I had some good friends and their families to my home for an all-American cookout recently. I thought that a good time was had by all -- that is, until I was told that my opinion ruined it for some of my guests.
Earlier in the day, one of our dear friends called to ask permission for her 13-year-old son to bring a buddy along so he would have someone his age to pal around with. I said that, of course, it would be fine.
Well, later that afternoon, my friend's young son asked what time it was and I jokingly responded, "Why do you want to know, are you taking medication?"
The boy's mother looked over at me and remarked, "It is very important, and his friend needs to take his medication."
I responded with, "It would have been nice if I had known that. After all, he is on our property, swimming in the in-ground pool and playing as kids do with no concept of time, and in the interest of the child's well-being, coupled with the litigious society that we live in, I think it only proper that we be informed. So in the future, let me know."
Well, Amy, you would have thought that I had asked for the boy's medical history. As a parent and a property owner, I had a responsibility to that child and felt that I had a "need to know" to ensure that he take his medication on time.
It was the decision of five of the six women at the table, including my wife, that it was none of my business and that I was wrong for even making a statement about it. Furthermore, they felt that I should apologize for even making the remark.
Amy, I'm a big boy, I can take whatever you dish out, but what do you think about this?
Not Too Hip
Congratulations. You turned a simple request for the time into a Major Incident. This boy already had an adult with him who knew about his medical issues and who acted responsibly; as did the boy and his friend (by being conscious of the time), so let's set aside your concern for his health.
Unfortunately, your reasoning that you need to be somehow protected from lawsuits by knowing all of the medical details of your minor-age guests also falls flat. In this litigious society, one could also argue that you are better protected if you are not informed about such things. For instance, if this boy or his parents had informed you that he had to take his meds at 3 p.m. and, in your excitement over the burgers, you forgot to remind him and a Major Incident ensued, you could have been held "responsible."
But really, that is so beside the point, and you know it.
You made a little faux pas by trying to be funny. You failed. Then you made it worse. In circumstances such as these (and trust me, I've faced many of them in my own life), rather than expressing righteous indignation, the thing to do is to say, "Well, that was dumb. Ladies and gentlemen, I'll be appearing here at Zanies all week . . ." Then you turn around, flip the burgers and get on with your life.
But please, whatever you do, do not apologize for this. I have a feeling that you'll only make matters worse.
Recently you ran a letter from Mike who is concerned about a friend who became engaged after dating for only two months.
I know a couple that got engaged three days after they met. They were married less than a month later. More than 50 years later they are still married and very much in love.
They are my aunt and uncle.
I'd love to learn the secret to your aunt and uncle's romance. These days, couples that have only known one another for three days have a hard enough time committing to a cup of coffee, let alone a lifetime of togetherness.
Write to Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.
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