Dear Annie: An employee of a local firm invited my husband and me to a very nice restaurant. Our hosts were two men from a large company. This was definitely a business dinner. It turned out that one of our hosts couldn’t attend and instead allowed the employee and his girlfriend to bring her daughter, age 15.
Instead of seating the child between them, she ended up next to me. As soon as she sat down, she took out her cellphone, placed it next to her plate and stared at it all evening. I was appalled that she was permitted to be so rude. I did my best to ignore her, talking business with my husband and our host, but my eyes kept drifting back to that phone. Frankly, I was waiting for it to ring so I could toss it in my water glass.
How would you tell a rude person (child or adult) to put their distracting phone away? What was her mother thinking? In the meantime, we won’t be accepting any more dinner invitations from this employee without a no-child guarantee. — No Cell Manners in Hawaii
Dear Hawaii: We feel sorry for the kid, stuck having dinner with her mother’s boyfriend’s business associates.
Mom should not have brought her, and yes, the girl should have kept the phone in her pocket, purse or lap, but at least she didn’t spend the time texting all her friends about how bored she was. There was no reason for you to be fixated on her silent phone. If you could not engage her in conversation, the correct response would be to leave her alone, as you did.
Dear Annie: A few weeks ago, I discovered that my husband had sent a mildly flirtatious e-mail to a female acquaintance. When I confronted him, he admitted he found her good-looking, but claimed he wasn’t looking to start anything. He said he just wants to feel attractive again. He has not written her since that initial contact.
The problem is, this happened once before. I forgave him because I had had a few slip-ups myself (before we were married) and felt he deserved some leeway. He swears he has no desire to cheat, but he wants to exercise the right to flirt now and then. He can’t promise it won’t happen again.
We have a good sex life and toyed with the idea of counseling. We live in a small town that does not offer free counseling services, and people would notice if we went to a therapist. Are there online counseling services? What can I do to stop this from happening again? Or should I just let him have these mild flirtations every so often and simply look the other way? We truly love each other. — Confused
Dear Confused: It depends on how much you trust him. If he is flirting without taking it any further and you are willing to put up with that, leave it alone.
If you fear it will lead to an affair or fixation on a particular woman, it needs to stop, and counseling can help both of you work on that. Yes, you can do it online. Local counselors may offer online services (call and find out), or you can find someone through the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (aamft.org) or the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org).
Dear Annie: I don’t think your answer went far enough for “Desperate for Help in Massachusetts,” whose otherwise wonderful wife refuses sex and is also a therapist who refuses counselling. For either spouse to deny a physical relationship is a form of abuse. He should seek counseling on his own to determine the next step. This man deserves some answers. — Been There
Dear Been There: You are absolutely right that counseling can help him, but we don’t know that it will provide the answers his wife is unwilling to give.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.