coworker is wearing BDSM jewelry, employers wants to post photos of my kids, and more

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

1. My coworker is wearing jewelry that signifies a dominant/submissive relationship

I recently realized that one of my coworkers wears D/s jewelry every day. (Funny enough, I wouldn’t have recognized it had I not been a devout reader of your blog and read the letter from the person asking about wearing a collar to work!) Now that I’ve noticed the jewelry, I feel like I can’t un-notice it. I’m all for people living their own best lives, but overt sexuality at work makes me incredibly uncomfortable. (Can I blame my Catholic upbringing? Because I’d really like to blame my Catholic upbringing.) I work with this person regularly and am on friendly terms with them. We don’t discuss our personal lives with each other, so I would feel weird bringing up the issue of the jewelry. While we both work for a children-focused nonprofit, my coworker doesn’t interact with the public in any way. I think my concern is too petty and intrusive to bring to HR. Any tips on how to “get over“ the discomfort?

You’re right that it’s definitely not something you should bring up with HR or raise with your coworker.

I don’t know exactly what the piece of jewelry is, but there’s no guarantee that she’s wearing it to signify a dominant/submissive relationship! That stuff isn’t exclusively for D/s relationships, so it’s possible she just saw it and liked it. In fact, there were a bunch of commenters on that previous letter saying they owned similar jewelry with no symbolism attached.

So to get over your discomfort, why not decide that’s likely the case here? There’s a decent chance it really is and that your coworker would be horrified (or just amused) to find out how you’re interpreting it.

2. Employer wants to post photos of my kids online

I have a strict policy of my children’s images not being posted online. I learned, today, that my husband’s brand new employer is asking why he doesn’t have pictures of his children on his Facebook page, wants him to post pictures of his children online, and plans to take family pictures of us and post them on their website and Facebook page. I in no way want my husband to feel like the odd man out or to negatively impact their “family friendly” company marketing in any way. However, I don’t feel that I can compromise my children’s safety or happiness. Do you have any suggestions for how we navigate this?

My husband’s company is not one that relates to kids in any way. (Think roofers or similar.) They are a small, local company and are trying to show that they are all local families who are invested in the community so folks will choose them over some larger, multi-state company.

You’re completely entitled to keep photos of your kids offline!

Can he blame this on “family policy”? As in, “My wife and I have a strict family policy that we don’t post photos of our kids online.” He could add, “I’d be glad to appear in photos myself though” if he’s willing to do that.

It sounds like he might not have given them a clear “no, we’re not going to do this” yet, so hopefully once he does, they’ll back off. If for some reason they don’t, he can get firmer: “It’s just not an option for me. I share the company’s family-friendly values, and that means I can’t violate my family’s rules on this.”

3. I no-called/no-showed a shift for my sister’s mental health crisis and I’m panicking

I am a college senior who has read your blog since my senior year of high school. It has helped me land several internships during college, including the part time job where I’m working now. It’s a small business run by two amazing women who I want to emulate someday. I work at the front desk checking in clients and occasionally do the same for one-off workshops they run. I just started in September so while I have a good track record so far, it’s not a lengthy one.

Cut to yesterday afternoon, when I got a call from my mom saying my younger sister had attempted serious self-harm. She’s physically okay now, but since I go to school up the street from her, my mom wanted me to go and be with her until she and my dad could get there, which of course I did. I was scheduled to work a one-off shift that night, and in all the panic (we initially weren’t sure what hospital she was taken to or who took her there) I completely forgot about letting the owners know what was happening. As I was waiting with my sister in the ER, I noticed I had many missed calls … and that I had completely no call/no showed for the workshop. I felt terrible and called them back, giving them a very brief outline of what happened and apologizing profusely. It went to voicemail. The next day, I sent a longer email explaining what had happened and again apologizing.

They wrote back and told me that it was okay, that obviously this was an emergency. The exact quote was “Last night, the instructor and participants were all locked outside of the door, and we honestly just didn’t know you weren’t going to arrive. It sounds like today, the case was you were not able to call us, and time swept you away and you forgot, so thank you or explaining that to us. I am sure this is out of character for you as described, and we understand life can happen. So again, thank you for the email and please, lets just wipe the slate clean and move forward, as I know it was a unique circumstance. I hope you sister is okay — sending good wishes.”

But my anxiety over it is making me ill. I’ve NEVER done anything like this at a job and I’m scared they’ll hold it against me in the future for shifts or when I need a job recommendation this spring as a new graduate. So I guess my question is in two parts: 1. Did I handle this correctly? 2. How do I move forward? I’m so mortified and I have no idea how to act or what to say at my next shift.

You handled it correctly. Calling as soon as you realized what had happened and then sending a more detailed email the next day were both the right moves.

I would take them at their word that they know life happens (it does!) and that they believe this is out of character for you. That last part is the thing that really matters — if you had a track record of unreliability, this might be different, but if they know you to generally be reliable and responsible, it should be easy for them to understand what happened and not think this is the start of a pattern of you not showing up. Something very serious happened in your family, and they get that. Let them give you that grace!

If you want to address it again in person, you could say, “I want to thank you for being so understanding about last week. I was horrified when I realized I’d missed my shift — I’m really grateful that you know that’s out of character for me, and I’ll make sure that never happens again.” But then it’s okay to move on. Be careful about being highly reliable the rest of the time you work there, and it shouldn’t be an issue moving forward.

4. My coworkers are pressuring me to bring a date to the office Christmas party

I am currently single and a lot of my coworkers are married or in relationships. We have an upcoming Christmas party. Everyone keeps wondering why I would want to go by myself. They say, “Why would you want to go alone?” “Don’t you want to have someone to talk to at the party?” It’s a party, I go to socialize with other people. When I’ve had a significant other, I don’t spend the entire party just talking to them, I talk to the other party goers. And what is wrong with going alone? One of the people who keeps bothering me about this went alone last year because she and her husband were fighting. Am I missing something? When did it become bad to go to a work party alone?

They are being weird, and frankly kind of rude. It’s not at all strange to attend a work party without a date. (And really, subjecting a date to an office holiday party is not typically an awesome time for the date.)

5. Can I ask for feedback as a freelancer?

I have a question about professional development as a freelancer in a creative role. I’ve worked with a major client of mine for several years, and generally get enthusiastic feedback from them on my work. The company culture is effusive in general, so I take feedback like “Amazing!” and “You’re a genius!” to mean that they’re very happy with what I’ve produced for them. If something isn’t quite right or needs changes, they give clear notes so I can make adjustments. I have a great rapport with my contacts at this company and would very much like to keep working with them as long as I can.

That said, I know there’s always room for improvement. I regularly look over my recent work and their feedback on it to suss out ways I can grow (especially since the work I do for them has to reflect their brand’s style, which has recently evolved), but like everyone, I’m limited to my own perspective and can’t see every issue.

I don’t expect my client to give me any kind of performance review, but I sometimes wonder if there’s an appropriate way to initiate a short conversation about their level of satisfaction overall and give them an easy opportunity to bring up any big-picture issues that I could resolve. I thought about soliciting feedback from folks in similar roles who work elsewhere, and while this would definitely be helpful, it won’t give me insight into my client’s point of view.

I’m hesitant because (1) I don’t know if this is inappropriate — would I just be giving my busy contact another task on their to-do list, one that I should be handling on my own time? (2) They keep hiring me, so they must be getting what they need out of my work, right?

What do you think? Should I try to have this conversation, in the hope that I’ll learn whether there’s something I’m missing (or get assurance that I’m on track)? Or is this just my low-grade impostor syndrome rearing its head, certain that there must be *something* wrong?

You’re right that it wouldn’t be appropriate to expect a performance review from a client, but you can definitely say something like, “I’d love to talk about how things are going overall and whether there’s anything I could do differently that would make my work stronger for you.” You might just hear “No, everything’s great,” in which case there’s not a lot of room to push for more — in that case you’re likely dealing with someone who’s (a) busy, since thinking through useful feedback can take real time and effort and (b) is happy enough with your work that this isn’t eliciting an immediate “Well, since you asked…”

But it’s definitely fine to broach the subject and express interest in hearing feedback if any comes to mind for them.

There are also vendors who do annual surveys inquiring about how things are going and where they could do better, and that’s an option too — but a lot of people ignore those and you might get better results from the direct conversation route.

{ 494 comments… read them below }

  1. PurpleMonster*

    #5 – I work as an independent and one of my clients schedules these with me! So obviously they see value in it. So do I – it’s great to get some feedback on stuff to watch for (some of the work is a bit repetitive and it’s easy to get a bit lazy without realising) and it’s an opportunity for me to sort out things like how they could improve their briefing, etc.

    Suggest scheduling a quick call to discuss. Especially if you present it as a way to give better service, I’m sure they’ll be very open to it.

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      When I did freelance/contract I scheduled a short, quarterly check in with clients just to make sure we were on the same sheet of music. I found it really helpful and I think they did too. Possibly because since they had it on their calendar they could take the time to reflect on the situation before the meeting?

    2. T. Boone Pickens*

      I do year end wrap up meetings with my clients (in person if possible/digitally if not) and use them as a multifaceted tool. I touch on year in review/appropriate metrics and we go over any particularly big hits or misses (which allows for feedback). The meetings also act have a strategy function as we discuss what the next calendar year looks like in case there are major changes. Lastly it gives me an opportunity to thank them for their business. As a fellow freelancer I totally sympathize with you because even though being told, “You’re doing great! No complaints!” is wonderful to hear, I think it’s natural for lizard brain to kick in a bit and wonder if everything is truly great. While my clients seem to genuinely enjoy these meetings, I also get a ton out of them and it allows my clients to look at hopefully look at me as a valued business partner and not just “someone we call when we need something done” if that makes sense.

      I hope you continue to experience success in your venture!

    3. Some Director*

      This is a tough one.

      I agree with Allison’s answer. That said…

      I hire a lot of freelancers as full-time employees and I give a LOT of feedback. Sometimes they react pretty badly (resistant, defensive or even angry) because they’re not used to getting in-depth feedback from clients.

      Which, yeah, that’s not your clients’ job to train you. Giving thoughtful feedback takes a LOT of time and energy.

      But freelancers often get stuck in their bubbles and don’t realize the gaps in their skills.

      If you’re a freelancer and you really want to get better, maybe look for a course or a mentor.

  2. Lena Clare*

    2. Oooo my blood is boiling at this. I like Alison’s scripts – please do use them and let us know the outcome!
    As an aside, I’m not on Facebook for a myriad of reasons but social pressure from others is one of them, including that weird mix of work and personal life which always seems intrusive to me, even if you’re friendly with your colleagues.

    1. valentine*

      They’re being weirdly aggressive (do I smell a mandatory family pix day?) and “We have SOs and kids” says little about them as a business.

      1. Mookie*

        Right. It’s sort of assumed people have families everywhere.

        If this is a local business competing with larger, more remote or regional peers, this isn’t the kind of strategy that pays any substantive, meaningful dividends. It’s just daft pandering. Why not just bid competitively and use their local connections to somehow sweeten the pot (reducing fees for travel or shipping or summat)? If they want to act like hiring locally is somehow a philanthropic gesture (it isn’t and they are not a charity; they are paying wages in exchange for good work they’re presumably proud of), they can sponsor local events. They can make sure to advertise that they buy materials made or harvested locally. If they want to humanize their staff, they can profile them minus their families.

        1. MK*

          Off topic, but I don’t understand why people think that a small local firm should always be cheaper than a large national (or international) one. It’s often very hard for them to compete with the price reductions or extras that the larger companies offer.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            I know, right? I’d much rather pay more for something at our local, family owned hardware store than save a few cents by going to Home Despot!

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              Amen to that! We try to shop and eat local as much as possible in our family. We have built relationships with many store and restaurant owners in our neighborhood. They’ve watched our daughter grow from a teeny tiny newborn to a feisty toddler and always ask about her if she’s not with us. It feels good to have this little community around us.

            2. Artemesia*

              I used to do this and still do with local book stores, but the local businesses in our area are so unremittingly committed to far right (and I think racist and sexist) politics that paying more for stuff has less charm than it did.

            3. Door Guy*

              I shop at my local stores mainly because I live in the middle of nowhere and it’s over an hour round trip just to drive to a big box store. That said, I still shop at those big box stores as well because even with the gas and time commitment, it’s still cheaper for anything but the most basic or emergency needs. When updating the electrical in my house this last summer, I ran about 60 feet short of one of the wires (my house has oddly laid out conduit so very hard to judge how much you need), and my options were to drive 30 miles to Menard’s and buy an entire 1000 foot roll for $37 or go to my local store (which I did check first) and pay $0.37/ft for the exact same brand wire. (They also had entire rolls on the top shelf priced at $370 each as well) I’m all for giving back to the community but I’m not going to pay 1000% mark up.

              I support my local businesses as best I can, but at the end of the day, I only have so much money to spend and I have a duty to my family far greater than my local businesses.

            4. Dust Bunny*

              I do when they have what I want/need! But I mostly buy hobby supplies and books, and while there’s a good regional new-and-used book chain (not a big box) here, there are very few small bookshops that don’t specialize in things that don’t particularly interest me (one is all mysteries; one is all technical books; many are Christian, etc.). And I can get expensive fabric at smaller shops but if I want a bolt of muslin, it has to be either a big hobby chain or online. Buttons or zippers? Hobby chain or online; there are exactly zero independent shops around that sell them. Since I sew, I rarely buy clothes, and I’m not even sure where I’d find an small shop that sold clothes other than formals.

            5. Sharrbe*

              Not to mention the fact that Home Depot, Lowe’s are overwhelmingly big. If you can’t find an employee – it’s whole lot of wandering.

              1. Door Guy*

                I have a harder time getting employee assistance at my small local than I do at the big stores. I’m usually fending off help at Menard’s or Home Depot, and have to hunt in my local little hardware store. It’s not that they aren’t helpful (they are just as, if not more, helpful), it’s that there’s just not many people working so very easy for them to get tied up, and even the cashier gets in on helping so I have to wait to check out while they assist someone else.

                1. Junior Assistant Peon*

                  Home Depot workers are basically just shelf stockers and cash register operators. If you have any questions, the workers in mom & pop hardware stores are usually much more able to give you advice beyond telling you which aisle something is in.

              1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                Oh, it was intentional; we usually call it that just to throw shade at big box stores, even though I will go there if I need to and they’re usually quite pleasant.

          2. emmelemm*

            Yeah, there’s almost no way a small, local business can be significantly *cheaper* than a big corporation. Economies of scale and all. It could give you more value for the money in various ways, though.

            1. Decima Dewey*

              When I needed a new lamp, I went to Home Depot and wandered around until I found the relevant aisle. When I had to fix something in my toilet, I went to the neighborhood hardware store and described what I needed. The employee there led me to just what I needed, and told me that, when I installed the new piece of hardware, instead of “righty tighty lefty loosy”, for this piece it was the other way around.

            2. Junior Assistant Peon*

              People think Home Depot will be cheaper than a small store, but it often isn’t. Depends on what you’re buying.

      2. Nanani*

        If the SOs and kids all exhibit a certain uniformity, it might say things about the business.

        Can’t say from the letter alone, but this kind of pressure to show a Normal Family TM can be exclusionary of people in non-traditional families, because now you have to also factor in being publically out. That weight just isn’t there for conventional families.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Yuuup. This kind of thing can be a not so subtle way to say “look, we’re all wholesome Traditional Families! None of Those Icky Gays or sinful single moms or selfish childless types!”

      3. AKchic*

        It’s the “these are your friends and neighbors. Your *kids* play with their kids. Hire us so we can keep paying them to live in your neighborhoods!” kind of thing. It’s a subtle guilt trip. The more kids/dependents, the better.

    2. Aphrodite*

      One way to get around this, if you two are willing, is to offer to shoot photos where only the back or side of the child can be seen. You see this in photos like a child running into a parent’s outstretched arms. You’d need someone you trust to take the photos but there are lots of opportunities to show that “family” pose without exposing your children to online presence.

      Note, however, that my opinion is that of (1) an adamantly childfree person, and (2) a social media hater and avoider.

      1. EPLawyer*

        The kids aren’t employees. The employer does not have rights to the entire family. The family has a strict no kids online policy which is fantastic. Once something is posted online you have no control over what is done with it. Privacy settings are meaningless. A friend can share it, and who knows who will see it and then do who knows what with it.

        These kids do not exist for the company’s marketing benefit. Their safety is more important than any marketing campaign.

        1. darsynia*

          I didn’t get the impression that Aphrodite didn’t understand the letter writer’s misgivings, so you coming down on them like they don’t is odd. I saw the suggestion as a way to ease workplace tensions in an anonymous way (for example, a picture just showing their feet, or a silhouette) so that the letter writer didn’t worry about angering their boss if they felt like they couldn’t give a hard no. The hope is always that your employer is reasonable or will understand when you don’t want to compromise at all, but it’s not disrespectful or ignorant to offer alternative suggestions, in my opinion.

      2. Quill*

        Honestly I think a blanket “No” is more likely to get you where you need to be than offering a compromise here.

        1. cmcinnyc*

          Agree. Come up with some mealy compromise on something that involves your kids? Not good. If my husband came to me with this wimp salad he would have two problems: his overly aggressive work marketing department grabbing everyone’s kids as unpaid models, and his highly irate wife.

    3. T2*

      OP2. Allison is correct. A simple No, we aren’t doing this period and it is not up for discussion or debate will suffice.

      1. Do I need a hard hat for this?*

        It may be good for the company to hear a no from someone. Maybe there were other employees who didn’t love the idea but who didn’t push back! The company may be completely oblivious to their employees’ discomfort.

        1. Wintermute*

          It’s also good for them to hear that this might not be a good idea or they might be asking something that has negative repercussions!

          Too many people are completely ignorant of the privacy tradeoffs of using social networking sites, they don’t realize the depths to which they sink or the potential risks.

    4. Bagpuss*

      Yes, it’s odd to me that they think this is necessary / appropriate. I am the part owner of a smallish business and one of the things we do promote is that we are locally basd and owned, and support our local communitis ( a lot of competitors are owned by big, national companies)

      But we do it by, y’know, actually supporting our local community. We sponsor our local cricket, rugby and football teams, our local Pride, the music fesitval, the beer festival and the Winter Fayre We encourage our staff to suggest groups / events for us to support and one of the things we take into account in deciding who to support is if staff members are involved with the organisation or event.

      We do ask for photos of the events we sponsor, and ideally will have staff members in those pictures, but we don’t publish and pictures without consent. I think almost the only pictures of employees families have been where they are incidental – e.g. some years ago we were sponsoring a local swimming club, and were invited to present the trophies / badges – so we would up with a photo of our representative giving a prize to a teenager who happened to be the son of an employee, and currently one of our staff members is also in the rugby team at the local club, so he was in the picture when we posted a photo of the whole team posingin in their new kit with our logo on, which we had paid for. (the only exception I can think of was when same-sex marriage was introduced here – one of our employees immediately got married and she asked if we would put a photo up, which we did. (we have a ‘news’ section on our website – it’s mnormally more about work related news, such as when someone has a new qualification or when we do sponsor a new event or club, but we felt there was no reason not to include a personal life event as well when the people cpncerned wanted us to!)

      Hopefully the employer here will accept OP’s ‘no’ but if not, maybe see if you can mange a couple of photos where your kids are not identifable? Friends of mine had their child by adoption, and as thier birth family was abusive they are very, very strict about not having any identifiable photos or information on social media – child is referred to as ‘The Kid” or “Mini[surname]” if mentioned on facebook – they ocassionally post pictures which don’t dhow idenitfying info – phtos of child and 1 paretn, walking hand-in-hand along the beach, taken from behid, for instnace, or childs hands after palying with nail varnish and glitter, or parents and child’s hands making / decprating cupcakes..

      Maybe something similar would work for you if the employer won’t be reasonable.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        It’s interesting you mention supporting a pride event and an employee asking to post a photo of their wedding (and thank you, that sounds like something my employer would do!), because when I read the letter, I wondered if this was one of those “Christian” companies that advertises with that fish logo and is trying to signal that the employees all good, straight, Christian families. (I know there are open-minded Christians out there, but IME most of those don’t try to monetize their religion.)

        1. Pennalynn Lott*

          Yeppppp…the fastest way to get me to not use your business is to advertise with that fish logo (or *especially* the cross itself or some religious message / bible quote). Like, believe whatever you want, but keep the dog whistle out of your business.

      2. Quill*

        Livejournal / twitter protocol, since I’ve been online, has been to refer to all children by nicknames not related at all to their legal name or anything they’d go by IRL… so a person with the username CuriousOwl might refer to their child as Owlet, or a teenage niece or nephew as Fledgeling, etc. (Spouses generally get referred to as Dear Husband / DH, Hubby, or Mr or Mrs. Username.)

        This does not appear to have caught on in any of my facebook social circles.

        1. Risha*

          I frankly miss the days when complete anonymity on social media was the expectation, not the oddity. Not that I was ever particularly hidden – I’m uncreative and my real name easily passes as an internet handle – but just slapping your full, real name (plus full face pics of yourself and all your family and friends) all over social media still gives me the willies.

        2. Junior Assistant Peon*

          My memory of LiveJournal is that people were completely oblivious to this stuff in the 90s and early 00s. Back when search engines weren’t that good and most people older than college age weren’t online, my friends used to openly post things on LiveJournal that they’d be mortified if their parents, coworkers, etc saw.

          1. Quill*

            Most of my livejournal buddies were 5 to 15 years older than me, and I didn’t get started on it into about 2007, so that probably has something to do with the difference.

        3. Mr. Shark*

          I’ve seen that, and a lot of times the kids are just referred to by their first initial (Little S) etc., so at least the name isn’t available online.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OP Please stay firm.
      As a customer, “Family friendly” doesn’t mean an occasional picnic with kid games–it means fair wages & flexible scheduling for parents (and fosters and grandparents/etc pitching in). It means advertising in the school yearbook and concert programs and sponsoring the LEGO Robotics team. It means on site daycare if the company is large, or hiring the local daycare to care for kids of parents who are required to attend a company event.
      Put info about THAT and it would sway me to evaluate their product more than pics of someone else’s children!

      1. Yes to this*

        THIS! Also, not all families have children and so the requirement to include yours is extreme pandering. Definitely push back.

      2. Allypopx*

        On this same train of thought, if “family-friendly” was something I was highly valuing in my decision making, and I heard that the company was not respecting the (very reasonable) family boundaries of their employees, I would be appalled and not want to give them my business.

        (I would be appalled about this regardless, but it would hold extra weight if they were marketing themselves as “family-friendly”)

      3. Anonny*

        There’s also the issue of the consent of the children. I dunno how old OP’s kids are, but I have heard of the children of ‘mummy bloggers’ and similar coming to an age where they understand what’s happening and being angry that their parents exploited their childhood for clicks and monetisation.
        I don’t think this is in quite the same category but I would definitely be weirdest out to find my childhood photos were used to promote my parents’ employers.

        1. Allypopx*

          Ugh I don’t want to derail but this reminds me of a dumpster fire I saw on an article about something or other I think gender identity related where people were doubling and tripling down that children were their parent’s property and entitled to zero autonomy of their own. I feel like mommy bloggers who use their kids as “accessories” for their social media have a similar attitude, even if they don’t state it as blatantly.

        2. Quill*

          Yeah, people who use their kids for internet fame are… definitely deeply creeping me out. Especially if the kids are #1 too young to consent to potentially millions of people seeing their childhood antics #2 going to be more exposed to internet blowback for it due to being disabled, overweight, etc.

          IMO that’s much different from a posed family photo that you might have locked down to “friends and relatives only” on facebook, though you should at least ask your kid if they’re okay with sending it out to the family!

          1. Anonny*

            Yeah, it was more the bit about the company sharing these photos on their presumably public facebook page that got my hackles up a bit.

          2. Botanist*

            I recently saw a post that a Facebook friend from high school posted about how her son had slipped in a soccer game and managed to get covered in mud from head to foot. There was an accompanying picture of her young son walking away. She included in her post that she had to sneak that picture from behind because he didn’t want her to take one. I still can’t get over the utter lack of respect for his very reasonable boundaries.

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              I hate that. The kid was probably super embarrassed, and his mom’s go-to move was to tell the world all about how he humiliated himself.

              1. Quill*

                Nope! When kids pose for photos they at least know the photos exist!

                I’m very careful with my little cousins when I hang with them with asking “hey, can I take a photo / video of this for your mom / dad / grandparents?”

                If they’re having fun they’re usually great with this! If they’re not having fun they don’t want evidence!

        3. Sharrbe*

          Exactly. I would have been mortified if social media was around when I was growing up and stuff was posted about me on an employer website. I barely have a Facebook page – one picture of my cat for a profile pic and maybe 10 friends. I like my privacy.

      4. Phony Genius*

        To this company, it sounds like “family friendly” may mean if you have no family, don’t bother applying here, since you have no family to showcase on Facebook.

      5. time for lunch*

        OP3: There’s a good chance you may be displacing the stress and anxiety that naturally arises from the terrifying situation with your sister into work. So much easier to stress about an error like this–that has been forgiven!– than the other, more serious, out of your control, thing. Please, please make sure you are getting support from a counselor for this. Your sister is going through a lot but you have also had a terrible, worrisome shock, and you are living this, too, as a family member and carer. I’ll be thinking of you as I’m sure others here will, too, and looking for an update! Wishing you, your sister, and family the best.

    6. Shirley Keeldar*

      This may be a bit out of left field, but, OP, do you have any pets? Would your employer be willing to settle for a cute picture of you and your husband with Rover?

      (I mean, you are entirely in the right here, but if your husband’s boss insists on being ridiculous and overbearing, maybe it might offer a way to wiggle out without compromising your kids’ privacy?)

      1. Tupac Coachella*

        Came here to say this. If OP’s husband doesn’t want to expend his full capital fighting this, a picture of him (OP can be in the pic too if they can live with the idea in general and just don’t want to include the kids) cuddling a dog looks approachable and “family-values”-ish without compromising their kids’ privacy. It may even imply that they don’t have kids at all.

        Also, blech to “family values;” there are all kinds of families with all kinds of values.

    7. Is it Friday yet?*

      This is so, so disturbing. I have a feeling if OP did have photos posted of her children to their personal social media pages that her husband’s employer would have just downloaded them and posted them to the company website and Facebook page without their permission. From the letter, employer clearly already looked for them on their own.

      1. Pantsuit Eleanor Shellstrop*

        This was my thought too. Shudder.

        I am 100% sure that if OP ever brings their kids to some office family picnic/field day/holiday party/potluck/whatever event (bc you KNOW it will be a “bring the fam! or else!” thing) then someone will take candid photos of the kids and post them on the company website without permission.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          That’s definitely something OP and their husband should keep an eye out for. If there’s ever an event where families are invited, make sure everyone knows and is on board with your “no kid photos online” policy, or get a babysitter.

    8. Zennish*

      Personally, I’d just throw the awkwardness right back on the employer… “My spouse and kids aren’t going to do it. They don’t work here, and they aren’t property, so what do you suggest I do?”

    9. KoiFeeder*

      I confess, reading AAM has been super helpful for me as a new grad, but it’s also pretty much solidified my desire to never return to facebook.

    10. Mama Bear*

      There are LOTS of reasons people keep their kids offline. We keep our child offline, too. At this point, anyone who knows us well enough to want to photograph or post my kid knows we don’t do that. Hold firm. If it’s generic marketing, there are stock photo repositories for that.

    1. Kendra*

      Double ugh. If it’s any help, I’ve gone to my last…14, I think?…work Christmas parties solo, and the sky has not fallen, and no one has died. Your coworkers are being jerks.

      1. Don’t get salty*

        Yup, it’s better to fly solo. You can mingle with whomever you like. And couples also like to talk to other people (!), so all that BS about needing a date is just that.

      2. Anonariffic*

        I periodically see screenshots online of (fake?) ads where guys offer to be the worst possible date to a party or family dinner- things like “in exchange for a free catered or home cooked meal, at your request I will appear to get messily drunk/loudly take the opposite political stance to your parents/hit on your married friends or relatives of either gender/tell obscene jokes/challenge someone to a fistfight/propose to you at the worst possible moment.”

        They want a date? OP can bring a date.

          1. Reality.Bites*

            I expect most single people already know plenty of people who’d horrify their family without even trying.

          2. Quill*

            I see this being offered specifically on Tumblr as I think probably a joke?

            Then again I did go to a wedding as a college friend’s +1 with the backup plan of scandalizing her family if they decided to start laying into her. Said family is now mostly estranged from her, but not due to my antics: after the wedding, which was a bit of a disaster, at which she was the secondary maid of honor for her sister, she decided she was done with them.

            I mean, the fact that I got asked along to potentially make a spectacle of myself meant things were already headed that way…

            1. Database Developer Dude*

              Okay, now you have to dish…what was going on? Secondary maid of honor? What was that about?

              1. Quill*

                Bride was Friend’s sister. Friend lives in the southwest, Bride and I both live in the great lakes. Friend was informed after the first wedding attempt (long story, but essentially: Bride put off planning anything and didn’t actually go and get a marriage license, threw a fit because the wedding wasn’t going to be fancy enough) that she was going to be maid of honor.

                … Except her sister informed her a month out from the wedding that she’d been replaced as maid of honor by a relative of the groom. Because she wasn’t “contributing enough” (monetarily or via free work) to the wedding, after she’d refused to, for free, design and print out new wedding invitations for wedding take 2, because she’d spent plenty of time and money on doing that the first time around.

                Wedding take 2 included me stabbing groomsmen with corsage pins (don’t move when I’m putting a boutonniere on you three minutes before the ceremony starts!) Friend being far more generous with her toast than I thought was worth it, then being shamed over said toast and also how well her dress fit / her weight, then Friend becoming increasingly drunk with her great uncle, the apparently only sane member of her family. I stole her a bunch of dessert and drove her back to my place, since the wedding had actually gone better than expected. Friend and Bride’s stepsiblings, who Bride refused to acknowledge, thought Friend and my backup plan (scandalize the wedding party by being queer and liberal & therefore prevent Friend’s mother and sister from trying to make her come back to the midwest to visit) was hilarious.

          3. Wintermute*

            There are actors you can hire, though they usually aren’t that specialized. If you want them to be a disaster they can be a disaster but they can also be a “good date”. They’re not super popular but also not rare especially in some cultures that put a ton of marriage pressure on younger people, doubly so if they’re of the right ethnicity and background (real or a carefully researched persona) to tick all the family’s checkboxes, it shows “they’re taking it seriously and trying to settle down”. Of course it just happens “not to work out” but hey they’re “trying”!

        1. Mookie*

          I’d go a step further introduce my hired escort as a hired escort, and then try to expense it, explaining that all your colleagues told you to find a date.

          1. blackcat*

            Yes, do this!

            No, don’t actually do this. But maybe ask for a purchase order for an escort to get the point across?

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        It’s seriously weird that OP4’s coworkers are implying that everyone at the party will only be socializing with their own dates, and I’d be tempted to spotlight it in conversations. “Are you saying you’re not going to hang out with me at the party because you’re only planning on talking to your date and no one else? Because that would be really rude, and in my experience, it’s not generally how people behave at parties.”

    2. pleaset aka cheap rolls*

      Also, the statement “Don’t you want to have someone to talk to at the party?” is not a selling point for a party.

      Implying that someone will not enjoy a party unless they bring a friend makes the party sound really bad.

      1. Asenath*

        Not always. I sometimes got questions about why I wanted to travel alone, and I was curious enough about the reasons behind such suggestions that I asked someone who asked that why she asked about it, in a politely curious tone to encourage a response. I had assumed the reason was fear of being in a foreign country alone, but it wasn’t. Some people really don’t seem to enjoy events alone as much as they do when they have someone they really like to share them with. That being said, I don’t think people should make a big deal about someone’s choice to go to a work party alone, but on the other hand, they may have the type of personality that really likes sharing experiences, and if they ask just once and accept the response, that may just be a normal social interaction. In other words, it’s not about the party, it’s about them.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I strongly prefer travel, dinner, etc with someone I am close to as opposed to being alone, but far prefer being alone to spending the time with someone I am not close to. I feel like there is probably a continuum for both people’s preferences and the closeness of the relationships people picture when they imagine doing X.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            I’m with you on that. I love meeting good friends at the local tea shop for a cuppa, but I don’t like to feel trapped into a conversation with an acquaintance. I can, and have, struck up conversation with random strangers while out and about, but with those there is always a quick exit once I’m 100% DONE. I need the option for a quick retreat.

          2. CmdrShepard4ever*

            I am the same way. I prefer enjoy it a bit more to go to things movies, dinner, travel etc with people I know and like (friends, family, SO) but if no one is able/willing to go with me I can still enjoy those things very much on my own. I have several family and friends who don’t understand this. My guess is they are much more extroverted compared to my introvertness (is that a word)? If I want to see a movie or try a new brewery I can still enjoy it by myself.

        2. Foreign Octopus*

          I do pretty everything by myself – the cinema, a café for a coffee, swimming, yoga, etc., – and I didn’t realise that wasn’t the norm until a friend of mine (a woman in her 50s) said that she found it weird. I guess it’s YMMV, but I am on the other side where needing (different from wanting) someone’s company for things is odd.

          My former sister-in-law used to drive me mad every time we were out together because we’d be sitting having a drink and she’d ask me to go to the bathroom with her.

          OP, go solo and enjoy confusing all the people in your office by the fun time that you have.

          1. Reality.Bites*

            When I’m out with one person, we go separately in order to not leave our belongings unattended. When I’m with two, we go alone so no one is left without someone to talk to. The one going to the bathroom has no need for company. There’s nothing I’ve ever done in a bathroom that needs an audience.

            1. MassMatt*

              Many women go to the bathroom in pairs for safety, especially in bars. Bathrooms are often isolated, down a long and often dark hallway, and creeps/drunks/creepy drunks often use them as opportunities to corner and hit on women.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            That’s missing out on the best part of going to a bar with someone, which is that they can watch your drink when you go to the bathroom.

          3. wittyrepartee*

            Since I live in a big city- I do a lot of things out alone AND with friends. I’m happy with either. Also- if you have to get a buddy to go to yoga or the gym with you every time you exercise, that makes exercising a lot harder doesn’t it?

        3. Llellayena*

          Travel is a bit different though. It’s spread over several days and experiencing new things often is more fun with someone else because they will see things you don’t and sharing that deepens the experience. But a party is 3-4 hours, it’s just not that important to “share” the experience. Besides, you are sharing the experience with all the other people at the party as you wouldn’t go if you didn’t know anyone.

          1. Artemesia*

            I do lots of things on my own but especially with travel, it is fun to have someone to share the experience with. I think it is a lot more fun to travel with another person.

            1. Arts Akimbo*

              For me, traveling with someone else has historically meant that I don’t get to do all the cool stuff I want to do. I love traveling alone!

        4. Yorick*

          But OP will know people at the party! In fact, the exact people who think she’ll need a friend there to enjoy it will be there. Why do they think she’ll have no one to talk to??

        5. pleaset aka cheap rolls*

          You’re talking about travel and sharing experience with someone they like, and my comment was about being told, in effect, there would be no one at a party to talk with unless you brought a friend. I do not see the connection.

        6. KS*

          “Some people really don’t seem to enjoy events alone as much as they do when they have someone they really like to share them with.” That’s a long way to “have no one to talk to.” Uh, how about talk to the people you work with? Isn’t that the point of the party? o.O

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          “What kind of party is this?” is precisely my thought process. Why even bother having a party if you expect people to talk only to their spouse? Just pay for them to go out for dinner together*.

          * Spouse’s OldBoss used to do this at the end of time-consuming projects. It was definitely appreciated, as it partly “paid back” the time I had lost with him.

        2. The Original K.*

          I was thinking the same thing! They’re signaling that they’re not going to talk to OP at the party, which is … weird. Like, if OP needs a date in order to have someone to talk to at this party, why wouldn’t she just go out with this date one on one?

        3. Sabina*

          What kind of party is this? Maybe it’s secretly a swingers’ party and co-workers are hoping OP brings somebody hot? Sorry…my mind goes random places often…

          1. Shoes On My Cat*

            Now I am imagining OP4 saying something to that effect! “Gee Wilhemena, I know it’s important for you that I bring someone to the party, but right now there is just no one in my life that I’m willing to share *that way*! But I’m hoping I won’t be banned from the orgy as I am willing to do a threesome with you and your husband!

        4. Claire*

          Yeah, I thought one of the purposes of office parties is that you socialize (in a positive way) with your coworkers.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Seriously. If I have to bring along my own entertainment, how bad is this party going to be?

    3. Doug Judy*

      I’m married and I still sometimes attend work parties alone. My husband isn’t a social person at all and I know it’s awkward and uncomfortable for him, and I usual have a better time when I don’t have to worry about him being bored. I always give him the option to attend or not and if he declines it’s really no big deal…to me. Of course people ask where he is and I say at home and they just can’t comprehend it. People are so weird. Go alone and have a good time.

      1. Quill*

        Also, with couples who have kids… better for the other parent to have pizza and a board game with the kids than to be bored right through a work function. Especially when the food isn’t good.

        1. What was I doing SQUIRREL!*

          Yep. I go to work and other parties by myself regularly because 1. someone needs to watch the kids, and babysitters are pricey, and 2. Spouse isn’t particularly interested in going. Works for us.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        I went to exactly one such function related to my wife’s work. It was awful. My full introversion kicked in. I simply couldn’t deal with being in a room full of strangers making polite chit chat. So I escaped to the car, sat for a while, then felt guilty about this, went back inside, repeat. My wife later told me the other people at the table thought I must be having digestive issues. I haven’t gone to one of those since. It is better for everyone involved.

    4. Sharkie*

      It’s cringy and gross but I can kinda see where they are coming from. If everyone else in the group has a +1 they might feel a little weird. I am long term single and everyone else in my main social circle is married or engaged and it feels a little lonely sometimes. For some things, I bring a friend along ( I have brought both male and female friends to weddings) but I never feel the need to have to bring someone.

      The coworkers are projecting on you.

    5. annakarina1*

      It sounds like the plot of movies like Picture Perfect, where Jennifer Aniston has to have a fake boyfriend to make herself look good at work parties next to coupled colleagues.

    6. Phony Genius*

      As Allison said that attending such a party is not a particularly awesome time for the date, you can use that as your “excuse,” in that you wouldn’t want to subject a new acquaintance to the awkwardness of being in a roomful of strangers.

    7. Liz*

      This. As someone who has attended our previous holiday parties solo (when we had them AND were allowed to bring a plus one), i find it very annoying. Not everyone wants to bring a date, NOR does everyone HAVE anyone they could even potentially ask. That was me. So I second your UGH.

    8. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      My bro-in-law was annoyed he got flack for not bringing his wife to the Christmas party…she has a job too and they have a 5 year-old and the party is at night! He made an excuse about his kid being under the weather recently and not wanting to risk it, but privately he told us “yeah unless the company is springing for the babysitter, that’s not happening. We’re not paying $100+ so she can come out and be miserable making awkward small talk with my co-workers.” Frankly it makes me glad my work and my husband’s both do employees-only parties because for the most part no one has fun at another company’s party!

  3. Nobody Here by That Name*

    OP #2: No advice, just support and appreciation for you protecting your kids’ privacy. Go you!

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      +1 Agreed! We have a strict no online photos policy for our toddler (Badger Cub is what I call her online…yes we are all Hufflepuffs). It’s really important to me that she have control over her online presence. If there comes a time where she hates that there are no baby photos of her floating around, well it’s her prerogative to post them. But you can’t un-post them, not completely.

      1. prismo*

        Can I ask a related question? How do you handle this if you have relatives who post their kids online a lot? Like, if they wanted to include your kid in a group shot, you’d have to say, “No, we don’t post our kids’ pics online,” implying you don’t approve of the fact that they do. Just genuinely curious how this works!

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Lots of folks will blur or obstruct faces.

          I have a few on my IG who take that route. Only backs of heads or an emoji over their face kind of thing. So I could see asking someone else to do the same for a group pic. Like on tv, they’ll blur anyone without a signed release.

          1. pleaset aka cheap rolls*

            Adding, I’m frankly not convinced even parents should post their own kids photos online – not because of stranger danger or pervs or anything, but because kids are thus losing control of their own images. I try to post only a little of my own child, and then only in situations where he looks good, trying to imagine how I would feel about an image of myself as a child being online.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              The flipside is that lots of parents do this so there’s a virtual baby-book.

              But everyone I know who did that are very particular about how they friend on that account. So it’s literally just for family/close family friends kind of thing.

              But again, you can do that on a full on privacy mode as well then you can still have that access later.

              But as someone who’s old AF, I always encourage people to remember that these services very well may cease to exist at some point. I lost a ton of random crap when Phototrail died, for starters *sobs* Look at the rebranding of tinypic and myspace as well. Yeah, Facbeook and Instagram are not “too big to fail” or something crazy. Back. Yo. Shit up. Get those prints from Shutterfly or wherever!

              1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                I know a couple who created an email address for each kid, and they send photos and videos and letters periodically. The idea is that when the kids turn 18, they get the password and they can look through all the stuff their parents collected for them throughout their childhood. I like that idea better than posting to a social media account, because then the kid still has control over the content.

        2. Third or Nothing!*

          We’ve never run in to the issue. I have no siblings and my husband’s siblings have some complicated family dynamics going on that mean we never see our nieces and nephews, so there will be no cousins for Badger Cub. We did have conversations with the grandparents about not posting things online and how we are using this to teach consent, responsibility, and bodily autonomy, which made it more understandable for them.

          At the end of the day I can only control my own actions. There will inevitably be random photos with my daughter’s face in the background floating around the Interwebz, just like I know there are some out there with me in the background.

        3. Nita*

          Not relatives, but my kids’ schools occasionally post pictures online on different media. These are mostly messenger services, so only the subscribed group sees them. At one point, though, the pics were on Facebook, presumably locked down from strangers but Facebook can work in weird ways. I wasn’t super happy about it, but the photos were not tagged in any way so the kids’ name or even whose kids they are weren’t connected to these photos. So at least that identifying information wasn’t there… I figured that’s good enough and that’s not the hill I want to die on.

      2. pleaset aka cheap rolls*

        ” It’s really important to me that she have control over her online presence.”

        THIS. I admire you a lot.

        I’m not quite as good as you – I have huge demand from friends and family for images of my child, but post far far far less than they’d want me to.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          Do what I do – have a shared folder where you store pictures! Or use a secure messaging app to send pictures. WhatsApp is good and has encryption on both ends.

      3. Dagny*


        Expecting my first and this is our plan. I’m not going to post months of baby bump pictures, newborn pictures, toddler pictures, descriptions of antics, etc., and then when the kid is a teenager, try to explain the importance of online discretion.

        Also, people have all sorts of situations that they might not feel like explaining to their employer. The vast majority of crimes against children happen by people who know the kids, which is exactly why a wise parent might choose to limit the amount of information about their children that is available to someone with an internet connection and too much time. Maybe you’re just happier if your creepy uncle who probably molested your cousin doesn’t know that you have a daughter, or if he does, has very little idea of what she looks like or what her name is. And maybe you really do NOT want to explain that to your employer.

  4. April*

    #3. It’s okay, you did the right thing. Give yourself a pass and thank you for being there for your sister. They understand. Deep breaths, it’s okay.

    1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      Seconding this. The email you received even said “let’s wipe the slate clean”. They are offering to let this go, and you can too.
      Life happens – your sister is more important than a single evening shift worked during your senior college year. Heck, your senior college year is more important (if you want to graduate – there have been letters in this vein earlier this year).
      The two women you work for sound understanding – they let you know the full situation (laying it on a little thick in my opinion, but it’s equally likely their thought process was along the lines of “I hope OP3 hasn’t been in an accident”). If you’re hoping to emulate them, this is what you should focus on – after focussing on being on the receiving end of it.

      Take care of yourself. It sounds like everything turned out ok – so just breathe.

      1. Feline*

        It sounds like OP3’s employers recognize this as a human crisis, and are understanding. Hey, OP3, take them at their word that they plan to wipe the slate clean. They said the words, so they intend it. There are so many bad bosses out there who wouldn’t be as compassionate. You’ll be OK. Just move forward and show them how awesome a job you can do in your role from here on out. I know not looking back is hard, but they’re asking you to.

      2. McMonkeybean*

        It doesn’t always work, but if OP thinks these women are admirable and aspires to be like them–perhaps it would help to think about a situation where OP is the one in charge and someone missed their shift for a family emergency. OP how would you feel in that situation? You would probably recognize what they had been through and know that it didn’t mean they were an irresponsible person right? That it may have caused issues at the business one day but no lasting problems, and there was no reason to think you couldn’t trust them going forward?

        If you think you would feel that way, and you think these women are good people to work for, I hope you can trust that that’s probably how they feel.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          All of the above. Another thing that may help is for you to think about steps you can take to prevent something like this happening again. Setting reminders for shifts you wouldn’t normally work on your phone, for example? Or something else that works for you.

          I know that when I’ve made a mistake, it’s helpful to me to think about what happened and why, and what I could do to keep it from happening again. Maybe it would help you to focus on “what could I do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?” instead of “Oh, no, I messed up, and I know they said it was ok, but…!”

          I hope your sister is doing better!

    2. Shirley Keeldar*

      OP, you remind me a bit of me–I too get mortified if I feel I have let someone down or not fulfilled an obligation. Here’s something I have learned: forgiveness is a gift, and when someone offers you a gift, it is kind and gracious to accept it. It makes people feel good when you accept the gifts they offer. If you decline the forgiveness (by apologizing over and over, etc.) you’re actually making things harder for the person trying to forgive you. Be kind, be grateful, be forgiven.

    3. Venus*

      I think it’s hard to give yourself a pass in the moment. I think the best way to recover is to be really careful about always showing up on time for future shifts, and after a couple weeks the LW will hopefully feel a lot better. Time is likely the only thing that will fix this.

      I agree with Alison’s suggestion of saying something in person, although if it were me then I would wait a few weeks so that I felt more confident that I had repaired my reputation, and then I would thank them in person for being understanding. (And if this happened now, rather than having been sent in a few weeks ago, then it would work out well to wait until the new year when the holiday shopping silliness is over as it would seem like a natural time to reflect on the previous year)

    4. wittyrepartee*

      Try your best to be thankful rather than sorry in this situation. You don’t have to keep apologizing. Thank your bosses instead.

  5. phira*

    #1 – I am dying to know what jewelry this is because like Alison says, it might not be fetish jewelry at all.

    #2 – This is definitely weird for the employer to push so hard. Yes, your husband has children, but what if he didn’t? Would his employer fire him for not having kids whose photos could be posted on the company website, or would they ask him to pose for photos with nieces or nephews or even child models he doesn’t know? I’m exaggerating to make it clear that what the employer wants here is not really reasonable, or at least not reasonable if they press for it.

    It would have been different if they had said to your husband, “Since we are a small, local company, we attract a lot of business by promoting ourselves as very neighborly and family friendly. One way that we do that is by sharing photos of ourselves with our families and in the community on our company website; are there any photos of you in that context that we could post?” This is 1) asking-ier and less demanding, 2) it gives your husband the opportunity to say he doesn’t have those kinds of photos, and 3) it gives your husband the option of providing other photos that could have a positive impact, like him doing volunteer work.

    Whether or not your policy is “right” or not isn’t really something that should be up for debate here; I *don’t* have this policy, and I would say no or insist my husband say no to this request. Your husband can (and should) give a polite but firm “no,” briefly explain that you both have a policy of not sharing photos of your children online, and then change the subject.

    1. WS*

      My brother went through this – the company was very into “wellness” and “balance” in public (this was absolutely not true in private!) and was very persistent about wanting photos for their Facebook site. He and his wife have the same policy of no kids’ photos on Facebook so after much wheedling and sighing they eventually settled for a casual picture of him alone in the garden. (Our mother volunteered to be in the photo but apparently they didn’t want “old” people!)

      1. valentine*

        are there any photos of you in that context that we could post?
        This is so reasonable! But the employer is being extra weird by trolling Facebook despite insisting on shooting their own content.

        they didn’t want “old” people
        It says a lot that they rejected the only volunteer and want their site to say, “Children of the Corn.”

      2. LizB*

        Ah yes, that brand of “wellness” where once you’ve lived a ~healthy~ lifestyle for 50 years, you disappear from public view and aren’t seen again for the remaining decades of your long, long, healthy life!

    2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      I have literally just received an email from my sister containing a short clip of my niece in her first nativity (as a star). For reasons (mostly to do with distance), we wouldn’t otherwise get to see these snippets of my niece growing up, but the email ended with “It goes without saying, but this can’t go on social media”.
      We respect my sister’s opinion (plus the fact that the clip features other children who are not my niece).

      1. HoHumDrum*

        Yup! Especially because you never know those kids’ stories.

        I work with kids, and it’s not unheard of for a non-custodial parent/family member who has restricted access to their child to see that child in, say, a summer camp brochure or a company website and then GO TO THAT BUSINESS WITH THE EXPRESS PURPOSE OF GETTING ACCESS TO THE CHILD! This is a thing that happens, and tragically its not even that uncommon! This happened to my friend, her estranged family member showed up at a program an entire state away and tried to get the program to release my friend into her custody!

        If you don’t have the express permission of a child’s guardian to post pictures online then don’t. You could literally be putting that kid in actual real danger. Good on your sister for respecting the safety and privacy of other children, and good on you for doing the same.

    3. Liz*

      I for one am baffled as to what a “family friendly company” means in relation to this. I for one can picture only:
      – a business aimed at customers as families, with a unique selling point, such as a family friendly pub that allows kids in to dine with parents,
      – or an employer who grants generous, paid family leave, subsidised childcare, and promotes a healthy work life balance.

      Sharing pictures of employees’ children tells people nothing other than the fact that their employees have children. It demonstrates neither family leave policy nor target demographic. At best this is meaningless. At worst it may read as the company sticking its nose into employees’ personal lives and holding potentially discriminatory attitudes which favour nuclear families over other family structures.

      LW, I admire your determination to stand by your principles and protect your children. There is something disconcerting about the company wishing to use them as a marketing gimmick in this manner and you are right to push back against this.

      1. Dimmie*

        I think its for businesses that want to either promote the idea “when you support local business you support local families” or they just want to use the trite phrase “from our family to yours”

        1. Sally*

          Since the boss complained about there being no photos with children on the husband’s Facebook page, it made me wonder if the boss was going to employees’ Facebook pages and copying photos to put on the company web site. If so, what a violation!

      2. cmcinnyc*

        I read it as “kids are cute and we can use our employee’s kids as unpaid models.” Granted, I live in NYC where every class has a kid who can’t be in school photos because of a modeling contract, so that’s my context.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      From my friends who are into that kind of thing (no, really; I’ve never been into it, but I have good friends who fly all over to participate in events around this stuff), I’d guess a necklace or collar that is a solid, circular bar or closed torc that has a padlock or a ring (to attach a tether or leash) on it. That’s a pretty specific symbol b/d or master/slave relationships, I think, but then lots of people might think it was cute and buy one without knowing.

    5. kittymommy*

      Seriously. I am not married and have no kids (I have kitties though!) so would they even consider me for employment? Is my family-less self worthy of working for such and amazing “family-friendly” company??

      And anyway, pictures of the office manager with their kids isn’t going to influence me in spending my money with. Good reviews, good work, licensed/certified/bonded (if necessary) is. Maybe the company should focus on those things instead of badgering the driver on truck#3 to get baby pictures in on time.

      1. Tisiphone*

        My thoughts went to the same place. My kitties are my family, not to mention siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Here’s a snippet from my uncle’s reel to reel video of “Deer Hunting 1957”. I’m not in it, but my family is.

    6. Quill*

      Also there are a lot of things that I have passing knowledge of that don’t look like they should be fetish jewelery that have connotations… who wants to bet that coworker is just hanging onto their goth phase?

      1. Dragoning*

        I looked up cargo pants, found a pair I wanted, and they were labeled “bondage pants.”

        I–no, I just like useless straps.

        1. Quill*

          Those got banned at my high school!

          Not because of the name, but because a classmate smuggled a full 12 pack of mountain dew code red into homecoming in a pair of them, and that could have been cans of beer, you know.

        2. Rainy*

          That’s really just what they’re called. It’s not like everyone was fastening themselves to chairs during classes in HS or anything. (I mean, sometimes you fastened your FRIENDS to chairs without them knowing, because it was funny, but…)

          1. Quill*

            Yeah, nothing is funnier than the class bolting at the bell and some dude taking out a row of desks because the person behind him tied him to them like a bike to a rack!

            1. Wintermute*

              I almost added (not that anyone else will), but didn’t… at least I delivered you a perfect setup :)

              1. Rainy*

                There are a few straight lines I am physically incapable of not responding to, and you have found one of them!

      2. Rainy*

        Or coworker just got a super on-trend chunky necklace or choker.

        Or the thing LW thinks is a padlock is actually one of those chunky heart charms, or a locket. Hard to say–I’d love a link to a similar piece.

        But honestly, even if coworker is kinky, like, wtf, who cares. I’d be pretty indignant about being reported to HR because I sometimes wear a necklace with my deceased cat’s nametag on it and my coworker never spoke to me and assumed it was because I’m into pet play or something. (Which I am not, but my old cat had a really nice nametag and I miss him, so I put it and a heart charm on a long statement chain.)

      1. lilsheba*

        On BDSM jewelry: I wear an eternity collar every single day, it’s not ugly at all. Collars are like wedding rings, it’s not sexualizing anything, it’s just a symbol of being in a relationship, just like a wedding ring. People need to get over it already. I’m going to wear it whether people like it or not.

  6. Linzava*

    OP 1,
    I used to wear a lot of celtic and antique jewelry in my 20s. It was just my style preference and I’d wear stuff I thought was pretty. I can’t tell you how many times I’d be on a date or in a social gathering and someone would drone on and on about the significance behind my jewelry. I had this really pretty sword I’d wear with a celtic cross and a choker, and “everybody” knew what it meant to me. They were pretty together, I adjusted the lengths so they draped a certain way, but that was it and it had no bearing on my personality or my sexuality (though plenty of people told me it did on both counts). I also have some handcuff earings I bought from alcatraz, doesn’t mean I’m into anything, they’re just cool looking to me. Very likely, your coworker saw jewelry she liked that was casual enough to wear every day, and she wears it out of habit.

    1. Lizard*

      Yeah I’m curious as to what jewelry this might be. I’m in my mid-twenties and wear a very plain black choker with other, longer, necklaces layered over it. I wear it because it makes my face and neck look slimmer and I don’t think it’s really noticeable, not cause I am a submissive in a romantic/sexual relationship!
      I think you’re reading too much into this, LW1.

      1. Stormfeather*

        Or to put it another way: OP, you said you wouldn’t even know what it’s “supposed” to be if you didn’t read the site. So if the person who wears it doesn’t read the site/have some other sort of exposure to it, it’s quite possible she also doesn’t know what it’s “supposed” to be.

        (And even if she does – you say you want people to live their best life, and it sounds like this isn’t an overt, in-your-face type of thing… so maybe treat it as a challenge to learn to include their sexual lives in them living their best lives!)

        1. Nea*

          Let’s say that it is fetish jewelry. Let’s say that the coworker is wearing it for those reasons. Heck, let’s say the coworker also reads AAM!

          STILL the previous letterwriter (and this coworker) took significant steps about not being In Your Face to everyone in the office. So OP1, why aren’t you focusing on “Hey, this is how to be subtle like that letter writer wanted” instead of focusing on “Because I know this secret code, I want to complain to HR about something my co worker neither advertises nor talks about.”

          1. MissGirl*

            That’s what she’s trying to do. She doesn’t want to notice or care. But, like all of us, her thoughts aren’t always cooperative.

            I think this is one of those things that will lessen with time. The more you’re around her doing other things, the more this will fade into background noise.

          2. AnonEMoose*

            This is about where I land with this. OP1, I would encourage you to think carefully about what constitutes “overt sexuality” to you. It’s not the jewelry itself, it’s the meaning you are attaching to it…and you don’t know if the coworker attaches the same meaning to it.

            Maybe if you think about it as “she wears this jewelry, which may or may not mean the same thing to her that it does to me,” it would help. Your coworker is clearly not talking about this to you or otherwise behaving other than professionally, so this seems like a “you” issue, not a “her” issue.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              Also, consider the “overt” part. If it is a secret code that the LW happens to know, that is not very overt. If it may or may not be a secret code, and therefore might or might not mean anything at all, that is even less overt. If meaningful, I would characterize this as “discreet.”

              1. CMart*

                Yes, I think the OP has contradicted themselves here.

                “I wouldn’t know what it is if not for having been clued it” =/= an overt display. It’s kind of the definition of covert, isn’t it?

                I understand feeling uncomfortable once you know something (or think you know something), but this is just something to quietly talk yourself down from. Nothing overt or untoward is happening here.

        2. Vicky Austin*

          No one should ever include their sex lives as part of living their best lives at work, whether they are a person in a BDSM relationship, my former coworker who mentioned at work that her boyfriend wanted to have a threesome, or my mother’s coworker who was an Evangelical Christian and announced to everyone the week before her wedding how many more days it would be until she lost her virginity.

          1. lilsheba*

            If they are wearing a collar, it’s the same thing as a wedding ring. It’s not bringing sex into the workplace at all.

      2. Ego Chamber*

        Also curious about the jewelry. I’ve seen a lot of subtle/tasteful/low key collars that are meant to be worn in public (including collars that are bracelets or rings) but if we’re at the point where a plain black choker can be mistaken as an “obvious” indicator of D/s participation, I don’t think anything means anything anymore. O_o

        1. Aster*

          O-ring checkers are a big thing in some circles now. Honestly, most people would wear them just b/c they look cool and have zero idea the message they are sending.

          This is very much like men with pierced ear studs in the 80s. supposedly some message behind which ear. But most men where I grew up would have had no idea.

          Just b/c a fetish community uses something as a code doesn’t mean the larger population is understanding the signal or using it in the same way.

          This reminds me of the old Coupling line “Do you want gay men to be labeled?” And the gay dude responses “yes, that would be lovely!” (Meaning he’d know who was on his team without having to guess at whom to hit on).

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Then there was the “hanky code.” It is not clear to me if it ever was a real thing. Even if it was, it wasn’t widely understood outside of a very specific circle.

            1. Wintermute*

              I thought of the same thing!

              and wow that code got rather obscure and silly fast, to the point even between different groups in the SAME city it might not be mutually intelligible.

              Then there’s such absurdities as silver (star****er) in the right pocket meant up for getting, if you’re famous enough to qualify, you’re not going to need a hanky!

      3. New Job So Much Better*

        I know a lot of people also wear crosses that are not Christian, it’s just fashion to them.

        1. Not Christian*

          Wait, what? As someone who is a religion that is NOT Christian, I don’t know anyone of my religion who would feel comfortable wearing a cross. I wouldn’t even wear one as a costume piece. Do you personally know non-Christians who wear crosses?

          This feels like the “Christmas trees are secular” convo from yesterday – only people who grew up in a Christian family (regardless of level of practice) feel this way.

          1. Clorinda*

            Large, elaborate crosses can be part of a Goth or Steampunk style without carrying religious significance, I think.

            1. Zephy*

              You’ll find a lot of crucifixes in several Japanese anime films and TV shows (and, by extension, merch/cosplay). The Japanese are, by and large, not practicing Christians; they just think crosses are neat.

            2. Claire*

              Non-Christians, by and large, don’t wear simple crucifixes, at least that I’m aware, but some crosses are pretty designs. I wore a goth style necklace with silver thorned roses for a while before I even realized that the roses were supposed to form a cross. It was really just for the aesthetic, but other people probably did recognize it as a cross.

              This probably applies more to 1) Americans with no particular religious ties, who generally end up defaulting to cultural Christianity and 2) people living in countries with very little contact to Christianity, and not so much to Americans who actively practice non-Christian religions, so there is that lens.

          2. Iris Eyes*

            It would be more people who are irreligious than who adhere to a different religion. Not always.

            In the US at least there are a lot of religious symbols that have been used by people not of that faith just because they like it.

          3. Lehigh*

            I think if you have a religion that is not Christian, it makes sense not to wear a cross. But in American culture at least, there appear to be loads of people who are at the very least non-practicing who wear cross jewelry.

            I am not a big fan of this trend, as the cross has a specific religious meaning and was an instrument of torture and death. Not a very nice thing to wear around just for giggles.

          4. Filosofickle*

            I was once gifted a lovely cross made of emeralds from a wealthy relative. Real ones. I never wore it, because I’m not a believer and it just felt wrong to wear a cross as decoration. (It also felt wrong to leave emeralds in a drawer, but there ya go.) Decades later I gifted it to a friend.

          5. Fdesigner*

            The poster wasn’t talking about you, they were talking about people they know who wear crosses without being religious. I dont understand why you need to bring up how you do things.

          6. Random datapoint*

            I don’t usually, as an agnostic, wear crosses. However, my Muslim best friend bought me a garnet necklace that prominently features a garnet cross. She said she just thought it was pretty. I did, too, and I wear it because it makes me think of her.

          7. Linzava*

            I’m an atheist and I have crosses in my jewelry collection. I have no hesitation wearing them either and I don’t wear them out of disrespect to Christians. Madonna made rosary beads fashionable in the 80s as well. I don’t wear them at work though.

          8. A*

            There’s also a very large population of people who just….aren’t religious. Not specifically atheist. Just… not religious. And I don’t mean ‘not practicing’.

            It might be uncomfortable for someone of a different religion to wear, but the associations you have with it are based on your background and the fact that you are indeed religious in some way. To some, it’s just a symbol or a shape.

          9. lilsheba*

            well I certainly wouldn’t wear a cross, being an atheist. But Christmas trees are secular! Actually they’re pagan to be honest. Not Christian.

        2. Wintermute*

          Another one I thought of was the inverted cross.

          It could be ultra-religious christian, anti-christian, satanist, or just likes to be shocking, you can’t tell by looking, though you may get some context clues based on the rest of their outfit.

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      I really, really want you to mean that you wore a sword strapped to your waist because that would be amazing.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I spent 20 years in the SCA. Wearing a sword strapped to your waist there means “dressed for the weekend.”

    3. Reality.Bites*

      A friend of mine was born and grew up in Colombia. He was once auditioning for a Gay Men’s Chorus in Canada and was assigned “Over the Rainbow” for his audition. He said to me, “I had no idea it was such a big deal here. I just thought it was an old movie with bad special effects.”

      Co-worker may just think it’s a cute piece of jewelry and doesn’t understand why passers-by keep trying to lick her boots.

      1. Aster*

        Back in the day, I had to explain Friends of Dorothy to a gay friend from another country.

        These things are not necessarily universal!

    4. Anon Here*

      I’m curious about the significance that those items can convey. I looked it up, but didn’t find much.

      Also, I can relate. Being vague for privacy reasons, but a long time ago, I wore a piece of jewelry that I just liked aesthetically. I bought it from a street vendor who didn’t tell me anything about it. Occasionally, people would compliment me on it using terms that I didn’t understand. Words that sounded like they came from another language. I noticed a pattern – it was always the same term, and always people of the same ethnicity. I felt like I was missing some important knowledge about the jewelry, so I stopped wearing it.

      Years later, I read a book about a religion from another part of the world and found out that the jewelry was central to that religion! I didn’t mean to be wearing something with spiritual significance to another culture, and a religion that was not my own.

      But this was before it was easy to look things up online. I feel really embarassed when I see pictures of myself wearing it. I feel like those pictures should come with an explanation – that I really had no idea and I would not have worn that jewelry had I known.

      I need to go farther to educate myself about that specific jewelry and the context surrounding it so I’ll be prepared to talk about it if people see the pictures.

      1. DiscoCat*

        Hmmm, interesting- I have similar instinct regarding wearing accessories that carry a significance to others. I have a set of Ethiopian crosses, silver, well made, representing the history and heritage of my country. But I don’t subscribe to the Christian faith (anymore) and the Ethiopian orthodox church badly needs reforms, so I stopped wearing these pretty crosses. I’d feel like a hypocrite, but I respect those who follow that faith. I also love the Sikh religious philosophy, and considered getting a tattoo of the Ik Ongkar, but again, who am I to presume to know something about a religion so deep and meaningful- I’ve even considered asking at the Sikh temple in my town if it’s ok, or if any body parts are taboo for the tattoo.

        1. Lehigh*

          It does feel sad to let beautiful things go unused, but as a practicing Christian I appreciate your circumspection.

      2. emmelemm*

        Similarly, I have a couple of really lovely crosses that I got/were given to me when I was young, and I wore them at times, but I would never, ever wear them now because I am not (nor have I ever been) religious at all and/or explicitly Christian, and I definitely don’t want someone to start a conversation with me with the assumption that I share their faith.

        Shame, really.

    5. Granger Chase*

      Off the top of my head, anything I can think of that would be clearly D/S jewelry and in no way could be anything else would either be completely inappropriate for work or would be highly questionable, at best. Many items have been borrowed from the D/S community and turned into pieces that can be worn by anyone without intending to imply they are part of said community. It’s just best to think your coworker wears this item because they think it is flattering and leave it at that.

      1. A*

        Same. I have to imagine OP is reacting to something unrelated (aside from, perhaps, the jewelry being part of a trend that was lightly ‘inspired by’ D/S). It’s actually making me giggle to think back on all the pearl clutchers that may have made assumptions about jewelry I wore in my 20s to work. Nothing inappropriate, but if you were fully unaware of fashion trends could be interested as ‘goth’ or ‘punk’. Oh man, I hope someone invented a crazy backstory for me as a result!

    6. Quill*

      I have a lot of steampunk jewelry which generally doesn’t fall into this category, but a lot of people I know who have more goth jewelry get judgments like this.

      1. Linzava*

        Yeah, I was in high school during the early 2000s. I once borrowed a metal chain choker with a strip of leather running through. When my mom saw me wearing it, she flipped. She thought it was BDSM jewelry, I didn’t even know what that meant. People were a lot more judgy over a lot less back then. Most of my regular jewelry came from a new age store, so lots of scarves and pewter, lol.

        1. Quill*

          Thankfully, my mom wouldn’t be able to suspect that if it bit her, but she DID freak out over how an aquaintance who had an earring shaped like a safety pin was going to get tetanus, because she thought it was a real safety pin.

          I later learned that she had a nursing student pierce her ear for a third earring using a sewing needle and a potato during college, so she’s officially lost all standing for having valid judgement about body mods in my eyes.

          “Promise me you won’t ever get a tattoo, Quill”
          “Promise me you’ll never use a sewing needle and a potato to pierce your ear – oh wait, I think the tattoo is safer.”

          1. A*

            “I later learned that she had a nursing student pierce her ear for a third earring using a sewing needle and a potato during college”

            …….do most people not do this? Yikes. Two of the three of my lobe piercings were done in similarly informal methods (we sanitized the needle). Luckily that was the greatest extent of me going rouge when it comes to body mods!

  7. My Dear Wormwood*

    And internet hugs from someone who went through a similar situation. It had so little effect on my standing in that laboratory that when I left several months later, they said I should come see them if I ever wanted to do my PhD.

    Take extra care of yourself, you’ve had a terrible shock. I hope you can stop worrying about this part of it soon!

    1. Door Guy*

      I’ve been on both ends of the situation (sudden family emergency, and having a worker no call no show because of an emergency). Work is the last thing on your mind when you have an emergency like that, and most employers will understand. We were always worried that something had happened to the employee when someone reliable goes off the grid, and once contact has been made we go forward from there rearranging schedules if needed.

  8. Mystery Bookworm*

    #3, I want to echo what Alison said. Our anxiety can sometimes cause us to self-sabotage with overly effusive apologies or attempts to fix something when really it’s just best to move on.

    It’s counterintuative to anxiety, but remember that it can be a kindness to accept the kindness of others.

    1. Tallulah in the Sky*

      Came to say this. Don’t let your anxiety do damage where there is none. If you still can’t let it go after a couple of days or a week, and don’t have coping mechanisms to manage your anxiety, look into them.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Right on. Wise advice, don’t let your anxiety do damage where there is no damage.

        You can use that excess energy to promise yourself to handle it differently in the future. Start now, considering various options/plans you could use. (Would someone agree to be your backup in case of emergency?)

        And definitely follow Alison’s advice about being reliable. They sound like good people, so they mean what they are saying, that it’s all forgiven and forgotten.

        You probably had enough of a scare here that this one will never skate by you again, you’ll remember to call work if an emergency comes up.

    2. Marthooh*

      Same. Let your bosses be decent to you. They’re willing to let it go — don’t make them try to manage your anxiety for you.

  9. Dragoning*

    #1 – is it “overt sexuality at work” if you wouldn’t have even recognized it if not for reading about a basically identical issue? I also recall quite a few people there comparing it to wedding rings or similar–which also sort of imply “things” about one’s relationship and sexuality status, but are considered entirely acceptable.

    Even if this is what you’re suspecting, I would let this go.

    1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

      This. It’s no way overt. At least no more so then a wedding ring. Certainly less so then PDA between couples in public and others aren’t being involved at all.
      reminds me of the commenter who said something about how knowing someone is ace let’s them know too much about that person’s sex life or something like that in the lgbtq open comment thread.

      1. AutolycusinExile*

        An apt reference, I think – some BDSM relationships aren’t sexual, and some asexual people have sex with our partners. You have know way of knowing if any of those multiple assumptions are true, and either way it’s earely worth bringing up! Anything you ‘know’ about these kinds of things is inevitably on shaky ground.
        Even overt chokers with O- or D- rings on them have non-sexual stylistic popularity in other subcultures as well (goth, as an example) so there’s even a chance it could be a subtle reference to something after all – but not the subtle reference you think it is! Better to just avoid making too many assumptions and believe whatever makes you the most comfortable. The most simple explanation is usually the most accurate anyway and you’ll save the both of you some embarrassment too.

        Regarding methods in doing that… I’d probably recommend taking some time to check out out some of its styling in a fashion context. Find some models you like, find out whether you prefer a casual vs fancy style, etc. Having a recent mental reference that isn’t sexual will give you options in what your brain chooses to jump to when you see them. I’m guessing the recency of that AAM post is causing you to think about it more than you would otherwise, so exposing yourself to more comfortable contexts, for example, will probably help you reframe it.

      2. Quill*

        Good thing I wasn’t there that day to go off on that commenter then.

        *Rubs my black ring in their face.*

          1. Spooncake*

            Same! *high fives all round*

            …actually, I’m ace AND goth, so now I’m wondering just how wrong my coworkers are with any jewellery-based assumptions they made about me. There’s a LOT of potential there!

      3. whingedrinking*

        reminds me of the commenter who said something about how knowing someone is ace let’s them know too much about that person’s sex life or something like that
        I mean…the default assumption in our culture is that adults are allosexual and have sex/sexual desires at least sometimes. Somehow, we all manage go about our daily lives with the knowledge that “yup, the majority of people on this bus probably fuck” without getting all skeeved out.

    2. Alton*

      This. Some people wear subtle collars that just look like necklaces or bracelets as the equivalent of something like a wedding ring–they’re intentionally subtle because the wearers *don’t* want to subject anyone to overt sexuality.

      I used to work with someone who always wore jewelry that I recognized as being similar to a lot of day collars I’ve seen, but I never would have assumed that was definitely what her jewelry was, and never would have brought it up. It was none of my business if her work-appropriate jewelry had a deeper meaning that most people wouldn’t be aware of.

      1. SW*

        I’ve even seen Tiffany jewelry, with the focus on locks and keys, be more explicitly kinky than the vast majority of stealth jewelry worn for kink. Fashion looooooooves stealing style ideas from SM.
        Either way, OP, even if it was a choker with a triskelion on it, it’s not really your business. I doubt you think less of your colleagues who openly wear crosses.

          1. Gumby*

            I mean, I would have gone with “fan of Teen Wolf” before jumping to BDSM. I was at least aware before this thread of the TW connection. Which is somewhat humorous as I have seen exactly 0 episodes of that show but some of my favorite authors write in that fandom and I read almost anything they write so…

    3. Lily*

      I mean, even if it is indeed BDSM jewelry, she’s not asking you to call her boyfriend her “master”, so it should be fine.

      1. Lily*

        … sadly, Allypopx beat me to it.
        Still, on a more serious level: if people get married and invite you to the wedding, do you read this as “we want to f*** on the regular for the rest of our lives!” ? and if the same people invite you to a baby shower or baptism or similar, is your first reaction “they’re really in my face how they f***ed on the regular successfully” ?
        If not, leave it alone. People are allowed to have (potentially sexual) relationships and are allowed to be open about the general existence of those relationships.

        1. Allypopx*

          Heh, I don’t think there’s a limit on how many times we can remind people DO NOT make coworkers call your partner master. Do not. Dooooo not.

          And yes to your other examples. “We’re trying for a baby” is always the one that makes me INCREDIBLY uncomfortable. You can tell me when you’re pregnant, but I do not need to actively know your methods of birth control or lack thereof, or the frequency of your sex, or the schedule of your ovulation. But somehow these are appropriate things to discuss openly and a piece of jewelry is worthy of pearl clutching (pun? intended. Pearls, jewelry. I’m very tired.).

          1. Lily*

            yep, the only acceptably context for “we’re trying” is when a doctor asks if you could be pregnant or maybe to shut up extremely nosy relatives^^

            1. Incantanto*

              Well, if I was actuvely trying I’d probably seriously have to think about the lab work I was doing as a lot of the chemicals I handle have “may be harmful to the unborn child” on them. But thats a semi-niche case. (And a real problem in the industry as if you get pregnant you have to have duties reassigned really early on/have to tell bosses v early)

              1. Allypopx*

                Definite an appropriate conversation to have with your supervisor! But not like – socially, all over the office, necessarily.

            2. SimplyTheBest*

              Doesn’t that kind of go against what you just said? People are allowed to have sexual relationships and are allowed to be open about the general existence of those relationships. You can’t make babies without sex.

              1. Allypopx*

                No. Lily said general existence, not details. “I am in a committed relationship that probably involves sex but we don’t need to discuss that” is different than “I am regularly screwing my wife without a condom for the forseeable future.”

                1. whingedrinking*

                  I think this is one that falls into a very fuzzy area for me, because while I appreciate that “we’re trying” says something very distinct and definite about people’s sex lives, so does “we’re expecting”, and people tend to be okay with that. I’m trying (heh) to think of a way to communicate “our desire to initiate a pregnancy has gone from hypothetical to actual” without sounding like a robot.

              2. Lily*

                I’m totally fine with “We want a lot of children, and we want them soon” at the thanksgiving table or whatever.
                I’m also fine with discussing fertilily measures with best friends or maybe close relatives who want to know in a private discussion (that said, I’m also fine with two close friends discussing their sex life, or maybe a young person asking their parent about contraception, etc).

                But “we’re trying” shouldn’t be part of a group discussion, especially around acquaintances.

          2. Claire*

            Ugh, yes, unless you’ve discussed your IVF treatments, “We’re trying for a baby,” is essentially saying, “We’re having unprotected sex,” which is a weird thing to share. (Of course, the IVF process is not entirely devoid of sexual acts, but it doesn’t ping my sex alarm as much, probably because it’s more clinical.)

    4. Zephy*

      I hadn’t thought about the fact that wedding rings are also “jewelry that implies something about the wearer’s relationship status and sex life,” but you’re totally right. By extension, so are those stacking rings or charms on a necklace/bracelet with kids’ names or birthdates/stones on them.

  10. Yvette*

    #3, Relax
    Take them at their word. Especially since you provided a detailed explanation and they knew what you had to do. Honestly that was a very difficult situation situation for anyone, let alone some one who is as young as you are to be in (College senior, so what, 21, 22?) And please don’t think I am judging your parents for putting you in that position. Someone had to be there and you were close. You handled it very well, and I am glad you were there for your sister.

  11. SomePTSDChick*

    Graphic designer here, with loads of clients and a desire for feedback too, here’s my tips:
    1. Did you get a brief overall, or does the company have an internal style guide? (if it’s creative work?) If it’s office-style, are there any emails you got on how to do the task?

    And 2. Do you have a designated contact person?

    What I generally do is ask for a one-off or six monthly “bigger picture re: assignments” conversation. The “re: assignments” part is critical here so people don’t assume that I’m asking to change anything about my pay/work schedule etc.

    I generally just shoot in an email – “if you have any time for a quick 10-minute chat about the bigger picture on the Llama Grooming assignments, I’d be really grateful for your time so I can continue to keep pace with your expectations. If there are any materials I could read, I’d be more than willing as well!” – tone and wording depending on client, how you write, etc.

    Option #2 is to ask a specific question or two based on other materials, if you’re not sure on direction –
    Eg “I notice the original brief for the Llama portfolio says the company wants a new-age look for the llamas – can I touch base on whether that’s happening at the right level, or too much, or too little?”

    Anyone else got ideas? Great topic.

  12. Kiki*

    I looked up “d/s jewelry” because I had no idea what that would look like and found a site that specialized in it. Looking over the necklaces and bracelets on the site, I thought many were cute designs and have owned some things that look similar. There’s probably a decent chance that OP #1’s coworker has no idea!

  13. Wakeens Teapots LTD*


    Does it help if I tell you that if I were your boss I would really really mean it?

    I have a semi scary/intimidating reputation at Wakeens. I don’t put up with bullshit or crap excuses. I am not tolerant of people being flaky when it leave customers or co-workers in the lurch, and I’m going to call people out, firmly, on crap. I don’t hesitate to put people on PIP or fire them when it is necessary.

    And I would mean every single word of that note they sent you. Bless you for being there for your sister. I hope you and your family do well this holiday season. Take care of yourself as well as them. <3

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      This. You are usually reliable. You had an emergency. It happens!

      Also most bosses want to be reasonable and kind. Yours are one of those.

      Accept their response as a sign of a healthy attitude to emergencies, thank them for being understanding when you go back, and move on.

      It is seriously OK. Really.

    2. Allypopx*

      I could have written this. At my last job I was definitely the “hard ass” manager. I had high standards and expected people to be reliable, punctual, and professional, as the job required these things. I wasn’t unreasonable but I wasn’t overly forgiving either.

      But goodness, OP, it sounds like you work for human beings! This wasn’t a “dog ate my homework” excuse. They can comfortably tell the instructor and participants that there was an emergency and do what they need to in order to smooth that over. I’m sure they’re glad your sister is okay and don’t want to make things worse for you. I would honestly respect them a lot less if they gave you a hard time, knowing the situation. It would have been great if you had remembered to call them but they weren’t your priority in that moment. That’s okay.

      I hope you can move past this and not let it stress you out about your work performance. Things happen. I also wonder if this is getting to you more than it otherwise would, because of the stress of your family situation. Please take care of yourself surrounding that, it sounds very traumatic and you need emotional support as well. I hope you have someone to talk to.

      I’m glad your sister is okay.

    3. Sara without an H*

      Ditto. OP#3, it’s true that most of the content we see on AAM skews to bad bosses/employers, just because that’s what people need advice about. (Nobody’s going to write in to say, “Hey, Alison, I like my job, my co-workers are nice, and my boss is a decent human being.”)

      But it sounds as though your employers really are decent people. You informed them as soon as possible, you have a reputation for reliability, and they’re ready to support you. Relax, and let them be the good people they are.

      I hope your sister is doing better, and that you get to relax a little over the holiday season. Take care!

    4. AnotherLibrarian*

      This is what I came here to say. OP #3, I supervise student assistants, and believe me, I know my reliable ones. If something happened like this, I would mean every word of my email. You are human. Emergencies happen. I’ve had similar situations to yours in my life and trust me, your Sister’s safety is more important than unlocking a door. You did the right thing. Try, if you can, to let this go.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I was going to say the same.

      I come from a hardass industry with little use for excuses. However a reliable worker with a family emergency who contacted us as quickly as possible will always get a pass.

      You missed start time but when you saw the missed calls you jumped. And you can usually hear stress in someone’s voice so that voicemail probably was enough to tell them it was an emergency situation. Then you explained again.

      They do forgive you. I hope you can forgive yourself soon.

      These women appreciate you and have known you for months as a dependable hard worker. This isn’t something that washes that history away.

    6. ClumsyCharisma*

      Agreed. I have high expectations of my teams and but if I have a no call – no show my first reaction is worry especially if the person is generally a good employee.

  14. Director of Alpaca Exams*

    #4, I’ve been with my partner for 18 years and neither of us goes to the other one’s holiday party. It’s totally fine to go solo. Tonight I went to mine and talked to various people about books we’ve read, movies and TV we’ve watched, and museums we’ve gone to; if your coworkers don’t know how to have conversations with colleagues about things that aren’t work, feel free to use those as jumping-off points, and even to say brightly, “Gosh, it’s so nice to get to talk outside of work and learn a little bit more about you!”

    1. T2*

      Parties are a hard no for me. I do not socialize with coworkers at work as a matter of personal policy. Not everyone understands lines of appropriateness, and alcohol usually makes that worse. This has burned me in the past, so I like to keep coworkers at a professional distance.

      Others are free to go, bring someone, bring no one or whatever. But you will not see me there ever.

      Work is work, not a social club. I am literally paid to be there. If I wasn’t paid, I wouldn’t spend one minute at work.

      1. T2*

        Just for clarification to those who might come across this. I have a mild form of social disorder which causes me to easily misinterpret social cues. Essentially I think of my friends as close friends and my close friends as family very easily. This has caused problems for me when someone takes advantage of me. Or it causes awkwardness when I mistake friendliness for a deeper connection.

        So I have to categorize people very strictly so I keep things straight. Coworkers are coworkers and not friends. and I avoid social situations where I can become easily confused. Today, after years and years of careful balancing, I can honestly say I am clear in just about every social interaction. Those who like me, like me. Those who love me, love me. And my wife is my wife. And to those who don’t know me I am simply reserved and polite. Things are so much easier for me.

        Reading this site on a daily basis leads me to believe that boundary setting issues are rather more common than I thought.

    2. Smithy*

      I’ve not only never brought a partner to a work party – but also none of my work parties have ever been places where that something I would want.

      That being said, my mom is in her sixties, has worked for the same midwestern hospital for over thirty years and after losing my dad two years ago has listed that as the reason why she’d never go to another hospital holiday party. She has equated it to going to the prom without a date. Now this may simply be a larger part of my mother’s grief or her perspective due to generation, place, etc – so I’m not ready to call this party out as a counter point. But it was insightful to be reminded that there are people who strongly have the perspective of work parties demanding a date.

      1. Elenna*

        For what it’s worth, me and most of my high school friends went to prom as a big dateless group :)

        Granted, I wouldn’t have gone entirely by myself, but that’s because I’m not a big fan of dances. I’ve gone to fancy restaurants by myself, for what that’s worth, and had a perfectly good time.

    3. PhyllisB*

      I’ve been married 43 years, and my husband doesn’t attend work functions with me. He’s not a real social person and would not enjoy himself, so I just go and socialize and have fun and come home and tell him about it. I get to have fun and not worry that he’s bored to death wishing we could leave. Win-win!!

    4. Jaydee*

      I always felt bad inflicting holiday parties and office get-togethers on my husband, and I didn’t like going to his either. Whose idea of fun is going to a party where you hang out with someone else’s coworkers? Thankfully, we’re both in jobs now where it seems there’s less expectation for partners or families to be invited to these types of things, and I am totally good with that.

    5. A*

      If I was to attend an office party for someone I’m dating…. it must be serious, because I’d only do that for love.

  15. Beth*

    OP1: It sounds like you’re aware that this is a thing to ‘get over’, so I’m not going to harp on that! See if any of the following options help with that process:

    – Stop thinking of it as D/s jewelry. Honestly, even the most ‘obvious’ D/s jewelry will also have other applications; a leather collar is about as blatant as it gets, but is also plenty common at punk concerts and on edgy teenage rebels. Figure out some other context this particular jewelry could reasonably fit, and assume that’s what it actually means.

    – It seems like part of what’s bothering you is the ‘blatantness’ of it, but a piece of jewelry that you wouldn’t have questioned if you hadn’t read a related article isn’t all that blatant. Try to think of this more like a wedding ring–which also tells us some things about the wearer’s sex life (e.g. that it probably exists, that it’s probably at least largely with a specific person), but which we think of as personal jewelry rather than a sexual symbol.

    – Stop looking at it. Pick another point on your coworker (their left eyebrow? their hairline? their earlobe? whatever isn’t right by this jewelry but is close enough to their face to pass as normal eye contact) and look at that when you talk with them. I’m betting you’re stuck in a rut where you see them and your brain goes “ahh it’s Sex Jewelry Coworker!” before you even really think about it, which makes your eyes go right to this jewelry, which just reinforces the cycle. If you can break that cycle, I bet your discomfort will pass.

    1. Tallulah in the Sky*

      “Try to think of this more like a wedding ring–which also tells us some things about the wearer’s sex life (e.g. that it probably exists, that it’s probably at least largely with a specific person), but which we think of as personal jewelry rather than a sexual symbol.”

      This. I understand why many commenters tell OP there’s a real possibility it’s just a necklace her coworker loves (which could very well not be the case ! People from the BDSM are kinda miffed/amused so many symbols of the community have become mainstream, you can’t trust them anymore), and to just stop thinking about it. But I also want to push back on wearing a collar = flaunting your sex life. Although sex is often involved in a BDSM relationship (but not always), that’s often not what the relationship is about. As someone from the BDSM community, I can tell you that what you see in movies and read in books is very different from real life. People in a BDSM relationship wear a collar for very similar reasons they wear a wedding ring : to show commitment, to have a symbol of that commitment and respect (and often love too) with them, and to show others that this person is in a committed relationship. It’s also not all about the kinky sex (seriously, when I started to venture in this world, I was surprised how… normal people were, it was a bit anti climatic).

      So OP, if you can’t “unsee” this or stop thinking about it, just reframe it as “coworker is in a committed relationship” and not “OP is having wild orgies every week-end”. Because the first is definitely true, while the second is just your imagination running wild on a topic you only know a sensationalized version of.

      1. Tallulah in the Sky*

        “Because the first is definitely true” -> only if the necklace is a collar. Again, could just be a piece of trendy jewelry :-)

  16. Don’t get salty*

    #3: I’m sorry for what you experienced, but we are all human and, especially in a crisis, we act in ways we don’t expect. Forgive yourself. Beating yourself up is not going to make the guilty feelings go away and it’s not all that productive in preventing the next slip-up (not that this is really a slip-up, your family desperately needed you).

    For some perspective, I’ve been in my current career for over a decade and I was very excited to be leading a conference call about a complicated investigation. I was so excited that I had difficulty sleeping; I overslept and completely missed the call. I woke up to numerous texts from my boss demanding that I call in and wondering where I was. It was very embarrassing, but I learned that the best thing to do is to sincerely apologize, make amends the best way I know how, and then move on. You will survive, you will move on. Hold your head high. You are an awesome sister!

  17. Batgirl*

    OP4, as someone who is always looking to get out of the Christmas party I’d be tempted to say “You think I’ll have a terrible time? No one will talk to me? Huh maybe I just shouldn’t go”. However that might not be what you’re looking for! Wow, though what a way to make you feel unwelcome.

    1. Natalia*

      I’m the OP and it is annoying. The party actually did end up being fun even though I went alone.
      I know people who’ve gone with a significant other and had a terrible time…

      I just hate this whole thinking of “it will only be fun if you’re there with a date.”

  18. Ruth (UK)*

    1. My co-workers at my old job thought I was into ‘something kinky’ due to my climbing gear (rope etc) that I sometimes had in my backpack as I sometimes went to a rock climbing wall after work. I didn’t know they thought that for ages and just never considered whether they’d recognise climbing gear or not.

    Anyway, the co-worker with the jewelry may or may not be into anything and if they are, it doesn’t matter. I assume they’re not discussing it from the sound of things and I’m also guessing the jewelry is subtle in its connection to BDSM as you say you may not have noticed/realising not for reading this site.

    1. Pantsuit Eleanor Shellstrop*

      This is hilarious and I’m dying to know more. How did you eventually find out they thought this? Did someone say something to you?

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        I referred to it eventually at some point and talked about going climbing later and they reacted like, “ooooh THAT’S what it is!” and explained what they’d thought it was!

        1. Tie One On*

          This makes me smile because I’m in the opposite position— I have a rope climbing bag in my car because… I’m into rope bondage. A climber’s bag is excellent for my rope, carabiners, etc. I also have a vanity license plate that has rope-ish wordplay in it.
          I tell people who see my bag that my partner is into climbing (I don’t know enough about climbing to have even a basic conversation about it). When people ask about my license plate, I tell them I’m learning macrame. ;-D
          Makes me wonder how many people see my license plate and make the correct assumption about its meaning, and then see my vanilla appearance and think – nah, she couldn’t be into That.
          OP , this goes to show you that you can’t assume anything.

    2. Donkey Hotey*

      Background: I used to work for a company that dealt with down. We made comforter/duvets, but we also sold down to small outdoors companies who made vests and such.
      Around this time of year, we would get swag gifts from our customers just like any other company. Office manager would announce the gifts received, interested parties would toss their names in for a drawing and the winner would get the gift.
      One year, we received and I subsequently won 50m of high quality climbing rope. Carried it around in the back of my car for months. Every once in a while people would ask me if I climbed and I would invariably answer, “Nope. Bondage freak.” (Narrator voice: He was not a bondage freak but he was bondage freak adjacent.”)

    3. HM MM*

      For my work passwords I’ve been going through the song titles of a Broadway musical that I know well. My last one had the word “master” in it. Then I had to give my password to IT for something and I was like “oh crap. They’re definitely going to think it’s a weird BDSM reference” (it did sound kinda bdsm-y if you weren’t familiar with the musical).

  19. SusanIvanova*

    “Don’t you want to have someone to talk to at the party?”

    Yes. My coworkers. And if I bring someone who doesn’t know any of them, then they’ve got nobody to talk to except me and that’s not going to be very fun for them.

    1. Marthooh*

      “I’m sure I’ll find someone at the party to talk to! But don’t worry, it won’t be you.”

  20. It's a No From Me*

    LW #1 if it’s not a heavy chain around their neck with a lock attached (an actual D/s form of jewelry), it’s safe to assume your co-worker has no idea it may suggest BDSM. And even if it is a lock and chain, it might just be a fashion choice.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Ew!!! Sex Pistols, no thanks!

        But seriously…we all wore dog chains and locks for years in the punk scene, which is your point naturally. So I’m dying at this comment all the same.

        I recall having to use bolt cutters a few times when someone lost the key.

  21. thinking about kinky stuff at work and you can't tell*

    On OP1, I’d bet $50 it’s a black choker with a O-ring or a D-ring at the centre, AKA an extremely common and popular fashion style worn by normal non-kinky people everywhere. Slow your roll

  22. Allonge*

    #1 – I know completely the feeling of not being able to Let Go TM of looking at a piece of jewelry etc.

    But – unless a medal says, e.g. Spank me Master!, it does not bring sexuality to the workplace any more than a wearing a cross brings religion to the workplace. As you write that you would not have recognised it as D/s significance without prior briefing, I am guessing it’s not that plain. On this level of ‘coded’ jewelry, any bracelet or medal may mean explicitly sexual things and you woudl never recognise that, either because it is a code you don’t have or because it is just personal.

    And as many others say, it may well have a different meaning or no meaning at all. For example, a triskele figure has been used throughout history in several cultures, so it may be a souvenir, or it may mean the person likes Teen Wolf, or just found it pretty. Inherited it from a family member. Any number of possibilities exist.

    Honestly, even if the coworker is very much into BDSM, and is wearing a day collar to represent that – it it is not against the dress code of your workplace, or offensive, it is not your business, and it’s on you to handle it. Do blame your upbringing for any difficulty in this though! That ‘s what it’s there for :)

    1. Not always sexual!*

      Spank me master does not even mean there is sex/arousal involved. That’s an assumption people outside of the community are making.

        1. Not always sexual!*

          For sure! But not for sexual reasons, necessarily.

          It’s really annoying to have people who don’t know what they’re talking about say that you can’t have bdsm/kink/whatever without it being sexual. It’s similar to when heterosexual people talk about how a gay person couldn’t possibly be around a person of the same gender without being attracted to them or hitting on them. There is overlap, for some, but one does not equal the other.

  23. Allonge*


    O. Em Gee.

    Maybe a subscription to an online stock photo database is in order (for the employer I mean). Alternatively there are very nice CG images the company could use if they want pics with kids. And even if that was not the case, it is still none of their business to demand that your husband posts your kids’ photos on his FB.

    Does the company sell things to Europe? GDPR could apply then to legally object.

    1. Pantsuit Eleanor Shellstrop*

      Ahahaha for a second, I thought you meant OP should download some stock photos of children and pass them off as their own.

      Not the best way to set boundaries with a new employer, of course. But it is really funny to think about.

  24. The answer is (probably) 42*

    First of all, I’m sending so much love your way for being there for your sister in this crisis and helping her out, I am just getting out the other side of a different but comparable family crisis that had a wide scale impact across multiple axes in my life, so I can imagine what you’re going through. I want to offer you a few pieces of wisdom that have been very useful to me when handling things like this <3
    1- It was totally correct for you to call and email your apology, but try to avoid apologizing too much after this point because it will start to wear on people. You want your apologies to be meaningful and used when needed, not an unhealthy reflexive response.
    2- If you're looking for an alternative, start saying "thank you" instead of "sorry" wherever you can. Thank you so much for understanding and supporting me in this tough situation! Thank you for catching that mistake, I'll fix it right away. Thanks for letting me know about the right way to do [work thing], I'll do it like that from now on.
    3- Be kind to yourself. Your sister had a crisis, but by helping her out you have shouldered a big burden yourself and it's ok if you have anxiety and frustration and don't handle everything perfectly. You're allowed to be a human with feelings and flaws. Anxiety can be especially insidious because then you have anxiety *about* your anxiety- try to forgive yourself for feeling anxious, acknowledge and validate the feeling. You can do this!

    1. MeganK*

      I want to second the re-framing of “sorry” to “thank you” – I have a whole list on a sticky note of things I can say when a mistake is pointed out that aren’t “sorry,” to try and address this issue for myself, because I have it too. It really helps change the whole tone of a conversation to lead with something like “thanks for letting me know,” or “good catch, I’ll make the changes,” etc.

      Good luck OP3, and sending internet hugs and hopes that you and your family continue to be in a better place. I’m sure that was so scary for all of you and I’m glad she’s doing ok now.

    1. Donkey Hotey*

      Double bonus irony: I once attended a BDSM wedding. The wedding rings had a rope motif. In my mind, that was simultaneously the most overt and covert BDSM signaling I’d ever seen.

    2. Epsilon Delta*

      Lol as a fellow “raised Catholic” human, I totally sympathize with OP here and cracked up at your comment. It’s funny how things we’re trained to view as”normal” like wedding rings and biological children fly under the radar while everything else pings that sense of moral guilt. It doesn’t turn off even after you stop believing in Catholicism, unfortunately.

  25. LTRFTP*

    I’m Irish, so different cultural norms, but no-one brings dates to office do’s.
    My parents are 30 years (mostly) happily married and they don’t go to each other’s work events.
    I’ve never seen significant others at work events in 4 different companies.
    I showed people the weirdest date story from last week and everyone said, “He asked her to his work Christmas party as a date?” in the most shocked tone of voice

    1. Another Sarah*

      Yeah here in the UK too, you can claim around £100 per employee per year in tax benefits for work events, but there’s no such break for spouses so they’re not invited to work events 99% of the time.

    2. londonedit*

      I’ve also never been to a work Christmas party where spouses/+1s were invited. It would be weird to bring a partner to a Christmas party in my experience, let alone a date!

      1. Goldfinch*

        Same, all the companies I’ve worked at have specifically prohibited plus-ones at work parties. I assume it’s because we work with IP and there may be shop talk.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I’m in the US and it is on and off, by no means a requirement. I’ve done it both ways when I was married. At an OldJob, we’ve had house parties at a manager’s home that started right after work and there was no way to bring the SO to the party on time. First year at my next OldJob, they rented a nice venue, so the husband and I went. However, the owner had not accounted for how much the company had grown over the year, and rented the same venue as he had the year before, when it had maybe 20% of the staff. There was barely enough standing room. You couldn’t walk across the room without brushing against people. Then they announced that food was ready and we all went to stand in line… and stand and stand. After 15 or 20 minutes, we decided that, if we left now, drove home, and cooked dinner, we’d get to eat sooner than if we’d stayed in the line. So we left. He did not go the year after, and the parties we had after that were smaller and had a “no plus ones” rule. I have also hosted a couple of work holiday parties at our home, obviously my husband was there lol. So it really varies.

      What never happened was me going to a work party without an SO and having no one to talk to. I would really question the workplace dynamic if that happened. I’m not even a huge fan of workplace socialization, but implying that no one is going to talk to anyone other than their spouses/partners at a work party is really bizarre.

    4. wittyrepartee*

      My work party is a union party (the office has an office party- which would be SUPER WEIRD to bring a significant other to). But the Union Party is promising to be much more fun this year, now that I could pay to bring my boyfriend.

        1. Natalia*

          Hi! I’m the OP who asked the questions here. Our work party is held in the evening after work at a local hotel ballroom. It is actually a very nice event. They have appetizers, a bar (not open bar, but very resonably priced drinks), a dinner and dessert buffet, and dancing after dinner. The tables are always very nicely set and employees even get a discount on hotel rooms on the night of the event. During dinner our owner makes a nice speech and they honor employees who’ve been there for 10 years or more. It’s a fun event.
          I’d say a majority of people bring their spouse or significant other. Some people do come alone, including this year my boss whose wife was sick. Like, it’s not unusual for people to come alone. Some people do bring a friend as a plus one. A guy this year brought a friend of his. One lady brought her sister one year and another manager brought his adult son.

          Yeah, it is really weird that they are saying I would have no one to talk to…come on! Needless to say the people who said this to me, we didn’t talk much at the party, I spent my time socializing with other people…

  26. Another Sarah*

    #2 This is really not acceptable for your company to be pressuring for photos. If you want to push back on the policy altogether, it might be worth mentioning that families going through or recently involved in the adoption process are advised to never post photos of adoptive children online because of the risk of them being tracked down by someone they were actively taken away from, like a negligent or abusive situation – in the UK, where I’m from, it’s actually a condition of the pre-adoption process.
    Surely they want to be inclusive of all types of family? Then they can’t insist on this.

  27. sb51*

    #2 You’re absolutely right to want to keep your kids’ pics off social media, but another idea if they’re still being weird after you say no—is there some art they made that you could offer, especially a family portrait or similar? Like one done by a young enough kid that it’s stick figures with nothing really identifiable.

    1. Commenter*

      This is an adorable idea :)

      I entirely agree that they’re being ridiculously pushy though, so I wouldn’t offer something like this unless it would be a genuinely happy alternative for your family.

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      I really love this idea. Especially with how pushy they seem to be with the OP.

      “We need a family portrait!!!!”
      “Okay, here’s one my daughter drew.”
      “That’s not a photograph!!!”
      “Oh, I thought since we were so family friendly it would be appropriate to submit a picture of our family from our daughter’s perspective! Look at her color choices, isn’t it great? She even got my [beard/necklace/other random detail] in there! How cute is that!”

    3. Elenna*

      Ha, I was thinking the (even) more snarky version of this – send a set of xkcd-style stick figures, with no background or anything, just plain stick figures with two of them being taller than the others. :P Probably a bad idea, but still…

  28. Delta Delta*

    #3 – Another thought in al this: the incident with OP3’s sister was (I assume) a significant and frightening experience. I can see how OP is mentally elevated around the event – worry for her sister, long-term concern for her sister, memories of in-the-moment anxiety/worry/stress, etc. around her sister. It’s probably always going to be an emotional and anxiety-producing event for OP, which may be adding to her feelings connected with missing work. I think it’s okay to say to the employer exactly what Alison said, and perhaps to add that it was a frightening/scary/etc event (or whatever level of detail is appropriate). It sounds like the employers are genuinely nice people; OP is well-advised to continue being consistent and responsible for the duration of the job so that the event becomes a distant one-off situation.

  29. MicroManagered*

    OP1: So I guess I’m not the only one who started picking out BDSM jewelry in the wild after reading that letter?!

    A 60-something-year old woman I work with wears a silver padlock necklace, and for like a week I was convinced it was a BDSM thing. (similar link for reference My advice to you is to get some perspective. Unless your coworker is coming to work in a gimp outfit, you don’t necessarily *know* it’s a D/s thing.

  30. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    No, OP1. Your colleague isn’t wearing ‘fetish jewellery’ or ‘BDSM jewellery’.

    She’s wearing jewellery.

    What you decide to interpret this as is on you, not on her.

    1. Allypopx*

      Mhmm. She’s not asking you to call anyone master. Leave her alone and don’t impose your assumptions on her.

  31. Allypopx*

    OP4: Have you been to the Christmas party before? Do you work in a culture that’s just super bad at parties, and it’s awkward and uncomfortable so people always bring a social crutch?

    Go without a date. Socialize! Look at people like they have six heads if they comment (because, to be clear, they’re being ridiculous). Break down these weird social barriers.

    But maybe you’re also getting clues about the vibe of this party, so I’d go in ready to make a quick appearance and a graceful exit if it sucks.

    1. Natalia*

      Yes, and I’ve gone solo before. At the last few Xmas parties, I shared an office with a guy. Starting this year, I’m one of 4 women in our back office and that’s where the comments started.
      That said, the party was this past weekend and I went solo and had fun. Needless to say, I didn’t really hang out much with the people who were making these comments.

    2. JustaTech*

      I really don’t get why not bringing someone to your work holiday party is a big deal. At my work party last weekend several people came alone, people with and without partners. I don’t blame anyone’s SO for not wanting to come to this year’s party – “our new lunch room” isn’t what you’d call an exciting theme. (The year we were at the aquarium was much more popular, even for a weeknight.)

      I also get wanting to bring someone you know if it’s going to be a huge (1000+) party at a company you just joined. This week I promised to be “someone you know” for one of my coworkers at my SO’s company party (my coworker’s spouse just started there and it can be intimidating).

      1. Oh So Anon*

        It can be conspicuous in some work cultures. If you work somewhere where the vast majority of your colleagues are either married or long-term partnered, and they mostly bring their partners to holiday parties, it can be awkward.

        At previous workplaces, I wouldn’t have had an issue going to a holiday party without a plus-one; people did it all the time and it was fine. At my current workplace, I think the optics of not having a plus-one would be a bit different because most of my colleagues are either ~15 years older than me, married, or both, and people seldom go unless they’re bringing their partner.

  32. Reality.Bites*

    It’s hard enough to get a partner in a committed relationship to attend a company party. I can’t imagine how you’d go about persuading someone more casual.

    1. S-Mart*

      My partner and I have been together 19 years, work at the same company, and still don’t go to company parties together. Due to other events/disinterest often only one of us goes, and even if we both go we don’t spend much time together at the party because our work-social circles don’t overlap a ton.

    2. Quill*

      Yeah, I’ve gone to weddings with friends as moral support, a work party? You can use me as an excuse to play hooky from it but I’m not going to dress up and stand around in someone else’s office for mediocre food. Closest I’ve got was a friend’s grad school intro dinner, where the idea was to double team on networking. (And where half the people we met had brought their spouses…)

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

      You aggressively do magic tricks to get their attention, and then spitefully play the piano AT them all night.

    4. Iris Eyes*

      Oh I know! You hire a down on their luck aspiring actor. Then when the company party gets snowed in everyone eventually finds out that they aren’t in fact your boyfriend just in time for you to realize that you have feelings for him.

  33. Pretzelgirl*

    OP3- This is a difficult situation all around and I am sorry you had to deal with it. It sounds like the company was understanding of what happened and has moved on. I know at your age, I too was super self conscious about work related things. College painted this picture of workplace norms for me (at least at my University) where one mess up and you were gone! When in fact, I have found most employers to be super understanding of your non- work life. As long as you are reliable and focused at work, most understand that life happens and that can get in the way sometimes.

    1. wittyrepartee*

      As a former TA- work is much more forgiving of life events than University classes. I had a student come to class with a broken finger, and not tell me, because she thought it wouldn’t matter. She almost lost points on the quiz she missed, but as she left class she held up her hand to show her friend her crooked, purple finger. I probably was supposed to take off points according to policy, but I wasn’t about to do that.

  34. SarahKay*

    OP#3, you say you don’t have a long track record with your current job but trust me, two months is plenty long enough to know if someone is keen and conscientious, or if they’re just putting in the hours.
    I think perhaps you’re looking at it as only having established eight weeks of showing up on time, and now you’re a no-call no-show, but from an employer’s point of view there’s lots more to it than that.
    I’m willing to bet that you’re showing up comfortably on time (not rushing in bang on your start time or a couple of minutes late), that if a workshop runs ten minutes over you stay those extra ten minutes cheerfully, that you’re pro-active in looking for things to do and ways to help. If I were your employer all of this would add up to a very positive overall impression that’d more than offset one life-happens-emergency.
    Calmly thank them for their understanding, and then do your best to move on. It may help to practise what you want to say a few times to help take some of the fraught emotion that you’re (understandably) feeling out of the words.
    I hope you and your sister are both doing better soon.

  35. OP3*

    Hi everyone, OP3 here. Thank you so much for all your advice. I think what a lot of you said was right-I was already on edge about what happened and so my general anxiety about work performance took it from there. I did want to share that I’ve had my first shift back since I wrote in and they couldn’t have been more understanding. The owner who was working said “as far as you and I go, we’re good-how are you doing?” So that was a big relief for me. I also wanted to share that my sister is doing better and getting the help she needs. Thank you for all the well wishes and advice, I really appreciate it!

    1. Allypopx*

      That’s so good to hear! This sounds like a great place to work I’m glad you have a healthy work environment during all this personal stuff.

    2. Washi*

      Aw, that’s so great to hear! I would have done exactly the same thing as you – attending to the emergency and then having that sinking feeling when you realize you’ve forgotten something important (but not as important as your sister!).

      In addition to all the great comments, I just wanted to say that one thing that has helped me is that rather than telling myself to get over it, I remind myself “I’m going to feel anxious and stressed about this for a little while, but it will gradually dissipate and feel back to normal.” You may find yourself triple-checking your calendar for a little while or feeling extra stress around making sure you haven’t missed anything, but in my experience, that WILL go away and probably by the end of the year none of you will really be thinking about this incident.

      1. Washi*

        *none of you will be thinking about this incident at work (not that you won’t think about your sister, obviously!)

        1. OP3*

          Thank you! Had a bit of a scare this morning when the office manager texted me and said “you’re covering the studio today right?” But she had the dates mixed up and immediately replied “nope not you sorry!” But my stomach did a somersault in the meantime. I’ll definitely be triple checking my schedule for a long time now.

    3. RMNPgirl*

      As a manager, I wanted to give you a different perspective if the owners are as great as you say. When I have a reliable employee do a no call/no show, I’m immediately concerned that something happened to them. Yes, I’m working on figuring out coverage but until I hear from them I’m wondering if they were in a car accident on their way in, if they’re in the hospital and unable to call etc etc.
      In your situation, once I found out you were okay and had a family emergency, I just would have felt relief and of course complete understanding of what happened.
      Reliability gives you a lot of wiggle room in jobs, especially where it’s an important aspect.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        Yes, this! I’ve been the manager and an employee who is MIA, is always a concern to me! Even if *my* boss is howling at me that they’re just lazy and stupid and they wouldn’t do crap like this if I disciplined them more.

        One of my girls had a situation similar to LW’s above- there was a death in the family 20 minutes prior to her shift starting- and I found out that not only did the managers on duty at the time call me to demand she be fired, they also left her a series of abusive voicemails threatening her with the same. I had to profusely apologize when she returned.

    4. Myrin*

      OP, as someone who also has a sister with severe mental health issues – which are very well controlled but somtimes shit just happens – I just want to send a big internet hug to you if you want it. It’s so great to hear that you (both of you!) have good people in your life – I know that I’m eternally thankful for my own.

    5. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      Sounds like you have a good boss and workplace. That’s wonderful.

      I’m glad your sister is doing better.

    6. Anonymous Reader*

      As someone who’s been on both sides of this kind of situation before I definitely think you handled it well. Like others have said, if you have a good manager and are usually a reliable employee you shouldn’t have any need to worry. A good supervisor would be understanding and concerned about a good employee suddenly not showing- concerned that they’re okay!

  36. Three owls in a trench coat*

    Things OP 4 can bring to the party instead of a date:

    – A life sized cardboard cutout of their favorite celebrity
    – Their cat/dog, as their date
    – Fancy ass rolls

    (Seriously though, big “ugh” to this one. It’s rude to pressure someone into bringing a date or ask why they don’t have one. Some of us are happy to be Single Pringles!)

    1. S-Mart*

      I saw “cardboard” in your response as a scanned it (why that word jumped out I don’t know), and I don’t much like parties, so my mind went to bringing a cardboard box (to hide in, ala the Metal Gear series of games).

      1. Three owls in a trench coat*

        A colleague of mine has a life-sized cardboard cutout of Severus Snape and I would be so, so tempted to bring that as my date. Not because I like Snape but because I have a weird sense of humor.

        The box could be your date. If you aren’t familiar with Bob’s Burgers, in one episode a character “dates” a shoebox haunted by a teenage ghost.

        1. Natalia*

          omg! A life size cutout of Serverus Snape?! That would be amazing! I wonder if there is some way to have it “speak” get a recording of his voice?

          1. Three owls in a trench coat*

            “What are you doing inside at a holiday party on a nice day like this? People will think you’re *presses button* UP to something…”

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      – One of those Japanese girlfriend/boyfriend pillows.
      – A phone or iPad, with someone on Skype. “Well, I needed someone to talk to.”

      (LMAO at “fancy ass rolls”)

      1. Three owls in a trench coat*

        I’ve seen “American” boyfriend pillows too. It literally looks like someone cut a button-down shirt in half, stuffed it, and stuck a fake hand on the end.

        A Japanese one would be funnier though.

      2. KoiFeeder*

        The datemate pillows are called dakimura! Most of them are double-sided, with the back side being more risque, so I would probably advise against that.

      1. Elenna*

        No, no, don’t you know that anyone who brings cheap ass rolls is a fake ass person who secretly wants the Real Roll Bringer out of the company? :)

      2. Three owls in a trench coat*

        Cheap Ass Rolls may be acceptable at some workplace parties but are generally frowned upon here at AAM.

        (All jokes aside, just because something is cheap or fancy doesn’t mean it’s bad or tasty. This internet stranger gives you permission to eat or bring your favorite type of rolls, whatever that may be.)

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’d be tempted to bring a friend disguised as a tinder date. “Well you said to bring a date! This is Vivian. We just met but it feels like we’ve known each other forever!”

      1. we're basically gods*

        Bring a friend that the coworkers have met, but have them put on a cheap stick-on mustache and pretend to be someone completely different!

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          OMG yessssssssss, I like the way you think.

          “Oh I look familiar? Do you frequent The *club?” [I pulled that one out on someone who was being weird about thinking they knew me…they shut up so quick.]

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        “This is the barista who sold me coffee before the party. His shift was just ending and you told me I should bring a date, so…”

  37. Marny*

    If my coworkers asked me who I was going to talk to at our holiday party if I came solo, I’d respond with a shocked, “You won’t talk to me if I come alone?” And when they say that they’ll talk to me (which they’d have to be real jerks to say anything different) then my reply would be “Problem solved.” And I’d especially push back on the coworker who claimed she was ignored when she came alone by saying, “Wow, then I’d hope you would help make sure I didn’t feel ignored like that since we’re friends.”

    1. !*

      Yeah, what a stupid and icky response to going along to a party, horror of horrors! I wonder if OP is very attractive so their coworkers are worried they will be flirting with their spouses or bfs?

      1. KoiFeeder*

        Words are hard, so I hope this doesn’t come off as accusatory, but I don’t think it’s OP’s problem if their coworkers think their attractiveness quotient makes them untrustworthy.

  38. Working Hypothesis*

    #3, one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received was, “When you feel like saying ‘I’m sorry,’ sometimes there best thing to say is really ‘Thank you.'”

    Saying sorry it’s asking for forgiveness. You have already done that. Your bosses have already granted it!! Continued apologies can be hard on the recipient, because they don’t know what they can say that will be enough for you (they’ve already accepted the apology and forgiven you, and it isn’t stopping), and they often feel a need to reassure you and comfort your anxiety, which really isn’t a burden you want to put on them, I don’t think.

    But most people are happy to hear “thank you.” It doesn’t run into the pitfalls of making them wonder when it’ll stop because it isn’t something they’ve already answered — although you do have to avoid repeating it over and over after they do — and since it isn’t implicitly requesting anything there way an apology requests forgiveness, there’s nothing they feel that they have to do for you in return. They’ve already done it; you’re just acknowledging that.

    Best of all, saying thank you moves the focus of attention from your mistake (which is you’ll understandable under the circumstances and it sounds like your awesome bosses get that!!) to their kindness. That’s good for them, since they’ve already indicated a desire to wipe the slate clean and move on; and it’s good for you, because whatever your anxiety is urging you to do, it’s not really in your best interests to keep your bosses’ attention focused on that one time you messed up.

    Best wishes, and I hope your sister is doing better.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      Ack. Sorry for the various typos; my spell checker went slightly berserk. Read the above the way the context makes sense and don’t worry too much about individual words that seem out of place, please… they almost certainly are. :)

  39. What's with Today, today?*

    #2, Alison is totally right, but don’t be surprised if you get blowback from your employer. I see where the company is coming from with their strategy. Their line of thinking is common and incredibly effective in small towns. I work in small market media and am chair of our chamber of commerce, I see it daily. He may catch a lot of blowback if he says no. At my work, it would be seen as oddly hostile not to participate. Again, you should be able to opt-out, but it may not be as easy as it sounds.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yes, unfortunately, refusing might cause more trouble than you’re willing to deal with that. If that’s the case, I love the suggestions above to submit pics that don’t show the kids’ faces at all.

      1. Anon Here*

        Yes. Or something else that reads, “family-oriented” without depicting kids in a recognizable way. Like a photo of him cheering for a group of kids playing sports, with the kids kind of blurry in the background?

        I would get really creative with the photography, then send Boss an email with a few photos attached, saying, “Our family policy is to keep the kids offline, but you’re welcome to use the attached photos.”

        If you have a pet you could include in the photos, that would be even better – animals are good for marketing.

      2. Goldfinch*

        If you can’t get out of it, kids with full-face Halloween masks would probably be accepted. Adorable Family Holiday fits the mold they seem to be looking for.

    2. Jaydee*

      But the family pictures are both totally unnecessary and also potentially problematic for many reasons highlighted by this letter and other comments (children’s privacy; non-traditional family composition; discrimination based on age, family status, sexual orientation…).

      If the company wants to use their website to spotlight and build the community connections of their employees, there are so many other ways to do it.
      – Have pictures of the employees, the company offices, places they’ve done work in the community
      – Have testimonials from satisfied customers. Bonus points if some of those customers are prominent or well-known community members
      – Sponsor local charities and causes and put that info on the website.
      – Have bios of employees that mention their connections to the community, family, hobbies, etc. This is also a great way to point out the experience or specialization of employees. For example:
      Fergus Ferguson has been a flooring technician at Llamaville Flooring Emporium for 15 years. He was born and raised in Llamaville and attended Llamaville Technical College before joining our team. Fergus says his favorite part of the job is helping people find the right flooring solution to fit unique spaces in their home or office. He especially enjoys working on the older homes near downtown Llamaville. In fact he and his wife, Marisol, just bought an old house off Main Street and are busy renovating it. When Fergus isn’t at work, he likes camping with Marisol and their children, doing home improvement projects, and coaching his kids’ sportsball teams. Go Little Llamas!

  40. LilBlueCat*

    OP 1 – I wrote and rewrote my reply to this in my head so many times between seeing it on my phone when I woke up and making breakfast/getting my day started. I really want to approach this from the kindest standpoint that I can, so here goes.

    First and foremost, thank you for going to a safe place and asking a question instead of doing something that would potentially cause a huge amount of hurt and problems for a person you aren’t even sure about. Rumors are often enough to ruins lives. The kind of jewelry you wear for this is often worn by others not in this lifestyle as fashion. Think super hard before you hurt someone’s ability to eat, live, pay rent, survive in the community. Because that’s what this kind of thing comes down to.

    Secondly, this is not a work issue. None of the things you listed make it a work issue. People’s orientation and lifestyles of ANY kind are not a work issue except for very specific jobs and organizations. Who we love, who we date and how we do it, what our lifestyle identity and gender identity are do not say anything about our worth ethic and professionalism. Being in BSDM, or any Fetish lifestyle, does not make her a bad employee and is none of your or anyone at your job’s business. Would you go tell them if she is gay? If she is straight and has an active sex life that you know details about? Where is the line? The line is that NONE of this is your concern. Stay out of it and let her live her life.

    Thirdly, I would like to address the part where you raise concern because you work with children. You mentioned that you are a child-friendly organization, but so what? If she is interacting professionally at work then her potential lifestyle is not an issue. She is having sex/living a lifestyle. So are the other people you work with. You just object to this one and think, rightly or wrongly, that your employer would as well. You are edging all around this as a public morality issue and I just want to point that out. This topic is especially tender to me because I work with children in an organization that is very outwardly accepting and multicultural/lifestyle accepting to the public but internally is still very subject to the whims of what your manager thinks of you and your lifestyles, morality, etc. They don’t discriminate at work officially, but unofficially there are people who will never get raises, will be let go due to culture or compatibility “fit”, or are shunned by their coworkers for their lifestyles outside of work that are excellent employees and human beings who need a job and to earn a living. I am not out at work, and will probably never be. If people have figured it out on their own, they haven’t said anything. I personally and very private and don’t want to discuss that part of my life in general, but I feel pressure to hide it at work, which is a whole different thing. That pressure comes from this part of your post and the public morality of working with the community/children in the bible belt South (this is important, because my job in other parts of the country wouldn’t care. It’s based on the acceptable public morality of a specific community or individuals in that community).

    Fourthly, there is nothing innately immoral about sex/sexuality of any kind. People around us have sex lives and that’s okay. Say it with me, “Anything people consent to is okay, and anything that people don’t consent to is NOT okay.” That’s it, bottom line. I find it interesting that you say you are not comfortable with any type of overt sexuality. Wearing a symbol of her lifestyle is not really “overtly sexual”. I am putting that in quotations because what is that even? No one decides when you are wearing a wedding band that that’s overtly sexual behavior. I don’t want to get lost in the details, but that’s exactly what collars are to many people in BSDM and other fetish lifestyles. Collaring ceremonies are seen and celebrated as lifetime commitments. For many, taking off their collars (or bracelet/necklace equivalents because yes, people look at you oddly if you are wearing a collar, even simple ones) is like making them remove their wedding bands or promise rings and deny their partner’s existence and importance in their life. As a bisexual woman in a poly relationship, for many years I wore my wedding band on one hand and a bracelet with ceremonial significance to both my other partner and the fetish/LGBT community on the other wrist because ALL the people I loved deserved to be honored and have an open place in my life. This is very much the equivalent of LGBT people wearing wedding bands on their right hands because they weren’t actually allowed to get married until recently but deserved and found a way to show a symbol of their committed relationships. If she is wearing a collar, she has every right to. It’s not to throw her lifestyle in your face, it’s to live it.

    So, for my final points and take-aways. You have a picture in your head of what BSDM is like and so you are assigning traits to her and her behavior. That’s something you decided on your own. This is drifting really close to shaming territory along the same lines as body/gender/orientation/race shaming. In fact, kink shaming is a really big issue because shaming in general is a massive issue. Letting go and not shaming other people for living their lives in their skin and how they want as long as no one is actively hurting you is the best piece of life advice I could give anyone. Unfortunately, many cultures and communities do see people that they feel are different as actively hurting them, the public good, and something to be erased, stamped out, destroyed.

    There’s a saying in the Fetish community – “Your kink is not my kink, and that’s okay”. I am going to gently encourage you to think about that and use the words belief and lifestyle in the place of kink. People’s lives are not yours to run, their choices are not yours to make. And that’s okay. Please, don’t do them any harm if they aren’t actively harming you/someone else.

    1. Allypopx*

      This is all very well stated and important. But I think it’s important to take the OP at their word that they understand it’s a petty, intrusive, and personal issue and something that they need to get over. Some of the details are definitely poor context (the association with children doesn’t matter, this is definitely not overt sexuality, etc), but I don’t think there was an implication that the coworker is immoral or unprofessional. Just that the OP has discomfort that they understand isn’t reasonable and they want tools to get past it.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Well said – also, I could understand if this was a Venus of Willendorf or a phallic symbol, but it’s just…a loop.

    3. Three Flowers*

      Phew, this is much better than I would have written, and I hope OP 1 sees it. OP1, your instinct that this might just be your own hangup is correct, as is your desire not to be That Coworker!

      PS fun fact: collar-style metal necklaces called torcs, some with a gap and some appearing like a solid metal loop, date back to Bronze Age Europe! They were The Fanciest (google the Sedgeford Torc). So maybe just imagine your colleague has a fascination with archaeology.

  41. dedicated1776*

    #4, do you have to bring a romantic plus-one? We had our party Saturday night and there were plenty of brothers, sisters, kids, and parents as the plus-one. I really enjoyed meeting my co-workers’ families!

    1. Jamie*

      My daughter would have gone with me to mine as my plus one, but she’s working. I assumed plenty of people bring people besides romantic partners.

      This letter did make me acutely aware that I’m the only one at my work without a plus one for the party which suddenly feels weird to me.

  42. foxinabox*

    #3 – OP, you seem incredibly caring and conscientious and I can see that your family matters to you so much–with that in mind, your letter makes it seem like you divulged the nature of your sister’s hospitalization to your workplace. As someone who has been hospitalized for mental illness and who lives with a highly stigmatized diagnosis–please, don’t do that unless you have express permission from the patient (I don’t know whether you did–but in case you did not, here I am commenting!). To say she was in the hospital for an emergency situation is enough. Even if you think these people will never meet your sister or that they’re decent and wouldn’t hold her mental illness against her, being “out” about this kind of thing is not safe socially or professionally and you can’t make the decision to divulge health details of that kind for someone else. I’m 100% sure you didn’t mean any harm, but it’s not a simple thing. Obviously all health issues are personal and should be discussed with care, but in particular with mental illness, there can be consequences we don’t anticipate for being too open. It sucks, but it’s true.

    1. OP3*

      Thank you for noting this! I have also dealt with this stigma in the past (albeit on a smaller scale) due to my own issues so I totally get it. The way I phrased it to them was that my sister had a medical emergency and that I was with her in the ER. I didn’t want to disclose too much but I also wanted to convey that it was truly an emergency.

    1. Allypopx*

      It sounds like “weird sock puppet lady” might be less of a social faux pas in this office than “happily single young professional” so I say go for it.

    2. Susan*

      Be very sure to have a loud argument with the sock puppet at some point and a.) ignore it for the rest of the evening and then b.) have it try to go home with someone else.

      1. Jamie*

        Fwiw I want to go to a Christmas party with all of you. Way more entertaining than anything in store for me.

        1. Allypopx*

          AAM Christmas party would be off the charts. “Bad Christmas Party” themed. Everyone bring their gold barbies and their boob-railing de-icers.

          1. Three owls in a trench coat*

            We shall hire a pianist but he must play AT us, not for us, and everyone will arrive via Taco Bell.

      2. Natalia*

        Haha! I’m the OP.
        Other things you could do: (probably not in real life, but fun to think about)
        -Have the sock puppet get so drunk it gets belligerent or get so drunk it needs to be asked to leave

        -When the owner gets up to speak, have the sock puppet yell something and then reprimand it.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          -Throw a drink in the sockpuppet’s face.
          -Have the sockpuppet pull a quarter from your ear and then play angry piano at you.
          -Write a public memo to everyone in the office saying you will confront the guilty party by Wednesday (the guilty party is the sockpuppet)

    3. Natalia*

      Or bring a fluffy white cat and sit alone and spend the whole night stroking it and given everyone an evil look…you know like the evil guys in James Bond…

  43. Overagekid*

    For #2 I agree with Allison that you can address it again in person, but after that, bringing it up any more may make it more of a focus for them and more likely to make them concerned about something like this happening again.

    The email from them sounds very genuine and I do not think there is cause to worry any more about it.

    I’m glad your sister is okay btw!

  44. Cartographical*

    OP #3:

    1) as people have said, take your lovely employers at their word!

    2) if you have access to counseling services for yourself, even through Planned Parenthood or community mental health, please consider a few sessions to unpack all this. You were in a really difficult position and this is hard to deal with alone sometimes. Also, because it leads to point three…

    3) You need a plan! And a MH professional can help with that. Whether it’s one you make on your own or with your family, you need a plan, and I say that as the child of AND the older sibling of two people with serious, intractable mental health issues that involve psychotic breaks and self-harm. It’s also just best practice as an employee to have a plan to mitigate the circumstances that led to a big mistake.

    Write your plan down on a card and put it in your wallet, store it on your phone as well. That way you don’t have to remember it when you’re panicking. When I was your age, mine included resources like MH providers and friends of my parent or sibling who could go sit in the ER or hang out with my relative until I got things in order or while I simply went on to work. It was hard but everyone felt better knowing no one was tanking their lives because of something out of everyone’s control.

    I hope things improve for your sister and that you can have a successful working relationship with your bosses going forward. Best of luck!

  45. 2 Cents*

    #2 a close friend who wants to protect her children’s online presence but also acknowledges that having photos of them helps with her cause (she’s very active in the adoption space) only posts photos with her kids facing backwards. It sounds weird, but she comes up with scenarios that make sense (like flying kites or jumping in a pool or decorating a snowman). Just offering as an alternative if the company makes a huge deal and it’s either your husband’s job or the photos.

    1. Cartographical*

      I was going to suggest this as well, but my comment to #3 was already long. :D A friend who’s active in a genetic condition community has done the same thing with her kids until they were in their teens and decided for themselves. Another suggestion is to do this at places that aren’t your home — the library, the bowling alley, a park that’s not your usual hangout. Grab a friend to play photographer or get a tripod and include yourself if you’re comfortable with that.

        1. Cartographical*

          Of course, I’d taken that as given, but some people find it feels more comfortable not to publish photos taken in locations they frequent that could be picked out from details in the photo, or they don’t want to feel like they’re inviting strangers to comment on the minute details of their home life. And, it can look more natural to have the kids not facing the camera if they’re engaged in an activity. Also, if you’re like me, it’s nice not to be suppressing the urge to put a disclaimer on all your photos like “I vacuumed yesterday, the dog just sheds a lot!”

          1. Quill*

            My childhood dog usually took care of that issue by ensuring that the camera had a closeup of his nostrils.

    2. !*

      But why should she have to do anything at all? She does not post them on her personal Facebook (even with their backs facing the camera), so why should she do it for her husband’s company? Hell, if that is the case, then she could provide the pictures of anyone’s kids if their backs are facing the camera. ;)

  46. LilySparrow*

    OP#5, I would fold this request for feedback in with a long-term planning or strategy session.

    If you are working with them on a recurring basis and are part of their branding or marketing, it just makes sense to have a sit-down with your contact to look at what projects or deadlines are coming down the road, to make sure you’re available and plan your own workflow.

    It’s a very natural part of this conversation to ask things like, “what can I do to make things easier for you in this process?” or “how would you like to see my work develop during this campaign?” or “is there any way I can add another dimension to this?” And so forth.

    It’s possible you’ll get feedback about your procedures rather than your creative product. Or something else.

  47. Submerged Tenths*

    There is a billboard in my town, with a pouting toddler saying “Why didn’t you use my Daddy’s business” and the company name, etc. CREEPY!! And disgusting; i know if i am ever in the market for their service, they are the last place i will call. Stay strong, LW2!

    1. Allypopx*

      “Why didn’t you use my Daddy’s business?”

      Because guilt was the most effective marketing campaign your daddy could come up with, so I didn’t have a ton of faith in his product. Sorry buddy.

    2. cmcinnyc*

      I would be so upset if I let my company use my kid’s photo and THIS is what they did with it! Though in this case, it sounds like it’s actually Idiot Dad’s company? One thing to note: look very carefully at any paperwork the company gives you about photo use. Are you assigning them ownership/copyright? Are you waiving any say at all in how the photo is used? What happens if you find a better job and quit? Will pictures of your kids still be used? I know someone whose photo is still used in a particular piece of marketing, even though a) the picture is now 20 years old, and b) he had a really contentious falling out with the owner of the company. It’s a really good action shot and it’s *still* popping up to piss him off all over again!

  48. Quill*

    #1 I don’t know exactly what the jewelry item in question is, but when I was growing up, a LOT of people wore things like collar-like chokers, or ankle bells, to be “edgy.” Most of those people would be in their late 20’s, early 30’s now and while I don’t know, or want to know, if their adoption of edgy attire during our teenage and college years translated into anything related to BDSM, I would not be surprised if some of them hadn’t so much grown out of those fashion choices as toned it down for work. There’s also some overlap with goth fashion there, so I wouldn’t read too much into it.

    #2 It’s normal for family emergencies to bring with them a surge of anxiety, but it sounds like everyone you work with was understanding. If you must bring it up in person, frame it as thanking them for being understanding / covering for you, ONCE. This will do a lot to establish you as gracious in a crisis.

    #4 Your coworkers are rude and I am now fantasizing about bringing a very large dog, well behaved but undoubtedly unexpected, to this party.

  49. Senor Montoya*

    OP #3: You did everything right, so please cut yourself some slack on this! (easy to say, hard to do, I know!)

    Very important: Do NOT keep bringing it up with your bosses. One last time is ok, as Alison says, and then **drop it**. I can’t stress this enough. The bosses will only get annoyed if you keep at it, and you will start to look like “The intern who no showed and got obsessive about it” rather than “Oh yeah, I guess she did no show that one time, but there was a crisis and she handled it well. She’s such a good and reliable worker!”

    I have had to tell my mentees in similar situations: “You have to stop talking about X because you’re driving everybody crazy, no one wants to hear about it any more, nobody even cares about it, and you’re getting a reputation as someone who can’t handle ordinary workplace stresses.”

  50. Commenter*

    It’s kinda funny I wear a necklace with a heart lock on it literally everyday because it’s Easy and goes with everything and no ones ever said a word. Funnily enough my mom bought it for me for Christmas lol.

    1. Quill*

      The only piece of jewelery I have that has any “hidden meaning” I’m aware of is my black ace ring, but I don’t wear it ever… because rings bother my fingers.

        1. Quill*

          I think my fingers are just close set overall, but also I used to work in a lab and went through a lot of gloves…

    2. Sunflower Sea Star*

      LOL Do you work with kids? Do you have a coworker who has been weirdly trying to act normal around you lately?

    3. Amber Rose*

      Necklaces with heart locks were THE trend when I was a teen. I still like them. I think they’re cute.

      Honestly, I feel like a lot of jewellery is bought by people thinking “this is neat” without considering any deeper meanings.

      1. Jamie*

        There is a really nice one from Tiffanys that I would never have known could be representative of anything but just being pretty. I guess I’m lucky I don’t have anyone buying me Tiffany jewelry or someone could be writing in speculating about me.

        1. Rainy*

          Whenever I see one I think of the Pont des Arts (yes, wear it around your neck, don’t put it on the bridge!).

  51. whomever*

    Re #4, one thing I like about my current company is that contractors don’t get holiday party invites (For the usual reasons), and it’s sort of an office tradition that anyone who doesn’t have a date (we all get 2 tickets) gives the other ticket to a contractor who would otherwise like to go (in particular, we have onsite baristas and we all make sure they get tickets). So you could also take someone in that context?

  52. Privacy Matters*

    For #3,
    Your letter reads like you told your employer that your sister was having a mental health crisis and possibly gave even more details than that. If you didn’t, * please disregard what I write next! * If you did tell them, I feel compelled to say that was unnecessary and a violation of your sister’s right to privacy.

    You could have said your sister was taken to the hospital and you had to go be with her. If they’d requested more details, you should have politely said that you’re sorry but that’s personal medical information that you don’t have permission to share but that it was an urgent situation.

    Those details about your sister can now be accessed by anyone there now or in the future who is able to open whatever drawer personnel documents are in — and that’s not just people who are authorized to have access. Multiple people could have access to your boss’s email inbox (like an assistant), and anyone who takes your boss’s position in the future could also have access to old emails. Email itself is not a secure form of communication. Additionally, no matter how discreet you believe your employer to be, they could tell anyone what they know (and be overheard).

    I’ve been waiting in a fast food drive-thru where the girls working at the window were openly bashing a classmate, not realizing that my child knew that person. I used to frequent a pub where a lot of nurses would hang out after work, and you wouldn’t believe the stories I overheard. Since they almost always included details like “this man in his 60s who runs the hardware store that’s going out of business on Route 7,” it’d have been easy to identify the person had I tried.

    I don’t mean to upset you, but all it takes is one person posting online something like, “my brother was telling me about this time his intern totally missed (work event) because her sister was having a mental health crisis…” for someone to look on the organization’s website to see who the interns are or LinkedIn to see who listed that place as an internship. And people do that. It’s weird, but they do.

    So please understand that, no matter how much you value this job, you should value your sister’s privacy more. What would it do to her mental health if she found out this information was known to people outside of her immediate family and the doctors?

      1. Allypopx*

        Given the response to this comment you may want to read what foxinabox said earlier in the comments. It was on the same note, but much gentler, less accusatory, and assumed good intentions. There are different ways to express the same sentiment, and tone is especially important with these emotionally fraught situations.

    1. anonymous 5*

      This is incredibly unkind to say in this context. You don’t know any details beyond the letter and you certainly have no business shaming someone you haven’t met, who acted in a terrifying moment in the best way she could, and who was already really bent out of shape about it.

      1. Princesa Zelda*

        +1. OP isn’t a trained professional who “should know better,” they’re a scared sibling who is trying their best. Back off.

        1. yala*

          Yes. As someone who was in this situation myself a few months back, sometimes you’re just SCARED and you’re not thinking all “Proper Procedure” and how to be the Best At Awareness.

          Even after the immediate crisis, it can take several days or more to come back to yourself. Be kind. Her sister was at the epicenter of the crisis, but it’s LW’s crisis too.

    2. Amber Rose*

      This is totally uncalled for. And none of your business. Even if this had happened, what good would shaming them over it do? Unless you’ve got a handy time machine in your pocket, none of this is relevant or helpful.

    3. OP3*

      Hi! Like Allypopx said I did not say that it was a mental health issue when I spoke with them-I gave the context that I did when I wrote to Allison because it was anonymous. I told them it was a medical emergency and that I was in the ER with her and have not given (nor was I asked for) any further info since then. I have dealt with my own mental health issues in the past (thought not at the same severity level) and of course did not want to put my sister in a position where her issues were out in the open.

  53. Phony Genius*

    On #1, I was considering writing a suggestion that you could play dumb and just say something like “ooh, that’s an interesting-looking necklace” and see if she volunteers anything with the response. If she thought it just looked cool, you’d be able to put your mind at ease. However, since I don’t think you’d respond well if it turns out your suspicion is correct and she volunteers this information, I’d leave it alone and assume she just likes the look.

    As to your question on whether you can blame it on your Catholic upbringing, although I am not Catholic, I’d say that is entirely up to you. Notifying the Pope of this blame is also optional.

    1. Quill*

      Also, as I was informed during my catholic childhood by the family nun, listening to the pope is optional.

      Then again, the dominican sisters she was part of were pretty well known agents of theological chaos: the joke with the last pope was that if the Pope said “Feed the hungry,” they’d all respond with “Amen!” and if he said “Actually it’s not okay to be gay,” they’d respond with “Sorry Father, can’t hear you over the sounds of feeding the hungry!”

    2. CommanderBanana*

      I wouldn’t. That seems really manipulative, and if the OP is so uncomfortable with what is likely just an innocuous piece of jewelry, why would he/she want to try to force a conversation about someone’s ‘lifestyle’ that would likely make her/him even more uncomfortable?

    3. Lily*

      I wear some BDSM jewelry. If someone said “nice jewelry” in a “normal tone of voice, I’d answer with “thank you”.

      If someone says it in a certain tone, implying that they knew the meaning, I’d grin, say “thanks!” or “I think do, yes” and mentally mark the person as also into BDSM. Also, anyone trying to get to know whether it is or isn’t BDSM stuff would have brought the subject into the workplace, IMO. I was just standing there wearing my usual jewelry.

      So, probably a bad idea to say anything about it if you get skeeved out by it.

  54. Mannheim Steamroller*


    First of all, NO.

    Second of all, HELL NO.

    My wife and I don’t even post photos of our (pre-teen) nieces because we feel that their parents should keep full control of how and whether the girls appear online. If Uncle and Auntie can hold back from full family photos, then there is no need for an employer to require family photos.

  55. CommanderBanana*

    Those collar-style chokers became weirdly popular with the Youth – I saw them pop up all over my IG from Dollskill and other manufacturers, so it may just be that she’s following that trend. Occam’s Razor and all that.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      But also – does it matter? If the necklace is the one I think it is, it’s not like a Venus of Willendorf or phallic symbol, it’s just a loop, so regardless of what you think it symbolizes it’s not like it’s actually an overtly sexual symbol. AFAIK, any discomfort you have with something this innocuous is your thing to work out.

    2. Amber Rose*

      It’s a rotating trend. They were hugely popular in my early teens as well. They’ll be popular again in a decade. So it goes.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Like those “tattoo” chokers made of stretchy black elastic! I had to laugh when I saw those come around again.

  56. alldogsarepuppies*

    LW1: I sometimes where my ace ring (black ring on the middle finger of the right hand). Do you think that is inappropriate at work?

  57. MOAS*

    Re #5 – I manage a team of remote staff, and while we don’t do formal reviews/evaluations, a big part of my job is to check in with them on a regular basis (daily check-in chats/questions, weekly 1 on 1s and group meetings).

    Because we’re communicating often, I try to provide my “feedback” in that way, as in a “hey, FYI if you run into this situation, then do x”, or “fyi this is one of the rules” or “you’re doing great!”. If it has to escalate to a more serious conversation, we would inform them that we may end their contract with us. I’m going by the principle that feedback should NEVER be a surprise, and daily communication is the way my company has decided to implement this.

    In most cases, it would be safe to say that you are doing fine until told otherwise.

  58. Amber Rose*

    #2: There are some better ways for the company to do this.

    Our company, some years back, donated to and then volunteered for a local playground construction project. There’s a bunch of pictures of employees helping to construct slides and stuff, and then a group photo in front of the finished one.

    I feel like a company that’s involved in things related to kids is more marketable than just a company that employs people who happen to have kids. Lots of people have kids. So maybe you could suggest this kind of thing as an alternative for parents who aren’t comfortable posting photos online, and also promote some charity.

  59. Oliver*

    #4 – Your co-workers are being weird and probably projecting their relationship issues on to you. It’s not weird to go alone to a party period, especially to a work party! You’re supposed to make small talk with your co-workers and then leave when you’re bored. No need to drag any significant other/date/friend through it.

    It can be hard to shut this kind of talk down. They probably don’t realize how rude they’re being and I’d guess would become defensive if you’re direct (“but I just caaaaaaare about you! I don’t want you to be looooonely!”).

    My strategy would be to act like they’re the ones being weird (it helps that it’s true). Like:

    Mrs. Co-Worker: Don’t you want to bring A DATE???
    You: To a work party? That’s odd. I certainly wouldn’t want to go to a partner’s office Christmas party! It’s nice that your husband goes with you.

    If you focus on work party =/= place for significant others, you’ll probably have better results than if you point out that they all seem, frankly, pretty co dependent.

  60. Scott*

    #4 Single here as well, and also not sure what it is about married coworkers thinking I *obviously* want to bring a date to the office Christmas party. My office had an RSVP “sign-up” style sheet in the lobby for our party, and when I wrote my name down I noticed that *every* name had a +1 next to it (which was not surprising, 99% of my coworkers are married) so I wrote a +0 next to my name to avoid any confusion. A day or two later, I noticed as I passed that someone had scribbled out the 0 and written a 1. Not sure what they were trying to accomplish there… I scribbled out the 1 and wrote “ZERO”

    1. Amber Rose*

      Wtf, all that accomplishes is causing there to be too much food because they end up accounting for more people than are actually coming.

      As the person involved in party planning, that would make me quite angry.

  61. Observer*

    #1 – So, a couple of things. Firstly, as others have noted, you actually may not have seen what you think you saw. So, there is that. For another, it would help if you reframed your thinking here. There is nothing “overtly sexual” about what you describe. In fact, I’d say that it’s less “overt” than you standard wedding band, which is instantly recognizable for most Americans.

    It might be worth asking yourself why you even felt the need to go down this rabbit hole. The last time this came up, I looked at the link the jewellery really was such that it pretty much looked like perfectly standard stuff. As you say yourself, you would not have recognized it if not for this site. So, either it’s not even BDSM jewelry and you just jumped to conclusions, or you went hunting to “confirm” that it is. In either case, it’s worth asking yourself why you would do that.

    In other words, this about you, not her or her behavior, which seems to be 100% work appropriate.

    1. Jamie*

      She knows it’s about her and wrote into a place where she could ask about how to overcome her own admitted bias.

      I think that’s a great thing.

  62. Dasein9*

    OP #3, you did the right thing. Besides letting your bosses know you appreciate their high opinion of you and plan to keep being reliable, there may be one more thing you can do: Remember this and think about it when you manage people someday. Alison was right to advise you to let your bosses extend you this grace. (And that was beautifully put!) You will have the chance to pay that grace forward someday.

  63. Andream*

    Letter writer that missed work: you have done everything you can. A decent boss is not going to hold this over you, and if they do then you have some valuable insight of how this company works

    I had a similar situation this year. I started end of August and I’ve had to take 4 sick days, a few half days for Dr. Appointments, and 2 personal days for a family member. So basically I’ve missed like almost 2 weeks, but both my bosses (work with 2 different departments) are like,” don’t worry about it. Health and family come first”. They didn’t even request a doctor’s note. My previous job I had been ill for 3-4 days straight and I could go back without a note, and I had been there for almost 3 years. The job I had before that they would have fired me, even if I had called in those days.

    I would take them at their word, maybe thank them for being so understanding, and move on.

  64. !*

    OP 2, I noticed in your posting that you said that you (I) have a strict policy of not having pictures of your kids on Facebook, is your husband not aware or on board with this policy? Seemed strange that when his employer mentioned adding the pictures to Facebook that your husband would not have shut this down immediately. I would think this is an important enough decision that both parents would follow this policy and let others who question/request pictures be posted would already have a response ready.

    1. Wintermute*

      I wouldn’t blame them for not shutting it down immediately, even if they were on board with the decision mutually as a couple, heck, even if it was their idea to start with!

      When your boss makes a request there’s a power dynamic implicit in that, you have to decide how firm you want to be, you may also have to do a little digging to find out if “shutting it down immediately” will result in you being fired immediately, and how flexible they’re willing to be about it.

  65. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

    OP #1, if she’s subtle enough that you would never know that it’s kinky jewelry, to the point that there is a distinct possibility that it’s just for fashion, then even if she is kinky, she’s going about it the right way by not discussing it with coworkers or making it obvious. This is not a situation like the letter from a while back about making coworkers call her partner “Master,” or like the historical reenactor who made sexually harassing “jokes” on Facebook and used his job as an outlet for his desires, because in both of those cases, the person was imposing an unwanted dynamic on third parties without their consent (and, in the second case, without their knowledge). In this case, your coworker isn’t being aggressive or inappropriate or disrespectful of anyone’s boundaries, so I’d let it go.

    Also, obligatory funny story: one time I complimented a cute guy at a swing dancing class on his necklace, which had a triskelion with dots (a common BDSM symbol). He said, “Oh, is that what it is? I thought it was a yin/yang.” Biggest. Letdown. Ever.

  66. MoopySwarpet*

    OP2 – an idea for compromise if there is pushback and you’d rather go along vs making it a hill to die on . . . I’ve seen pictures where faces (or the kids specifically) aren’t shown that are really nice looking. Something like the parent(s) facing the camera and kids running towards them, everyone walking down a trail/road holding hands with the picture from behind, sunset/rise photos where everyone is basically a silhouette, gazing out at a body of water/mountain/landscape, group hug, etc.

    I think it’s pretty ridiculous to be so insistent, but if you feel like a compromise might be easier for everyone, those might be a way to keep your kids offline while still giving the company something. I would probably go for a pose where he is facing the camera while the kids are not.

  67. Rainbow Roses*

    #1 I had a bracelet that was a handcuff design. I thought it just looked cool and rebellious. Nowadays I realize such a design can have different meanings. All things have different meanings to different people depending on their situation. Or no meaning at all.

  68. Narly*

    #1 I would bet money this is one of those chokers with rings on them because they are EVERYWHERE at the moment (last week I saw versions in Claires Accessories)
    Fashion has taken a turn towards the kink this winter (so much leather! so many straps and buckles!) even on the high street. This is surely that. don’t fret.

    1. Quill*

      oh, leather’s back?

      *Digs up my collection of antique keys strung on leather, my nautilus shell, my kej bought in guatemala…*

  69. Shoes On My Cat*

    OP#4: It’s perfectly ok to go to your company holiday party by yourself! Honestly l, it’s really people’s own discomfort with ‘alone’ that is bugging them, not your choice to attend solo. For me, I find that it is more fun to mingle & dance as a single than bring someone who isn’t part of the company with their own friend groups that I’ll feel obligated to check in on & entertain all night. BORRRING! Yes, a few coworkers asked about my dateless status and I told them the truth. After a few years, no one seemed to care and a few of my friends actually told me they liked my style and left their (very relieved) SO’s at home. Mind you, some SO’s love to meet coworkers and enjoy these events, but by definition they don’t need to be entertained because they are making/maintaining their own friend group :-) But opting out of the awkward dating ritual of Grown Up Prom is our right as grown-ups (& should be for teenagers)!

  70. we're basically gods*

    Necklaces with locks on them are “cool” now– look at Eboy fashion if you don’t believe me! Lots of big chunky chains with heavy locks. It’s either someone subtly alluding to their relationship (which I don’t think violates the consensual in safe, sane, and consensual– they’re not asking you to get involved in a scene, just wearing a marker of their relationship), or someone getting into the hip new fashion. Either way, eh.

  71. boop the first*

    3. Aww… you already know what their response will be, at least. I think I would feel a little anxiety about showing up the next day, just because coworkers would probably go so far in the other direction toward caring that it might be a little embarrassing.

    I no called-no showed ONCE by complete accident! I was on my vacation and out of town. Thursday, my boss left a message on my phone saying that he’d scheduled me for Friday morning, which was a shift I’d never worked before. We returned home exhausted at 4pm on friday, and when I got that message I panicked! But I was also really annoyed that they would change my schedule knowing I was away, and it was an hour before my shift would have ended, so I did nothing. I was so scared going into work the next night, thinking I was going to be yelled at or fired, but no one said anything! It was like nothing even happened. Phew, lucky.

  72. Laurelma01*

    Ref: My coworker is wearing jewelry that signifies a dominant/submissive relationship

    I had to look at the collars on line. Some of them look just like regular jewelry, others I would assume punk rock or heavy metal. The last thing in my mind would be a bdsm emphasis regarding a co-workers jewelry or clothing. I work at a public university. We see everything so I do not pay much attention to it unless I see someone wearing a piece of jewelry I really liked, etc.

  73. Meepmeep*

    OP #1 – my policy on other people’s sex lives is that unless I’m actively invited to participate in them, they’re none of my business. So, unless the coworker in question invites you to get tied up and whipped, this is really none of your business. People are allowed to have private lives, and the point of private lives is that they are private.

    And no, wearing jewelry is not the same as inviting someone into your sex life. Unless the jewelry itself is sexually explicit, which this isn’t.

    And if the only people who get to work with children are asexual virgins, there will not be enough people to do the work. Amazingly enough, people who work with children are still allowed to have sex.

  74. Wing Leader*

    #3– Don’t feel bad. I no called/no showed at a job when my uncle committed suicide. I’d never done that before, nor have I since. Emergencies can obviously make us do things we wouldn’t normally do, and it’s clear that your job recognizes that.

  75. Precious Wentletrap*

    #2: Use photos from stock photography sites (there are even free ones available). Over time, change them so that your kids are extremely unrelated (“here’s my daughter the traditional Mongolian eagle hunter, here’s my son the Masaai cowboy”). They also need not be human. Or alive.

  76. LogicalOne*

    #4 – We live in an age now where it’s rather rude amongst peers and coworkers to inquire about one’s dating scene/status, etc. People who can’t go to place alone or feel like they need that other person really aren’t that a strong person and tend to flock on the insecure side. Being single and going to public things single is a sign of a strong person. As a single person here, I too think it’s rude when you’re pushed to start dating etc. You need to be surrounded by people who have a higher emotional intelligence quotient. Good luck.

  77. cheeky*

    I’m not a fan of people expressing their kinks in public, but I feel like jewelry like a necklace isn’t “overt sexuality” on display.

    1. Wintermute*

      the whole point of a coded signal is that only people that know the code even know it’s a signal. If it’s a very obvious coded symbol, it might be obvious it’s SOME kind of symbol but even then you have no idea what kind unless you’re in the know.

  78. agnes*

    #1 I had no idea what D/s jewelry was, so I went online to see. Wow, I have some of that and didn’t even know it! I just like it. :)

  79. Lisa*

    #3, I managed college students for several years and part of the “deal” there is coaching them through professional mistakes and missteps. College student or not, it’s understandable that while you were fearing for your sister’s life, you would have forgotten about your shift. If something like this happened with a student I manage, I’d be looking for:

    – Does the student know that a no-call/no-show is inappropriate under “normal” circumstances, or are they cavalier about having done it?
    – Does the student understand the impact this had on colleagues/clients? (Not saying you need to FEEL BAD, just that you understand!)
    – Can I help the student come up with a better system to avoid a similar mistake in the future? Better yet, has the student proactively suggested one? (For example, I’d offer up the following: “When I encounter an emergency, I make sure the ‘fire is put out,’ so-to-speak, and then I take a step back and evaluate what should happen next. So if a family member is in danger, I get them to the hospital, and while they’re being treated I ask myself: who needs to be contacted?”)

    I hope this is helpful!

    1. agree*

      OP#3: I have managed so many college students and I would be thrilled to have someone with your attitude working as part of my team. I heartily co-sign all of what Lisa said.

      If you have a job that requires you to open up a room/be somewhere at a particular time to help someone set something up, make sure you have phone numbers and email addresses programmed in your phone so you can notify all impacted parties immediately. Note, it might not only be your supervisor but also a receptionist or someone else who is going to be impacted by your absence. Contact anyone who might be waiting for you/expecting you to appear with a quick note.

  80. Jennifer Juniper*

    *glares at OP2’s idiot company*

    Do they know that putting children’s photos online exposes them to child molesters, identity thieves, and all kinds of other horrors they can’t defend themselves from? I don’t even put my own photo online and I’m an adult.

Comments are closed.