my boss jokes about my work “suitors,” my coworkers barged into my house when I wasn’t there, and more

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

1. My boss jokes about me having work “suitors”

I work in a clubhouse for a community with a high volume of lonely old people. I have always been a conversationalist, and I don’t mind lending an ear when people want to talk, since it’s part of my job. I have a handful of people who I really click with, who I talk to for about an hour whenever they come in. We talk about things like music, fine foods, history, and their youth. It’s incredibly nice and I love that I get to do this professionally.

My boss jokes constantly about my “boyfriends.” It never really bothered me, and I chuckled along, but now when she introduces me to other employees or volunteers, she always brings it up and makes it sound inappropriate.

Many of the people in my “fan club,” as it’s affectionately called by my boss, are older men who are retired and usually single. I have a couple older women as well who I chat with. I don’t wear anything revealing at work and our conversations never go anywhere innappropriate. I never see them outside of work and they have never done anything out of line in any way.

My boss knows my SO, and tells them about how I’m cheating with my “boyfriends.” They laugh it off because I’ve explained and talked about them before, but it still seems odd. I felt weirdly guilty when she was telling a new person at work about my many “suitors.”

I work in hospitality, so I’m always charming, attentive, and polite. I’ve had residents make sexual comments about my figure in the past, and I quickly told them that that is not appropriate and told my boss immediately. She said that I did the right thing by telling them that it was not correct. I feel like I’m getting mixed messages. I don’t know how to address this with my boss without making things awkward with her.

The next time she does it when it’s just the two of you, say this: “Jane, can I ask you not to joke about me having ‘boyfriends’ or ’suitors’ here? I know you’re kidding, but it makes me uncomfortable.”

If she’s a good person, she’ll hear this and stop. But if she continues, it’s okay to be firmer about it: “I was really serious when I asked you not to do that. It feels really uncomfortable to be talked about that way.” You could add, “You were so supportive in the past when I had harassment issues, and so I know you will be sensitive about this now that you realize how much it bothers me.” (Often framing things that way will make people want to live up to what you tell them you “know” about them.)

I hear you on not wanting to make things awkward with your boss (even though she is the one making things awkward!)  but you should be able to say this and then briskly return to whatever else you talk about. With awkwardness around this kind of thing, most people, even managers, will take their cues from you and if you demonstrate that you’ve moved on, chances are high she will too.

And for what it’s worth, in addition to this being unwelcome on your side, I’ve never understood why this sort of comment isn’t also seen as diminishing to the older people it references, since the subtext seems to be that age desexualizes people and it feels like a weird patronizing head pat in their direction.

2. My coworker showed up at my house when I wasn’t there and served my housemates bad food

I’ve been working for my company for two years, alongside my coworker “Laurie.” Laurie’s a bit of an odd bird, but we’ll save the encyclopedia of her antics for another day. When I first started, I was broke and didn’t have a car, so Laurie gained my trust and friendship by sharing some of her lunch and driving me home every day until I was back on my feet. Fast forward to about a month ago, and I’m now working in a different department but we still talk.

I went out of town for my birthday, and as I’m eating brunch with my friends, I received a text from my roommates. Laurie is at my apartment, unannounced, feeding my roommates Chinese food that she was “trying to hide from her husband” (it gave my roommates food poisoning) and leaving out gifts for me that were toxic to my cats. She never contacted me saying she was going to do this, and according to my roommates she just invited herself in, which they were very uncomfortable with. I’m mortified. I never invite people over to my place without making sure it’s okay with my housemates first, and the fact she thought her actions were okay in any way has me questioning my friendship with her. I’ve known for a while that she thinks that we’re closer friends than I’m comfortable with, but this crossed a major line. Is this something I can bring up to my boss? And how do I go about it?

Nope, but it’s something you can bring up to Laurie. If you raised it with your boss, her first question would be whether you’d addressed it with Laurie directly — and it would look odd (and frankly bad) if it turned out you were complaining to her without first attempting to resolve it directly.

Talk to Laurie! Tell her you’re a stickler for making plans in advance and not having guests drop by uninvited and ask that she not do that again. There’s also advice here about creating more social distance with a coworker. (But keep in mind that it’s not unreasonable that Laurie considers you a friend, after sharing her food with you and driving you home every day! Barging into your house without permission and when you weren’t there is decidedly strange and something you can set clear boundaries around, but her overall belief that you’re friends doesn’t sound unfounded.)

3. I feel overdressed in a casual office

I work in advertising, and I have for over five years. I joined a new small firm six months ago. Now that the winter is here and the polo shirts are put away, my button-downs are making me feel overdressed. I’ve never felt this way in my other agencies.

A typical outfit for me is plaid/checkered button-down shirts tucked into dark wash jeans with either brown leather sneakers or boots. (I’m a man.) My coworkers are a t-shirt and hoodie crowd. How can I dress more casually while still looking presentable and put together?

Are you comfortable leaving the button-downs untucked? If you find some that are the right length for that, that’s one way to do it. Alternately, there are shirts that are partway between button-downs and t-shirts — for example, this or this — which could be easy ways to casual things up. (Henleys, in particular, might be what you want.)

4. Participating in my husband’s company’s March Madness pool

My husband owns a small company, less than 15 people. It’s a very casual (but generally genuinely professional) atmosphere. Initially he hired only folks from his previous jobs in the same industry. Until last year, he’d known everyone who works for him for at least a decade. I am also friendly with most of them and have hung out many times over beers or lunches and have done a tiny bit of work here and there over the years (very tiny). Last year, he hired five new people. I have never met any of them.

Every year they do a March Madness Pool. Everyone contributes to the pot, winner takes all. I’ve always joined in and didn’t think twice about it. Until last year. For a couple of weeks it looked like I might take the prize, which would have meant me, the owner’s wife, taking money not from my husband’s pals who I’d hung out with at bars, but from employees that I’d never even met.

I felt super uncomfortable with this scenario, but my husband thought I was crazy. Luckily, I didn’t win. But it’s going to come up again this year. I really love March Madness and my own office doesn’t allow a pool. But I just can’t be in his office pool. Right?

I don’t think it’s absolutely unacceptable for you to participate it, but I’d advise against it. In a lot of companies (maybe this one, maybe not), the boss’s wife winning the pool just wouldn’t look great. Why risk the resentment?

And as your husband’s company grows, it’s a good idea for you to have clearer boundaries with it and his employees anyway. The bigger it gets, the more potential there is for weirdness about your presence (which you might never know about, but can still exist).

5. Job application asks for salary history despite state ban

I am currently applying to a job which asks applicants to submit past three years salary history to the chair of the search committee. I live in Connecticut which banned employers and potential employers from asking for salary histories in 2019. Do I ignore it or address it?

Ignoring the question altogether is an option, although that carries the risk that they’ll reject you over it. (If you’re a stellar candidate they probably won’t, but otherwise some employers would.) Another option is to say something like, “I wanted to bring to your attention that the request for salary history probably wasn’t still supposed to be in your application instructions, since Connecticut prohibited those inquiries as of last year.” Framing it as “whoops, someone might have forgotten to take this out” rather than “you are breaking the law” can be a less adversarial way of making the point. (There’s nothing wrong with “you are breaking the law” — because they are — but usually when you’re applying for a job it’s better not to put people on the defensive if there are other ways to achieve the goal you want.)

{ 548 comments… read them below }

  1. All Outrage, All The Time*

    OP#2 Please tell us EVERYTHING about Laurie. Everything. In addition to Alison’s advice, I would let your housemates know that it’s totally fine to not let people in the house! If she turns up again, they could just say “OP isn’t here. I’ll let her know you dropped by.” And shut the door. If she wants to come in, they can just say “It’s not a good time. I’ll let OP know you were here.” And shut the door. Don’t worry about being polite with someone who has no sense of appropriate boundaries. I’m !!! about the Chinese food. I wonder if she knew it was bad and wanted to poison you so she could nurse you back to health #conspiracytheory

    1. Arts Akimbo*

      What I wondered about was the “that I’m trying to hide from my husband” part. Why was she trying to hide the Chinese food from him? With the caveat that this is a bit fanficcy of me– because the roommates got sick from eating it, I wondered if the husband was trying to throw it out because it was old, and Laurie is a food hoarder who couldn’t stand to see “good” food go to waste. But I have a lot of hoarders in my family, so I’m seeing it through, er, trashpile-I-mean-treasure-colored glasses.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, that’s just where my mind went with the Chinese food.

        I’d be so angry that I’d have to confront her with the consequences.

      2. MK*

        It could be that, or it could be that the husband is trying to or should be trying to eat more healthily and Laurie doesn’t want to bring takeout in their house. Or maybe he hates chinese food and can’t stand the smell. To me this sounds more like a polite protestation of the “no, no, you should totally finish off the chocolate cake, none of the other people I might offer it to like chocolate that much” variety.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This is where my mind went. Either she or they are not supposed to be eating it but Laurie cheated and now is trying to hide the evidence.

        2. Arts Akimbo*

          I would totally think that, too, but for the additional fact of their getting sick from it. Could just be a bad batch, though, for sure.

      3. 4Sina*

        This! But also – why would the housemates EAT Chinese food given to them by a stranger who just shows up and who’s behavior is a bit off? Not excusing her behavior AT ALL but that should have gone directly into the trash.

        1. Not Me*

          That’s what I was thinking. I would’ve stuck with “I just ate, we’ll put it in the fridge for later” and then tossed it as soon as the Weird Lady was gone.

        2. CmdrShepard4ever*

          If a coworker of a roommate I had showed up offering food, while I would find the whole interaction weird, I would certainly eat it. I would not question the quality or safety of it without knowing more information. Food borne illness can be caused by several factors. It might have been the restaurant, it might have been the improper storage by the coworker. Sometimes it can a an individual persons stomach that has issues with certain food(s). I have gone out to eat with friends where everyone enjoyed shared dishes and one person wound up getting sick but everyone else was fine.

          My personal rule is 2 strikes. I have had what I believe to be food poisoning from a restaurant, it can happen every once in a while, it could be the restaurant improperly cooked, handled, or stored the food or the restaurant was unknowingly sold a bad batch of something by a supplier, or the sickness was unrelated and it was just a coincidence that it came on after eating. I will go back to a restaurant again a second time and if I do not get sick I will keep coming back. If I get sick twice at the same place that is when I put it on my do not fly list.

          1. Sally*

            I want to give restaurants 2 chances, but I can’t. In my rational mind, the fact that a portion of the chicken in the chicken kiev was raw was quite likely a one-in-a-lifetime mistake. But some other part of my brain overrules every time, and I just can’t do it. And I’m not usually someone who gets grossed out easily. I guess it’s just one of those things.

            Sometimes it makes sense, like when there was a cockroach in my friend’s salad, and the restaurant owner acted like it was no big deal and didn’t offer to take anything (including that salad!) off the bill.

            But most of the time, it’s things that are not so terrible and that the staff is horrified over. I want to give them another chance, but I just can’t.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              If you can see that the food was not cooked properly before eating ( I usually send it back to be cooked more), or saw a cook sneeze and not wash their hands, I understand not giving a place a second chance.

              I will give a place a second chance if I don’t know if it was actually the restaurants fault, sometimes the restaurant does everything right/perfect but they were just sold contaminated produce and they had no way of knowing.

              @Kuddel Daddeldu After being hospitalized I can see why you wouldn’t want to try a place again. I have never had the severe a case of food poisoning so I can’t truly say how I would react in your situation. But the few instances of what I think are food poisoning I had only lasted a day or two. But I am also someone who will consume two large tubs of popcorn at the movies knowing I feel a bit sick after, and do the same thing at the next movie.

            2. it's-a-me*

              We went out to a restaurant and one of the other people had a chicken pasta. The chicken was undercooked, and she was violently ill.

              To this day I can’t bring myself to eat any chicken pasta, because the thought of it makes me feel ill in sympathy.

          2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

            My two cases of food poisoning definitely did not make me consider giving the place a second opportunity – I do not particularly like to be hospitalized, the first time in critical condition (I stayed off seafood for years after that one, thank you very much)!

          3. Elizabeth West*

            Yeah, but if I don’t know the person AT ALL, I wouldn’t eat it. What if it was sitting out on her countertop for two days?!

        3. Tidewater 4-1009*

          It sounds like the roommates were too polite and let Laurie come in and feed them because they thought it would be rude not to.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            “Better to be rude than sick” has been my lifelong rule, and no one will ever convince me otherwise.

        4. Yorick*

          It sounds like you’re saying the roommates should have thought she was poisoning them? That would be a pretty paranoid thing for them to think, even if she’s weird in her interactions with others.

          1. SimplyTheBest*

            I don’t think that’s what’s being said, just that a lot of people would think it’s weird to take food being foisted on you by a total stranger.

      4. Yorick*

        This is not really a reasonable interpretation. Lots of people want to “hide” their unhealthy food from their spouse or some other person who’s keeping them accountable for their diet.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          More reasonable than you think. I used to have fights with my mother about whether or not to throw away the moldy cheese. (She’s gotten better about it, but I’m careful about what I eat at her house or anyone else’s.)

          1. Yorick*

            I have hoarders in the family too. It was pretty hard to get them to throw out the old leftovers. But I can’t imagine they’d take it to someone else’s house.

            And anyway, it’s still not at all the most likely scenario given the context of the letter.

            1. Arts Akimbo*

              Oh, I will grant you that it is not the most likely scenario. But my family’s hoarders are the gifting type. “Oh, someone in the household wants to throw away this perfectly good food? I’ll give it to the neighbors who will clearly use it and treasure it!” is a thought process that they would totally have.

              1. Happily self employed*

                We had a neighbor like that when I was growing up. Forgot about her until now. We were poor, but my mother would always throw out any of their old food they tried to foist off on us.

      5. BluntBunny*

        I thought she was using the line as a ruse to bring free food to OP without OP feeling guilty or ashamed about accepting. I would tell her thanks for bringing the food but just to let you know that food made my roommates sick I wouldn’t go back to that restaurant again.

      6. rigger42*

        I took it more as being lonely and mostly joking ‘oh, can’t let my husband have this, so I just happen to have LOTS of Chinese food to share…’ It makes little sense that he can’t have it and she has enough to feed multiple people so my mind jumped to her picking up ‘oops too much’ which gives her an excuse to drop by. Of course, if they were close friends, she’d know she was out of town and also how to treat the cats. Its really strange the roomies let her in to hang out.

    2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Yes please!

      But also it’s just plain weird to come to your house unannounced like that, even if you are good friends with her. I’ve had friends that lived with roommates that I’ve been friendly with but I would never have considered them independent friends, so to speak, and just turned up to hang out with them.

      1. TechWorker*

        I wonder if she knew LW was away? If she didn’t then showing up unannounced in order to see LW would be maybe a bit odd but not totally out of order.

          1. Purple*

            But I can see “I brought something for LW. Oh she’s not here? Can I drop it off with you? By the way how’s it going?”

            And then morph that into a more socially awkward version.

            She clearly thinks they’re good friends, so I feel sad more than affronted here.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Showing up at a friend’s place unannounced wasn’t the least bit odd in college. I was in a tight circle. We did this all the time, to the extent that if the person who lived there wasn’t home, we would break in. (The security in those student apartments sucked. It was easy to jimmy a window.)

          That was college. The social rules were different. As a grown-up, I would find this incredibly weird, even from a very close friend or relative. We are close to a family down the block. We wouldn’t show up at their door without calling or texting first, barring an emergency. My in-laws live ten minutes away. We wouldn’t make an unexpected visit.

          Laurie doesn’t understand (or perhaps doesn’t care about) this stuff. If she is in her early twenties, she has the excuse of youth. I don’t get that impression. She likely is just clueless.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            Showing up unannounced might not just be a clueless or youth issue, it could also be a family and/or cultural thing. Growing up my family would drop by on friends/family unannounced, this is/was very common in the culture my family came from. I would say partly because they came from a different country in a rural area before cellphones, and where no one had a landline in their house, so there really was no way to announce plans to visit before hand.

            But growing up I would usually ask my parents shouldn’t we call first to see if they will be home and my parents dismissed it. They would always say if they aren’t home or if they are busy we will leave. We did have this happen a few times.

            1. CFrance*

              My extended family did this as well, but my husband’s family led a more formal life. Part of it was big family vs small family. It could definitely be a cultural thing, but the food part seems odd. Unless she was used to sharing food with OP and thought maybe it would be nice to give the leftovers away to her. The hide-from-husband thing could have been a spur of the moment excuse in the face of awkwardness.

              If I were the OP, in view of the fact that she helped her out over a rough patch, I would let it pass unless it happens again.

      2. KayDeeAye*

        It’s not really right to make judgments based on what we have here – hey, what else is the internet for :-) – but Laurie sounds…more than a bit peculiar here. What I mean by that is that while her actions sounds quite odd, her entire attitude sounds even odder. Bringing old food to your friend’s roommates while the friend is out of town? What? Why? I yearn to hear Laurie’s reasoning here.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          My reading was that Laurie showed up to drop off the items for the OP, but when she found out OP was not home Laurie probably figured I have this food might as well not let it go to waste and give it to OP’s roommates. Based on what the OP said Laurie sharing food and giving them rides was very much welcome and appreciated when OP was struggling.

          OP you obviously don’t have to be friends with anyone you don’t want to, and I don’t know all of Laurie’s antics that you mention, but if I was regularly sharing food and giving someone rides to/from work I would probably also assume that there was a closer friend relationship that had developed. Honestly I would feel a bit “used” if my “friendship” was good enough when someone needed something from me, but once I was no longer of any value/service that person wanted to distance themselves from me.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Yes, your last point is the important aspect for me. It makes a strong case for waiting to observe the lie of the land before making friends with people at the office. I get that OP was kind of between a rock and a hard place and accepted Laurie’s kindness out of necessity when she first started working there. It would be very churlish to now spurn that friendship. However, this doesn’t preclude putting up a few boundaries that decent people wouldn’t need.
            I get the impression that not many office workers like to hang out with Laurie, in her capacity as office weirdo. So she jumped on OP as a person needing help who hadn’t yet sussed all that out. I do rather feel sorry for Laurie in fact, but she still needs putting gently in place, with a ban on rotten food and unannounced visits.

      3. Jennifer*

        I don’t think it’s weird in general to show up to a friend’s house unannounced, it just depends on the level of friendship. Clearly, the OP and Laurie are not on the same page.

      4. Yorick*

        Maybe I’m way different, but I’d be delighted if a friend (even a casual friend) showed up at my house on my birthday to give me food and gifts. On other days, I’d probably be ok, unless it was super inconvenient for some reason. Unless it was the same person showing up announced over and over, I wouldn’t mind either an impromptu hang out or telling them it’s a bad time.

    3. SusanIvanova*

      Yesterday’s Judge Judy sounded a lot like LW1 – there were roommates, and exes of the roomies, and roomies who just let the ex of another roomie follow them inside because they’d been allowed in before, and then I just gave up because a very simple “there’s no reason to allow a non-roomie in when their roomie friend is out” rule would’ve prevented a lot of chaos.

    4. Ginger Sheep*

      I’m not seeing Laurie’s behaviour as weird as most of you are. OP does mention it was her birthday : isn’t bringing surprise gifts and food to your close friends something people do on birthdays? And to Laurie, the OP is indeed a close friend: she appears to have fed her daily and drove her home every day for weeks or months. I mean, she is very familiar with OP’s living situation! I totally get where she was coming from. As for the food, she probably bought it for OP, and when she found out she was out of town, felt stupid and tried to « save face » by sharing it with the roommates pretending it was « just some stuff she had lying around ». Honestly, I believe OP is being a little hard on Laurie after « using » her so much !

      1. Mookie*

        Thank you for offering a completely different spin on these events. It didn’t occur to me, personally, but it’s a reasonable and convincing explanation that seems appropriately generous to Laurie, given the parameters and history of her pre-existing relationship with the LW. In this light, Laurie didn’t do anything HIGHLY inappropriate, but it’s totally fine to correct that unwanted behavior going forward.

        In that vein, my advice, for what it’s worth, in addition to giving your housemates firm, explicit instructions to send Laurie away without a second, dubious thought, is to precisely and directly forbid Laurie from arriving unannounced and uninvited to your home. This is a reasonable request Laurie should understand, given that you have housemates who have no relationship with her and for whom her appearance and prolonged presence is an awkward and unnecessary burden. In the words of the Captain, I think everybody might be okay here, barring some truly odd Laurie-related backstory (as the LW may be hinting at).

          1. valentine*

            OP is being a little hard on Laurie after « using » her so much !
            I don’t see this. It depends on whether OP was even more friendly with Laurie, inviting her in to meet the roomies, or if Laurie was pushy about feeding/driving them.

            It’s possible Laurie thought she was invited, especially if she has been invited in before. If OP2 said, “I’m having a birthday brunch (with friends),” and Laurie thinks (1) they are friends and (2) OP2 is still broke and/or the roomies are their only friends. Without details OP2 shouldn’t be providing at this stage (when her birthday is, what time brunch is) because there’s no way to think that’s benign, Laurie’s the one who’s off because they are not 10 years old in a cul-de-sac where showing up is the thing to do.

            (Where’s the encyclopedia, OP2? I’m more wary since the household bathroom ban post.)

            1. Jennifer*

              The brunch was out of town though. Why would she think she was invited?

              I also think it was very kind of Laurie to share her food and give the OP rides, but I don’t think she is owed a best friend because of that. It sounds like the OP considers her a friend, but just not at the level Laurie wants. All this makes it seem that Laurie did kind things for her with an ulterior motive.

              1. Cat*

                I don’t think showing up with food and gifts suggests she had an ulterior motive for giving her food and rides. It sounds like she was trying to be generous in both instances and it backfired.

              2. CmdrShepard4ever*

                You are correct that OP does not owe Laurie a best friend because of the food/rides, and it does seem that OP and Laurie have a mismatch in the level of friendship that they confer each other. I say this as someone who has been on both sides of the mismatch.

                Without knowing more backstory, I would assume that after giving someone food (presumably having lunch together) and giving OP rides for an extended period of time that they would become a pretty close friend. Not because of the food/rides but because of the amount of time spent together and presumably conversations that were had.

                I don’t think that Laurie did the nice things with an ulterior motive. If we do down that route we could argue the same thing of OP that they feigned friendship or formed a genuine friendship with the ulterior motive of getting food and rides. To be clear I don’t think Laurie or OP had any ulterior motives, just that a mismatch in friendship/intimacy levels has developed.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        The thing that’s throwing me off is, when Laurie realized the OP, her perceived friend, wasn’t there, she didn’t leave. I can’t get my head around a friendship where I show up uninvited at all, but beyond that, if I did show up for some reason and my friend wasn’t home, I sure to hell wouldn’t invite myself in, offer food to their roommates, and start leaving stuff around their house. (Either she’s offering food to the roommates, which is weird, or the roommates are eating the food she left for OP, which is also weird.) And I mean, I wouldn’t do any of that to my best friend of twenty years, let alone a work friend.

        Dunno. Laurie is being weird here, but I’m wondering why the housemates didn’t just say “oh, sorry, she’s not here, give her a call on Monday, cheers!” And close the door. My housemate’s girlfriend of a year doesn’t get in my house without him. :-P

        1. MK*

          I can see it happening very naturally, especially if a) Laurie knew the roommates and b) either Laurie or the roommates or both were being polite at eachother at cross-purposes. I can easily imagine that if a friend of my roommate whom I also knoe somewhat shows up at the door, I will invite them in by reflex, possibly expecting them to say no or only stay for a few minutes. And if I show up at my friend’s house with the intention to spent time with them and find them gone and their roommates, who I also know, invite me in and offer coffee and tell me I am no bother and I can see that they are just sitting around on a Sunday morning doing nothing, I might stay awhile and offer them the food I intented for my friend and me, maybe I would make a lame joke about my husband being pissed if I bring it back to our house because he hates chinese food or is on a diet or whatever. Or maybe Laurie did invite herself in, ignored the roommates clear discomfort and pressured them into eating. It’s just that the OP’s outraged tone does not seem warranted by the facts in the letter.

          1. londonedit*

            Yeah, I can see it happening in a sort of ‘Oh, OP isn’t here? That’s a shame! I’ve got a couple of birthday presents for her, and I brought some Chinese food. What a pity she isn’t here to share it! Would you guys like it? It’ll only go to waste otherwise. Can’t take it home, my husband isn’t allowed to have too much salt! I’d have to hide it from him! Let me just put these bags over here…’ way.

            1. Bree*

              Yeah, this is plausible, too. It comes down to how hard the housemates tried to protest – and they ate the food so it seems like not very hard? – and whether there’s a pattern of clingy behaviour. But yeah, in my eyes a well-intended misunderstanding (with some unlucky food poisoning).

          2. Washi*

            Totally agree! It also seems pretty in-character for Laurie. Sharing food and driving a brand new coworker every day is nice, but also kind of over the top generous for a stranger, and I’d describe showing up randomly with food and gifts on a new friend’s birthday the same way. (Curious about what her other “antics” are though…)

            OP, I would mainly take this as an eye opening look at what kind of friends Laurie thinks you are, and make it clear to both her and your roommates that you’re not into unannounced visits.

            1. Colette*

              In addition to thinking about what kind of friends Laurie thinks they are, the OP should make sure she is giving messages consistent with the kind of friend she thinks they are. If they aren’t good friends, she should be declining any favours Laurie offers, and generally treating her with the kind of distance she wants.

            2. Jennifer*

              Yes, she’s “over the top” generous. I hate to see someone go hungry so I wouldn’t mind sharing food one day or giving someone a ride so they aren’t stranded once or twice, but providing food and rides every single day for months is A LOT.

              OP didn’t know Laurie existed when she took the job so I’m assuming she had some plan in mind on how she would feed herself and get to work (PB&Js and the bus?) so maybe that much generosity wasn’t needed.

        2. Sleepless*

          Laurie may think that since she and OP are good friends, that makes OP’s roommates outer-circle friends, so why not hang out with them a few minutes and let them have the food she brought over? I can see that making sense to somebody who doesn’t read social situations perfectly.

        3. P.C. Wharton*

          Maybe I’ve just lived in atypical arrangements, but if a friend brought me food and I wasn’t home, I /hope/ they’d feel welcome to come in and share with the roommates instead.

          The food poisoning is unfortunate, but it sometimes happens with takeout–not Laurie’s fault. Ditto the presents–many people do not know everything that might be toxic to cats. There seems to be a lot of blame being heaped on innocuous behavior here.

        4. Oxford Comma*

          I generally prefer it when people call ahead, but I don’t think it’s all that odd for people to show up without notice.

          The rest of it is odd, but at least in my part of the US, it’s not weird for someone to just drop by.

      3. Zona the Great*

        I ended a very long best-friendship because she wouldn’t stop dropping by unannounced for reasons like this, among other boundary-stomping behaviors. The housemate sitch makes it 10x worse.

        1. Quickbeam*

          I have a strict no unannounced visitor rule at my house. I had a co-worker show up “on a whim” and I would not let her in the house. She was very put out but that was better than having photos of my house show up on Facebook. Because she’d definitely do that.

          Boundaries are important.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Ugh. It’s an understandable subcultural difference that some people feel that just dropping by is OK, but just dropping by and *not accepting no for an answer* is 100% being a pushy, selfish, boundary-stomping glassbowl.

            1. TiffIf*

              I will sometimes drop by unannounced at VERY close friends’ houses but I never expect to be invited in or spend time there. Its a –just wanted to drop off this DVD you said you wanted to borrow, enjoy!

          2. Arts Akimbo*

            Good rule! I had a friend who would just drop by people’s dwellings without calling just to hang out. To be fair, we were all pretty fresh out of college, and in college we all used to do this. But it took showing up at the door of our newly married friends while they were in the middle of a quite loud argument before he finally got the idea that he should call first.

      4. Ms. Ann Thropy*

        But even if it was meant as a birthday gift, once it was clear OP wasn’t there, Laurie should have left. Staying there and feeding the roommates and the cats was odd even if Laurie (not unreasonably) believes she and OP are friends.

        1. Yorick*

          I don’t think she fed the cats. She left a gift for OP that the cats could have eaten. (I don’t get the impression from the letter that they did eat it and got sick? Just that they could have?)

          1. KoiFeeder*

            The impression I got was that she might have brought a bouquet, something like lilies, into the house?

        2. Yorick*

          Imagine you’ve picked up Chinese food as a birthday gift for a friend. The friend isn’t home. You don’t want to take the food home because your husband either can’t eat it or doesn’t approve of you eating it (come on, these are by far the most likely interpretations of “have to hide it from my husband”). So do you just throw this expensive takeout away? Or do you give it to your friend’s roommates?

          And OP may not feel like it, but functionally she and Laurie are (or at least were) somewhat close. Laurie has probably met the roommates or heard stories about them. So she probably feels like they’re in the outer part of her friend circle. So while it might be kinda annoying that she wants to be social with them, it’s understandable.

      5. Dragoning*

        Maybe it’s my age, or my friend group, but “surprise” visits are not a thing for me on any occasion.

        1. Quill*

          Not necessarily if it’s just for brunch? My best friend doesn’t always know if I’m out of town for an afternoon unless we actually are trying to plan around it.

        2. Clisby*

          Why? I’ve had plenty of close friends who didn’t clue me in on all their weekend plans. It’s not like we were joined at the hip.

          1. Jennifer*

            We just have different definitions of what makes a close friend. That’s a term I only use to describe a couple people. If you have a dozen “close” friends, it makes sense you wouldn’t notify them every time you leave town.

            1. Humble Schoolmarm*

              I don’t think that’s necessarily true. My closest friend is dealing with family health issues and spends every second weekend or so in her hometown a few hours away. I have a general sense of the pattern of her visits (ie. is this a good weekend to put out a coffee invite?) but she doesn’t let me know exactly what she’s doing every time she goes. My second closest friend lives 18 hours away and I’m 100% not keeping tabs on her travels unless she’s headed my way or doing some major excursion.

        3. Yorick*

          Probably not? Do you tell all your friends about your weekend or birthday plans? I certainly don’t, unless there’s a logistical reason or it happens to come up.

        4. SimplyTheBest*

          Unless I’m going out of town with them, then no, I would not definitely know my close friends’ plans.

      6. Mia*

        Yeah, I kind of see it this way. Like it definitely seems like Laurie is a little socially awkward, but imo it’s way weirder to let someone feed you and drive you around on a daily basis and not consider them a friend/be annoyed that they see you as one.

      7. Quill*

        Laurie sounds eager to be helpful and in that case it should be fairly easy to draw boundaries! You just have to, you know, mention that “hey, my roommates need me to know when people are planning to come over,” and set clear boundaries.

        The chinese food sounds like probably an accident in terms of the food poisoning, especially because “oh, I just don’t want this to go to waste!” 100% sounds like a thing you say when your surprise gift fails.

        When it comes to “antics…” is it possible that OP has never attempted to set boundaries with Laurie, expecting her to intuit them? Because Laurie’s actions so far have been generous and it’s very easy to overstep when you continue for multiple years to be generous to a person who never says “thanks but no thanks” but does not actually want your generosity.

        (Especially if there’s an age difference here – Not that it should matter, but if LW is in the early stages of their career and Laurie is significantly older, it’s very much possible that Laurie has generoused her way into a more mentor/benefactor role in her own mind, while LW has not been of the opinion that accepting favors implies a closer relationship.)

      8. Socrates Johnson*

        I mean, the roommates felt comfortable enough to eat the food that she brought, so they must have felt at least partially comfortable with this.

    5. Bagpuss*

      I don’t think that Laurie showing up unannounced is necessarily weird – I think people do vary a lot around how important they see it being to call ahead, so in isolation i would see that as something you deal with with a quiet word to Laurie – ‘I’d really appreciate it is you were to call me rather than just coming to my house – my roomies and I have an agreement about not having unexpected visitors”

      And I do think that you need to speak to your roommate first – both to let them know that you would be 100% OK with them just telling Laurie (or any other unexpected visitor) “She’s not in , I’ll let her know you called” and then shutting the door – that they don’t need to let anyone in or try to entertain them.

      It sounds as though Laurie was trying to be nice, even if she was too pushy about it, and that your past relationship does mean that it’s not wholly out of order for her to see the two of you are fairly close friends, so I think it is a matter of you setting and maintaining some boundaries.

      Start by asking her not to come to your house without calling first, and if you eel that the friendship has run its course and that her other ‘antics’ are such that you don’t want to have any dealings with her outside of work then again, I think you probably ned to address that directly with her.

      I don’t see it as something you can involve your boss in at all at this stage as it doesn’t sound as though it is in any way a work-related issue. IF she starts to cause issues at work then obviously speak to your boss at that point, but you need to be able to explain what steps you’ve taken yourself already.

      1. soon to be former fed really*

        In 202o, folks don’t just drop by unannounced. There is call waiting, texting, cell phoning, emailing, all manner of ways to communicate a desire to enter someone’s home. No excuse for doing it unannounced, even if you are in the driveway. It was far more common in the sixtiesand seventies because we had none of these technologies, but now it is just rude. My daughter doesn’t even do this. It’s rude and inconsiderate, full-stop.

        1. Sam.*

          I actually know a couple of people who do unannounced drop-bys shockingly often, and these are people in their early-mid 30s, not someone from a previous era. It’s not rude in their minds, for various reasons, and while they will respect boundaries (they don’t drop by on me, for example, because I absolutely would not welcome it), if they’re not told someone has a problem with it, they tend to assume it’s fine.

        2. Reality.Bites*

          Plus, the letter writer is in the situation and we are not. If they classify Laurie’s behaviour as weird and making the roommates uncomfortable, and we choose to set that aside and instead present our own facts, we’re no longer in a position to offer any sensible advice after rewriting the story into one requiring none because Laurie was in the right and letter writer is wrong.

          Once we’re inventing reasons for Laurie’s behaviour, why not further speculate that in fact Laurie is having an affair with one of the letter writer’s roommates and the situation has nothing to do with the letter writer at all. They’re merely a convenient cover. But it’s not working. Laurie’s husband poisoned the food. Letter writer should be grateful hubs waited till letter writer was away.

          1. Colette*

            I don’t think you can refer people to the letter and then accuse Laurie’s husband of poisoning the food, which is an extremely remote possibility not backed up by facts in the letter.

            And it’s possible that the OP thinks Laurie’s behavior is weird while other reasonable people would not. It’s possible for different people to have different comfort levels with things like dropping by unannounced. That’s OK – but the OP has to be clear about what she wants Laurie to do.

            1. Marthooh*

              Reality,Bites is demonstrating the futility of speculation on our part, not presenting the love-affair-plus-murder-attempt theory as a valid possibility. Although who knows?

          2. Massmatt*

            Great post, Alison steers us towards taking facts as presented in the letters and it’s easy for us commenters to take speculation to unlikely lengths. Especially if it’s in a way that bolsters our own experience or bias.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              You are correct that people do offer their own take based on their individual experiences/biases, but that is part of the purpose of giving the peanut gallery an avenue to comment. It allows people with differing points of views/experiences to offer alternatives that we may not see presciently because of our own biases.

              I admit I did offer an alternative explanation for Laurie, not as a OP is wrong Laurie is right kind of thing, but as trying to offer a different perspective. Ultimately OP is able to set what ever boundaries they want to set, but I know for me when I am setting/explaining the boundaries I am setting the way I explain or set them will vary based on my understanding of why the person on the other side is pushing past them. If I think someone is accidentally pushing past them I will explain it one way, if I think that someone is deliberately pushing past them I will explain them a different way.

        3. Washi*

          In my early 20s, I had a ton of friends who lived in group houses (really common in my city) and there was kind of a casual college dorm vibe about it – dropping by was unusual, but not unheard of, and you would often get to know your friends’ roommates and could easily figure “I’ll bring this stuff by for OP, and if she’s not there, I can probably just leave it with her housemates.” I think if you think of this in a dorm context, it all makes more sense. Obviously it’s not the kind of relationship OP wants, but some people love that kind of thing, apparently including Laurie.

        4. Clisby*

          Must depend on the area – I’ve had neighbors drop by unannounced, and it’s fine with me. I’d be surprised if someone drove across town to drop in on me, though.

          1. Quill*

            I have dropped in on neighbors but like… usually not for anything more than “hey, did you guys want some bannana bread?” or “can one of you have a look at this snowblower? it won’t start” aka business that doesn’t require me to actually go inside their house.

            Of course, I can see whether they’re home from my window!

            Beyond that, logistics might dictate my “dropping in.” It’s easier when someone has a house and a full sized mailbox to just drop something off, and I have orchestrated an unannounced cookie drop before.

            then again I’ve known the person I dropped the cookies on for over a decade.

            1. Yorick*

              “I brought some food for OP, oh, she’s not home, do you guys want it?” isn’t all that different from “do you want some banana bread?”

              1. Quill*

                Yeah, in this case the only weirdness is that Laurie doesn’t actually know the roommates and supposedly ended up inside.

                (I pretty much do only drop in on the neighbors I’ve already exchanged favors with, which Laurie may think is the case! But the whole household knows me in that case, I’ve babysat the kids and the dog once or twice.)

                1. Sparrow*

                  Yeah, and I think if that was the extent of the exchange, the roommates probably wouldn’t have thought it was all that weird and I doubt they would’ve felt compelled to eat it? It’s possible something in the messaging was lost between the roommates and OP or OP and us, but if they really did feel pressured to let her in and eat the food she brought, something seems off.

                2. Yorick*

                  If they got food poisoning from it, it’s natural they’d start to blame her and feel that she “made” them eat it. And maybe she did sort of insist! But I’m guessing this situation came from a combination of her awkwardness and the roommates’ awkwardness, because it should have been pretty easy to stay polite while saying they’d pass the message to OP, taking the stuff out of her hands, and shutting the door.

        5. Penny Parker*

          I am wondering where you are located because this is a cultural issue. In the rural midwest people definitely stop by unannounced. There would be nothing thought bad about it at all.

          1. Dragoning*

            That might be a rural thing in general. I live in the urban Midwest, and I would hate this.

            I had a friend in high school who would occasionally just…walk a couple miles across town to my house without letting anyone know, and we wouldn’t be home, or would be walking out the door, or in the middle of dinner, and I loved her to death, but no.

            1. doreen*

              I live in a city and the idea of dropping by is not unusual to me at all – but in thinking about it, there are certain circumstances when it is done. First, it’s not generally done to visit – it’s typically to drop off or pick up something. Second, it involves minimal effort- you wouldn’t walk a couple of miles to stop by unannounced , but I’m not necessarily going to call a friend before stopping to drop something off if I’m passing her house on the way to the supermarket. If she’s not home or just doesn’t answer, it’s no big deal.

            2. Snoop*

              Growing up in rural Iowa and now living in a city in Iowa.. I think you nailed it. We had people pop in all the time growing up, even when we all had cell phones. We definitely don’t do that now.

              I do think it does depend on your family, living situation, etc. My house was one of the ‘always someone there’ houses so I had friends that would stop by to see me or my brother and if we weren’t there just shoot the sh*t with my mom or step dad until we got there. and then I had friends who’s houses I’d never been in at all.

            3. Lora*

              Yes. I grew up in a rural area, and my friends who also grew up in a rural area understand that dropping by is perfectly fine and all the city people feel compelled to make an appointment.

              I ascribe this to, when you live in a city, the way you get along with other humans living packed so close together is by having an intense respect of personal space and boundaries, even if the personal space is small and extends only to a one centimeter radius around you. When your norm is, your personal space extends several hundred feet around you and is rarely intruded upon by anything other than a songbird or coyote, you don’t feel the same kind of need to guard the boundary strongly – there’s enough space for everyone. It’s sort of to re-create a psychological sense of privacy and space in situations where you don’t actually have any.

              1. Filosofickle*

                I totally agree with your theory that city folks are guarding their space. It feels really hostile to people visiting, but it makes a lot of sense to those living in it.

                I live in an inner suburb that feels like a small town. We’re on the subway/commuter rail line. When you get off at the station, everyone operates on city rules: no eye contact, no talking, walk fast. Block by block as I walk home, people start to nod hello. By the time I’ve reached home, just 1/2 mile away, nearly everyone says hello and smiles. The calibration from “urban protection zone” to “friendly neighborhood” happens that fast.

                Growing up I would have dropped in on people if I was out and found myself near them because I lived in the desert, where everything was far away so you took advantage of proximity. (And we didn’t have cell phones.) Now I expect calls first but do have one friend who is often in the neighborhood and calls from outside see if I’m home and would mind a quick pop-in.

              2. whingedrinking*

                Yup. I have rural-living relatives who are appalled at how “rude” city folk are, because we don’t talk to each other on, say, the bus. I feel compelled to point out that when you live in the city, you’re going to see, hear and even smell other people going about their daily lives more than they or you would probably wish. Since actual privacy isn’t always an option, we all create a polite fiction that it exists and act accordingly. Otherwise we’d all have to be constantly confronting the fact that we can hear our neighbours having sex through the walls of our apartments or trying to figure out exactly which person on the subway car farted, and nobody’s got the bandwidth for that.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            Different cultures, different rules. I don’t think it’s super rude. I do call to check if someone’s home if I have to drive there, but I walk up to the neighbor’s doors occasionally, and they walk up to mine, and it is NBD. US South, suburbia.

        6. Mia*

          I think this varies a lot by culture and location. I live in the South and it’s super common for people to drop by unannounced. Or like, text you something like “I’m in the neighborhood and gonna drop by!” instead of actually asking permission first. To me this whole thing seems less like Laurie being an absolute weirdo and more like there’s a misunderstanding about how close she and OP actually are.

          1. Bagpuss*

            Yes, that’s pretty much where I fall. I think (absent any other details, which we don’t have) that it suggests a mis-match between cultures and in how close OP and Laurie feel their friendship is, rather than ‘Laurie is definitely behaving inappropriately’.

            I personally wouldn’t drop in without calling first but I know people who would, and are fine with others doing so (UK, fairly rural). I have a couple of friends who would see it as normal (of course, since my friends are nice, reasonable people, they have been fine with me asking them to call first, rather than popping in, and I have been working on accepting their invitations to just drop by… In one case, they would be totally fine with me just letting myself in, making a cup of tea and sitting down to wait for them if they happened not to be in the house when I arrived, but I don’t think I could bring myself to do that!)

            1. Mia*

              Yeah, totally agreed. It seems like OP and Laurie are just on completely different pages on friendship norms and if they’re even friends to begin with. That doesn’t make either of them immediately in the wrong imo, but I think OP definitely needs to have a straightforward conversation with Laurie about it.

            2. londonedit*

              My fairly rural UK experience is similar. It reminds me of a passage in Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island where (if I recall correctly) he describes living in rural Yorkshire and ‘doing lavish raised-leg farts’ while washing up, only to turn around and find a pile of letters on the kitchen table that had been quietly left by the postman. People still tend to leave their kitchen doors unlocked in rural Britain (most often in a farmhouse you don’t use the front door at all, everyone goes in and out through the back door which usually leads into the kitchen) and neighbours are much more likely to pop in and drop something off even if you’re not there. My parents are always having people dropping by unannounced. I find it’s much less common in the city, or maybe less common among my circle of friends. People will text if they’re nearby, or they’ll do a ‘Hey, we’re popping to the pub at the end of your road this evening, fancy joining us?’ but no one has ever just turned up without warning.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                I desperately need to read this. And I know people who live in rural Yorkshire so now I must ask them if they fart whilst doing the washing up. :’D

          2. Quill*

            Yeah, also somewhat generational: my parents grew up in a suburbia where doors were never locked in the daytime, and people’s children were relatively free-range, I grew up in a suburbia where you ran by and knocked on the door to ask if someone could come out and play and 50% of the neighborhood would be in at any time to respond if you, say, fell off your bike and needed an adult to call your parents and/or get you an asprin, a glass of water, and a series of bandaids.

        7. Person from the Resume*

          It really depends on the person and how they were raised. The fact that you raised your daughters to feel the same way you do does not in anyway mean that your opinion is universal. I agree it is becoming less common with modern conveniences, but you have not stated a universal truth for all humans.

          Especially considering it was the LW’s birthday where it is easy for me to imagine that Laurie wanted to visit her friend and drop off gifts for her birthday. The LW doesn’t say that Laurie has dropped by unannounced before

          Laurie sounds socially awkward for sure but this one incident occurred outside of work and has nothing to do with work.

          The takeout making the roommate sick doesn’t sound on purpose. Unless there has been extensive conversation on cats and what’s poisonous to cats, I’d also assume that gift was simply a unfortunate choice.

          1. Yorick*

            Especially since the visit was to drop off birthday gifts, I might think “oh I’ll just pop over to wish her happy birthday, and if she’s not there I can just leave it on the porch or something.” This just doesn’t sound like something crazy or out there to me.

        8. Oxford Comma*

          In 2020 people do drop by unannounced. It happened to me this weekend. My distant cousins were in town and were literally visiting their friends who live a block over and stopped by to my place. It probably depends on what part of the country you live in, your age, how you were raised, etc. But it still happens. I personally don’t like it, but it happens.

          There seems to be a lot to unpack with Laurie. Maybe the housemates were all about the free Chinese food. Maybe she pushed her way in. Did they mishear what she said about hiding it from her husband? Was that actually what she said? Did she have a bunch of Chinese food that was unknowingly spoiled or did she possibly just say that and had actually stopped at a restaurant and bought some? Sometimes, people make a little social lie to get someone to accept a gesture (“It’s no trouble for me to go to the store for you, I was going there anyway.” “Oh, please take some of these cookies. I made too much.”) Did she intentionally buy the OP gifts that were toxic to the cats? Did she just not know? I

          OP: I think you could tell Laurie that it was nice of her to bring the food, but that you wanted to warn her something was off with the food. You could frame it as a being something to be aware of with that restaurant. You could also thank her for the gifts but explain they won’t work with your cats. And you should definitely use Alison’s script for the part about not dropping by unannounced.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        I agree with all of this. Definitely not something in which to involve her boss at this point.

        Although it’s annoying when people drop by unannounced, OP and Laurie have been and are friends, so it’s not completely unreasonable for her to stop by on OP’s birthday. OP just needs to use her words to tell Laurie to call/text first. (I’ve done it myself with my in-laws who used to drop by unannounced, as well as a lifelong friend. It worked, they didn’t get upset, and I lived to tell about it.) And she needs to tell her roommates they don’t need to let Laurie in when she’s not there. Without more information there’s no way to know if Laurie pushed her way in, or if the roommates just felt they couldn’t turn her away, or whatever.

      3. SomebodyElse*

        I’m with you on this. It’s a little unfair to Laurie in that she was good enough to receive food and rides from when the OP needed it but then is suddenly weird and unwelcome when she doesn’t need them.

        It does sound like there’s more of a backstory here, but really I think the OP has a roommate problem and not a coworker problem.

        Who accepts and eats food from a stranger? If Laurie didn’t tie the roommate up and forcefeed them, then the food poisoning is on them. As for the present/cat thing, I’m assuming a plant? Again, who just puts a plant of unknown toxicity in range of a cat?

        Honestly, I’m shaking my head a little at the OP.

    6. EventPlannerGal*

      I feel like this is one of those letters where the context is going to radically affect how weird the behaviour described is. Like, as described the situation sounds more like an awkward misunderstanding to me than anything else… but what are the “antics”??? Are we talking “she says hi to me in the morning too often and has too many motivational posters in her cube”? Or are we talking “she frequently breaks into my house while I’m sleeping, searches my laptop for financial information and paints her name on my walls in chicken blood”?

      1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        Loving your Antic Spectrum! And picturing what’s at the neutral setting…?Maybe a motivational poster, picture of an angry chicken in a disco, caption:
        BOLDNESS
        Dare to paint the town red

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        I think writing on the walls in chicken blood moves us past the “antics” range, solidly into “hijinks.”

    7. StellaBella*

      Agree – just wow. A friend of mine lost his sister to bad Chinese food (clostridium poisoning I think). I can’t understand this odd behaviour. Why would someone do this? OP, I agree you need to ask her directly to not do this again, not stop by unannounced, and tell her that your roommates were very sick from this action of hers. I am so sorry.

      1. WellRed*

        Whoa! Laurie didn’t intentionally poison the roommates. I assume she also didn’t force feed them. I agree Laurie’s behavior isn’t great but “this action” of hers is …sharing food.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Even though she didn’t intentionally poison the roommates, I think OP ought to tell her about that. She may have brought too-old leftovers, or she may want to know the restaurant she got the food from is not so sanitary.

          1. Lance*

            Agreed; regardless of motivations, the fact is that people got sick. If she’s a good person, she’d want to know so that she might be able to avoid a repeat in the future.

        2. WellRed*

          My point is, even if Laurie had been invited and welcomed with open arms and the OP was there in all her birthday glory, the Chinese food still would have made them sick. It has nothing to do with her odd behavior, or showing up announced or “this action” of hers. Simply put, the OP does not like Laurie and therefore is viewing everything through the “Laurie is weird” lens. Laurie probably is weird and was from the get-go (most of us know people) and its OK to dial down the relationship but be honest with yourself.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            There are two aspects to this: 1) she brought food that made rommmates sick. 2) she brought gifts toxic to the cats.
            At face value I’d assume both were accidental. A lot of people seem to be reading at least a little malice, rather than straight cluelessness/bad luck into it. Possibly because of the “antics” line, and maybe also because OP asked about raising with the boss.
            I’m gonna make a leap, and I know it’s a leap, but my question for the OP is this: do you think Laurie did this intentionally? Specifically the 2 “eat this and become ill” items? If there’s some subtext here that you’re concerned about that…or that you’re worried the boundary crossing is about to turn into a stalking situation, then the letter omits some crucial info that’d probably change the advice. I’m not saying come here and tell us that. But if that’s really what you’re worried about, it’s a very different situation.
            If you’re not concerned about that, and if you don’t think the two “poison” issues were intentional, then I think maybe step back a bit from what sounds like general frustration with Laurie. Try to put yourself in a “just the facts” mode about her, and do what Alison mentioned to try to re-establish the boundaries you want with her. It makes sense to be upset about this incident and I’m not trying to downplay this, if roommates and cats both got sick that’s bad, but unless you suspect Laurie is actively malicious, the way to prevent something like that happening again is setting the boundary.

        3. SuperAnon*

          Or Laurie might have had the Chinese out on the counter or sitting in her car for hours. In which case, yeah, it *is* Laurie’s fault that people got sick.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Yeah, judging from other threads I’ve seen here it’s shockingly common for people to have zero knowledge about or concern for food safety.

        4. Yorick*

          Yeah, “odd behavior” and “this action of hers” is a silly way to think of it when it’s actually “giving my friend a gift and some food for her birthday.” Sure, the roommates ate it and got sick, but that’s not Laurie’s fault. You can warn her about the restaurant, but not to make any kind of point about her “unacceptable behavior.”

    8. Reluctant Manager*

      I have a stomach ache imagining about a colleague, even well intentioned, showing up and poisoning my cats. I would *lose my mind.*

      1. Yorick*

        But she didn’t “poison the cats.” She brought a gift for OP’s birthday. If anyone should be blamed, it should be the roommates who accepted the gift and didn’t put it away where the cats wouldn’t get it. I wouldn’t blame the roommates! Because I’m guessing neither they nor Laurie were aware that it could be bad for cats.

      2. Relentlessly Socratic*

        People who don’t own cats don’t really know how different they are from us and how something as simple as a bouquet of flowers could be lethal. People show up at my door with flowers *including lilies* and I just whisk them out to the back hall and put them “someplace safe” until later. (Educating the person about lilies ensues at some point)

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Yeah, it’s definitely my impression that Laurie probably brought a bouquet of lilies and that’s the toxic gift- but I’m just speculating, here.

        2. Pommette!*

          I once accidentally poisoned my own cat! Luckily things worked out OK after a scary night and a messy and expensive vet trip.

          The culprit was a cute little potted kalanchoe that I’d brought home without thinking. I’m now paranoid about what plants and cut flowers I let into the house. The truth is that you can buy plants that are toxic for cats in any flower shop and in most grocery stores, and they are almost never appropriately labelled. I can see how it would be easy for someone who doesn’t have cats (or whose cats aren’t plant-fiends) to make a similar mistake. This is a scary situation, but it’s not one where blame is called for.

          1. iantrovert (they/them)*

            My sister did something similar last year. Small bouquet of flowers from the grocery store with a lily in it. She didn’t know they were toxic to cats! The lily pollen floated into the cat’s water dish and made kitty foam at the mouth. One call to animal poison control and an emergency vet trip at 1 in the morning on a weekend later, the cat was okay after some medication to stop the foaming and incessant self-scratching. Point being, even people who have had cats for years can be ignorant of this stuff.
            I don’t bring any live plants into the house. My dumb cat chews on the artificial ones as it is.

  2. Approval is optional*

    OP 4: March Madness is a football thing?
    The CEO of the last company I worked for took part in the football pool, but was clear upfront that she wasn’t to be included in the weekly/overall money allocation list (so basically she was paying to play for fun). It seemed to work out ok: I did hear people say she should keep the money, but never that she shouldn’t take part at all.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Basketball thing.

      But that aside my compromise was going to be to suggest playing for the fun and not taking the pool.

      Or if you win, use the money to pay for lunch for everyone.

      1. Yvette*

        But how do you play for fun? (Not sure how it works, are there multiple winners, in which case you just let your share be divided among the others?) I am only familiar with the “pick a square” one square per person type of pool that just rely on sheer luck, and there is only one person/winner per square.

        1. Uldi*

          The fun in these kinds of pools is in accurately predicting which teams will win, both in a given week and overall.

          1. Yvette*

            But is there more than one winner? I don’t get how playing for fun would work if you don’t want the money.

            1. Willis*

              Usually there’s a point system. The pool my parents participate in have prize for first, second, third, and last place. So the OP could participate for bragging rights only and the prize money could go to the person with the second most points. Obviously if she’s only in it for the money that doesn’t work but I think most people play at least partially cause they think it’s fun to try and pick the winners.

              1. Yvette*

                Thank you. I understood the playing for fun but didn’t know how it would work if you did not want the money.

                1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

                  Huge college basketball fan here. I’ve won the March Madness pool twice. Both times I was in pools with no money (and therefore no payoff) Let me tell you, both times it was the SWEETEST FEELING to have more accurately predicted the future than anyone else. Money wouldn’t have made that feeling better. I can totally see why someone would a) want to join a pool but b) be perfectly happy declining future winnings upfront.

                2. Jules the 3rd*

                  My employer does multiple MM pools (in my area, college basketball is THE sport; football’s ok and all…) but no money allowed, just bragging rights. They still have several hundred people participating.

            2. Uldi*

              Depends on how the pool is run. If it’s just a straight Right/Wrong record, you could have more than one winner.

              And you could still play even if you don’t want the money. In that case, it would be more like competing against a sports journalist’s picks.

              My impression from the letter is that she’s more interested in the bragging rights of being right than in winning the money, and this way she can still do that.

            3. Mookie*

              In the case of actual, monetary winnings, I imagine some workplaces/club/school pools operate under the expectation that the winner(s) donate the pot to charity (either under their name or the group’s collective name, either to a cause of their choice or a pre-determined and agreed-upon choice).

              1. Antilles*

                Not to be rude, but in my experience, that’s not really a thing with sports pick’em pools like these. Honestly not sure I’ve ever even *heard* of an office with an expectation that all the winnings go to charity.
                Either it’s purely for fun with no money at stake, only bragging rights…or you put in your $X and the winner gets to do whatever they want with the winnings.

                1. Dragoning*

                  All winnings go to a pre-determined charity….doesn’t sound like there’s any point in playing for cash at all, they should just donate it and be done with it.

                2. NotAnotherManager!*

                  My offices does a huge March Madness event as a charity fundraiser, and it is wildly popular. They create a private group in one of the online bracket tools (Yahoo, ESPN, or something), and you pay per bracket to participate. The company pitches in a few prizes for the winners (top 3 or 5 – never win, can’t remember), but all the money paid per bracket to participate goes to one or two charities that are announced in the invitation to participate, usually ones that we already work with through our community service and outreach program.

                  I think it would be very different if someone won cash and was then pressured to donate it all to charity. Everyone who participates in ours knows from the beginning that it’s a fundraiser and who is getting the cash.

        2. Rexish*

          Years ago during the football (soccer) world cup we had a fantasy football league type thing. You could either place bet or not put anything. The winner was someone who didn’t put money in so they got glory. The money pot went to the person who was the best out of those putting money in.

          My fave of all time was with football world cup when the whole office guessed their winner and the bet was a big chocolate bar. So the winner got a lot of chocolate. I glad the winner shared all the chocolate :)

      2. Project Manager*

        I was going to suggest either not accepting the money if she won or using it to make goodies – when my mom won the football pool at her office a bunch of weeks in a row (thanks to random chance; she doesn’t know football at all), she used the funds to make cookies and fudge and banana bread and so on. So we’re on the same page here :-)

        1. blackcatlady*

          Yes – if the owner’s wife wins the pool then she uses the money to fund a lunch at the work. Doesn’t have to be elaborate – just catered in sandwich/salad type thing. Or a Monday morning bagel/donut treat/fruit treat.

      3. T. Boone Pickens*

        I think your personally ok to continue participating assuming we’re talking a low dollar figure (say $5-$10/entry) but as you correctly pointed out if this year you win and someone you don’t know comes in 2nd it could make for a potentially awkward situation.

        Two solutions here:

        I agree with the group that should you win, using the winnings to pay for a lunch or happy hour is probably the way to go.

        If that would still make you uncomfortable take solace in the fact that there are thousands of other March Madness contests you can participate in (both free and for money) that wouldn’t involve your husband’s company.

      4. WellRed*

        “if you win, use the money to pay for lunch for everyone”

        I think this is a great idea, overall, though for whatever reason, it being the owner’s wife, I still think it’s time for boundaries.

      5. So long and thanks for all the fish*

        Yeah, the lab with which my lab shared space in graduate school did a March Madness, and once the PI won. He used the money to take them all out to dinner- nobody was upset.

      6. A Poster Has No Name*

        “Or if you win, use the money to pay for lunch for everyone.”

        This was going to be my suggestion. Take the money, use it for something for the group.

        I used to run a fantasy football pool at work and we had VPs and even the head of our division at one point. It’s not exactly the same thing, but in that case, everyone was treated the same: everyone had to pay their $20 league fee, trash talking was freely given and received, no preferential treatment for draft or trades, etc.

        Often one of the higher ups would pick up the tab for the draft party, which was a nice bonus, regardless of whether they ever ended up in the money, but it was never requested or required, and nobody cared if that didn’t happen.

    2. Beatrice*

      Is the OP the only non-employee participant? If so, that’s adding some awkwardness. And how much is the buy-in? For $5, I wouldn’t really care if the boss’s wife won. For $50, I’d care a lot more.

      1. valentine*

        Is the OP the only non-employee participant?
        And how much of a fixture is she at the company now?

        1. Dragoning*

          And, possibly a question over all about how involved the Owner’s Wife is if she hangs out with some of the employees and hasn’t even met others.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            OP explained in the letter that when the company was smaller the owner/husband hired people that he knew as friends and/or previous coworkers and that OP had previously spent time with them outside of work. Now the company is growing and owner/husband has started to hire random/unknown individuals so that wife has not had a chance to meet them, but not because the wife is favoring one group of employees over the others.

            Maybe it is wrong, but I think it if fairly common for small business owners to hire friends/family/coworkers or other people they know before expanding and hiring people they don’t know.

            I say as an employee low on the org chart, that the wife should be able to enter the pool, take and keep the winnings. My understanding is that March Madness pools are usually pretty transparent everyone makes and locks in their picks in advance and makes them public so OP’s bracket is known well in advance. If OP makes the best bracket they made the best bracket, and it would be hard if not impossible to think that OP cheated or gained some kind of advantage by being the owners spouse.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        These would be the two determining factors, to me.

        Is OP the only related-to-an-employee person playing or are all partners/children invited to join in (with a number of others participating)? At my office, it is common for partners and kids to join in the pool and would not be weird if one of them won (one of my kids scored high enough to earn a prize a number of years ago; the husband of a coworker won last year).

        Our office buy-in is pretty low, too, because the goal is for it to be accessible to everyone – in the distant past, we used to do one of those buy-a-team auctions, but it ended up excluding staff, so they canned it in favor or something low-cost entry. I also know some people who are really into it that will “sponsor” brackets for others as well.

        1. Safetykats*

          Year. If everybody’s spouse/SO is invited to participate, then OP4’s participation is okay. If not, than it’s not.

          Typically these kinds of things (if allowed) are in practical terms a kind of team-building, so to me it makes no sense to have people who aren’t part of the team participate.

    3. Alli525*

      At my last job we got really into the March Madness pool, but if a senior-level person won, the implicit understanding was that they would use the vast majority (if not all) of their winnings to buy the rest of the office a pizza lunch. We lowly admins were not expected to share our winnings, and in fact I once used my prize (I went to a very successful-in-basketball college so I always did decently well at predicting which teams would do well) to get a massage at the Four Seasons after a stressful project was finished.

    4. Aline*

      I would suggest keep playing but if you win pass the winnings down to the runner(s) up AND have your husband’s company buy lunch. That way you could graciously accept at the lunch and get to know any new hires. The reason I think both is if you give up the winnings, participants that are at a senior level might think they should do the same. Also if your husband wins he should do the same.

    5. SomebodyElse*

      This was going to be my suggestion.

      OP goes in on the pool. If she wins then she declines and the money goes to the second place. That way she still gets to participate and get bragging rights, but presumably the employee gets the cash.

      We used to do something similar with some of the goofy contests we had as a team… there would be prizes at stake and voting on winners (think pumpkin decorating contests). Managers were allowed to be voted on, but declined the prizes and those would go to the employees.

    6. 2 Cents*

      #4 I used to work at a 40-person place and we’d do the Super Bowl boxes every year. One guy used to buy boxes from his whole family—like daughter’s boyfriend, who won 2 quarters one year—people none of us had ever met. It was not appreciated. When the person running it told him it’s for employees only, he stopped buying boxes in the family’s name and just his own (and since he was the cheapest man alive, no one believed he suddenly wanted 10 boxes over his usual 2.)

    7. FFCommish*

      I think this really depends on the culture, but don’t think it’s automatically inappropriate or awkward. I like the idea of buying lunch if you feel uncomfortable at all.
      Someone asked if other partners/spouses are included- I had assumed so, but that’s important. Another question is it through company email/etc (which my co stays away from bc it’s gambling) or personal email/draft/etc. My co does Fantasy Football and March Madness, spouses and partners are always welcome, and we do it through our personal emails. It’s honestly really fun getting to know the families of our coworkers- the spouse of one of our Directors won FF last year, and it was really fun watching her take everyone (including our coworker) down.
      That being said it totally depends on the dynamics of that specific office. If you think it’s awkward or overstepping, then go with declining the money or buying food for the office- just know that it doesn’t automatically read as inappropriate in my experience.

  3. Clementine*

    For #5, is the position in Connecticut? If the position is in a state that does not have this legislation, does the applicant’s state of residence (and the applicable laws thereof), have any bearing?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I assume the position is in Connecticut or the OP would have mentioned it. But for the sake of argument, if the company is located in a state without a salary history ban, then their application materials wouldn’t be subject to the Connecticut law. (What I don’t know and can’t seem to find out in a quick search is whether it would apply if the OP moved further in the hiring process and was having interaction beyond their initial, standardized application. With most labor laws, the state the person is working in is what governs things. But because the salary ban is about applicants, not employees, I’m not sure it works the same, and no one seems to have addressed this in any of the materials I’ve read.)

      1. Anononon*

        The plain meaning/language of the ban prohibits employers from taking certain actions, including towards “prospective employees.” Based on this, I would guess that the law applies to CT-based employers, even if applicants are out of state.

          1. Anononon*

            It sounds like a jurisdictional issue and a constitutional issue to find that there would be liability in that scenario. One state cannot pass a law (extremely broadly speaking) that effects interstate commerce (there are exceptions, blah blah blah).

          2. Ego Chamber*

            In my experience, the laws are based on where an employee works not where they live.

            I’ve lived in State A and worked in State B before (lived close to the state line, didn’t mind the commute) and got screwed because State A had more employee protections than State B but those protections didn’t cover me since I wasn’t working in State A and any employee protections that would have helped would have also meant I wouldn’t have been considered for employment, but I’m not entirely sure of the legality there (NAL).

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Employment laws generally cover where your employment takes place, not where you live (unless you’re a remote worker, then your residence is considered and would mean they could get in trouble for breaking Connecticut law).

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Yeah, this is why most companies that pay realreal low won’t employ remote workers from states where the minimum wage is above what they pay, or from Montana if they want the option to fire you for any reason/no reason.

  4. blaise zamboni*

    OP 4 – NB: I’m speaking as someone who has never participated in any kind of March Madness pool, so take this with a grain of salt. But is it possible for you to do something nice for the employees if you win the pot, like pay for a pizza party or something similar? I can see myself being resentful if the boss’s spouse used “my” money for themselves, but if it was paid back to the employees I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Obviously YMMV on if that works for you and this group or not, but in theory you could still participate and enjoy the game without causing any problems with the employees or your own conscious.

    1. Fire Ferret*

      I was just thinking this would be a good compromise. Even if you don’t play though you might consider suggesting to your husband that he do the same sort of thing if he ever wins, especially if he makes significantly more than his employees.

      1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        Or, you could donate it to a charity you’re passionate about. That allows you to join in the competitive spirit without feeling weird about ‘taking the win’ from someone else.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Interesting since I would feel more gross about contributing money to something that ended up going to a charitable cause I would never-ever-ever willingly donate to myself but I wouldn’t super care about the money coming back to the employees even if I couldn’t participate in the party. F’rex: if I choose not to eat donuts or pizza or can’t because dietary restrictions and that was the theme, I’d be fine because other people I work with were participating but if the charity was anti-my politics or religion or just predatory in general I wouldn’t be okay with it getting some of the money I’d kicked in. It’s weird, I know.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            (I think it’s because I don’t have a lot of illogical hangups about people eating food I can’t have at me but if the charity is anti-gay or anti-trans or similar that’s going to feel like it’s at me no matter how what the intention was.)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s better if she really must participate, but I’d rather see her starting to put distance between herself and the company, and throwing them a pizza party doesn’t help with that!

      1. blaise zamboni*

        Yeah, that’s fair! Especially as the company grows, she probably shouldn’t have a prominent role in the employees’ lives. I can understand the disappointment though!

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I find it odd to be resentful towards anyone when you’re gambling. It’s not your money anymore once you’ve spent it on your entry into the game.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I totally agree with the bad optics.

          I’m curious if the other spouses participate… it’s odd for just one spouse or out of company person to be included but not the rest.

          1. Mookie*

            I think the LW is hinting that the exception made for her is determined by her relationship with the organization’s owner, her husband. I think her instincts are good here and her husband’s are not. This doesn’t need to be happening, it’s bad optics, and therefore the easy choice, least likely to cause unnecessary waves, is to bow out and insist that the husband honor that choice. This is not a hill he needs to die on and makes it look like he’s trying to double the odds (statistics are not my strong suit) in his favor. He should also not be participating, or at least condition his win on the promise that he will not take the money for his personal use. The game is fun; enjoy the game and use it as a treat for your employees.

        2. sheworkshardforthemoney*

          Oh My. Bad memories of my old Toxic Job in which the managers “won” all the nice expensive gifts at the Christmas party raffle and the peasants/workers “won” dollar store trinkets. It was sad that no one was surprised.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Samesies. Even when the drawing just determined the order prizes were chosen, the hourly workers were highly discouraged from taking the Starbucks gift cards and led towards the pile of cheap crap from that one aisle at the gas station for when you’re last minute on the way to a kid’s birthday party and you aren’t at all familiar with the kid.

            When I obliviously took a coupon for a free gel nail service, everyone else at the fancy nail place was management or higher and no one spoke the entire time I was in the salon. Even the nail techs knew I wasn’t supposed to be in there. Worst Xmas present ever but my nails were like knives for 2 weeks, so.

        3. Reality.Bites*

          To me what makes it different is that it’s not a supposedly random draw where there’s a possibility of rigging. It’s betting on future events in which none of the bettors can influence the outcome.

          When you do this with an oddsmaker, like in the UK where you can bet on all sorts of things, you’re in a betting pool with strangers. You may know some of them, but chance are you don’t. It doesn’t matter who they are because the rules are above board. They will pay you 10 pounds if X happens. Neither you nor the oddsmaker can alter the outcome once the bet is placed.

          I don’t think there’s any need to feel awkward about a win. However not participating in office events in general is a good idea unless all employee spouses are included.

          1. Person from the Resume*

            That is a distinction I noticed. Raffle is luck and the big boss’s with presumably the largest salary or their wives winning the big prize is lucky for them and really unlucky for the lower level employees where the raffle ticket and the prize are a bigger deal to them.

            Winning a March Madness pool is sort of a skill. And as someone who doesn’t follow basketball, I’d have no expectation of winning and wouldn’t participate at all because I can’t even be bothered to care about who wins any of the games.

            While it’s different to me because the chances weren’t equal like in a raffle (it’s gambling on your own skills of prediction), I do think Alison’s advice is right on.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              For me I would advise that the owner and the owners spouse not participate in a “random” raffle of physical prizes or 50/50 raffle, because even if everything is above board there is the possibility that the “random” raffle was rigged in their favor. But in a March Madness pool my understanding (I might be wrong I don’t know much about MM pools) is that is impossible to rig the pool, everyone makes and lock in their selections and publish their bracket in advance of the tournament starting. So while the MM pool is not random but based on skill/knowledge of schools everyone has access to the same information it is impossible for the owner and OP to rig it in their favor.

        4. Roscoe*

          I kind of disagree. If its a raffle, you conspiracy theorist could say its rigged. You can’t really argue that one a March Madness pool. Since most of them are done online, they are locked by the first game, and you can see everyone else’s brackets. So in that since, I don’t really see how it doesn’t look right that they guessed better than you did. There is literally no way to rig it in her favor

        5. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I can’t recall any senior leadership participating in office pools, for any sport. I work(ed) at Fortune 500 firms for the most part, but this was the case even when I didn’t.

          A few were part of a White Elephant gift exchange, but that’s a different kind of activity.

    4. Reliquary*

      There was a scene in the “Band of Brothers” miniseries in which a Captain told another officer (Lieutenant, I think) to stop gambling with the enlisted men. The lieutenant pushed back, saying he was just trying to get to know his soldiers. The Captain said, “What if you’d won? Don’t ever put yourself in the position where you can take from these men.”

      I’m not a fan of this show — my housemate is. But the advice to never put yourself in a position to take money from folks in your employ is spot-on.

    5. Anononon*

      We do an office pool for the super bowl each year, and some of the shareholders play. Last year, one of them won a portion and she brought in bagels and donuts for everyone.

    6. Zip Silver*

      Maybe it’s just me, but when I toss money into office betting pool, I don’t care who wins (although I’d prefer to win). It’s like getting upset with who wins a poker game. It’s gambling, it’s for fun, and the boss winning isn’t bad optics, because everybody involved is gambling for fun and presumably has the option to not gamble.

      1. WellRed*

        But at a poker game, you’re all equal. at work, you simply aren’t. If the company raffled off prizes every year, how would you really feel if the CEO got the TV and the file clerk got a $5 starbucks gift card?

      2. Antilles*

        Yeah, that’s my take too – if you’re going to bet on ballgames, someone is going to win and it might not be you.
        Our office does a $5 March Madness pool and a weekly $2 college football pick’em. In both cases, one of the owners buys in. He won the March pool two years ago and at least one of the weekly football picks; in neither case has anybody even blinked an eye as far as I know. Just a “man, we’ll get you next year” and some friendly needling back and forth.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        I agree that it’s like poker–in that I think a lot of people would also be upset if their boss won a game of poker and ended up walking away with a bunch of money from their employees. It’s not a good look in either scenario. Lots of people wouldn’t care, but lots of people would. Why take the risk? The “benefits” are not worth it.

        There are a million March Madness pools in the world. If her company doesn’t have one, she can find one online to participate in.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          If you would be upset (beyond losing your money) with another specific person wining a game of poker at the table, then you should not be gambling period or you should not be gambling at that table.

          Yes there are a lot of random march madness pools that OP can join, but if it is for fun gambling/pools are often more fun when done among friends or people you know better rather than strangers. I am a terrible poker player so I would never play with strangers. But every once in a while I will play with friends knowing full well that there is a 99.99% chance that I will lose the amount of money I decide to play with, but I still play because it is fun. I have friends that make significantly more than me I would not begrudge them if they won the whole pot.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            “if it is for fun gambling/pools are often more fun when done among friends or people you know better rather than strangers.”

            Which is why LW wrote in to ask whether she should reconsider gambling in a pool with strangers who are employed by her husband. In your analogy this is sort of closer to how you’d feel if a friend’s partner jumped into the poker game. Maybe you wouldn’t care at all but it’s weird to not consider it from the other side if you’re the friend’s partner considering joining the game, right?

    7. Senor Montoya*

      I don’t think that’s sufficient. The optics are bad if OP wins regardless of what she does with the money. Really, the pool needs to be just for employees at this point. OP is not friends with all the employees — doesn’t even know some of them. I myself would be annoyed if the boss’s wife won — I’d be thinking: they make more $ than I do! she doesn’t even work here!

  5. Claire*

    OP 4: I just want to comment that your husband might want to be conscious of the March Madness pool in general as the company grows? If everyone at the company is close friends and everyone participates in the pool, then five new people join, I worry that those people might feel pressured to participate, even though it might not be within their budget. Which is not to say your husband shouldn’t do it! Just make sure that it’s strictly voluntary and that no one would feel weird about not being involved.

    1. blaise zamboni*

      I had a similar thought! Though mine was more: will it look like favoritism if your husband is very close to those employees, because of the pool or because the pool highlights their prior relationships? It sounds like things are OK right now, but he may need to step back from that as time goes on.

      Maybe y’all could transition to an unofficial, outside-of-work-only game over the next couple seasons, especially if it looks like the company will have more growth? Though maybe that would exacerbate the favoritism angle, I’m really not sure.

      1. TechWorker*

        Honestly I think a pool outside of work that people inevitably discuss in work would definitely be worse! As long as it’s clearly optional I don’t really see this as being ‘exclusive’, any more than any other work social event that not everyone might love.

      1. Antilles*

        Technically yes, but in the same way that you can’t drive 56 mph in a 55 – yes it’s a violation of a rule, but so minor and commonplace that it’s virtually unheard of to get in trouble for it barring exceptional circumstances.

      2. mamma mia*

        Oh please, stop the fear-mongering; the government does not investigate or prosecute march madness pools in workplaces. This whole “concern” over a simple march madness pool is ridiculous. At every office I’ve ever worked in, it’s strictly voluntary and no one pressures people to participate if they don’t want to.

    2. BadWolf*

      Yeah, I have a coworker who runs a pool — but it’s no money and it’s very casual. He tells people where to pick up a sheet and when to be done with it and tracks it in his work area.

      I participated for a couple of years, but stopped. The first year after I stopped, he double checked whether I wanted in and that was it. I personally stopped because the college basketball money/culture/etc thing feels not so great to me. But I don’t want to be the wet blanket on my coworkers. So I’m thankful it is low key/opt in.

      1. Antilles*

        Yeah, that’s how I’ve usually seen it work – after the initial flurry of chatter about submitting brackets, it basically turns into a weekly email and maybe some minor office chit-chat on a Monday about the weekend’s games or on Friday about the upcoming games…some of which would probably be happening even *without* an official office pool, frankly.

      1. mamma mia*

        No, it really doesn’t. It doesn’t sound like anyone in OP’s husband’s office has a problem with it, so why should you?

        1. Quill*

          If it’s being organized by the boss it’s probably best to not organize it at work. Especially if the workforce is “10 long term friends of the boss and 5 newbies.”

          1. mamma mia*

            But it would be much weirder/more exclusionary if it was organized by the boss after work for just a few of his close pals as opposed to the entirety of their small office. These pools are always optional so I just don’t see any cause for concern.

  6. Avasarala*

    #2 I think I’m just as confused about the nature of your relationship as Laurie!
    Putting aside the food poisoning (not Laurie’s fault) and the gifts being toxic to your cats (maybe she didn’t know, or maybe they’re meant for humans and she thought your roommates would put them somewhere safe), it sounds like Laurie dropped by your house with food and gifts, and when she found you weren’t there, she left it with your roommates. That’s… not that weird? Did she know it was your birthday, and tried to do something nice as a surprise?

    The only weird part to me is that she dropped by unannounced. But if I had shared some of my lunch every day with someone and driven them home because I knew they didn’t have money (especially for a new coworker!), I might assume we were close enough for me to quickly stop by and give them gifts. Giving someone rides and food every day requires a very high level of friendship in my book, and perhaps Laurie’s.

    You’re seeing this through the “encyclopedia of her antics” that are maybe giving context to this that we can’t see as outsiders. But if you want to take a step back from the friendship, I think you need to make that more clear to Laurie before you consider getting your boss or anyone else involved. You’re not obligated to accept Laurie’s gifts but she was very kind to you in the past, so I think it’s important to set boundaries gently and slowly step back from the friendship. Without that extra context, Laurie and others might tell this story differently.

    1. Kate*

      I was thinking “wasn’t that the common way Americans have their birthday parties – to have surprise parties to be sprung on them?”

      1. Beth*

        Only on TV! In real life, ‘surprise parties’ are a lot of work. They’re usually planned by a spouse or committed partner–who is then inviting guests to their own house (which they share with the person being surprised) to celebrate their partner’s birthday (which their partner probably knows is being celebrated at that time–they have to have something on their calendar, after all, to guarantee they’ll be there–but there’s an exciting element, like having a lot more friends there than they expected or a family member who lives far away and traveled in for the party, that the birthday person isn’t supposed to expect), and even then the surprise often gets accidentally spilled in advance. They definitely don’t involve friends just randomly showing up at your home and expecting you to let them in for a party on demand.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          All our surprise parties take place at restaurants or gathering spots.

          We’re just getting a birthday beer…oh look there’s the crew holding down our table.

          Mostly a bunch of singles and the token couples.

          It depends on your friend group.

          1. Beth*

            True! I should have said “If they happen at the person’s home,” surprise friends at a bar or restaurant is pretty common I think.

            1. Polyhymnia O'Keefe*

              The best surprise party we ever threw was for my mom’s 50th — she’d gone out of town to visit her mom and siblings as a birthday gift to herself, and we invited close to 50 family and friends to meet her at the airport. It was great. She was away so it was a lot harder to ruin the surprise, we didn’t have to try and park all the cars without her seeing them, people brought balloons and banners, and she had to come through Customs, so there was a door that she had to walk through to see us, rather than being able to see us all the way down the concourse. Then we all went out to a restaurant for desserts/drinks/etc, so none of us had to cook or clean up.

    2. DiscoCat*

      Agree, Laurie was very generous and you’re doing her a disservice by labelling her for being “odd” in your books. Going to her boss over this would be exaggerated and unkind.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s interesting how in a time of need a person’s blurred boundaries are accepted but when back on one’s feet, she’s just an odd bird who needs to back up.

      She dropped by with birthday gifts and left food that people accepted AND consumed but yeah…Laurie is just so odd.

      Yeah, I don’t get it at all.

      1. Beth*

        This is a little hard on OP. It’s possible to read this as OP2 using Laurie while she was convenient but never really seeing her as a friend, and now pushing her away since OP doesn’t need her anymore (which I think is what you’re implying here). If that’s the case, it would be pretty bad behavior on OP’s part.

        But I think it’s also possible to go for a more charitable reading–Laurie was a big help at first, and OP did see her as a friend, but in the couple years since then things have changed such that OP is no longer feeling the friendship. These things do happen, even with people who seem very generous and great at first. If that is the case, this latest incident (which I think is a little less commonplace than you’re hinting; it is indeed odd to invite yourself into a friend’s house to hang out with their roommates while your friend isn’t home) may well have been a last straw that took it from “I know Laurie wants to be closer than I want us to be, but we’re managing fine and I really do appreciate everything she did for me” to “This is actively uncomfortable and I’ve clearly let it go on too long, what do I do?”

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s how her post reads to me. It is what it is.

          The OP also made it sound like the woman was trying to poison her roomies and her cats. Come on now. That’s over the top.

          1. Marthooh*

            It reads to me like: Laurie and OP got chummy right away ’cause Laurie seemed nice; antics ensued; now OP wants to walk it back to mere acquaintanceship and hopes the boss will help with that. But OP needs to do this on their own.

            And I’m really curious about those unnamed antics…

            1. Dragoning*

              I think these antics really matter to whether or not Laurie was genuinely “odd” but I’m not sure if it does when giving OP advice…because even if Laurie is normal and sweet and OP is unusually cold, OP has the same issue.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                That’s true, regardless of whether Laurie is genuinely nice or a boundary smashing creep, the OP just needs to tell her that she’s not comfortable with people dropping by unannounced and to make sure not to accept favors from her if she’s trying to pull back on the friendship.

          2. Penny Parker*

            I’m with you. The OP used this person; now doesn’t want to be as close of a friend; has a different expectation and cultural understanding of stopping by someone’s house unannounced; and now *wants to get her in trouble at work* instead of speaking directly with her. Yep.

            1. Tallulah in the Sky*

              Where does it say she “wants to get her in trouble at work” ? Just because she thinks of going to her boss about this ? So many people are afraid of confrontation or having an awkward conversation with someone, she’s far from being the first employee who would like her boss to handle her personal business with another employee (without getting them in trouble). Let’s not give OP intentions she never even remotely expressed.

              1. Ego Chamber*

                “Can I take this to our boss/Laurie’s boss instead of dealing with the issue myself” is pretty much as obvious an exploitation of a known power dynamic as we tend to see here.

                This is like the kid in forth grade who didn’t want to be friends anymore but complained to her mom to tell my mom to tell me instead of just telling me herself. It’s not an okay way to handle interpersonal conflict unless Laurie’s “antics” and “odd behavior” are potentially dangerous, and LW went really out of her way to set those dots up for the commentariat to connect. It’s v strange framing and a little bit immature, is my point.

          3. otterbaby*

            Agreed – the friends were apparently uncomfortable, but not uncomfortable enough to accept food from a stranger..? If I was weirded out by my roomie’s friend showing up, I certainly wouldn’t be eating the chinese food they showed up with.

            I took ‘leaving out gifts for me that were toxic to my cats’ as she brought a bouquet of lilies (or something similar) and left them nicely on the counter as a surprise. What an awful friend!

            1. K*

              Yeah, I was imagining something like a begonia and a box of chocolates on a table, which does not belong in an “encyclopedia of antics” or warrant LW2’s “mortified” response.

              Speaking of, the mortification bit is really interesting to me. My mom has an out-of-whack shame meter and would act like my every normal kid behavior or minor misstep was a major, intentional crime and a deep character flaw in order to justify her feelings of embarrassment that weren’t rooted in reality, and I got that same feeling from reading this letter. It’s all such a weird spin to put on someone surprising you with food and gifts on your birthday.

              1. Malarkey01*

                I was feeling similar to the mortified comment. And, while I’m in general not a fan of the drop by, it’s not that unusual that I’d check with roommates before thinking it was okay to have a friend stop by. It seems like this is being taken way more like Laurie dropped by with a toddler that needed babysitting rather than a knock to leave a gift.

              2. Gazebo Slayer*

                I wonder if there’s a lot OP isn’t telling us about Laurie’s unspecified “antics” that would embarrass her in front of her roommates?

              3. Ego Chamber*

                “the mortification bit is really interesting to me.”

                Stick around for a while. I personally wouldn’t feel “mortified” by most of the scenarios in the letters posted here but “mortified” is pretty much the center square on the AAM Bingo card and I really can’t tell whether it’s typical hyperbolic phrasing LWs are mirroring back at Alison or it’s sincerely the level of unease regular readers wait to feel before writing in.

        2. Willis*

          I agree with this. Unless Laurie and OP have a relationship where they drop in on one another unannounced (which it really sounds like they don’t), this sounds legitimately odd. Even then, it would be one thing to leave the food and gifts with the roommates. But it sounds like she came in and hung out for awhile, or at least long enough for the roommates to text while she was there.

          Sounds to me like OP overlooked Laurie’s oddness when she was new and needed helt, but wants some distance now that time has passed. Which sounds fair enough, but the place to start with that is talking to Laurie.

          1. Annie*

            Presumably the roommates invited her in. Some people are just very sociable. Many times I’ve visited a house or an office or other workplace to drop something off and wound up chatting to people and socialising with them for ages. Some of my oldest friends are people I met randomly and just wound up chatting to!
            z

            1. DiscoCat*

              Yeah, and what’s with the “barging in”?? To me it sounds like some physical force would have to be involved. So if it really did happen that “odd bird” Laurie violently barged in, then she must have forced the room mates to eat the food and left arsenic laced cheese for the cats…

          2. MK*

            Α relationship where they drop in on one another unannounced many times starts when one person drops in unannounced and are made welcome. I agree that ideally they should always wait for the “just drop in anytime” blanket invitation, but it’s not crazy for someone who has “shared food and did a huge ongoing favour” level of friendship to think it’s not a big deal to show up with presents for their birthday at a reasonable hour of the day and when they assume you will be at home.

            Given the facts of the letter, Laurie is pushy, but not crazy; and the OP’s tone is leaning very heavily on the “crazy coworker” angle. Like “feeding my housemates chinese food to hide it from her husband that gave them food poisoning”; what actually happened was that Laurie brought chinese food over for the OP’s birthday, the housemates ate it (possibly because they didn’t want to be impolite, but you know, they could have just said they didn’t want to eat right then) and the food didn’t agree with them. Unless Laurie knew the food was bad (which is a pretty out-there assumption, but I don’t know what the other “antics” are, maybe it’s something she would do), it’s just a well-meaning gesture gone wrong; same with the gifts that were toxic to the cats.

            To be blunt, I think the OP feels guilty about dropping as a friend a person who helped them in their hour of need, and is subconsciouly trying to justify it by making Laurie seem awful in her own mind.

            1. Bree*

              Yeah, I also think the tone of Laurie being unhinged or malicious seems over-the-top and unfair, given just the events of the letter. Awkward, missing social cues or being more invested in the friendship than the other person does not equal cat and roommate murderer.

              OP needs to communicate better, not run to the boss.

            2. Raina*

              To be blunt, I think the OP feels guilty about dropping as a friend a person who helped them in their hour of need, and is subconsciouly trying to justify it by making Laurie seem awful in her own mind.

              Completely agreed, MK.

            3. EventPlannerGal*

              All of this, yes.

              And I mean, a lot of stuff is toxic to cats. If Laurie showed up with a bunch of birthday flowers that included chrysanthemums or lilies, those are toxic to cats. Unless she left out rat poison disguised as catnip or something, I would just assume that she doesn’t know all that much about cats.

            4. Avasarala*

              Yes.
              If nothing else, OP needs to be aware that this is how the story sounds to outsiders (ie the manager OP wanted to bring this to!) and OP will need more context if they’re to convince anyone that Laurie is too much.

        3. Mookie*

          I agree. This is an opportunity for the LW to do what she has apparently never decided to do, which is to check the extent to which Laurie is encouraged (by omission of objection and by the failure to establish boundaries) to treat the LW as a personal friend. No, ride- and food-sharing doesn’t automatically mean a colleague has transcended their role in a person’s life to a more intimate degree, but if there’s a laundry list of behavior the LW has found objectionable, it’s past time to react.

          1. valentine*

            No, ride- and food-sharing doesn’t automatically mean a colleague has transcended their role in a person’s life to a more intimate degree
            This is where I am and it’s possible Laurie said, “I’ll bring you a sandwich and drop you off so you can save up. I’d do this for any of our new (younger?) people. I won’t hear another word about it.” I mean, the people at the cupcake office aren’t popping round, yeah?

        4. Tallulah in the Sky*

          Yes, those responses sounded a little harsh to me too. It’s of course possible that OP is as bad as some people here think she is, but to me it read more as “This person helped me in time of need, then things started to get weird, and this is the latest incident that makes me want to set firm boundaries”.

          Plus, Laurie’s actions here are weird : showing up announced (and it’s apparently not something they’re used doing), inviting yourself in, saying you’re here to hide food from your husband (some commenters say she was maybe here to celebrate OP’s birthday, but that’s not the explanation Laurie gave),… This is odd behavior, and I understand OP feeling like she has to be more firm, no matter their past.

          I would just maybe ask Laurie if everything is OK, why she needs to hide things from her husband,… maybe she needs help ? But just because she was charitable to OP once doesn’t mean OP is ungrateful when she wants to set some boundaries when Laurie makes her uncomfortable.

          (I agree though with Becky Lynch that saying she brought stuff that are toxic to cats was unnecessary)

          1. EnfysNest*

            We don’t really have a good way in our culture to say “Hey, I’d like to reduce our friendship to more of an acquaintanceship; no hard feelings.”

            I currently have a friendship like this that I’d like to walk waaaay back, after realizing that this person and I are just really incompatible in many ways and I feel more stress than enjoyment from being around them, but they still consider me a close friend and they always want to hang out, which sounds like it could be the case here. But it’s just really hard to change the dynamics of a relationship that has already been established, because there seems to be no way to say “I’d like to spend less time / effort with you” without feeling like you’re being mean. You can try (and I have tried, in my case) subtly just reducing the amount of time you spend together, but if they don’t pick up on those cues and/or keep pushing to maintain and even trying to deepen things further, the only way left to change things seems to break everything off altogether, which seems like a nuclear option. So you feel trapped in the friendship, because you’re not ready to, or not able to (in the case of a coworker) just cut all ties 100%. (But then that trapped feeling just makes all of their behaviors you have issues with seem that much worse, too!)

            And, at least in my case, if I’d known everything I know now about this person, I never would have established that friendship to begin with, but you can’t know that up front – you want to assume the best of people and you want to assume that someone who seems nice will always be a nice friend. I can totally see accepting the car rides and other help at first and truly enjoying the friendship and wanting to deepen it at first, but then later realizing that there are significant incompatibilities between them that weren’t obvious at first, and now the LW doesn’t know how to get things back to the coworkers-only relationship they would prefer to have. I totally feel for the LW and understand how things could have gotten out of control here.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              This is such a brilliant observation, and one I’ve had repeatedly play out in my own life – usually with me as the one who wants to back off, though sometimes the other way.

            2. Avasarala*

              I totally feel this as well, and don’t judge OP at all if this is the case. But I think it’s important to phrase it to yourself and others as you choosing to step back, not that Laurie is a weirdo. Especially since Laurie was very kind and helpful to OP already.

      2. Tom (no, not that one)*

        So, the odd thing is OPs way of seeing things…

        Someone was nice – and helped out when in need. No longer in need – ungratefulness takes over?

        1. valentine*

          ungratefulness takes over?
          The doorstopping was an outlier for OP2 because they merely “still talk.” I suppose that could mean very personal discussions and this letter is closer to the one where ghosting turned out to be abandonment and skipping the country, but I would need to know the lunches (assuming they weren’t three squares or groceries) and rides lasted weeks, not a year, and the talk is closer to favorite movies than a litany of marital troubles.

        2. Anonymous Poster*

          I’m guessing things happened that shifted OP’s view of Laurie between the times Laurie helped out and the most recent things. OP said that Laurie’s an “odd bird” for reasons she left out of the letter.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Usually what shifts your view of a person is your boundaries get less wibbly-wobbly as your situation becomes less desperate.

            I was stuck in an awkward too-close friendship with some very, very kind boundary-pushing coworkers after they saw me riding my bike to work in a thunderstorm/blizzard more than once because they had a van with some spare seats and my only transportation to work was that van or my bicycle. They also got it into their heads that I was too poor to properly feed myself for some reason? It was not especially great, and didn’t improve much once I got a cheap car but they still insisted on stopping by my house to pick me up for work.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I tend to agree with TMBL. But I do think that given more context I might very well come to a different conclusion.

        OP, when people give us a LOT, they are going to tend to expect something in return. It’s human nature and most of us do this to some degree.

        Laurie gave you rides and food when you needed it. She probably thinks of you as a friend and a confidante.

        I do agree with others who say that the roommates should have said, “OP is not here I will tell her you stopped by.” And then did not invite her in the house.

        As far as the food poisoning, now it is reeeally easy to get food poisoning. I have done it to MYSELF. It’s not just about how I handled the food, it’s also about how previous processors handled the food.

        As far as the cats, I am sorry, that is upsetting and I do understand. A person who is not into pets might not be aware of problems that pet owners are very much aware of. Additionally, your roommates could have moved the items for you in your absence. Or they could have simply said, “We have to put that up high so the pets can’t get it.” I have said that to people many, many times. No one takes offense as they realize I am trying to protect the item as well as my pet.

        You are saying this person is weird. I am not sure what the rest of the story is so I can only go on my own experience. I have weird friends. They all tell me that they think my other friends are weird. (I am laughing here…) Logically, a person who pretty much adopts a stranger, gives them rides and gives them food, is going to do other weird things also. Not many people will take a stranger under their wing like this. That’s a bold move. It’s reasonable to assume that it’s part of an overall approach to life and not a one-off situation for her.

        I am not seeing where your friend did anything here to be mean; thoughtless,maybe. Perhaps she is annoying to you for other reasons and this happens with people. I enjoy people who are not like me as it helps me get out of my own stupid thinking. It could be that you enjoy people who are more similar to you because of reasons such as it’s comforting or it feels supportive. This is fine also.

        I’d encourage you to think about what you want out of friendship and I’d like to encourage you about setting limits on the help you accept from others. When we accept help from others something is usually expected in return. She thought she had your friendship. It’s fine to say no, thanks. But you gotta let her know. Set some boundaries. And also have a chat with your roommates….

        1. Raina*

          I do agree with others who say that the roommates should have said, “OP is not here I will tell her you stopped by.” And then did not invite her in the house.

          The roommates are presumably adults with their own sense of autonomy. They’re allowed to invite guests into the house without OP’s permission.

          1. SimplyTheBest*

            Sure, which I think is the point Not So New Reader was making. OP says the were uncomfortable with Laurie coming in and giving them food, but presumably, as autonomous adults, they could have said “no thanks” to the food and “OP’s not here, come again later” if they didn’t want Laurie around. If that’s not what they did, and they were still uncomfortable, that’s on them.

      4. The real fake Eleanor*

        I completely agree, TMBL. I’ve been reading AAM for 5 years, and I’ve only commented once before, but I had to break my silence for this. There is very little (or nothing) here that seems odd to me about Laurie’s behavior. I think the OP may have some unresolved issues with Laurie. As I was reading the letter, my thought was: A friend who *fed you and gave you a ride every day* — through which she, presumably, met your roommates? — dropped by your house to give you some gifts and (what is most likely) a houseplant (that is toxic to cats), and your roommates — who are autonomous adults — invited her in and had some food with her, and you want to…complain to your boss? This makes NO sense to me at all.

    4. Diamond*

      I agree! A lot of people do have friendships where it’s ok to drop by unannounced, and while you shouldn’t do it unless you know the other person is cool with that, it’s more of a miscalculation than “crossing a major line”. Laurie and OP obviously have a mismatch about how close this friendship is but I can see how Laurie got there considering all the favours she did OP.

    5. TechWorker*

      Re: gifts toxic to the cat I assumed house plant… which yeah sounds more like ‘friend trying to do something nice and misjudging the closeness of friendship’ vs ‘awful person massively overstepping boundaries’

        1. Mia*

          This. Hell, I’ve had a cat for 4 years and I’ve been putting off buying house plants because I’m not 100% clear on which ones are cat-safe.

          1. londonedit*

            We had cats for 35 years in my family and were never concerned about house plants – none of our cats ever showed an interest in any plants so it wasn’t something we were particularly aware of! (Our cats had a thing about living a ridiculously long time, so I think they were fine. But ‘I can’t bring my friend a plant because she has a cat’ is something that probably wouldn’t cross my mind unless I happened to think very carefully about it).

            1. Dragoning*

              On the other side of things, my younger brother was trying to grow a corn plant in his bedroom (non-toxic, AFAIK) and the cat wouldn’t stop chewing on it, so he put red pepper or something at the base to discourage the cat, and then we just got cat vomit with red pepper and corn plant.

            2. whingedrinking*

              I used to have a cat that showed no interest in treats or “people food” – would basically only eat his kibble out of the bowl. And, for some reason, any plant within reach. He ate a whole begonia once and knocked over any number of vases with cut flowers in them. We planted him a big tub of cat grass and he would nap right in it (leaving a kitty-shaped crop circle) so he could nibble on it from time to time.
              This habit certainly never hurt him, to the point that I’m surprised to learn lilies are toxic to cats. I can well imagine bringing someone flowers and not knowing that they’re not good for pets.

          2. KoiFeeder*

            I mean, cat-safe runs the gamut. You’ve got plants that have toxic pollen and small lethal doses, so they can’t be in the house at all, plants that are safe unless the cat eats them, plants that are mostly safe except for certain parts…

          3. Grace*

            I’ve had cats for 11 years and have never seen them show interest in house plants, cut flowers, or generally anything that is not some kind of meat. If I got a plant as a gift and actually remembered to Google if it’s toxic to cats, I would just put it up higher or take it to work.

      1. Quill*

        Yes, I immediately thought “food or houseplant that people didn’t know was unsafe for cats”

        (And not all cats are plant nibblers either, so it’s not just people without cats who might not know!)

        1. Relentlessly Socratic*

          Good point, my cat sees something green and instantly goes for kitty salad hour. My mom’s cats, as far as I can tell, don’t know her plants exist.

          1. Quill*

            My childhood labrador never got into any form of food or plant in the house throughout his life, I know a family whose labrador has to wear a muzzle except when he’s being fed because he’s had abdominal surgery three times because he will eat anything that fits in his jaws. “Pet safe” is a huge range for dogs as well. :)

        2. Pommette!*

          Yeah. I had cats for years and never thought to look into plant toxicity because none of them seemed aware of my plants. Then I got a cat who was a devourer of greenery, and became well acquainted with our anti-poison centre and vet, and now know to only buy cat-safe plants.
          Most people don’t know. Giving someone a bouquet isn’t a malicious act.

      2. Malarkey01*

        I literally just today learned that apparently houseplants are toxic to cats. So I’d go out on a limb and say that many many people would have no idea not to give a houseplant to a cat owner.

      1. Zip Silver*

        Agreed. Laurie was great when OP needed help, but it’s now odd for bringing by birthday gifts now that OP isn’t in such a desperate situation.

        Things don’t add up, that’s not how friendships work, this isn’t a work problem. OP is just a user of people.

      2. MK*

        I think that’s too uncharitable to the OP, to think that she was using Laurie. The reality is that, when you are in need and someone offers you help, what you see is an angel who helps you; you don’t see or dismiss their possibly problematic behaviour. I don’t believe the OP spent the first period of her association with Laurie thinking “she is a loon, but I have to make nice with her if I don’t want to be hungry”; though, frankly, if your situation is so precarious that you rely on a near-stranger for one of your meals, I won’t judge you, even if you secretly hate them. But it’s more likely that she was thinking “sure, Laurie is a bit much, but she is such a kind person, ok, she pushing boundaries but it’s because she has a big heart, etc”.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          This. I don’t think you are obligated to be close friends with someone forever because you accept help from them that you really need.

            1. Long time lurker*

              But why does this apply to the OP? A lot of comments seem to be implying that OP shouldn’t want wider boundaries with Laurie because Laurie helped her out in a big way.

              Laurie’s past actions doesn’t mean that OP owes Laurie a deep friendship. That’s a pretty disturbing idea. The only thing that would make OP a user was if she pretended to be friends with Laurie so Laurie would help her. Outside of that, this just looks like miscommunication.

              1. Penny Parker*

                Op has a right to have wider boundaries. I do not think anyone here is suggesting otherwise. The question is “how to get to those boundaries”? The answer is: Not by bashing them and refusing to communicate directly and then trying to get them in trouble at work. The OP accepted the closer boundaries until they were not needed in her life, and now is being nasty. The OP needs to learn how to communicate and how to detach from a relationship in a healthy manner.

              2. Gazebo Slayer*

                Yeah, so many of these comments are coming across as “poor people don’t deserve to have boundaries,” which is… not OK.

            2. Cashew*

              This feels unkind. Friendship is not a quid pro quo. It’s evolving, since we are evolving people. I don’t see OP as a user. She was in a place emotionally where she needed support and could also maintain a friendship with someone who required extra emotional labor. She’s not in that place anymore. And without more context or until we hear back from OP, I’d like to assume good intentions all around.

              RE: the Chinese food? I think it was an attempt at friendliness by someone who doesn’t have good boundaries, but I understand OP’s panic about roommates becoming sick. Food poisoning is no joke and can be lethal in some circumstances. A well-intended act that causes harm is still alarming.

          1. Zip Silver*

            Perhaps not, but it is a bit of a turn off from being charitable in the first place. It’s almost easier to give your donations to something like the Red Cross where you never see the people receiving charity, rather than having to deal directly with the people.

            1. MK*

              I disagree. Friends and people I give charity to are two different things. I might give charity to friends when they are in need, but I don’t expect extra friendship from them because of it, in fact I would expect them to be less grateful that strangers, because the help is part of a friendship that I also benefit from and not a “pure” act of charity. And people I gave charity to might become friends if we happen to bond as individuals, but I would never expect it as a return of my charity.

          2. MK*

            No, but I think people feel bad about ending friendships with people that helped them in a significant way, and, sadly, sometimes this leads them to demonise these people to justify the friend-breakup to themselves. That’s the vibe I get from the letter: the OP accepted help from Laurie at the beginning of their aquaintance when she was in a bad situation, but found out in the course of time that she doesn’t want to be close friends with her. She doesn’t feel right about shutting down a person who helped her so she lets the relationship limp along and is now jumping on this thoughtless-but-not-egregious-on-its-own behaviour to burn the bridge for good.

            1. Pommette!*

              This struck me as a possibility, for sure.
              And frankly, the OP may not even be trying to justify things to herself (or not consciously, at least). It could be that her feelings about Laurie (indebtedness, guilt?) add a level of awkwardness and unpleasantness to their interactions, and make what would otherwise be mild and easy to ignore annoyance (the kinds of things that come up in any collegial relationship, over personality clashes, differences in boundaries, etc.) seem galling.

        2. Sam.*

          I agree, this is very uncharitable. I also think it’s entirely possible that OP didn’t outline (for the sake of brevity) things that have happened in the interim that may have altered their relationship. I’m going to give OP the benefit of the doubt that the way this went down was odd.

          Either way, I think OP can use her roommate situation to make this boundaries conversation less awkward. (As in, “this broke our housemate agreement and made them quite uncomfortable.”) But if OP wants some distance from Laurie, a conversation is required, I think.

        3. Dragoning*

          Honestly, someone who offers someone part of their own lunch and rides home when they barely know them is…sweet if you need that, but that is, of itself…weird.

      3. AnotherAlison*

        I see both sides, but I do think the OP can be granted some leeway. Laurie may be trying to do something nice, but having dealt with a boundary-overstepping parent, I can see how plain facts don’t tell the whole story.

        Example: My husband doesn’t want to celebrate his birthday with my parents. This has been going on for about 5 years (we’ve been married for 20+ yrs). My mom texted us on his birthday and asked if they could take us to dinner. We were busy and said no. She texted the next day and he reluctantly said yes. We met them at a restaurant. We got up from dinner, and they told us they had a cake in the car and could we go back to our house for the cake and a gift? We didn’t want to seem like a$$holes to people who just bought us dinner, so we did, but it was really a boundary violating situation and a way for my mom to get what she wants and ignore my husband’s request, all while framing it as doing something nice for my husband. I feel like if I said here that my parents took us to dinner and made my husband a cake, it sounds nice, but if you know the backstory, it’s not. [Also – my mom texted us a couple days later, and said we needed to throw out the cake because it had cream cheese frosting and she didn’t tell us to refrigerate it. What’s with the food poisoning. . .]

        1. WellRed*

          Grrr. She could have brought the cake (with the restaurant’s permission) and gift into the dinner instead of trapping you into coming to their house.

          1. Grapey*

            And saying something like this to a boundary stomper will get you an annoyed “what do you mean trapping you? you would have rather people sang happy birthday to you in a restaurant?”

            1. valentine*

              I read it as they invited themselves to AnotherAlison’s house.

              Your parents shouldn’t manipulate, ambush, or escalate. You don’t have to cave. Why not tell your parents you won’t be spending hubs’ birthday with them (bonus if you can just say b-days and include yours so they don’t make him some villain) and say not to everything you don’t want to do with them, especially when they manipulate you? Draw and keep a hard line. “Surprise cake in the car!” gets a “That won’t be possible, but thanks for dinner.” You can also send their calls to voicemail to avoid giving in in the moment.

        2. Stephanie*

          Ugh. I know what you mean, I have similarly boundary-pushing parents. It’s hard, both to deal with and to explain to others.

        3. Blueberry*

          This is a very good point too — the brief mention of Laurie’s ‘antics’ covers a vast spread of possibilities, including actions like what your parents pulled. (and I hear you. Mine would do similar things.)

        4. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

          As someone who has a boundary-crossing parent (and had to spend time with them recently)…this comment is so uncomfortably familiar. Parents are the worst to deal with, because you (or at least I) feel like you always owe them something, for raising you or something or other. And doing something generous initially and then bait-and-switching with the ask that they know you will say no to is a common tactic.

        5. Avasarala*

          Yes, I was picturing something like this as another possibility. Laurie loves helping people so that she feels like she owns them, or she tends to smother people or something. But that context is missing from the letter and we’d need that to judge if Laurie is out of bounds here.

      1. Avasarala*

        I assumed the roommates let her in? Especially considering she brought food and gifts for OP. I can see them letting her set it down inside, they get to chatting for a bit, someone texts OP, Laurie leaves while OP is steaming and mortified.

    6. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

      I’m also super confused. Maybe Laurie is weird in some ways, but some of this assertion is diluted by the fact that the OP accepted her initial offers of generosity (food sharing and giving rides.) I don’t want to jump to conclusions because there are a number of scenarios that could be going on here that we don’t know about. Like, maybe the OP initially accepted the generosity and friendship, only for the relationship to turn uncomfortable due to Laurie’s boundary-crossing. Maybe the OP is ungrateful. IDK. (I have to say, the former is a reason why I’m very skeptical if someone I don’t know well tries to be overly generous right away. From my part of the world, generous gestures are used frequently by manipulative people.)

  7. Avasarala*

    #3 Honestly, your look is what I see fashionable dudes wear casually all the time! Where I live, people dress up a bit more than I see in the US (I always get reverse culture shock at dudes at the mall in what look like pajamas) and it seems like every dude has a closet full of plaid/checkered shirts.

    You could push it more casual with standard/light wash jeans and sneakers (or slip-on shoes), or pop a hoodie over your checkered shirt.

    1. Lyonite*

      I think untucking the shirt would go a long way to making the look more casual, without going full jammies. But, honestly, I work in a very casual workplace, and what they describe wouldn’t look that out of place, if it’s what they’re comfortable with.

      1. Yvette*

        LW, I don’t know if you are in a position to buy new clothing or just make what you have work. If new clothing is in the budget, there are several manufacturers that make button down shirts that are a shorter length and meant to be left out. (UNTUCKit, is one that specializes but others have them) One in a slightly looser fit could even be worn open over a colored tee. These shirts seem to be long enough that they could be tucked into jeans if you wanted for when you meet with clients. You could maybe do this with your existing shirts as well. Someone else mentioned a lighter wash jean.

        Is this all on you, or are the people you work with making you feel overdressed? Because what you are doing seems fine. You mentioned “over five years experience” and “recent start-up”. Are most of your colleagues recent grads? If so, they may be the ones having to make do with what they had.

        1. ThatMarketingChick*

          I second UNTUCKit shirts. Banana Republic is also offering “untucked” length button ups. My husband really likes both brands, and BR often has great sales.

      2. Sparrow*

        Yeah, I had the same thought, especially if he wears the shirts untucked. I was expecting him to be in business casual or something – this sounds like normal casual, just not comfort wear? If he’s happy wearing this, I’d carry on unless people are specifically commenting on his clothing choices.

    2. TechWorker*

      +1 honestly your ‘casual’ look sounds fine. Our company is a mix of t-shirts/jeans and folk who go very slightly smarter.. if you were wearing a tie or a more formal button down then I’d say it was definitely worth trying to be more casual but what you’re already wearing sounds well within the bounds of ‘casual’ to the point where if you’re comfortable wearing it you could just.. try to worry less? As the company grows you might also find others take your lead and wear a slightly wider variety of ‘casual’ things.

      1. Ms. Ann Thropy*

        Good point. It seems to me that a “casual” workplace ought to accommodate those whose personal style is somewhat more formal.

        1. DarnTheMan*

          My first ever job, there wasn’t really a dress code (with the exception of no shorts, a hill one of my co-workers decided he really needed to die on) and we ran the gamut from ‘hoodies and jeans’ to ‘dress pants and heels.’ No weirdness to be had as everyone understood people wore what they were comfortable with and what their role called for.

    3. Lisa*

      If you live somewhere with cool winters I also want to suggest pullover sweaters. I’ve seen a lot of men use a solid gray or black crew neck sweater with jeans to slightly-out dress the hoodie crowd.

      1. Just J.*

        Or a fleece vest. I was at a tech company yesterday where the clothing ran the gamut. But the more senior men were dressed as you dress. Though many had on fleece vests or jackets with the company logo and it was both casual and sharp.

        1. Daisy-dog*

          I was going to suggest a vest as well. My male co-workers wear vests and I think they look very nice, but not out-of-place formal. My co-workers range from wearing graphic tees (and not the fancy Urban Outfitters ones) to polos (year-round) to button-downs with vests or pullover sweaters. I particularly love the quarter-zip pullover sweaters, but my husband won’t wear anything that isn’t his favorite athleisure brand.

        2. ThatGirl*

          The fleece vest look (specifically Patagonia) conjures up a really specific tech bro, not that there’s anything wrong with that. (If you google “tech bro uniform” you’ll see – though they often pair it with dress slacks or chinos)

        3. Snark*

          If you go this route, I recommend something other than standard Polarfleece – there are options from North Face and Patagonia that look a little more put together, with more of a sweater texture and some interesting colors.

          I personally go for a Patagonia Nano Puff vest pretty often, too.

        4. Jack Russell Terrier*

          Yes a gilet / vest is great idea and they’re in so in style. But as others say – if you like what you wear and feel comfortable in it, no need to change.

      2. ThatGirl*

        I agree. My husband wears “counselor sweaters” to work – he pairs them with khakis, but they would work well with jeans for a more casual look for sure. I do think henleys are a good call too.

      3. Snark*

        Pullover sweaters, particularly with a little chunkier knit, are awesome, and come with the benefit of being wool and therefore regulate your temps well.

    4. Mookie*

      Good point about casual male fashion/streetwear. If the LW is accustomed to wear one wardrobe for work and one for leisurely living, this is a great opportunity to merge the two (and save money on clothes besides, at least so long aa they’re working for this employer.)

      However, if this uniform reflects the LW’s normal personal style, there’s no need to change, barring either/both a desire to do so and a persistently weird, negative reaction from his colleagues/clients. It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but “casual” workplaces are often highly receptive to this kind of ‘conservative’ look, which can be regarded as bucking prevailing, contemporary trends. And, of course, if the workplace is highly style-conscious, they are likely to regard fashion and style as separate, but not necessarily opposing, things.

      If committed to a change or tweak, I’d opt for an interesting accessory, cut/silhouette, or fabric/pattern, in the vein of a cross-bag or eye-catching belt or scarf or sock, extreme tapered trousers or non-jersey “joggers,” or a workwear/self-consciously “utility”-style textile.

      Also, the LW’s uniform is ripe for thrifting and thrifting can make the general effect more interesting without burdening the LW with high costs of buying and maintaining highly-disposable garments. Ditto heirloom and inherited pieces.

    5. JJ*

      Pfft, as long as you’re on the fancier side of the norm (not the sloppier) I say just dress to please yourself and don’t worry about it. I regularly wore dress/blazer in meeting with peers in literal sweatPANTS. I just don’t want to wear my jammies to work, even to fit in, I want to dress like an adult. Why not just enjoy wearing the stuff you love and not worry about assimilating? I agree with the other commenters that your look is a pretty standard casual workplace look.

    6. Iris Eyes*

      Switching to a more casual shoe might also help. Not necessarily your running shoes but fashion sneakers wouldn’t be out of place in this type of environment. Also seconding the idea of a vest or quarter zip (yes possibly even one that’s branded either with a logo or the clothing brand.)

      General grooming might also play a part. If your hair is not just neat but styled and any facial hair is maintained/styled. Those are possibly going to make you come off as more put together. The more intentional and polished your grooming is the more casual you can get with your clothing and still maintain a general air of “put together.”

      Finally, most of your coworkers probably get that your job is a little more outward facing and would justify a more put together look. You are representing the company to the outside world with your personal appearance. For people who are producing what the company sells the quality of their work is what matters not what they are wearing. So in the end, you might not need to change anything other than your feelings of being overdressed.

      1. Snark*

        Yes, this. I’m currently rocking a pair of leather high-top Vans with jeans-cut chinos and a sweater, for example, and they look both presentable and rad. Leather Vans, or similar-looking skate-style sneakers from Ecco or other companies, are a regular for me. I’m also in a mountain state, so a well-kept pair of old-school alpine-style hiking boots – with the leather and metal loop eyelets and maybe red or green laces – are also work-acceptable around here.

        And, honestly, there’s rarely much that’s wrong with looking a little polished up.

    7. Mark Brendanaquitz*

      OP, channel your inner Tan France and do the french tuck! I do it all the time now! I find it to be the perfect middle between an untucked shirt that can look unfinished and a full tucked shirt that can look too formal!

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        What’s a french tuck? Is it when people tuck the front in and leave the back out? I’ve only seen that on fashion models (and a teenaged girl last week) and don’t care for it. I think it looks messy.

    8. mrs whosit*

      I agree with those ideas. I think a canvas belt (rather than leather) and a pair of Converse (rather than leather shoes) would dress down LW3’s look without having to change much.

    9. Junior Assistant Peon*

      Don’t be paranoid about it. I work with a guy who likes to dress much more formally than our coworkers. If anything, it makes him look more professional.

    10. AnnaBananna*

      I was thinking that if the sleeves were rolled up to 3/4 length and he added a pair of chucks, he’d fit in just fine while still appearing put together. But honestly if I saw him wearing what he stated, I would still call him uber casual.

  8. Avasarala*

    #1 I agree with Alison that it’s kind of demeaning to the people you talk to that they’re your “fan club” or “suitors” just because they chat with you while male and single. It’s weird that every conversation between a man and a woman must have a romantic aspect. But since they’re old, they’re non-threatening and non-sexual, just “aww that’s cute, he likes you!” like you might say of a baby or a dog. Blegh.

    I bet they like talking to you because you treat them like intelligent adults with interesting stories to tell!

    1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      A part of the orientation at the seniors’ residence where I worked states not to use language like “boyfriend/girlfriend/suitor etc. with the residents. They are always addressed formally as Mr. Smitt. The reasoning was that seniors are already diminished by society and still deserved to be seen as individuals with their own identities and not someone’s “sweetheart”.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        I love that. My father still lives at home but is in mid-stage Alzheimer’s and it’s really hard to see people who have known him for decades – in some cases, people he spent years mentoring – speaking condescendingly. It IS hard to see, and my heart breaks a little when I realize what he can’t do anymore – I’ve recently taken over baking the special cake we always have for birthdays because he can’t follow a recipe unsupervised. But he’s still an adult and he deserves to be treated like an adult.

      2. Reality.Bites*

        Speaking as a 61-year old, I hate being called Mr. Bites.

        When we were growing up in my family, the only people called Mr, Miss, or Mrs were teachers.

        Everywhere I’ve worked, everyone from VP to lowest level was on a first name basis, as well as the president in the one place I worked that was small enough for us to know him.

        I’d have trouble being called Mr. Bites by someone I see on a daily basis.

        1. Observer*

          Then tell the person you are dealing with the you PREFER to use your first name. They will honor it.

          It’s MUCH easier for people to say “Oh, I prefer Reality” than for them to say “Please don’t call me Reality, I prefer Mr. Bites.” At the same time, for most people Mr. Bites comes of – and IS – more respectful. Sot it’s important to start from there and then respect whatever it is that the person being addressed indicates they prefer.

        2. Sabina*

          I think it’s a generally good policy to start with a more formal style of address (“Mr. Bites”) and then be willing to become more casual when invited to (Please call me “Reality). It shows both respect and flexibility.

      3. Anal-yst*

        Yep. It’s called “Elderspeak” and is a slower, or diminishing speech pattern used by younger adults addressing older adults.

        We actively screen against this in my organization. It’s not only diminishing but especially dangerous when you consider the people OP is referring to are more likely to be socially isolated. Referring to them in patronizing language and making OP (and potentially other staff uncomfortable) serves to further reinforce that isolation by essentially punishing them for any relationship.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          All the staffers of my dad’s extended care, medical personnel included, called him by his first name. No “Mr.,” no nothing. I hated that. When he had all his faculties about him he would always *insist* on being called “Dr.” and it was just extra-indicative of how far he’d fallen in dignity. Old age is brutal, and that extra microagression of patronizing language is just bitter icing on an already-bitter cake. I repeatedly asked them not to do it, but it was like talking to all the walls.

      4. Jack Russell Terrier*

        Mum’s care home here in DC has adopted the Southern practice of ‘Miss June’. I really like this because it’s respectful but not as formal as ‘Mr. Smitt’. Both are good though – and important in not infantilizing.

      5. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

        That’s interesting. Where my mother lived she went to a small group where the participants were called Miss Alice and Mr. John and things like that. Otherwise she was called Mrs. Smith.

    2. MK*

      I think the problem with these kinds of wittisisms is when they become ongoing. I have a position that most people expect a middle-aged+ person to fill; when I started out 13 years ago, my first supervisor, upon learning that I was still in my twenties (he was in his fifties, the other coworkers in their thirties and forties), made a joke about me being “our kindergartner”. Looking back, I think it wasn’t an appropriate comment, but at the time I didn’t think anything of it, we all shared a chuckle and moved on. And I didn’t have to think anything of it again, because he NEVER, EVER repeated it, and probably forgot all about it. I could easily see it becoming a problem, if he had latched on to the word and used it to refer to me all the time.

      I don’t think it’s the end of the world if someone makes a “isn’t that cute” type of comment about a situation ONCE. But when you start making it a Thing about someone, you have gone too far.

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yep. It also creates an opportunity for harassment by the kind of older men who like to take advantage of the assumption that they’re harmless and nonsexual.

      1. Pobody’s Nerfect*

        Exactly, thank you. I used to visit an elderly man at his assisted living place at the request of his family (friends of mine) who was often out of town. He took every opportunity when I would visit him to talk about sexual topics that were very uncomfortable to me (and he knew his but he kept doing it anyway). He also acted inappropriately sexually towards his caretaker woman that was there everyday to help him and was 20 yrs his junior. He did not have dementia of any kind and he knew exactly what he was doing, he just didn’t care at that point in his life if it was “right” or not. I stopped visiting him after it became a pattern.

    4. WellRed*

      It’s also not surprising, given that people do the same thing at the other end of the life spectrum: “Oh, look, little Tommy is your boyfriend” to 3-year-old Tammy.

        1. whingedrinking*

          Meanwhile gay and trans people get demonized because their sexuality/gender identity is “inappropriate for children”. Sigh.

      1. Avasarala*

        “He’s gonna be a heartbreaker!”
        or my fave
        “You’re going to have to beat to boys off her with a stick!” said to the dad.

    5. Dragoning*

      I always hated when I worked in retail when older men were nice to me and my manager made “jokes” about me “flirting” with them. No. And the assumption that I am makes me uncomfortable. I am a young female-appearing person working with the public, that doesn’t make me flirting with everyone!

      I can almost feel tears of frustration just remembering it.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Saying that to your OWN young female employee is even worse. Like, giving her that crap for just doing her JOB. I’m sorry you worked for such a tool.

    6. SuperAnon*

      “But since they’re old, they’re non-threatening and non-sexual…”

      Wow, am I the only one who cringed at this line?

    7. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      Yes – it’s in the same vein as “why hello there young ladies, I’ll need to see some ID!” schtick a lot of restaurant industry folk use for groups of older women. It’s “haha you’re so NOT the thing I’m referencing, isn’t it funny and cute that I’m calling you that?”

      I was a server/bartender for 15 years and very rarely did the group of “young ladies” seem truly amused. They just put up with it in order to get their dang sauv blanc faster.

    8. Mama Bear*

      IMO the bottom line is OP finds it uncomfortable and unprofessional and wants it to stop. I would tell the offender it’s not funny and it needs to stop, period. Joke’s over. Move on. Or “You keep saying that when I’ve told you I don’t find it funny. Why?”

      I have relatives in assisted living and the amount of disrespect older folks sometimes get just for being old is so disheartening.

    9. NotSoCute*

      Yes! Came here to say the same. Honestly, bless you, Allison, for this : “I’ve never understood why this sort of comment isn’t also seen as diminishing to the older people it references, since the subtext seems to be that age desexualizes people and it feels like a weird patronizing head pat in their direction.”

      This behaviour, and also the infantalizing and dehumanizing use of “cute”. It’s so good to see this called out and talked about.

  9. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Has anyone mentioned your more business like attire? You may be over thinking here and can leave well enough alone. We have a couple folks who are well dressed while the majority wears hoodies all the time. Nobody thinks the guys dressing well should change. It’s really okay to dress the way you want to even in casual offices.

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      Definitely. And what OP is describing still sounds pretty “business casual” to me – it’s not like he’s showing up in a three-piece suit.

    2. Retail not Retail*

      He may be overthinking it BUT someone could have commented on a day he did wear a t-shirt or something more casual. I’m picturing anything from, “whoa where’s the party?” or “looking cool today” (we say this when one guy puts his cap on sideways) depending on the vibe.

      We all wear uniforms but the weather determines our choices and some people wear shorts way too long. The first time I saw one guy in pants, I said, “you betrayed me! Pants?!” (“It’s COLD man”)

      It depends on the environment and frankly I agree with everyone who says you do you. I wear wild glasses and people do notice them (“those frames are so bright and it’s so cloudy we could see you”)

    3. Mama Bear*

      We have everything from the occasional suit to jeans and t-shirts. Some of it depends on whether or not the employee is in a customer facing role. Plenty of folks at a managerial level will wear nice jeans and a button up shirt or a sweater in winter. I’m wearing chinos and a sweater today. I’d look around and see if there’s anyone OP wants to emulate and try to change the wardrobe to match theirs. IMO nothing wrong with a nice button up shirt. Maybe choose a less formal pattern, skip the tie, roll up the sleeves, and wear with a nice pair of jeans. As long as OP isn’t wearing a three piece suit in a hoodies and sneakers office, I bet it’s fine.

  10. Approval is optional*

    OP 3 There’s a difference between ‘barging in’ – which you used in your answer Alison – and ‘inviting yourself in’ which is the wording the LW used. IMO the first implies that some form of physical force was used which doesn’t seem to be the case. Maybe it’s a different country = different usage thing though.

    1. ev*

      I don’t read barging in as using physical force, its just not taking no as an answer and assuming you are perfectly fine to turn up on a doorstep and walk in. Its a different usage, the important bit of which in my opinion is the WTF? becuase what does she think she’s doing.

      And btw…. friends at least damn well check before coming over unless you have a completely prearranged open door policy or they even have a key. Its way too far even if this woman thinks she’s a “friend”

      (But talk to her not her boss.)

      1. Approval is optional*

        Ah ok. I sometimes run into a ‘hmm’ moment with words/terms on here -our cultures are very similar so it’s easy to assume they mean the same. :)

    2. pleaset aka cheap rolls*

      Barging in may or may not involve force – it can be used to mean coming in uninvited and it can also mean coming in using physical force.

    3. SarahTheEntwife*

      There’s definitely a connotation of violating boundaries, but in this case it’s referring to unspoken social boundaries about coming over uninvited/unscheduled rather than literally breaking and entering.

  11. Beth*

    #2: There are a couple things going on here.

    First, Laurie overstepped some common boundaries in a major way. Even close friends can’t generally invite themselves to your house, expect to be given entry while you’re not home, have your roommates entertain them, use your house as a place to ‘hide’ things from their spouse, etc. You’d be very much in the right to sit her down and say something like “I heard from my roommates about your visit the other day. I want to make it really clear that none of that was okay. You can’t come in when I’m not home, you can’t leave things at my house without clearing it with me first, and you definitely can’t impose on my roommates’ time. None of my friends can do those things–they don’t work for me or for my housing arrangement. In the future, I need you to schedule with me in advance when you want to hang out, okay?” In your shoes, I’d also tell your roommates explicitly that you don’t expect or want them to let people in for you when you’re not home.

    But second, I’m not sure you’ve been fully fair to Laurie either. The things you accepted from her when you were starting out (gifts of food, frequent rides, support when you were struggling) are things that I would put in the ‘good friends’ category. Her thinking you’re close is really not unwarranted. But it sounds like your feelings have changed since (maybe something to do with the antics you reference?), and also like that change hasn’t been communicated successfully to her. There are a lot of ways to manage a friend breakup, but asking your boss to do it for you is definitely not one of them–and let’s be real, that’s what outsourcing this to your boss would be, because if you were still thinking of her as a friend you’d never consider going to your boss and asking them to set boundaries with her for you.

    In the future, it might be a good idea not to accept big favors from people you don’t know well enough to know if you want them in your life as a close friend.

    1. Beatrice*

      I’m not sure that stern of a reprimand to Laurie is necessary, given that Laurie had reason to think they might be better friends than they are. A simple “hey, please don’t show up at my home without calling ahead first” should be plenty. Everything else inappropriate that happened on the visit stemmed from that one mistake, and shouldn’t recur if Laurie doesn’t come over unannounced again. (Laurie may already realize it was awkward, too – my husband had a friend in his single days who used to come over unannounced and let himself in, and it only happened once after I moved in. Hubs started to have a conversation with him about it and his friend cut him off with a “yup, I already realized that was weird and it won’t happen again.”)

      And OP may not have been in a position to be picky about where she got help from when she was having difficulties. It’s not her fault this happened, but taking Laurie’s help does mean thar Laurie probably deserves the first-round benefit of the doubt when she’s done something weird.

      1. Beth*

        I’m thinking that if Laurie is the type who doesn’t realize you can’t generally invite yourself into a friend’s house when your friend isn’t even there, odds are she needs some very blunt and clear language to get that message across. Either she’s working with a very different cultural norm than OP (so clearly explaining the boundary line is important), or she’s clueless in the face of common boundaries (so bluntness is the only way she’ll hear the message).

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Having been young and clueless at one point, I did have a friend tell me essentially that: “Please don’t come over without calling first.” This was before cell phones. So before I left work, I would call, see if they wanted company and if they needed me to grab something from the store. I lived alone at the time, and would eat at their place as often as my own.

        Some people really don’t know, especially if they are young and didn’t have a lot of friends previously. A friend will let you know when you are out of bounds.

      3. Avasarala*

        I agree. I could totally see Laurie thinking she’ll swing by and surprise OP–after all they’re good friends–and turns out OP’s not even home, how embarrassing! But the roommates let her in to leave the gifts on the table, they chat politely for a bit, then Laurie leaves. Laurie could have texted OP herself to smooth over the awkward, but it’s hard to tell how much “inviting herself” she did.

    2. Reality.Bites*

      The initial acts are more of charity than friendship.

      Last year my friend was living with roommates. One roommate’s appendix burst just when the rent was due. We’re in Canada, so that had no financial implications for her, but she didn’t have access to an ATM, or online banking or however they handled things.

      And neither of the other roommates had enough spare cash to cover her. So I lent my friend money so he could cover her rent, and a couple of days later when she got home the money was repaid.

      At no time did I imagine helping her out like this established a friendship between us or entitled me to hang out there without my actual friend!

      1. Reality.Bites*

        Forgot to mention – it was a great help to her, but it was no trouble to me all. Money I could well afford to lose and little risk of that happening – she and my friend were not just roommates, but best friends for 12 years. I don’t know if she was even aware of how her roommates covered the rent – they all obviously had more important things to worry about at the time.

        Laurie’s assistance to LW was enormous in its impact on LW, but was really pretty minor for Laurie.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I don’t agree. A one-time loan is an act of charity. Sharing your lunch every day is an act of friendship.

        Though I suppose it is not clear from the wording whether every day she was sharing her lunch and driving her home, or if only the drives were daily and the food sharing was less frequent.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Speculation for speculation here, but I would be rather put off if someone did me a favor and made a big production about it, especially if they were doing so while they were doing said favor. It would certainly disincline me to being comfortable with that person later showing up at my house uninvited!

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            No one has mentioned anyone making a big production of anything though? Just that Laurie seems to think they are closer friends than OP does, per the OP’s own letter.

      3. Beth*

        But we’re not talking “OP’s car broke down once and Laurie was kind enough to make sure she got home”. We’re talking an extended period of the kind of favors that involve spending a lot of time together (eating lunch together, ride sharing, etc.) on a routine basis. I really don’t think it’s unreasonable for Laurie to read a degree of closeness into having that accepted.

  12. Approval is optional*

    I’m removing this because it’s assuming a lot of facts that aren’t in the letter, and has high potential to be aggravating to the OP, who didn’t write in for advice on that. – Alison

  13. Orange You Glad*

    #2 – I’ve had someone else keep behaving in what felt like intrusive, rude ways…because they were thinking we were close friends and in my mind, we definitely weren’t!

    I replied to another late night personal feelings sharing text from them with:

    “Hey [name]! I think we’re seeing our relationship differently; I view you as a say-hi-at-the-office-go-to-a-monthly-group-lunch-together friend and it seems like you’re looking for a go-0ut-on-weekends-text-a-lot-about-personal-stuff friend.

    I can’t be the type of “outside of work friend“ you’re looking for but if you want to be “at work only friends” I’m definitely here for that! I know this is awkward so I’m putting the ball in your court for how you want to proceed from here. Thanks!”

    Long story short, they stopped texting me (yay!!) and then avoided me completely for 2-3 weeks and then started saying “hi” and we’re friendly-ish colleagues now but I wouldn’t call us friends.

    1. phyrric victory*

      Yea you! That person is totally going to be there for you when you need help networking professionally!

    2. Susie Q*

      “Thanks for giving me a ride for several months and letting me mooch off you while I was down on my luck. Now that I’m in a better financial situation, I don’t need you and your weird antics”

      1. nutella fitzgerald*

        Yeah, I think that LW’s history with Laurie means this is going to come off as more of a messy cauterization than a clean break :/

        1. valentine*

          I don’t need you and your weird antics
          It would be in keeping with the letters here for OP2 to have accepted the food/rides as a way to keep the peace and, rather than have a Conversation (or awkwardness or tears or Laurie showing up?), let the dynamic fade naturally when they switched departments.

          There is “This level of help means you are BFFs” stance in this thread that would seem outsized even if Laurie had saved OP2’s life.

          1. Colette*

            I don’t see anyone saying they are BFFs. What people are saying is that, if you accept generous favours from someone, it’s reasonable for them to think you are friends, and it’s reasonable for you to treat them kindly even if you don’t want to be BFFs.

            1. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

              Yes. But it’s still weird to drop by without calling and then hang around when OP isn’t home.. just clarify that you and your roommates have an agreement that no one is allowed to just drop by. If Laurie thinks she’s a better friend than she is, well, that happens.

          2. Mia*

            I think it’s less of “you must be best friends because you accepted these favors” and more like….it *is* a little unkind to accept free food and transportation from someone then write them off as unhinged when they misinterpret the relationship. I don’t think OP needs to be Laurie’s BFF or even maintain the relationship, but I do think she needs to communicate more frankly and maybe try to see things in a more charitable light.

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              Agree. It’s entirely possible the antics are at the level of “woah, need to set serious boundaries here”, but from the info in the letter Laurie comes off to me as just a slightly odd duck whose social awkwardness tends toward the overly friendly version. It’s definitely awkward to accept a big favor and then have to realize that this is not actually someone you want to be friends with, but I think any setting of boundaries needs to include explicit appreciation for the major help Laurie gave.

              1. Mia*

                Yeah, that’s the vibe I get too. I think OP needs to say something like, “I really appreciate how much you helped me out while I was getting back on my feet, but I want to try and keep more distance between my personal life and professional colleagues.”

      2. JimmyJab*

        I don’t get this. If someone was generous to me two years ago I have to stay friends with them indefinitely? Does the generosity/length of friendship vary or is it always the same?

        1. Colette*

          Of course you don’t – but if someone was generous to you and you happily accepted their generosity, it’s reasonable for them to think you are friends. You can make it clear that you’re not, of course, but they will likely think less of you if you do.

          That doesn’t mean the OP can’t set boundaries – “Please call before coming over”, “I’m pretty busy right now, let’s go for coffee in a few weeks”, etc.

        2. Arctic*

          No, not at all. But you have to actually *tell* them where you are at. The LW is sort of framing this as Laurie is just totally off the wall for being this intrusive. When Laurie has really good reasons to think dropping by with birthday presents and food is in the scope of their relationship. And even now wants to go to her boss not talk to Laurie, herself.

        3. Mia*

          I think the fact that this was something Laurie did *every day* is a big factor there. Someone sharing their food with you once probably isn’t an inherent indicator of friendship, but doing it 5 days a week is way different imo.

        4. Lana Kane*

          Not at all….but I also don’t think there should be a level of surprise that Laurie sees them as being closer than OP sees it. I don’t think OP has to be BFFs with Laurie, but the generosity Laurie extended before should be repaid by having OP *kindly* set some boundaries. In this scenario, for example “Laurie, thanks for the birthday presents! I just wanted to let you know that I try to be really careful about visitors, for my roommates’ sake, so please do check in with me if you need to drop by.”

          If Laurie mows those boundaries over, then that’s different.

        5. Beth*

          No, just that if someone was really generous to you and then you spent two years with them acting like a close friend and you never saying anything to the contrary, probably your friend breakup method shouldn’t be to ask your boss to set your boundaries for you.

  14. polkadotbird*

    “feeding my roommates Chinese food that she was “trying to hide from her husband” (it gave my roommates food poisoning)”

    This is amazing. I was not at all expecting that sentence. Ooof.
    In any case, I would also point out to your coworker that your housemates would prefer not to host people they don’t know, because she obviously hasn’t realized that. I’d also make it clear to your housemates that you don’t expect them to host future unexpected and uninvited guests (no judgement to the OP or their housemates on winding up in that situation, to be clear).

  15. Bilateralrope*

    For #5, I’d suggest going to whatever authority enforces the law against asking about salary history. Let them deal with it. That’s probably your best chance of remaining anonymous here.

    It’s also going to tell you if the law is one that’s enforced. If nobody is enforcing the law, that’s something you really should know, because it means that you’ll be seeing more companies violate it in the future.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She can definitely do that — but if she waits for it to be addressed that way, there’s it good chance it won’t be addressed in time for her to apply for the job.

  16. Mp*

    Removed. You need to be kind here. You’re welcome to repost this if you word it more kindly and constructively. – Alison

  17. MsMichelle*

    As for the pool, my boss is a big sports fan. He always participates in the pools and games, and any winnings go straight to our government department’s Official Charity of Choice. I’ve always thought it was a nice touch.

  18. Mookie*

    One hundred-percent agreement with Alison on the tone and substance of the second, “firmer” script. Boss/Jane should know better. This is icky across multiple planes—LW’s history of being harassed in this role, the insinuation that all she is good for is flirtation fodder for older male clients coupled with the equally patronizing idea that older male clients ought to feel flattered being inserted into that stereotype, the inoffensive, hard-up Senior Citizen forever seeking a substitute “girlfriend” —and, by extension, creates a lot of collateral damage. It also, importantly, undermines the spirit and the letter of the work both LW and Boss are meant to be doing.

    I’ve been and witnessed women on the receiving end of this “subject of endless client ‘suitors’” line, and it rarely ends well, even if meant quasi-benignly. It’s an imprecise insult at the very least, directed at one or more places. Boss needs a swift kick up the ass about this. It’s a stock remark out of the Pleistocene (or whenever) that ought to be accompanied by a mock-groaning laugh track.

    1. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      Yes, it diminishes LW’s professional role, diminishes the clients, and diminishes the work itself. The boss is also diminishing herself by being clueless about this.

    2. Just J.*

      Agree.

      I was also coming here to say that Jane is probably jealous of OP’s ability to converse with the residents and create friendships. This looks like Jane’s frustration with herself is being displaced on to OP.

      1. Just J.*

        BTW, I don’t think this is an imprecise insult. I think it’s a very direct one. And the more I think on it, the more I would be shutting it down hard.

    3. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      Hard agree. And for the same reasons, could people please stop doing it to children? Could we just let them people of whatever age just interact and not make it icky? That’d be great.

  19. Foreign Octopus*

    With regards to LW2, I don’t think Laurie was as out of line as you are suggesting she is, however I recognise that this may be the latest thing in a long line of things (please do tell us, I’m really, really interested).

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      (The computer ate my comment before I could finish!)

      It sounds as though Laurie has an understanding that you’re much closer friends as you are and considering some of the things you’ve spoken about doing with her, that’s not entirely out of order. However, I’ve also been in your position where I accepted help from someone because I needed it and did actually like them but, two years down the line, found myself uncomfortable with the level of intimacy the friendship was requiring. It all came to a head when she came to my house unannounced with her two big dogs on my only day off that week – I was in my underwear and a T-shirt (no bra, unshowered, arm deep in a can of Pringles) and the house was a mess. She stayed for three hours and during that time her dogs chased my very skittish rescue cat off the property, she broke a mug, and ate my brownies.

      She felt that we had a closer relationship than I wanted but I’d also let her believe that because I’m pathologically opposed to confrontation. So, when she left, I sent her a text message saying that it was lovely to see her but could she please text me next time to make sure I’m free. I then, shamefully, ghosted her.

      Don’t do a me.

      Laurie has helped you in the past as my own friend did and deserves to know that she’s made you uncomfortable and/or is crossing boundaries. I know these conversations are difficult, it’s why I ghosted when I should have been an adult and talked to my friend, but people won’t know they’re trampling your boundaries unless you tell them.

      Good luck.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Thank you for this. Just because Laurie helped in the past does not mean LW1 owes her undying friendship forever. Sometimes people just don’t want to be friends anymore. You move on with life.

        If someone came to my house uninvited, stayed long enough to hang out with my roommates when I wasn’t there and left things around, I would be questioning the friendship, no matter what happened in the past.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Nobody thinks OP has to be friends with Laurie forever, just that she needs to acknowledge she allowed a dynamic where Laurie reasonably believed they were friends and that if she doesn’t want that to continue then she needs to talk to Laurie and set up boundaries instead of reporting something Laurie had no reason to believe was unacceptable behavior to their boss.

        1. Foreign Octopus*

          Yeah, it was a lot.

          Normally I’d pretend I wasn’t in, but I have a veranda that overlooks my garden and the public footpath next to it so when she came walking up it with her dogs there was nothing I could do. There had been a few other issues before that I should have handled like an adult, but this was really the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I just couldn’t any more and so I ghosted her.

          I really wish I’d handled it better because we’d probably still be friends if I explained what was bothering me with the boundary crossing as people don’t know your boundaries until you tell them.

      2. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

        I think another element to this is even if you have a good, friendly relationship with someone, you can have certain boundaries.

        Like, as an introvert, I have limited windows of time in which I will want to hang out with my friends. It doesn’t mean I love them any less because I don’t hang out with them more often. It’s just that I need my alone time/time for other things, like chores and hobbies.

        Like, the OP could still have a friendly relationship with Laurie with some personal policies in place, like “I only socialize after work but do my own things on weekends”, or “I only socialize once a week” or something.

        I do think she effed up by accepting Laurie’s favors so early on, but it’s possible she was desperate. It’s also possible there is more to Laurie’s behavior. There is a ton of context missing from this letter that could really affect how the situation is perceived.

    2. CM*

      I agree that given their history of Laurie sharing food and driving OP home, which OP welcomed in the past, it’s not so strange for Laurie to show up at the OP’s home with food. Laurie may not understand that OP’s financial situation has changed and OP no longer welcomes shared food and gifts. Inviting herself in when OP is not there is odd, but I would approach this more as, “That was so nice of you, but I’m uncomfortable with unexpected drop-ins,” instead of “What you did is not appropriate.”

      1. Clisby*

        I tend to agree with you, except I think LW shouldn’t say just that she’s uncomfortable with unexpected drop-ins. The important thing to say is that she *and her housemates* have agreed not to have friends over without letting everybody know in advance who’s expected. That seems like common courtesy in a housemate situation.

  20. Bagpuss*

    OP1 – Definitely agree with Alison about being firm and direct with your boss. Also, if you get any push back along the lines that you seemed OK with it and you laughed so she thought you were fine with it, you can say something like “No, it’s always made me uncomfortable, but initially I thought it was a one-off attempt at a joke so was willing to ignore it on that basis”
    (If you still get push back, you could then also add that you are concerned that it can be perceived as, and/or open the way to sexual harassment and that it can be viewed as demeaning to the residents, as it can only be seen as ‘funny’ because there is an underlying assumption that it’s obviously not true, and that they are not people who might have a sexual or romantic life…)

    1. BadWolf*

      I might go with something a little softer for the boss since she’s been supportive in the past, “Oh, at first it was just passing joke. But now it’s become weird.”

  21. Harper the Other One*

    OP2, I know a few other commenters have referenced this but I think it was a mistake to leave out the context of the “antics.” To use an example from my own life, I had a roommate from hell who at one point right before the lease ended bounced in asking if I’d like to play Monopoly. That sounds totally reasonable until you know the context that she had done things like wake me up by screaming outside my door at 5am because I had woken her up doing dishes at 10am the day before, and that she had told the landlord that I was “trying to starve her” because I didn’t buy her food.

    Laurie sounds like she was pretty generous to you when you really needed help, and I agree with Alison that has a way of making people feel close to you. That doesn’t mean you have to accept whatever relationship she wants! But when you’re having the conversation with her about backing off on the relationship, I think it will be really important to acknowledge her generosity and how much you did (and still do) appreciate it, no matter what other antics have happened since.

    1. Tallulah in the Sky*

      “I think it was a mistake to leave out the context of the “antics.” ”

      I don’t think it was. No matter what happened in the past, whether OP is really an ungrateful mooch, or Laurie is really a handful, or something in between, it doesn’t really change the fact that OP wants to set boundaries or even cut this friendship. Those “antics” might satiate people’s curiosity and help us decide who is Right and who is Wrong, who is Good and who is Bad, but that’s not really our business (or this site’s purpose, I go to the reddit r/AmiItheAsshole for that :-p ).

      The advice still stands : don’t go to your boss, just tell Laurie you’re not ok with people showing up unannounced and handle this situation yourself.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        I think it makes a difference in terms of how the OP should go about handling it. For example, if Laurie is simply a nice but socially awkward person who’s overly keen to be friends, there would be a good argument to let her down gently, stress the OP’s appreciation of the help she gave, try to let the friendship fade out naturally, etc. But if her “antics” are actually previous boundary-crossing behaviour which has now escalated to turning up at the OP’s home, then perhaps the OP should take a much stronger line of “please do not show up to my house, this is inappropriate” etc etc.

  22. Carlie*

    I might interpret “trying to hide this from my husband” as something like they don’t agree on how much to spend on friends, or a joke about her having spent too much. I agree that with the level of detail the letter has, none of it seems too weird, just some awkwardness with different friend levels.

    1. MK*

      My first thought was that the husband was on a diet for whatever reason and she was trying to keep foods that weren’t allowed out of his way.

      1. Carlie*

        Even better! And that would also serve as a good “cover” if Laurie did want to bring things over, but wasn’t too sure herself about whether they were still close enough for that, or if she wanted to treat the OP but didn’t want her to feel badly about it seeming like charity. “Oh, I really wanted this food, but I can’t eat it at home, so I brought it to share! You’re doing ME a favor by accepting it!”)

  23. Czhorat*

    For #4 with the March Madness pool, in reminded of a time when the owner of the company I was working for won the office Superbowl pool. He used the money to buy lunch for everyone.

    I think that was a good approach, and I agree with you that for the owner (or owner’s family) to win is a weird case of money flowing upward.

    You’re probably best off staying out of it, to be honest.

    1. Krakatoa*

      I think that’s a great idea, personally. I don’t think the owner or her participating is necessarily a bad thing in a casual office if they do give it back someway.

    2. JxB*

      I was going to suggest the same thing. The wife could still play and have the fun of participating, but invest the winnings into some treat for the employees – lunch, stock the breakroom freezer with ice cream, some piece of equipment or supplies for the breakroom. If that approach, she should make it clear from the beginning, laugh it off that everyone should root for HER because if she wins, they win.

  24. nep*

    Hear, hear on #1.
    (Sounds like the boss has some unresolved issues, the way she’s fixated on this. Does she wish she would get this kind of attention?)

  25. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I’d say something like, “let’s not call them that anymore. I really enjoy when Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith tell me stories about their families and childhoods. There’s nothing boyfriend-girlfriend about it.”

    #2 – OP wasn’t there and doesn’t know what happened except for what the (subsequently ill-feeling) roommates told her. It could have been Laurie being very weird or it could have been Laurie being very nice. Also, as an occasional Captain Awkward reader, I secretly hope the gift she brought was an African violet, effectively terminating their friendship.

    #4 – Maybe husband can open it up to all the company employees and spouses who want to play. If spouses don’t join in, then participate in a different basketball pool. You can do them for money via sports gambling outlets. You can do them for zero money at nearly any other location (church/library/elementary school/workplace/health club/dentist/whatever). You can do tons of them online. You can form a group in your neighborhood and have people participate. The possibilities are really nearly endless and don’t have to include the husband’s office.

    1. Forrest Rhodes*

      Great script for #1, Delta. Said in a calm, almost offhand way, this could be really effective. (May need to be repeated once or twice, of course, but I still really like it.)

        1. Forrest Rhodes*

          Double oops. This was supposed to be in response to my comment on Jennifer’s response below.
          I’ll close the door quietly as I leave …

    2. KoiFeeder*

      I only know african violets from the very specific context of “one of my great-grandmothers kept a pack of anoles my dad stole in her indoor african violet planter” and that does not help me understand why they would terminate a friendship at all. Could you explain?

      1. Close Bracket*

        It’s a Captain Awkward things. CA proposed a friendship ending ceremony in which one party presented an African violet to the other party as a friendbreak up. It’s sort of a tongue in cheek acknowledgement that there is no good way to end a friendship.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Friendship ended with Laurie, now my army of lizards are my new best friends.

          Thank you for explaining!

  26. blackcat*

    On #5, one reason to approach it the way Alison suggests is that it could be a genuine mistake it’s still in there.

    I once applied to an academic job and there was some really strange question in there that I wasn’t quite sure how to answer (I *think* it was asking if I’d been an employee of that university system, but it was phrased as though it was asking if I had never been employed by ANY institution of higher learning or ANY government entity AND that such previous employment might be disqualifying. It was so strange!) I emailed someone associated with the search and they told me to answer “No” and they included a note to the effect of “Ugh, yeah, we’ve been trying to get that fixed and everyone swore to us it had been. Thank you for alerting us, we shall go send a pissed off email to the IT powers that be.”

    It could be they don’t know about the law. It could also be that their application portal hasn’t been updated/they use standard software that the vendor doesn’t adjust state by state. Any number of pretty benign reasons are possible, which is why a “Hey, FYI” email is the best route to go.

    1. Observer*

      And even if you know that none of these explanations are the case, phrasing it this way still works, while being less confrontational.

  27. LGC*

    …she almost poisoned your cats and actually DID poison your roommates?!

    LW2, with all due respect, I don’t think you have an AAM problem so much as a CA problem. And it’s less a work issue than a roommate issue – they let a person it doesn’t sound like they know all that well force their way into your house and make them eat food that made them sick. (Okay, so I’m not sure how much your coworker is to blame for the food poisoning, which I obviously am still not over.) You really should tell your roommates they 1) have the right to turn down people who just show up unannounced or 2) unless it’s an emergency, you don’t want Laurie (or anyone really) just crashing at your place.

    1. Mommy.MD*

      Were her cats really “almost poisoned?” Roommates also could have put the plants away.

      Office mate drops by to home of a person she considers friend bearing food and gifts as it’s her birthday weekend. Roomies let her in and partake of food. Later they feel ill. Roommates had a choice in the matter. No way of telling if it was the food. Did Laurie get sick? It is presumptuous to drop in unannounced on anyone but it doesn’t make her a villain or rise to the point of wanting to tell Boss. Especially when this person went out of her way for her.

      1. LGC*

        I agree the roommates had a choice in the matter, and I don’t think Laurie was out to cause harm. And it might not have been the Chinese food. I was a bit gobsmacked by the details at first, but…to rephrase my point, LW2 really should bring this up with their roommates (as well as Laurie). It sounds like not only is Laurie trampling over boundaries – like, she was still a bit weirdly pushy with food with LW2’s roommates, it sounds like, even if she didn’t make them sick, and she also seriously violated one of LW2’s boundaries – the roommates are…either unsure of LW2’s boundaries or were unable/unwilling to push back.

        (My read is that the roommates are a bit naive, at least. Maybe I’m old and paranoid, but if I was in the roommates’ position, I’d be VERY suspicious of the “Hey, I need to hide this stank Chinese food from my husband” story. And yes, I’m still hung up on that detail.)

        1. Raina*

          Again, LW’s roommates are adults. They’re allowed to visit with people who drop in unannounced. They’re allowed to accept gifts of Chinese food.

      2. Delta Delta*

        I’ve read a bunch of comments, and it occurred to me that many commenters (myself included) assumed the gift was a plant. But it could have been chocolates or a whole host of other things that cats shouldn’t eat but might. Unless it was packets of poisoned cat food, I, like many, am having a hard time finding Laurie to be a villain in all this.

    2. MK*

      “…she almost poisoned your cats and actually DID poison your roommates?!”

      No, she didn’t. She brought chinese food to a (person she considered-with reason-a close) friend’s house on their birthday announced; the “friend” wasn’t there, so she offered (possibly in an overly pushy manner) the food to the roommates and they got sick. The most likely explanation is that an ingredient in the food was bad, which makes it the restaurant’s fault/negligence, unless the food went bad because of Laurie not storing it properly/keeping it too long. She also brought birthday gifts for the OP and left them at her place, and those gifts were toxic to her cats. Unless she knew the gifts were toxic to cats (or those particular ones), it was a lovely gesture gone wrong.

      At best, you have a well-meaning but thoughtless person with bad boundaries, at worse you have an overbearing, thoughtless, irresponsible person with bad boundaries and hiegyne. Not a poisoner.

      1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        Yeah I’m not down with the whole poisoning thing either. If you have a sensitive gut (like me) some Chinese takeaway can just be a challenge to digest, period (oil/salt/MSG etc). I pick my restaurants carefully, but I’ve been violently ill at times when others who ate the exact same food were fine.
        And how many people know what’s poisonous to cats, really? Unless the birthday present was gift-wrapped Warfarin, it’s safe to assume ignorance.

        1. Quill*

          The fact that *all* the roommates had difficulty leads me to believe that it wasn’t necessarily a food sensitivity… but it also could have been literally anything else that the household all ate from, like the milk for their cereal. Or it could have been a norovirus going through the house and not food-related at all!

          I mean, I had a thing against ramen for *years* because my roommate made me some in college and within 9 hours it had come back up for an encore, but given that I had a fever by the end of that night I’m pretty sure I had a virus too mild (lasted about 24 hours) to be considered stomach flu. Would have been easy to mistake that for food poisoning.

    3. Colette*

      “Make them eat food that made them sick”? How did she make them eat? It sounds like she offered food that she probably thought was fine and they got sick, possibly from that food.

      I think the roommates could have asked Laurie to leave instead of letting her in; the OP can also say “hey, I heard you stopped by on Saturday. Would you mind calling first?”

      But there is nothing in the story to indicate that Laurie was deliberately poisoning anyone.

  28. Mommy.MD*

    Laurie’s behavior is odd but it’s friendly. You can’t really be sure they got their stomach upset from food poisoning as stomach viruses are circulating heavily in the last several weeks. Of course your coworker considers you a friend because you willingly accepted her generous help of daily rides (and I doubt you were ride-sharing covering the cost of gas) and FEEDING you every day. That was incredibly generous of her. She brought you birthday gifts while your roommate was home and they could have put it out of reach of your cats. There’s nothing to suggest the Chinese food was old and the remark about her husband may mean he doesn’t like her eating that type of high sodium high fat food. We don’t know the context.

    Laurie may be an odd bird but I’m at a loss of why you want to get her in trouble with the Boss. She was very helpful to you when you needed it and now that you don’t you seem very annoyed by her thinking she’s your friend. I feel a bit sorry for her.

    The answer here is easy: “Laurie, can you make sure to call ahead? My roommates are a little shy around my coworkers”.

    1. PB & Mayo*

      Thank you for this very reasonable take on the situation. Too often the comments on here assume the worst of people. From my point of view, Laurie was acting as a friend. I bet if a friend of the LW dropped by unannounced with food and a birthday present, the LW wouldn’t think that was troubling. Also, it’s not clear that Laurie knew the LW was out of town. She could have just thought it would be a nice surprise to show up, thinking they were friends.

      If that’s not the kind of relationship you have or want, then it’s time for an awkward conversation with Laurie.

    2. Long time lurker*

      When people ask their bosses to address something, they’re not trying to “get someone in trouble.” They’re looking to resolve an issue. I agree that OP going to her boss is inappropriate in this situation, but I wouldn’t assume that OP had any malicious intent in approaching her boss.

      There are different levels of friendship. There are work friends, casual friends, friends who can drop by your place unannounced. I’m not sure what OP’s done wrong by wanting to dial back the friendship to something she’s more comfortable with. I’m also not sure why anyone would want a friend who’s only promoting the friendship because their friend feels like they “owe” them something.

      Just because Laurie was generous, it doesn’t mean OP is doing something wrong by not wanting to be close friends with her (or even wanting to end the friendship altogether, if that’s her preference). Unless OP was trying to string Laurie along to get her help.

      I understand that all the commentators are on the same page that OP needs to set boundaries with Laurie. But saying, “gosh Laurie was so nice, I can’t believe you won’t be friends with her” is counterproductive. In fact, that might be why OP hasn’t set boundaries with Laurie or tried to create more distance from her.

      I would hope that OP is grateful to Laurie and generous in turn. But friendship is never a “payment” for kindness. I don’t think that Laurie has done anything wrong per say, but neither has OP.

      1. Avasarala*

        What people (myself included) are responding to is this characterization of Laurie’s intent as malicious. She poisoned the roommates! She tried to poison the cats! She invited herself over when OP wasn’t home, and barged into her house! When actually you can rewrite these as the actions of a close friend doing something kind.

        OP can certainly cool off the friendship if they want to. But based on what OP has told us, Laurie hasn’t warranted the cold, firm, “How dare you” talk. Laurie is not crazy to think that someone she shared food and rides with for 2 years is her friend. And if OP was willing to accept Laurie’s kindness before, they could be kind to Laurie now and set the boundary gently rather than curtly.

    3. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

      I could definitely see this as Laurie thinking “Well, OP seems to be getting on her feet now (ie: managing to eat and get to work now), but still… I feel terrible at the thought of her eating tinned tuna and two minute noodles on her Birthday … I know, I’ll surprise her with Chinese!”
      Maybe she is a bit odd, but I still struggle to see anything obviously *off* about her behaviour, given this limited amount of context.

  29. Miss May*

    #4: My work (~50 people) does a superbowl betting pool where you randomly put you name down in a square for $10. Winners are chosen even quarter based on the score. So, four people have the chance at $250. In the past, the company owner has played, and won. Nobody has ever really complained about it, as everyone has the same chance. I say if you love it, go for it!

    1. Yvonne*

      OP 4, unless you’re the only spouse/family member participating,
      I genuinely see no reason why you shouldn’t take part in March Madness pools. At my company, we can invite anyone to join in. The logic is the more participants, the bigger the pot. At this point we divvy it up for 1st, 2nd, and 3td place (which probably wouldn’t work at a smaller company). What the person who runs my company’s pool every year does is she emails copies of her own picks to everyone participating so that it won’t look like she’s cheating if she wins, which is the only reason I could think of anyone objecting to you taking part or even winning.

  30. Senor Montoya*

    OP #2, I gotta say, what is WRONG with your roommates? Why did they let this person into the house when you weren’t there?

    I would have a (nice, of course) talk with them as well, asking them not to allow in anyone who says they’re your friend or coworker or minister or whatever. Even if it’s someone they’ve met before.

    1. Mommy.MD*

      Yes. “she’s not here right now and it’s not a good time but thanks for thinking of her. I’ll let her know”.

      Simple reasonable polite boundaries.

    2. Jennifer*

      I kind of feel bad for them. I know how it feels when someone is being really inappropriate and you’re not sure how to respond. I wouldn’t have eaten the food though. I would have come up with an excuse.

  31. Bee*

    OP #1: Since your boss is responsive to concerns about harassment, it might also help to mention that these kinds of comments are also not always interpreted in a benign way by all parties… speaking from personal experience.

    1. GreenDoor*

      OP#1 Totally agree with Bee. My grampa was in an old folks home for some residential rehab and kept telling me about his “girlfriend” and how she was going to go on a day trip to the Casinos with him when he got out & even gave him her address and phone number. I found out that the girlfriend was one of the medical assistants there. My grampa had a VERY comfortable retirement income and my first thought was “she’s gold digging to find a rich old man.” I reported her. The facility investigated. Turned out she was fresh out of school and gave him a fake address & phone number because she didn’t want to be mean…but lacked training about what to do when patients get inappropriate. OP, there could be people who overhear your bosses “jokes” and assume that the you are trying to find yourself a rich old man or otherewise take advantage of old folks. If Boss pushes back, I’d bring up the damage she could be doing to your reputation!

        1. GreenDoor*

          I told the manager I didn’t want to see her disciplined. I had hoped that’s all it was – just lack of experience navigating inappropriate patient behavior. I begged him to give her some additional training in lieu of discipline. Of course, I have no way of knowing what happened, except that my Grampa got new staff assigned to him.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            There is no training. I wish there was training. Abuse is rampant but it’s just part of the job and you either stay in the job or you don’t. It sucks.

  32. LizB*

    OP1: I just want to say you sound like you’re wonderful at your job, and a great asset to your community. Keep on being awesome, and I hope your boss gets a clue.

  33. Roscoe*

    I’m actually going to disagree on #4. March Madness pools tend to really just be about the fun of having your bracket. I’ve done many pools in my life, both through work and socially, and I’d say 75% of the time the person who wins is someone who knows little to nothing about college basketball and picks on something random like team colors. All that is to say, its as much (or more) about luck than anything else. I’d liken in to superbowl squares. I really can’t see anyone being upset about the owners wife winning, unless they are just a bitter person in general. You kind of play those like a raffle where its possible to win, but its not exactly expected to win, and its more about a little friendly competition. OP, I really wouldn’t worry about this at all. If your husband has someone who is upset about this, he was probably already upset about other things there and would just be adding this to a list. No rational person would get that mad over it. Also, since you seem to know most of the employees there pretty well, they would probably speak up for you and shut down any trash talk. Go ahead and enjoy your pool!

  34. Susie Q*

    I can’t believe OP #2 wants to tell her boss. This is ridiculous. I realize that Laurie is weird and has some questionable boundaries but OP#2 needs to take responsibility for the relationship. OP#2 basically used Laurie for food and rides. So of course Laurie might have some different boundaries and expectations of the relationship. Your roommates didn’t have to invite her in and they didn’t have to eat her chinese food. She probably didn’t know that certain plants can be poisonous to cats, lots of people don’t even people who have cats. Everything she did was incredibly socially awkward but nothing was illegal or hugely boundary stomping especially since it doesn’t sound like OP#2 even established boundaries with Laurie in the first place. OP #2 needs to take responsibility for her contributions to this relationship and actually establish (kindly) healthy boundaries without complaining to the boss.

  35. CupcakeCounter*

    #3 Quarter zip sweaters/pullovers are ideal for this situation. Nice and warm for the winter and seem a little less dressy than a tucked in button down. A lighter wash jean might also help but overall, I see nothing wrong with what you are wearing on the daily if that is what you like. Untuck the shirt, maybe roll up the sleeves a bit, and don’t button it all the way up to the neck (but also don’t look like a 70’s throwback).

    #4 Does your husband participate? If so the optics there are just as “bad”. Find out if any spouses of the employees want to participate as well. The more people involved, the less “off” it will seem if you or your husband end up winning. And the commenter who suggested buying lunch or something is also a good idea. Use half of the winnings for a company treat if you or your husband win.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      +1 to rolling up the sleeves. Except he says it’s winter, which might mean it’s simply chilly.
      Undo all the formal things we do for an interview, which it sounds like you’re already doing by wearing sneakers.
      I’ll add a few: Don’t press your shirts. (Hang them when they come out of the drier and they’ll be neither crisp nor wrinkled.) Wear crazy socks. Don’t wear a tie. Skip the blazer in favor of a rugged sweater — fisherman’s knit, or military style.
      But also? Relax! There’s nothing wrong with dressing a little more formally than the office demands. Being known for dressing up a bit might mean that upper managers call on you when they need to pull someone in for a customer meeting. And a year or three down the line you won’t have to upgrade your wardrobe to be considered for a promotion…or to make any excuses if you’ve got an interview.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Great advice here on dressing down a button-up shirt. I came here to post most of the same. It’s amazing how sleeve rolling can make it go way more casual.

        Also, consider wearing the button-up unbuttoned over a tee-shirt. (This one can go poorly though, so check out some looks online and play around at home to find a cool combo.)

  36. MCMonkeyBean*

    #3: I agree with Alison that a nice henley shirt can look more casual while still looking nice–but for what it’s worth I don’t think it sounds like there’s anything wrong with what you’re currently wearing! If you want to change up your style by all means go ahead, but if you like the way you dress and are worried others are judging you for it I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Showing up in a full suit while others are in t-shirts would be odd, but jeans and a button down sounds sufficiently casual to me. Some people just don’t like to wear t-shirts and I’m sure your coworkers understand that!

  37. Retail not Retail*

    OP5 – I don’t live in a state where that is banned, but I don’t put anything in on forms. I like when the posting says what the pay is and then they ask you what your expected pay is.

    I just filled out a form and left all the pay stuff blank because I forgot it all.

    When does it become an issue?

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Alison’s had questions in the past where the online form still requires data in that field to submit. I believe some people have entered all zeroes in that case, but I’m still hoping for a more comfortable answer.

  38. Sleepless*

    Laurie may think that since she and OP are good friends, that makes OP’s roommates outer-circle friends, so why not hang out with them a few minutes and let them have the food she brought over? I can see that making sense to somebody who doesn’t read social situations perfectly.

  39. Jennifer*

    #1 I agree with Alison that these kind of comments are not only insulting to you but to the older people you serve. It’s basically talking to them as though they are children. It reminds me of when people refer to the elderly as “young lady” or “young man.” They are just people like anyone else. I hope Alison’s suggestions work for you.

    #2 It’s really weird that Laurie invited herself over when she knew you’d be out of town. Is it possible she had some sort of ulterior motive for wanting to get in your house without you around?

    Definitely don’t bring this up to your boss. This is a friendship that has expanded beyond work and this took place outside of work. Her behavior is definitely strange but I don’t think it’s so outrageous that your boss would need to be aware. You just have to have a difficult conversation with her.

    1. WellRed*

      “It’s really weird that Laurie invited herself over when she knew you’d be out of town. Is it possible she had some sort of ulterior motive for wanting to get in your house without you around?”

      Sure, this would be weird if it were true, but there’s nothing in the letter to indicate Laurie knew OP was out of town.

      1. Jennifer*

        Whether she knew it before she got there, she definitely knew it when she arrived and OP wasn’t there. Most people would have dropped off the “gifts” and left considering the roommates are strangers.

    2. Forrest Rhodes*

      Sidebar to #1: The only person who can call me “young lady” (which I’m obviously not) and not walk away limping is Alex Trebeck.

  40. Observer*

    I’ve never understood why this sort of comment isn’t also seen as diminishing to the older people it references, since the subtext seems to be that age desexualizes people and it feels like a weird patronizing head pat in their direction.

    Unfortunately, I think that the answer to your question is that your premise is wrong. It IS diminishing to older people, and mostly the people who make those jokes mean it that way. This joke can either desexualizing or “dirty old man”, and either is nasty.

    Ageism is real.

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I agree with you but I think that Alison’s premise is still valid, it is diminishing to older people, but it often is not SEEN (by society as a whole) as diminishing. I would equate it back to treatment of women in the workplace back in the 50’s, certain behavior was absolutely sexist, but it wasn’t usually seen as sexist by “society/dominant social group” at the time, or using the term “boy” on African American men, it was and still is racist but it was generally not seen as racist by “society/dominant social group.”

      Something being a certain way, is different from something being viewed that same way.

      1. Observer*

        Oh, the term “boy” was ABSOLUTELY meant to demean black men. The problem was not that people didn’t realize that. The problem was that they DID realize that.

        1. Avasarala*

          The point is, these kinds of words are used to “put people in their place.” But no one should be condescended to like that, whether the condescension is malicious or kindly meant.

  41. DarnTheMan*

    OP #3 would you be comfortable introducing ‘dressy’ hoodies into your wardrobe? My current office is mid-range casual and a few of the guys I work with wear almost exactly the outfit you described (button down, jeans, boots) but will throw a knit-style hoodie or a hooded cardigan overtop in lieu of a cardigan or blazer, which does a lot to help dress down the look without feeling too sloppy.

  42. Jennifer*

    #2 I was thinking the other day that I wish there was language you could use with someone when you’re just not on the same page with them in a friendship. In a romantic relationship you can say “this is moving too fast” or “it’s not you, it’s me,” etc. but there really aren’t any clear, concise phrases to use with someone when the friendship isn’t working for you anymore. For some reason it just seems a lot more hurtful.

    I have had a woman in the past describe me as her best friend when I didn’t feel that way about her at all. I just kind of went with it until it became too smothering. I do think you need to talk to Laurie about not being on the same page with this friendship or else other things like this will happen.

    1. EnfysNest*

      Yes! I just commented about this on another thread, too. I have a friendship that I’d love to reduce way down to just an acquaintanceship, but so far my attempts to just spend less time around them has only resulted in the other person getting more clingy and pestering me constantly about trying to spend time together, and anything more direct from me would seem really mean. Our culture just doesn’t have a kind or effective procedure for “I’d like our friendship to be smaller than it is now.”

      I really feel for LW2 because I know how hard it can be to escape a lopsided friendship like this, especially when there is “justification” for the other person’s behavior. (Some of the comments on here chastising the LW almost feel like: “Well, you accepted this from her before, even though you didn’t know everything/anything about her yet, so now you’re just stuck with her as your best friend forever, because how could you not want to be friends with someone who did those things for you! Nevermind anything that she’s done since then that makes you uncomfortable around her now.”)

      1. Jennifer*

        If you figure it out, please let us know. I just slowly become less available until the friendship is at a level I can tolerate. It just feels more personal when you’re being rejected as a friend.

  43. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

    OP #3: Where do you live? If you’re in the western part of the US, you could try lighter wash jeans but keep the rest of your outfit. It’s definitely more cowboy/western-ish, but when I moved to Utah, it was what I did. It fits in fine in the western US. I felt the same way as you about being presentable while still fitting in with the culture (Utah is shockingly poor in the cultural dress code; when people aren’t going to church it seems that only the big-big-bosses and transplants wear anything remotely formal).

  44. Sharkie*

    OP4- I would not do it. The optics would be horrible and it might alienate good employees!
    When I was 14 I was in my dad’s office march madness pool that you had to buy into and won. It was common for the people in the office to bring home brackets and fill them out with their kids and have kids do one bracket for fun. It was not a good look when a 14 year old won the quite large pool in a law firm (the guy that lost to me wrote me a very long letter listing all the reasons how I broke the law and that the winnings weren’t mine legally) . I ended up using the money to cater a very fancy luncheon but there was still resentment (thankfully my dad wasn’t too high on the food chain at the time so the optics weren’t horrible) . They still bring it up 13 years later and tease my dad about it.

    1. Iris Eyes*

      Wow sounds like somebody was a sore loser. IF it was illegal for you to win (probably true TBH) then it was also illegal for you to submit the bracket under your own name. But if you helped fill it out or filled it out for your dad and he submitted it and then gifted you the winnings that would probably be ok but INAL.

      Can you imagine being so upset a 14 year old predicted the future better than you that you took the time to write them a long letter ranting about how unfair it was that they won? To quote the great Buzz Lightyear “what a sad strange little man.”

  45. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

    On #3 – I wouldn’t change much unless you feel people are perceiving you as old-fashioned or too formal in general. Being a little out of line in clothing, toward the dressier side, is not a bad thing as long as you have confidence in how you look.

    On the other hand, if there is pressure to conform/fit in, then yeah, consider changing your clothing. Though other staff judging you for being in dark wash jeans and a dress shirt is a bit much.

  46. Felix*

    OP 3 – What you’re wearing is fine, and still casual. You may be a little more dressed up than the rest, but I can’t imagine any of them will think you’re OVER dressed or trying too hard. If that’s what your comfortable in, you should be fine continuing with it without concern about judgement.

  47. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #2 – I’m a little concerned as to why the roommates let Laurie into the house?? Unless they’re friendly with her as well, there’s no way I’m allowing someone to “let themselves in” to my house if the person they’re coming to see isn’t home. I think this warrants a conversation with the roommates in addition to the conversation with Laurie.
    #3 – I wouldn’t worry about dressing down at the office. Unless they’re in hoodies and you’re in a 3 piece suit, it’s probably not that big of a deal.

  48. not always right*

    The LW boss is diminishing the elderly. I really hate that. Not really relevant to the letter, but I my pet peeve has always been that when younger people act all shocked or worse, start to giggle and titter or even say things like “gross” when their grandparents (or parents for that matter) say or do something sexual. How in the name of all that is holy do the younger people think they got here? Do young people think they invented sex? Even when I was in my twenties, I always thought that type of behavior was dumb, so no reverse ageism meant towards younger people. This is just my opinion.

    1. Observer*

      Yes, but that was when they were YOUNG. Now it’s the young people’s turn! The old fogies are too old!
      /sarc

      Except, unfortunately not entirely. Some people really do think like this – or at least parts of it.

    2. Jennifer*

      I don’t think it’s gross in general for older people to be sexual but I sure don’t want to hear about my parents (or grandparents!!!) doing it. It’s not about ageism. It’s weird because you’re all related. I doubt they want to hear about that part of my life either.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I agree with Jennifer. I know sex is part of a healthy relationship and I want my parents to have that, but at the same time in my mind I have 3 siblings so my parents have had sex exactly 3 times, I was magically conceived without sex. It is not old people sex gross gross gross, it is rather family having sex I don’t want to think about it.

    3. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      I agree and have always thought the same. When my friends and I were becoming aware of sex (back in the dawn of time when there was no sex on TV and movies only showed kissing), the other girls were fond of saying “I’m never doing that, it’s disgusting”. My mother was such an innocent, choir girl sort that people did not think of her as sexual. So my answer was “I have 4 siblings. We’re all going to do it. I don’t know why, but we will.” Haha. I’ve always been a little too rooted in logic.

  49. clao*

    OP#4
    Participate but if you win then take everyone for a drink and let them enjoy the fruits of your luck/guessing powers/correct team assessment. Obviously the money would be nice but if it is more about the “I won” than the “I won the money” then why not?

  50. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    It’s a cliche that we often think of the people who helped us as our friends, because helping is part of what friends do for each other.

    What people sometimes forget is that this affects both parties: if I helped someone in the past, I’m more likely to think of them as a friend. Laurie may not be thinking “LW2 owes me because I helped her” or “LW will think of me as a friend, because I did so much for her,” but “LW is one of my friends, I know because I treated her the same way I treat my other friends who need it.”

    Also, LW2 should have a conversation with her roommates. Does she specifically want them not to invite Laurie in, or does she just want to make sure they know she doesn’t expect them to entertain her friends?

    I might think of Zorn as “Saralinda’s friend,” and they might also be someone I enjoyed talking to the last time they came to see her.” If they turned up at the front door, depending on my mood, I might invite someone like that in even if I knew Saralinda was out of town. “Sorry, she’s off on a quest… Sure, you can leave the birthday present here. Do you want to come in and have a cup of tea?” If Saralinda didn’t want me to let them in, she’d have to tell me that.

  51. Bananatiel*

    #4 – It’s definitely the money that’s making things awkward here and I’d like to be one among a few others to say that it’s optional and it can still be fun without it. I’ve worked in some very pro-sports environments for lack of a better term– participated in Olympic predictions, bowl game predictions, march madness, etc. None of them involved money in any way and they were still a blast– it gave people that wouldn’t normally chat with each other something to talk about in the break room. Sometimes coworker’s kids/spouses would participate and it’d always be kind of funny when someone’s ten-year-old would pull out ahead of the pack of adults. I’d also wager (ha) that more people participated than otherwise would have because it cost $0 to play.

  52. Ted Mosby*

    OP#4- I would say go ahead and participate. Ff you win feel free to take all the bragging rights, but give the money to whoever got second place to avoid any awkwardness

  53. Brienne the Blue*

    #4 — The podcast “Penn’s Sunday School” has this ad drop they will apparently never stop running where Penn talks about the time he and Teller bought into a Super Bowl pool that his stage crew had organized, and when he ended up winning the whole thing he was told that the optics on this were really bad, so he ended up grudgingly spending the winnings (and then some) on an entertainment system for the crew’s break room. If OP really wants to participate, she should consider giving anything she wins back to the team in some form, perhaps by throwing them a party or investing in some other break room perk. I think there are some pros to participating in something like this — it gives her a topic of conversation with the new folks, for one thing — and if she’s really clear up front that she wouldn’t be keeping the spoils for herself, she might even have people rooting for her to win.

  54. EvilQueenRegina*

    When my old boss “Umbridge” realised she’d gone too far with her moods and snapping at people (she’s an AAM post in herself) sometimes she would try and lighten the tone with behaviour like OP1 is describing, and she didn’t seem to understand that actually we didn’t appreciate that.

    Someone I went to school with works in the same building, and she’d seen me chatting with him in the kitchen at the end of one day and started giggling and asking me who was that I was flirting with. We are just friends, there’s nothing like that going on, and I was relieved that he hadn’t heard her because I don’t want him to feel that he can’t chat to me in the building without people inferring that kind of rubbish. Because that was the most civil she’d been all day without biting my head off I didn’t feel I could address it in the moment and just pretended to laugh it off, but I wasn’t really okay with it.

    Another time, she was making a sign for a hot desk saying “Available Mondays and Tuesdays”, and said to the person who used it on the other days “You should stick this outside your house so all the men you’re talking to on Plenty of Fish can see when you’re available!” Again, the person addressed didn’t think it was very funny.

    The worst was probably the time she loudly announced in the middle of the office to yet another coworker that “your team’s been laughing at you for going down to use the scanner near where Fergus sits so you can flirt with him”. There was probably more truth to that than any of her other comments – this coworker did flirt and Fergus’s team did tease him a little about it too – but Umbridge made it sound like she was the joke of the office. Coworker responded with something like “Any other day I might have been able to laugh at that, but not today”, which might have shut anyone else up, but Umbridge then chose to crack the same joke during a leaving lunch the following week, then on seeing she was still getting a bad reaction, decided to accuse me of going to flirt with him too (?!)

    Just commiserations really, but one of many reasons why I am glad this woman is no longer my manager.

  55. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

    I’m surprised at the comments suggesting that OP #2 is “using” Laurie. A person being nice to you in no way obligates you to accept further gifts, to allow them into your home (whether you’re present or not), or anything else. It seems both Laurie and OP #2 misread the level of friendship between them, which isn’t either of their faults.

    I would suggest that OP #2 be friendly but firm about the boundary, and if Laurie is in any way self-aware (which is of course not guaranteed), she’ll be chagrined but get over it. Something like, “I’m sorry, I can’t accept this houseplant [or whatever], because unfortunately it’s toxic to my cats, but thank you for thinking of me.” You might also frame the “let me know ahead of time” thing as for her benefit, e.g., “If you’d let me know you were coming by ahead of time, I would have told you I was going to be out. I’m sorry that you came by and I wasn’t there to greet you, it must have felt a bit awkward!” (I don’t know if it actually felt awkward for Laurie in the moment, but it might signal that it was awkward.)

    1. Susie Q*

      I think people get the idea that OP#2 is using Laurie because her first reaction is to complain to her boss which is a huge over dramatic reaction.

      1. Bree*

        And implies Laurie tried to poison her roommates and cats, which is also pretty over-the-top. The tone of the letter borders on just plain mean, which is also why people are questioning the OP’s motives in being friends with someone they seem to actively dislike (legitimate desire for boundaries aside).

  56. Colleen E*

    OP4 — You could buy everyone lunch or do another activity that essentially gives back to the employees if you win. this lets you participate without taking the winnings if you do win.

  57. OysterFellow*

    #4 this is why I like work in office that 100% ban monetary games. No lottery tickets, no sports pools. If you want to do any of that, you have to do it through personal email/phone.

  58. YRH*

    #3, you could also begin wearing button down flannel type materials in the winter. That reads a little more casual.

  59. Lana Kane*

    And for what it’s worth, in addition to this being unwelcome on your side, I’ve never understood why this sort of comment isn’t also seen as diminishing to the older people it references, since the subtext seems to be that age desexualizes people and it feels like a weird patronizing head pat in their direction.

    The actress who played Ray’s mom in Everybody Loves Raymond made this point a few years ago. It’s incredibly disrespectful – it isn’t clear to me why people seem to think it’s ok to make fun of how unattractive you now are (because that’s essentially what that joke implies).

    Same with calling older people “young lady” (I think this happens more with women but I could be wrong). All it does is highlight that the opposite is true.

  60. Greg*

    OP#4: Not the exact same thing, but about 15 years ago, when my dad held a fairly senior position at his investment bank, my mother won the office NCAA pool. It never occurred to me that it might be inappropriate — though again, he wasn’t the Big Boss — but I always kind of loved the thought of all these Type A investment bankers losing a sports pool to a 60-something woman.

  61. ClumsyCharisma*

    I’ve been in march madness brackets with higher ups and in some cases their spouses or children. It never once occurred to me to be upset if one of them won. March Madness brackets do take skill as well as luck since there are are always upsets. You just have to know which upset to predict.
    Now if it was a raffle or something that was purely luck I might feel weird about a higher up or their family member winning but not a bracket challenge.

  62. anon4this*

    OP#4- Def the optics are not great in general but it’s also really not fair, because with your husband’s bet placed, your household now has 2 bets cast in, whereas presumably everyone else has one.
    So y’alls chances of wining increase and nobody will say anything (bc he’s the owner and you’re his wife).

  63. Evan*

    Very much questioning LW2’s character here. He made friends with an odd person basically because he needed her food and rides. Now that he doesn’t anymore, he’s gonna rat her out to the company for…bringing him and his roommates Chinese food. Unless he has some reason to suspect that she knew the Chinese food was bad, he’s acting like an absolute jerk.

  64. Ginger Root*

    #4 I have a strict rule that one other spouse that is not employed by the company has to participate before I participate in my husbands team events. If I win or I am given anything either I use the money or the cost of the gift to buy the team breakfast (bagels and cream cheese, doughnuts, and coffee) or get a coffee card and have my husband take everyone for coffee on me.

  65. Elizabeth West*

    #3–Henleys are a good suggestion. They look a little more polished than a t-shirt or a thermal shirt and you can roll up the sleeves if you want to be more casual. Plus, they tend to be lighter than a thermal, so you can layer them in very cold weather.
    (not a dude, but I wear a lot of dude stuff in basic clothes because I’m very tall)

    #5– They probably haven’t updated their forms yet. If they’re online, they’d have to go through the application software to do that (I think) or if they outsourced it, contact whoever they’re doing it through. It might not have been a high priority for them. It can’t hurt to mention it as Alison said. How they react can tell you a lot about them.

  66. OhNoYouDidn't*

    OP#5 – Another way to address this is simply say something like, “I’m looking for a salary in the range of $XX,XXX – $XX,XXX.” If they say, “OK, but what is your salary history?” you can say, “I’m not comfortable discussing that, but that is the range I’m looking for. Does that fall in line with your range?” No argument, just matter of fact. If they insist, then it might be time to look elsewhere.

  67. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

    #1: Grr I’m sick of people over-sexualizing young women in any sort of service/caretaking job, or any job for that matter, really. It happened to me a lotwhen I did people-oriented jobs back in the day. One of them was a volunteer coordinator position, and a higher-up would make similar “boyfriend” comments about male volunteers I frequently interacted with, even though interacting with them was part of my job! One of them had an obvious cognitive disability that would cause him to sort of stare at people intently when communicating with them, even during conversation gaps. He did this with everyone, regardless of gender, but this person would joke about him “having a crush”.

    Even in one of my earlier jobs in my current career, I accompanied one of my male coworkers to a work event, and one of the attendees who knew my coworker came up to him, glanced at me, and told my coworker “I didn’t know you would bring a pretty girl with you!”

    Just. No.

  68. NordyGirl*

    OP 1
    I agree with Alison’s advice and what has been posted here. One thing in your letter gave me pause though, you say you spend an hour talking to one person. Is it possible that your boss thinks this is too long and taking away from you doing other work? How they are handling it is inappropriate no matter what but it might be worth considering if this is a very poor way to try and curb the amount of time you spend speaking with individuals about things that are perhaps outside of your job description. I only bring this up because I work in customer service and I know that this is an issue I’ve had myself and with members of my team. I don’t handle it this way but it’s still an issue occasionally.

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