Ask Amy: Red wine spill uncorks teasing

April 6

DEAR AMY: My wife accidentally spilled red wine on a light-colored cloth couch of a friend while we were attending a dinner/wine tasting. I was conducting the wine tasting at the host’s request. The host quickly moved to clean it up, and it was 99 percent removed, but her significant other remarked that the couch was their “baby.”

I paused for the cleanup and continued the wine tasting.

The host’s partner continued joking and teasing about the stain and the couch. I do think he went overboard a little, but he always does that, somewhat. I just kind of ignore it — or return the teasing. The rest of the evening/weekend went well, I thought, but there was some more teasing and jokes that I did not take as mean-spirited.

When we got home, my wife told me she felt humiliated, and I should have come to her defense. I admit to not being superperceptive to people’s feelings, but my wife gave me no indication at the time that she wanted me to help with the cleanup or that she wanted the teasing and jokes to stop. I am at a loss as to what I could have done, short of making a scene and possibly escalating it.

Can you give us your take? -- Wine Guy

DEAR GUY: If you had taken a more active role in cleaning this stain when the spill happened, you would have been in a better position to react to the teasing, but you also would have risked drawing more attention to this accident.

The person doing the teasing is actually embarrassing himself. It is unkind, uncool and ill-mannered to tease another person publicly.

Your wife seems to be hurting because you read someone else’s actions differently than she did and because you cannot read her mind. If she had been able to react to this by saying, “I’m already so embarrassed, and this makes me feel worse,” the teaser might have backed off (it would also have alerted you to her feelings).

You should tell her that in the future when she is bothered by something and feels she needs a hand, all she needs to do is tell you.

DEAR AMY: I am a grad student in chemistry. I’ve found that when I meet new people outside my field and they ask what I do, they often immediately say, “Oh, I took chemistry in high school. I hated it!”

How do I navigate this situation? I understand that many people might say this about chemistry, but I wouldn’t dream of saying, “Oh, you’re an actor? I hate the theater!” I would like your advice so that I can respond in a constructive way. -- Curious Chemist

DEAR CURIOUS: Understand that when people say they “hated” chemistry, what they are actually saying is that it was hard for them. They couldn’t master it.

I love the fact that you want to respond constructively, because you could easily choose to become offended or simply check out.

It is challenging to see a negative exclamation (“I hated it!”) as the start of a conversation, but if you could move beyond it, you could be an effective ambassador for your field.

Choose something relatable: “Really, in the end, chemistry is like working on a series of intricate puzzles. I often hear that people hate it, but I love it!”

I’m inspired by the work of the late Carl Sagan and, now, Neil deGrasse Tyson. They took on a challenging topic (astronomy) and made it fascinating to the rest of us.

DEAR AMY: You missed the mark on your answer to the needleworker who altered the work on a gift she had been given by a fellow needleworker and is now “Haunted by my (mis)Deed.”

As a needleworker myself, I would be very offended if your needlework/writer “redesigned” my handiwork and then asked if I minded what she had done.

She should have “sucked it up” and worn the piece in its original condition once or twice at functions where she knew the giver would see it, and then put it away in her closet. -- Needleworker Judy

DEAR JUDY: I think you’re right. Thank you!

Amy’s column appears seven days a week at www.washingtonpost.com/advice. Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2014 by the Chicago Tribune

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