I am a woman in perimenopause. I struggle with brain fog, among other symptoms. In conversation, I sometimes explain what’s going on while it’s happening: “Ugh, I am struggling to remember the right word. It’s one of the symptoms of my perimenopause.” Verbalizing my experience helps me to relax and stay open during the interaction. I have noticed a trend, though: Male friends and co-workers — no women, so far — often respond with some version of: “No, that’s not what’s going on with you.” I want to say something that draws attention to the fact that they have just inserted themselves where they don’t belong. Any suggestions?
Let me come back to the mansplaining after I compliment you for doing something brave and wonderful: By mentioning your perimenopause — the transition toward the end of a woman’s reproductive years, often marked by challenging physical and emotional symptoms — you are helping to destigmatize one of the most common and neglected problems facing women in middle age. It also helps you to cope!
Now, these male friends and co-workers are certainly off base, and probably annoying. My hunch is that many of them think they are complimenting you by arguing that you couldn’t be perimenopausal: You’re too young for that! (I know — ageist as heck, and symptoms can begin as early as the mid-30s.) Their intentions are also no excuse for denying your actual experience, whether that includes brain fog, hot flashes or mood swings.
Try to be patient, if you can: “I’m afraid you’re wrong. I can send you some information about it.” It’s an unfair burden, but it may be more useful here to increase awareness of the issue than to smack down a few mansplainers. (You may disagree!) I also urge women to talk to their employers about accommodations for debilitating symptoms and to explore with their doctors whether treatments, such as hormone replacement therapy, may be helpful.
Largess With the Boss’s Beans
I go to a local coffee shop frequently. There is a barista there whom I have gotten to know over the years. We always chat, and he always comps my drinks. I feel awkward about going so much, but I enjoy the place. I’d like to find a way to show my appreciation. There is a tip jar, and I have left generous tips once or twice. But that feels awkward. With the holidays approaching, what do you suggest?
Unfortunately for you, you have written to a son and grandson of shopkeepers. It’s a hard business! Unless the barista is an owner of the shop or has permission to give away free drinks, it’s wrong for him to do so — and for you to accept them. I am well aware of the practice of giving regulars the occasional freebie to thank them for their patronage, but you say that this “always” happens.
Tell the barista you aren’t comfortable drinking for free, though you appreciate his kind intentions. If you want to support him, pay for your coffee — to help the local shop survive — and make regular cash deposits to the tip jar. I get that you are friendly with the barista, but he is providing you a service. So, tip him! (He probably doesn’t want a holiday cookie plate from you.)
Clean, if Not Quite Squeaky
I do the cooking in our house, and my husband does the cleanup. It’s a good arrangement for us. While he does the whole job, he doesn’t always do a thorough one. He works fast and doesn’t aim for spotlessness. This means, sometimes, I pull out a cookie tray with grease on it or a mixing bowl with a piece of food stuck to it. Then I have to reclean it, which is annoying. Can I ask him to improve his cleaning? He makes only positive comments about my cooking.
Of course, you can ask your husband to up his cleaning game. That doesn’t mean you should, though. Your standard for cleanliness sounds reasonable: no greasy patches or stuck-on bits of food. If you see these things every week or two, speak up. If it’s less frequent than that — once a month, for instance — consider giving your spouse a pass. Regular cooking and cleaning can be a grind, as you well know. So, unless he is consistently falling down on the job, try to overlook occasional lapses.
How Much Does 30 Years of Friendship Excuse?
What would you have said to a longtime friend of 30 years who commented on my reconstructive nasal surgery after treatment for basal cell carcinoma by saying: “Oh, I guess that’s the best the doctor could do.”?
Your friend’s remark would have made me feel even more self-conscious than I was already. I’m sorry this happened to you. After three decades of friendship, though, you are probably the better predictor of your friend’s likely response to a simple statement about how the comment made you feel: Will your friend take it on board and apologize, or get defensive and make excuses?
If you don’t know, err on the side of generosity. Friends of 30 years are pretty rare, and we all screw up. But if callousness is common from your friend, protect yourself and minimize your exposure.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on the platform X.