When “Shush, Mother” Doesn’t Work
Dear Margo: My mother-in-law talks constantly during her grandchildren’s concerts. Once, when my husband shushed her, she snapped, “I wasn’t talking. I was making a comment!” We have explained that hearing the performers is important to us, and that we welcome her comments between musical selections, but not during them. This only annoyed her and didn’t change her behavior. (My husband and his sibs can take her to a neurologist or psychiatrist if they want to delve into the cause. I just want her to shut up so I can hear my kids.)
Here’s the immediate problem: My son has been selected to perform a solo at his high school graduation in June. I’ve tried to convince myself that a few comments during the music would be no big deal, but honestly, it would ruin it for me. My husband feels the same. We’ve left his mother off the guest list for other performances, but I doubt we can omit her from graduation. Short of duct-taping her mouth shut or paying a driver to “get lost on the way,” how should we handle this? –Sharon
Dear Shar: You stopped me dead in my tracks with, “I wasn’t talking. I was making a comment!” The reason is that I tend to whine to my husband about nonsense, and he tells me there is no point in complaining about trivia. Then I tell him, “I am not complaining. I am narrating.” But I am wrong — and so is your m-i-l. One thing is certain, though: You cannot retrain your son’s grandmother. (See: old dogs/new tricks.) Your options are actually quite clear-cut. Leave her out of the graduation, saying seating is limited. Take her along and grin and bear it. Or … sit apart from your husband and Chatty Kathy. After all, it is his mother. –Margo, realistically
When the Office Chatterbox is Related to the Boss
Dear Margo: I work in a small office for a family-run business. In the nearly 20 years I’ve worked there, my co-workers and I have established very pleasant working relationships save for one particular new cog in the wheel who I fear will drive us all crazy before long.
She’s not necessarily an unpleasant person; she just NEVER SHUTS UP. And if she’s not talking to hear herself talk, she will make nonsense noises — clicks, clacks, smacks, you name it — to fill the void. To add insult to injury, she’s the boss’s daughter (strike one) with an “everyone’s out to get me” complex (strike two). Is there any way on God’s green earth to get this woman-child to learn silence can be golden? –My Ears are Bleeding
Dear My: Alas, the silver spoon will trump the golden silence. I can’t imagine you’ll come out on top after telling the boss’s daughter to put a sock in it. I suppose a neurobiological perspective would entertain some variant of Tourette’s. You are pretty well stuck if the compulsive noisemaker is part of the owning family. (Too bad she didn’t grow up and decide to be a doctor.)
As for her feeling that everyone’s out to get her, if she’s making those noises all over town, she may well be correct in her perception. If the nature of your work does not require continual interaction with your co-workers, you might give headphones a try. You could say you’re “trying them out” for a plane trip down the road, or that you find music helps you do your work. Good luck. –Margo, silently
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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to email@example.com. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
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