our “kid-friendly” Halloween party was terrifying, will video interviews hurt my chances of getting hired, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My office’s “kid-friendly” Halloween party was terrifying

My office held a Halloween party this week after hours (immediately after the work day in the office), and said in the invitation that kids and significant others are welcome. Some of us brought our young kids (ages 2-5 or so). When we arrived the signs were pretty ghoulish (dismembered bloody body parts, etc), and one employee, “Bob,” brought this very gruesome and realistic zombie puppet. It’s just as creepy as it looks in the video and it truly terrorized the kids in attendance. The parents are really upset, and would not have brought their kids if we knew that there would be this kind of adult Halloween horror.

The person who did this is otherwise lovely, and is also very close to the CEO. It’s not like management was unaware before it happened, I think they were just clueless about how inappropriate this was for a family event. Before Bob arrived, the CEO was telling people, “I heard Bob is going to bring his special friend Sally” (meaning the puppet). How do we address this with management? Its hard enough in our company for moms of young kids, and I don’t want us to be seen as spoil sports, but I am also really really not okay with the company saying this is a bring your kids event and then having something like this happen. Any advice?

Yes! Talk to whoever is in charge of party planning and logistics for your office and explain this wasn’t kid-appropriate at all! I’m guessing someone involved didn’t understand what is and isn’t kid-friendly and needs that spelled out more clearly. This won’t be you being a spoil sport; this will be you giving someone highly relevant info that they apparently didn’t have and probably would want. (Think if you’d done something similar — you’d want to know!)

You could say, “I think there was a disconnect between whoever said the party would be kid-friendly and whoever planned the decorations. It definitely wasn’t kid-appropriate for small children — my kids and some of the the others were really upset by the some of the gruesome decor and Bob’s puppet. In future years, can we be more careful about that? It of course doesn’t need to be kid-friendly but if we say it is, I want to be sure it won’t terrify our kids.”

Also, next year, make a point of raising this again in case people have forgotten or someone else is doing the planning. Mention that kids were scared last time, and ask for info about exactly what’s being planned. (Maybe talk to Bob in advance of next year’s too.)

2. Will it hurt my chances of getting hired if I can only do video interviews?

After a lot of self-reflection, I finally quit my job and decided to take a two-month sabbatical to stay with my family and spend the end of the year holidays with them. Ideally I would like to be back to work around January, so I’ve been casually looking at jobs on LinkedIn and plan to start my job search in earnest around next week. However, I wouldn’t be able to go to any face-to-face interviews before January because I’m in a completely different country; I will absolutely go if the company offers to cover my expenses, but the jobs I’ll be applying for are not high-level enough for this sort of investment in a candidate. (I would love to be proven wrong though!)

I thought about holding off my job search until December or January, but I know hiring processes can stretch on for quite a few months and I don’t want to risk being unemployed for too long. I am able to do online interviews with my webcam, but I also know it’s not the same as an in-person interview. Would this hurt my chances during the interview process?

There are definitely companies that are willing to do interviews virtually rather than in person, but (a) a lot of them will still want to meet you at some point before making a final decision and (b) there’s a lot of data showing that it will put you at a disadvantage — that candidates who interview by video receive lower likability ratings and lower overall interview scores and are less likely to be hired than people who interview in person.

Assuming you’re applying in the U.S., being in another country and not being available in-person will be a pretty significant disadvantage unless you’re applying for very hard-to-fill jobs. I hate to say it, but I think your timeline might be really hard to pull off, given the above. You can give it a shot and see what happens, but I wouldn’t count on having a job nailed down by January with these restrictions. Can you look into alternate plans now in case that happens … or even reconsider the plan if not having a job by January would be financially disastrous?

3. My coworkers tell me not to eat what I’m eating

I have a problem that keeps coming up at work and I am very sick of dealing with it. I am a fat young woman who enjoys food, and older women at work have a habit of telling me I shouldn’t be eating what I’m eating while I’m eating it. I spent years coming to terms with the fact that my diet is my business and nobody else’s, and it’s really hurtful to repeatedly be told that other people find my choices unacceptable. They’ll make jokes about how I need to stop eating such-and-such kind of food as I put a forkful of it into my mouth, or they’ll say that the thing in my hand is the last or only thing of type X I’m allowed to eat for the day.

I’ve tried joking that I make no promises about the rest of the day’s food, I’ve tried directly saying that it’s my choice what and how much to eat, I’ve tried just plain ignoring the comments, and none of it has made it stop. I pride myself on being approachable and friendly, and I don’t want to hurt my relationships with these women by being overly blunt, but I desperately want them to stop! What can I do or say to make it clear that this isn’t okay without being harsh? It’s hurtful and upsetting, no matter how well-meaning they are.

I’m not convinced they’re well-meaning! They’re being rude and intrusive, and this isn’t something polite people would do. Your letter is very accommodating of a terribly rude behavior, and it’s worth thinking about why you feel you need to be. (And yes, work relationships are tricky and you have to navigate them carefully sometimes — but this is still awfully accommodating even in that context.)

You mentioned that you’ve tried to joke it off and told them what you eat is up to you, but you didn’t mention that you’ve directly told them to stop! If you haven’t, that’s the next step. The next time it happens, say this: “I should have said this earlier — I want the comments on what I eat to stop. It’s really unwelcome and I regret not making that clear earlier.” If it continues after you’ve set that clear boundary, then get firmer: “I’ve asked you to stop commenting on what I eat. It’s not up for public critique. Please stop.”

If you’re worried it’ll feel too awkward to leave that hanging out there, then follow up with a quick change of subject — ask about something work-related or a personal interest of theirs. That’ll let you deliver the message but then move on quickly, which can help when you’re worried about causing tension.

But none of this is harsh. What they’re doing is rude, and you get to tell them directly to stop.

4. Can I leave before two weeks if I finished all my work?

I gave two weeks notice and it makes my last day Tuesday. I am closing out all my projects and will have everything done by Friday. Can I tell my company I’m now making Friday my last day as I’ve completed all my obligations? I honestly don’t want to spend another two days there “buying time” as I’m remote — so it’s not like I’ll be going out to lunch or hanging with coworkers — just sitting at home wasting two full days.

Generally the convention is that you’d offer to wrap up early if they want you to, rather than just announcing you’ll be doing that. Your manager may have something she wants you to do during those last few days, or might have set aside time on your last day to go over final loose ends, or may just want you available in case something comes up.

But you could say this: “I’m going to have everything finished up by Friday. Would it make sense to set that as my last day, or will you need anything from me on Monday or Tuesday next week?”

5. Getting time off for breast reduction

I am having a totally optional surgery in January. I will need to take about one week off of work and work one week from home. How early would you suggest telling my manager about this? Also, I feel like I should disclose that this is a breast reduction surgery, because I am going to look different when I come back, and because the surgery is elective, but my manager is male, and I don’t want to make him uncomfortable. How would you suggest I approach this?

How early to tell depends to some degree on your office, but pretty soon! Within the next week or two, ideally.

You don’t ever need to tell your employer the specifics about a surgery if you don’t want to. It’s fine to just say, “I’m having surgery in January — nothing to worry about, but something I need to take care of.”

{ 617 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    For OP#1, it sounds like this may have been kid-appropriate for children that were a bit older (e.g., 8+). As an add-on to Alison’s script, perhaps OP can ask the organizers to provide a recommended age range for which it may be appropriate?

    1. PurpleMonster*

      Nah, that zombie puppet would have bothered me even now. I don’t think that kind of thing is appropriate for any kids younger than teens (obviously each is different, but pays to be conservative when kids are concerned).

      1. Media Monkey*

        i’m not keen on it and i reckon it would give my (admittedly not a fan of scary stuff but a massive lover of all things halloween!) 11 year old nightmares!

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I am also thinking teens. If any of my kids had seen “Sally” when they were 2-5, they’d still be in therapy for it 20+ years later! Honestly, the puppet would’ve startled me now too. It’s pretty far out there on the terrifying scale.

        1. a1*

          So many comments are all about the Sally, the zombie puppet, but I don’t think that’s on the company, the organizer, or the invitation’s wording. Bob is an employee and brought it. And while it still seems like there were a few other items of issue, take away that and it wouldn’t be so bad. I think too much is being made of how horrible it was to have this puppet there and how dare the company, when it wasn’t the company. Hopefully someone told Bob it was scaring the kids, but that’s about all they could do at that point.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            The letter seems to indicate that the CEO knew about Sally ahead of time and was like, “haha, oh Bob, Bob will be Bob” and let him bring her. If he had shown up with Sally without any warning to anyone, I’d agree that it wouldn’t have been on the company then.

      3. Ama*

        Yeah at age 11 I was taken into a VERY mild haunted house at the local firehouse and got so freaked out and upset that a volunteer showed my dad and I an emergency exit so I could get out without having to go through the last half. Something like what the OP describes would have had me refusing to enter the office.

        Zombies are also a particular issue for me above almost any other kind of monster so the puppet would have freaked me right out.

            1. Autumnheart*

              It wasn’t as bad as the above comment made me think it might be, but still assuredly on the scary side and not kid-appropriate.

              1. Vicky Austin*

                I didn’t think it was that bad because I knew it was fake, but I could see how it would terrify a kid too young to understand it was fake.

        1. Yikes*

          Yes! I also clicked the link and honestly, as an adult who was prepared to see something kind of freaky, I was not ready. It is literally the most terrifying Halloween decoration I have ever seen, and it will haunt my dreams.

          1. TardyTardis*

            Now, I went to a Zombie Revue in Las Vegas (think Walking Dead but with more jokes about sex and body parts) and this was over the top for *me).

        2. PNWdweller*

          I used to watch TWD, and this is horrifically real. I wouldn’t want to be at a party with Sally.

        3. RadManCF*

          I’m oddly impressed. Though I suspect that the puppeteer’s skill level would make a big difference.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          The uncanny valley is part of it. It’s so realistic–but not quite–that it pings your lizard brain as a weird pretending-to-be-human threat. As a terror inducing Hallowe’en decoration it is thoroughly brilliant. As a generic Hallowe’en decoration to entertain all audiences, it doesn’t work.

      4. Rachael*

        I hadn’t seen the video before reading some of these replies and I thought people were over reacting. Then, I watched the video with the “puppet”. I would not call it that. It is a realistic looking zombie woman attached to a person who keeps screaming and biting. A child may not be able to tell it is not a real person and it could be extremely frightening. My goodness.

        1. Short Time Lurker Komo*

          Thank you for explaining what the puppet looks like. I am not a fan of scary. I was not clicking the link, but I was super curious. XD

      5. Anax*

        I think that puppet crosses a DIFFERENT line – that’s a fairly realistic depiction of violence, and I don’t think that’s appropriate in the office in any context. The odds are too high that someone has experienced a workplace shooting, intimate partner violence, or other trauma which would be triggered here.

        It may be less of a “real” threat than, say, a costume with realistic fake guns, or an office decorated to look as if a workplace shooting occurred there, but I think it crosses the same line. Simulated physical attacks are likely enough to trigger trauma that they’re not appropriate for a work setting.

        (Especially because people may not feel free to skip a scary Halloween party – the office manager may be required to help set up and run the party, a Halloween-loving manager may inadvertently pressure folks to attend, etc. Kid-friendly is not required – but coworker-friendly IS.)

        1. Warm Weighty Wrists*

          An OFFICE? decorated to look like a WORKPLACE SHOOTING took place there?

          What even are people.

          1. Anax*

            Theoretical example! But… it would definitely cross a line, and that’s for a good reason.

            Scary, gory Halloween decorations often play on our fears of ‘worst case’ scenarios – a garage door crushing someone, an accident with power tools, an elevator crushing someone between the doors. And that level of realistic scare, without the context of a haunted house to say it’s all fiction and everyone has opted in… It’s not appropriate for an office.

            And certainly, people do some really questionable “pranks” at work, and Halloween costumes which simulate real-life violence (like well-known domestic violence cases) are distressingly common.

    2. Gleeze*

      I think if something is going to be a family friendly event, it needs to be appropriate for all ages of children. Especially for something like Halloween! Clearly appropriate for all ages of children for all ages also needs to be defined.

      1. Roverandom*

        Agreed, “kid friendly” with no other phrases around it means “for all ages.” And I really don’t trust this org to know children well enough to specify an age range if they can’t even get kid vs. adult level right.

        1. Lucette Kensack*

          To be fair, it sounds like they didn’t actually say “kid-friendly,” but rather that kids are welcome. This seems the kind of mistake that’s very easy for a mon-parent to make — extending an invitation (“Of course the kids can come!”) without either adjusting the plans to accommodate kids or giving parents warning that they aren’t designing the gathering for kids.

          I’m not sure I would say anything now. Next year I’d ask and raise concerns from this year… or I just wouldn’t bring my kids.

          1. Johnny Tarr*

            This sounds like a ‘missing stair’ accommodation to me. “They say it’s kid-friendly; what they mean is that it’s definitely not.” That leaves people who are new to the situation completely unprepared for the reality of it. I think it’s way preferable to name what happened (“This was scary af”) and make the reality of the situation clear to everyone (“This party is geared toward adults.”)

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              +100 – I can imagine OP and OP’s coworkers trying to warn the new hires next year. “Hey, they say you can bring the kids, but what they don’t say is that it’s at your own risk and you’re better off not bringing them”. Why not just come out and say it in next year’s communication that the party is for children 13 and older or something like that.

            2. Amy*

              I don’t think it’s specific to this organization. When people who don’t have little kids in this very moment plan parties, they will rarely going to be perfectly suited to the needs of little kids. Realistically, it’s an adult party with a few juice boxes thrown-in.

              When I bring my crawling babies to the homes of other parents, I can be reasonably confident it will be baby-proofed, there will be some food they can eat, things to do. With others, I can’t make any assumptions. They just aren’t in the headspace of choking hazards and Cheerios.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Hah, this reminds me of how I once hosted a work-sponsored party at my house (back when I had a humongous house that was great for parties), that I invited the whole department to. My children were teens, and I was well aware that my house wasn’t babyproof or young child-proof, and that it’d take me weeks of work to get it to where it would be. So I made sure to say it on the invite that the house was not safe for small children. Unfortunately, I delegated the making of the invite to a work friend, and had not read it before sending it out. The invite ended up saying something like “The party is adult-only” or “no children please”. Feelings were hurt. Someone declined saying that they needed to spend as much time as possible with their children before they grew up and moved out – their children were 4 and 6 at the time. I didn’t know what to make of that response until someone said, “you told them they were not allowed to bring children, but didn’t say why”. I guess this story is a warning to everyone else to list the reasons why your work event is limited by age. Otherwise it’ll sound like coworkers’ kids are being arbitrarily banned from a fun event.

                1. WellRed*

                  “I guess this story is a warning to everyone else to list the reasons why your work event is limited by age.”

                  Maybe with this example, but otherwise, unless you have toddlers as coworkers, I would never assume children are included in a work event. Your coworker who wants to spend as much time as possible with her children is just weird and self-limiting (and setting herself up for heartbreak when they become tweens ; )

                2. Holly*

                  I totally understand that “adults only” is more brusque than you intended it to be and that some people wouldn’t feel comfortable not bringing their kids – but someone saying they needed to spend as much time as possible with their young children before they moved out?? That is … not a normal response!!

                3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  It looked a lot like an excuse, but I didn’t know what for. I thought it was a polite (albeit odd) way of saying “I don’t even want to go to your nerdy party at your nerdy house!”, but then someone suggested to me that “no kids” without an explanation may have turned people off.

                4. Horseshoe*

                  I don’t think you need to explain no kids. It’s a work event. If it says adults-only, that means it’s because it’s not a party planned around kids. In my experience, kids at parties run around top speed in uncontrolled packs, and I’m shocked any parent would wonder why not every party is appropriate for that.

              2. Wintermute*

                I’m not sold on this, I’m childfree by choice, and even I know when you want to make an event where kids can come you need to provide appropriate food, drinks, have a space for them to play (ideally where they can get loud and a bit rowdy without disturbing the whole gathering), some quiet space in case a younger child gets overwhelmed, activities to keep them from getting so bored they get disruptive out of sheer desperation to be entertained, etc.

                You also need to make sure they’re not going to see/hear anything developmentally inappropriate, so tone down the Halloween decorations, maybe grab Apples to Apples rather than cards against Humanity, or at least take some of the really bad cards out, put the radio edit versions of songs in your playlist rather than the uncut ones, and so on.

                I would wager most functioning adults would realize this. Sure without kids of your own you may not get it PERFECT, you might miss big things (forgetting to bring outlet covers for all the electric plugs in the hall, leaving power strips out, that kind of safety stuff), but you would know at least to pay attention to the levels of spooky, racy, shooty and sweary (or as I call them ‘the four food groups of fun’)

              3. OP 1*

                OP 1 here- we are a mid sized company and the only kids of staff are either adults or in the under 5 set, and everyone knows this, so it’s not like “bring your kids” means anything other than bring kids 5 and under. Also the CEO really encourages us to bring kids, and it seemed like an easy way to win brownie points with the boss.

                1. valentine*

                  Also the CEO really encourages us to bring kids, and it seemed like an easy way to win brownie points with the boss.
                  The CEO needs to be more responsible. I thought you were going to say it’s an easy way for them to win points with you.

            3. Clisby*

              “This party is geared toward adults who are into Halloween horror.” From the OP’s description, I’d have been walking out in less than 5 minutes.

              1. Jamie*

                Me too. Honestly, just the video of that puppet thing freaked me out. Not proud of this but I’d have left before I started crying (fear response.)

                1. Kyrielle*

                  Yeah, unless it’s sitting unused in a corner (which it will not be, because that’s not its purpose and see cost), I don’t even want to be around that thing.

              2. Artemesia*

                The ‘Sally’ puppet is also hellaexpensive so it will be showing up at every halloween party till the end of time.

            4. Person from the Resume*

              This doesn’t sound like “missing stair” to me.

              The LW didn’t say is was “kid friendly” (that’s in Alison’s blog title). LW said “kids and significant others are welcome” which seems more along the lines of “you’re allowed to bring guests” than “we’re planning a kid’s party.” Also sounds like the party planner was not Bob. Bob was a guy who went overboard with his costume. Although the party planner also has some gruesome and bloody decorations, though.

              I’d just let the planner know that the decorations and costumes scared kids at the party and ask that the situation to clearer next year whether they go kid friendly or they admit that the decorations and costumes are not for kids. And then next year if they say kid friendly, double check before bringing your kids.

              * Missing stair is an analogy for a person within a social group who many people know is untrustworthy or otherwise has to be “managed”, but who they work around by trying to quietly warn others rather than deal with openly.

              1. Jamie*

                I disagree that in a work context there is a difference between kids welcome and kid-friendly.

                To say kids are welcome and have elements there that are completely inappropriate for them is disingenuous at best.

                1. Kyrielle*

                  Unless you spell it out, I agree. “Kids are welcome, however there are Halloween horror-themed elements that may be upsetting to some, especially younger kids” is a very different statement than “Kids are welcome”.

                  The latter would have me bringing my kids. The former would have me either not bringing them, or asking questions (and if I got answers like this party, not bringing them!).

                2. Indigo a la mode*

                  I agree – I’ll even go one step further and say that other than the (judicious) use of alcohol, EVERY work event should probably be G/PG-level-appropriate, just for everyone’s general comfort.

              2. Observer*

                “kids welcome” most definitely DOES mean “Appropriate for kids.”

                Unless you think “Celiacs welcome” doesn’t mean that there will be some gluten free food and activities that don’t require handling gluten containing items. Or “recovering alcoholics welcome” doesn’t mean that the event won’t center around alcohol.

                1. Holly*

                  Yeah if I threw a party that said “vegans welcome” but it’s an all meat party, and I said “well, I said you were welcome, not that I was going to be accomodating your diet!” That would be nightmarishly awful.

                2. Amy*

                  In my experience, the “sure, bring your kids! / more the merrier” thing is generally an after-thought. The party wasn’t designed with kids in mind. And that’s fine! I certainly don’t want to live in little kid land all the time.

                  But it’s similar to caveat emptor. Kid-bringer beware.

                  And honestly, with so much kid-friendly stuff geared perfectly for my kids’ exact ages, I’m surprised it was such a draw. We’re turning down invitations to read spooky books at the library, do face-painting, decorate pumpkins, dress as scarecrows, go to firemans ghost walk left and right because there are only so many waking hours in the month of October.

                3. teclatrans*

                  Kid’s welcome vs. kid friendly would not matter much for a Christmas party. But when the decorations and entertainment can cause actual harm, kids welcome! absolutely does mean that organizers have ensured that kids can safely come

                4. SimplyTheBest*

                  I would think “celiacs welcome” would mean there would be gluten free food available, not that everything would be gluten free.

                  That has been my experience with the young children in my life. “Kids are welcome” just isn’t the same thing as “kid friendly”, especially when it’s “kids and significant others are welcome.” Kids are welcome=kids are allowed to be here. Kid friendly=this is designed for children.

                5. Emilia Bedelia*

                  That’s different, though. There are certainly work situations where you’re not permitted to bring children, dates, etc., and to me “kids/family welcome” means “you’re allowed to bring them”.

                  You would not be in a work situation where someone with celiac would be barred from attending.

          2. ampersand*

            Yes, this was also my thought! “We won’t be annoyed if you bring your kids (of anything age)” is very different from “Your child(ren) will have fun and not be traumatized by this event.”

            And I’m pretty sure they meant the former and gave no thought to the latter.

          3. pancakes*

            I don’t have kids but an event or party or whatnot billed as “kids welcome” means, to me, the organizers expect and welcome kids of all ages to turn up, and this very creepy puppet is . . . just not consistent with that. It’s very, very creepy! I think it would be ideal for someone to say something about the miscommunication this year while it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        This. First, there is no all-encompassing model of an 8-year-old–some older kids are deeply affected by scary things, some younger kids shrug them off. Second, it’s just not a viable model for an office party to invite only kids 6 and up, or 8 and up–the idea here is that everyone can come, dates and spouses and kids and grandma who lives with you. If only half the family can come, that’s much less appealing.

        And my daughter was thrilled to go into daddy’s work and show off her costume–I think these things are a good idea. But they should be witch’s hat scary, not dismemberment scary.

        1. Penny*

          “there is no all-encompassing model of an 8-year-old–some older kids are deeply affected by scary things, some younger kids shrug them off.”

          Yes, this! I once completely freaked out a 7 year old by wearing a Yip Yip monster costume. It was before I had kids and it didn’t even occur to me that it would be a problem. I mean, they are from Sesame Street! Of course, when they are unexpectedly in front of you and as big as adults of course it could be terrifying.

          (Don’t worry. Terrified kid is now a terrifically well adjusted and pretty awesome teenager.)

          1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

            My brother is still creeped out by the Yip-Yip monsters and he’s in his 40’s; I always loved them.

          2. BadWolf*

            At the risk of side tracking — I think there’s also the difference of seeing something on TV and the in person version. For example, monsters on TV fine to me. Person dressed up in an Easter bunny costume at the local mall, do not like.

          3. Anna*

            This is creeping into sandwich territory. While saying kids are welcome and then making a definitely not even remotely welcoming to kids party theme is not well thought out, you can’t account for every reaction every child will have.

          4. SQL Coder Cat*

            When I was 8 and my sister was 4, we got to go to a meet and greet with Mr. Rogers. There was also an adult in a Purple Panda costume. My poor sister was absolutely terrified, despite loving the character on the show. And yes, Mr. Rogers was absolutely as wonderful as you always hear and got her calmed down. But there’s a difference between ‘kids getting scared by something unexpected’ and ‘kids being exposed to something that even well adjusted adults might find really upsetting.’ The first will sometimes happen, but the second can be avoided with a little bit of reflection and planning.

        2. Colette*

          Yeah. I run a haunted house for the community every year, and it is suitable for most children – think bats/tombstones/ghosts/darkness but no gore. Some kids love it and go through 25 times. Some kids are too scared, and go around to the rest of the party.

          But serious gore doesn’t belong at an event where children are included, since the ones that will be OK with it are the minority.

        3. Gymmie*

          This would be totally offputting to me in my 30’s. It’s not really scary to me, I just think it’s gross and in bad taste. I honestly wouldn’t have gore at any type of work event, unless it was harmless grossness (hunting for eyeballs through spaghetti blind folded), and I think it’s just inappropriate for work.

        4. Alice in Wonderland*

          I agree – no child is the same when it comes to what they can tolerate/understand, especially in terms of scary things. I remember going on my local haunted house ride as an eight-year-old and being terrified to the point where it was traumatic. And from what I understand as an adult, it was a pretty standard haunted ride with most of the decorations being obviously fake (I don’t have firsthand knowledge though – I tried to ride it again at 22 and ended up with my eyes closed for half the ride due to the old trauma). My two friends at the time thought it was hilarious and great fun, and they were the same age as me!

      3. Massmatt*

        I think there’s also another solution here, not mentioned by Alison, which is that it is fine for parties (yes even Halloween) to be for adults. Not everything is, or should be, tamed down to be acceptable for young children.

        A large city I grew up in had been trying to make New Year’s Eve more and more kid friendly with afternoon parades, face painting, kids events, and trying to clamp down on “boorish behavior” (or even any activities past midnight) as not being “family friendly”. It finally caused a backlash as the vast population celebrating NYE preferred to celebrate as adults and not have to tone it down for kids probably too young to stay up past midnight anyway.

        I like kids, and yes it was a mistake to have this kind of decor and costumes mixed with youngkids, but not every party needs to be set to a Barney soundtrack. “Fun for the whole family” is usually a misnomer.

        1. LilySparrow*

          All Alison – or indeed the LW – suggested was that the invitation and execution be consistent.

          IF it’s billed as a kids-welcome/kid-friendly event, then follow through on that with appropriate planning.

          If it’s going to be an adult or teen-plus event, say so.

          Nobody here was demanding Barney. Just accurate information.

        2. NL*

          It’s right there in the answer: “It of course doesn’t need to be kid-friendly but if we say it is, I want to be sure it won’t terrify our kids.”

        3. I'm just here for the comments*

          But then the invitation should not have read “kids welcome” because that implies it will be kid-friendly. It’s fine to make a party for adults only, but the invite should clearly state just that. As a parent I enjoy going to parties without my whole crew, but if you’re telling me it’s fine to bring my kids I will expect it to be appropriate for them.

          1. Anna*

            I don’t think it does at all. Kids welcome and kid friendly are not and do not have to be the same thing. Kid friendly = probably more geared towards children. Kids welcome = We don’t mind them being there and most of everything will be appropriate, but there may be some things that aren’t and if you feel they aren’t, it’s up to you to deal with it how you choose.

            1. CMart*

              There’s a huge difference between “kids are welcome but it might be kind of boring, we didn’t supply crayons or anything” and “kids are welcome but there will be things that are absolutely inappropriate for children”.

              A party that doesn’t cater to kids is not kid-friendly, but it is not also kid-incompatible. A grotesque zombie puppet thing is kid-incompatible.

              It’s a terrible thing to do to “welcome” people and then traumatize them. You don’t welcome soldiers returning from combat and then shoot off firecrackers at them when they walk in the door. You don’t welcome people with peanut allergies and then have 80% of the food be peanutbutter based. You don’t welcome kids and then have terrifying images.

            2. Roverandom*

              If you intend to have scary stuff at your halloween party, then kids are not welcome. We don’t need to create code phrases that parents have to parse.

    3. with a comma after dearest*

      I feel sometimes people think of “appropriate for kids” in terms of no sexy costumes, cursing, drunkenness, etc. The organizers may have thought that their party was kid-friendly because it was, in that regard. It was, quote, appropriate. But it was also way too scary for kids!

      So I would approach it on that level – maybe the organizer doesn’t have younger kids – and point out that X Y and Z were all “clean” entertainment, but way too scary for kids (and even some adults), so if they want to include those things next year, the invite should make it clear.

      Confession, I’m not clicking on the link!

      1. Zip Silver*

        You should definitely click on the link, that puppet is pretty awesome.

        I tend to agree with you here. When I hear ‘kid-friendly’ for Halloween, I’m thinking no sexy costumes, rather than no spooky decor.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          There’s spooky, and then there’s gory and horrifying. If it was fake spiderwebs and a spooky soundtrack, that would be totally okay. But this party sounds like way more than that.

          I honestly don’t care if a five year old sees somebody in a short skirt or a corset. I do care if a five year old is terrified and traumatized by slasher movie style props and decor that they’re not emotionally or psychologically developed enough to process. I mean, at that age I was still terrified of Oompa Loompas. I don’t even know how many weeks of nightmares would have come from a super scary, in-person experience like this.

            1. Indigo a la mode*

              Not to mention that little kids don’t see “sexy.” Bodies are just bodies to kids…at least until we ruin that for them.

        2. CoffeeLover*

          Agreed – the puppet is super cool!! Love it!

          It is a little much for 2/3 year olds, but I also probably wouldn’t have made that connection myself ahead of time. That young kids = easily scared = don’t bring deranged puppet.

          So I don’t think it’s outrageous that the organizers didn’t make that connection either, and I think they would appreciate a heads up. “The theme was too scary for young kids. Please keep that in mind next year.” I don’t think it’s worth being super upset about as it seems like a pretty normal slip to me (especially if they don’t have young kids themselves).

        3. a1*

          I’m not clicking the link because it goes to Youtube. I’m at work, I’m not going to Youtube at work. If it went to a picture, I’d click it, though.

          1. M. Albertine*

            You need the video to appreciate the problem the puppet represents – it’s the movement that it makes that makes it scary.

        4. wittyrepartee*

          That puppet may be awesome, but it would be super super scary for a little kid. Honestly, I wouldn’t be a fan either.

        5. Anax*

          I’m inclined to disagree, because I’ve seen SO many Halloween events which are explicitly intended for very young kids, especially if they happen during the day. It seems like a lot of parents like doing their trick-or-treating before dark, in a safe, indoor venue – and if I heard about a 2pm Halloween party with “kids welcome”, trick-or-treating among the cubicles and apple-bobbing are what I would expect.

        1. Liane*

          I ‘m not clicking it either. I am an adult lover of Halloween & have worked several seasons in a Halloween store, but I do not do gore.
          In fact I hated the animatronic decor we displayed & sold. Not only were they scary, but were loud and played creepy recorded scripts on repeat. (I bet Sally does too) I spent much of the work day wanting magical powers or a power outage so they would STFU & sometimes muttered “Oh shut up!” when one activated and played it off as a joke.
          Please OP use one of the scripts and tell the planners they need to tone down the gore A LOT or warn people, with examples–it will be a favor to many non-parents as well.

          Also “Bob’s bringing his special friend Sally” sounds more like a weird way of saying “Bob’s bringing his SO” than a warning to me. Unless everyone in the office knows that Bob is in a serious relationship with a zombie?

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Yeah, good call, don’t. I love all things scary and gory and even I was, “wow that’s over the line”. No idea what Bob, and especially the CEO, were thinking.

          2. pentamom*

            A JoAnn Fabrics near me used to have out some kind of thing that made a continuous sinister laugh through the whole Halloween retail season. I honestly don’t know how the employees kept their sanity — it mad me nearly mad in the 20 or so minutes I would spend in the store shopping.

            1. Door Guy*

              I lost my sanity to Christmas Muzak. Endless loops of the same songs with nothing else to break them up, for over a month, and I was stuck right below a speaker for hours on end. Not even the originals, but the “pop star covers a classic” versions. Thankfully, towards the end of my tenure in places with muzak, they started intermixing their regular muzak in with the Christmas songs, but the damage was done and most Christmas songs now make me see red instead of feeling seasonal joy.

              I still remember the year I was working an overnight on New Years and the song changed abruptly from some butchered carol into Surf City by the Beach Boys, a song that had never actually been on our rotation before. I cried a few manly tears of joy.

              1. Shocked Pikachu*

                There is one station in town that plays Christmas music from Thanksgiving until end of the year. Some classics on repeat but pop songs in between .. and holy cow, they made me aware of just how horrible Christmas songs can be….

                1. Door Guy*

                  There was once a radio station that was changing everything except frequency – went from a rock station to a country station, changed call sign, new hosts, etc. In the week between the original sign off and the new station starting, they played “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” on repeat for the entire 8 days. As it was one of my favorite stations before the change, I kept hitting the channel button on autopilot on my way to and from work.

                2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

                  A lot of the radio stations where I grew up used to can the Christmas music at noon on Christmas Day. They’d switch to the prerecorded New Year’s Top 100 of the Year.

                  Presents open, onto the next holiday!

                  Thankfully we had an adequate supply of tapes, then CDs. But it was a real bummer if you ‘d had the radio on.

              2. Lilysparrow*

                I worked retail one Christmas season when the Muzak was a Motown Christmas album. That is when I learned how deeply weird and creepy “I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” actually is. Nothing like the voice of a young Michael Jackson to make you see the dark side.

            2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              As a former JoAnn employee… I went dead to it, the same as I lost the ability to smell cinnamon during the Christmas season because of those gross bags of scented pinecones.

            3. Kelly L.*

              I was in a store a few weeks ago that had an animatronic that made screams of pain that grew in intensity, so it was like “Aaaahh…AAaAAhhh…AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!” except like 8 times instead, and somebody kept setting it off on purpose. It got way under my skin! The laughs are annoying enough, but the pain noise was too realistic.

          3. Door Guy*

            We ended up at one of those pop-up Halloween stores for costumes this year, and even though we didn’t go near the section full of the animatronic decor, it was still so loud and so frequent that it even bothered me – not in a scared way, but in a “my ears are hurting” way. My daughter, who does NOT like spooky anything, was practically a quivering wreck, and we weren’t in there very long and never went past the 2nd row (where the young girl costumes were). She loves her costume, but as soon as it was picked out she went out to sit in the car with my wife while I payed.

          4. Anax*

            The puppet doesn’t have explicit gore, but is an animatronic which “attacks” the person carrying it in a fairly realistic manner. It’s very spooky, and realistic enough that it might cause real-life concern for anyone with PTSD or similar trauma – because it sure does for me, jeez.

        2. Liane*

          I ‘m not clicking it either. I am an adult lover of Halloween & have worked several seasons in a Halloween store, but I do not do gore.
          In fact I hated the animatronic decor we displayed & sold. Not only were they scary, but were loud and played creepy recorded scripts on repeat. (I bet Sally does too.) I spent much of the work day wanting magical powers or a power outage so they would STFU & sometimes muttered “Oh shut up!” when one activated and played it off as a joke.
          Please OP use one of the scripts and tell the planners they need to tone down the gore A LOT or warn people, with examples–it will be a favor to many non-parents as well.

          Also “Bob’s bringing his special friend Sally” sounds more like a weird way of saying “Bob’s bringing his SO” than a warning to me. Unless everyone in the office knows that Bob is in a serious relationship with a zombie?

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        Having a company guess the ‘recommended age range’ any more specifically than ‘all ages’ is just asking for additional strife. “But, why can’t I bring my 4yo?”

        Either no kids, or all ages, and if all ages, then truly all ages. No gore, no jumpscares, just candy and cute costumes.

        1. Isabel Kunkle*

          I could see a “kids welcome, but may be too scary for those under 10,” or whatever. And then if parents know their over-10 kids are easily frightened, or their five-year-olds can totally roll with a disembodied eyeball or whatever, they can adjust individually.

          1. WellRed*

            Nah, if kids are welcome, make it for all ages. It’s not hard. Plus, you’d still have people with differing views on what’s age appropriate. Child free person here.

            1. Meg*

              I’m confused. You say “make it for all ages” but then you say “people [have] differing views on what’s age appropriate.” What may be “all ages fun” for one person may not be for another.

              This could be avoided by either disallowing children altogether, or telling parents to bring children at their own risk.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                All ages = bats, black cats, mummies, spider webs, tomb stones with funny sayings, witches in pointy hats, some liquid nitrogen in the punch. Nothing scarier than original recipe Scooby Doo. It’s a G-rated party theme rather than a festival of gore. Gatherings of diverse people who did not preselect as up for (gore, an MLM for yoga pants, uncomfortable questions about religion, bungie jumping) need to go tame and generic in their entertainment.

                Lots of things in life are appropriate for all ages. “No rabid puppets trying to dismember guests” will appeal to those over 3, too.

                1. wittyrepartee*

                  It’s a harvest festival with costumes and maybe a few thematic animals thrown in.

                  Even then, one has to be understanding if a 3 year old gets weird about an extra scary looking jack-o-lantern.

              2. WellRed*

                I’m referring to the comment about saying it’s scary for say, “under age 10.” But that’s pretty subjective, based not only on the person who THINKS it’s only scary for that age range, but also on the various kids, who will range in reaction.

                Nowhere did I use the phrase “all ages fun.” A “fun” work Halloween party with kids? Not in my vocabulary ; )

            2. wittyrepartee*

              Yeah, agreed. I don’t have kids, but they’re little people with feelings and less of an ability to tell real from pretend. While sometimes bizarro stuff scares them, you can make a good faith effort to keep a party where kids will be there closer to “fortune tellers, mist, and the Great Pumpkin” so that no one has nightmares.

              Having a party for all ages allows a workforce’s parents to come without huge amounts of expense and effort. It’s a nice thing to do.

        2. knead me seymour*

          I say that the minimum requirement is to include a brief description of the level of scariness in the invitation, so parents and people who aren’t into gore have the information to know whether to opt out. The next step is to determine whether you truly want the party to be open to kids of all ages, which does make sense for a Halloween event. If so, best to restrict the really scary stuff to one closed-off area.

      3. Ginger*

        I regret clicking. Even if there were no kids, who thinks bringing that to a work event is a good idea??

        Some things never belong in an office. Enjoy it on your own time.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            I love Halloween passionately. It is *the* family holiday at our house – we all dress up (my hat this year is amazeballs – 3′ tall purple velvet), meet up with a friend’s family for trick or treat, etc. I take Halloween and the day after off work, and leave a costume in my office seat for the day. This year’s costume is in the car right now, waiting until the afternoon when people clear out.

            I also don’t think Halloween parties belong in an office. It is probably the most potentially fraught holiday all around and should generally be avoided. Stick to seasons…

          2. Middle School Teacher*

            I agree, but I’m a halloween grinch, a bit. I’m so glad the kids at our school aren’t allowed to wear costumes to school.

          3. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

            Then no holiday parties in the office. I adore Halloween and if you’re going to cancel one, cancel them all.

      4. Junior Assistant Peon*

        That seems to be how society thinks of it for some reason. In movies, boobs = NC-17 and graphic violence = PG-13.

    4. Christine D*

      I love all things zombies and don’t scare easy. And yet….that puppet would freak me out if I showed up to a “kid friendly” Halloween party and saw it! It’s incredibly unnerving.

      They absolutely need an age range announced on events like these, although if my kid were one of the ones traumatized I’d probably just put a blanket “not trusting their judgement on anything ever again and will never bring my kids” ban on future work events.

    5. Lynca*

      They need a recommended age range/age threshold and to be more upfront about the decor. Most big haunted houses do this too and I would probably approach it from that angle. If you don’t specify, parents aren’t going to know what to expect and it’s a lot easier to give information up front so people can make an informed decision. It will also help any of the adults that don’t like horror decor.

      Obligatory puppet response: I’ve seen those before. They’re definitely not okay for an all-ages event but personally I find them more campy than scary.

    6. K.H. Wolf*

      I’m of the mind that there are two separate issues for OP #1.

      The first is that, given the language referenced in the invitation itself, they probably should not have expected a kid-directed party. This type of thing is super language-dependent. “Kids and significant others are welcome” means that no one will be upset if you bring your child, not that accommodations have been made for children. (A standalone “Kids are welcome” is more murky, and might mean either. If your kid is being directly invited, rather than through you, it should generally be a kid-directed party.) Frustrating, but this is how many people think when writing invitations. If you have reason to believe that the party might involve things that you don’t want your child to see, or that your child may be bored, or that the area may not be childproofed (as another poster mentioned), please ask. This extends to other types of party, as well.

      The second issue is that it sounds like this Halloween party was super out-of-bounds for an office Halloween party. Add me to list of people who didn’t click the link. Genuinely scary parties should be saved for close friends or venues that specialize in scary, like haunted houses. At least put it explicitly on the invitation so people can self-select!

      1. Zennish*

        This exactly. I think the party itself sounds inappropriate for a work function, but to me, saying “kids and significant others are welcome” just means that the event isn’t exclusively for employees, not that everything has been pre-screened to appeal to the Sesame Street demographic.

        1. These Old Wings*

          I honestly don’t understand how hard it is to make a party not gruesome and legitimately welcoming of families with kids of all ages. The OP did not suggest that she expected an event catered to the young kids, but I would think most people would expect an event that didn’t have horrifying puppets or gruesome decor, when it’s extremely easy not to have either of those things!

          1. Massmatt*

            But the easiest thing is to let people do what they want and not hand down rules about what is or isn’t appropriate or kid-friendly. The people paying for the party delegated the decorations. The folks doing the work to decorate etc liked gory decorations.

            1. Colette*

              That’s not really an excuse. If they’d decorated with a Christmas tree or a bunch of valentine hearts, that wouldn’t have been appropriate for the event – just like gory isn’t appropriate for an event with young children. The people planning the party should set clear expectations for what is appropriate for their audience (and I’d argue that excessively gory isn’t work appropriate, regardless of whether young children are attending).

              I can see why they didn’t do that this year, but going forward they need to be clear.

              1. Shocked Pikachu*

                “ If they’d decorated with a Christmas tree or a bunch of valentine hearts”

                Sorry, not really on topic but I just had a marvelous flashback to Hanukkah Balls. That’s one of the AAM stories that will stay with me for eternity … ;)

            2. ...*

              But gore and violence never belong in the work place? Honestly If someone was consistently using that puppet at work I would need to be able to work in a separate area. You wouldn’t show a porn video at work!? (well, you might, my former roommate worked somewhere that played porn on a big screen over lunch so…..) So why would you show horrible gore.

      2. Daffy Duck*

        To me the wording “Kids and significant others welcome “ means this is a family appropriate party and wouldn’t be gory. And I would have no idea that “Sally” was as scary as it is. I wouldn’t have thought to even ask if it was gory/scary with that wording , and if the announcement didn’t have it I probably would ask. My kids are adults now, but I probably wouldn’t have gone if I realized it would have gore (surgery doesn’t bother me, but Halloween gore does).

        1. Academic Addie*

          I agree. My department has a reception every other week with some food and drinks. It’s kids and partners welcome. So there’s no accommodations for kids, but everyone is expected to behave themselves like professional adults interacting with co-workers. Things loosen up a bit, and there’s more personal chatter, but I can bring my kids knowing that no one will be falling down drunk or shouting swear words or getting naked. To me, at a work party with kids and partners invited, I wouldn’t expect decorum to be wildy out-of-step with the office. While the bloody puppet doesn’t bother me, it’s pretty far out of the norm in terms of graphic gore we’d expect to see in our building, and so I wouldn’t expect to see it at the party.

          1. Lilysparrow*

            Yes, I think this is the most on-point observation.

            The basic assumption of any work event – particularly one that’s open to guests – is that it will be within a range of normal office behavior that would be appropriate, if a bit more casual, than what you’d see during work hours or with clients.

            If management would need to think twice before entertaining clients/customers, the CEO, or the local media with Sally the zombie, then she doesn’t belong at the office Halloween party at all.

            1. Academic Addie*

              What a good episode of the Office Sally the Zombie would have made. Michael takes Sally to a client dinner. Dwight sets Sally up in the conference room …

        2. wittyrepartee*

          Re: Surgery vs. Gore
          I’m like this too! I think it’s because the person isn’t feeling the pain, and I know it’s to help someone.

      3. DJ*

        I agree fully on the second issue. On the first though, I do feel like if you say kids are welcome, you should make some effort to make sure that kids do not feel unwelcome. I’m not saying you need to provide kids-only activities and serve fish sticks, but this is kind of like if you say kids are welcome to come to your party, but then you only serve sushi (or something else that’s generally unappealing to most kids). And I feel like it wouldn’t be that hard to specify up front something like “Kids are welcome, but the party will be horror-themed and may not be appropriate for everyone”.

      4. Observer*

        Sorry, no. If you say that “x are welcome” or even “and and y are welcome” that means that the environment is not going to be inappropriate for those people unless otherwise explicitly noted. ESPECIALLY in a context where no one would otherwise have expected X to be welcome.

        So when you say that “kids are welcome” that may not mean a kid centered party, sure. But it DOES mean that it’s a place where the activities are not inappropriate for kids. Especially since if this had not been said, most people would not have thought to bring their kids.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          Yes. Our holiday potlucks are not kid-centered, but there’s nothing there that would harm a child. If I saw this invitation I would expect it to be boring for kids, but not wildly inappropriate for them. You don’t explicitly name a group as welcome to attend and then make an environment too inhospitable for them to feasibly stay.

        1. OP 1*

          OP 1 here- also important to note that in our office culture the “kids welcome” events means we are expected to bring our kids. And it was kid friendly in the sense that there were snacks and some markers and Halloween themed coloring projects set out. And yes, when we hear “kids welcome” we assume that there will be nothing wildly inappropriate for kids there.

          1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            The OK said in a comment that “in our office culture the ‘kids welcome’ events means we are expected to bring our kids.”

            That’s a key point. If people are going to criticize you for leaving the kids home, or pointedly ask “Where’s little Lucinda?” if you don’t bring your children, kid-friendly should be mandatory, and it should include not-scary. Supplying a few crayons is nice, but not sufficient.

            Nobody should indicate “you *really* ought to bring your toddler to this event” and then have activities or decorations that will scare those children. She said in another comment that the children involved are mostly age 5 or under. Yes, there’s some variation in what they’ll like, and what they will be bored rather than bothered by–children are individuals, there isn’t an ISO-standard four-year-old–but that doesn’t mean assuming that none of them will be bothered by a scary zombie puppet. Because one thing I do know about four-year-olds is they don’t get to just say
            “Goodbye, enjoy the rest of the party” and leave, even if they’re calm enough to ask an adult “can we go home now?” rather than crying or hiding in a corner.

      5. knead me seymour*

        As an event planner, though, you shouldn’t really expect employees to be able to finely parse your invitation phrasing to find out whether their kids will be traumatized by your event. If there are going to be scary elements, just say so. As you also mention, some adults would probably appreciate the heads up as well.

      6. Parenthetically*

        Nobody is saying you have to hire a balloon artist and have only themed decorations from kids’ shows, but if you say “kids and significant others welcome,” there HAS to be some recognition that kids are going to be there in the way the party is decorated and run, period. It doesn’t have to be a kids party, but if a kid-inclusive party doesn’t adjust in any way to, you know, include kids, then it isn’t kid-inclusive by any measure.

        Totally agree with your second paragraph, though. Work halloween party = skeleton cupcakes and witches’ hats, not gore and zombies.

    7. Emilia Bedelia*

      I think that’s kind of hard for people without kids to judge, and opens things up to even more confusion. I don’t know children in all age ranges, so if you asked me what age range a certain thing would be appropriate for, I don’t think I’d have any idea. And of course, every kid (and every person) is different – some kids will be okay with blood, but are terrified of clowns or zombies specifically. On the other hand, some kids will love gory/scary stuff, but their parents may not want them to be exposed to it.

      It would make more sense for the party planners to give specific details about what is planned (“There will be blood and guts everywhere”, “We’re putting up orange and black streamers and a pumpkin” “No decorations, but there will be peanuts and gluten in everything”) and let people decide what their kids can handle.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        You know… I’ve miscalculated with kids. A kid and I watched Spirited Away together and I didn’t realize how scary it would be for her. But… realistically moving zombie puppets are pretty far from the “oops! thought this would be okay!”
        category.

    8. Turquoisecow*

      I think someone who has kids might need to be on the planning committee. As a non-parent, I’m of course sympathetic to the needs of parents and I want kids to be happy, but I honestly don’t know what would “scare” a 2-5 year old vs. seriously terrify them, and it varies between kids. I know people who love to be scared and watch horror movies, and people who can’t stand it – the same is probably true of kids as well.

      Saying “this needs to be appropriate for little kids” wouldn’t be great direction for me if this was my job, so I think a parent or two should be involved in the decorations next year, even if the usual people just say “hey, I’m thinking of doing these decorations, will this be okay?”

      1. Amy*

        I have a 4 year old and we’ve done a lot of Halloween stuff this year. Often there are 4 types of Halloween experiences:

        – Little Kid (2-6ish) : not scary at all but thematically related to Halloween. Scarecrows, jack o’ lanterns, candy

        – Big Kid: (6-12): scarier elements and stuff like grapes as eyeballs, mild gore

        – Really Scary Stuff: Terror, Slasher, hardcore gore . Some kids and adults may never want to see this.

        – Halloween as a sexy adult party

        Frankly, there’s enough stuff that’s perfectly suited to my kid’s age, I wouldn’t be bringing him to an office party.

      2. Kyrielle*

        Very much so. Somewhere there is a threshold of scariness at which my 8-year-old would be good to go, but my 11-year-old would need to skip it. (The OP’s office party, however, is a quick nope for both of them and also – with Sally present – for me.)

    9. Phony Genius*

      The only way this can work is to keep the puppet and its keeper in it’s own “haunted room,” separated from the rest of the party area. Before the party, send that video to everybody and tell them this is what will be in the “haunted room,” and they should decide if their children would be OK going in there, or just staying in the main party room. But this is probably more trouble than it’s worth, so it won’t work for most offices.

    10. MatKnifeNinja*

      Kid friendly means you can bring your kid, not that its preschool/elementary toned down.

      My friends work Haunted Houses that anyone over the age of 4 can be admitted, but honestly is more appropriate for tweens. So can bring/attend doesn’t equal Snoopy.

      Maybe next year ask if you can have a Boo Bash for the kids only, and something more PG rated for the adults. My sister’s work place does this, with everyone knowing the scarey stuff will be at the more non kid themed party. The kids one is at the level of a preschool level party.

    11. DataGirl*

      There was a huge debate (read: all out screaming match) in my neighborhood over Halloween/ the appropriateness of scaring children. Many adults- some of which have children and some which do not- believed that Halloween is all about being super scary and anyone who doesn’t like that is a special snowflake who needs to suck it up and get over themselves. Myself and some others disagreed and it got pretty ugly. So I can see how there would be adults who would think this party was totally fine for kids and not understand that scaring small children isn’t ‘fun’. In the future I would just not bring kids to any work event put on at that company.

      1. Blueberry Smoothie*

        Why do so many people think traumatizing children is entertainment? Children don’t process and contextualize fear the way adults do, and they shouldn’t be expected to. Adults have the responsibility to adapt to them, not the other way around.

        Okay, I’ll stop before I climb onto my “ways Americans mess up their kids and pretend they are good people anyway” soapbox. Which considering the advanced abnormal child psych textbook I’m reading today is no easy feat.

        /rant

        1. Anna*

          I think there’s a line. Neil Gaiman was told Coraline wasn’t a children’s book because it was scary, period. His response was that it’s okay for kids to be scared. Not in a “I’m constantly jumping out at you so you don’t know who or what to trust” way, but in the way that a lot of us did as children. Reading or listening to scary stories, finding spooky places to visit around our houses. Things like that. Not everything that happens to children can be categorized as trauma and I don’t think it does anyone any good to put everything that might be scary to some and not to others under that umbrella.

          1. Lilysparrow*

            There is an enormous difference between a creepy/scary book and the type of situation DataGirl described.

            In a book, the child is entirely in control of their experience, and can skim, skip pages, or stop reading it. They know there is no real danger because it’s just words on a page – it’s entirely imaginary. They can even demonstrate mastery over the scary things by shutting the book, hiding it, or throwing it away. They are larger than their fears. That is a valuable experience.

            With something like neighborhood decorations or worse yet, “ambushes” of trick-or-treaters, the child is surrounded by frightening things in the real world, larger than themselves, and unable to be sure whether there is danger or not (like someone swinging a weapon at them). Indeed, sometimes there is real danger because the person doing the “prank” is an idiot who has not observed safety precautions.

            Add to that the knowledge that these scares/possible hazards are being done to them deliberately by adults – rather than helping care for them, their neighbors want them to be scared and then laugh at them. That is cruel, and the children know it. Kids who are old enough to process that situation and feel confident that there is no real danger can laugh. But for smaller kids or those who are more sensitive, they can’t brush this off.

            It is not in anyone’s interest to habituate small children to cruelty from adults – except for cruel adults.

            1. DataGirl*

              EVERYTHING you just said Lilysparrow, yes. The debate that happened in my neighborhood was primarily around the ‘ambushes’- adults or teens who think it is funny to jump out at or attack little kids. It’s one thing for a child to decide if they want to walk up to the haunted house or not, it’s another to be peaceably walking along and have a zombie jump at you out of the bushes. In that case it is the adult who is having fun at the child’s expense and that’s cruel.

              In reference to the book- it’s the child’s (and their parent’s) choice whether to let the kid read the book based on their comfort level. I have one teen who is obsessed with horror (I hate it, no idea where she got that from) and one who is terrified- even still at age 15 she can’t watch Stranger Things because it’s too scary for her. So we carefully moderate exposure in our home. At something like the party described, there is no way the parents could shield their kids from things that were inappropriate for them. I would have had a traumatized kid for days (weeks, months?) if she had been exposed to that puppet at such a young age.

              1. mcr-red*

                I have a big startle reflex, and was with an emotionally abusive ex who thought it was oh so funny to scare me a lot. (And has taught one of our kids that this is funny.) At this point, when someone scares me by jumping out I might jump and scream, and then I get ANGRY. So your neighbors would be getting my full blast wrath.

                1. DataGirl*

                  When a teenager jumped out at my then five or six year old while trick-or-treating I hit him with the full candy bag. All the kids thought it was awesome; the adults who think scaring kids is fun accused me of assault .

                2. mcr-red*

                  You take the chance of getting hit when you try to scare someone. I do not feel one bit sorry for people who get sucker punched, hit with bags of candy, etc.

                3. Scared cat*

                  I take kickboxing Classes, and I’m 99% sure that if somebody jumped out to try and scare me or my kids I would start kicking and punching them. If they got mad at me, I’d just tell them that’s the risk of jumping out at somebody

              2. Blue Anne*

                I’m 30 and Stranger Things is still pretty freaking scary for me too, ha!

                I know I’m a giant baby, and I would’ve felt good about the Halloween party saying it was kid friendly… OP’s situation would’ve been really cruddy for me.

                OP, I hope your office is receptive to the feedback.

            2. Blueberry Smoothie*

              Lilysparrow just got a one-woman standing ovation in my office. Thankfully no one else is in here. :)

        2. Amy*

          I don’t know if this is an American thing. Many traditional children’s fairy tales from cultures around the world are quite terrifying.

        3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          Because a lot of people aren’t traumatized by fake scary!

          I was the sort of kid who around the age of 5 or 6, would have exasperatedly said, “Ugh it’s not REAL it’s a PUPPET you babies,” even if I was in fact, talking to younger siblings who were most likely actual babies! So I would never expect someone to suffer actual clinically-defined-trauma from seeing a toy.

          1. leskno*

            OK, that’s all well and good, but a person with human empathy should be able to understand “Oh crap, this smol person (or regular person, or animal) is really upset by what’s happening” and….um, stop that thing from happening/stop doing the thing that is upsetting the smol person?

            “X didn’t traumatize me so it shouldn’t traumatize anyone else” or even “What? Why are you reacting this way?” is a really cold way to look at trauma. A more compassionate response might be 1) “Holy crap I’m so sorry I didn’t mean for this to happen, what can I do to make it better” and/or 2) “Yikes trauma can effect folks in all kinds of ways maybe I should think about the lens through which I view the world.” Making your expectations more inclusive helps you be a more compassionate person and costs nothing.

        4. JustaTech*

          Why do some people think frightening *anyone* who hasn’t consented is funny?
          There’s a manager at my office who is afraid of clowns. A couple of years ago the office pranksters thought it would be hilarious to put on a scary clown mask and hide behind Fergus’ car in the parking garage to jump up and scare him.
          I flat out told them that was mean and sounded like a great way to get run over if Fergus accidentally hit the gas when they jumped up.

          I have a strong startle reflex and people who think it’s funny to make me scream get really annoying really fast.

          1. Shocked Pikachu*

            I am a horror movie junkie. I also have very strong startle reflex. If you remember while back there was this thing with people dressing up as scary clowns. One of my friends said :” I hope one of them doesn’t jump in front of you cause you are liable to beat them to death with your hand bag”. Bit of exaggeration, yes, but many people do have strong fight reflex when scared.

            1. DataGirl*

              I commented above, but I did hit someone with a bag once when they jumped out at my kid and I. I also have a very strong startle reflex.

          2. JessaB*

            And you take your victim as you get them, if the victim has a heart attack, a PTSD episode, and falls and hurts themselves or whatever, they’d be well within their rights to sue for medical expenses/damages. It’s stupid to do things to people you do not categorically know enjoy that kind of thing.

        5. wittyrepartee*

          In our neighborhood, the houses that did this didn’t scare the very little kids. It was also easy to avoid their house.

    12. NotShakingAndCrying*

      I loved haunted houses as a kid! That party sounds like something where I’d be screaming and enjoying the heck out of it.

    13. Mama Bear*

      I think they should specify some of the decorations so that parents can determine what’s appropriate for their kid. Not all middle schoolers like gore, either. Or all adults, for that matter. I do think something needs to be said. That was not “kid friendly”. Heck, if they just say that Sally the zombie puppet (insert link) is going to attend, that would be a major head’s up! Some people also enjoy the scare part of Halloween and some don’t. I think office parties should err on the side of not being gruesome.

    14. BethDH*

      I have noticed that “kid-friendly” often just means that they are willing for kids to be there and no one will give you the side-eye for having them there, not that it’s actually appropriate for children of any age.
      Often the people running it don’t know what is suitable for kids, and especially for kids at different ages (and to be fair, that can be a real challenge especially if you don’t have kids). They’re also still thinking of the employees as the primary audience.
      I’d absolutely say something, but I’ve also learned that I need to ask ahead of time. Something to the planners like “can you tell me a little more about what’s planned for the party?” will often allow you to read between the lines and make your own call.
      I’ve found that events that are designed for kids are still often not good for toddlers, just because all the activities are really more for school age kids and the toddlers get frustrated by all the fun looking things they can’t do.
      People often want to be kid friendly but that doesn’t mean they know how.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        Yeah, it’s true. But I really do expect a non-kid friendly “kid friendly” party to just be really boring for the kids. Not actively scary. Like “oh! I guess we could print out some coloring pages and give them some colored pens if they need an activity?”

    15. Anom-a-long-a-ding-dong*

      …you must know some 8-year-olds who are way braver than average, PCBH.

      I’d be an anom-a-long-a-ding-dong-shaped hole in the wall if I saw that puppet at a company party…and I’m in my thirties!

    16. mcr-red*

      It may also be a know your kid kind of thing. Some kids will not be bothered by that kind of thing at all – thinking of my best friend who has watched horror movies all of her life and my youngest who doesn’t appear to be bothered by anything. My oldest and myself – at least up until teenage years – would have been a hard pass.

      And that zombie puppet is so much no. And I love zombie movies!

    17. sfigato*

      I have a six-year old and she has been having nightmares all month because of all the halloween ish. I love gore and grossness, but it is totally traumatizing for little kids. I really wish people were more thoughtful about how they decorated for a holiday that is primarily meant for the elementary school crowd. That’s my two cents. If you are going to have an adults-only thing, awesome, but if you are decorating the outside of your house, maybe tone down the guts and gore.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        And for people who have had traumatic experiences. Was with someone who relived some family trauma due to the depiction of an untimely demise. It kind of ruined the night.

    18. KoiFeeder*

      Honestly, I’m an adult (in theory) and this party sounds like something I would have left even before I met Sally. I don’t do gore well. The zombie would’ve sent me into a panic attack if I wasn’t expecting it and warned ahead of time.

    19. Galahad*

      OP#1 “Kids and significant others are welcome” is NOT “a children’s party”.
      Especially given the context of an office so that the focus of the event is going to be adults, by default.

      These events are managed by volunteers, with only loose oversight. Mistakes happen, often enough that you should know that. Just like a neighbor inviting us over to see his “haunted house”, as a parent, I need to ASK about the typc of party first. That is my role, not my employer’s.

      I do like the idea of letting the organizer know that you were surprised just HOW unsuitable for kids it was, but made as a suggestion to say “next year, it would be great if you could send out a sneak peek about the event’s level of scariness the day before, so I can figure out if I should leave Junior at home”.

  2. Lord Gouldian Finch*

    #1: I definitely wonder if there was misunderstanding about what kid-friendly means. What would scare a 2 year old would probably be fine for a 9 year old and bore a 15 year old. Maybe in the future an age range should be specified.

    1. Ginger*

      That puppet is disgusting is not appropriate for any workplace event. I would definitely complain to the event organisers.

      1. Roverandom*

        I have never seen “kid friendly” to mean “10+ but definitely not under 10, or any kid who frightens easily”. It’s G or PG, not PG-13 or R.

        1. Amy Sly*

          And honestly, this could be a way to approach the situation that’s a little more clear for someone like Bob or the decorator who isn’t sure what is appropriate in the workplace or around kids.

          “Hey, Bob’s puppet and the decorations seemed to be like something out of a PG-13 or R movie. Given the diversity of people’s comfort with horror themes, something more like a PG rating would be more appropriate in a workplace, and if the party is meant to be inclusive of children, we should keep the décor at a G level.” Hopefully next year, that language can be used to describe the party better. “This year’s party will be PG, so while kids are welcome, it may be too scary for the youngest” or “This year’s party has G rated scares to be appropriate for the whole family.”

      2. Joielle*

        I think the zombie is cool, if a bit campy… but I still agree that it’s not really appropriate for a work event. Not everyone is into that kind of thing, better to err on the side of not scaring people, etc. I’d say the same about zombie/gore SFX makeup, realistic spiders/snakes, or anything that’s a common fear or meant to be scary. Gotta tone it down for work whether you want to or not.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      More useful would be to specify what’s involved. If they spell out “realistic looking dismembered body parts, fake blood and gruesome zombie puppets” vs “spooky lighting and music, spiderwebs, cartoon ghosts and bats” the parents can make a judgement call based on their kids age and temperament.

      For that matter, so can the adults, because there are plenty of adults who aren’t a fan of gruesomely violent decorations.

      1. Sandy*

        Hard agree.

        When it doubt, spell it out.

        My kid is 4, but super into halloween (even/especially there gruesome bits) so i’d really appreciate the description beforehand.

      2. Violet Fox*

        Adult here, and would have very much had other plans if I knew about gruesomely violent decorations.

        When I hear kid-friendly Halloween party I think a lot more of “Halloween stuff from the toy story/we sell random stuff store” that is more like bats, cute black cats, cartoony pumpkins etc, not blood and gore.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          Halloween is becoming more of a thing here, partly as 1st November is a public holiday, so people can hold parties the night before.

          That said, it all sounded very gruesome from the description above. Did the organiser not know the ages of the children who would be likely to attend?

        2. Princesa Zelda*

          Same here; blood and gore make me deeply, deeply uncomfortable but I love cartoon ghosts and black cats and dressing up. I would have been psyched to go to a kid-friendly Halloween party and unsettled and disappointed by the actual event described, and I’m an adult! I can only imagine how upset the toddlers and their parents must have been.

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            Add me to the list of people who not enjoy attending a party like this! That zombie puppet didn’t bother me too much to look at on my screen, but I would not want to meet it face to face. And blood and gore? Thank you, no. SO much do not want!

        3. Big Bank*

          The issue here definitely wasn’t just the kids. They should have advised everyone that “family” are welcome, but that gory decorations and costumes will be present and to make their own decision on attendance. That way anyone, kid and adult alike, that wasnt comfortable with this could bow out. It definitely would have caught me off guard: work Halloween stuff in my experience is always cutesy.

        4. Third or Nothing!*

          I am the same way. We do cutesy Halloween at our house. Cute little black cat dressed as a witch, a cute stuffed ghost with a top hat, happy Jack-o-Lanterns, candy corn patterned garland, that sort of thing. I do have a two year old daughter, but the decorations pre-date her birth.

      3. Lynca*

        Agreed. It’s very clear from the comments people have different expectations on what a “halloween party” should entail. And that’s fine. For me this party honestly sounds like a pretty tame haunted house atmosphere and I have a high threshold for scary. But people need to know that in order to make the decision that works for them. It doesn’t sound like anyone had to go to this party if they don’t want to.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          It doesn’t sound like anyone had to go to this party if they don’t want to.
          But it also sounds like they were looking for the same mix of people you would get with a barbecue by the lake in June–bring your dates, kids, and visiting grandma. It wasn’t described as “for dismemberment buffs only” and probably wasn’t envisioned that way–rather, planned by someone who thinks everyone enjoys some dismemberment.

          This is like “No, Sausage Party and Book of Mormon are not good bonding experiences for your extended staff, even if you would love to see them on your own time.”

      4. Quill*

        Yes please! I’m a huge fan of very specific types of horror (can’t do video, mostly… because of the gore) and even then I would not go into it without a very specific idea of what was going on.

        Also a huge variety of phobias can come up at halloween that people suddenly feel comfortable throwing into a generic “halloween party” but which you might not think you have to think about at a party where kids are welcome.

      5. Koala dreams*

        I’m thinking the same. People are scared of different things, some people are scared by violent decor, some are scared by spiders, it would be great if the party planners would describe the decor in such a way that people could choose to attend or not based on their own fears, rather than a general age limit that doesn’t care about individual variations.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      Having a company guess the ‘recommended age range’ any more specifically than ‘all ages’ is just asking for additional strife. “But, why can’t I bring my 4yo?”

      Either no kids or all ages, and really appropriate for all ages.

      1. Doug Judy*

        Agreed. It would also cause an issue with employees who have kids in a wide range of ages, some of their kids could attend but some could not. It’s not worth the hassle. Leave Sally at home.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah, I was wondering, do parents consider it a perk to be able to bring their kids to an office Halloween party? Seems like it would be easier all around to have the party during office hours and not worry about how kid-friendly it is.

          1. Doug Judy*

            I don’t really care either way, but if it’s going to be an after hours party and advertised as “kid friendly” then it should be open to all ages. I don’t want to have to explain to a 5 year old why he can’t go to the party, but his 12 year old brother can, so I’d skip the whole thing. Either have it adults only, or all ages. Putting an age around it just seems like too much of a hassle.

          2. Feline*

            So much this. I get that parents are excited to be able to bring their kids to a Halloween party at work, crossing off two things at once on the to-do list. But it’s something for the office. Let the grown-ups do it during office hours. Events like this are the kind of thing that widens the uncomfortable workplace standoff between employees with families and childfree employees. Contorting an office party to accommodate children ends up with awkwardness.

            Sally isn’t my thing, and I’d prefer she not surprise me in the break room where I usually get my coffee in the mornings, even at an coworkers-only event.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              See, I would think employees who want a sophisticated adults-only Hallowe’en with lots of gore would also just as soon plan that with their non-work circle of friends, at the level of dismemberment they find fun rather than nauseating.

          3. Falling Diphthong*

            My preschool daughter went in and showed off her butterfly flapping abilities. She was charmed, dad’s coworkers were charmed, there was candy. It can be a nice thing to do to show the kids/SOs/visiting Grandma where the employee works and build some goodwill via free Snickers bars.

            I liken this to a summer barbecue for all ages–they were aiming for something fun and casual that was appropriate for a diverse range of ages, and missed.

    4. Amy*

      I have very young kids. In my experience, the expression “kids are welcome” means it’s not explicitly a party for them but they can come.

      This is different than a kid’s party.

      When kids are welcome, I either leave the kids at home or pack my own food and don’t plan on staying long. I learned this the hard way when I brought my 1.5 year old to a “kids are welcome” Christmas party – it was all breakable things, champagne and spicy hors d’oeuvres . When it’s a kids party, it’s designed around their needs. When they are welcome, their presence is tolerated / slightly accommodated.

      Maybe lesson learned on this one? Halloween can be tricky. For people outside the little kid years, it’s not all fluffy duck costumes.

      1. Joielle*

        As a person without kids, I have no idea what a party designed around kids’ needs would even look like (or, I guess I do, but I’m not throwing a bounce house/magician cocktail party, so maybe that makes me the jerk). I feel like this particular Halloween party was a misstep – not because of the “kids are welcome” thing necessarily, but because an office party should be more tame in general. But nobody said it was a kids’ party, and I don’t think that should be the default assumption.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          An office party should be more tame in general.

          This problem reminds me of the team builders who wanted to take everyone to Book of Mormon. If you’re including a diverse crowd of people, you need to choose something blander. Not something that makes people viscerally uncomfortable, and that includes evisceration.

        2. Crooked Bird*

          There’s a difference, though, between a kids’ party and a kid-appropriate party. Amy drew a hard line, kid party or adult party, that’s it, and I understand why she did–it’s simpler than continually hoping someone will roll out the third option and being disappointed.
          But you’re not the jerk nor do you have to rent a bounce house to have kids be OK at your party. You just have to grab a parent and put them on your party committee/ask them for a few minutes’ consulting on whether the plans are appropriate. That’s easier than trying to learn the whole list of needs yourself–they’ll spot things you might not. You’ll probably end up with a few simpler food options, maybe a low corner table with some coloring books, no crystal stemware, and no zombies.

        3. kittymommy*

          Same. I do not have children wither (and I’m not really a kid person) but I think a work-based Halloween party, especially one that is on location, should probably err on the side of tame, even if it’s no explicitly Kid-friendly. At my work Halloween is coinciding with a regular employee event so costumes are allowed (it’s during work hours, but a few people bring their family) but there are explicit guidelines: nothing gory, nothing revealing, nothing “sexy” like sexy nurse, sexy vampire, etc.

      2. Quill*

        1.5 is tricky because they’re mobile but there’s nothing for them to do. That said, the only kids welcome parties I’ve ever thrown involved digging old legos and picture books out of the basement (all attendees were 4+) and making sure to have plain chicken fingers, carrot sticks, and apple juice available. If work wants to throw a party where people bring their kids, they should at minimum have an activity room and kid friendly food.

        1. Choux*

          Umm, I have three rooms in my apartment – kitchen, living room, bedrom (okay, 4 if you count the bathroom). I invite people over with kids sometimes. I can’t make an “activity” room. Luckily the parents I know bring things with them to entertain and feed their children.

          1. Quill*

            That works great for a house party, but if you’re doing a work party, there’s going to be more coordination involved as the number of people grows.

        2. Koala dreams*

          They are still being introduced to different types of food at that age, so it’s difficult. I asked a friend with a toddler once to bring food for their child, since I didn’t have child friendly food at hand, and they just sighed and said: “Your guess is as good as mine”. In the end we found some corn that the toddler happily ate, so all well that ends well, I guess.

      3. You can't fire me; I don't work in this van*

        This is a really good point.

        Also, I think it’s safer and likelier to assume the person who decided “Kids Are Welcome” and the person(s) who decorated for the party just had a disconnect that led to this crappy outcome, rather than assuming obliviousness or worse.

    5. Chili*

      I think this is one of those scenarios where the people planning thought “yeah, bring your family!” but didn’t actually consider that they would need to tone things down to make it family-friendly. While this is a pretty substantial gaffe and I think LW should definitely address their concerns to the appropriate people, I would encourage LW #1 to talk about it as a “whoops!” rather than a “wow, you messed up.”

      Party planning is more challenging than people give it credit for and it’s often not an official part of anyone’s job, so I tend to give workplace party planning volunteers a lot of slack.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        We have a Halloween Breakfast tomorrow at work, which means croissants and brioche with orange and black cobweb icing and the events planning team wearing witch’s hats or those headbands with springy spiders or pumpkins on them.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, I’m not sure anyone needs to know what kind of surgery it is or that it’s elective? It sounds like they’ll need advance notice in order to cover your workload and in case there are complications that require additional recovery time (you may want to invoke FMLA if your employer is covered?). And although your coworkers will be able to observe that you’ve downsized, you don’t really owe them an explanation of what procedures you had or why you had them.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      You’ll also be swollen for a while so the effects won’t be immediately visible.
      I’ve also found that a lot of people aren’t that discerning. They may notice that something has changed but not what. For example, they may think that you just lost weight.

      1. SigneL*

        yes, most people will think you lost weight, if they think anything at all. Ot they may think you look a little different – maybe you look more rested? I wouldn’t tell anyone, personally. Good luck and speedy healing!

      2. Libora*

        Exactly! I went from a DDD to a C and I was 5’ 1” (I’m not from the US so the charts are confusing but I think I got everything right) and literally ONE person noticed and didn’t think that I just lost weight.

      3. TootsNYC*

        My SIL had breast-reduction surgery, and when I saw her after it, I’d frankly forgotten she’d had it. And she was miffed I hadn’t said anything.
        I said, “But this is how I always picture you in my head. I must always just have right-sized your bustline because I was focused on other things about you, like your height and your expressions and your haircolor.”

        If she’d suddenly gone to dark brown, I would have noticed, for sure. But to me, that normal bustline was just what was always in that picture.

      4. kitryan*

        Another vote for not specifying type of surgery if you don’t want to – I had a reduction and went from F or so to C and people mostly commented that I looked good/had I lost weight, if they commented at all (many people didn’t notice anything at all).
        And if you’re at all nervous about not specifying, you can make it even more subtle/gradual by wearing looser top for a while after (which would be more comfortable anyway) and the surgical bras I had to wear for the first month or so post surgery were also more sports bra style, so the size/shape is a bit obscured more than in underwire bras, making things even less obvious initially.
        I suggest just saying that you’ll need xyz time off for an elective procedure and once you’re back you will be operating under the following restrictions.
        If that’s not enough for whatever reason, being matter of fact about it and saying it’s a reduction and you’ve been wanting to do it for a while and you hope it will help with your back pain (or whatever backstory you’re comfortable with) should be fine too.
        I do think it’s a good idea to prepare and maybe practice a sentence or two that you’re ok with saying to some people so that you’re ready for it if it comes up and you don’t have to worry about seeming embarrassed or evasive, since people will most likely take their cues from you.
        Best wishes! I’m very happy I had it done myself.

        1. cheeky*

          I think even if you wanted to disclose this surgery, you probably shouldn’t, for your sake and for your boss’s. It’s just TMI. All surgery is TMI, at some level.

      5. JM60*

        I’m not sure if the results won’t be immediately visible due to swelling. While it’s not exactly the same procedure, I’m a (cisgender) guy who has had breast reduction surgery, and the flatness was immediately visible.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      I’m willing to bet far fewer people that OP expects will even notice. I couldn’t begin to tell you the approximate size of my coworkers’ breasts and I’ve worked with them for years. I have just never paid attention. I may notice that something is different, but wouldn’t know what. Like Engineer Girl said, I’d probably just assume they lost weight.

      Even if someone does realize what was done, they should have the good sense not to mention it. If anyone does actually ask or make an offhand comment, I recommend OP just look confused and say, “What?” in response. If they repeat the question, keep with the Whats until they realize they need to shut up.

      OP, as much as you may feel on display, this is your business and no one else’s.

      1. Tipcat*

        ” I couldn’t begin to tell you the approximate size of my coworkers’ breasts” is just a great line.

        1. Shad*

          And so true!
          I *might* notice a reduction from like…G to A, but it’d definitely have to be an almost total change like that for me to notice at all.

    3. Cindy*

      My coworker just got a breast-enlargement operation. If she hadn’t told me I would never have noticed, especially with the two weeks absence.

      1. Tammy*

        I got breast augmentation a couple years ago, and my experience was that either nobody noticed, or those that noticed were polite enough not to comment on it. (Obviously, I have no way to know which). Coworkers who know me well HAVE noticed and commented on the fact that I seem more relaxed and at peace in my own skin since my surgeries (the augmentation plus my gender confirmation surgery), but that’s a different thing and I’m okay with that.

      2. Autumnheart*

        I had friends who didn’t notice, even when I wore a revealing top and said LOOK AT MY NEW RACK.

      3. DataGirl*

        This is reassuring. I have considered breast reconstruction surgery but I have been very worried about what other people would think.

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      Yes this – I have three friends who’ve had breast reduction surgery, in one case from a Jish down to a DD. The Jish was noticeable if I thought about it (and she was *very* open about it), but the other two really weren’t noticeable.

      1. Frances Quotes*

        Same! I had a coworker I’m fairly close to get tell me recently that she had gotten a reduction… It never occurred to me before that, even though I see her all the time. I did notice she looked different, but I just interpreted it as “Jane has lost weight.”

          1. TootsNYC*

            I kept trying to figure out what “Jish” meant. I know about J cups, but I thought that “Jish” was some other category. It took me a minute.

    5. iantrovert (they/them)*

      Hell, I started binding my chest at work for my own mental health/comfort, and nobody seems to have noticed that I went from large-chest-and-needs-to-buy-bras-from-Europe to flat-like-a-chubby-dude.

      1. Ama*

        I do think there are so many ways people can alter the contour and appearance of their chest from day to day (different style bras, binders, different fitting tops) that changes don’t really register to most people, and if it does surgery is not the first thing that comes to mind.

    6. BetsyTacy*

      #5 – I went from a 34GG to a 34C. I’m tall, but not a particularly large human so it’s been a profound change.

      I told work I was going to be out for ‘a minor medical thing- nothing to worry about’. I might have also said something about a procedure to help my back. I had my surgery Wednesday morning and was back at work on Monday. Nobody knew at all.

      I got a few comments about losing weight when I started to wear more fitted tops, but nobody noticed. Honestly, this fits my frame much better now.

      (Also, one of the best things I’ve ever done!! Did you know that it’s not normal to have searing burning pain between your shoulder blades 24/7?!)

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        This has been the reaction from all three of my friends – one kept singing ‘Freedom, freedom…’ (from “Think” by Aretha) for like a month.

      2. tink*

        “Minor medical procedure to help with back and shoulder issues” is probably what I’d use if I was getting my reduction now as a working professional and not when I was still in school (where I got it done at the beginning of winter break and had everything but the staples out by the time I had to go back).

      3. Steggy Saurus*

        Amen regarding the searing, burning pain. Best health decision I ever made was getting the reduction.

    7. AndersonDarling*

      I’ve heard the same discussion from ladies who have had face lifts. Some people will notice and some won’t. I’m sure it feels stressful and like everyone will be in your business about it, but really, only the most gossipy people will have anything to say about it.

    8. Kate*

      People definitely didn’t notice when I had it done and I tend to wear fitted shirts. I also worked in a very open and chatty setting, so if they had noticed someone probably would have said something. But I will say the recovery period was pretty prolonged, don’t be surprised if it is hard to work from home the second week. I found myself much more exhausted than I anticipated, definitely have support at home if you don’t live with someone who can help. It was also emotionally taxing in a way I didn’t expect. But overall the experience wasn’t terrible and the outcome is worth it. Just be gentle with yourself!

    9. Belle8bete*

      And, though it doesn’t matter, I’ve never know anyone to get that surgery just for fun. The women I know who got it done were having serious back issues from the weight of their chest.

      It doesn’t matter, obviously, but I do feel like even if someone knows you had it, it’s not viewed the same as someone getting implants (which I don’t have an issue with either)…

    10. Wearing Many Hats*

      Yes this! I went from an F to a C and no one noticed. Part of my job involved physical labor so I told my boss about the accommodations required but not the actual surgery itself. She easily accommodated the request, no questions asked. She somehow assumed I had knee surgery and was surprised when I came back without crutches?

    11. J*

      Seconding what everyone else said – I went from a F to a B and no one seemed to notice. a) a lot of people will assume you’ve lost weight, b) you’re going to be swollen for a bit anyway, and c) i’m willing to bet you’re going to want some new tops post-surgery and the newness of some clothes is also going to distract from.

      Best of luck to you! It’s was the perfect choice for me and made me so much happier.

      1. ce77*

        Agree with what everyone has said. I went form an F to a D, and no one really noticed. I got comments about losing weight but that was about it. I did tell some people ahead of time at work (who are more friends than coworkers) but to everyone else – I was having a medical procedure (because of back pain – if I was pressed). No one followed up with more questions.
        Also – be aware that you can’t lift anything heavy for weeks afterwards. I had a work trip 4 weeks post-op and had to ask a coworker’s help with lifting my suitcase. I was super stressed about asking, and made a bigger deal than it needed to be. If I had just waited and said “hey can you help me with that?” it would have been fine.

        Congrats!! You will love it. I feel so much better.

      2. Steggy Saurus*

        I went from J to C. I told my HR person, just because I happened to know she’d had it done. I simply told my boss that I had a minor surgery that would have me out of the office for two weeks and told the same to my direct reports. No one (other than those who knew I was having it done) commented. They may have noticed, they may not have – I still don’t know.

        One the immediate post-surgery pain was over (as in, literally once I was with it enough to leave the recovery room), I felt amazing. Yes, there was some minor pain, but I was done with anything stronger than Tylenol within a a day and a half. But the weight being gone is instantly noticeable and it feels amazing.

        All the best of luck to you – I hope you’re as happy with the surgery as everyone else I know who’s done it has been.

    12. Aitch Arr*

      I went out on FMLA when I had my breast reduction and abdominoplasty.

      The few that noticed anything different commented that I looked great and had lost weight. (Which I had, some from each side!)

      1. Anon for the moment*

        Told my co-workers I was having planned surgery, didn’t tell my male boss anything more, and he didn’t ask. I feel like if you work with adults, most of them will conclude on their own that if you’re not giving them details about the surgery that you don’t want to talk about it. (And the ones who don’t, you can cheerfully tell to MYOB!) I went from an H to a C, and ended up needing an extra week off work due to “complications.” Afterwards, anyone who noticed was polite enough to pretend they didn’t. (Except for one female co-worker, and she at least had the decency to ask privately.) Still one of the best choices I have ever made.

    13. joeyjo*

      I had a reduction a few years ago, and if anyone noticed, they kept it to themselves. Most people aren’t that observant!
      Wishing you a speedy recovery!

  4. Lord Ye old*

    OP 4 – wow same boat!!! My last day is Friday, but my last major project had been completed yesterday. However in my case, I am still present as a last minute “hurry up and ask Lord Ye Old questions if you need to”. Plus IT has scheduled to check and take back my equipment on my last day, so I can’t leave early.

    Maybe you can check with your boss and/or HR on what else you have left to do?

    1. Kim*

      Yeah – I’m thinking of sending an email today to my boss and just indicating everything will be done by Friday and I’d like to make it my last day. I’m not an important employee and my boss and I have a good relationship. I would be willing to stay through Monday (which is my official 2 weeks – not sure why I said I’d stay til Tuesday – must have been feeling guilty lol) but hope they are good with me leaving Friday – I’m ready to move on! Good luck to you for an early departure as well!

    2. TootsNYC*

      My company required us to be in the office on the afternoon of our last day. My son had a medical procedure scheduled for that day, and I couldn’t be the one who supervised his recovery.

    3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      If OP4 is a remote worker working from home, I don’t understand why they don’t just finish their notice period. Set up your workstation so you’re easily reachable, then turn on Netflix and get paid to watch movies for two days.

      1. CMart*

        Yeah maybe I’m missing something, but this sounds like a prime opportunity to get paid to catch up on house work/watch some TV.

        I was in the same boat pre-maternity leave last year. I’d organized to work from home the week of my due date so no one had to worry if I went into labor at the office. By midweek I had wrapped up all of my documentation, passed over all my projects to my temp, and more or less been taken off relevant e-mail chains. So I just stayed logged on, monitored e-mail from my phone, and finished up a bunch of personal projects.

        1. Kim*

          I guess I feel guilty – and more importantly – want to close the door on this place. However, the more people that mention it the more I think I should just do what I want for those last two days and collect a paycheck :-)

  5. katiedid*

    Op 5 – I had a reduction a few years ago and I’m concerned about your stated recovery time. I had to do a half day interview in week three of my recovery and it was extraordinarily difficult. I simply told them all I was recovering from a medical procedure when I needed to push back a week.

    1. HH to E*

      Hard agree. I had a reduction nearly 15 years ago so (I don’t imagine the procedure has changed that much, although maybe if you’re only have a small reduction it might be an easier recovery?).

      Mine was performed by the leading reduction surgeon in the state, and it was a good couple of months before I felt I could go about my day to day business with minimal pain. I encourage you to discuss the realistic recovery schedule with your surgeon or other people you trust who have gone through it.

      Saying that, it was 100% the best decision I ever made, and I would do it again in a heartbeat if I needed to. Good luck!

      1. TootsNYC*

        not a breast reduction, but a subordinate had a foot surgery on a Thursday and was cleared to come back to work on Tuesday. She took the late shift so she could get a cab home within the company policy and was there without me. She was wiped out and in more pain than she anticipated.

        I told her, “You are sick for the rest of the week. And I am sorry that I wasn’t more skeptical when we were planning your return from work–I wish I’d been more adamant that you should have more recovery days. It’s not like we couldn’t have coped. Call me Sunday–let’s see how you are.”

        I’d been a little, “are you sure you should come back that soon?” but in hindsight, I wish I’d heeded that little voice more.
        Sure, it wasn’t my responsibility, but I felt that as someone who’d had more surgeries and more life insurance, I could have looked out for her more. So now I do–my guy went home feeling bad yesterday, and I was the one who said, “See how you feel in the a.m.”

        1. Maria*

          I was able to do work on my laptop post ankle surgery but looking at the results later, had to redo most of it. The pain meds they send you home with (which are oh, so, necessary that first week) will make a mess of any detailed analyses.

    2. jz*

      Strongly agree. My friend is going through recovery now. She took two weeks fully off, two weeks part time, and did at least a week of full time work from home before she went back to the office. She said she regretted going back as quickly as she did after the fact.

      1. azvlr*

        I had mine done during the summer a few weeks before school started up again. I was down hard for the first week, and tapered off pain meds by the end of the second week mostly because I didn’t like how they made me feel, and because I needed to drive.
        Back in my classroom trying to put posters on the wall was difficult because I couldn’t raise my arms very high for quite some time. In another job, I don’t know that I would be fully functional after to weeks.
        On a funny note, they were rock hard and a bit numb. I sometimes couldn’t tell when I was brushing up against someone, so I had to be VERY careful around 6th graders.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Agreed.

      I ended up being out for 4 weeks after mine. I had scheduled 3 and extended because I was still so exhausted.

    4. Goliath Corp.*

      Hmm I think this might be pretty individual. I had one last year and a week off work was fine. Granted I was still pretty sore, but I work a desk job so it wasn’t really any different than sitting at home being sore.

    5. Tammy*

      Recovery time from surgery is very individual, but it’s also been my experience that – especially in the area of energy level – it takes longer than we think. I was told “4-6 weeks recovery time” for one of my surgeries, and although I went back to work at 6 weeks, I was struggling with pain and ability to focus/sit still/work for several weeks afterward. I’d say it was about 6 months until I was back at my pre-surgery energy level. OP 5 – you know yourself and your body, but make sure you’re not underestimating this aspect of your recovery.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        It is super individual. I had surgery that involved a deep abdominal incision and was told 2-4 weeks for recovery. Two days later I felt good enough to try to go jogging in the morning (note: impact exercise with stitches is not advisable – as I learned). I couldn’t jog, but felt good enough that I went back to work on the Monday after the surgery (was on Friday), not because I was trying to be all that, but because there was no pain and I felt fine (as long as I didn’t run – that did take 2 weeks).

        Humans and our bodies/brains are amazing. No two people will ever experience the same thing the exact same way.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          Too true. I felt absolutely no ill effects from my c-section. Like, maybe some minor numbness at the incision site? And then I found out that tons of people just get wiped out by that surgery. It’s so very, very individual.

          The bad part was that because I had no ill effects, I really had to be mindful of the amount of bending and lifting I did! I felt normal, but I could easily have done myself damage if I didn’t follow proper recovery protocols.

      2. MsSolo*

        Your body is doing a lot of extra work while you’re recovering. I had surgery on my elbow, and even though I spent the next two weeks sat at home on the sofa eating toasties I dropped half a stone because I was burning a lot of calories healing. Your energy levels will be low because you’re using energy for things you don’t normally.

    6. Libertine Agrarian*

      I came here to say this exactly. Unless the scope of the surgery is small enough that OP5 is having the “lollipop” type, 2 weeks is very little.

      I had a breast reduction a year ago, with state-of-the-art techniques and everything – the first week I was on painkillers constantly and spent my days napping/watching movies. Sitting up was hard. The 2nd week was already a huge improvement (like, I could take walks, but at a very very slow old person pace), but I was still exhausted and unable to concentrate on anything.

      I had read online that the recovery time was around 2 weeks, and when I brought that up with my surgeon, he laughed and said I needed to take at least a month off, and he wouldn’t clear me with my workplace’s HR department before that. When I did come back, it was still rough. My scars weren’t fully closed, I had to deal with some bleeding and pain at work, which was distracting at best.

      It’s true that YMMV and some people heal faster, but here’s the thing: you don’t know in what category you’ll be before the surgery. I’d say it’s better to play it safe and come back to work early if all goes well than having to come back not being ready.

      1. ce77*

        Agree. I had mine 3 years ago. I took 2 full weeks off. First week I was basically just on painkillers the whole time. The second week I was a bit better but moved really slowly and still needed a ton of help.
        Third week I was back at my desk job, but I think I took 2 sick days mid week. I was sleeping minimum 10 hours – just exhausted.
        Be kind to yourself. These are pretty big incisions and you want it to heal properly and that means rest – prior to this my only surgeries were sports injury related, so they wanted you do move around and do PT pretty quickly. This is the opposite.
        tips: 1) Get a wedge pillow. You have to sleep on your back and as a side sleeper that was horrible. 1st week I slept in a recliner borrowed from a friend.
        2) based on your pain tolerance – don’t chance the pain, keep up with the pain pills and take them on schedule. My caregiver/Mom kept thinking we should wean me off of those quickly (like 24 hours in) until my dr. basically said BACK OFF and let me have medicine for a week or until I say otherwise. Huge difference.
        3) oversized button down shirts were my friend for weeks.

    7. Specialist*

      The length of recovery entirely depends on your job. I routinely have people back at work in a week, some less, some more.
      Trust me on this. Change your hairstyle. People will focus on that and not notice your chest. Particularly in January. You don’t have to make a big difference, just wear it down if you normally wear it up, part it differently, etc.
      You don’t have to tell your boss exactly what you are having done. Sometimes people will make inappropriate comments, like you shouldn’t do it because God made you that way, etc. You know your boss better than me.

      1. TootsNYC*

        yep! I would have noticed if my SIL had colored her hair differently, but I just breezed right past a significant breast reduction.

      2. mrs__peel*

        Or new glasses, etc.

        Absolutely true, most people are just not that observant and any minor change will be an acceptable mental explanation as to why so-and-so looks very slightly different now.

    8. Lisa*

      I think we can trust that OP knows more about what the recovery time of their own surgery is going to be and has discussed this with their doctor (speaking as someone who had a reduction two years ago and was perfectly fine with two weeks off).

      In terms of the actual question asked: when I gave notice for the time off I told my (male) manager I was having an elective procedure and left it at that. I told a couple of people I was closer to what I was having done but otherwise didn’t talk about it, and nobody made any comments about me looking different afterwards (it helps that you’ll still be pretty swollen two weeks post-surgery, so it won’t necessarily be as dramatic a difference right away as you’re expecting). I’ve heard that some people get asked if they’ve lost weight (a rude question, but whatever) but I wouldn’t worry about people taking an investigative interest in your rack.

      And finally, congratulations! Reductions are the best!

      1. TootsNYC*

        one of my subordinates had what I think was a bariatric surgery. She told me she needed to take the time off for a medical procedure, and she’d need X weeks. And that I didn’t need to worry, it wasn’t anything dangerous or worrisome, just a procedure that she needed to have done for her general health.

        My cue to not pry.

        And I guessed, but I sure as heck didn’t say anything. To this day, I never have, even though her rapid weight loss makes it pretty clear my guess was right.

  6. Engineer Girl*

    #3 – you need to look up passive aggressive bullying and plausible deniability.
    If these are passive aggressive types they will also be deeply insulted that you drew appropriate boundaries. Oh well.
    Alison’s scripts are great.

    1. Mama Bear*

      Agreed. It’s bullying and not nice in any manner of the word. You don’t need to tolerate that.

    2. TootsNYC*

      and given that it’s bullying, I want to say this to OP #3:

      Find an ally.

      Bullies target you because they see you are alone, and therefore a safe target to attack. No one will stand up for you, so they can “cut you out of the herd.”

      So look around and see who you can get on your side, to help you fight this battle. Someone polite who never says anything but seems confident in the office?
      Someone among them who seems more empathetic and less invested in saying something?

      Approach them in private and tell them that you’re finding all these comments difficult, and that you plan to speak up and ask people to completely stop. And ask if they would back you up when you do it, in case the commenters get defensive and argue back.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Or in the alternative, get a spray bottle and spray them in the face when they do this.

        1. juliebulie*

          My mother has an empty aluminum soda can with a few coins in it. She shakes it when she needs to alarm and distract her pets. Your workplace probably frowns on employees squirting one another in the face, but rattling a can at them might shut them up for a moment.

          And at that time, you can tell them they have to pay a tax (a coin in the can) every time they make comments about your dietary selections.

      2. OP3*

        Hi! OP here. This is definitely, 100% not a case of bullying, at all, in any way. I was bullied throughout my childhood, both overtly and passive-aggressively, and this is absolutely Not That. They’re being rude, yes, but in their minds, they’re trying to help me make “healthier choices”. It’s still not acceptable, but it is categorically not bullying. They’re not making any effort to make me feel unwelcome or unwanted or unworthy, they’re not being intentionally cruel, they’re not excluding me from anything. They’re making what they think are good-humored, well-intentioned remarks, and are otherwise lovely people to be around.

        Additionally, in case this comes off as being too accommodating, like my letter, let me assure you that these are all women who make sure you know it if they don’t like you. If they didn’t like me, they’d be sure to make me think they were the nastiest people I’d ever met. I’ve seen how they are with people they genuinely don’t like, and I am not one of them. They’re just being unintentionally rude, nothing more sinister than that.

    3. Derjungerludendorff*

      I’m sure they will be shocked, *shocked*, that LW would be so *rude* as to tell them what to do. They’re just trying to help! Which means they’re allowed to do whatever they want, even if what they’re doing is actually really hurtful. Because they totally mean well. Just take their word for it.
      /s

    4. Burned Out Supervisor*

      I would very slowly and deliberately put that food in my gob and chew slowly and rapturously while maintaining eye contact the whole time (bonus points for a dead-eye stare). When I was done chewing, I would say, “thanks for the advice, but I’ll pass.”

  7. LadyCop*

    #3 Oh my wholly goodness it doesn’t matter your size, they are rude! Also…if some woman who thinks she’s my mother…or frankly my own mother told me, “That’s the last cookie you get today.” I’d stuff 3 more in my mouth making When Harry Met Sally noises…

    #5 As has been pointed out before, youd be surprised at how many people won’t notice the difference after altering surgeries so doubly no reason to say anything.

    1. cryptid*

      I had top surgery – went from DD to flat chested, never wore binders before doing it – and many co-workers never noticed. It was wild. Agreed that many people won’t notice at all.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        Even among the people that notice, people that say something will be in the vast minority. I don’t want to talk about my coworkers’ health issues and I don’t want to talk about their boobs. It would be mortifying to do both at the same time.

        1. Joielle*

          Yeah, even if I thought “Jane looks different… is it… her boobs??” I’d never go up to Jane and say “Hey, are your boobs smaller?” We have heard some stories about workplaces with NO boundaries, but that would be way over the line for 99.9% of people. (And if you’re in the .1%, you probably already know.)

        2. Quill*

          There is zero way that I would get any more specific than “Hi Jane, you look nice!”

          Because to bring up boobs at work is inappropriate, and to phrase it as “You look like you lost weight” is at best insensitive.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            I could imagine someone going “you look very trim, have you been working out?”Admittedly I only do this with very good friends who I know won’t mind.

        3. CheeryO*

          Exactly. I had a not-particularly-subtle nose job a few years ago, and no one said anything even when I came back looking, in my opinion, like a puffy, swollen mess. People don’t really pay attention to the details once they have a mental picture of what you look like, and even if someone does notice, chances are they’re a reasonable adult and aren’t going to say anything. That goes double for a male manager!

        4. Database Developer Dude*

          I’m a straight guy. Even if I did notice, I would never think of going up to a coworker and saying “Hey Jane, you look different, are your boobs smaller??” That’s just crazy. My female coworkers aren’t there to be ogled by me.

          1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            You would be surprised at how many women have a “girl talk!!” override on their appropriateness filter. I’ve seen it a LOT at work.

      2. Jam Today*

        Its both humbling and freeing realizing just how many people who surround you on a daily basis really don’t pay any attention to you whatsoever.

        1. Allypopx*

          This! I’m fully in favor of elective surgeries for personal happiness – but really, to the people around you, especially coworkers as opposed to partners or friends who regularly use your cleavage as pillows, it will be a vague and indiscernable change.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          I think about the Buffy episode “Earshot” a lot. There’s a guy who says “You all think I’m an idiot” and Buffy tells him “I don’t. I don’t think about you much at all. Nobody here really does.” And then goes on to talk about how people don’t notice him because they’re all too busy with their own lives and their own pain.

          It’s harshly delivered, but a good lesson I think.

        3. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

          So true! And typically people don’t realize how much they don’t notice. I dyed the bottom 4 inches of my hair purple when I worked in an extremely image conscious group in a reasonably conservative workplace. No one noticed, months later I was joking about no one noticing and people were shocked they hadn’t seen it.

    2. Lena Carabina*

      …if some woman who thinks she’s my mother…or frankly my own mother told me, “That’s the last cookie you get today.” I’d stuff 3 more in my mouth making When Harry Met Sally noises…

      Ha! Yes, I have that reaction to being told what to do, too, especially around food.
      It does seem to be women who do the your-body-and-what-you-put-in-it policing, doesn’t it?

      I really like Alison’s scripts, OP. Let us know if they work?

      1. EPLawyer*

        Before I stuffed the cookies in my mouth I would say exactly that “You are not my mother, I do not need you policing my food” then stuff it full of whatever I was eaing.

        Tell them to stop. Bluntly. I especially like “It is not up for discussion.”

        1. Red 5*

          I’d probably go with “I wouldn’t even let me mother say that, so you certainly don’t get to.”

          Not that my mom ever would, because we’ve talked at length about the stuff my doctors and therapists have told me about how I should approach food so she knows better. Unless I told her “Mom, I can only have two cookies tomorrow, okay?” she just wouldn’t bring it up.

          But seriously, you cannot indulge this kind of commenting AT ALL. It is NOT well meaning, it is misinformed, it is actually DANGEROUS, and do the Captain Awkward thing and return that awkward right the heck back to the sender with a firm but even “that’s not a topic we’re going to discuss” or a version of that. “I am not interested in comments about my meal, and will not listen to them” with a change of subject every. single. time.

      2. Shocked Pikachu*

        “It does seem to be women who do the your-body-and-what-you-put-in-it policing, doesn’t it?“

        I have a chronic medical condition and for the past 10 years my body has been jumping between typical, fat and skinny. In my experience, when fat, it’s mostly the women playing “caring” food police. However, when skinny, it’s usually the men having strong urge to tell me I should eat a hamburger. And it’s always a hamburger, too. ‍♀️

        1. AKchic*

          Yeah, it’s *always* a hamburger. Why did hamburgers become the go-to food for weight gain? Hamburgers never helped me gain weight when I needed to. Bring me breadsticks and pasta! Bring me mozzarella sticks! Bring me the pizza! (okay, maybe somebody should just bring me some lunch?)

          But all joking aside, it’s really time to stop being “nice” and stop smiling and giving the “ha ha” and demurring when anyone says anything about what goes into your (LW) or our (anyone in general) mouth. Just because they are inexplicably uncomfortable with your body doesn’t give them the right to comment on it or police you, your diet, or your choices in any way. They need to get a grip on their hang-ups and on reality. You, LW, aren’t existing *at* them.

      3. Blue Anne*

        I’d really like to hear from OP with an update too. Their coworkers are being so spectacularly rude. :(

    3. Database Developer Dude*

      LadyCop, I would pay good money to see that just to laugh at the busybodies….and then buy your lunch for providing me free entertainment.

    4. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yeah, I would probably react to #3’s problem the same way I do with preachy vegans: repeat or expand on the behavior they are trying to control in a pointed, non-verbal “No, and you can’t make me”.

      Seriously, food policing is why I tend toward disordered eating. When other people try to control my diet, especially through shaming, my immediate reaction is to *take back control*, pointedly and forcefully. Even if I really don’t need or want the extra cookie, someone telling me I can’t/shouldn’t/don’t need it will inspire me to scarf at least two more. People did a lot of shaming and portion controlling when I was a kid, and now that knee-jerk reaction is nearly hard-wired in. (Studies have shown that fat shaming actually tends to make the problemn worse.) I even have a negative emotional reaction when someone weighs my portion, or theirs in front of me, even if it’s for their dietary needs or recipe calculation.

      Food policing is bullying, period.

  8. I’m tired*

    #5 when I had my reduction done, I couldn’t drive for three weeks or do anything that had a twisting type motion—sweeping, vacuuming, even unloading the dishwasher. While the doctor removed a massive amount, nobody really noticed!

    1. Loose Seal*

      Me too. My surgeon removed 11 pounds between my two breasts and not one person (that didn’t know about the surgery prior) ever noticed.

      I took 3 weeks off work where almost all I did was sleep. Then when I was back to work, I moved slowly and had to have someone lift things for me for the next couple of weeks. It’s a major surgery.

      (A bit off topic but…don’t run out and buy a bunch of new bras right away. It will take something like 6 to 8 months for your breasts to settle into their new shape. Good luck with your surgery!)

  9. PollyQ*

    #3 — I do not actually recommend that OP say, “Hey Karalynthia, on the subject of things other people should do with their mouths, why don’t you shut yours?”

    But I will say that if they can’t respect your 1000000% reasonable wishes not to be subjected to their rude, patronizing (matronizing?) nonsense, then I recommend that you simply pick up your things and walk away from them — every time, until they get the picture. There’s only so far you can push back in a workplace, but you sure as heck don’t have to stick around when they insult you that way.

    1. Lena Carabina*

      “Hey Karalynthia, on the subject of things other people should do with their mouths, why don’t you shut yours?”

      I really like that though, and it would have the advantage of thoroughly working :)

      1. CrookedLily*

        Hahaha, love it!

        A meme I saw the other day… It’s titled “Christmas Rules” but could really just be rules for life in general:

        1. Don’t go into debt trying to show people how much you love them.
        2. Don’t go home to visit family if it damages your mental health.
        3. If anyone comments on your weight, eat them.

        1. OP3*

          I love rule 3 so much! All of my childhood bullies would’ve been eaten, but the women in question would escape unscathed, because they specifically only comment about the food and never my weight. I have a very skinny colleague who eats very similarly, and they do, in fact, make these comments to her, too. I only get them more often because they see me more often.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I would go with the walking away AFTER she tells them to stop commenting on her food choices. It seems she’s been trying to play it off and be nice about it, but they’re crossing lines and need to be told to shut their pie holes.

      And more importantly, OP needs to stop justifying their behavior by saying they “mean well” because that is 100% not true. They are judgmental and rude and need to be put in their place.

  10. Don't get salty*

    #3: Just because older women say something in a motherly tone that is critical to a younger woman, doesn’t mean they mean well. I’m quite sure they wouldn’t be giving those “tips” to women (or anyone else for that matter) who out-rank them.

    Also, it’s not a virtue necessarily to pride yourself on being approachable and friendly if it means that you allow people to trample your boundaries and to disrespect you. If I were in your shoes, I would be proud of radiating confidence, self-love, and knowing how to put someone back in their lane (but doing it so smoothly and so stealthily that they don’t even realize how they got back there).

    #5: I really don’t think your decision to have elective surgery is any of your manager’s business at all, even if he is a male who is potentially uncomfortable about breasts – especially if he’s uncomfortable about breasts! Just mentioning that you’re going to be out recovering from surgery should be more than enough to get the point across. And I’d pad the recovery time by an extra two weeks, if not more.

    1. Roverandom*

      Addressing OP as if you were me–also don’t worry about doing this perfectly or cleverly or stealthily. If how hurt you are shows in your face and voice, that’s OK. You can lean on the relationship. “You’re such a great coworker and it really hurts to hear you hating on everything I eat. I don’t care if you don’t like what I’m eating, you don’t have to eat it so just stop, please.

      And keep eating good food!!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I really like this if OP has an otherwise good relationship. Sometimes it’s harder when we actually like the people. There is the aspect of, “How do you NOT know to not to talk like this, you are an okay person otherwise?”

        OP, you might be able to fit in something to the effect of, “You guys are great coworkers. So it really does not mesh with everything else I see that we keep talking about my food. Please stop talking about what I eat.”
        And they will try to make it into a discussion. Don’t feed the discussion monster. Instead cut directly to, “The bottom line is I am asking you to stop talking about what I eat.”

        Just as an aside, OP, they probably have their own food choices going on that OTHER people (like docs) would have issue with. Very few people eat a perfect diet, very few. They probably could not survive their own standards that they inflict on you.

    2. Me_05*

      Yeah, those women don’t mean well. They’re upset that she’s both over weight and enjoying food.

      1. Shocked Pikachu*

        I have read a book while back, when the push against fat shaming was just starting and the author described how she would be grocery shopping for her family and complete strangers would comment on how much food she is buying and what kind of food she is buying… Seriously, I mean…. I don’t care how big, tiny, short, tall or whatever you are, I can not phantom on commenting on someone’s food besides occasional “that looks great”.

      2. peach*

        People just love to police fat bodies, whether they’re enjoying food or not. I am overweight but don’t eat a lot (thanks, genetics!)– my diet is a lot of veggies and healthy hippie/organic stuff– and even then, people will comment on how I don’t eat enough. How that’s probably why I’m fat, because I eat so little that my metabolism must have shut down. And when I’m with folks who are enjoying high-calories foods, they put a lot of pressure on me to join in. I think it makes them feel self-conscious about their level of self-control, because if even a fat person can resist those foods, what does that say about their own willpower (because fat people obviously don’t have any self-control /sarcasm)?

        Either way, you can’t win as a fat person.

        1. knead me seymour*

          Yup. Sadly it’s one of those fun bigotry catch-22s, with the added bonus that many people seem to enjoy projecting all of their own weight insecurities onto anyone in the vicinity who’s fatter than themselves.

    3. kittymommy*

      Mean girls come in every age and it sounds like the only chance of getting them to stop being petty little snots is to be very blunt with them.

      1. Shocked Pikachu*

        I once did “Thanks, that’s awfully kind of you, but I already have a mother and even she knows better then give me unsolicited advice so please don’t” it doesn’t happen often that I go rude like that. I am very non confrontational person but if you push me over to my dark side, I don’t hold back.

    1. juliebulie*

      I am not easily grossed out, but that puppet was over the line. I would be apologizing to those kids for the rest of their lives.

  11. Melissa*

    #3 – You are being bullied and fatshamed by your coworkers. They are not well-meaning in the slightest – I doubt very much that they are treating thinner women in the same manner for eating similar food. They are trying to shame and bully you into changing your behaviour rather than confronting their own discomfort and internalised fatphobia. You are doing exactly nothing wrong by existing in the workplace as a larger woman who eats food she enjoys. You may be trying to avoid bluntness, but that may be the very tool you need. Or you could play dumb and make them state plainly what they are saying.
    “No more of that for you!”
    “What do you mean? Why not?”
    “It’s unhealthy.”
    “I see. Well, Karen is eating the same the thing so you’d best let her know as well. I’ll wait.”

    1. WS*

      While I agree with your reasoning about their behaviour, I don’t think playing dumb works very well on this kind of person, because they are already using their “superior” age and wisdom to bully her, and getting into a discussion doesn’t usually end well. (Source: I am fat and I have one of these coworkers!) Much better to freeze them out by telling them clearly to stop and/or moving away immediately.

      1. Red5*

        I agree with WS. “Why not?” just opens up more room for a discussion that really needs to be shut down.

      2. Mama Bear*

        I agree. They’re “playing dumb” but acting like their behavior isn’t offensive. I think OP needs to be firm and direct. “I will eat what I want. My food is not your business. Your opinion is not wanted.”

    2. Darcy Pennell*

      I agree with WS, I’ve been in this situation and “playing dumb” is a really bad idea. You’d just be inviting more lecturing on what you’re allowed to eat. Plainly them to stop may not work either, but it’s worth trying.

      1. Remote Cat Herder*

        Agreed. The best strategy for OP is to:

        1. Tell them to stop, ideally twice. It’s pretty likely that they will not stop – but it’s still very important to do. That way, if there are more serious problems down the road and someone asks, you can say, “yes, I told them clearly to stop, twice. I could not have been clearer.”

        2. Act really fucking bored when they bring it up again. Here’s a script for you:

        RUDE COWORKER: You shouldn’t eat that!
        YOU, WITH A MOUTHFUL OF CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE: Uh-huh.
        RUDE COWORKER: Seriously! It’s bad for you, stop eating that this instant!
        YOU, STILL EATING A COOKIE AT THE SAME PACE: M-kay.

        This is called the “grey rock” technique. People like this thrive on conflict. When they go seeking conflict, and you refuse to give it to them, you become as boring as a grey rock.

    3. annony*

      Rather than playing dumb, I think it would be better to flat our correct them.

      “No more of that for you!”
      “Actually, I do plan to have more.”

      “That’s the last X for today.”
      “No it’s not.”

      1. MsM*

        Or “I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware I’d decided to start a diet, or asked you to hold me accountable.”

      2. amcb13*

        I’m a fan of the old standby, “What a strange thing to say!” It’s great because it works in enough situations that it can become a habitual response, which makes it easier to deploy in those moments where someone has said something bizarre/hurtful/out of their lane enough that your brain just shuts down.

        1. Librarianne*

          I really like these kinds of responses. First, it shifts the conversation from your food choices to their behavior, and second, it puts them on the defensive.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I also like the idea that you don’t want to have to spend brain power coming up with a good response every time.
          AND, I think that repeating the same exact phrase is a way to get them to notice how often and consistently they say the same things.

          If there’s any element of cluelessness, it’ll clue them in. And if it’s deliberate, it’ll start to make them look bad and feel self-conscious about it.

          So I’m a fan of a cut-and-paste, rinse-and-repeat strategy: “There you go–commenting on my food. Please stop.”
          And then when they say, “I just want to help you,” you say, Please stop commenting on my food.

          And never, ever get bumped off onto another track.

          Them: You’re so touchy! You: Please stop commenting on my food.
          Them: But aren’t you unhealthy? You: Please stop commenting on my food.

    4. Joielle*

      There definitely is a risk of inviting more criticism, but I kind of like this approach? It’s like the Carolyn Hax (I think) approach to racist jokes, which is to say you don’t get it until they’re forced to either say the racist thing out loud, or slink away embarrassed.

      “That’s the last donut for today!”
      “Why?”
      “It’s unhealthy.”
      “And?”
      “… you shouldn’t eat it.”
      “Why not?”

      At which point they’ll either have to say “because you’re fat” or give up.

      1. Zennish*

        I’m a big fan of returning the awkward to sender. I’d probably say something like “Do you have a non-discriminatory reason for commenting on my eating habits? Just curious.”

        1. littlelizard*

          “Returning the awkward to sender” is a great way to put it, and something I love doing. Now if only it worked on family…

          1. Tequila Mockingbird*

            Yes, “return the awkward to sender” is going to be a catchphrase for me from now on! I might even get it cross-stitched on a pillow!

        2. Free Meerkats*

          Yeah, return the awkward and when that doesn’t work, move to plain rude.

          “OK Karen, I’ll stop eating X when you stop being a judgmental ass.” – delivered with a smile in an even, conversational tone.

      2. SimplyTheBest*

        Or at which point they’ll go into long discussions of health and calories and whatever else. This advice is not actually shutting down the conversation, it’s inviting them to keep telling you all the sanctimonious reasons they think you shouldn’t be eating that. Why put your self through this conversation when it’s not going to stop anything?

    5. Michelle*

      I agree with making them plainly state what they are saying and/or returning awkward to sender. You are an adult and don’t need their opinion on what food you eat.

      I am overweight and we also have a wellness program at work, with a wellness coach we have to see, and I also see my doctor as needed. When the program first started we had a group of coworkers ultra-focused on food. Most of they didn’t bother me because they know I don’t play. One day the captain of the food police got brave and said something about what I was eating (broccoli casserole with cheese) and I looked her straight in the eye and said “When did you get your nutritional degree? Oh, you don’t have one? So why should I listen to your opinion about what food I choose to eat? It’s not really any of your business, but the wellness coach and my doctor are both aware of my nutritional choices, as well as my chronic illness, and they don’t have a problem with what I’m eating. So I suggest you take your opinion that fat people shouldn’t enjoy food and stuff it.” She turned bright red and never spoke to me about food again.

      OP might not be able to be as bold (food police didn’t work in my dept. and was rarely in my area, but we had worked in the same dept. several years before this), but you definitely need to tell them to knock it off and repeat as necessary.

    6. FrenchCusser*

      Whenever someone tries to tell me I should be something different or do something different, I find a cheery, ‘Thank you, I’m fine!’ (repeat as necessary) does the trick.

      It leaves no room for argument or anything they can latch on to, and sets a firm boundary.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I especially like the “repeat as necessary.”
        Varying your wording, or letting them push you off onto a different point, just gives them traction.

      2. juliebulie*

        I really like this. It doesn’t leave the door open for further comment. (Not that everyone is so easily discouraged… but at least they’re forced to try harder if they want to continue pretending to “care.”)

    7. Horseshoe*

      As someone who is skinny, these types of annoying older women at work do also hassle me about food. They don’t have anything better to talk about, and agreed, it comes from the place of them feeling discomfort about their own selves. It’s way easier to deal w/ being the “accepted weight” in society, of course, but just putting this out there to say these kinds of people wouldn’t leave you alone even if you weren’t overweight.

      It really isn’t about the weight so much as it is about trying to control others. It’s just a habit of how they interact with the world.

  12. Akcipitrokulo*

    I think for OP1’s party, they thought “kid friendly” meant “no alcohol or overt sexual costumes” and didn’t think past that.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That’s what I think happened here. I envision someone without young children coming up with this…kids love being spooked, right?! *face palm*

      Or parents with a mean streak who loves scaring the effing heck outta kids. It reminds me of a Roseanne Halloween episode after watching that video.

  13. Lena Carabina*

    Definitely not clicking that link. I hate horror of all kinds.

    I work on an estate; many of the houses there go for big displays at Halloween. One of them has an enormous spider over the doorway, as big as one of the windows. I’m not bothered by spiders, but I know plenty of people who are. And if it were a model of a wasp…shudders. I couldn’t go past it. I have a phobia of wasps.

    Anyway, I feel like Halloween deccies and parties are a bit like practical jokes/ pranks – there’s a world of difference in what people think is not harmful and fun versus downright not ok, and people either love them or hate them.

    I’m in the latter camp.

    1. Asenath*

      I enjoyed Halloween as a child, and still think a nice Halloween requires the celebrant to be under 10 years of age (or slightly older and supervising a younger child), have a costume, and be able to find someone to give out candy. Home decorations and costumes on adults and parties are all optional. Clearly, I am out of touch with today’s celebrations – I was startled to come across one of those fake hands hanging out of a car trunk at least a week ago! Clearly decorations are not only more common, they’re being put up (or installed) earlier and earlier, in the same way as decorations for other holidays were. I won’t go into my moaning about early and excessive Christmas decorations; it’s too early!

      Still, I think gore, a realistic zombie puppet and probably a corpse’s hand in a party intended for young children is especially inappropriate. It might not only be a case of the organizers thinking they just had to avoid too much sex. Some families do expose their children to very gory entertainment at a very young age. But when you’re inviting a group, you need to organize the event for the whole group, not just some subset of it, and the people who organize it should have had this pointed out. Or they should be reminded, if they somehow didn’t notice or misinterpreted the actions of the scared children.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I don’t think the party was intended for young children. It was intended as an office party, but the organizers realizing it was after hours decided to include family members. They got halfway through the thought process of “Oh wait, we are taking away family time, okay, well they can bring family members” without finishing the thought “family members means kids, maybe we should make sure it’s not too scary.”

        They were trying to be a good office. They just didn’t get quite there. LW you can help them get there by gently helping them think it through what it means if it is not “just the office folks” anymore.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          There is also the possibility that the person who said kids could attend never had the thought that an office party would be too gory or have overly sexy costumes because, you know, it’s a work party. There’s definitely a potential disconnect there.

      2. Quill*

        One needs a child or a dog in their life to get the most out of halloween. The child, because pumpkin carving and apple picking as an adult, not to mention walking around picking up candy, can feel not worth the clean up or weather, the dog because there are few things funnier than a dog wearing a witch hat.

        (My childhood dog was white and towards the end of his life visibly lumpy so we dressed him as cottage cheese… his first halloween we told people he was a marshmallow…)

        1. Grapey*

          I very much disagree! Halloween is one of the best times of year to try special makeup FX and costumes as an adult. And watching faces as you hand out full size candy bars is awesome too. Having a kid/having to deal with too much kid friendliness would absolutely take away the fun parts of the holiday for me.

          I would not personally bring a puppet like that around kids, but I’d also expect adults to explain that they are just props/makeup. e.g. “I get that you’re scared of Bob’s puppet and I don’t like looking at it either, but let’s remember Bob is playing pretend when he acts scared. The puppet is only wires, sound and cloth (etc). It must have been fun to design it – look how well it works at scaring people!”

        2. Eirene*

          Yikes, speak for yourself. I’m been a full-grown adult without either a dog or a child, and Halloween is my favorite holiday. I get plenty out of it every year.

        3. Environmental Compliance*

          That’s odd. I love apple picking. We go every year. We also do some pumpkin decorating. No kids, no dogs. I guess I could try to dress up my parakeets? I definitely dress up my horse, but he gets dressed up for every holiday. It’s more fun to dress me up rather than the horse. He’s just in it for the treats. I get to whip out very, very rarely used makeup skills and be a sparkly gold leopard, or the Black Widow, or whatever else I decide I need to craft up that Halloween. Costume making is the best part (aside from the flood of apple-inspired hard beverages).

      3. knead me seymour*

        Personally I love Halloween and unapologetically participate as an adult, but it is a holiday that’s associated with children to the point where I don’t understand everyone on this thread who thinks the LW should have assumed the office party wasn’t really intended for children, but that their presence would be merely tolerated. I think most people would assume that a Halloween party where kids are welcome would be kid-friendly.

      4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah.

        There’s two types of Halloween folks. Those of us who use it as a fun loving time of year. I like dressing as something silly [usually a unicorn or my cat kind of thing] and my decorations are cats and dogs in Halloween costumes…

        Then there’s the “GET SPOOKY AF” people. Who bust out the zombies.

        I just saw a life-like Michael Myers standing in someone’s corn field this last weekend. Yikes. I wasn’t allowed to watch horror movies as a kid, I was the kid that would have night terrors for months afterwards. No haunted houses. No life-like stuff.

        1. Ellen*

          HATE HALLOWEEN. My old workplace went massively overboard on decorations, and almost anything might move, talk, or try to grab you. We were *fast food*, and this was out where little kids could see a statue of a wicked witch move as it stirred a smoking pot, talking about the arrival of “ingredients… er … guests”. I watched a little boy (10 or so? ) *freak out* and hurt himself trying to get out of the small foyer. I hate, hate, hate halloween and people pretending that scaring other people is fun for everyone.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I hate that it’s so wide of a spectrum that we have to deal with.

            I want to give kids candy and dress like a cartoon lion. I don’t want to get a real looking lion that jumps out and scares the crud outta kiddos who just want a GD mini-Snickers bar.

            The best thing to come from Halloween is all the black cat stuff…that I buy up for all year long because I’m a crazy cat lady with a black cat.

  14. Tallulah in the Sky*

    OP#1 – In your post, it says that kids and SO’s were welcome, not that it was a kid friendly party. Wouldn’t surprise me if the people organizing this thing don’t have kids or have older ones and didn’t think that far. So I would definitely flag it so that they know to include in the invite how “gory” the party is.

    I don’t think you’d be a “spoil sport” to make people aware that just because a party is open to family, they also have to warn if there will be anything not appropriate for kids (and what age).

    1. Kris*

      This was my take, too. There’s a difference between “kid-friendly” and “you can bring your kids.” But the organizers should let people know what to expect so that people can make informed decisions about whether they want to attend or bring their kids.

      1. Allypopx*

        Yes. There are a lot of comments about the semantic difference between “kid friendly” and “you can bring your kids”, and they are correct, but that might not be clear to everyone so err on the side of overexplaining.

      2. Roverandom*

        I honestly don’t see a difference! I get that the party is not primarily aimed at kids, but if someone can bring their kids, the party should be kid-friendly, and if the party is kid-friendly, they should be able to bring their kids. It’s not like this is a haunted house where scary stuff is to be expected… it’s an office party!

        1. Meepmeep*

          Yeah, I don’t see the difference either. If a kid is coming to the party, the kid should not see anything traumatizing. If there’s anything that’s not kid-appropriate at the party, parents of young kids should know about it so they don’t bring their kids.

          I wouldn’t want my three year old to see that puppet, and I’d be pissed if someone told me the party was “kid-friendly” and I brought my kid and she saw it and then had nightmares for weeks.

  15. Tallulah in the Sky*

    OP#3 – doesn’t matter if they actually “mean well” (I highly doubt it), they’re rude. So rude. It’s okay to tell them you don’t appreciate those type of comments. It’s okay to push back and say you’re uncomfortable when people comment on what you eat. Truly kind and well-meaning people won’t take offense to that, will apologize and stop immediately. If they take offense and/or continue… well you have the confirmation that they’re not that kind and well-meaning, and I hope you’ll be more comfortable not putting up with their rudeness in the future.

    1. MissGirl*

      Always reminds me of a line from a book. “God save us from the best intentions of good people.” Intentions don’t matter if actions are hurtful.

    2. Aurion*

      Exactly. The OP’s weight, size, and nutritional value of her meals are irrelevant–she didn’t ask for this peanut gallery, and said peanut gallery needs to back off.

      OP, you’ve been politely direct, and honestly, it’s time to move to impolitely direct. Return the impoliteness to sender–they started it, after all.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Thank you! I’m bookmarking that for future reference. (I have a funny feeling I may need it in the near future…)

  16. Red Spider*

    #2, I agree with Alison that your timeline may be a little unrealistic, especially because a lot of companies slow down or even pause their hiring process in December because so many people take vacation. It doesn’t hurt to start applying now, but I think you’ll have better luck after the holidays. 

      1. Filosofickle*

        Mine, too. Just got off the phone with a client wanting to start a new project in November with delivery in January. Their timeline absolutely does not account for the Holiday Dead Zone! PTO alone will make scheduling any group meetings next to impossible from late November through early January.

    1. MissGirl*

      That’s a good point. It’s not just holidays that slow it down. The end of the fiscal year means budgets are closed as accounting is done. A lot of departments may stop hiring until the budget for the new year is set. I know we have a lull between now and February or March. That isn’t to say replacements aren’t being hired but newly created positions are on hold.

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I immediately thought this too. My org announces a hiring freeze from November 1 through January 1 unless a position is so essential that they must fill it immediately; and TBH I don’t even know what position here would qualify for that kind of exception, but certainly not lower level positions like the OP indicates they are looking for. I don’t even think it’s just because of vacations; there are a lot of year-end tasks that need to be reconciled or closed out and HR can be very busy at this time of year.

    3. Alianora*

      Yeah, my organization even has a mandatory two-week closure at the end of the year, and the first two weeks of December are usually hard to schedule around too. If we really needed to hire asap we would find a time, but I think most hiring would be put on hold until January.

    4. The New AO*

      I did my video interviews using an app called “Spark Hire” on my phone and I was hired, believe it or not for the government. They hire year round and don’t stop for the holidays, I just started my new job a few weeks ago. I had read an article a few days before I received the video interview invite about how to a video interview. The first thing the article by Robert Half said was to make sure that you were doing the interview in a quiet spot with no background activity or distractions. The first thing that my selecting official commented on was the plain, uncluttered background in my videos, she said, “I don’t know where they recorded their videos or what was going on, but it was very distracting and weird.”

    5. LW#2*

      LW#2 here, thanks everyone for giving your input! I agree that December is really dead in pretty much all companies everywhere, which is why I decided to take this sabbatical through November-December – I figured staying home and job searching throughout these months wouldn’t bear many fruits, and I really needed to spend some time with my family and get some things in my life in order before going back to work. The jobs I’m applying to are team leader roles and similar; a bit senior but not manager level because I don’t have any experience managing people yet, but I do have almost eight years’ experience in my field.

      Yesterday I applied to a job that I’m really excited about and it was posted just last week. I did the math considering the two weeks pause at the end of the year and figured they want the person to start around January at the earliest and February at the latest, but the fact I can’t be there to meet anyone in person makes me anxious, and now even more so :’(

  17. The Waco Kid*

    #3…

    I remember reading an advice column years ago saying that calling out rude people is even MORE rude than their initial rudeness.

    1. Morning Reader*

      That’s social etiquette, not work etiquette. Also, politely stating boundaries is not rude. STFU would be rude. “I’d prefer that you didn’t comment on my food choices” or something along those lines is not rude.

      1. BRR*

        I’ve always considered that rule to be for smaller stuff and as you say, for social etiquette. It’s pretty egregious to tell someone that’s the last of something they will eat vs. telling someone it’s rude to not receive a thank you note after giving a gift.

        I also agree that Alison’s advice is more about boundaries than just staying “it’s rude to comment on what one eats.”

      2. Vicky Austin*

        Agreed. I think that rule applies to people who hold the door for a person walking behind them, and when the person doesn’t say “thank you” immediately, the one holding the door says in a condescending tone, “YOU’RE WELCOME!”

    2. Asenath*

      A good advice column also suggests polite ways to indicate that some action is rude and you won’t tolerate it – the icy glare, the cold and very brief response, the disbelieving stare and abrupt change of topic. Miss Manners had some good stuff in her heyday. If someone tried to tell me I couldn’t eat any more X or I shouldn’t eat Y, I’d probably start with the disbelieving stare and escalate if the incident was repeated. I wouldn’t try to pass it off with a joke, at least not more than once, I wouldn’t engage in any discussion of my eating preferencesm and I would try different responses until I no longer got those responses.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        Miss Manners has some good advice, but so much of her regular advice just amounts to being passive-agressive. I find that rarely works and appreciate Alison’s more direct advice for better results.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      That advice was around and, eh, it may still be around.
      The problem is that it doesn’t work with repeated rudeness.

      It’s more to the point to match what we see coming at us. I try to come in on a plane that is a notch under what the other person is saying or doing. Sometimes that is enough. If not, I can say it in a stronger manner a second time right in the moment. “No, I really mean it. You need to stop doing X.”

      Most people are great/amazing. I think 95% of the time I do not have to say it a second time. Sometimes I wonder if I would handle the message with the grace they handled it. One problem I had was that I did not believe people would listen to my words. Once I saw that was not true most of the time, it changed many things for me.

    4. PollyQ*

      If it were an etiquette nitpick about which fork to use, then sure, but these women have gone beyond rude to hostile and bullying. There’s nothing rude about asking people to stop mistreating you.

      1. TootsNYC*

        (FYI: the idea of using the right fork is really the responsibility of the host, not the guest. The host has to put out the right fork in the right place, and if you get it wrong, that’s on the host–not the guest!)

    5. River Song*

      I think that’s more for a different kind of rudeness. Like someone used the wrong fork, or didn’t say thank you after you held the door open for them.

      1. Arctic*

        Yeah it’s more “don’t be a snob” than “let someone harass you weekly or daily forever.”

      2. doreen*

        It is for a different kind of rudeness – but it also doesn’t require you to be a doormat. It’s literally about telling people they are rude or correcting their table manners, as if you were their parent or teacher. Let’s say someone asks you if they can bring two extra people along to a formal party. It’s generally rude for them to ask you, and it’s rude for you to tell them it’s rude to ask – but it doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat and say OK. It’s perfectly acceptable for you to say ” I’m afraid that won’t be possible” . Similarly, it might be rude for the OP to directly tell her co-workers ” it’s rude for you to comment on my food ” but that doesn’t mean it’s rude for her to say ” I’ve told you I don’t want to discuss my diet with you. Please stop commenting. “

    6. Arctic*

      That makes sense when you’re at a social function and calling out rudeness would just make everyone present more uncomfortable.

      Not with continued harassment.

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      To everyone else’s point, I can see how it works with calling someone out for, I don’t know, spilling red wine on a tablecloth at a sit-down dinner. I don’t think it applies to a situation where a group of coworkers repeatedly harasses the one coworker that they see as having less status/power (“the older women”) than they do.

      I used to read the Etiquette Hell blog and it actually does recommend a whole array of responses to the rude/invasive remarks. IIRC, there was “I am afraid I cannot accommodate your request”, “So kind of you to take an interest”, distracting the rude person with “Have you tried the bean dip?” (clearly not applicable here), and, for an especially outrageous comment, total silence. I am guessing all of these should be accompanied by a 1000 yard stare to get the point across – can’t remember the details.

    8. yala*

      I think that really depends on the kind of rudeness. If someone passed gas without saying “excuse me” or something, it would be rude to bring attention to it.

      If coworkers are passive-aggressively bullying you and making comments about your weight…nah.

      I’m all for the Captain Awkward approach: “WOW.” Just flatly let them know how shockingly rude they’re being.

      People like that thrive under the assumption that the social contract lets them go uncorrected.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah that rule is absolutely for social faux pas (showing up to a potluck with no food or whatever) and not at all intended for people who are being actively hurtful to someone else.

      2. TootsNYC*

        (Miss Manners has said that passing gas is SO disgusting that no one should ever comment on it, not even the person who did it. Everyone should simply pretend it never happened. You say “excuse me” for a burp, but for a fart, nothing should be said that draws the tiniest bit of attention to it)

    9. Bagpuss*

      I think that advice is normally more to do with minor etiquette breaches, particularly where it is not your responsibility or business to teach the other person how to act.

      I think in LW3s case the issue is not that her coworkers are rude and she is truying to teach them manners, it is that they are behaving inappriopriately and that she is drawing boundaries. The fact that her drawing those boundaries may clue them in that their behaviour is rude is a happy byproduct but not the reason for speaking to them.

    10. Observer*

      That’s a highly unhelpful comment. The OP needs some actionable guidance in how to deal with ongoing mistreatment.

      It’s also just not universally true. Even in a social setting, which is the general domain of the etiquette advice columns, people are not required by etiquette to submit to ongoing nosiness, intrusiveness and bullying.

    11. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Whoa, no, that’s a misinterpretation of that etiquette advice! Etiquette says it’s rude to announce someone else is being rude but not that it’s rude to set your own boundaries. “Please don’t say that to me” is fine. “You’re using the wrong fork!” is not.

    12. LilySparrow*

      No, you are entirely misinterpreting that.

      In situations where someone has committed a benign faux-pas such as bad table manners, it would be rude to draw attention to it. And inappropriate for anyone but a close friend/relation and frequent companion to presume to correct them.

      Or if someone has failed in a courtesy, like sending a thank-you note, it would be ungracious to demand one.

      But when someone is being directly rude or insulting to you, intruding on you, or paying you unwelcome attentions of any kind, it is not rude to tell them to stop – as long as you keep your response within the context of the interaction.

      If LW screamed or cursed at them, that would be rude. Alison’s scripts are not.

      (The appropriate level of brusqueness would change in different circumstances, like all questions of manners. Strangers vs coworkers, cafe vs streetcorner, home vs work – manners are contextual.)

    13. AKchic*

      We aren’t discussing how rude it is to use the wrong hat and linen hanky with your lace mourning dress at the dinner party (how gauche! Don’t you know that funerary attire is not to be worn at dinner parties!). Work matters are different. Setting healthy boundaries with people isn’t rude. This isn’t calling them out on their rudeness, this is asking for basic human dignity and respect. If the rude person feels called out on their rudeness, then at least they agree that *they* were being rude.

    14. TootsNYC*

      well, saying “you’re rude” is rude.
      “It’s rude to put your feet on my sofa” is rude, but you don’t need to live with smudges.
      Saying, “Please don’t put your feet on my sofa” is not rude.

  18. Former call centre worker*

    #5 – perhaps you could tell a trusted colleague in advance and ask her for help dealing with anyone who mentions it after your return? You might find that not as many people notice as you’d think though. A colleague of mine had some time off, and while he was away emailed just our team to say he’d had cosmetic surgery on his nose and might look a bit different. I was prepared to have to field gossiping or questions about it from colleagues outside our team, as you’d think a different nose would be quite noticeable, but actually nobody mentioned it at all and i think that in the absence of having a before and after photo, they actually just didn’t notice.

  19. Guacamole Bob*

    OP2, what kinds of jobs are you looking for? I’m in local government, and we have the same procedure for video interviews as in person, where we have to ask candidates set questions and take notes on the answers, then score them afterward. Video is probably less of a disadvantage in that kind of interview than in one with a more conversational style.

    We’ve made offers to a couple of video interview candidates recently, come to think of it.

    1. Anja*

      I work for a municipality and it’s the same for us – especially in union positions. My interview for this employer was a phone interview (not even video interview!) while I was on vacation in Hungary. Got an offer the day I got back. Gave my two weeks notice my first day back to work after a month long vacation. The weekend two weeks later I packed my dog and two suitcases into my car and changed provinces. Met my new boss on my first day of work.

      I think it likely does put you at a disadvantage to not be able to come in for in-person interviews. But it’s not always a deal breaker. So if it’s something you think could be a good fit then it doesn’t hurt to try. It can work out.

  20. Asenath*

    OP2, in my job, we strongly prefer candidates who are already within commuting distance of our location, and who can come for in-person interviews. I think applying from abroad with only video interviews would put you at a big disadvantage. And getting things done at all over the Christmas holidays can be very difficult, as others have mentioned.

    1. Kimmybear*

      However, my department often hires from video interviews because we work internationally and of course our staff might currently be leaving one project/job/school in another country. In some places it will be a disadvantage and in others it’s just normal. You may want to look at places where it is the norm.

    2. Reba*

      I think that actually the slow down in processes over the winter holidays may end up working in the OP’s favor, if they were to start an application, have a phone or video screening, and then get called for an in-person in January.

      Some people’s hiring processes are slowwww.

      OP2, I’d keep trying from your home base because it might work out! But don’t beat yourself up if you don’t succeed with interviews during this time. Hope you have a restful break.

  21. LlamaDoctor*

    From these comments I feel like I’m alone in that the description of this Halloween party (including the puppet), is exactly what I would expect a Halloween party to be… seems pretty par for the course to me. I don’t know any children and haven’t interacted with a child since I was a child myself, though, and even then I didn’t have many friends because I preferred the company of adults. I definitely think they should tone it down (and will be more conscious of this in my own life from now on) but I can totally see how the organizers might not have made the connection that “kid friendly” = “not scary”. I would’ve made the same mistake.

    1. August*

      Same here! I was surprised to find all of the pushback against the party in the comments – I spend a lot of time around kids (ask me about my 15 nieces and nephews!), and while I know some of younger ones would’ve initially screamed and run away from the puppet, they would’ve just bopped around at some other corner of the party for an hour or two, eating cupcakes. Maybe my family just has a different attitude towards horror?

      1. Grapey*

        Kids pick up their reactions from the adults. The adults I know that don’t like horror at all also have nervous kids around halloween, while the SFX/makeup guru has her 7 year old out-creep the previous year’s idea.

        1. mcr-red*

          Not necessarily true. I’m scared of clowns. My parents were not scared of clowns. My kids are not scared of clowns. Just me.

          I have a guy friend who HATES horror movies. His kids? LOVE horror movies.

        2. LilySparrow*

          And sometimes it’s individual temperament.

          One of my kids is much less sensitive to gore & scares than I am. The other is far more sensitive.

          Human beings are very different, at all ages.

    2. Reba*

      I think the fact that it’s a party *at work* means it should be much more toned down than a social event someone would have at home, or at a bar or Halloween attraction type place.

      Because you just don’t know what other people’s tolerances are for this stuff — you don’t know who has a fear of spiders, who faints at the sight of blood, who has PTSD and hates being startled…. And people shouldn’t have to face this at a thing at their workplace, where they might feel obliged to join in.

      To me it seems a little over the top, kids or no kids, for that reason. It’s not only that it needs to be G rated for children, but it needs to be the milder version of Halloween because it’s work.

    3. CheeryO*

      I kind of agree (I definitely saw scarier things than that puppet when I trick-or-treated as a kid), but if kids were scared, it wouldn’t hurt to flag it for the organizers. They should at least include some sort of caveat in future invitations (kids are welcome, but it may be too scary for the littlest ghouls!).

    4. wittyrepartee*

      In general, for very little kids, you want to think “harvest festival with costumes”. You can then add on some things like “jack-o-lantern”, “well intentioned ghosts”, and “mysterious fog”.

    5. Meepmeep*

      It depends on the age of the kid. A very little kid will be traumatized by anything too graphic or gory. An older kid will be fine.

    6. sleepwakehope*

      Yeah, I would expect a work party to not be scarier than PG (maybeeeee PG-13, but I work in a conservative field), to be honest, even if it wasn’t child-friendly, because a lot of people don’t like scary stuff.

  22. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

    OP#2 – I am hiring right now (though for a fairly low level position) and I have had a number of candidates say they can only do phone or Skype interviews and frankly, it means I cross them off my list. I need someone to start fairly soon and I need to be able to meet them in person. It does not leave a good impression if I ask you to come in for an in-person interview and you say you can’t. Because there are lots of other candidates who can.

    If you have special skills or this is a high level job, then that’s totally different and employers will likely be willing to be flexible with you. But in my case, I’m hiring for a coordinator position and have tons of candidates, so asking for favors right off the bat is going to get you knocked out of consideration.

    1. LW#2*

      Argh, I figured this would be the case, and yet it still stings to hear it. But thanks for being candid – I’m still gonna job search, because I figure I already have the “no” and it wouldn’t hurt me to try anyway.

      1. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

        I’m sorry! :( Still a good idea to search though, and maybe even try to visit the area you’re looking to move to so if contacted you can say “I am available XYZ dates”. Also doesn’t hurt to try to network with people in your target area, join professional or networking organizations even online, and try to get to know people in advance. I’d be much more willing to wait for someone who has been recommended to me than a random applicant.

        1. LW#2*

          So far I already made a few contacts – I was interviewed twice ever since I began job searching and I added the interviewers from these two companies to my LinkedIn. I was thinking of shooting them a message in January, more or less saying “hey, I’m here now, if you have anything for me!” They seemed to really like me, and the fact that I wasn’t there yet didn’t seem to bother them much; I asked for feedback after they rejected me and they only mentioned a few skills I didn’t have as the deciding factor, and not the fact that I’m not living in the area quite yet. (It could still be part of it though, and they’re just not saying it to be kind. But if I’m asking and they’re not telling then I guess I’ll never know for sure.)

          But I hadn’t thought of joining professional or networking orgs online! I’ll see if I can find any to the area. Thanks for the suggestions :)

          1. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

            Best of luck! Job searching is the worst, and especially when you’re looking in another area. I hope you find something great!

  23. Dunplin'*

    OP 3: Your coworkers are the WORST. They do not mean well at all.

    I’m over weight. I love sweets.

    I have never had anyone in the office tell me that I shouldn’t be eating something or allude to the fact that I am over weight in any way.

    Even the worst, most judgemental coworkers will not say that I am too heavy or should eat less.

    The most that has ever happened is that I refuse a sweet and say, “I’m trying to cut back” and someone says, “Yeah, me too”

    Your coworkers are using “good intentions” to screen their malice.

    1. littlelizard*

      Yep! Thanks to some obnoxious family interactions I can be very self-conscious about my appearance and what I eat, and I’m always pleasantly surprised that at work it’s a complete non-issue. Should be a non-issue in every workplace.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I have a habit of twirling my hair when it gets long.
        I was home for a visit and having a conversation with my big brother (we’re in our 50s and 60s), and I started twirling my hair.

        He says, “Stop twirling your hair,” in this annoyed tone, and then “Do your coworkers tell you to stop?” in this tone that implied “of course they do.”

        I wanted so badly to say, “No, they have BETTER MANNERS than that!”

        But I wanted to stay focused on the convo, so I didn’t.
        I did vent to my sister that sometimes I wish the people in my family would treat me the way they’d treat a stranger whose good opinion of them mattered to them.

    2. MOAS*

      Same. Overweight, and love everything. Carbs, sweets, diet soda. I also like water, black coffee, and “healthy foods”. I used to have a coworker who would comment every single day that I was drinking so much soda.

      The coworkers here sound like complete assholes. I get wanting to be friendly and approachable and drawing clear boundaries is very nerve wracking.

    3. Ellen*

      I work with NUTRITIONISTS who know I’m morbidly obese and have diabetes. On a macaroni and cheese with chocolate cake say, they dont say a THING.

  24. June First*

    #3
    Alison’s advice is spot on. I’d even cut her off mid-snark and say something like, “Carol, you comment on my food every day. It needs to stop. It’s not helpful. [Turn to other coworkers] Did you see that zombie puppet Bob brought to the party??”

  25. Not So NewReader*

    My idea of a kid friendly Halloween party is probably closer to just a fall or harvest party. The kids wear their costumes, maybe do a little parade and all the adults applaud. Have a few simple games with small prizes and then a snack. Done. Go home.

    It would def not include random, detached body parts and animated monsters/other devices.

    I suspect the problem will resolve itself as adults with kids will just decide not to go next year.
    Honestly, this is nothing I would attend even without kids. I always say that I get my USRDA of fear just by reading the news every day. I don’t need a scary party to feel scared. I am all set here.

    1. Clisby*

      I don’t think of “kid friendly” as designed for kids – just that there’s nothing about it that would be inappropriate for kids. I also wouldn’t knowingly attend a party like this, with or without kids – the office should give a heads-up about the horror level so employees know whether they want to go. Even as a single person, if I’d turned up at a party like the one described here, I’d have walked out almost immediately (and been annoyed that the office didn’t warn people.) I’ve been to adult Halloween parties that very much focused on costumes, where the scariest thing present was a realistic-looking skeleton. It’s not a given that a Halloween party will include gore/horror.

      1. Quill*

        Last time I threw a halloween party the spookiest thing was when we found out how old the cinnamon schnapps we were putting in our cider actually was.

        I’m a grown woman. My parents had bought it about when I was in middle school. According to my dad, alcohol doesn’t go bad, but yikes.

  26. NoviceManagerGuy*

    Gore, jumpscares, and “sexy” costumes are all inappropriate for any work event, whether or not it’s billed as kid-friendly.

    But I’d be especially mad if something were billed as kid-friendly, I brought my 5-year-old (or my toddlers!) and there was intense gore.

    1. New commenter*

      That’s what I was going to say! This is a lapse of judgement. How does anyone plan a work party with all this violent imagery and not worry it might trigger someone, like a vet, or a survivor of a car crash or domestic violence, or really, anything involving carnage? Seriously, “I didn’t think about it” is not good enough when you’re introducing images and themes designed to be disturbing. Outside the in-house jokes and industry jargon, work events should be as inclusive and restrained as public events, because you really don’t know where people are coming from, and the idea is to create a positive experience for everyone and improve morale. Save the gory stuff for close friends.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        I think that “all this violent imagery” is perhaps a bit of a stretch. All the OP mentions is the puppet (which I hate and think is weird and creepy af) and body parts on the signage, which I would imagine probably means plastic corpse hands or feet with some fake blood on them. Likely inappropriate for very small children and a bad call for a kids-welcome work party (especially the puppet), but not something that I would consider “intense gore” and I can see how the organisers might have overlooked it.

        1. Joielle*

          Yeah, I think the only really bad judgment was Bob with the zombie puppet, and someone should have just said to him “Hey, can you turn that off while the kids are here? Jane’s kid is freaked out.” And that would be that unless Bob is a big jerk.

          The sign with body parts… people in my neighborhood decorate their yards with that kind of thing and creepier, so I guess I don’t think that’s a big deal unless the body parts are strewn around everywhere or something.

          1. Jamie*

            I sound like a party pooper, but I think some yard décor goes to far. The silly family friendly stuff can be cute, but the faux hangings, etc. are just inappropriate imo.

            Last year a house near us had a very lifelike looking werewolf, size of a man, in men’s clothing in their yard posed as if he was about to bolt into the street. First time I saw it I didn’t register werewolf, I saw a guy about to dart in front of my car and slammed on my breaks. Soon after it was moved back toward the house, so someone must’ve said something to them.

            I get that people find that stuff amusing, but people have to go down that street and kids walk on that sidewalk …like this zombie puppet save it for those who won’t find it upsetting or worse.

            1. Joielle*

              Oh yeah, I am EXTREMELY not here for faux hangings and have actually been the party pooper neighbor to ask people to take those down. It’s in poor taste!

              I don’t think a sign with limbs on it rises to that level. I think it’s silly, and I personally hate how Halloween decor has devolved to just PUT A PICTURE OF SOMETHING GROSS. But if I were the OP, I’d focus on the costume rather than the decor unless it was a lot more graphic/realistic than I’m picturing.

            2. Anonymous for this*

              I agree, fake hangings are fucked up. I have a family friend who killed himself by hanging. My mom and his wife were the ones to find him. I really hope none of their neighbors decide to put up fake hangings this year.

            3. EventPlannerGal*

              I definitely agree that some decorations can be pretty extreme – I’ve never even seen a fake hanging and it sounds horrible. All I’m trying to say is that things like plastic severed hands are within the spectrum of things that I remember seeing pretty regularly at Halloween parties as a kid and I can see why even a well-intentioned party planner might not have thought of them as automatically adult-only.

              Like, describing it as “violent imagery”, “extreme gore” etc makes it sound like they were showing slasher movies to toddlers or something. I think the OP would be better off addressing the decorations as an honest oversight rather than “how could you not realise this would traumatise my child??”

              (This is strictly regarding the decorations. The puppet is demonic and I hate it a lot.)

            4. Kelly L.*

              Wasn’t there a guy somewhere who really did hang himself and people thought it was a decoration at first?

            5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Yeah, I’ve seen too much of the realistic-gore/crime scene stuff for my liking as well. It reminds me of the people who do serial killer scenes and think people like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy are totally cool to dress up as for Halloween. How edgy and spooky!

              Especially outside facing the public, where people all have their different life experiences. Especially hangings, given how lynching still happens. People still get decapitated as well. I’m not a fan at all.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Hard agree. I strongly dislike gore and jumpscares and would not be pleased to have to navigate either in my workplace.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yes. This is exactly where I fall.

      The “Spookiest” thing I’m down with is obvious fake skeletons and witch hats. I’m pretty sketched out by the fact they’re now doing skeletons of animals. I like all my spook being in various cartoon forms, I’m not down with the reality of actual death and horror. That’s too much.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        You might enjoy what my wife saw recently: It was an *octopus* skeleton. Yes, that’s right, an animal that doesn’t even have bones. (But it’s got a shape! We can arrange bone-shapes into the octo-shape! Totes legit!)

  27. Red5*

    “Your letter is very accommodating of a terribly rude behavior, and it’s worth thinking about why you feel you need to be. ”

    While I don’t want to speak for the OP, I would like to point out that, in a society that teaches us being fat is a moral failure and a fate worse than death*, it’s not surprising or uncommon for fat people to feel they have to be accommodating or apologetic about the subject. If the OP would like to be more direct but still professional and polite, the following has worked for me in the past: “What I eat is no longer up for discussion; please stop commenting on it.” (See also: “My body is no longer up for discussion; please stop commenting on it.”) Repeat, ad nauseam.

    *True story: Several years ago I had to go on an anti-depressant for a couple of years and gained 20 pounds as a result. One of my doctors kept harassing me about how I was gaining weight I couldn’t afford to (as I’m already fat) and I need to start losing weight asap. My point that I was experiencing a well-known and well-documented side effect of a life-saving medicine (and yes, it was life-saving for me) fell on deaf ears. (Side note: he’s no longer my doctor.)

    1. dumplin'*

      Doctors can be the worst about this kind of thing. Several of my friends have horror stories about doctors that refused to try and figure out their health issues, because in the doctor’s eyes the only issue is that they were fat.

      I went in for bronchitis and the Physicians Assistant immediately behaved as if I had an upper respiratory infection because I need to lose weight! He was loudly amazed that I have good blood pressure and was in perfect health aside from the infection.

      1. Allypopx*

        Yep. I’ve gotten this from various doctors too, mostly specialists. “Oh, you’re weirdly healthy”, basically. Been told I was lying about my calorie intake and activity level. So much fun.

        Also most of these doctors also spoke to me in terms of BMI, which was great and confidence inducing re: their judgement.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          Ugh yes!! I will never forget the terribly condescending midwife I saw once during my pregnancy. I was so nauseated that the only food I could keep down was bland food like toast with butter or mac n cheese. Despite the terrible diet, I lost a bunch of weight (a rarity for someone with PCOS by the way). I started to worry that my daughter wasn’t getting the nutrients she needed. The midwife had the audacity to say that it’s normal for overweight women to lose weight during pregnancy because they take so much better care of their bodies.

          Notice how I did not spell out what my diet and exercise regimen was like before pregnancy. The midwife did not know either. She just assumed.

          Another midwife at the same practice also told me I had to stop training for a 10k. Sometimes I wonder if she thought I was lying about being a runner.

      2. Feline*

        I went to the doctor recently for an opinion about a lump. The referral for ultrasound had the diagnostic code for and spelled out “overweight.” What does that have to do with a big lump? I asked the ultrasound technician if this information was relevant and she just laughed and said, “No. I usually ignore that.” I’m expecting the results today, and am fairly sure it’s benign. But if it’s not, the complaint I’m going to make about that referral is ratcheting up a big notch.

        1. OP3*

          I frequently get earwax stuck to my eardrum and sometimes have to go to a doctor to get them to lavage it (squirt water at my eardrum with a spray bottle) to unstick the earwax so I can hear again. One time in college, the doctor I saw for a particularly bad instance (I couldn’t hear at all out of the affected ear) felt the need to mention that I’d gained weight since I came in for bronchitis the previous semester and should keep an eye on that. Because that was ever so relevant to the earwax stuck to my eardrum, preventing me from hearing anything at all out of that ear.

      3. You can't fire me; I don't work in this van*

        Yes, I have a friend who has struggled with weight since she was a teenager. She exercises regularly and eats healthy, but still has a bigger frame. She says whenever she goes to the doctor, she gets weighed and then when the nurse takes her blood pressure, they always want to re-take it because they assume she must have high blood pressure because of her weight.

        1. Lovely bird*

          It’s surprisingly easy to eat healthy and still be in a calorie surplus or maintenance (if the body weight stays the same). Most people are really bad at estimating or eyeballing calories. Using a food scale for everything going into my mouth (especially oil and cheese) really opened my eyes. No wonder I wasn’t losing weight even though I was eating salads and home made meals. I was eating at maintenance.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Sigh… yeah, I gained 30lbs in 3mo after stopping Wellbutrin but still on Zoloft and while figuring out the hypothyroidism, about 10 years ago now. My weight hasn’t changed since then and does not change unless I increase the thyroid meds, but then I have clear hyperthryroid symptoms. I have to remind my PA about this sometimes. I keep her because she mostly remembers and even when she doesn’t right off she asks if there’s medical things impacting my weight. Since we only see each other once or twice a year, I figure it’s as good as I’m likely to get.

    3. YarnOwl*

      I really like this. Matter-of-fact, doesn’t leave anything up for discussion. That’s also the way I address any weird comments about food/weight/etc. that I have to hear.
      Also, I’m so glad you found a new doctor! What a thing, for a doctor to hound you about losing weight when you’re depressed??? I’ve also dealt with my share of doctors who think weight loss is a magical cure for everything and I’m so glad I found a doctor who takes my issues seriously.

    4. AKchic*

      I feel this.
      I have a chronic pain condition (I don’t know why they call it chronic when it is consistent 24/7 pain, of which there is no real relief). I am on so many medications I swear I rattle if I jump. Some are narcotic. Movement is limited and has been for 15 years. It’s only gotten worse over the years. Some days I use a cane. Some days I can’t walk at all because the pain is so bad.

      I’ve been everything from a size zero to a size 22. I’m currently sitting at a um… *checks pants* Oh, these are 11’s. Okay, so today I’m an 11. Depending on hormones (yay pre-menopause), pain, whatever I decide to eat today, aliens, planetary alignment and possibly even gnargles – I might be a 14 tomorrow. For a while, I was fluctuating 20lbs every month.

      I had a doctor who watched my weight fluctuate, knew it was due to multiple factors, knew I was low-income and had just him and a terrible PCP who was more interested in my pain management than helping me with anything I was seeing her for, and kept telling me I needed to lose weight. Telling me to get on a “stairmaster” knowing that physically, it would put me in bed for a week, or worse, cause me to hurt myself to the point of needing hospitalization (or push the need for surgery that I couldn’t afford) and I was the main source of income for my family, so it would risk us being homeless again.
      He was the best doctor for my condition in the state. He retired recently. I’m actually glad. As much as I liked him, he was terribly fatphobic and didn’t help anyone on that issue.
      We know we’re not the slim, trim, picture-perfect bodies. We don’t need everyone reminding us.

  28. Arctic*

    LW5 I think you’ll be surprised at how few people notice. My friend got a significant reduction and even I, who knew all about it in graphic detail, wouldn’t have necessarily known if I didn’t know. You may get a few “did you lose weight” comments. And that’s more because clothes will fit differently. People don’t really note co-workers breasts. But they also drastically underestimate breast size, in general. That’s why Victoria’s Secret stays in business while selling little over a C.

    That being said you have nothing to be ashamed of. I don’t think you have to not say. But if you aren’t comfortable I wouldn’t sweat it.

    Best of luck! I have never known anyone who got the surgery who didn’t think it was the best decision they ever made (outside kids and spouses and dogs and such.)

  29. Anon Here*

    #3 – They’re prejudiced and they think it’s ok to mistreat you. Hold them accountable.

    I like to respond to ignorant comments by letting the person know they’re doing something wrong. “That’s a horrible thing to say.” “Why do you think it’s ok to speak to me that way?” “I hope I didn’t hear that correctly.”

    And it’s ok to talk to your manager about this at any time, especially if you’ve warned them and they continue. No one should have to put up with this kind of thing at work.

    1. Allypopx*

      Yes, I like this. Also “wow, that’s really rude” followed by silence. Make them fumble trying to justify it. Then, if they do, “No, it’s not okay for you to speak to me that way. Please stop.” and then walk away. If it comes up again “We’ve had this conversation. You need to stop.”

      After that, to me, it’s harassment and you can treat it as such.

    1. Joielle*

      Huh. Could you say more about that? I’m usually quick to jump on even hints of misogyny and I didn’t see it. It’s a female zombie but not really sexualized as far as I could tell?

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m squinting trying to figure out where you’re seeing it…

      Is it because it’s a woman and she’s eating a man? The whole “Man eater” idea? That’s my best guess?

      1. Free Meerkats*

        “It’s a female in a role that isn’t positive and life-affirming, so it’s obviously misogynistic.” would be my guess.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Yeah. That’s pretty much all I’ve got.

          If I hadn’t watched it, I would be wondering if it was a “sexy zombie” but no y’all, it’s not a “sexy” zombie.

  30. Rockin Takin*

    #5-
    I had a breast reduction 2 years ago, but I was able to get it covered by insurance because it was medically necessary due to severe shoulder and back pain.
    I went on short term disability for about a month, and only told my boss and coworkers that I was having surgery. I didn’t tell them what for. People generally respected this and when I came back no one really seemed to notice a difference (at least they didn’t say anything to me directly). I wouldn’t even bother saying it’s an elective surgery. If people pry, say it’s a surgery to correct a problem you have and leave it at that.
    I would suggest baggier clothes for the first month or so of recovery, since with the bandages, swelling, and the medical bra it looks a bit odd haha.
    Also congrats! I have no regrets and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Good luck and safe recovery!

    1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Yes, when I woke up from surgery and saw two small breasts, it was the best feeling. Lucky for me I wasn’t working at the time which helped my recovery and I didn’t have to answer any questions from co-workers. And honestly, no one noticed the difference.

      1. Rockin Takin*

        Even now, I look down and am like wow! They are so little! I also kept one of my old bras to remember how big they used to be, haha.
        It feels like such a big difference to the person who has the surgery, which makes it seen like everyone will notice. But really most people just mind their own business.

  31. CallofDewey*

    OP2- I was hired at my current job with only video interviews because the position was too low-level for them to fly me across the country. However, it took me months of applying to jobs in the new location before I found a job that was willing to. I’ve also considered candidates in that boat when hiring, but they are uncommon and hiring committees tend to avoid them because they can’t start as soon (which is more important in lower- level positions typically). So it’s worth a shot, but it’s much harder than local job hunting.

  32. CupcakeCounter*

    #5
    My coworker had this done a couple of years ago and she didn’t look at different as she feared she would upon her return. Felt much better but it wasn’t as noticeable as she was anticipating and she was quite relieved by that since she didn’t have to talk about her boobs all day when she returned. The early swelling helps with the the appearance change not being too drastic. Those of us who knew what she was getting could tell but we were also looking for it (sounds weird when typed out). Her improved posture also helped.
    She told several people she was having surgery to help with her back issues and has seen a major improvement in her health since the surgery.
    Good luck and I hope you have great results and feel better.

  33. Hlyssande*

    For #5, unsolicted advice: please don’t let yourself get pressured or convinced to come back earlier than you feel okay with. I had a reduction years ago, and went back to work way, way too early. It was Very, Very Unpleasant.

    For the advice you wanted, I don’t think you need to tell them exactly what the surgery is for. If someone pushes for details, they’re being a jerk and need to back off. It’s a surgery to correct a medical issue, that’s all they need to know.

    1. Rockin Takin*

      I took the full month off for recovery and I’m glad I did. Super uncomfortable that first month when the incisions are healing. And awkward.

  34. Anonimo*

    Re: the Halloween party, given how many people here are saying they don’t want to click on the link or else think the puppet in the link is upsetting, doesn’t it seem like it’s just not really appropriate for work full stop? Most things that aren’t really acceptable for a kids party (super sexy or overly gruesome costumes, people getting really drunk, etc) are also not ideal to have at an adults-only work party, so it seems like it shouldn’t really be a change in communication or the kids policy but a little more thought about planning the party regardless. If they plan an appropriate work party that’s accommodating of all employees, it will probably by nature be kid-friendly.

    1. Allypopx*

      Eh I don’t know I’ve seen that kind of puppet in storefronts, I’m not sure I’d put it on the same level as getting drunk at work. But parents should at least know ahead of time what the environment will be like.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      I think if the party said ‘no kids’, that may help people self-select out of it if they find hyper-violence or hyper-sexualization uncomfortable. It’s also a lot easier for an adult to leave or avoid the grossness than for an adult to wrangle children into leaving a party, even a party that makes the kids uncomfortable.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        If a work party said “no kids” I would assume it just meant “there will be beer” or “we haven’t kid-proofed the venue”. Unless they were really specific about this being a horror-themed Halloween party, I would be expecting a vaguely harvest-and-bats themed party with grownups.

    3. Observer*

      A lot of people seem to agree with you, and I definitely do think that this is absolutely true in mot work places.

  35. Mary Anne Spier*

    Oh my God, OP3, my heart goes out to you. I’ve been a size 18, a size 6, and everything in between. And everyone feels entitled to comment on my body and my choices, whether they’re saying I’m eating the wrong stuff, they’re glad to see my losing weight, etc. The only way I’ve ever been able to make it stop is by being explicit and blunt.

    Just last week I had to draw a huge boundary. I’m 40 but I look young, which means that those lovely older women at work feel like it’s totally fine to comment on my life. I picked up some peanut butter cups from a coworker’s office (she’s selling them for a fundraiser) and another woman in there said to me, “no no no!” I gave her this look of complete disbelief and said, “. She said, “What’s wrong? Has today been frustrating?” I said, “I can’t believe you feel like it’s OK to make a comment on my choices. That’s really not OK.” And then I walked away.

    Don’t even worry about being rude. They’re being rude. You’re minding your own business and they’re offering their opinions on something you didn’t ask for. If they don’t stop, consider it harassment and take it to HR.

    1. Allypopx*

      Good on you for responding well in the moment, that can be hard. People feel so entitled to comment on other people’s lives and choices it’s gross.

    2. Susan*

      I cannot believe the coworker said that. What is going through people’s minds? Do they not have enough going on in their lives that they have to police others?

  36. 5 Leaf Clover*

    OP #3, hello from a fellow fat person who loves food! I like Allison’s responses very much. I also love Miss Manners’s tried and true horrified “Excuse me??”, which has the benefit of being quite short and relatively easy to deliver. Sadly your coworkers sound intrusive enough that they may not pick up on even this, but it is a wonderful weapon to keep handy.

    1. AKchic*

      I prefer the “excuse you?!” method. Make it very clear that they are being rude, and you aren’t asking them to repeat themselves, but to check themselves.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I like “I beg your pardon,” because it applies everywhere, so you only have one phrase to memorize.
      But you can shade it into puzzlement, offense, coldness, dismissal…

  37. Rich*

    OP#2, unfortunately, I agree with Alison. My experience with a remote job search was very frustrating. A few years ago, I made a family-driven cross country move. I knew the date I’d be leaving one end of the country, the date I’d be arriving at the other end, where I’d be living, etc.

    Over the 3-4 months leading up to the move, I applied to 45 “really strong fit” jobs (I’m in a fairly specialized but competitive technical field). When I’d get a response from employers, I’d be really clear about my situation, including the already-done-deal of my arrival in the area for the new job. I ended up with 2 interviews — one in person, one video.

    So I moved with no job lined up.

    Post-move, it turned into a 40% interview rate and I had a start date in 7 weeks — including a waiting period for a background check. I was using the same resume, applying for the same sorts of jobs. It was a completely different job search experience.

    Nobody came out and said it, but it felt obvious to me that employers were concerned about “he’s not here yet, and the job has to be here”. Once I’d removed the location-based worry, they were much more willing to talk.

    1. LW#2*

      Rich, thank you so much for sharing your experience!

      I will admit I am in exactly the same situation as you were and I just didn’t detail it in my e-mail to Alison because I figured it was too much information that wouldn’t change the final answer. I live in country X and have been job searching for roles in country Y since May, and so far I only got two phone interviews. I applied to so. Many. Jobs. So many. I knew I was qualified to all of them, and the fact that I was being rejected without a first interview got me wondering if they weren’t considering me because I wasn’t living in Y yet – and according to the comments here, I was right. (I have a job permit to both live and work in Y, so concerns with visa isn’t it either)

      Moving to Y has been a really big goal of mine for a while, but I was extremely hesitant to move without a job. However, one thing led to another, and I decided to move to Y in January, right after the holidays, job or no job. I can, in theory, stay unemployed for about three months, but it would really put my mind at ease if I could get there with a job in my pocket, espeically because I’ll be staying at a friend’s house and I don’t want to impose for too long. I put in my resume that my location is “City Z – Country Y”, but my phone number has X’s area code, so I’m not sure how much that’s helping me.

      I hope being there means I get more interviews, like it happened to you! Fingers crossed!

  38. Smithy*

    OP #2 Being mindful of your skill set and profession – it might be worth taking this time to evaluate more specialized temp agencies. Identifying entities that fulfill temp roles that more strong align with your skills/professional ambitions may get you closer to having immediate work in January back in your city.

    For those phone and Skype interviews now would likely be ample to assess fit and just be far more likely to place you quickly.

  39. blink14*

    OP 3, what they are doing is rude, no matter the intention. And I think they’d probably comment no matter your size -for instance, if they felt someone was too thin, they may tell the person to “eat a sandwich”. Perhaps they might make rude comments about someone’s outfit or hairstyle.

    I would try to look at this more as these women think they have the right to make comments about other people’s choices, no matter the choice and no matter the person. Try to disengage from the personal level of it (I know that is really hard), and think “this person feels that they are entitled to criticize my choice, and that’s not right”. Pay close attention to how these women treat other people, and you may find they are just as rude to other co-workers. I had a boss who didn’t trust anyone and constantly criticized everyone she came into contact with. Once I realized this, her comments towards me personally, whiles still rude and inappropriate, rolled off me more easily because I approached her with the mindset of “this how she treats everyone”.
    Every time they comment on your food choices, or make any kind of rude, inappropriate comment, tell them it is none of their business. Stay with that line and keep repeating to them. Or don’t even engage with their comment. I personally would zealously eat whatever it was at the time with a big smile and say sarcastically “thanks for the tip!”

    I’ve been thin and I’ve been overweight, and there are people who have known me at both ends of the spectrum, family included, that criticize and comment on my weight, eating habits, exercise habits, etc no matter my weight or age. Dealing with being “overweight” in our culture can be a really negative experience. With age, I got to a point where I literally do not give a **** what people say to me. Maybe this because I’ve long dealt with chronic illnesses, and partially because I was never one to really care about other people’s opinions of me, but you only get one life. Do what you want and enjoy it.

    1. pcake*

      I used to be very thin, and you’re right – people did tell me I needed to eat more and things like that. Now I’m overweight, but I’m also less patient, so if someone who isn’t a truly concerned family member comments on what I what or how much I eat or that I need to exercise, I am glacial without being actively rude. But if they don’t get the message, blunt is on the table. I’ve been an adult for decades, and I don’t allow people to feel it’s okay to tell me how to behave.

      1. blink14*

        Agreed! I was always on the thinner side, but my weight started to fluctuate in college, and then I dropped about 25 pounds after college to the thinnest I’ve been as an adult. It was not an unhealthy weight, but looking back at pictures from that time, I find myself too thin, and I lost the weight a little too easily which I now know can be an early sign of a chronic disorder I was recently diagnosed with.

        Even then it was “wow you could look great if you tone up” or “keep up the good work losing weight”. Now, after gaining weight due to steroid complications and chronic illnesses, I get weekly comments about how working out would help me and cutting carbs would help. To family, I tell them I’ve lost 25 lbs in the past 2 years, and I get “oh well you must’ve gained it back”. Actually no, but thanks for the vote of confidence! Since gaining weight, I’ve become even more aware of the negative comments made about people’s physical appearances, and it’s really a major downfall of today’s culture. I think it’s far worse now than it was 20 years ago, largely due to social media and 24/7 media.

  40. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #4

    Is there any reason why you wouldn’t want to have two paid days where you get to “waste time”? If it were me, I’d be happy to have two paid days where I didn’t need to do anything, especially if I were working remotely. Spend those two days catching up on personal things before you start a new job, but be available if they need you for something.

    1. Kim*

      True – I think I’m just anxious to be done with this job. I left out a minor detail cause it’s confusing – but this summer my boss tried to force me out when they found out I was seeking an internal promotion. I refused to resign – HR couldn’t fire me – so we all agreed to “pretend this never happened” and move forward. So while I spent the last 2 months working hard (I’d been at the company for 5 years as a model employee with very good reviews) I’m still harboring a little anger about the whole “we can’t give you a promotion and we want you to be happy so you need to quit your job” escapade. But – that said – I can use the time if I’m stuck here to get my house in order and do some cleaning – run some errands – etc. So maybe I just need to flip my perspective. :-)

      1. Marissa*

        I agree with The Other Dawn. I definitely understand once you finished your projects you just wanted to be out of there, but if you’re leaving on decent terms don’t trip on the finish line! I don’t see an issue with asking if they’d prefer a Friday end date since you’re projects will be done, but I wouldn’t press or demand it. A couple days to check off some household to-do list items while getting paid to do it is a good perspective to have.

      2. Close Bracket*

        You can use the time if you are stuck there to drink mimosas (or whatever recreational, comfort drink floats your boat) and read trashy novels (ditto for recreational comfort reading). :)

        I do get the need to be free of them, though.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Having been in that spot where you’re anxious to put these dillweeds in you rear view mirror, I don’t blame you one bit if you do ask if you can leave early. Yeah a couple paid days doing nothing is nice [been there, done it multiple times], when it’s an ugly situation you’re leaving, the sooner the better, pay be damned.

  41. SongbirdT*

    For remote last day…

    Presumably, you have a little freedom and discretion on how you spend your time since you’re remote. So, log in to your laptop, and give yourself a couple of work from couch days while you catch up on Netflix and babysit your email and chat for those two days. Of course this isn’t something you’d make a regular habit of, but most employers aren’t going to bat an eye if you take it easy from home on your last couple days.

    Alternatively if the Netflix option doesn’t feel right to you, you could also use those two days to take advantage of whatever free training modules your employer might offer, or take some online classes you’ve been meaning to get to.

    Basically, take advantage of these paid days where you have some flexibility to spend them how you like. They don’t come around often!

    1. Kim*

      Good point!!! I really just wanted the week to myself to get things together but I could probably compromise as the Tuesday end date is actually 2 weeks and 1 day (I guess I was feeling guilty lol) but just do what I want for those final days and collect some extra pay.

  42. Kim*

    OP2

    Are you set on working on site or would you consider remote work? I’ve been remote for 12 years and I never met face to face with any of the employers until after I was hired. I did a few video interviews – which honestly – I don’t love – but for the job I just got everything was phone. So I guess if you are willing to be flexible it may work. Honestly though – I would probably wait until you were closer to home to start applying if you know that remote work is not for you.

  43. Detective Amy Santiago*

    OP3 – You won’t be the one hurting those relationships. Your coworkers are rude AF and you deserve to be treated with respect.

  44. Elenia*

    Alison always has polite scripts for doing this but I suggest not being as polite. If it’s over and over and obviously not meant from a kind place, I have put down my fork, and exclaimed, loudly, “Oh my god! Can I just enjoy my food or what?” They’ll say something like “Sorry, I was just trying to help,” and I’ll straight up respond, “It’s not helping, it’s annoying.” You don’t have to sound angry, just irritated.
    Sometimes it’s ok to show your annoyance, at genuinely annoying things!

    1. VictorianCowgirl*

      I disagree; this may be ok for family or friends, but at work it’s always best to stay as composed and professional as possible.

      1. juliebulie*

        The key words here are “as possible.” I would say in this case that OP’s coworkers who are not Mean Girls would agree that “OMG let me eat in peace!!” is as composed and professional as possible, under the circumstances.

  45. WellRed*

    OP 2, assuming you’re looking for jobs in the US, I feel like December is going to be difficult anyway, with end of year business stuff, holiday stuff, people taking time off for said holidays. Might be better to look around, but plan to have lining up a job take an additional month beyond your sabbatical. Good luck!

  46. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #3 – They are clearly putting a whole lot less effort into keeping a good relationship with you than you are in keeping a good relationship with them. Being very clear is not the same as being rude, and if they’re so fragile that they can’t handle you setting a firm, reasonable boundary like “do not make fun of what I eat,” please be very clear in your own mind that it’s a them (being bullies) problem, not a you (being somehow unreasonable) problem.

    That said, it’s a lot easier to say “don’t worry about their feelings” than it is to put it in practice in the workplace, where to some degree keeping good working relationships does matter and they may be tremendously bothered by you setting boundaries.

    Alison’s scripts are good ones, and imo it’s worth spending some political capital on pushing back and being clear that they’re being tremendously rude in doing this. Grownups should not comment on other grownups’ food except to say things like “that looks/smells delicious” or “hey, I’ve been trying to find that brand, where did you get it?”

    #5 – You don’t need to say anything just because you’ll look different. I had the same thought when I was gearing up to start binding at work (as that’s also an extreme change!), and in the end, the reaction I’ve gotten has been three people asking if I lost weight, and one commenting “You look different somehow… new haircut?” (lol) Especially since you’ll be out for two weeks, it’s very possible that no one will particularly remember what you looked like pre-surgery. As a rule people at work try not to notice other people’s breasts.

  47. Nicki Name*

    OP3, sometimes the food police will shut up if you have a handy buzzword to describe your eating practices. You can try telling them you’re practicing intuitive eating. (Because you are, and if they look it up they might learn a little bit about how unhealthy their attitude is.)

    1. Arctic*

      Oh, I’m on the Quaternarian diet. I can only eat food available to those living in the late Holocene period of the Quaternary era.

  48. Anna*

    LS3: I had coworkers like this when I was in my 20s and I’m still mad at how I tried to laugh it off and didn’t stand up for myself against their appalling bad behavior. Don’t worry so much about being nice and approachable. In your firmest, clearest voice, say, “commenting on other’s food choices and eating habits is very rude, you need to stop.” I’m so sorry this is happening to you. Please update us!

  49. Jennifer*

    #1 Those poor babies! This was just a lack of common sense or plain cruelty. We all were children once. I don’t have any myself but I would know that wasn’t appropriate for kids. Definitely say something.

    #5 I also had a reduction and took about a week off from work. I told my boss I was having a medical procedure. He was also male. Yes, I looked very noticeably different when I returned and I noticed some curious looks but it was still MY business and I didn’t talk to anyone at work about the specifics of the surgery. I wouldn’t even necessarily refer to it as an elective surgery, regardless of what your insurance company said. There is a lot of discomfort, physicial and emotional, related to having a larger chest.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      That’s a good point, about not specifically calling it an elective surgery. There’s a chance that it could prompt some pushback, like “but do you have to do it NOWWWW?” or similar. It’s just a surgery. You are getting it cause it will be better for your life than not getting it. Here’s how it will impact your work, and that’s what your boss needs to know.

      1. mrs__peel*

        “Elective” from a medical standpoint just means non-urgent, not that a procedure isn’t medically necessary for one’s health. Something like a gallbladder removal can technically be “elective” if it’s not an emergency and gets scheduled a few weeks in advance.

    2. Anna*

      It wasn’t cruelty and the kids will survive. The OP should speak up and recommend clarity in their descriptions of the party, and maybe some suggestions on what might be better or next year, but it’s not like they set up a party “for kids” and then made it terrifying for laughs.

      1. Jennifer*

        I’m sure the kids will survive but that doesn’t make this any less boneheaded. Telling someone they can bring their kids and then scaring the hell out of them is cruel, whether it was intentional or not. That fear was real, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal to us as adults. I still remember seeing a scary movie when I was that little at a friend’s house and not being able to sleep for weeks afterward.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          Yeah, and it’s the parents who have to deal with the fallout afterwards. I was so sleep-deprived for about the first 6 years of my kid’s life that if someone had pulled this nonsense and made it *even harder* for him to sleep (and by extension, me!) I think I would have just spontaneously combusted.

  50. Amethystmoon*

    #3 Ugh, the food police. I can emphasize, as I have spent literally decades (think when I was a teenager and am now in my 40’s) getting food policed. Even if I ate what the food police told me to eat, something was wrong with it. If I ate a 0 point vegetable salad with dressing on the side, and it was fat-free dressing, no cheese, no nuts, nothing naughty on the salad at all, I was told “should you be eating that” in a snide way by someone. This wasn’t at work but in a social situation.

    I’m not even that big. I’m average for the upper Midwest. I got food-chastised last week by someone at work, who has more power than I do, even when I had a diet pop and it was even one of the mini cans. Since this person had more power than me, I had to bite my tongue.

    There is nothing anyone who is not naturally a size 6 can ever do to make them happy. You have to live your life the way you want to. In general, the public needs to learn how to remain silent about other people’s food choices. If fad diets actually worked, everyone would be thin who wanted to be.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Ah yeah. My friend had an effing doctor say “you could afford to skip a few meals” awhile ago. It’s not what you’re eating in reality, it’s simply that you dare to eat at all.

      This is why I developed a bad habit of only eating secretly. I survived on sports drinks from 8a-2p from 6th-12th grade.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        I don’t do that, but I do make an effort to bring healthy food to work. I live by myself, so there’s really no secret eating when you have no roommates.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Only eating at home is what secretly eating is. So when you’re away from home for 8-10 hours a day, you don’t eat. I didn’t even bring food with me because I thought I’d get “caught” somehow and someone was going to see.

          I’ve heard comments directed towards overweight people that go along the lines of “Even with that rabbit food, you still haven’t lost any weight? What a shame…”

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          The good news is that it’s rare that doctors these days are so awful and big mouthed. I haven’t had any of them comment on my weight since my first gyno visit at 19. Then that woman wasn’t slim or fit by any sense of the words, so I was just pissed that she had the audacity to be such a hypocrite straight to my face, hah.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            You are very fortunate, then. I tried a new OBGYN a few months ago and was so surprised that she didn’t comment on my weight that I straight up asked her if she was going to say anything. It makes me sad to think about how incredibly relieved I was that she actually believed me when I told her I’m a runner and I don’t eat dairy or sugar. I shouldn’t be this excited that I finally found a doctor who affirms my healthy habits.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              I go to a medical network that drives home “service” and “bedside manner”, so that helps a lot. They’ve actively weeded out bad behavior and crappy attitudes on their staff. It’s a new thing but it’s catching on. They’re actively drilling it into new doctors.

            2. Mary Anne Spier*

              When I got a new gyn she asked if I had a GP. I said no, because we had recently moved to a new part of the state. She gave me a name of a person who was taking new patients. I said, “Is she going to be nasty because I’m fat?” She looked surprised and said no. When I wen to the new GP I told her I wasn’t there to talk about my weight and that I was told she wouldn’t be making nasty comments about it. She was really cool and said to ask her if I changed my mind and did decide to seek medical guidance. Since my blood pressure and cholesterol are fine, she didn’t dwell on it.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yeah, me too. Only I ended up big, and got bigger because of dieting, food policing and disordered eating.

  51. Third or Nothing!*

    OP3 – Honey, your coworkers are about as well meaning as Internet commenters who say being kind to your body is promoting obesity. You are allowed to have a healthy relationship with food. You are allowed to take up space in the world. And you are very much allowed to draw boundaries with people who think it’s OK to comment on your body.

    Parting phrase that’s been very helpful for me: Your body is an instrument, not an ornament.

  52. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #3 Is triggering my eating disorder. Their BS is the “monster in my closet” that had me petrified to eat around anyone who I don’t know well.

    I’m sorry you’re going through this. In my state of mind now, post recovery, I would light these witches up. Tell them to stop talking about things that are none of their concern.

  53. Observer*

    #3 – A lot of people are commenting that your coworkers don’t really mean well. And that’s probably true. But, it’s important to keep in mind that it REALLY does NOT matter! It also does not matter whether your food choices are a good idea, healthy, or even appropriate for you. It is NOT their place to get involved here!

    What they are saying and doing is rude and out of line. Period. Which means that when (not if) you get push back about how they “just worry” or “it’s so unhealthy” or the like, you should not engage. Even if it’s true, it does not matter! It’s about as relevant as “But squirrels are sooo cute!” Sure, lots of people find them cute, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to tell you what you are “allowed” to eat!

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      True! Meaning well doesn’t give anyone a pass when they do something intrusive, mean, offensive, etc..

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yes! This. Exactly. They are meddlesome, no matter which way you cut it and it’s not acceptable behavior, regardless of where their intentions are rooted.

    3. Parenthetically*

      Yup. Anywhere on the spectrum from naive but well intentioned to actively malicious — doesn’t matter. They don’t get to comment on your food choices.

  54. Jennifer*

    #5 To everyone saying she probably won’t look that different afterward – we actually don’t know that. Many people do look very different after this surgery, and I hate to break it to you but women with larger chests do get noticed a bit more around the office, whether that’s right or not. It’s life. She does need to prepare herself in case she gets some strange looks/comments.

    1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I had breast reduction surgery, two-plus pounds in total were removed. It was a big difference but no one commented on it if they did notice. Absolutely no one in my immediate family noticed and one sister refused to believe I had the surgery until I showed her the scars. People aren’t as observant as they think they are.

      1. Jennifer*

        I’m sure there are people that have had it done where it was not noticeable. That was not my experience and it’s not everyone’s experience. It’s better to be prepared for it, imo. People do look at boobs at work, lol. People seem to be in denial about that.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The real key is the fact that rarely are you going to have someone who’s brazen enough to mention your chest at work. Which a lot of commenters are talking about first hand, having even went so far as to start binding and having no comments made.

      That said, yeah people may still actually notice but they know their role isn’t to talk about someone’s breasts.

      1. Jennifer*

        Yes, most people aren’t going to say anything to you directly, if they do, that’s a straight to HR situation, but I had a lot of people that never really spoke to me that much before coming up to my desk and inventing reasons to speak to me so they could sneak a peek at the new girls. It was obvious that people noticed and word had gotten around. I found it hilarious but I know for some people that would make them uncomfortable.

    3. Parenthetically*

      A friend of mine had a breast reduction 10ish years ago, and 95% of people who said anything asked if she’d lost weight. I agree it’s good to be prepared, but also I feel like so many people aren’t going to have the gumption to say, “Hey, did you get your boobs done?” at work!

      1. Jennifer*

        Yes, I said most people won’t come out and say it, but people will notice, which means comments on her appearance like you mentioned, and weird looks.

  55. Mike*

    Re #2: We just did another round of interviews and it did involve interviewing a few people via video conferencing. They were very much at a disadvantage and it didn’t even involve prejudices. With every one we had connection or audio problems and had to repeat questions or couldn’t quite hear the person. We also couldn’t give the person a printed copy of the questions (though that one we are thinking about how we could do it via video in the future).

    In the first round we had someone who was a really strong candidate that was out of the country (on vacation) when we wanted to do interviews so everyone agreed to do a video conference. We then brought them in for a second in-person interview when they got back.

    While we worked hard to not hold the conference issues against the person the reality is that it does ding them just for having a harder time getting all the information and picture of the person.

    1. LW#2*

      Yeah I can imagine it doesn’t help candidates when connections are choppy and hardware is malfunctioning; it’s tough to get a clear image of what the person is like remotely already, and when stuff like that happens it’s just a double strike. I’ve been trying to make it up by being an awesome candidate all-around.

      Maybe if I start job searching now I can schedule a final interview around January. I would like to already have something lined up by then, but if not it’s not the end of the world.

    1. Nicki Name*

      Thank you for that link! “If I want to talk to the food police, I’ll call Pie-1-1” is definitely a phrase that needs to be more widely used.

  56. LawyerSadFace*

    OP #3 – just a note of encouragement. YOU’VE GOT THIS! Boundaries are hard but very necessary; this is a great opportunity to work that uncomfortable muscle.

  57. Vicky Austin*

    “I don’t want to hurt my relationships with these women by being overly blunt”

    Sometimes, you have to be overly blunt. Being polite hasn’t worked, and not to mention p, they have no problem being overly blunt to you.

    1. ceiswyn*

      Also, they clearly aren’t bothered about hurting their relationships with you by, esseentially, bullying you over food.

  58. Elenna*

    Well, at least Allison’s response to OP2 validates my decision to not take my planned two-month post-graduation trip after the job I was counting on fell through… *sigh* Maybe I can do it in bits and pieces in later years.

  59. AKchic*

    Letter 3: You pride yourself on being approachable and nice. I think you’ve crossed over into being “doormat” territory. These women wouldn’t be saying any of this to you if you were an older man, or a meek younger man. If you were a young, aggressive man, or even a more assertive you, they wouldn’t say these things. If you were a peer of their own age, they wouldn’t say this. They are being bullies. This is troll-concern, not real concern. They are trying to get you to share about yourself so they can find more to pick at. So they can mold you into what they want. So they have more control and power. They know what they are doing, but they are using the motherly concern as their plausible deniability.

    So, do not be “nice” anymore about this. Be direct. “Your concern has been noted daily since I started here. Why are you so focused on my eating habits and body?” Stare directly at the speaker. Put your fork down and wait. Hold eye contact. Make it uncomfortable. You are returning the uncomfortable to the sender here, because really, you didn’t start this, she did by continually harassing you about your food choices and your choice to actually eat. She will probably try to stammer out a “well, I want you to be healthy” or “I’m only joking”. Be direct about both “I don’t recall you being at any of my doctor appointments or telling you I was unhealthy. What makes you think I’m unhealthy?” Call. Her. Out. Make her explain. For the “only joking” don’t let her off. “No, you’re not joking. A joke doesn’t center on the same bullying subject every day for X months. Why is me eating so offensive to you?” For the health, she will balk. “I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just concerned. I was only trying to help!” Don’t let her off. “No, you were being unkind. I should have shut you down, but I assumed you would have figured it out on your own. You weren’t being helpful. You aren’t concerned. You need to stop. I don’t want to hear another word about what I eat, how often I eat, the fact that I eat at all, my weight, or anything about my appearance at all. Thanks.”
    For the “joking” you will probably get something along the lines of “you’re too sensitive. you can’t take a joke” and you can easily say “I can take a joke when it’s funny. You aren’t funny when you’re engaging in bullying behavior. You need to stop. I don’t want to hear another word about what I eat, how often I eat, the fact that I eat at all, my weight, or anything about my appearance at all. Thanks.”
    Also, let your manager / HR know what’s been going on, because once you do push back, there is going to be tension and possibly push-back and fall-out. You want to get ahead of it. You aren’t reporting, you’re just giving the head’s up that you’ve been dealing with it and you’ve made your first push-back to stop it. You’re hoping it does stop, but in case it doesn’t, you want it known.

  60. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

    m I the only one who saw that puppet as fairly tame? It’s pretty easy to see it as a puppet to me and would have been as a child as well.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I know a lot of kids who have so much imagination inside of them, that they would have night terrors from this kind of thing. Especially depending on how the adult attached to it was acting. You can’t expect kids to be able to tell fantasy from reality until they’re closer to 10 or 12. A 5 year old would be terrified AF. I know my youngest nieces would have been crying and begging to go home.

      As an adult, I rolled my eyes and see where it would be fine at an adult party though. It reminds me of something that belongs in a haunted house and not just a family oriented holiday party.

      But no, you’re def not the only one who feels like it’s tame and not a big deal! That’s exactly why the company wasn’t fussed about it seemingly and that’s why we have the OP asking if they should say anything about it. Obviously they thought it was okay for their holiday party that’s billed as kid-friendly.

      I grew up with uncles who lived to scare the living hell outta us. So I would assume that it’s either someone thinking that it’s tame like you mention or someone who finds it hilarious to make kids scream in terror.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I am positive that my 24yo son, who’s way into Halloween, would’ve loved Sally and probably put her in his room as decoration – today. At two years old, he’d have been terrified out of his mind if Sally “lunged’ at him.

    3. Pomona Sprout*

      I think it’s horrifying! I literally would have been terrified, maybe even traumatized by that thing as a child. I don’t know if you watched the video, but that danged thing is life sized and can evidently be manipulated in ways that make it look like it really is alive. I am sure I would have run screaming from it if I encountered it as old as age 10, and even as a teenager, it would have freaked/grossed me out. Below the age of 10, I would probably have legit been traumatized.

      I wouldn’t really even want to be in the same room with it now. But then I hate zombie anything. Zombie movies, zombie tv shows are all a huge pile of nope afaic. And of course, when I was growing up, Halloween was a lot tamer than it is now, in that people weren’t vying to see who come up with the grossest, bloodiest costumes and decorations. I never got exposed to anything nearly as horrible as that doll during my whole childhood, and rarely as an adult, because I deliberately try to avoid it (i.e., I don’t go to gross horror movies or Halloween haunted houses that feature that kind of stuff.

      I’ve always loved Halloween, but what I love about is it the fantasy aspect of getting dressed up as someone or something I’m not.The blood and gore and mayhem that seems to be getting more and more prevalent? Nope, nope, nope. Different strokes for different folks! :-D

    4. Meepmeep*

      I see it as tame, but I’m a grownup. When I was a kid, I think I would have been scared to see such a thing. I remember being scared of all sorts of weird things when I was 4.

  61. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

    #2: FWIW, people at my company get hired via video interviewing all the time for entry to mid-entry level roles. But I agree there’s is general bias against video interviewing, which in my opinion, should become outdated. Bias against non-local candidates perpetuates socioeconomic disparities,

    1. LW#2*

      I think your comment got cropped, but that’s really great to know! I think it truly depends from company to company – one of the companies I interviewed at said right away that it wasn’t an issue that I wouldn’t be able to interview in person. But I do understand why it’s not the same, and why it’s a huge disadvantage. Connection issues, audio issues, they all make the whole experience feel super underwhelming compared to when you interview someone in person (which is why I’m trying to be better than everyone else that applies to the same job as I do by following Alison’s interview instructions and writing killer cover letters and personalized thank-you e-mails).

      I do agree that bias plays a part in it as well though, and as someone who more or less needs a job before relocating it frustrates me that companies won’t even grace me with a first interview before rejecting me, even if I fit the job description down to a T.

      1. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

        I would still recommend doing it, because you never know – it could work out and they could hire you! Also, video interviewing is becoming more and more common nowadays, so I don’t think it will be as much as a disadvantage in the future as it is now.

        I think what got cropped was some small hot take on socioeconomic disparities in hiring, which is probably not as important now.

  62. Anon this time*

    OP#5: I have had breast reduction, and it will not be that obvious to most people. Nobody commented on it when I was back at work or pretty much ever. I definitely don’t think you need to volunteer what it is, and agree that “I’m just having a medical procedure done” is enough. I think you’re wise to take a couple of weeks, but I probably only needed 3 days off. Working from home was a blessing after that, however, as you’re pretty sore and uncomfortable for longer than you think.

  63. Carolyn Dean*

    I just wanted to comment that breast reduction surgery is NOT completely optional. There may be significant health benefits from reduction. Your doctor can help explain to you or to your insurance company whether the improvement may be essential to your continued health improvement. Depending on how your doctor codes this surgery, your insurance may pay for it.
    Regardless, it is no one else’s business exactly what surgery you are having. All they need to know is when, and how long you might be out. And a side note – if the doctor says two weeks(or whatever), don’t try to come back in less time. Take all the time you need to recuperate from major surgery.

  64. LW#2*

    Alison, LW#2 here!

    First and foremost, thank you so much for publishing my letter. I made several plans around this relocation but unfortunately some of my calculations were a bit off and I don’t have as much saved up as I would’ve liked. But it’s nothing too bad; I can stay about three months unemployed because I’ll be staying with friends while I job search. January would be ideal because it means I’d be able to bring more of my personal items with me, I wouldn’t have to worry about my admittedly-limited funds slowly depleting as time goes by, and I wouldn’t have to worry about bothering my friend and their family while I occupy their guest bedrooms as I job search. But it won’t be the end of the world, and I’ll manage to get by.

    I’ll job search a little throughout November and December but I won’t count on it, like you said. Hopefully I’ll be able to schedule some in person interviews for January. Fingers crossed!

  65. LogicalOne*

    It still baffles me how people’s common sense does not kick in, like an instance where everyone is invited to this Halloween party. If it was just the staff who were allowed at the party, it would make sense to have it a little scarier but inviting everyone and anyone should make you think…..hey there may be people who can’t handle this or that so let’s make it not scary.

  66. nonegiven*

    1.

    Dear Halloween party committee;

    I will be attending the Halloween party, myself. I will not be bringing my kids as they are still in therapy over the last one.

    1. Luna*

      I’m… kinda wondering if a bit of a language miscommunication was here? If I hear ‘Kid-friendly’, especially in regards to Halloween, I would assume kid to refer to anything school age onward (6/7 years old+), not toddlers or infants.

  67. Batgirl*

    Op3, there are five strengths of response I’d consider. If they persist; go hard.
    1) “Ha ha; good one – it sounded like you were trying to tell me what I can and can’t eat for a minute there!” (Anyone remotely well meaning will catch on to what they are doing and back off shame faced).
    2) “Huh, why not?” (Walk away mid response)
    3) *Po-faced* “There’s that weird thing where you tell me I can’t eat something that I definitely am eating. It’s an existential crisis I tell ya.
    4) “Uh.. it sounds like you are trying to get me to change my eating habits. That’s quite rude and uncalled for.”
    5) “Why do you feel entitled to police what I eat to the point of rudeness and unprofessionalism?” (Any response can be met with “It’s a rhetorical question. I don’t care what makes you feel entitled”)

  68. Mayflower*

    OP #3 (my coworkers tell me not to eat what I’m eating),

    I hope it will help you to know that as a skinny person I also get rude comments about food. It’s almost as though you can’t get ever get it just right when you are a woman…

  69. Pineapple Incident*

    OP #5 – I’ve heard reductions can be life-changing for folks who need them – I wish you a successful surgery and speedy recovery. I remember reading on this site on another post that a woman who’d scheduled surgery in advance spent the 2 months prior wearing minimizer bras and dressing in such a way that her change was less obvious. That particular poster said her colleagues didn’t even notice because of what she’d done, and she planned to say it was related to weight loss if she’d received any comments in the future. I’m sure there are lots of cases where this isn’t realistic, but if you’re changing 2-3 cup sizes instead of 6 or something, may work! Good luck to you and take care.

  70. Luna*

    #3 – Stop attempting to joke. Stop being polite. Heck, be aggressive, if necessary. Bluntly tell them, “I don’t care about your opinion regarding my food.” whenever they start.

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