Make It Stop: “My Co-Worker Spilled Her Drink Inside My Purse!”

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 [email protected] with the subject “Make It Stop.” She’ll make it all better, or at least make you laugh. Girl Scout’s honor.

First up, whether a co-worker should pay to replace a purse she accidentally ruined:

I was at a work party and someone I don’t know very well spilled her cocktail on my purse. She wasn’t drunk, she just tripped, but still the inside and outside of my purse got soaked and the inside lining is ruined. She apologized, but I think she should pay for me to get it professionally cleaned. It was a Coach purse and I don’t want it to smell like wine anymore. The problem is this: she didn’t offer to do anything at the party and hasn’t offered to do anything since. What can I say to her to get to her help?

Girl, I feel for you. It terms of wet fabrics, a wet purse is almost as bad as a wet sock. I know you’re steaming mad that your Coach purse smells like a boozy aunt, but I have three words for you: minimize the hassle.

This drink-spilling incident has already been a major hassle. How much more hassle do you want to endure?

If the drink-spiller were a friend who had a vested interest in smoothing things over, my advice to you would be different. But since she didn’t offer to have it cleaned at the time it happened, what makes you think she’ll be more receptive to the request now?

You now have to:

  • Get a quote for how much the cleaning will be
  • Track her down
  • Make your case about why she should pay for the purse cleaning and give her the quote
  • Deal with the aggravation if she blows your request off
  • Deal with the aggravation if she haggles about the price of cleaning the purse
  • Deal with the aggravation if she insists on using a particular dry cleaner that’s not convenient for you
  • Deal with the aggravation of collecting her money once it’s cleaned
  • Deal with the aggravation of running into her at another work event
  • Deal with the possibility of her harassing you at work because people can be unpredictable, especially when money is involved

The hassle factor of doing any combination of the above is off the charts. It’s as aggravating as trying to get Bruce Jenner to cut his hair, which I’ve heard is incredibly aggravating.

If you’re still pissed about the incident and want to pursue payment from this woman, knock yourself out. Just know that these are all possible outcomes. But why would you want to? Why put yourself in situations that will only further your exasperation? You could be reading a great book or seeing “Guardians of the Galaxy” in 3D or watching the new “Garfunkel and Oates” show on IFC which is HILARIOUS.

The way I see it, biting the bullet and cleaning the purse yourself is the way to go. You are giving yourself the gift of peace with the the added bonus of convenience. As annoyed as you are about footing the bill, I promise you that the annoyance is temporary. In the long run, you will be happy to have your purse cleaned properly and that you didn’t have to engage with this headache of a woman who has already demonstrated little regard for social niceties.

Sometimes people spill drinks. At least be glad that her G&T didn’t ruin your shoes or dress, too. It was limited to your purse, which while irritating (and probably very embarrassing for her), isn’t the end of the world. It was an accident, which while inconvenient and expensive, can be fixed. So just fix it and move on.

[Jessica’s Note: P.S. It also couldn’t hurt to consult My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag … And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha, by Jolie Kerr for a cleaning tip or two.]

My boyfriend has a group of friends from grad school that live in our city, who are our main group of friends. Over time, partners and siblings have hung out with the group, too. This one guy has since moved away, but his brother, who I’ll call Billy, is still here and hangs out with the group. The thing is, most of us are actually really bothered by Billy’s racist and sexist comments which are made all the more annoying by the fact he tries to position himself as a really enlightened liberal. Like, he’ll make a joke about African-Americans but disguise it as a joke about a celebrity, or he’ll make a joke about women, but disguise it as a joke about an ex-girlfriend. Some people have stood up to Billy about his comments, but he makes excuses and accuses people of not having a sense of humor. Most people in the group think he’s gross, but a few other people keep inviting him to group functions (partially I think out of loyalty to Billy’s brother). Is there a way to ask them to stop inviting him places? I don’t mean to be a middle school jerk about it, but no one wants to be around this clueless idiot anymore.

No, there is not a way to ask people to stop inviting him to places.

You can’t ask people to ice other people out. It never works and makes an awkward situation even more awkward.

Say you do ask your friend — let’s call her Sally — to not invite Billy to your weekly thumb wrestling hangout, but Sally invites him anyway. Now look: your awkwardness has doubled because Sally disregarded your wishes. Now you’re pissed at Sally AND Billy.

Or what if Billy finds out that you tried to have him banned from the group and he confronts you about it? Yikes, right? That’s a collar tugger.

Or what if Sally agrees to ice Billy out, but another person in the group — say, Cedric —  is unaware of your dislike for Billy, sees his name left off the mass text for your next weenie roast, assumes it’s a mistake, and invites him. Now your awkwardness has tripled! If the movie “Gremlins” taught us anything, it’s that when bad things multiply, it’s a giant pain in the ass.

So, no, you can’t ask people to stop inviting Billy places because you’ll look like an asshole. So what can you do? Can you pipe up about his asinine behavior? Abso-fucking-lutely!

Friend: “Want to come over to watch the ‘Saved By The Bell’ movie?”

You: “Will Billy be there?”

Friend: “Yeah. Why?”

Me: “Just curious. His racist jokes make me uncomfortable. :::shrug::: I think I’m gonna sit it out.”

You voiced your uneasiness with Billy, but you didn’t issue ultimatums like a middle schooler. No, you savvy, mature minx, you’ve stated a fact: If Billy shows up, I’m out.

If Billy comes to any future events, make like a circa-2000 Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow rom-com and bounce. Say as little as possible, and vote with your feet. That’s the least dramatic way to handle it. Hopefully your friends will get the message and either stop inviting Billy or stop inviting you, both of which will solve the problem of Billy being in your social circle.

Listen, I know it sucks when a dickhead disrupts a group dynamic and makes people uncomfortable. Billy has already made it clear he doesn’t care about anyone’s feelings. So this is a good chance for you and your boyfriend to reach out to other peeps and expand your friend circle. Trust me, it’s worth the effort to bring quality people into your life.

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!