Is it the cake, or kindness?

Q  My adult daughter’s birthday is next week. She likes a certain kind of cake, which we were going to get her, but she just told us that her new boyfriend, who is very nice and very shy, had ordered a cake that he will bring to the small celebration dinner we are having. It’s not exactly the kind of cake she likes. My husband and I aren’t sure we will like it, or that our daughter will. Is it all right for me to suggest he change the order or cancel it and I’ll get the cake she wants?

A  No, this is not all right. He obviously was trying to be thoughtful and please her as well as contribute to the celebration, and it is incumbent on all of you to be gracious and not hurt his feelings or make him feel as though he did something wrong. Surely she, and you, can manage to eat a piece of cake that is not her favorite. You can always get her the one she likes best another time. And you did say adult daughter — it might be time to let her deal with things like this and not run interference for her, reminding her, of course, how much kindness counts in a relationship. It would be a lot less embarrassing to him for her to say something than for you to tell him he didn’t have it quite right. Even then she should appreciate his effort and later mention that she has a new favorite, for futures, so he’s not embarrassed at all.

Q  The past several times I have gone to a movie theater, someone in front of me takes out his cell phone and checks and sends texts and the glare is very distracting. Can I tell him to stop?

A  Movie theater notices should read “turn off your cell phone” instead of “silence your cell phone” because glare can be almost as intrusive as talking, but unless he is texting repeatedly or for more than a minute or so, the answer is no. Do your best to ignore it. If it goes on for longer than that, then yes, you can tap him lightly on the shoulder and tell him that the light from his phone is bothering you and ask him to please go outside if he needs to communicate via phone during the movie.

Q  What is the polite solution to someone who calls you and keeps you on the phone forever, even when you say you have to go?

A  Firmly say, even if you have to interrupt her, “Mary Beth, I’m loving our conversation but as I said, I have to hang up and make the kids’ lunch for tomorrow. Maybe we can talk again later in the week. Thanks for calling! Bye!!” People who hold you captive don’t mean to be rude, but they are, so keep it cheerful and friendly, but definitely seize control, politely, and hang up.

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