips out early to go to ‘family functions’. I’m starting to resent the extra work, especially since it’s not like I’m being paid more for doing it. How do I confront him?
A. One of the biggest problems with being smart and hardworking is that you end up wanting to rub it in others’ faces. Slackers around you will tolerate that for a while, but before you know it, you’ll either find yourself being resented because nobody likes a quibbler that makes them look worse than they actually are, or you’ll find yourself being pushed around by the crafty ones into doing stuff that isn’t your concern. By voluntarily working late hours, assuming the responsibility to polish others’ work to make it perfect, and being generally obsessive about things that wouldn’t essentially affect your long-term career growth in a positive way, you’ve let your boss know he can slack off because he’s got a Miss Goody Two-Shoes around to cover for him!
Call me cynical, but I’ve come across my share of Goody Two-Shoes before, and I have a strong suspicion you’re more piqued by the lack of recompense for your extra effort than the fact that you’re being bullied into doing other people’s work — because, let’s face it, there’s nothing like a bit more paperwork and responsibility to get your blood flowing, right?
I think the only way to strike the right note here is by going to your boss and telling him you’ve got a brilliant proposition that’ll have you both appeased ... he should compensate you for your brilliant extra work, and he can keep tending to his ‘family functions’. If he’s a smart man, he’ll give in. If not, well, you know where to reach me …
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, July 10th, 2011.