Dear Annie: Closing the door on bathroom conversations

Dear Annie: I’m a 70-year-old man happy to still be working and productive. I work with a great crew of seven other people, but I don’t know how to handle this particular situation.

Our workgroup is six men and two women. Both women tell us when they’re on their periods.

“I have stabbing pains you will never know,” says one, who is 25. “I’m ovulating,” says the other, who is 40. Or, “My period starts tomorrow. I’m real regular.”

What do we say in response? I understand they’re telling us their bodies are undergoing extra stress, and I try to help them with their workload. But my male co-workers and I stand silent and awkward when the women mention their periods. I’m fine talking about menstruation with my wife, but I have no idea how to respond to co-workers who are my daughters’ age or younger.

I have polled other women on this issue and some of them say I should report the women to human resources for making me and other men uncomfortable, but that seems excessive. Any ideas? — Perplexed

Dear Perplexed: Periods are a part of life, just as going to the bathroom is, but that doesn’t mean that either subject is appropriate work dialogue. If your co-workers are not feeling well due to cramps, that is something they should discuss privately with their supervisor. Talking about any type of bodily function should stay in the bathroom.

Before reporting them to human resources, the next time they bring up periods, just say, “Let’s keep bathroom talk for the bathroom.” If you don’t feel comfortable being that direct, simply remove yourself from the conversation either by changing the subject or by walking away.

Dear Annie: My brother is married to a woman who is having an affair. They both are on their second marriage and have three kids together. The woman has two other children. The problem is that this woman has given up all rights to her first two children. She did this for financial reasons, but it backfired because the court ordered her to pay child support.

She then became pregnant with twins and stopped working. She did nothing but lie on the couch all day. She thinks it is OK to be married to one man and to have another younger man, who is a little slow, on the side. This man is at her every beck and call. He will spend all his money on her and lose everything he has.

But my brother is so dumb and stupid; he is letting this go on so there will be no fighting. On weekends, she feels like she does not need to be a mother. She did have to get a job to pay back child support for her first two children or go to jail. She only works part time, while her husband works full time. Despite this, he does all the cooking. She won’t cook for the kids or anyone else. On weekends, she will leave her husband (my brother) and go to stay at the other man’s place so he can spend his money on her. This is not good for kids. How do we convince my brother he is better off without her, or get them some help? — Concerned Sister

Dear Concerned Sister: Watching your brother and your nieces and nephews be neglected as their mother has an affair is sad for everyone involved. While you can’t “force” your brother to leave her, you can provide emotional support for your brother and his children. Remember that “love” can be blind, and right now it sounds like your brother does not want to take off the blindfold.

Try to build up your brother’s self-esteem so that he will eventually have the courage to leave her or stand up for himself and not be treated like a doormat.

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