Make It Stop is a new weekly column in which Anna Goldfarb — the blogger behind Shmitten Kitten and Shlooby Kitten — tells you what’s up. Want a fresh take on a stinky dilemma? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Make It Stop.” She’ll make it all better, or at least make you laugh. Girl Scout’s honor.
First up, how to handle a frequent houseguest with gross personal hygiene:
I live with a male roommate and his girlfriend frequently hangs out at our place. She’s fine, but she does something that is bothering me because it’s really gross. She puts her bare feet on our coffee table and sometimes picks dead skin off her feet while sitting on our couch. That’s disgusting, right? Like, do it in your own house! I don’t think my roommate would say anything to her if I asked him to because he’s pretty whipped, so I want to say something to her directly. I’m not sure what to say, though. It seems self-evident not to leave little pieces of skin on people’s furniture and hoist your feet on a coffee table when you are a guest. Any suggestions on how to handle this delicately?
What’s the vibe in your living room? Is it a den of slack, as Lelaina Peirce from “Reality Bites” would say? Are there old US Weekly magazines, handfuls of takeout menus, and wrinkly CVS receipts strewn around the coffee table? Is the furniture old? Does it have cigarette burns or stains? Because if your living room gives off a “fraternity porch” vibe, she might think that your house is a free-for-all playpen where anything goes.
Maybe you could class up the joint so she’ll get the hint that her behavior is inappropriate. Clear off the coffee table and give it a good scrub. Plop up to three tasteful coffee table books on it and/or a pretty scented candle from Anthropologie. Get a set of stylish coasters and insist people use them. If you have an extra $30, go to TJ Maxx or Target and snap up some pretty throw pillows for the sofa. Make it known that these pieces of furniture are valuable, not glorified paper plates.
If after a room upgrade she still engages in her foot tomfoolery, you can confront her on it, but you have to do it while she’s in the act. It can’t seem pre-meditated. You will look like a psychopath if you corner her in the kitchen and say, “You know how you pick at your feet on the sofa? It’s disgusting. You gotta cut it out.” <insert Dave Coulier’s gesture for cutting things out>
The strategy: play up your neuroses. When you see her little piggies wiggling on your furniture, say, “Listen, I’m not sure if you know this, but I have a thing about feet. And seeing your bare feet on the table makes me feel … squicky. And when you pick at them in front of me, it’s like a visual version of nails on a chalkboard. I know it’s silly, but you understand where I’m coming from, right? Thanks for being so cool about it.”
Express your discomfort and allow her the opportunity to do the right thing. If she has half a brain in her toe-picking head, she’ll adjust her behavior immediately. And if she doesn’t, well, it’ll be fall soon and sock weather be back. At least there’s a cotton-y silver lining!
At my job, I can be logged into my Gmail all day. Sometimes I chat with my boyfriend or my friends. But ever since my mom figured out that I’m on Gchat, she chats me all the time at work. I love my mom, but sometimes she shares the dumbest stuff or pesters me why I’m not chatting with her more (and then gets cranky when I tell her I’m busy). It’s more annoying than unproductive, but I still want it to stop. I want to block my mom from Gchat entirely, but I think that would be too obvious now. What should I do?
I feel your mother’s pain. Many moons ago in 2006, I once was the girl who was new to Gchat. I met a guy who was basically my social media tech guru. He introduced me to Twitter, Facebook, and he insisted that I ditch my Yahoo email address and sign up for a Gmail account.
Once I was on Gmail, we’d Gchat all day. I was new to online messaging, so I wasn’t familiar with the etiquette. I’d get annoyed if he took too long to respond. I’d get impatient if he had a lot of other conversations going simultaneously. I’d get irritated if he didn’t say “goodbye” before he signed off. I’m not proud to say this, but I pulled the same shit your mom is pulling on you.
One day he called me up and said, “You need to understand that while we’re chatting, I’ll drop in and out of the conversation. I’ll talk to five people at once. And I will never say goodbye before I log off. I love talking to you on Gchat, and we can totally keep doing it, but you need to know that’s just how I roll and you can’t take it personally.” And you know what happened? I adjusted my expectations. And it was cool.
You need to adjust your mom’s expectations too. Lay down the law. Tell her that you’re happy to say hi on Gchat but you can’t feel pestered at work. If she doesn’t respect the way you use chat messaging, then suggest that you communicate via text or email instead. Let her make the choice of which method of communication works for her.
If she still abuses your Gchat availability after your talk, I would block her. If she makes a fuss about it, just say that the rules at work changed and you can’t be available online all day. Then tell her that she can always text or call you if she needs anything. But yeah, totally block her. No parent needs to Gchat with their adult kid all day, especially if she can’t respect the boundaries you set. Don’t feel bad about it. Just be sure to send her nice texts or emails saying hi every now and then. That should give her the attention she’s craving without hassling you in the first place.
Anna Goldfarb is the blogger behind Shmitten Kitten and the author of Clearly I Didn’t Think This Through: The Story Of One Tall Girl’s Impulsive, Ill-Conceived And Borderline Irresponsible Life Decisions. (She is, however, thinking through the responses to these questions very seriously.) Follow her on Twitter!