coworker keeps buying me gifts, explaining a surrogacy pregnancy, and more

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

1. My coworker won’t stop buying me gifts

I work in a fairly relaxed office atmosphere. I have a coworker who is much older than me who thinks of me as a grandchild. She has some trouble learning new systems, so I often have to help her out. She enjoys when I help her out because, in her words, “You know I’m old, not stupid.”

She’s nice enough, and does things like buys donuts for everyone in the morning and covers shifts other people don’t want to do. There’s one thing she does that drives me nuts. During work, conversations will turn to other things. Somehow, Velveeta came up when talking about making cheap nachos. The next day, she brought in a huge package of the stuff and gave it to me, “as a joke.” I thanked her and took it home. That might have been a mistake.

I casually mentioned to another coworker that I hate mustard, and the next day I get a small jar of mustard “as a joke.” I told her to please stop buying me stuff, and to use it herself since I won’t use it.

More recently, we ordered pizza. Someone asked if they’d mind if they got half olives, and I said I’d eat a couple of slices. Next day, full jar of olives.

I thought I made it clear the last time that I don’t want any gifts from her, “as a joke” or otherwise. But it seems to be getting worse. She wants to buy matching t-shirts for everyone in our department. Nobody asked for or wants this, but she has been “guessing” our sizes by looking at us. Is there anything more I can do, or am I stuck with food and clothes until she retires?

Oh no. She’s trying to be nice, and making people uncomfortable in the process. (Guessing people’s sizes by looking at them?!)

The next time she gives you a gift, I’d try saying, “I don’t really enjoy food gifts, and I can’t accept any more of them. I hope you can use it yourself!” And then physically hand it back to her. Put it on her desk if necessary. Doing that once or twice will probably make this stop but if it doesn’t, then say, “Please stop buying me things — I won’t use them, and it makes me uncomfortable when you keep doing it.” If you feel awkward saying that and the only way you’ll do it is with some softening language, you could add “you’re kind to think of me, but…” (Ideally you wouldn’t add that because it’s actually not kind for her to ignore your requests — but a lot of people won’t say it at all if there’s not a way to make it feel nicer. So, optional softening language.)

And if she keeps up the guessing game on sizes, I hope you’ll say, “Hey, please stop guessing people’s sizes. No one wants their body scrutinized like that.”

Read an update to this letter

2. Explaining to clients that I’m pregnant with someone else’s babies

I currently work in a job where I work with clients regularly in what used to be in-person meetings and is now either Zoom or phone calls. This switch happened in March and actually came at a great time for me personally because in August I got pregnant with someone else’s babies. I was really grateful because I could get pregnant without having to discuss it with any of my clients. Many of my clients would likely be congratulatory and then I would have to explain the surrogacy and I know from experience that people can have negative opinions on the subject.

Unfortunately, it now looks as if, for several reasons, client meetings and even some important meetings on behalf of clients will have to take place in the new year RIGHT around the time I will be absolutely huge. I should mention I am pregnant with multiples, not just one baby, and the idea of hiding it is now laughable.

What advice, if any, do you have for how to handle (a) current clients who we have longstanding relationships with and (b) meetings with important figures on behalf of clients?

I should mention that I will be able to do some of these by phone or virtually due to safety concerns with COVID, but there will be a few that are unavoidable. So the idea of just literally tapping out of all of these meetings is not an option.

If you can, one option is to just accept the congratulations and move things along. But that may not work because (a) people may try to draw you into further conversation about it, and (b) people may then ask about the babies in a few months and it might be weirder to explain at that point. Assuming that’s the case, you’re probably best off just being cheerfully matter-of-fact as soon as that becomes clear — as in, “Oh, I’m carrying the babies for another family” or “I’m actually doing a surrogacy” or whatever wording you’re comfortable with and then change the subject. (“How are you doing? It sounds like your conference in London was a huge hit.”) If anyone pushes, you could go with a breezy, “It’s a long story but everything’s great and I’m thrilled to be doing it” and then change the subject again.

If someone has a problem with surrogacy (wtf), they will hopefully have the sense to keep that to themselves in a business context. If they don’t, feel free to give look confused or taken aback and then pointedly launch into the work reasons for the meeting.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Should I apply for a job I’m not fully qualified for?

Can I apply for a job that I do not have 100% of the qualifications for?

The role is in media/marketing/administration which I am qualified for and have years of experience in, but it is also in a specific scientific field which I have high interest in but no professional experience. The role would be managing the media/marketing side of the job and nothing else, they would like the person to be familiar with the terminology, etc.

I found the open position due to my huge interest in this field. It would be compared to (for example) following a giraffe rescue group via their social media and website, and they are hiring a media driven support person who has a degree in giraffe zoology studies. I don’t have the zoology degree but love giraffes since childhood, study about them and have all of the other professional requirements. Is it inappropriate for me to apply? If it’s acceptable for me to apply, is there a recommended way to explain my interest in the cover letter perhaps?

Please apply! No one will be affronted if you apply for a job you aren’t a perfect fit for — people do it all the time. Some of them end up getting hired! And the ones who don’t aren’t blacklisted or put in a “Can You Believe The Audacity?” file or anything like that. The worst that will happen is they’ll reject you.

Job ads are often like wish lists — they’re the employer’s idea of a dream candidate. The person they ultimately hire often won’t completely fulfill that wish list. As a general rule, if you’re really interested in a job and you meet 80% of the qualifications and can point to evidence showing you’d excel at it, go ahead and apply. (The exception is if you don’t meet a requirement that they make clear is really central to the work.) There’s a longer explanation of this here.

And then yes, the cover letter! Cover letters are always important, but they’re especially so when you’re applying for a job where you don’t meet all the qualifications. That’s the place where you explain why you’d excel at the job anyway and why you’re interested in it, and that’s especially important when your resume alone might not make the case. A really good cover letter can take you from the “maybe” pile to the “let’s talk to this one” pile.

4. Mentioning 2020’s challenges in performance reviews

Should I talk about the challenges of doing good work in 2020 in my performance evaluation? I think I actually did really excellent work this past year despite the pandemic and a natural disaster that left my home (where I work 40-80% of the time) without power or internet for two weeks. I’m a technology trainer for a hospital system, so there were obviously lots of tight and urgent timelines for creating resources to support COVID needs. I also have a lot of privilege in that my child was able to go to daycare (the daycare only closed for a week last year, and that was because of the natural disaster, not the pandemic), so I didn’t have nearly the same challenges some coworkers with school-age kids had. Is it fair to bring up that I did really good work in spite of the mess that was 2020? Or should I focus on the accomplishments and ignore the fact that I accomplished some of them on mobile data on a generator powered laptop?

Definitely talk about the challenges! Think of it this way: if your project’s budget had been slashed or an avalanche had disrupted your big gala or some other non-pandemic challenge had occurred and you’d managed to get great results despite it, you’d mention that, right? Same thing here. Describing the unexpected challenges that affected your projects puts your work in context.

You’re right to be aware that you didn’t have the same challenges as other coworkers did, but you’re not saying “look at me, thriving in Covid while everyone else flounders” — you’re saying “challenges A and B occurred and I worked around them in C ways to achieve D and E.”

5. Relocating for a job during the pandemic

Maybe this is a good question to ask your readers. I am finally seeing job postings again but I’m really wary about taking a job in a new part of the country during the pandemic. I wonder how other people are managing to safely move to a new location for a new job, or if everyone is restricting their job search to nearby locations.

Let’s throw this one out to readers for input!

{ 384 comments… read them below }

    1. Daisy*

      LW 5: I got a job around 500 miles away during the pandemic so not too too far, but far enough that I would have had to fly to visit beforehand. I knew the area I moved to pretty well, so that wasn’t a concern but I think the main logistical challenge was finding housing. I wasn’t willing to fly up for a weekend (would have had to miss two weeks at the end of my old job for quarantine) so had to sign a lease sight-unseen. The compromise for us was choosing a slightly overpriced, bland, corporate-y apartment complex so we were sure it was decent and not a scam. It’s kind of blah but fine for now and worth the trade off. Starting a new job is a bit more difficult (everyone keeps away from each other and works from home when possible) but was very doable. I think if you’re prepared to push through a bit of isolation and are okay with figuring out some work related stuff on your own (if there are in-person aspects of your job) it can be totally worth it. But if you really wouldn’t be happy with very minimal social outlets or pushing ahead in a somewhat solitary work environment to start I’d think twice.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Seconding this, we just moved across Germany for my husband’s program and it helps so much to join local Facebook groups to learn more about what life is like during normal conditions, and get advice on neighborhoods, local things that can be done during the pandemic, and local businesses. Also, if you’re wanting to move but still unsure if you will stay long term, you can look to initially sublet an apartment or something in case you’re not totally jazzed about your position. I just try and remember that this city is a very different place under normal conditions (we have heavier lockdowns than in the States), and by staying active in my local FB dog-walker/hiking/foodie/whatever groups I’m able to still build those social connections for when I can actually meet up with people.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          I have friends who have had to do a temporary relo for 6 months and they were able to get a long-term AirBnB. It was fully furnished so they didn’t have to worry about taking anything but personal items and monthly rates were comparable to rent in the area but with no lease to sign.

          Its not ideal for all, but if OP#5 is in a place where they could rent a small storage unit and would be comfortable in a highly rated AirBnB it could be a great way to get to know an area.

          I love the idea of connecting through FB groups in the area, too! That might even entice me to join FB if I were moving. Great idea.

          1. FuzzyNaval*

            Two months ago, I would wholeheartedly second this advice…and then my storage unit got broken into and completely cleaned out. So lessons learned: up your personal property insurance (more than what the storage place offers), do not keep anything remotely sentimental in the unit unless you’re willing to lose it. Even locations with great reviews may have something happen.

      2. Cabbagepants*

        3 years ago I took a job 2000 miles from where I lived and couldn’t afford the time off or plane ticket to apartment search. Part of the interview, though, had been lunch with folks who would be my peers at the new job. I asked one of these folks if they could check that the apartment I was about to rent actually existed.

        To be clear, I only did this when I was on the cusp of signing the deposit. I was only asking for a minimal “is this a scam” verification, NOT a lengthy search of multiple properties.

        1. I'm just here for the cats*

          It might also be a good idea to ask about apartments from your coworkers. Sometimes that’s the best way to find a place because they know someone whose leaving or a vacancy is coming up in their building, etc.

    2. Lioness*

      OP #5 I just moved to a new state for a job. Was in Georgia until December, moved back with my parents In California since the job doesn’t start until March and now in North Carolina.

      I had my family help with packing the uhaul since it wasn’t a lot of stuff. The apartment tour was through FaceTime. We all got tested for Covid before leaving California.

      When gas services and the internet providers came. They asked the covid screening questions and were wearing masks.

      The job interviews were through zoom. It honestly felt fine, it’s been over a week since the move and no one in my family has experienced symptoms and we looked things online/made lists of what we were grabbing from the stores to limit our time shopping for furniture and groceries.

    3. Anon in Midwest*

      My husband and I moved across the country during covid and it was totally fine! We drove because we have a pet, and rented a u-haul. We stayed in hotels on the highway and masked up to see the front desk or pick up fast food to eat.

      The job wasn’t fully new, it was just a new position and office location at the same company, which helped with feeling confident and situated once we got here. Definitely no problem with moving especially if you have a family member who could help.

      1. Brooklyn*

        My partner and I recently moved, admittedly primarily to be together, but I had the opposite experience with hotels. Their family lives in Georgia and we thought we would stay at a hotel in order to get tested and quarantine before any contact. Big mistake. Anywhere south of Virginia was already pretty bad, but jeez, we would have been better off in a room of the house and masking right, because this hotel was throwing pool parties daily, none of the staff was wearing a mask, it was terrible.

        The actual move was super easy – movers were professional and we all just wore masks for two days and kept our distance (admittedly, over the summer, things were quieter near us). Just a hazard to be careful about hotels.

        1. Susie*

          If the LW is planning on driving and renting a room overnight, we had a lot of success with Air BnB.
          We couldn’t be in our house for a few weeks this fall and started in a long-term stay hotel. But even though there were masking rules….people weren’t great about following them. That included the staff–I saw a lot of noses.

          We eventually found an apartment on air bnb that had an exterior entrance with a code. Basically to rent it we had no need to interact with any other person and there was no interior common space that required a mask. If I had to travel cross country, I would drive and find an apartment like this to stay in overnight.

        2. Rachel in NYC*

          I didn’t move but I did visit my parents which involved driving from NY to TN since I refused to fly. Because of the situation we splurged a little and stayed at a Hilton (in MD, admittedly- it’s the closest state to NY where you can stop for the night)- the rooms smelled like disinfectant. It was awesome. We still sprayed down a lot of the surfaces but it made us really confident.

          And no pool party issues.

        3. Not A Girl Boss*

          I have both flown and drove during the pandemic (essential business travel) and TBH I found flying safer.
          The constant rest stop interactions, increased # of hotels, and random food stops all added up to more potential exposures, and in general COVID safety adherence seemed lower especially at rest stops. Not to mention the first trip I didn’t have an easy pass and the tolls icked me out bad (seriously, please don’t give me that change back).
          By comparison, the airlines take everything very seriously, and the trips are short enough that I can quickly get to my destination and scrub myself down like I’ve just left an OR without ever having to touch my mask. And I could spend more time selecting a hotel that had robust cleaning policies, yes, even in the Deep South.
          When I do have to stay in the Deep South, I tend to lean toward an AirBnB with a kitchen, because the restaurants have such bad adherence and cooking for myself seems safer. But I trust them less to have cleaned for me, so I always pick up a can of Lysol and spend the first bit of time cleaning for myself.

        4. Another Alison*

          We didn’t move but we did do a road trip to see a sick family member and we stayed one night in a motel one way and in an Airbnb the other day.

          For the motel, I obsessively looked at photos and made sure that it was a place that had exterior doors to the rooms. They actually checked us in through a window, so we didn’t have to spend any time indoors with anyone else, so it felt pretty safe.

          Staying in an Airbnb felt a little scarier because it wasn’t super clean, though now that they think that surface fomites are not a significant contagion risk, in retrospect, likely pretty safe.

    4. HiHello*

      I moved from PA to WA in December. I lived in WA before so at least I already knew the city. I did apartment viewings over a video call and that worked for me fine (I REALLY LOVE my current apartment). If you end up having to fly, I advise very unpopular days. I flew right before the holidays so my flight was packed. But it was fine. I shipped my boxes through greyhound with home delivery (left outside).

      1. World's Largest Buyer of Glitter*

        I also moved from PA to WA, but a few months before you did so the weather was nice enough to road trip and camp. Honestly, it was a really nice way to do it. We got drive through food almost the whole way. Mask compliance was awful at a few of our stops but pretty good overall.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          Hey, I also moved from PA to WA! It was several years ago but this seems to be a popular migration (though to be fair I grew up here and only lived in PA for a year)

    5. atgo*

      Great question! I’d been considering a relocation before the pandemic, but have since decided to stay put and search where I live for a number of reasons. There’s more opportunity in the Bay Area, where I am currently, than second tier cities. But more than that, I am a super social creature, and think I would struggle in a new location right now without the support system I have in my community here (even while socializing is limited, at least I can do some outdoor stuff with people here and there).

      Good luck with your decision and job hunt!

      1. mh_ccl*

        We actually moved FROM the Bay Area. My husband is in tech, but his contract abruptly ended in February and then, well, … We couldn’t afford to stay long on just my income, so when he got headhunted, it seemed obvious that we needed to go.

        I flew to Alabama by myself in April for a quick househunting tour (which was nerve-wracking, though travel was very, VERY quiet then compared to now). He is in the Air Guard, so he deployed in May while I packed the family up. We did hire movers for the first time ever, and the day after they took our stuff, I set off with 2 kids and a cat to drive across country in late June. We stayed in hotels along the way. Probably the worst part was having to eat nearly every meal in the car. The situation wasn’t ideal, and I would not have chosen to move across country during a pandemic with no help, but we made it through. The timing all worked out beautifully. We closed on our house about 2 weeks before I arrived. He returned to CA right before school switched from virtual to in-person, so we were able to meet him there to drive our bus across country as well (it had been stored), and we’ve settled in reasonably well.

    6. raincoaster*

      I’m planning a 4500-mile move, and a friend of mine moved from my city to my destination city last year in the midst of the pandemic. It can be done, but be aware that mass transit (planes in particular because you’re sharing air with everyone aboard) is more dangerous than taking your own car, provided you take proper precautions when driving. No restaurants. Hotels or motels who are taking precautions. Avoiding public bathrooms (but do dispose of your litter of all types responsibly). If I had a car, I’d drive it.

      But if you have to fly, you should ask the airline about how they are spacing out people on the flights, and if they’re putting strangers next to one another, I’d just not fly with them. It’s not worth it.

      My friend hired movers to do her packing, which I would avoid. Fewer people touching my things and breathing on them is better. But they wore masks the whole time packing and loading, and wore them again to unload at her new city. Ask any movers what precautions they’re taking. And supervise, from at least six feet away.

      We both work in a field that is 99% fully remote work, so it’s easier for us than for people who have to look for work at the same time.

      1. raincoaster*

        Oh yes, and everyone who has a place to rent out will have a Zoom tour or lots of photos. You might be able to ask a friend in your destination to tour it for you in person, but video tours are pretty much standard these days.

        And get a grocery delivery hooked up the first day if you can. Remember, you owe it to your new community to self-isolate for the recommended 10 days once you arrive. No shopping. No gyms. No restaurants, even if they’re open. You can get contactless delivery.

      2. SpaceySteph*

        The current research is that airplanes themselves are fairly safe because they are well filtered and the air circulates very rapidly. You are much more at risk in the airport terminal than the airplane itself.

        I have been to many airports in my life and some are ok for social distancing while others are very crowded. You couldn’t pay me a million dollars to fly through Southwest’s terminal at Washington-Reagan right now, for example.

    7. Gingerblue*

      I relocated about 900 miles in July, to what was then a particularly hard-hit area. (Things are still pretty bad here.) It actually went fine! The movers and cleaners were all good about wearing masks; I drove, and felt pretty good about the hotel where I stayed the night on the road, which was very empty and as far as I could tell was well-cleaned. I found a new apartment entirely online, which I hadn’t done before. I will say that I made some compromises when I picked it because I felt a bit stressed about looking, and I wish I’d held out. This was also easier to do because the move included a significant salary bump for me, and I dealt with uncertainty over apartments partly by getting a more expensive one than I might have otherwise. In person, I could have gone and combed through a wider range of prices to see which were actually nice and which had just been photographed well; online I was not willing to take chances. Everywhere I looked did a video walkthrough with me, and the process wasn’t bad.

      What I found the most worrisome was having to do my initial restocking of food, etc. when I got here–I’d been doing entirely curbside pickup between March and the move, but you just need so. much. stuff. when you relocate that I broke down and started going into stores again. If I were doing it over, I’d plan ahead better and maybe set up some grocery deliveries or curbside pickups ahead of time for my first few days, and I’d probably be more willing to just order all the miscellaneous little things you wind up needing via mail or curbside.

      If you’re social, it’s a rough time to be moving to an area where you don’t know anyone. I’m pretty solitary, but still appreciated the socially distanced happy hours my new neighbors were holding out on the sidewalk between condos, and the neighborhood amenities include things like a pool; I put more weight on outdoor recreation availability when looking than I might have without the pandemic.

      I probably would have been more worried about the process if we’d known then what we do now about the airborne nature of the virus, and I’m concerned about the new variants. But you can definitely do it in a way that minimizes risk as much as possible.

      If you’re headed to an area with substantial transmission, you might want to check the policies of places like the DMV, utility providers, etc. that you’ll need to deal with in moving. Some have much longer lead times than usual or have gone appointment-only. It was all fine, but it helped to know this ahead of time.

      Personally, I’d drive to the new location if humanly possible; if I’d had to fly I might have reconsidered the move. I also have colleagues here who started at the same time as me but negotiated delayed in-person start dates so they could work remotely and move when the local spike eased off a bit. It’s potentially worth asking about.

      1. PspspspspspsKitty*

        With restocking with food. I totally encourage people to go early in the morning when the store opens because the crowds are less, and they usually have sanitized the previous night. That is, if they can’t get curbside pickup.

        1. Lizzo*

          Early in the morning on weekdays. There seems to be a sweet spot between the initial opening rush (if any) and the lunchtime rush.

          1. Anne of Green Gables*

            Yes! I haven’t moved, but I do my grocery shopping and occasional Target runs early morning on weekdays, preferably Mon-Thurs. I’ve been to target within 10 minutes of their opening time and it’s been mostly staff restocking and me, maybe one or two other customers.

    8. PspspspspspsKitty*

      I got a new job last summer. My company used a relocation company that moved me. I sat in a corner away from them. They wore masks as they moved me. I still did the proper gestures like had bottles of water, prepackaged snacks, and cash tips. I also designated a bathroom for them to use. When I cleaned the bathroom after the move, I used gloves. I did have family help move my extra car and help me move my cats.

      What I found difficult is that rental units were very hard to come by. I had to call different rental companies and was able to get a unit “as is”. I didn’t sign the lease until I could look a the unit. If you are in the same circumstance but can’t view the unit, make sure they do a video tour. One unit I toured had a massive water mark on the ceilings and a ruined carpet. I was able to get into a nice place, though more expensive and much too big for myself. I was told that there are way more private house rentals, but I just wasn’t willing to do that because I felt there was more security with a large rental company owned unit Many people just weren’t moving out of my area. If you are buying a house, be prepared to face a sticker shock. I don’t live in a big city, which shocked me even more to find out that houses were $100,000 more than what they were the year before the pandemic.

      Emotionally, it was lonely. I did connect with a church I wanted to go to after the pandemic. Thanks to a couple of the older women, I’ve connected to many people through facebook and have actually made friends, though I haven’t met them yet. I also take time to talk to people at work to ensure I get some social interaction. I ended up getting therapy because I was pretty lonely at the beginning and it’s been a wonderful help to me. I ended up turning to online social groups and have become quiet happy in that aspect.

      Dentist, doctor visits, all that jazz, was pretty easy to establish. Many places don’t have a lot of appointments. I had health issues that I needed to establish care for and I got appointments right away.

      If you have any questions, please ask.

    9. lailaaaaah*

      I had to move across country at the start of the pandemic after I lost my job. My dad came up with a rented truck and we made sure to mask up everywhere we were likely to encounter other people. A lot of places are doing online viewings now, and I know most jobs in my area have taken interviews remote. Just make sure to check out local FB groups and mutual aid pages to see what the situation’s like, and who you can potentially turn to for support when you get there.

    10. Hawkes*

      I moved a short distance this winter. Two days after my oven, fridge and mattress were delivered, all non-essential shops shut down. (Only grocery stores, liquor stores, and pharmacies are open.)

      Fortunately we’d already painted before that or I wouldn’t have been able to buy paint.

      It’s hard. Some things you can’t order easily from the internet because you need to see or feel them. Other things I don’t need to buy new, but the thrift stores are closed.

      This may or may not apply to where you are moving to. Just remember that when you are getting settled in a new place, there is no such thing as a non-essential store!

    11. DiscoCat*

      Do you want to start the job remotely? Could you negotiate a start from home? If yes, you can argue your case by presenting quantifiable data for when you are ready to move, e.g if infection numbers on 3 out of 5 consecutive day fall below X, if vaccination rates cover Y% of the local population, if travel gets opened up again, when local lockdown restrictions are eased so that you won’t have to WFH in a new place. Offer them tangible things that you’ll do to show that you’re serious about WFH- such as your home office set up that will ensure that you can perform your duties just as well as if you were in the office.
      I got a job last autumn that required a move back across the continent, back to a region I’d lived in for a long time previously and only left just over a year ago. My current place has been hit badly over and over again by the pandemic, old place was doing ok and started getting worse last autumn. I was concerned about moving in that time but HR was very nonchalant (read: unresponsive, vacant…) about it; instead of discussing it further with them I told them I’d monitor the situation and decide closer to the start date. As I saw that the numbers were getting worse I told them point blank that I won’t move- I’d most likely end up having to WFH anyway, in a new town, all alone in some hotel. Luckily my boss understood and I was able to start from my current place of work with the understanding that I’ll move in 3 months- however the numbers are still not getting better and I saw that the job was quite different than presented in the ad and the interview- I don’t think it was an intentional bait and switch, but rather stems from rigid JD, hierarchies and my boss getting promoted- basically I’d have a lot more responsibility without the corresponding pay or authority, so I quit, it saved me a whole lot of back and forth.

    12. Marie*

      OP5. You may not need to move, at least maybe not right away. We hired two people since COVID shutdowns. One moved to our city anyway for a spouse’s job. One has not moved and at this point I probably won’t care if she does move even when our office opens back up. Four other people on my team have moved out of my city for their spouse’s job or other reasons since we started remote work. A few others are considering it. I don’t think I could get them all back if I tried and I’d rather keep them on the team long term than force them to move back.

    13. Mainely Professional*

      I did a local move during the pandemic, but would have done the same thing for a long distance move: I packed myself, loaded myself, unloaded myself, unpacked myself. (I’ve always done ABF for long distance, but did PODs locally). Usually I hire packers/loaders. Stay in motels where the doors access the outside so you don’t have to share lobbies/elevators, use a stadium buddy in your car instead of rest stops. Drive thru food and shelf stable snacks. Not ideal, but as safe as you can get.

    14. old curmudgeon*

      My Younger Kid (YK) just started a job this week that is several hundred miles from where they live. The employer knew YK lives where they do, and was completely fine with it. The employer shipped all computer equipment and peripherals (also a lovely little welcome package) to YK’s apartment last week, and they are doing all onboarding, training and work remotely. The employer is remaining completely remote until it is safe to work in person again, and at that point, YK will move closer to where the employer is based in order to be able to come to the office.

      In full disclosure, this employer is a tech company that was already doing at least some remote work before the pandemic, so they didn’t need much convincing that telecommuting is both feasible and practical. They wholeheartedly embraced remote work to keep their employees safe, and have done a great job of supporting their staff throughout the pandemic. The reason I know this is that Elder Kid works there, too, and has done so for close to a decade at this point. It was largely due to EK’s positive experience that YK felt comfortable applying for a job several hundred miles from where they live.

      So if there is any way for LW#5 to do some advance scouting about the actual companies involved, networking or somehow finding out how the company has handled the pandemic, that would be super helpful. Some companies are doing a stellar job of it, and some aren’t, so a bit of due diligence on the part of the applicant is vital. Good luck!

    15. Marny*

      I found a new job out-of-state while this has all been going on. All interviews were phone/video, even though they asked me to come in person (I politely but firmly refused). We moved to the different state in September (we’d lived here previously but had moved away about 3 years ago). Did our own packing but hired movers. Everyone was masked and we didn’t need to have close contact during the process. Drove ourselves to our new state. We were moving into a friend’s basement (we’d isolated for about 2 weeks beforehand), so we had to put our things in storage. Once we moved, we started house hunting (realtors have covid protocols in place and mask requirements for the process), and closed on a new house by the beginning of November. It was stressful but doable.
      As someone warned above, if you’re planning to buy a home, it’s very hard right now. Interest rates on mortgages are very low so buyers are everywhere. Inventory is low so people are paying above asking price on houses. So if that’s part of your to-do list, be prepared for that difficulty.

    16. bytheway*

      OP I moved from NYC to VT in October. My partner did most of the research on apartments- I think he did a lot of deep dives in VT reddit to read up about neighborhoods and then narrowed it down to one apartment complex that was in a good location with nice amenities. We didn’t visit the apartment- we went off of the thorough video tour they provided online and the positive comments about the complex. When we moved, we used yelp to find a good moving company that had COVID-sensitive policies about wearing masks while in our home. We rented a car and drove up to the new apartment in one day. Once we were there, we needed to buy ourselves a car. This was a lot of research again, but once we knew what model we wanted, we took advantage of the dealer policy to drive the car to us to test drive. Once we knew which car we wanted, we actually bought our new car from a dealer a few towns away. Again, because of COVID, they have a policy where they’ll deliver the car to you; we signed our paperwork on our trunk, got our keys, and they left! In our case the delivery was free, but do ask about fees if you go that route.

      For work, the reason we went through with the move was because my partner negotiated making his position permanently remote. With one income secure, and me having enough savings, I felt comfortable making the move. I’d also been searching the VT job boards for months beforehand- not to apply, but to confirm that there were even jobs I would be able to do. I negotiated to work remotely with my NYC job for a couple of months to relieve the pressure while I job searched, and I ended up finding and getting a job within a couple of months.

      1. Az*

        I was going to recommend Reddit as well. Most cities/regions have a subreddit where people may be willing to answer questions about different neighborhoods and stuff. As with all things Reddit, your mileage may vary.

    17. Lorax*

      My husband landed a new job halfway across the country right before the pandemic hit in February, but not scheduled to start until August. Unfortunately that meant my job search and our house search was all done in the middle of the pandemic. It was stressful, but fine!

      The pandemic actually made my remote job search a little easier. All the organizations I applied to were interviewing everyone by Zoom, so I didn’t need to travel, and I was on the same footing as local candidates.

      Luckily my job can be done remotely, so I actually started my new position on a contract basis before actually moving out. That gave me a lot of flexibility and consistent income. I’d recommend looking into that option if it’s possible in your field. I found people pretty willing to be flexible in these Uncertain Times (™️).

      I continue to work remotely now, so the biggest challenge is actually that I’ve never met any of my coworkers in person. Normally the organization does in-person meetings, so I end up feeling like the odd man out sometimes. That should get better once things are safe to open up. And until then, at least everything is going well logistically.

      In terms of the move, we bought a house sight unseen since we couldn’t travel out in-person. That was the most nerve wracking part of it, but we had a good real estate agent who took tons of pictures and videos during a socially-distanced, individual appointment visit to the house, and she gave us her expert assessment. Having someone you trust helping out with your housing search is pretty key. Or rent if you feel uncertain about making gigantic financial commitments on the word of a relative stranger. :) But in either case, the search *can* be done remotely since so much is online these days.

      We drove out in our respective cars and U-haul. We stayed one night on the road. The hotel experience was completely contactless, which was great. Not exactly a sight seeing trip, but uncomplicated and uneventful, which is a win.

      There were some complications of registering in our new state. Government offices were shut down for a while, making it hard to register vehicles, get new IDs, etc. But everyone was super helpful and patient, and our new state is being really flexible with deadlines and requirements right now, so it all worked out in the end. Just be prepared for slightly more logistical complexity.

      I think the biggest sticking point overall is that we don’t know anyone in our new community, and we haven’t been able to meet anyone with everything locked down. It’s kind of lonely, and I wouldn’t recommend a move right now if it’s important to you to have robust social support in your new city.

      All in all? It’s very possible and very doable.

      1. Jester*

        I moved several states away during all this. All interviewing was done online (which I think would’ve happened even if I was staying put). The only real difference I think is that I hadn’t stepped foot in the town during we pulled up with all my stuff. I rented an apartment sight unseen in the town where my job is even though I knew I’d probably want to find another town nearby that suits me better. I was able to do a six-month lease so I some flexibility. Other than that, it’s just been remember to bring your mask on trips to furniture stores and Target and ordering lots of things online. Good luck!

      2. Lorax*

        A couple additional pragmatic considerations:

        1. Per state rules, no one could come to our house during our quarantine period (which makes sense since that’s the definition of quarantine). Electric could be turned on remotely, and we run on our own well/septic/and propane systems, so all good for the basic utilities. Just make sure you check in advance for your local area. A landlord/previous owner/real estate agent/family member might have to coordinate utilities service/installation for you if you need in-person work, and you’re subject to a quarantine.
        2. We had to coordinate internet in advance. The company sent us a new router at our old address, pre-move. We brought it with us and hooked it up ourselves after we got to our new place, which I believe was only possible since we were using the same company as the previous owner. Otherwise we would have been two weeks with no internet. Best to make sure there won’t be any installation issues in ahead of time.
        3. All the paperwork/key transfer was done by mail for us. No in-person meetings at a real estate office. Make sure you’re coordinating all that with enough time in advance given recent delays in USPS and other delivery services. And make sure you’re dealing with someone reputable.
        4. We couldn’t get any work done on the house for two weeks, since we couldn’t have people in the house during our quarantine period. I’m sure if it was an emergency, we could have gotten help, but best to be prepared to either handle minor repairs yourself or wait. Take tools and cleaning supplies with you.
        5. We brought two big coolers of food with us. It wasn’t enough for two weeks, so we did Instacart in order to get groceries delivered. Some communities also offer grocery delivery through a volunteer network. You can find out more on local Facebook pages, city hall, local chambers of commerce, local nonprofits, local newspapers, etc. Get connected into those resources early so you know the lay of the land.
        6. Try to connect with local doctors’ offices or other services you need in advance. Some places have long wait times to get in. It took me 6 months to get an appointment since I was a new patient and demand is high.

        Again, this was all fine and doable in the end, but it’s worth noting that everything requires a little more advance planning right now.

    18. Brett*

      Normally for our organization we are concerned if someone is going to relocate or intends to work remotely, giving a preference to those who will relocate.
      Not anymore. We have not been allowed to go into the office since last March, not even to pick up personal items, water plants, or get equipment like keyboards, mice, or monitors.
      As long as someone is in the US, we don’t care where they are located (we already have remote workers in pretty much every state).
      So, from my experience, if there is any chance the job can be done remotely, go ahead and apply and plan on not relocating at all.

    19. cat lady*

      One thing to be cautious about– I noticed a lot more scams during my recent apartment hunt. Lots more people saying “I had to move out of state on short notice due to family emergency, mail me the security deposit and I’ll mail you the keys,” and lots of scams sound relatively plausible. So don’t write any checks without having been there in person, and don’t rely on just photos or pre-recorded videos. Ask the landlord or agent to do a live video chat walk through so you can ask them to pan up to the ceiling, look down at the floors, etc., and so you know that they didn’t just take the video/photos from a real estate site.

    20. Environmental Compliance*

      I moved 230 mi at the start of COVID, right when shutdowns started occurring. Sold a house and everything.

      – My new job came with a relocation package. They arranged movers – who came in with masks, gloves, and we all had to fill out COVID questionnaires before they’d even step foot.

      – I was WFH for new job for about 2 weeks before the move. Husband was furloughed (and later laid off).

      – New job’s relocation package also came with temporary housing. I was put in a long-term hotel suite for 30 days, which made it a lot easier to find permanent housing. The hotel was doing things as right as they could – service to the room was once a week; they asked if you could to leave dirty towels for exchange in a bin right outside your door and then they’d bring you a new towel bin. Masks required. Constant disinfection from their cleaning team. Half the rooms were closed down. The only PITA was that the grocery delivery service wouldn’t deliver to the hotel address.

      – Apartment hunting wasn’t fun. We almost had to sign on one sight unseen. Thankfully we did get to tour two places – the manager unlocked the door, let us walk through, then we met and talked outside.

      – Starting work was pretty isolated, which was weird. My new HR didn’t do as good as a job as they should have setting stuff up for me remotely.

      – House selling wasn’t fun. We got some good offers, but also a handful of “well it’s a pandemic so you aren’t going to get any offers so here’s 30k off your asking price” crappy offers. It was weirder than normal trying to coordinate not being in the house so people could see it, but at least we had a really good photographer for the sale post pictures. We were worried we’d take a loss, but ended up coming out even, so there’s that.

    21. 867-5309*

      It obviously depends on the field but in mine, nearly every open position will allow you to remain remote through the pandemic. There is a risk, of course, that they will then select local candidates because they are assured of them being local but not being local has not been a hinderance in the searches conducted by people in my network. Most of the companies recognize people do not want to relo right now, nor is it safe to do so.

    22. 'nother prof*

      Move ~700 miles over the summer. Stressful as all get out. I was helped by having family crash pads roughly in the middle. I drove down to buy a place in under a week (though I didn’t get the keys until ~6 weeks later).
      Top tips:
      1. The buy vs. rent debate is real in a way it normally isn’t. Think hard about where you’ll want to be in two, three years; the cost of multiple potential moves;
      2. Spend money on the move. My movers broke a bunch of furniture (despite my not going with the cheapest bidder). There’s always that possibility, but I simply haven’t been comfortable shopping mid-pandemic like I normally would. Consequence: six months on, I have stuff I can’t store because the furniture I’d put it in broke. That said, I did spend a fair bit ensuring everyone’s safety during the move – masks, hotel room that had a dedicated exterior A/C unit… Little things like that add up, and I haven’t gotten COVID yet.
      3. Outdoor space!!! My new place has a little back patio with garden, as well as a front garden. It isn’t much, but it makes such a difference. When I’m going stir crazy, I can go weed for a few minutes. Plus, my neighbors also have their own spaces, so we can chat at a safe distance.
      4. Pay attention to socializing in your new locale. I didn’t know folks in my new state, so I made a point of picking a home in a neighborhood where it seemed like people talk to each other, and I switched my location in a dating app to the new city before I actually arrived. I still don’t know a lot of people, but I have a core of support that is worth its weight in gold.

      Good luck!

    23. Goose*

      I just moved from Illinois to Florida for a job–all interviews were over Zoom, and thankfully I have family who was able to do apartment visits on my behalf and facetimed me from each one. I gave myself an extra week to move and get used to the area before starting work (this week!) and that made all the difference–being able to grocery shop, deal with a few issues with the apartment, etc. My only big suggestion is to bring everything you need for work with you however you’re travelling. Pay for the extra suitcase so you have all of your work clothes!

    24. Alyssa*

      Hello LW! I’ve now moved for work cross-country TWICE during this pandemic, without getting COVID. It’s definitely been hard, but totally worth it for me, as I loved both of those jobs.

      First, ask whether the new job is working remotely right now, and whether you can work remotely to start. You may find you may not need to move until conditions are much safer! If you do have to move immediately, here’s what I did.

      First: Most people are now doing virtual tours anyways, so you should be able to find housing without being physically present. Find local Facebook groups, and maybe even join the Nextdoor for the community you want to move into to get local tips. I rented both apartments remotely, asked a lot of questions on the phone, and had the property manager send a lot of photos and do video tours.

      For the move itself: Plan your route in advance. I recommend driving over flying, if possible. Only stop when necessary, and spend as little time inside other buildings (such as gas stations, bathrooms, etc) as possible. No browsing shelves or lingering for chit-chat — get in, get out. Double mask whenever you need to enter any place. Bring as much food as you can with you, and when you do purchase food, always do takeout, and eat in your moving truck/car/hotel room. Glove up at gas stations or thoroughly clean your hands with hand sanitizer. If you need to stay somewhere on the road overnight, I recommend motels over hotels, since you can drive straight up to your room’s exterior door and don’t have to share hallways or elevators with people.

      When you move into your new place, you’ll probably have movers, maintenance people, wifi/cable installation people, and property owners in and out of your place. Open all the doors and windows for airflow, double mask if you need to be in the space with them, but try to stay outside as much as possible while they’re in your space. And make sure they are masked while inside your space.

      Afterwards: Quarantine for two weeks, and get tested if possible.

      Overall my biggest advice is: Don’t be ashamed to do what you need to do to stay safe. A lot of folks weren’t wearing masks while I was on the road, but I always was. Even if I got an odd look, no one did or said anything about it. And don’t be afraid to set boundaries about wearing masks if someone is coming into your home. Be polite but direct and matter of fact about it. Good luck!

    25. Moving Across The Country During A Pandemic*

      Hi LW #5. I moved from one coast to the other at the end of the year. It was definitely stressful, but it worked out ok for me. A few tips:

      – First off, most companies will not require you to move right away as their workforce is most likely all remote right now. I wanted to move for personal reasons, but I know I could have waited until after the pandemic.
      – When I traveled to the new location I found that flying wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Instead of staying in a hotel for my house hunting trip, I booked an airbnb. It gave me some comfort to have my own space for the week with my own kitchen.
      – House hunting was fairly good. I met my realtor at each place (didn’t ride with her) and we did tours fully masked and keeping our distance from each other. I did ask her to video chat an extra visit to the place I was interested in prior to making my offer to be sure I remembered the space properly and that worked very well.
      – The worst part is what you would expect – the physical moving out and moving in. I had professional movers, which is so helpful, but I had to remind them about masks a few times. Lugging furniture and boxes is hard work so I understand them not liking the masks, but they responded fine to the reminders – no defensiveness.

      Mostly the whole thing was a little surreal. I had been very careful and was living in a part of the country with strong stay orders and where everyone followed the rules. So basically I had very little human interaction for months. And then suddenly I was flying on planes, touring houses and dealing with movers. So yes, it was stressful but not as bad as I feared. Also, it is nice being in the new location and not having to immediately go into the office. Working from home in the new place is giving me some additional time to get settled.

      1. michelenyc*

        I did the same thing. I moved from NYC to Oregon. In all honesty this was my least stressful move for the most part. The stress that was created was due to my stupid roommate not having his move own move organized. When I got laid off in March due to Covid I made the decision then that I would be pursuing jobs outside NYC.
        I also chose to move at the end of December for mostly personal reasons. I am currently staying in an Air BNB which has been great. Having your own space to work in live I highly recommend. I will be moving down to Southern Oregon in April. So no house hunting for me yet.
        Flying was not a big deal. Everyone on my flight was great about following the rules no complainers. No one in middle seats which was great. Highly suggest only going with airlines that do the no middle seat thing and honestly I think only Delta is still doing it. The one bummer is only 1 beverage service but if you wanted any thing else you could go to the galley and ask for it.
        I did spend a couple of nights in a hotel and they were very clean. At one there was no room service, the bars were also not open, and the mini bar was not accessible. Fortunately you could order at the restaurant to bring food up to your room and there was a lovely wine store across the street.
        I had great movers they kept their masks on the entire time and I did not have to remind them. They arrived at noon and had everything out within about 45 minutes. I packed my own things. The only thing they had to do was wrap the big stuff/weird stuff.
        If you need to get a drivers license or permit a lot of DMV’s right now are by appointment early. Make your appointment as soon as you know your move date. I waited a bit too long so I just got to take my learners permit test last week. Lucky for me I was able to get a behind the wheel test much more quickly so in a couple weeks I will be a licensed driver again. I did do some car shopping and both dealerships I visited followed the rules.

        1. Smithy*

          I will flag that at this time, at least in very COVID conscious places – staying in a hotel can be far less luxurious/convenient. Room service, dining, breakfast, bars, etc is all more limited if not entirely canceled.

          For my move (NYC to DC), what it meant was that I found it to be a better use of money to fly in/out in one day and upgrade myself to first class. I’ve flown a bit during COVID, and have found that airports that often had reputation for delays are doing better which made this feel like a better calculated risk.

          In the before times, I likely would have taken the Amtrak and stayed with a friend over the weekend. And the “treat” would have been going out to a nice dinner or something. I don’t think this move was wildly more/less expensive than it would have been in the before times – but it did mean being mindful about where it made more sense to spend money and save it.

    26. Chris*

      I’m in a similar position to OP #5: I got laid off last fall. After cancelling my plans to see my parents at Thanksgiving because of COVID risk, I made a decision that I wasn’t going to accept a job that required me to move during the pandemic. Seeing my parents would have been much more important to me that getting a job immediately. I figured if I wasn’t willing to risk the former, I should apply that same calculus to the latter.

      However, I’m not confining my job search to nearby locations. Fortunately, my job is one that can be done remotely. Unfortunately, many of the jobs in my field are with state or local governments who aren’t set up to handle out-of-state employees when it comes to taxes, unemployment, etc. I’ve turned down a couple of offers so far because they couldn’t accommodate me starting remotely. There are positions in my field with NGOs that may be more flexible about hiring someone out-of-state and the federal hiring freeze that accompanied the change in administrations has just lifted, so there are other options out there. I’ve kept applying to different positions (5 interviews in the past week!) I’m sure eventually I’ll find an employer who’s able to let me start the job without moving.

      1. Anecdatally*

        I moved in August – I had been job searching hoping to stay local without luck & eventually expanded to a nationwide search. I was able to drive (camping along the way and bringing all my food with me) and pack all my own stuff, so the actual move didn’t feel like much more exposure. I stayed in an extended stay motel for the first month so I would have some leeway to find housing.

        Where I did feel like moving put me at risk was ultimately having new housemates — this obviously doesn’t apply if you’re able to have your own house/apartment. But I had the time to spend a while looking and was very clear with potential housemates about the covid environment I was looking for, a few months after I signed a lease and moved in, two of my housemates decided covid was a scam and they were no longer willing to follow any restrictions. There’s always that risk if moving is likely to mean “living with strangers” for you.

    27. Job changed*

      LW5: I looked for a new job during a pandemic, and they relocated me. I started the process in June, interviewed several times via Zoom, I got the offer and gave two weeks notice in August. I moved from FL to MD in September. At the time, the office was still open but they closed it as soon as I got to the location. So, I’ve been telecommuting in our rental house about 20 miles from work since September.

      I was already working full time remote in my previous position, so I was adjusted to that. My social life had died in March (as did most peoples’). Starting a job with no physical face-to-face contact was a little strange, but it’s worked fine. I am concerned about being able to make local friends (oh, how I miss FL friends!), but I assume that as things slowly return to normal, there will be opportunity to do so.

    28. CuriousCat*

      I moved 1,000 miles for a new job in April ’20.
      The one thing to consider is whether the new job will be working remotely and how that impacts onboarding and getting to know your new colleagues. All the casual opportunities of being face-to-face in the office evaporate, and it takes extra effort and diligence to get to know people, build trust, and become a member of the team.

    29. Name (Required)*

      I had to consider moving during the pandemic due to job reasons, either to cities where the job were posted, or back home to my family (all in other states, not just cities). One trip I drove, one trip I flew.

      Some of the processes would change depending on the stay at home orders of the local municipality. One place I couldn’t go visit because of quarantine rules (and some of those jobs wouldn’t accept non-locals because of this) and other places I could visit, and would have been able to get supplies and feel like I could “move” in to.

      I think if you have the option, driving was better (at least over the summer) because you have more control – except rest stops, gas stations, etc where people are not following distancing. But you can be away from others for the most part.

      In flying, the rules were enforced for you, but distancing just wasn’t always possible when you’re sitting on a plane.

      My take away was the level of stay at home order in some areas turned me off from pursuing some jobs with gusto because of the hassle of trying to move to those places at the time.

      In a way, it worked out because by lingering where I was longer, even in the struggle to pay rent, I ended up finding new employment where I was. It just took months longer than planned.

    30. Smithy*

      I moved from NYC to DC in November as part of starting a new job in September.

      One thing that COVID has afforded some sectors is that with positions that can be 100% remote, the move and starting the new job don’t have to happen at exactly the same time. In my case it allowed me to not worry about breaking my lease, and helped me feel a bit more anchored in the job before making the move. Even though I lived in DC before and knew my preferred neighborhoods, given my budget, I really did not feel like I could forgo viewing places. I chose to fly in/fly out in one day on Delta who was still spacing seats and then I also paid for movers (though packed on my own). I know that what I did was riskier from a COVID perspective than doing Zoom viewings and moving myself – but the potential for hurting my back and the reality of my budget meant they were worthy risks in my book. And I’m thrilled with my new home.

      Starting a job 100% remotely though was a challenge in the sense that onboarding felt like it happened VERY slowly. I was getting good feedback, requesting onboarding/get to know you meetings – and it still felt very slow. For my sector (humanitarian nonprofits) I was not expecting a very in depth onboarding process, and being 100% remote made those ad hoc systems move more slowly. In my case the organization wasn’t expecting me to be knee deep two weeks in, but I will flag that it can make the beginning seem uncomfortable slow.

    31. AlmondLatte*

      LW 5: I just started a job that is across the country from where I currently live. I actually used company’s policies on relocating during covid as a metric of their care for their employees and accepted this job in part because there is no expectation for me to relocate until it is safe to do so. I may end up relocating on the earlier side of things, but that is just because I want to move to the new location where I have family.

    32. Moved Recently*

      We moved to a state approximately 800 miles away this fall, and also bought our first house there. It’s definitely doable, just imagine everything you’d normally have to do in a cross country move, and then add 30% more difficulty due to COVID. I think it’s actually a really good time to move, you have to worry a lot less about competing with local candidates who can easily come into the office for interviews because… no one is coming into the office. A company might even say you can just stay remote until they come back, giving you extra time.

      Also, I wasn’t seeing my friends in person anyways, so shifting to “I’m moving away and now we have to do everything on video” had …. already happened? I was already sad about it? So moving to another state didn’t add anything on top of that, and we had already settled into a “keeping in touch” routine.

      Other tips – make a long drive if you have to, renting an airbnb overnight (or two). Practice really clear communication and boundaries around safety precautions. Anyone that you HAVE to see in person (like a realtor, or a landlord to tour an apartment), ask ahead of time “I will be wearing a mask. Will you also wear a mask?”. If they say no, find someone else. If they show up and they’re wearing their mask wrong, ask politely for them to fix it. If they refuse to fix it, leave and find someone else.

      We stayed in a long term airbnb (about 45 days), found a house, then drove all the way back to our original state and spent about a month packing/moving, etc.

      Find the local subreddit and look around at quarantine guidelines and other advice. Be respectful of the new state’s quarantine rules and culture. The biggest downside is obviously you won’t be able to make friends in the new place very easily, but I also wasn’t seeing my old friends in person soooooo….

    33. Eager Beaver*

      I did a short-distance move (about 200 miles) the week before Thanksgiving. We were close enough that we were able to drive here to look at a few apartments, but we only had one weekend to do it so we did a TON of online research first. We didn’t stay overnight, just drove up early Saturday morning and came back Saturday night. The movers were great, very professional, and we just wore masks the whole time. Fortunately we were close enough that we also didn’t have to stay overnight on the trip to our new city. A bonus was that we moved from a state with very lax mask usage to a state where compliance is much higher, so even with the settling-in errands (like buying the first few rounds of groceries and random miscellaneous stuff) I felt more safe than I did going grocery shopping at my old place. Honestly the biggest move-related inconvenience has been because we didn’t bring our falling-apart sofa and elected to just get a new one here. We ordered one the first week of December and we’re still waiting for it – it was supposed to be delivered last month but got delayed. Currently my husband and I swap between an old recliner and a lawn chair, and it’s getting very old.

      Obviously a longer move is probably going to create more challenges, but as far as my experience goes, far bigger and more challenging than the move itself has been onboarding at a new job. My boss is fully remote and has a lot going on, so I’ve been kinda left to my own devices a lot. I’ve been here two months and was finally just introduced to some key colleagues yesterday. Other people I know who have started new jobs in the COVID era have said similar things. It’s really isolating and kind of frustrating and makes it hard to feel like I’m contributing at the level I’m capable of. I think it will get better over time (and I was equally bored at my last job with no likelihood of it ever improving, so this is still probably a step in the right direction). But just be aware of that if you decide to take the leap.

    34. Just_a_girl_from_DC*

      LW 5: I’m seeing a lot of people speak on logistics, which is obviously important. But I will say I moved during the height of COVID and I absolutely would not do it again. Re-building a support network during COVID is so incredibly challenging. If you’re married, or incredibly independent, than by all means move! But if you are perhaps young and single like myself, it might be really, really challenging. Especially if you’re onboarding virtually. It was months before I made my first friends and even then I made them by ignoring COVID precautions. I’m pretty independent so it worked out for me, but I had a friend who cried herself to sleep every night for a month. She ultimately quit and moved back home. So take this as a devils advocate response, but… just be careful about what you’re giving up.

    35. Jubilance*

      #5 – my family has been trying to relocate for a few years, to be closer to our extended family. I’ve been job hunting off & on in 2020, and I found so many employers that were totally cool with someone relocating for the position. All the companies I interviewed with were 100% virtual during the pandemic (and thus all interviews were virtual), but many expected people to go back to the office at least part time post-pandemic, and thus were offering relocation assistance when their hired candidate was able to safely move.

    36. Former Retail Lifer*

      I work in property management and I see plenty of people relocating for work. I’m in an area that’s close to several hospitals so I see lots of medical professionals relocating from all over, but I’m also seeing plenty of people from all kinds of industries. The pandemic briefly slowed down moves last year, but everyone seemed to have a plan to get going by May.

      Movers should have safety protocols down by now, although I did just have to provide masks for movers that were in the building last month. All of the other movers that have moved people in and out here have had a stringent set of rules to follow for safety and I’ve only seen that one group disregard them. You can totally do this safely!

    37. A Genuine Scientician*

      Slightly tangential, but I had a job offer in Feb 2020 that would have involved moving to NYC from the midwest sometime during the summer of 2020; academia has a long hiring process. It was a difficult decision; there were definite pros to it (more autonomy, more room for professional growth, very difficult type of job offer to get, somewhat more interesting work than I have now, higher pay), but some serious cons (higher cost of living that would have more than swallowed all the salary increase, worse work-life balance for at least 5 years, having to relocate to a new city where I knew no one). In retrospect, I am *so glad* I chose not to take it and got my contract job turned permanent. Moving cross country in the midst of a pandemic would have been a nightmare for me.

      A whole lot of my colleagues have absolutely changed their job search approach, either focusing on just areas they do/have lived or have friends/family in, or seeing if they can put off the process for a year.

    38. Texan in NC*

      I did this! Echoing the recommendations on AirBnb. My stuff is still in TX, but the AirBnb let me figure out which neighborhoods I liked. The biggest challenge is the social isolation. I’m single and knew literally zero people in Charlotte (where I now am). Some things I’ve done to combat this:
      – I joined several Facebook groups specifically to meet friends and connect with other people moving here. This has led to one solid friend who also has no other friends, so it’s at least one person I’ve been able to see (who isn’t exposed or around others).
      – I’ve made plans and lists of things I can do to connect to more people when it’s safe, so I have some excitement and anticipation, and am able to remind myself this isolation won’t last forever.
      – I’ve stayed connected through phone and Zoom dates to friends back in Texas. This of course doesn’t feel the same as being in-person but is at least some connection.
      – I’ve gotten on dating apps and gone on a few socially distanced dates.
      – I’m currently on the search for the perfect dog companion for now :)

    39. Anonymousaurus Rex*

      I moved at the end of the summer from the Midwest (in an area where Covid was not being taken seriously at all) to the West Coast. My situation is a little different as I was already working remotely for my West coast company and my partner and I had moved to the Midwest for her to go to grad school in 2019. We hated it there, and as soon as we realized that everything was going to be online for the 2020-21 school year, we decided to flee.

      It was a challenge, but for us, totally worth it. We hired movers to pack our things in PODs and shipped them to our new city, and held them in storage there until we found an apartment. We drove across the country and camped (with a toilet tent!) to avoid close contact with others, as we had to drive through some very anti-mask areas and didn’t feel really comfortable in a hotel. Once we arrived in our new city we booked an extended stay hotel with a kitchenette for a month while we looked for apartments. That was the hardest part–trying to work my full time job while my partner attended full time school in a single hotel room with two dogs! But now that we are settled, we couldn’t be happier!

    40. TaxLady*

      My husband and I moved out of NYC in November (we both work online 100% and self-employed) Neither of us has risk factors, so we just mitigate risk where we can but do what we have to do. We flew down to the new city we moved to in order to househunt, masked and luckily no middle seat so just him and I in our row. We toured a lot of places where there was a lockbox or doorcode so we could let ourselves in, and did a few tours where we and the agent were masked and they were careful about no more than one group in the house at a time. We stayed in a hotel that seemed to be fine, we barely saw other people and the staff was masked. We had to quarantine when we got back home but it wasn’t a big deal to us. We hired movers and a truck and flew down (which was a disaster, looking back I would have u-hauled, but that’s not covid related) The movers were bad about masking which I got mad about but I just avoided them as much as possible. Once we got here we ordered as much as possible online but we did have to go to the store for some things. We did actually get sick a few days after flying down for the move, but we were fine in 48 hours, it was a mild flu or something because I am still negative for covid antibodies. Shocking to me that you can still get sick with anything else with how careful everyone is, but there you go. As for being in a new place, we are both huge introverts so we really don’t mind that we don’t know anyone here, I’m sure eventually we will meet people, but we are certainly in no rush. But we are DINKs so lack of community is not a huge deal for us like it would be for families. And we are so happy to be in a warmer place with tons of space instead of trapped in an NYC apartment all winter.

    41. Snoozer*

      My team was previously all based in one large metro area, but the pandemic has actually shown my company that we can work and hire remotely. This has proven helpful not just for those of us who like to WFH, but really opens up the talent pool. We live in a VERY white area and are now able to bring in people of different backgrounds by opening up geographies and offering full remote. Now, we have brought on two new hires from other areas (one’s even on the other coast!) and several members of the team have moved out of state to be closer to family. I’m considering it myself – I’m from a rural area and never thought I could make a living there. Now, the options are opening up and I’m seriously considering moving back “home”.

    42. Jessica*

      I had a friend move and secure a job in a new location. However, he is now really unhappy and missing where he was (even though he had been talking about moving for a full year before the pandemic!) So I think it’s possible, but I would make sure you consider how emotionally difficult it is to move to a new location during a pandemic. You don’t get to meet new people or make friends, there are no restaurants/bars/museums/cute shops/etc to explore and discover. Obviously, if you need work – take a job! Explore the parks! But know that the new place may not start to feel like home for longer than normal.

    43. CTAtty*

      I moved 900 miles for a job in November 2020. Apartment tours were done over Zoom. I had movers and they wore masks. I used a POD to move and they do contactless delivery/pickup. When they call to tell you the delivery/pickup window they specifically tell you that you don’t have to/shouldn’t meet the driver. I went outside when it first arrived because my driveway was a weird setup, but that was all outside, from a distance, and took only a few minutes. I drove my car to the new place because I have a dog and did it in one day (14.5 hours total with stops). The only time I had to go indoors was to use the restroom at visitors’ centers along the way, and I wore a mask for that. Other than the usual hassle that comes along with sorting/packing/etc., it was pretty easy.

    44. Hello DMV*

      I recently moved from PA to the Washington DC area. It’s not that far, but far enough that I didn’t want to visit to find housing before the move. If it’s an option for you, consider a sharehouse/grouphouse – either taking on a existing lease agreement or establishing a short term sublease agreement. I conducted my housing search remotely and was pleasantly surprised at the results. I applied for several houses, either listed on facebook or craigslist. Most houses had a rather extensive application process that, to me, demonstrated that they were looking for fit rather than just trying to fill a room. I also figured that an application process and interviews would likely weed out scams as the process is a lot of work on both ends. I video interviewed with four places, all of which talked about their covid safety plans, and in the end was offered two rooms. The one I took included free parking, a huge kitchen, great amenities and an instant network of people who could look out for me. I did all moving myself, so I didn’t have to worry about others. Overall it was much less stressful than I anticipated. I’m glad that I did it.

    45. Interior invincible summer*

      I’m an academic so I had been looking US/ nationwide for jobs since 2019 that finally got interviews in early 2020. The first interviews were through zoom and there were hopes and dreams of in-person interviews that did not happen, just more zoom. I did interview finally for a big promotion at a cool place, in another state, and I was offered the job. I did decide to relocate, even with the pandemic, so I said yes. Because the job offer came with relocation assistance I went all in on everything that I could outsource. So I did pay for full service moving including packing and the move. The movers were incredibly respectful and we all wore masks and I even opened the windows. I also threw some caution to the wind in the fall to sell my home in a low cost of living place to be able to move/ buy to in a higher cost of living place. I flew on a plane and met with a realtor in the new city and looked at houses for 4 days and with her advice found something great, since my house sold in one day on the other market. The housing market is wild and I nearly lost my nerve because of the stress of the two closings. In the place I sold closings were going in 45 days and the place I bought closings were going in 30 days. So there was a brief period over the holidays where I was homeless, technically. I stayed with friends and family and we trusted each other to be as safe as possible. For my part of moving, I road tripped with my howling cat and we both survived. I’m all settled in now and I will admit this was (and remains) very hard because I moved alone and with the pandemic it’s next to impossible to meet new friends and do all the cool things you would do in a relocation but the job is amazing! Do what you have to do for you and your career and don’t let the pandemic get in your way.

    46. JohnnyBravo*

      It wasn’t for a job but I moved cross country in September. I had my brother (who I was covid-pod linked with) help me load the u-box, packed my own car with the rest of my stuff, and did drive through and stayed in hotels with minimal contact for the 5 days I was on the road. Masked up in rest stops and hotels outside my room. I felt reasonably safe and did not get covid

    47. Azelma Thenardier*

      I’m in the UK. My partner was offered an amazing job in London during the summer (when things were a little more opened up over here) so we moved from a smaller northern city about 200 miles away. It’s not been without it’s challenges – obviously there’s not much of an opportunity to make new friends at the moment, and the country has been in national lockdown since the start of January, so we’re paying very expensive London rent to now both be working from home and rarely leaving our flat.

      I don’t regret our move – it was an incredible opportunity for my partner (my job is entirely remote anyway, so I can do it from anywhere) and once we are able to go out a bit more it will be so much better, but I’d consider a big move extremely carefully in the current climate.

    1. Clorinda*

      It’s a cute idea but just imagine the incredible awkwardness of receiving a gift of jewelry from this woman. I don’t think she would understand sarcasm!

      1. Dr.OO7*

        And don’t say “It’s kind of you. . .”, because people like this will take it as an opening to continue the very behavior you’re trying to stop.

      2. Willis*

        Well, cheese, mustard (that the LW hates), and olives…her gifts haven’t been that good. If LW said she likes pearls, she’s probably get a jar of pearl onions.

        Joking aside, I agree with shutting this down and leaving/returning the stuff to her desk. I had a coworker who used to very occasionally bring in candy treats for our whole (small, 7 person) office. That was a nice gesture and she was a warm, friendly person…this is just sooo odd. Although part of me is intrigued what else she’s going to bring in from the condiment aisle.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yeah – there is a world of difference between treating the whole office (bag of candy in a communal bowl, box of pastries in the break room, cake on a coworkers birthday) and randomly buying stuff from the condiment aisle as a gift for just one person. I vote for kindly but firmly returning all purchases to sender going forward.

          1. juliebulie*

            I agree, and when returning the stuff I would add, “I really don’t like to waste food or see it used as a joke.”

          2. Kelly L.*

            The random groceries make me wonder if she thinks OP doesn’t get enough to eat. I’ve had self-appointed “grandparent” co-workers who have done this sort of thing–constantly brought me random food because they thought I was really poor and needed help.

                1. pancakes*

                  That doesn’t at all resemble the situation described in the letter. “I casually mentioned to another coworker that I hate mustard, and the next day I get a small jar of mustard ‘as a joke,’” etc.

            1. AKchic*

              That’s kind of where I was going too. These seem like “gateway” items intended to pave the way for a larger intention.

              LW says that she feels like this coworker thinks of her as a grandchild. She acts as if the staff are family (wanting matching shirts? Trying to guess everyone’s sizes for these matching shirts?), passing on small food items?
              Now, whether she’s accurately heard LW prior to her food drops is where I’m getting stuck. LW said she didn’t like mustard, yet there’s mustard “as a joke”. LW says she’s share an olive-topped pizza, and there’s a jar of olives “as a joke”. Either the coworker misheard on at least one occasion, doesn’t understand what a joke is, or uses food as a love language/control tactic.

              I think that drawing hard boundaries and being open/vocal about them is going to be key. Whenever this wannabe grandmotherly coworker brings food, hand it right back saying “I do my own shopping, thank you. I’ve asked you before not to bring me your extras. Please take it back home or go find a food bank if you don’t think you’ll be able to eat it yourself.” It’s polite enough, but rams in the idea that the LW is not a charity case, while highlighting that there are actual charities that could use the excess if this woman is feeling like she needs a place to donate to. If she tries to leave it at the desk, be firm “no, take it with you, I said I don’t want or need it, and I’m not in charge of disposing personal items that you bring from your own home”. She’ll be a bit frosty with the LW if that has to happen, but oh well. It beats getting random condiments.

        2. JJJBB*

          I would walk to her desk and loudly and conspicuously throw the “gift” in the trash in front of her. Maybe she’ll get the hint. Or, wait until she’s near and do it at your own desk. She needs to see that not only is it disgusting and rude, the items are literally trash to you.

      3. Joan Rivers*

        As I said before, I don’t take offense if someone means well, whether a dumb joke or a gift. At her age, she might grasp the point of saying, “I don’t eat this and hate to waste food. But I’m donating it to the food bank / leaving this in the kitchen for everyone.” Growing up, wasting food was a no-no after the Depression.

        Then donate it; luckily it’ll keep till you have enough to take. Clean out your cupboard too.
        She’s trying to reciprocate for your help, it appears.

        1. Tired of Covid-and People*

          The “at her age” remark was not necessary. No age was specified. I doubt the offender is from the depression era, those folks are in their eighties and nineties now. Lots of people don’t like to see edible items wasted, despite the horrid amount of food waste that happens in the US.

          Unlike some others, I think this whole scenario is a nothingburger. OP, when someone gives you something, it’s yours to do whatever you want with it. If you are non-reactive your coworker will stop. They think they are funny, but it’s silly really. Don’t waste much time or energy worrying about it.

    2. Momma Bear*


      However, I would go with the advice to hand it back to her and directly and pointedly saying that you do not want them and putting them back on her desk or in the break room. She’s not funny and it’s not appreciated.

    3. Build Trust*

      I would address this head on quickly and clearly. Even well intentioned and (initially) well received gift giving at work can get out of hand quickly IMO. Especially if it is, like in this case, not targeted toward a whole team but rather one on one.

      My partner has a very informal tight knit office and one of his colleagues in particular was getting them gifts to express appreciation and friendship. I’m sure that there wasn’t anything untoward about it but it began crossing several lines in our home relationship, included clothing, etc. My conflict averse partner was really unable to face the awkwardness of asking them to stop and didn’t think it was a big deal. Once the pandemic started this colleague started sending packages of gifts to our home. I was really uncomfortable with this and made my partner put a stop to it. Those were some hard conversations and confrontations for them to have, but they did understand my point and addressed it with the colleague. The gifts stopped and my partner was able to acknowledge relief from a pressure in the relationship they didn’t even realize was there.

      Gifts can be easily misconstrued and it is better (and more respectful of the work relationship) to stop than to try to justify. These are colleagues at the end of the day, even if they sometimes feel like friends/family.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        First World Problems: This is like people complaining their inlaws give kids too many gifts.

        There are HOMELESS SHELTERS and a QUARTER of the homeless are children. People picture single men, but often the homeless include kids in families. Think about that when you “don’t know what to do w/unwanted gifts.”

        If the gifts could not be used even by the homeless — and what would that be? — then tell the giver that, and that you’re taking every sweater they give you straight to the shelter. Or calling Salvation Army to pick it up.

        That MAY be enough to STOP some; some will give to another middle-class person but would stop if it’s going to the needy. But tell them nicely what shelter you donate to. And do it. Suggest they do it too.

        1. Kelly L.*

          This is way too lecturey, IMO. Build Trust isn’t saying they don’t know how to get rid of the extra gifts or how to donate stuff. It’s just that when someone offloads their hoarding onto you, they’re giving you work. Even if you do it and help others with it, it’s still work, and there’s also still a weird emotional component to it.

        2. Ace in the Hole*

          Problems don’t stop existing just because someone else has a worse problem. Otherwise the response to almost every letter in this column would be “You think that’s bad? FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS! At least you HAVE a job when lots of people are STARVING!”

          There’s no such thing as a gift with no strings attached. Every – and I mean *every* – gift happens in the context of a relationship. In many cases gifts are used to create a feeling of dependency, obligation, or indebtedness, or to make a relationship more intimate. Even if you know how to responsibly get rid of the gifts, by accepting them at all you’ve partaken in the social aspects… which can be deeply uncomfortable and in some cases even dangerous (e.g. encouraging stalkers, obscuring abuse, etc).

          Complaining about people giving you unwanted gifts in inappropriate situations or after you’ve asked them to stop is every bit as reasonable as complaining about someone hitting on you or telling you uncomfortably intimate things about their life. All of those are social interactions pushing a relationship in a direction you don’t want it to go.

          1. Tired of Covid-and People*

            My gifts to my children had no strings attached. Sometime you do just want to bring somebody a moment of joy.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              No, there’s definitely strings attached in the context I’m looking at. You have a relationship with your children, giving them gifts is part of that relationship. It’s not a quid pro quo thing… it’s usually very difficult to pin down exactly what comes with a gift. But the contextual importance becomes very clear when the giver and recipient have very different ideas about what their relationship is.

              How would it feel if your kids refused to accept every gift you offered them… particularly if they accepted similar gifts from other people? What about if you found out they accepted your gifts but threw every one in the trash as soon as you weren’t looking? If the answer is anything other than “it wouldn’t matter to me at all,” then there is something attached to the gift. I’m not saying it’s anything nefarious – building and maintaining relationships is literally the fabric of our society, and is often done through gift exchanges.

        3. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Advice: search for the ‘At least you don’t have cancer or an eating disorder’ post on this site. It illustrates very well why ‘someone else is suffering more than you’ types of mentalities don’t work.

        4. Batgirl*

          Well, I’ve had plenty of potential donations refused, both of food and good quality clothes. It’s less common with the clothes because they can be stored until wanted. However sometimes they have a lot of that thing or no need for something else. Volunteer time is tight they don’t have time to sort, categorise and make use of everything. Donating is great; do it as much as possible! But it’s simply not true that waste is an imaginary problem.

        5. LW1*

          With all due respect, this whataboutism is ridiculous. If anybody is wasting food, it’s someone who purposefully gave me something I don’t want or need. I don’t need you yelling at me for being bothered by someone else’s poor behavior.

          1. LifeBeforeCorona*

            Just because someone sees it as a “first world problem”, that does not diminish the effect of the unwanted gift-giving on the recipient. The gift-giving is an immediate problem that is causing issues. By default of living in a “first world” world, we have issues like these and are entitled to how we feel about them. A lot of problems seem minor in the grand scheme of things, but they cause unwanted stress and need to be resolved. This matters to you and should not be minimized by the mantra of others who have it worse.

        6. a clockwork lemon*

          A single jar of olives and some mustard are condiments, not food. You cannot make a meal out of this, and it’s not coming in quantities that would make it useful for a shelter environment where meals are prepared and served for large groups of people. There’s also issues of shelf-stability and refrigeration–My understanding is that both olives and mustards need to be refrigerated after opening in order to maintain freshness. Beyond that, shelters and food banks have specific wishlists of high-need items that are what donors should focus their efforts on.

          A well-intentioned donation of a useless item just creates a logistical issue for staff and volunteers at community organizations.

      2. Urt*

        It’d be a better use of time and resources if the giftee didn’t have to donate the unwanted gifts and instead the gifter gave straight to the charity of their choice.

        1. Momma Bear*

          Exactly. It’s not the giftee’s problem. I wouldn’t mind passing along something here and there, but it sounded like it was overwhelming and crossing personal boundaries. Why should someone else be your middleman?

      3. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Clothes are a whole different ballgame than a jar of mustard. What you describe here does sound excessive and boundary-crossing. It needed to be shut down.

  1. nnn*

    #2: If you’re out about your pregnancy to your colleagues, you could ask them how much family small talk normally occurs and use that to tailor your communications strategy. If you’re likely to get a “YAY, when are you due?” with no follow-up questions after the birth, that’s a different situation than if you’re going to get sucked into a conversation about choosing preschools.

    1. PollyQ*

      Yeah, if these are contacts you’re going to be seeing after the birth, there’s a decent chance they’ll ask “How are the babies?” at some point, so you might as well explain the surrogacy now and get it out of the way.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this. If the LW is matter-of-fact about it, so should anyone she knows in a business context be. If anyone is horrible about it, that’s just a fact to file about them for later.

        I do have one caveat, though, I have no idea how common surrogacy is in the US, but it’s illegal in a lot of places. Something to bear in mind if the LW has international business contacts she needs to see in person. So people who agree with it being illegal, may have “the feels” about it and may see anyone who has agreed to carry someone’s baby, especially if they’re getting paid for doing so, in a negative light. I definitely hope that they wouldn’t bring it up in a business context, though, no matter how they feel about it.

        I’m in Finland, where commercial surrogacy has always been illegal and altruistic surrogacy (where the parents may pay any healthcare costs of the mother but she isn’t paid for being pregnant or for her time) has been illegal since 2007. Some people do make an agreement where a woman gets pregnant and agrees to give her baby up for adoption by a childless couple. However, if she decides postpartum that she wants to keep the baby, the surrogate parents have no recourse because the agreement is illegal and unenforceable.

          1. LW 2*

            LW 2 here: Surrogacy is illegal is several countries for various reasons. I’m in the U.S. (where it is still illegal in certain states) but you might be surprised how many people have negative opinions about it.
            I’ve been told that surrogacy is horrible because they discard unused embryos (which is not always true but complicated) or that it exploits women. I have a very vocal anti surrogacy friend who believes it reduces women to walking uteruses. It is not legal in Israel and my family who live there have said its because the majority of people who utilize it are gay and it is a political move to keep them from being a family. There are all sorts of negative opinions I get from the “Well, I just think” people even as they know I am well into this pregnancy.

            For my part, I haven’t been exploited and I’ve been very happy to help create this family for a couple whose dream it is to have kids.

          2. raincoaster*

            Because it can be seen as paying people for human beings. It wasn’t legal in the US for many years.

            1. Julia*

              Yeah, some women might feel forced to do it because they need the money. Pregnancy and childbirth are dangerous to potentially livethreatening medical events, and outlawing surrogacy is seen by some as a way to prevent poorer women from being forced to do it for the money.

              I am sure there are other, more nefarious reasons as well though, like anti-gay sentiment as pointed out above, or anti-choice stances.

          3. L6orac6*

            Because in some countries women are exploited, finished having their own children, they get paid to undergo surrogacy, the people selling on babies to childless couples, make huge profits on this.

          4. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I don’t want to derail on this so now that it’s been answered I’m going to close this sub-thread and ask that we focus on advice to the letter writers. Thank you!

  2. In Canada*

    Op1, just accept the gifts. I’m sure Alison means well, but you have to work with this person, right? And she likely talks to other people. Just accept and regift the gifts later.

    1. Undine*

      The problem is she will expect greater intimacy and return than the OP is willing to give. If OP can wriggle out of it gracefully now, it will never build up to the point where this woman is dressing exactly like OP, or coming by her house, or bringing her gifts of unsanitary food. Moreover OP is uncomfortable, and therefore wants to find a way to create a working environment that feels amenable.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I think this is the key – the gifts are a symptom if the real problem. The real problem is that the coworker is giving the gifts to create an intimacy in the relationship that the OP doesn’t want. Accepting the gifts is likely to encourage the coworker to keep pushing for more, which just pushes the awkwardness down the road.

      2. LifeBeforeCorona*

        It can escalate to uncomfortable very fast. Once a week our manager buys everyone a fancy coffee as a treat on his dime. One co-worker has started buying everyone coffee on another day. It just feels awkward but I couldn’t figure out why.

        1. pancakes*

          Probably because it is awkward for minor social niceties to be treated as tit-for-tat obligations. Kindness isn’t meant to be transactional.

        2. Clorinda*

          It’s already uncomfortable. The woman bought a gift that LW doesn’t like SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE LW doesn’t like it. As a joke. That’s uncomfortable. It’s textbook boundary-testing. Shut it down.

        3. WFH with Cat*

          I think the awkwardness comes from feeling a sense of obligation for something you didn’t want in the first place. It’s one thing for a manger to thank a team in that way, but a coworker doing the same can comes across very differently. (Of course, your coworker may not realize how others feel when they are *gifted* with free coffee, etc., but it can be a very manipulative act.)

          1. LifeBeforeCorona*

            Thank you! That’s it. Now I have to consider whether or not I should buy coffee for the office. I don’t want to because the coffee place is out of my way, I have to ask people what they want AND coffee for everyone from the fancy coffee shop can run up to $25-30 and I don’t want to spend my money that way.

        4. Esmeralda*

          Because now most everybody feels obligated to buy coffee for the office.

          Don’t feel obligated. Just say thank you.

    2. Artemesia*

      Bad idea. People who don’t get the hint and use gifts to curry favor tend to escalate and assume; they give all these gifts, often better and better gifts, and then they assume that means they are a valued friend and feel hurt when their emotional needs are not met. This has quicksand written all over it.

      1. PollyQ*

        And even if OP1 never does anything special for He, there could be a perception among other co-workers that she is, which could be damaging to her professional reputation.

      2. KateM*

        Yeah, of course you are a valued friend if you buy someone mustard after they have said they hate it…
        Seriously, is she off her bonkers?

          1. Threeve*

            This–it make it worse than just fishing for gratitude out of insecurity or obliviousness. But she doesn’t just want OP to think “oh, Susan is so considerate and generous.”

            She’s aiming for “Susan and I are super close. We’ve had this funny inside joke for months, she knows all about my likes and dislikes, we clearly have a Bond.”

            She isn’t trying to court friendship–she’s trying to force friendship, and the weird gifts are just a means to do so.

            1. LW1*

              OP#1 here. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head about forcing friendship. There is another person from my department she lives near, and she has said that they are good friends, and how she has been to her house (pre COVID). I spoke to the supposed friend, and she cannot stand her. Generous lady still maintains that they are good friends, despite evidence to the contrary.

              After I sent this letter in, she started insisting that we are friends. I said, as politely as I could, I like to separate my social and professional life. Of course, she has some uh… backward beliefs as well, so I figure if she knew I was trans that she’d stop trying to be my friend.

              1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

                When I am clearing thru clutter before a thrift shop drop off I will occasionally pull out things I think a coworker may need or appreciate. I always approach it as “If you want this, its yours. It will not hurt my feelings at all if you don’t want it. No is an acceptable answer.” I WFH now put still print to the office. 1 coworker is awesome about grabbing and organizing my prints. (so many many prints) So its not unusual for me to occasionally gift her small things like snacks in appreciation or email before I go to the office and ask if I can grab anything for her on the way in. But I always make sure she knows its ok to decline.

              2. JustaTech*

                Oh, oh no. The insisting “we’re friends!” is just so weird and so awkward and hard to work around. Because you aren’t friends, but you also don’t want her to be a rampaging jerk either.

                Is there any way to say “we’re not friends, we’re pleasant colleagues” that wouldn’t set the gifter off? Obviously there’s being very professionally cool, but I don’t think anything that subtle would get through.

              3. AKchic*

                I am so sorry that you are dealing with extra factors.

                I think the best thing you can do is continue to decline these “gifts” and stay professional (and professionally distant as possible). I think everyone else in the office is well aware of her overly friendly routine, so any attempts at badmouthing or sabotaging you may very well fall on deaf ears should she try to go that route.
                Maybe loop your boss in on the situation and just let them know that you plan on declining the gifts because you don’t want/need them and don’t want to create and weird power dynamic. You could also ask if the situation has come up previously and if anyone else had handled it particularly well?

      3. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, unsolicited gifts are rarely truly “free”. The coworker doesn’t necessarily expect to receive gifts from OP, but she’ll have a lower threshold for feeling hurt or rejected when OP doesn’t have time to chat or doesn’t want to go down a certain personal path in conversation.

        If the coworker was a man, especially of a similar age to OP, and if OP is a woman, I think it would be easier to see why this behavior is unsettling.

        OTOH, I could imagine a kinder scenario here. OP is helping coworker in a way that seems very important to the coworker. So it’s possible that the coworker feels socially indebted to OP and is trying to make it up to her. But in any case, if OP feels uncomfortable the behavior needs to stop.

        1. LW1*

          I’m much younger than her, and I currently present as male at work. It is very awkward, especially since she has called me “handsome” before.

          1. Juniantara*

            LW1, if this comment makes it feel much closer to sexual harassment, which totally does happen to male-presenting people and shouldn’t. Please consider keeping records for yourself of all your interactions in case you want to report it to HR, and I would consider reporting it.

            1. LW1*

              I don’t think it’s quite THAT bad. I told her to stop calling me handsome, and she has. I’m also not the only person she does the weird gifts thing for. She got our department head a bottle of barbeque sauce because she said she loves pulled pork. It is still sitting in the office fridge over a year later, unopened.

              1. AKchic*

                It sounds like she uses food as her love language and as a way to connect with people. My mom does that. Everything in her life revolves around food. Recipes, how she’s going to “make a home-cooked meal” (yeah, okay, she does every night, there is absolutely nothing new about this, but she acts like it is some weird novelty and that hardly anyone does it), has to buy brand new pots and pans at least once a year (and then is apologetic about giving me her hand-me-downs immediately after), bakes for “her boys” in the shop where we work (I think I finally broke her of that when she kept complaining that nobody took her seriously and told her if she wanted to be treated like a professional she needed to stop acting like everyone’s 50’s tv show mother complete with apron and snot rag).

                It is A Thing. All you can really do is keep declining and be clear that if she has food she needs to get rid of, the proper place to donate is a local food bank.

          2. kt*

            This does put a slightly different spin on it as well (taken in concert with your other comments) as now there’s an element of flirtiness. Hmm.

            In any case, I do think it’s pushing intimacy in a boundary-crossing way. Maybe some Captain Awkward reading could be inspiring.

      4. MassMatt*

        The gift-giving definitely has a strange vibe to it, especially the mustard (which OP said they hate), and that it has continued after OP said stop. It’s almost as though gift-giving is being weaponized. Nobody should gift “at” someone.

        And her “jokes” are not jokes.

      5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yeah, has a bad vibe of trying to buy friendship, which never works out well in any type of relationship. I’d just focus on giving any and every gift back to the giver. Be kind but firm in that you’re not accepting any more gifts that are just for you.

    3. LGC*

      I disagree strongly – Gifting Gertie also has to work with LW1, so why does she get to do what she wants? Plus, the behavior seems kind of creepy – Gertie’s eavesdropping on LW1’s convos and buying things based on that.

      1. Sabine the Very Mean*

        Exactly. And being the recipient of such gifts is very uncomfortable and transparently obvious.

    4. Bagpuss*

      I disagree. That’s expecting OP to put up with something that makes her uncomfortable, to avoid making someone else potentially feel uncomfortable.
      Plus, it runs the risk both that the coworker will see it as them being closer than they are (friends rather than colleagues) and potentially make other colleagues feel that there is a clique or that there’s favoritism going on.

      It’s fine for OP to push back on unwelcome gifts.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, it’s really awkward. The idea of constant random gifts is bad enough, but it’s the ‘Ha, you don’t like mustard so I bought you mustard! You ate some olives so here’s a jar of olives!’ stuff that’s really annoying. I get the fact that this colleague is ‘trying to be funny’ or ‘trying to be friendly’ or whatever, but in fact just putting more emotional work on to the OP – who then has to say ‘Oh yes, ha ha, very funny, thank you’ every time they’re presented with a random foodstuff that they might not even like – and it’s literally dumping an item on the OP that they’ll then have to either throw away or go to the trouble of giving to someone else. It’s like the opposite of a gift. It’s not reasonable for OP to have to deal with this awkwardness all the time.

        1. Masquerade*

          100% agree. I have a family member that essentially buys and gifts the entire stock of their local Spencer’s Gifts for several holidays. It was funny the first time, and I appreciate them thinking of me, but what you wrote sums up my feelings about it well. That stuff (kind of like cheap food?) isn’t durable and quite hard to re-gift, and trying to produce an adequate “laughing but thankful” response is challenging after the first time.

          1. LW1*

            Oh God. Mentioning Spencer’s makes me remember a gift I got during Secret Santa years ago in a different job. I was a manager in a shop, and he was my subordinate (he was 20, and I was in my early 30s). We both pulled each other’s names for Secret Santa. His list said, “80s movies,” so I figured out he never saw Gremlins and got him that DVD.

            He gave me a dildo. He thought it was hilarious. Another person on my level said I was in my rights to punish him for it, but I didn’t. Instead, I told him that I didn’t appreciate it and why it wasn’t appropriate for a work environment. I’m not sure if I made the right call, and I’m kinda glad I don’t have direct reports in my current job.

            1. AKchic*

              Oh. My. Stars.

              I don’t know if you made the right call either, but you made a call with the information you had. Why on earth would *anyone* think that was a good idea?

            2. Le Sigh*

              Sometimes I cringe when I think about things I did in my teens and 20s. And then I read posts like these and think, “well, at least I had better judgment than to buy a boss/coworker a sex toy.”

        2. meyer lemon*

          It does show a lack of emotional maturity–this is something I can imagine myself doing when I was around twelve and had no idea how to actually connect with people. It also shows that she doesn’t have much material to work with if stuff like “ate olives once” makes it onto her list of top work jokes.

          I kind of feel for this coworker because she sounds painfully awkward, but she’s going to make everyone uncomfortable if she doesn’t cut this out.

        3. Ace in the Hole*

          Yes, exactly! Occasional random gifts aren’t necessarily bad… for example, I’ve had coworkers give me things across the gamut: a pair of nice socks (we work outdoors, so socks are a pretty safe gift), instant coffee packets, a travel mug, a potted plant, some stickers with cartoon cats (because she knew I like cats), an old sewing machine, and a cheap used bookcase.

          The difference is:
          1. each of these was a one-off event from different colleagues, not all from the same person.
          2. they were low pressure offers… It was clear I could have turned down the gift with no reprecussions
          3. They weren’t “joke” gifts trying to force some sort of shared intimacy. Most were things the giver gave to multiple people on the team. Or things someone was getting rid of and asked if anyone wanted them before they went to the thrift store.

          A targeted gift campaign is much more uncomfortable and irritating! I don’t blame LW for wanting it to stop. Like you say, pushing a gift on someone who says they don’t want it is not actually nice. At best it’s making extra work for them, and may be actively pushing boundaries to see how much of a relationship they can force.

    5. I'd Rather be Eating Dumplings.*

      I can see situations where that would be the best advice, but without more info, I don’t think we can assume that’s the case.

      Typically well-meaning people would want to know if the gifts weren’t warmly received. And if she’s not well-meaning, then it’s probably wise for the OP to set some boundaries.

    6. pancakes*

      So what if she “talks to other people”? The opinions of someone this pushy aren’t sacrosanct.

      1. Willis*

        Yeah, also why would the assumption be that everyone would agree with or believe the pushy coworker who keeps bringing in weird groceries as gifts?

    7. I should really pick a name*

      They have to work with this person, but this person has to work with them.
      Is it unreasonably to expect someone to stop doing something when you ask them to?

    8. Sutemi*

      This is a terrible idea, why should the OP have to be the one to dispose of an unwanted gift from a coworker? I suggest reading up on “favor sharking”.

    9. Mockingjay*

      Nooooo. Boundaries. Must have boundaries at work.

      I mean, T-shirts for all? That’s a pretty expensive gift (I’m presuming coworker will get these emblazoned with some sort of team logo). It’s a kindness to all to refuse these items and re-establish cordial but professional boundaries.

      1. LW1*

        Yes, she wants to get a logo that says, “The Weirdoes” (not exactly that, but close enough). I told her I’d never wear a shirt like that, but she insists that it’s funny because our department is, and I quote, “full of odd balls, and I’m the weirdest of all!”

        1. Willis*

          Well, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

          She sounds annoying and I’m sorry you have to deal with her, but I’m cracking up from your letter and additional comments.

          1. LW1*

            I’m happy to provide people with some levity. It’s a very awkward situation, and it’s good to know that I’m not strange for thinking so. Most other coworkers are on the “just thank her and donate it/throw it out” train, but I think they just got used to her odd behavior.

        2. Gumby*

          Heh. I do somewhere have a t-shirt that is similar to “Weirdos” but, and this is key: it was for my college dorm. The design is also better / wittier than just “The Weirdos” on a t-shirt. And while I did live with some quirky-in-a-good-way people that year (and, really every year – isn’t that part of what college is for?), I was voted part of the “most normal roommate pair” which is a distinction I wore with honor.

          1. cringe*

            My college RA had tshirts printed for the whole floor with our building name and A PICTURE OF HIS FACE. No one wanted them, and he used our dues for floor activities to pay for them. He thought it was hilarious. Cringe cringe cringe…

    10. Malarkey01*

      I do agree that there’s some room here to just ignore it. This woman already buys donuts for everyone and gets team gifts- which I wouldn’t like but also doesn’t really hurt me if that’s how she wants to spend her money. I’ve worked with people that would spend a couple of bucks on a gag gift on occasion along this line and everyone laughs and then you toss it in the trash. Eventually it tapers off with people who don’t appreciate it.

      These same people would have gotten offended by a strong “don’t do this” which yes that’s on them but also creates tension and drama when literally you can just put it in the trash. I think it’s a stretch to say the woman who already brings donuts to everyone is testing boundaries for some nefarious reason.

    11. ThatGirl*

      This is decent advice if it’s your grandma (which honestly this reminds me of MY grandma a little) but yeah it’s not great for coworkers – no matter how sweet she is, it’s uncomfortable and a bad dynamic to get into at work.

      1. AskJeeves*

        This! There’s a huge difference between being gracious about crappy gifts in a relationship where gift-giving is expected and welcomed, and repeated, unsolicited gifts from a coworker.

        1. Artemesia*

          Absolutely. The issue is not ‘the gift’ but the tendency to give gifts in the office. This needs to be shut down since she seems to have no built in self control.

    12. Momma Bear*

      If you have never had someone give you unwanted gifts or want a more personal relationship than you do then it may be hard to understand how awkward that is. You have to shut it down early or they try to wiggle farther into your bubble and it just gets worse. It is OK to have boundaries.

    13. Weekend Please*

      I think that advice only works for the first time. Accepting the cheese and moving on was probably the right move. But now that she keeps doing it, it needs to be stopped. She is making the letter writer uncomfortable and you are saying “Suck it up or she will badmouth you.” There is nothing to indicate that the coworker will react maliciously to being told random jars of olives are not welcome.

    14. Cassidy*

      @ In Canada:

      The co-worker is doing something that makes the OP uncomfortable, so OP has asked the co-worker to discontinue the behavor, which the co-worker should respect and adhere to.

      Why is that so difficult to grasp?

    15. Autistic AF*

      “Op1, just accept the gifts. I’m sure Alison means well, but you have to work with this person, right? And she likely talks to other people. Just accept and regift the gifts later.”

      This is the sort of thing that women are told about sexual harassment.

    16. YouwantmetodoWHAT?! *

      Op is uncomfortable with the gifts, so no, they do not have to continue to accept them.
      That’s just icky on a whole lot of levels.

  3. Feotakahari*

    People on Tumblr like to talk about #3 in gendered terms. They claim men apply for jobs where they don’t have all the qualifications, and women don’t, so they tell their presumed female audience to apply for more jobs where they don’t have all the qualifications.

    Also, these ads sometimes ask for 5 years of experience with a 2-year-old program.

      1. AskJeeves*

        I’m a woman and almost talked myself out of applying to my current job. So glad I went ahead and applied even though I felt I was lacking in specific experience for the role.

        For LW #3, Something to think about also is that while you may not meet all the requirements on paper, for some jobs, skills can be more valuable than hard knowledge. For example, if you got the job at the giraffe rescue, you could probably learn enough facts about giraffes to run the social media program, or you could utilize the giraffe expert department as a knowledge base. But you couldn’t just show up to the job and learn how to do marketing. So being a skilled marketer may be more important than being a giraffe expert, and if the employer can’t find both in one person, or is very impressed by your marketing skills, you have a shot at getting the job.

        1. kathjnc*

          Agreed. And some of those giraffe experts may be applying for the marketing job hoping it’s a stepping stone to actually working with giraffes, rather than as a goal in itself. I’d say someone who WANTS to be a marketer and has an interest in giraffes is probably a better candidate.

        2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          Yes, apply if it’s a stretch (but a reasonable one).
          If there is a particular non-negotiable requirement, like a license, the company should make it clear. We recently hired for a job where our ideal candidate should have a master mariner (aka Captain’s) license but this was effectively shorthand for significant experience in the maritime industry. As the job did not involve commanding a ship, we ended up hiring a candidate who did not have the license – and who has been successful in the position for a year by now.

      2. EchoGirl*

        Another thing with this, tying back to a recent (yesterday?) post, is that IME getting hired when you don’t match all the qualifications can also make it harder to feel empowered to negotiate. My last job (other than freelance) “required” a degree I didn’t have, so when I got offered the position anyway, I felt like I was probably still less valuable to them than a “perfect” candidate so I really shouldn’t try to ask for more. (There were other factors as well, but this was part of it.)

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

        I agree. And especially if OP is a woman I’d encourage her to throw her hat in the ring and see what happens!

        When I applied to the job I have now it was such a stretch that I almost didn’t bother applying. In fact, I sent in my application after the deadline because I kept going back and forth with self doubt about whether I should send it or not.

        The advertised role included some of my core skills (maybe 20-30%) but was otherwise heavily focused on skills in a technology that I was very interested in, but only had entry level knowledge of. I used Alison’s advice in my application to make a case for why I was interested, how my experience was relevant, and what I’d hope to accomplish in the role (personally for the learning experience and for the company in potential applications of the technology).

        I was surprised to get an interview… which was intense – I won’t lie! The questions were all very technical and I really didn’t know how to answer some of them. But I was honest about the limitations of my knowledge and focused on the process I’d go through. Although I was super nervous and awkward, I didn’t rush the part about interviewing them back to make sure the team was the right fit for me too.

        I found out much later that I landed the role over someone from a completely different (and better aligned) background who had more experience and a much higher technical skill level than I did. But it turns out that the hiring panel technical expert thought my other experience was more relevant, and that soft skills were the harder ones to learn and more critical to success, while the hiring manager really clicked with my values. And I suppose I managed to convince them that I was able and motivated to direct my own learning on the job to make up for the gap in my technical knowledge reasonably quickly.

        So despite what the job posting says, you really can never know what it is they’re actually looking for. In my case it’s turned out to be a great fit on both sides.

        Oh, and by the way… I’m a woman and the more qualified-on-paper applicant was a man.

        1. Venus*

          Your experience reinforces my opinion on this one:
          A person with a lot of media experience and relatively superficial knowledge of the technical topic is likely to be a better choice than someone with a lot of technical knowledge in a situation where the work is going to have a wide audience. I think it would be an asset for the LW to be able to say that they know a lot about how the topic is reported in the media, they know the popular terms and how to use them, and with their point of view they can aim to optimally explain the topic to the public. I think there is a big difference between liking the looks of giraffes, which is nice but not likely to be useful, versus reading articles that are potentially related to the job and wanting to contribute to that literature, which seems most relevant.

          It will also make a big difference if the work is to interact with experts in the company in order to explain their work, or if the company doesn’t have experts and expects the person to work with other media people in order to produce content. Either way, definitely worth applying!

      2. Momma Bear*

        I applied for a reach job, figuring what the heck, and got it. It changed my professional trajectory. I think OP should apply and see what happens. Not to jobs you have zero ability for, of course, but ones where maybe you aren’t everything on their wishlist but you tick enough boxes that it’s worth meeting you.

    1. Imprudence*

      I think, in the example you give, I would focu on your media skills and how quickly you can pick up new content. I think saying that you have loved giraffes since childhood might come across as not understanding what is involbed ina a degree in giraffe science.
      When I applied for my presnt jub it was a huge sector shift, but similar to the job I was then doing. And I have a very patchy work history. But I told a story of being a “fast learner”, so the cover letter read — I have thsee skills you want, and you can believe I will pick up the sector specific stuff really fast because that is what I have done before.
      Go ahead and aply. You have nothing to lose abut the hours it takes to put the application together. And it was not like you were going somewhere else is it?

      1. H2*

        I noted that, too. I’m sure this happens in other fields as well, but in the more “fun” sciences (I’m in an environmental field) it’s common and grating to talk to people who are very interested and equate that with expertise. I’m not saying that you would, OP, just that it’s something to be sensitive to. You can mention that to show that you’re interested but make it clear that you don’t think you’re a self-taught expert.

        1. Dewey Decibal*

          Yes- if I had a penny for every library job I hired for that included a cover letter stating that they love books… That’s lovely, but I’m not looking for someone to read all day!

        2. PhyllisB*

          LW 3, I will have a success story dealing with this very issue in the Friday Good News. Stay tuned!!

        3. introverted af*

          Yes, definitely. Do you think there’s a difference between talking about interest vs. passion? I.e. “I’ve loved rhinos since I was a child” vs. “I’ve learned a lot about rhino conservation in recent years, and that aspect of this project excites me.”

          I’m also used to worked in the non-profit world though, where a degree of passion for the work is more expected.

          1. Liz*

            This makes sense I think. I’ve seen such conflicting information that my only conclusion is that there must just be this really fine line. On one hand, people here have repeatedly said “don’t tell us that you’re passionate about [industry thing], that isn’t remotely related!” but then there was the LW who was interviewing within their own industry because they wanted to get out of shift work and they were told “that’s not a good enough reason for leaving, you’ll need to tell them something so they know you’re really interested in the job”. So I’m a little stumped, but I guess your phrasing makes sense? I guess I struggle because I equate passion with learning about something and having a drive to focus on tasks relating to that subject, so I see it all as being the same thing, but apparently not everybody does?

            1. H2*

              I don’t think that passion equates to expertise. Learning doesn’t necessarily equate to expertise, though, I think. I’m passionate about gardening, and I love to learn more about it, but I’m not an expert.

              I think I’m this case it’s not even that fine of a line. You can totally say “I’m passionate about giraffes and I love learning about them, and I’m thrilled about the possibility of working in the giraffe field, learning from giraffe experts.”

            2. Forrest*

              I think it’s about motivation. It’s great if you’re passionate about something, but what has that passion motivated you to do? Show me a track record of how your passion for X has motivated you to find information or engage in volunteering or teach yourself a skill or something, and your passion is much more meaningful to me. If you identify as someone who’s passionate about giraffes but your giraffe knowledge seems to stop at, “I think their neck are cool”, I’ve no reason to include that in my decision-making.

        4. MCMonkeybean*

          I would probably phrase it in a way like you’ve always been interested and studied them on your own and are eager to learn more.

        5. Sleepless*

          OMG, isn’t that the truth. I wish I had a nickel for every time some well-intended individual has applied for a job at an animal hospital with zero experience or training, but “I love animals.” Or worse, “I have 5 dogs and I don’t even take them to the vet, I treat them all myself with stuff I get from Tractor Supply.”

      2. meyer lemon*

        For a media/communications job, though, I think there is more room to include this in a professional way. I agree that saying “I sleep with an enormous stuffed giraffe” will probably put the hiring manager’s back up, but if the OP is familiar with various giraffe sanctuaries and giraffe-oriented media, follows giraffe-related accounts and is familiar with cutting-edge giraffe news, that could be quite valuable in a giraffe communications position. And many employers really do want to see that employees care about their mission, if you can show compelling evidence of it instead of just saying “I sure love a good giraffe.”

        1. H2*

          Mmmmmm, well, again only if you’re clear that you don’t think that your passion for giraffes isn’t the same as a degree. Following giraffe accounts isn’t the same as formal education. I’m the formal education process, field experts curate information so that students get comprehensive and accurate information. That’s nearly impossible for a layperson to do on their own. And for sure it’s not coming from social media. So I think you could say that you have a good understanding of what other giraffe accounts do, and you are so excited to learn more about giraffes, but you absolutely have to be clear that you don’t think you’re an expert in giraffes.

          1. H2*

            Thinking about this more—I think you have a good point. But I think that one would just have to be careful to come down on the right side of the line.

            “So, do you have a degree in giraffe zoology?”
            Needs “No, but I consume a lot of giraffe-related media, and I think as a result I have a good bit of knowledge of the way giraffe sanctuaries interact with the public through social media. I’m very interested in learning more about giraffes and their ecosystems.”
            Rather than “No, but I love giraffes! I follow all of the major giraffe sanctuaries on social media so I totally understand how they operate and I am very informed about giraffes.”

            1. meyer lemon*

              Oh yeah, I think we agree! I don’t think it would make sense to present self-taught information as the equivalent to a degree (for the same reason as it doesn’t make sense to put “Household CEO” or whatnot). I would definitely be more cautious for a job description that explicitly asked for a degree in the field.

              But when it comes to communications, sometimes there is value in being someone who is able to digest complex technical information and communicate it in an approachable way. And if you’re familiar enough with science-based communication in the field and have those skills, I think you could make a fairly compelling argument that you would be able to handle the communication work without being a specialist in the subject. It may still not work for the job, but I think it would be worth applying.

    2. Mockingjay*

      One thing I have learned over the years, is that 90 percent of job ads are horribly written. The main paragraph describing the work is usually accurate (because the hiring manager wrote it fresh). The skills/qualifications section (bullet items) are cut and pasted over and over and over again, from the standard corporate job description which is a laundry list and not tailored to this project role.

      If a job sounds interesting, apply. You can clear up the extraneous stuff in the phone screen or interview.

      1. PT*

        I used to hire for a job where I would get tons of massively unqualified people. Let’s say the job title was Llama Trainer, and you had to be experienced in working with llamas to even be considered for the role. But then the job description contained a bunch of boilerplate “work” stuff, about HR policies and keeping your certifications current and the vacation policy and customer service standards and responsibilities for keeping the llamas safe and the barn clean and treating fellow employees with respect.

        Most of the people I got applying for the job had 0 experience with llamas and would fail the minute they walked into the interview. They were afraid of the llamas, or allergic to the hay in the barn, or didn’t realize that barns were full of manure and were tiptoeing around with an “ew” look on their face. It baffled me…until I realized, the job description HR mandated we post was 500-800 words long, and you could easily tick off 80% of the requirements without knowing what a llama was. So of course we were getting unqualified candidates…because they were technically qualified.

    3. Weekend Please*

      I recently applied for a job where I did not meet the one qualification that was bolded and underlined in the list. I almost didn’t apply but that requirement is difficult to find and it is a low level job so I figured that people who meet that qualification and the other very specific experience listed probably would be aiming higher than a part time entry level job. I think I was right because I have an interview on Monday.

    4. Texan In Exile*

      We have both men and women running in the primary to run the state education agency (DPI WI).

      The women are wayyyyy qualified – and the men are not qualified. It surprised my husband but it did not surprise me.

    5. Willis*

      I’d also encourage the OP to apply, to this job specifically but also to other things that interest them even if they don’t meet exactly what’s described in the job ad. It’s the company’s job to sort through resumes and if you’re missing X qualification that is a must, they’ll make that call.

      It kind of sounded like the OP didn’t want the company to see their resume and think “oh, this application is ridiculous and inappropriate. it doesn’t meet what we said!” But, the thing is, if your resume/cover letter is applicable enough to even be at the point where someone’s reading it closely, it’s not inappropriate or ridiculous. It might not be one of the strongest matches, but I promise no one is going to think negatively of you for submitting it. (And on the other hand, if you submit a resume to a job totally unrelated to your background, you’ll likely get screened out without anyone even noticing your name…so they won’t really think negatively about you either, they just won’t think about you at all…assuming you don’t do something weird like send it 15 times.)

      There’s also been a few times where we hired and didn’t get that many good resumes and someone who met 80% of the qualifications would have been a godsend! So, manage your time to focus on your best bets of course, but please don’t hold back on applications for things you’re interested in. You just never know.

    6. Tinker*

      I usually think of Tumblr as running a bit younger and less work-oriented than to be a place where ordinary hiring equity issues like that get a lot of discussion, but I suppose that’s my bias. It’s a fairly common topic of conversation at my company when we’re talking about hiring, in my professional community, and nowadays I see language that relates to it in the equal hiring statement on job ads.

    7. Batgirl*

      I remember not applying for a job because I didn’t match everything but then when a less qualified colleague said he was going for it I felt like I was being too cautious and said “Oh me too”. He got it, I didn’t. This is not the only story I have like this.

  4. Jillian*

    OP1 – I don’t know how old she is, but I’m 60+ and this is weird. Alison is right; the sooner you put a stop to it the better.

    1. LW1*

      She’s in her 60s as well. My parents are also in their 60s, and when I told them about this they thought it was very weird!

    2. Batgirl*

      Yeah I don’t think awkwardness has anything to do with age; not in this case anyway. I think gifter colleague is feeling anxious and insecure about her place at work. That inner feeling will cause outward weirdness. She’s trying to use gifts to forge some quick bonds and get people on side, especially people who help her. This is after all what gifts are often for; for a lot of us it’s unconsciously done. I think OP should simply state their preferences about gifts like they did with being called handsome. If it can be done calmly and cheerfully it can be done without sparking further anxiety or awkwardness. Something like: “Oh I really hate food waste so now you’ve had your punchline, you can find it a good home” You can even make it a joke: “Well, I don’t wear slogans so you’ll just have to get to know me to discover my opinions” or “Blimey Angela, just send me a message when you want to tell a joke! Otherwise I’m going to have to charge you for the storage. That is going home with you – I’m serious!” Stay warm towards her, ask about her weekend, offer to get her a cuppa. Redirect her need for congeniality in the proper directions.

  5. Wendy*

    LW2, I’d be tempted to reply with a breezy “Oh, they’re not mine!” and then see how long it takes them to figure out how to subtly ask :-P

    1. dogmom*

      I was actually really confused when I read “someone else’s babies.” It’s probably the lack of coffee, but my first thought was along the lines of, “She’s married but the babies are another man’s and she’s leaving her husband?” Fortunately I figured it out before the letter specifically mentioned surrogacy. Definitely the lack of coffee!

    2. Lady Meyneth*

      I’d have absolutely no problem doing that! :-)

      I do think the LW may want to be a little more careful if her clients are international (or just very conservative), since the stigma can be much worse in other countries than in the US, to the point of it being illegal in several places. In that case, it might be better to go with “carrying the babies for another family” (this language is IME strangely more acceptable), or just not mention the surrogacy at all if it’s clients they don’t expect to see often.

      1. blackcatlady*

        OK, I’m dating myself by referencing the TV show Friends, but here goes. One story line was Phoebe carrying babies for her brother. She took huge delight when people congratulated her on the pregnancy by saying, thank you, they are my brothers. I like the MBK line of I’m just holding them for a friend.

    3. AKchic*

      “Just borrowing for the pregnancy! The parents can have them for the hard part!”

      “Never gamble with the fae…”

  6. just a random teacher*

    #3: When I was looking for work, there was one school district I’d ruled out because they always put “bilingual Spanish and English speaker preferred” in their job ads. I’d signed up for their sub list, but they weren’t even on my radar for regular teaching jobs. (I can read Spanish, and watch Spanish-language TV, but bog down trying to speak it and I have an audio processing disability that means I’d have an incredibly difficult time translating Spanish-language speech into English in real time even if I were fully fluent and understood exactly what the Spanish meant.)

    Well, one summer , after several frustrating years subbing all over the place and applying for jobs in other districts, I got called out of the blue for an interview by a principal in that district. That principal wasn’t happy with the responses they got for their late-summer job posting so they were going through the subs with good reputations and inviting them to interview as well. I ended up getting my career-type teaching job, after years of subbing and pretty much giving up, due mostly to decade-old familiarity with a computer program that wasn’t even listed in the job description but which teachers at that school used constantly and they’d assumed any applicant would have to be trained on rather than already know (I’d listed it in a “programs known” section of my resume). I still don’t speak Spanish well enough to speak it at work (and teachers that do are expected to translate at meetings for no extra pay, so I have no motivation to polish up those skills), and few other people at work do either.

    Sure, if someone with my exact skillset and previous experience but who also was fluent in Spanish had applied they definitely would have been hired instead of me. However, that particular unicorn didn’t apply for that particular job, and so they had to settle. I don’t know if someone who didn’t know that computer program but did know Spanish would have been hired instead of me (technically, they would have met more requirements despite that program being more key to the job), but I don’t think they got any Spanish-speakers at all with the right teaching license.

    On the other hand, no amount of passion will get around some job requirements. Someone without a medical license who explains in their cover letter that they’ve always been passionate about cutting people open will not get an interview for a surgeon position…

    1. BlahDeBlah*

      Same at our company. All the job postings say you have to be bilingual, but many, many of the workers are only barely functional in a second language. It’s an important skill for only about 20% of the workforce to be bilingual – and other languages apart from Spanish would be a huge asset.
      I brought it up with the management once that we would lose many great non-bilingual candidates who (say) spoke Chinese/German etc. They replied that part of showing initiative for applying for jobs was to try for the job anyway!
      I thought that was spectacularly dumb because having a second language is a hard stop for many prospective candidates. I know this because so many people with amazing skills which we are dying to use have been put off working here.

      1. Urt*

        Yeah, my manager was frustrated to get so many applicants that treated the less common language required as optional, when no, he needed people who were sufficiently fluent that they could communicate with our workers who only spoke the local language without needing a language course.

    2. EPLawyer*

      LW2 should definitely apply. The job ad is “if the absolute perfect person walked in the door that we would drop everything and hire them on the spot, what would their skills be?” They KNOW they are getting someone who is less than perfect. That’s why they interview instead of dropping everything and hiring someone as soon as they walk in the door.

      Your story reminded me of something hilarious. I was a paid contract supervisor for our legal clinics for many years. They paid the supervisors (a pittance but it was actual money) to guarantee at least 2 attorneys showed up. If I couldn’t make a clinic, I had to find my own replacement. Which the contract specified had to be bilingual. I always laughed at this because my coverage had to be better qualified than I was. I only speak English.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        Caveat to this: in government jobs, the required qualifications/experience are usually REQUIRED. If the job says you must have two years of relevant experience, a bachelor’s degree in Llama Sciences, and be eligible for the State Llama Groomer Certification exam… you must have all those qualifications. If you don’t, you can’t be hired, period. They will leave the position empty over hiring you.

        This is why they’re usually good about breaking qualifications into “desired” and “required” categories. Even if you have every desired qualification, they can’t hire you if you don’t meet one of the required. But if you check every required box, you have a shot even if you meet none of the desired list.

  7. Ludo*

    “If someone has a problem with surrogacy (wtf)”

    Oh this is actually a hotly debated subject, I didn’t realize until about a year ago when I saw some discourse about it online

    1. LW 2*

      Exactly. And it’s weirdly not any one reason why. So my religious in laws and some of my activist liberal friends have both expressed issues with it. It’s why it’s hard to know if someone is going to be upset by it in a business context.

      1. I'd Rather be Eating Dumplings.*

        In my experience a lot of the vitrol is usually directed toward people who use surrogates, rather than the surrogate themselves (although my experience is very limited).

        Hopefully you’re

      2. Peaceandtennis*

        I feel like the most common reason it’s debated is because a lot of people think it unfairly disadvantages lower class people/minorities. I don’t think that’s really true in America at all since there’s such an extensive process to be a surrogate I think, but some people believe that richer people who want children are taking advantage of poorer people who need money.

      3. AnonMom*

        I had no idea surrogacy was controversial until reading this thread. My only exposure to the topic previously has been in the context of a surrogate willingly helping a family who could not be pregnant themselves for tragic medical reasons. It was a very altruistic and selfless situation. I am grateful for this thread opening my eyes to the larger, more complex picture around surrogacy.

        LW, I’m wishing you all the best.

      4. I’m screaming inside too!*

        Many years ago I was trying to have children, but couldn’t. The nicest thing anyone ever said to me about it was when my sister said that if pregnancy wasn’t so hard on her, she’d have a baby for me.
        This is to say that maybe you can prevent/derail negative reactions by telling people you’re doing this for a sibling or a very close friend who’s unable to get pregnant or carry to term. I think even those who view surrogacy as wrong could understand someone choosing to do it for a loved one.
        Of course, you’ll need to be ready with vague answers and useful phrases that signal you don’t want to go into details, so that you don’t get bogged down into detailed backstories that you have to keep track of, but this may be your easiest way to tell people and short circuit having unwanted opinions thrown at you.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I think this is the comment approach I would use as well. Stick to the vein of “I’m helping some close friends start a family they aren’t able to have the normal way” and then move the conversation topic in another work related direction.

          It stinks that this topic is so polarizing that a serious discussion around the unhealthy parts of this drown out the healthy parts.

          1. FridayFriyay*

            Don’t use the words “normal way” though, as that is really othering language for anyone who needs assistance to build their family.

    2. I'd Rather be Eating Dumplings.*

      For sure. I do think it’s more likely to be an issue if OP is working with clients in countries that have had high-profile surrogacy issues (Ukraine comes to mind).

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, I just saw a recent documentary on Ukrainian surrogacy and it’s so sad. There’s literally rooms full of babies who are just lying in cribs in hospital, because the surrogate moms aren’t allowed to care for them and their mainly non-Ukrainian parents can’t come and get them because of traveling restrictions due to COVID. It’s a human tragedy. I just hope the situation gets resolved soon so that the infants don’t end up developmentally damaged because they don’t get enough love and attention, as happened in Romanian orphanages during the Ceausescu era.

        Ukrainian surrogacy is popular because it’s one of the poorest countries with a largely blonde and blue-eyed population.

        1. pretzelgirl*

          I have been following a couple people on socials who were surrogates for couples in china. Some of them were due in March of last year. One woman had the couple’s child and the couple could not come to get their baby, due to covid and travel restrictions. The surrogate ended up caring for the baby, I think until late summer. It was incredibly sad for the parents and the surrogate.

          I also saw a few where the surrogate gave birth and then the agency ended up hiring a long term care giver, bc again the parents could not come for their child.

    3. Arty Blanket*

      I’m reading Alison’s wtf to mean that it would be incredibly rude to respond to a stranger in a business context revealing that they have chosen to be a surrogate, and shaming them with an impromptu debate about surrogacy. There are some very valid reasons to argue against surrogacy, but that does not mean the LW should be subjected to a debate about it. And since she has obviously chosen to move forward with a surrogate pregnancy, I would guess she has already been subjected to these unsolicited debates and would rather people mind their own business.

      1. Allonge*

        I agree – there are arguments for or against just about any activity we can mention in passing in a business talk, and mostly people manage to hold back on commenting one way or another. Surrogacy should be exactly the same.

        1. Reba*

          Should, yes. Unfortunately, a lot of folks seem to feel that the usual politeness standards go out the window when it comes to pregnant people! Touching without permission, all kinds of unsolicited advice — I think the LW is right to anticipate at least some inappropriate remarks, whether because of actual Opinions On Reproduction or just simple wrong-footedness/ unthinking comments.

          1. Cat Tree*

            Ugh, yes. I’m pregnant now and I refuse to tell anyone else the gender because everyone has an opinion on how good or bad my future baby will be based on that. Maybe people feel a social need to make some kind of comment, but they should just say “that’s great” and move on.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              My response when I was visibly pregnant for what I wanted was “healthy” never a gender. And by healthy I meant will survive the birth process – I’ll worry about the rest of it as we go.

              1. FridayFriyay*

                Yeah I said “I ‘d really just prefer to have a living child this time” more times than I could count when I was pregnant. Usually shut people up pretty quickly.

        2. Roci*

          I think in a US context, where the surrogacy context seems to be “one person helping out another”, then it should be fine and would be rude to comment on.

          OP should be wary in international/other contexts where surrogacy is illegal and socially taboo for a number of reasons as explained elsewhere (by both conservative and progressive groups). It would be like openly admitting to a client that you use drugs or something similarly taboo.

    4. BubbleTea*

      I’m pregnant not as a surrogate, but as a single lesbian who conceived using a donor. Some of my colleagues have religious views which would make several aspects of this not acceptable for them (as in, they themselves would not do it) but they’re professional enough not to project that onto their colleagues or talk about it at work. I’ve found that if I tell people about my pregnancy in a cheery, matter of fact way and share as much information as I am comfortable with without waiting for them to ask, it seems to set the right tone. So I’ve been telling people individually as I talk to them “I have some exciting news, I’m having a baby!” and then often in the short conversation that follows I will mention going to a clinic, so that they can infer that this is a donor conception and not an unexpected new relationship with a man.

      It may be a little different in your situation, but if you share the details you are willing to share in an upbeat tone, most people will have the manners to pick up on that. “I’m excited to be able to help another family have a baby” or “I decided I wanted to share the joy of having children with people who were struggling” or whatever is true but also unavoidably positive. It takes spectacular rudeness to respond to “Yay listen to my good news!” with “Here are all the reasons I think you are wrong and bad”. At that point you’d be justified in vomiting on their shoes.

      1. DarthVelma*

        I am heartily pro-throwing up on rude people’s shoes. (Had a teacher in elementary school who refused to believe I was lactose-intolerant and tried to force me to drink milk. It was amazing how quickly she backed off after I threw up on her shoes.)

      2. Green Mug*

        When I was in the hospital after giving birth, the nurse wanted me to get up and walk. I told her I couldn’t because I was so nauseous. Well, she forced me out of bed, and I puked on her shoes. Congratulations, BubbleTea!! And much luck on your delivery. I hope you don’t need to puke on anyone’s shoes!

      3. often trapped under a cat*

        While surrogacy is controversial, I believe LW2 should also be prepared for people who want to know _everything_ about how this pregnancy came to be, including people who might ask if she had sex with the bio-father.

        My daughter was conceived with donor sperm and I’ve been part of an online community of others who used donor gametes and, in some cases, surrogacy, to become mothers, for a couple of decades. It’s not uncommon for people to have all kinds of questions about people using ART and over the years I’ve heard some doozies! The question of whether or not a woman has had sex with the genetic father comes up a lot, as does, in cases of multiples, whether the babies are identical or not (even if they are not the same gender).

        1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

          As a lesbian who is doing IVF with my spouse, yes to all of this. Once you open up a tiny bit, people have all kinds of inappropriate questions to ask. I fully support LW2 mentioning it, but she should be prepared with ways to shut down any (often well-meaning but intrusive) curiosity.

      4. FridayFriyay*

        I like those suggested lines! I’d be very tempted to lead with “oh the baby’s not mine – long story!” and a friendly laugh.

        (Also congratulations!)

    5. Lacey*

      Yeah. There’s a lot of concern around the commodification of women’s bodies, especially of women who are from poorer countries and might already tend to be dehumanized. And of course there are probably religious objects from at least some segment of every major world religion (I haven’t checked, it just seems very likely)

      So, it’s not exactly wtf. But, I do think people are unlikely to bring up their discomfort with it in a business context.

      1. Jennifer*

        +1 “there’s a lot of concern around the commodification of women’s bodies…”

        Exactly. Not everyone who has a problem with it is a horrible bigot. I think it would be better to keep it quiet at work. It’s no one’s business anyway.

        1. FridayFriyay*

          Keeping quiet because it’s no ones business and someone might have a problem with it sounds a lot like the arguments that people shouldn’t be open about same-sex relationships in the workplace to me…

          In this case, the LW is visibly pregnant so it’s a little hard to argue that she should keep quiet about it. Whether it gets raised is not fully up to her and I don’t think she should be forced to lie just because some people have objections that aren’t relevant to her particular situation.

          1. Jennifer*

            I don’t think this really compares. But in any event, below I stated that she could mention to her boss that she’s giving the baby up for adoption and ask them to spread the word that it’s not something she wants to discuss.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I had no idea. First time I had it come up, a then-SO mentioned his close friend being a surrogate for a male gay couple she was friends with, and my reaction was “wow how fantastic of her to do this.” I’ve been pregnant twice, and though both were very easy pregnancies, and I was in my 20s at the time, it was still hard. I have nothing but respect for someone voluntarily doing it for someone else. I’ll hopefully find out what the controversy is when I read the rest of the comments, but to me this just goes to show that people will take the most positive, altruistic thing and turn it into something hotly debated, that the person doing the thing is wary of talking about. Ugh, sorry that you have to deal with it, LW2!

      1. I’d Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        There are some serious ethical issues that can come up, especially with respect to international surrogacy. Alison has already asked that this thread not derail onto the controversy, but the wiki pages has a whole section for it.

      2. londonedit*

        I think it’s also way more common in the US than in other countries. As far as I know surrogacy is legal in the UK (though you cannot be paid anything other than for expenses) but it seems to be a different process from the US. A quick Google shows that there really isn’t much information at all on the government website about it, but I think what happens is that the person who gives birth to the child is automatically its legal parent, and then there has to be a legal adoption of the child by the new parents. I think you can have a surrogacy agreement, but if there’s a dispute then it’s not actually legally binding. It really isn’t common here – I’ve never heard of anyone being a surrogate or having a child via a surrogate – and so I think most people’s reaction here probably would be surprise and/or shock. While that isn’t a reason to express a negative opinion about it in a work setting, I think most people would at best be taken aback simply because it isn’t something that you hear about. It would be extremely out of the ordinary.

        1. UKDancer*

          We studied it briefly when I was at university doing law. If memory serves you’re right under UK law the birth mother is the legal mother and no agreement otherwise is legally enforceable. It’s very unusual and I think you’re right that the usual reaction in the UK would be surprise.

        2. I’d Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          I know three couples in London who’ve conceived via surrogacy, with at least one using a surrogate also based in the UK. Your understanding of the law is correct, my friends had to adopt their own child when it was several months old.

          The tech having evolved faster than the law is one of the bigger controversies, especially with regard to some (rare, but horrifying) cases of child abandonment.

        3. PT*

          The US does have problems re: health insurance and the legality of surrogacy. Meaning if your health insurance company finds out they’re paying for a surrogate pregnancy you could have Issues.

      3. Jackalope*

        There are also emotional issues. Sometimes the surrogate mother doesn’t want to give up the baby that she’s carried and given birth to and it’s hard to force her to do so, especially when she contributed the egg. And I heard of one very sad case (from the book The Boundaries of Her Body by Debran Rowland) of a woman who became pregnant as a surrogate mother with a donor egg and donor sperm (NOT from the adopting parents), and then during the pregnancy the adopting couple divorced and didn’t want the baby any more. So here’s this baby with FIVE possible parents, two adoptive, two biological, one who carried it, and none of them wanted it. Don’t remember what happened. So things like that can be issues too, even with the best of wills all around and everyone going into the decision of their own genuinely free will.

        1. FridayFriyay*

          This is why surrogacy in the US is almost never done using the gestational carrier’s egg anymore. Any ART lawyer will tell you to avoid that scenario because it’s too legally complicated and carries too much risk for the intended parents.

    7. ANon 4 tHIs*

      I got pregnant with my then-husband and my fourth child. At the time we were poor and overwhelmed with the three children we already had and we decided to give the fourth child up for adoption. We had some friends who had been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby for ten years who very enthusiastically accepted when we asked them if they’d like to adopt the baby. At the time, I was so worried about people judging me for giving up a child for adoption when I’d already chosen to raise three that I would tell anyone who asked that I was a surrogate for our friends. Everyone I told had such a positive reaction that it also surprised me to read this letter and imagine someone might react poorly to being a surrogate. Reading the comments it makes total sense to me now, but I’m kind of glad it didn’t occur to me then and that people had only positive reactions.

      1. Batgirl*

        It makes no sense to me to react otherwise. People should take an opinionated interest in laws and systems, yes, but a person’s actual body and decisions are not their business. Take your cues from the pregnant person!

    8. I edit everything*

      I just saw an article this week about a couple in Michigan who have to go through the official adoption process (home visits, social worker, etc.) to adopt their own child, who’s being carried by a surrogate. Surrogacy is not legal in Michigan, and all parents in MI who use that method to have a baby have to go to court to be granted custody of their own child.

        1. Sunshine's Eschatology*

          Presumably biologically, like the bio mother and father went through the same process my partner and I did for IVF, created an embryo with their genetic material, and transferred it into the surrogate.

          1. Clisby*

            Yes, in the Michigan case, the biological parents now have to adopt the child a surrogate had for them.

          1. Clisby*

            A surrogate can be a parent. That’s what happened with the Baby M. case back in the 1980s. I don’t know how common that is, though.

  8. Dandy it is*

    #3 Apply for the job! It sounds like you have relatable skills for the position. You are guaranteed a no if you don’t.
    I have only ever given the side eye to two resumes I received for open positions. One applicant was a dam builder in Iran and the other stated the applicant worked for Some Company Inc located in Any Town, USA. Though really the side eye was more to the HR recruiter that passed them onto me.

  9. MK*

    #3, apply but, depending on what the qualifications you lack are, keep your expectations realistic. I don’t know whether your example was random, but if they are actually asking for a degree in X (and don’tuse language that suggests it’s an optional extra, like “preferred”), it’s unlikely that they will accept someone zero academic qualifications or something else to counter it. They might accept a degree in a related field, or a degree in an unrelated one with a masters that specialized in the related subject, or someone who completed several courses and has certifications, or even someone who has worked in a similar role.

    My point is, some requirements are more inflexible than others.

    1. DaisyGJ*

      To give an example: at my last job, it was a requirement for some positions that they be a qualified registered social worker. This requirement was not flexible at all, we always had people applying for these positions with years of experience, but legally they needed the registration for this job.

    2. Myrin*

      Yeah, I think being realistic inside your own mind is key. Like Alison says – the worst that can happen is that they reject you.

      I do remember an exception to that mentioned here once but that was about an internal applicant who was applying for a position drastically above hers, like she was an intern and wanted to apply for a job as vice president or similar. I’m thinking that that is something that could hurt you even if you did it as an external candidate (although that’s just a hunch I have and I might be wrong) but that would really only apply if you were in a tiny field where employers are likely to talk to one another and something like this might come up.

      Other than that, it’s highly unlikely something “bad” is going to happen. I mean, even if the hiring manager has a good laugh because they think you applied naïvely and completely unqualified, that’s never going to reach you and you can just go on your merry way.

      1. MK*

        Even in those cases, I don’t think it will hurt you that much on its own, unless it’s part of a pattern of behaviour. If an intern-level employee applied for a very senior position, I think most people would assume they misunderstood the scope of the role or don’t know the career path, not that they are arrogant. It will only really hurt someone who is giving other red flags as well.

        1. I’d Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          Yes. Especially at entry level, it’s not uncommon for people to not be familiar with some of the verbiage around job function.

          Not to mention that one jobs “expert in excel” can be another job’s “willing to muddle through and look up basic functions on YouTube”

    3. Lily Rowan*

      And sometimes it’s hard to know which requirements are more flexible. I worked in an unusual industry for a while, and my friend in the finance department once told me she’d rather hire someone who knew the industry and could learn the accounting, rather than vice-versa. It would never have occurred to me that you could do that! (Not being an accountant myself.)

      So you never know.

    4. Esmeralda*

      Oh yes, all of the exempt positions in my department require a masters degree. We always get people applying who have no graduate degree. We don’t even read the resume if I’m the hiring committee chair, just nope it on out of there.

      Now, when the preference states that the degree should be in X, Y, or Z or a related major, then I’ll look at all sorts of degrees. Say it needs to be in Llama Combing and your masters degree is in Lizard Smoothing, and your experience shows transferable skills and some work with our population of snarl-haired llamas. You’ll make the first cut.

  10. DiscoCat*

    #3 Wasn’t there a statistic recently that shows how women don’t apply for a job unless they are overqualified and men apply although they only fulfill about 75% of the requirements? I could be wrong and I don’t want to presume anything about LW, I just wanted to put it out there how women tend to always undersell ourselves and are afraid of being caught as imposters or undeserving of our roles- only to end up being relegated further…

    1. Andrea*

      I read something like that recently too. And someone here made the comment the other day that it’s not just in women’s heads — slightly underqualified men are more likely to be judged favorably than slightly underqualified women (“I know Jim isn’t fluent in German, but he has 15 years of experience, so I think he’d be a good fit” vs. “I know Pam has 15 years of experience, but she’s not fluent in German, so I don’t think she’d be a good fit”)

      I don’t want to presume anything either, of course, and I hope LW3 applies for the job!

  11. Copywriter*

    LW3 – Absolutely go for it! The principles of marketing are the same no matter what you’re promoting. Sometimes marketeers have to become surface-level experts in pretty niche industries, it’s very, very common! Good luck.

  12. LB*

    LW3- go for it! I never had the confidence to go for a job unless I had 100% of the essential and a lot of the desirable criteria until about 2 years ago. There was an internal posting at my job I really really wanted but I had about 40% of the essential and none of the desirable criteria. But it was a new role and I understood the organisation and what they needed from the person in the role and my now boss took a chance on me and it worked out! I never would have dared apply if it wasn’t from some severe peer pressure from two friends.

  13. Ubi Caritas*

    Regarding #1 (guessing people’s tee shirt size) – just don’t. Once in the lab where I worked someone had the clever idea of getting tees for all of us. They looked at me and said LOUDLY “UBI NEEDS AN XXL!” Thanks.

    1. Kvothe*

      I work in construction and as part of our onboarding we have to fill out a sheet with our sizes so that we get the correct size when they order us safety gear…I’m surprised a lab doesn’t have something similar
      It also comes in useful when they buy us company swag (we got a totally awesome half-zip for Christmas)

      1. Student*

        Instead of doing this, the research labs tend to buy safety equipment in the size of the person who’s charged with ordering safety equipment. Then everyone else has the options of: make due with equipment that does not fit well, pesters the person who orders equipment to try to get them to start ordering your size, or buy your own safety equipment out of pocket.

        We take a much more “your on your own” approach to safety, with exactly the results you would expect. I just treat my colleagues like their experiments are actively trying to kill me, until proven otherwise, and it usually works. Luckily, we rarely drop steel beams on anyone. Unfortunately, lab fires, floods, and minor explosions are treated as a fact of lab life.

        1. JustaTech*

          For the record, this is not normal at all, and at every lab I’ve worked at actively violates policy.
          I just went over my lab’s bloodborne pathogen training yesterday and it specifically says “PPE must fit the user”.

          If you’re at a university it might be the way things work in your lab (universities tend to be really sloppy about safety, which is stupid) but it probably isn’t university policy, and depending on your Environmental Health and Safety organization, you might be able to get better stuff. Or report it anonymously to OSHA. Even as a student you’re not disposable.

        2. Ace in the Hole*

          This is appalling and should absolutely not be happening. Does your organization have an EHS or occupational safety division? If so, please tell them about it. If not, or if nothing changes, please consider reporting it to OSHA.

          Your employer has a legal and moral obligation to protect your safety. the BARE MINIMUM is making sure you are provided properly fitted PPE at no cost to you, you’re trained how to use it, and you’re not exposed to things like uncontrolled/unexpected fires, explosions, chemical releases, etc. And “it’s a lab” is not an excuse. I worked in a hazardous waste disposal facility for years supervising a rotating staff of temp workers. We managed to make sure everyone had the right size of PPE and knew how to do their job without serious safety hazards. It’s really not that hard to order the 3-4 most common sizes of everything, or just ask people what size they need.

      2. Sandi*

        Our lab had all the safety items in multiples in all sizes. Most of it was disposable (gloves) or had a very long order time (specialized clothing). The clothing was all hung up by the front door, by size, and I would grab one that fit.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      We had a creepy professor in our department (retired last year, thank god) who always had a batch of t-shirts from a program he ran for a minority immigrant community in our region. He would always give the t-shirts away to new people, so when I was hired, he had to give me one. He came and stood at my desk and stared directly at my chest for what seemed like a full two minutes. Then he left to go get the estimated t-shirt size. While he was gone, I told my coworker, “If he comes back with the exact right size, I’m going to slap his face!” He came back with a size too small, but I still wanted to slap him for the stare, anyway.

  14. I'm just here for the cats*

    LW2 if your doing surrogacy for a family member you could maybe add that. Oh, these are actually my nieces. My sister was unable to carry, so I volunteered to be their surrogate. Donut in a nice way but clear that there would be no follow-up.
    And thank you for what your doing!

  15. agnes*

    LW #2 Our pastor’s wife was a surrogate for her sister. When someone asked or commented about her pregnancy, she used to tell people, “it’s actually a gift for my sister.” That was such a perfect response. It generally shut the conversation down.

    You may have to say more than you’d like to just to stop nosy questions. I hope you will find the right words to navigate this issue in a way that works for your needs. Thank you for helping someone else have a family.

  16. Bookworm*

    #3: Thanks for writing and thanks to Alison for responding. I’ve had this issue in the past and now, typically only applying to things that I think I’m really qualified for (and finding any stretch beyond that doesn’t work, but that may also have to do with not really knowing how to write about it in a cover letter, etc.). I’ve also become really disillusioned with my current position where I am and needed to see your letter and Alison’s reply. Thank you.

    Considering we have had a VERY good example of someone who was COMPLETELY unqualified for a job on display for 4+ years (thank goodness for the relative peace and quiet) there’s no reason why you can’t give it a shot.

    Yes, your experience is very different than the one I’m referring to. But there’s no reason not to try. They’ll say no, you don’t get the job and it’s not meant to be. You don’t know if you don’t try. :) Good luck!

    1. nona*

      Technically that person met the listed qualifications – over 35, natural-born citizen of the US, resident of US for the last 14 years and filled out the paperwork to be on the ballot.

      The problem is that the real meat of the job description is all under “preferred”.

  17. Policy Wonk*

    The one caveat for #3 is Federal Employment. If you don’t have all the qualifications listed in the job announcement, you won’t get past the first screening.

    Note: I have seen plenty of applications where tangential experience has been spun to appear to meet the qualifications listed, and some of those have been successful in getting the job. But there has to be a nugget that is actually in the basket of the qualification sought.

    1. Khatul Madame*

      This + Fed contract and proposal recruiting. The candidate resume needs to match the labor category being bid in the proposal. Just like with Federal hiring process, there is a lot of resume tweaking, sometimes the company does it without the knowledge of the candidate.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Once, in my early career, I went toe-to-toe with my very senior director boss and the head of HR at Very Big Company. I worked as a junior writer prepping resumes for Federal proposals and I objected vehemently when a new company we partnered with altered our VBC resumes beyond recognition, including adding flat-out lies to mine. I don’t lie in my work. Period. I think the only reason why I wasn’t fired on the spot was that VBC was very good at what it did and accustomed to winning on its own – verifiable – merit. (Surprise: we did not win that teamed contract.)

    2. Nicotene*

      Yeah this is a bit of a know-your-field. In nonprofit, I apply if I meet 75% because the postings are often ambitious, especially for the salary, so they may end up falling back on what they can get (more true before the pandemic, but still – many postings are put together a little loosely).

      I just applied for one that said “proficiency in German required,” which I would usually not have applied to at all, because my German is only passable – but I met every other condition so I thought, what the heck. I would NOT have done this if the application was more arduous and multi-step, or if it had been on USA Jobs. Well, I was just interviewed and I brought up this issue, saying I could travel in a German-speaking country but I couldn’t like, review contracts in German. The lady said that wasn’t actually a requirement of the job, that they’d been thinking they might fill two vacancies and one required German so they forgot it was still in there!! I was astonished. WTH, people.

    3. Tryal*

      This is not true. US federal employee and former federal contractor here.

      For the federal employment, there’s a stage separate from your resume that is a self-survey of whether you meet certain job qualifications. On that self-survey, you have to mark that you are the greatest person in the world at all of those qualifications to make it past an automated stage of the assessment. Everyone employed in federal government who has gone through this part of hiring has lied on this stage of the application; gov hiring managers will literally instruct you to just mark yourself the best here. Just do what’s needed and try to push down your feeling that this is dysfunctional and misleading, and channel those feelings into writing your congressional rep about the broken process instead.

      Then your job application gets run past a person who ranks you on the special points system the federal gov uses for applicants, who usually doesn’t know anything about the gov job you’d actually be working at. You get bonus points based on some specific characteristics, one of the most famous being former military service. They’ll look at the application pool and put forward the selection who made it through initial screening with the best points. Ideally, you’ll get a mix of people with good qualifications and bonus points, but sometimes you end up with only people who had special points but no substantive job qualifications.

      Then, a hiring manager will look at your resume, and they’ll do roughly the same normal assessment of your qualifications vs the job requirements as any normal job does – accepting people without 100% of every qualification.

  18. James*

    #3: A former CEO of the company I work for officially advised us workers to pursue opportunities we’re not 100% qualified for.

    I’m in a highly technical scientific field–environmental compliance/remediation–and here’s the reality: The only way to be 100% qualified is to already be doing the job. I studied geology for school, but what does a geologist know about chlorinated solvents? Or lubrication oils? Those are what I spend 98% of my time dealing with these days. I learned literally everything I know about these on the job. I knew nothing about wells, about pumps, I hadn’t even taken a groundwater hydrology class, yet I was hired to work with groundwater.

    Or, to give another example: One of the best field team leads (think shop foreman or deputy project manager type role) was a high school graduate who’d never set foot inside a university. He started out doing maintenance, then moved up in the world. If you looked at the official job requirements he was wildly underqualified–but people fought to get him on their projects. (As an aside, he gave me the best advice on safety I have ever heard: “If you think you’re safe, look around and find out what you’re missing. They do not send us to safe places.”)

    Any job is going to require a certain amount of on-the-job training. Some people require more, some less, but no one requires none. And I can tell you from experience, an enthusiastic person eager to learn and to get their hands dirty (literally and figuratively) with some experience in the field or a related one is always going to be a much better fit than someone who has all the qualifications but thinks they know everything.

    Plus, if they turn you down what are you out? The time and effort it take to put together the resume–which you can use to apply to other jobs anyway. They may even give you some advice on how to be a better candidate for this sort of job (my first job interview went that way). It’s a penny ante; play the hand and see what happens!

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      As a Programmer, you’ll be lucky to be 40% qualified for the job you have, let alone the next one. If you have the top 1-3 skills/experience the employer needs, apply and let the chips fall where they may.

    2. Nicotene*

      I wish more jobs had this attitude! It’s been true of every role I’ve ever had – but I still see so many postings for “entry level employee, should have 3-5 years of experience in this exact thing and this highly specific degree (and postgraduate degree haha).

      1. James*

        Most of the time when I see something like that I assume the folks involved already have a candidate selected, they’re just legally obligated to advertise. I’ve seen it in academia and in internal practices (the company I work for often has internal jobs up for grabs). Sucks for the person applying that doesn’t realize what’s going on, because in that case it really is a waste of time.

    3. I always wanted to be a ninja*

      Great example of all of the job related specific skillsets and qualifications which are very difficult to have experience in let alone proficiency until you have on the job training and regular experience with. I’ll second this by adding an example in the field of work I’m in, many employers will advertise that the job expectations include heavy equipment operation (tractors), sawyering skills, building construction and maintenance, plus knowledge of natural community restoration and best management practices, endangered species monitoring, and that the job candidate can develop educational programs. Regularly there are people hired into these advertised positions who may only have experience or training or a degree of study in 1 or 2 of the advertised areas. The rest of the skills are actually learned on the job through stretch projects, opportunity for training, mentoring with leads, etc.

      Many co-workers are high school graduates with massive amounts of non-degree credited or industry work training, think like having several master’s level certificates or having the equivalent of master’s level vocational degrees.

      All of these people were hired at some point without the qualifications they now possess because of on the job opportunities or their own persistence in going for more structural knowledge study while on the job because they were directed in that way by an employer or a colleague.

      Most of the aforementioned hired job applicants or coworkers are men. But I will emphasize again that most of them do not go to college to learn how to operate a tractor or to learn how to cut down trees (there are not many people with arborist degrees in my profession, they usually actually do work in their field of degree because it does require that qualification), but they usually start by gaining that experience on the job as a green rookie.

      In my field there are many men who apply to positions as a stretch of their qualifications because they expect to be able to learn on the job.

      I also see that when more women apply to these positions they are hired if they interview stronger.

      Unfortunately there are still instances of very underqulified men being hired over qualified women because the manager estimates the man as being able to learn on the job better because of a familiarity with make dominated work culture.
      But if women don’t apply to the stretch jobs then we contribute to this wrong idea.

  19. Tasha*

    I’m guessing #4 is in Iowa. “I don’t have power or internet at my house” was met with “just go to the library [Starbucks/McDonalds].” Ha, guess what, even without the pandemic, NO ONE had power after the derecho in August (which, for such a widespread disaster, wasn’t that well-known). I definitely put in my year-end self evaluation something about overcoming the challenges of 2020.

    1. rural academic*

      Yes, I read #4 and thought “hello, neighbor!” Definitely talk about the challenges and how you’ve responded to them. At my work we have been encouraged to address both the pandemic and the storm (if appropriate) in our review statements.

    2. LW4*

      Yup, I’m in Iowa! Honestly we were lucky that we didn’t have too much property damage. It’s nice to have the encouragement that it’s the right choice to include it! I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t somehow inappropriate.

    3. Sandra Dee*

      Or Nashville – Tornado in early March 2020, then pandemic closures, then straightline winds early May. 2 months in a row without power or internet for days/weeks at a time, and your power flickers every time the wind blows. Now a proud owner of a generator.

  20. Ali G*

    #3 I work in a science (natural resource conservation) field and work with a lot of scientists with advanced degrees (I myself have a Masters). Every place I have worked has employed non-scientist communications professionals. Why? Because in my 17+ years experience, scientists do not make good marketing and communicating professionals. Sure there are some that can let go and talk in broader terms, but so, so many will pick apart every sentence to the nth degree and trying to filter out important concepts into small sound bytes is a losing battle (I say this with empathy and recognition that these people are leaders in their field, widely published etc.). It’s not their job and they are not good at it.
    If you can demonstrate that you have successfully worked in other areas you are not educated in, and that you can use some of the field’s terminology correctly, you should definitely apply. Talk about how you can take complex topics and distill them for your average reader – give them the info they need to know you could do the job, without the fancy degree (if it’s not a hard requirement).

    1. Nicotene*

      This is so true – when the people in charge are actually smart and thoughtful. So often, they themselves are deeply entrenched in the field and they don’t see it. They think only another expert could understand what they do. Sigh.

    2. Gumby*

      Yup. One of our partners/customers wanted to do a press release about our project. They asked us to write a draft so the PI did. They asked us to simplify. The PI did. I think there might have been one more round of simplifying before the partner just had their press office write the thing. Having seen all of the drafts, it does not appear that they used so much as a paragraph from the work our company provided. (And we were fine with that. They are a large government agency with a dedicated communications office that is, quite possibly, larger than our entire company. Which is not to say that some people didn’t then pick apart the resulting release, because I heard more than one person say “well, that’s not exactly …” but it was close enough for the intended audience.) Being able to write about this stuff for a non-science audience, or even a ‘didn’t get their PhD in this particular niche of this particular branch of science’ audience, is a highly useful job skill!

  21. Uhtcaere*

    L1 – If you don’t want to say it’s “kind” but still want something softening, you could try saying “it’s sweet to think of me”. “Kind” means she’s doing you a kindness, which she’s not; “sweet” is more about her and less of a thank-you, but still sounds nice. (She probably won’t parse it, but it might help your framing.)

    1. MagicUnicorn*

      Or perhaps “I can tell you put a lot of effort into these, but I find it uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of gifts from coworkers, even when it is meant as a joke. I’m sure you don’t intend to create an awkward situation so I appreciate that you won’t do it again. I’ll leave the jar of olives on your desk so you can donate it to a food pantry. Thanks.”

  22. Rachel in NYC*

    OP 2, I have no advice but I just wanted to say that’s awesome that you are being someone’s surrogate.

    Just 18 kinds of awesome.

  23. Former Surrogate*

    LW #2 – Former surrogate here. The more matter-of-fact and not-up-for-discussion my response, the quicker folks were to move on. “Oh, actually this baby isn’t for me – I’m a surrogate for friends of mine,” with a quick smile and then moving on to the next topic usually served me just fine. To the extent people did have more questions, I didn’t mind answering (in my case, it was for close friends, so I was happy to express how happy I was for them), but generally folks just take their cue from your tone/reaction.

    For one-time interactions (airports, grocery clerks, restaurants), I just accepted the congratulations and left it at that. I only bothered to correct anyone if it were a context were I would see them on a continual basis (clients and coworkers, etc.).

    I’ve also seen the vitriol in online communities/comment sections – but people are far less likely to bring up their personal feelings about surrogacy to your face. I never heard a negative comment. If anything, there were occasionally uncomfortable questions (about the nature of my future relationship to the child, or around my own plans for future reproduction), which I would shut down with as little discussion as possible, but these were few and far between. Really there were far more people who were fascinated by the idea of surrogacy and had questions about the process (of surrogacy, IVF) or about the actual pregnancy (how was I feeling, was he kicking yet, etc.), which I wasn’t uncomfortable with even though those things are also no one else’s business.

    1. TotallyNormal*

      I second all of this! 2-time surrogate here, once for local friends and once for an international single dad. For all the one-offs, I cheerfully accepted congratulations and carried on (unless my kids were with me – they were 3 and 5 the first time, and people LOVED to ask them if they were excited for a new baby sibling. They knew this wasn’t “our” baby, so they would absolutely deadpan, “that’s not our baby. That baby is Ms. [Mom’s Name]’s baby.” which launched all kinds of confused questions…)

      For people I would see more than once, especially after the babies were born, I would do the same as Former Surrogate above – a quick, “Oh! I’m actually a surrogate, so the baby will join his parents in a few months. They can’t wait! Now, about [topic change]…”

      I was always happy to answer questions (surrogacy is novel enough that people are very curious!) but often would encourage them to email me to follow up so we didn’t derail conversations for too long. Most didn’t want to know THAT badly, so only a handful ever reached out – and two of those went on to be surrogates themselves, once they learned more!

      TL;DR: be brief, be confident, and you’ll be fine!

      1. Paperdill*

        I love all this (but the part about your kids reactions was hilarious).
        As someone who has worked with mothers and babies for a long time I just want to ad, OP, that it’s probably best not to use Alison’s suggestion of “Oh, it’s long story, but…” because NOTHING piques people’s curiosity more than “Oh, it’s a long story, but…” – people will continue asking questions and their imaginations will run wild.
        Leave it simple and matter-of-fact life the wonderful women above have suggested.

  24. Peaceandtennis*

    To the surrogate – I don’t have anything to add to Alison’s comment, but just wanted to say thank you for doing what you’re doing! I’m sure the person(s) you are carrying the babies for are so grateful to you. It’s such a special thing you are doing for them.

  25. Cori*

    LW2 – first of all – congratulations. I know firsthand ALL the hoops you had to go through to be considered a good candidate for surrogacy, and to then carry multiples means you are a super carrier!

    I am a 6x gestational carrier, and carried 7 babies for 5 couples (boy-girl twins, then a boy, then 2 babies for one family, boy and a year later a girl), another boy and finally one more boy for good measure!

    In that time I worked a couple of different positions. If I was talking to someone I would never see again, I’d accept their congratulations and not mention anything since there was no relationship.

    If I was talking to people I’d see professionally, I’d thank them and say, “This is not my baby/babies. I am carrying for a couple who cannot complete their own family.” 99% of the time they’d actually be thrilled for me/IPs, and congratulate me for what I was doing (and carrying multiples is hard!)

    On the odd occasion where I got a negative response I learnt to smile and just move on with the business topic at hand. Unless you know the person very well there is no point trying to talk to them or change their minds. However, in all the years I was a carrier (2005 to 2016) I can count maybe 3 times where I was met with a negative response. Most often you will get thoughtful responses, and sincere, heartfelt congratulations.

    Once again, you rock! You will see, in the coming years, the impact you have made on the lives of the IPs and their families.

    1. Karo*

      As Reba said, you’re amazing! It is so incredibly kind of you (and OP!) to give of yourself to help other people complete their families.

    2. Sanity Lost*

      I was a surrogate for friends and carried b/g twins for them. I was usually up front with folks “Oh, they’re not mine, I’m just babysitting ;)” was my usual response. I did have some negative responses, unfortunately, my older brother told me “I was no better than a whore, because I was selling my body”…there’s a reason I don’t really talk to him. One very wise and famous man called Bernard Baruch said, “Those who matter don’t care and those who care, don’t matter” .

      For the most part though, a lot of folks were very considerate and even praised me for doing it. It was a great experience and the littles are adorable!

      1. Batgirl*

        Wow there on what your brother said to you. There is just no need for that. I hope you warn all his dates.

        1. Sanity Lost*

          Meh. He married a woman just like him and they are very happy together. He’s called me worse so I just ignore him. He can be a bit too pretentious and self-righteous for me.

  26. Julia*

    LW1 – I am frequently unable to imagine myself using one of Alison’s scripts because it feels unacceptably blunt to me. I’m sure Alison can pull them off well with the proper tone, but I cannot imagine saying to a sweet older colleague, “Hey, please stop guessing people’s sizes. No one wants their body scrutinized like that.”

    Instead, I would say something like “You know something, I’m a little concerned about how people might feel if you buy shirts for them and try to guess their size. I think some people might feel self-conscious about that. What do you think?” and then engage in a conversation where I try to convince her it’s not a great idea.

    If I just proclaimed “Hey, stop doing this,” I can’t imagine how that would end other than a stunned pause in conversation followed by a hurt-sounding exclamation. Or a defensive explanation.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Sometimes, though, when you soften language, people just don’t hear your message. Hence, the reason for bluntness.

      Blunt doesn’t have to be rude. You just need to convey it in a very matter-of-fact tone that communicates that this is not appropriate behavior.

      And if they don’t get it after repeatedly being told to stop, then yes, a stunned pause is exactly what you need to see.

      1. Reba*

        “Blunt doesn’t have to be rude.” This!!!

        My experience has been that sometimes people don’t understand how much a given issue matters if you are too nice or too indirect about it. They will think you are just conversing about it (or even trying to help them in whatever their goal is) and miss the boundary.

        Also, I think some of us do way to much to try to manage other people’s reactions — which we ultimately can’t control! We don’t have to try to save other people from temporary embarrassment or speechlessness, which are usually not fatal :) And on the other side, we are not obligated to just swallow our own discomfort in order to avoid speaking firmly to others!

        1. Mental Lentil*

          And a lot of this is very gendered. Women are trained to be concerned about other’s feelings to a degree that men aren’t. Hence, why women are often encouraged to use softening language. Which is fine if that will accomplish the job, but it often does not.

          Being blunt does require a certain degree of assertiveness that I think women are often discouraged from having, because “assertiveness in a woman = rudeness”.

      2. Julia*

        There’s no evidence in this case that this colleague is obtuse enough that she wouldn’t respond to a gentler approach.
        Nobody’s tried to even broach it with her yet. And while blunt and rude are not the same thing, blunt speech like the above script can take people aback in ways that make them feel uncomfortable around you.

        If a normal amount of politeness doesn’t work then I say by all means move to the blunt language.

        1. Mental Lentil*

          There’s plenty of evidence, including this line from OP:

          “I thought I made it clear the last time that I don’t want any gifts from her”

          I see this as the result of this softened language. OP has already tried this approach. It’s time to be blunt.

        2. Lisa*

          First, there is evidence: “I told her to please stop buying me stuff, and to use it herself since I won’t use it.” And yet you think the coworker isn’t obtuse?

          It’s okay for people to feel uncomfortable for a little bit. Why should they be exempt from discomfort? Why should you have to deal with it instead? Being direct isn’t rude. It can be uncomfortable if you’re not used to it, but it gets easier the more you do it. The other option is being a doormat and eating your own feelings, quietly resenting her all the while you pretend she’s just a well-meaning clueless person. How does that improve the working relationship?

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      I’m the same way but I do think it’s important to be as direct as possible. Maybe something like “please don’t guess my clothing size” or “please don’t comment on people’s bodies” would be a little less intense but still get the point across clearly.

      From the other scenarios in the letter, I think having a whole conversation about it would not be effective – she’ll either try to justify why it’s okay to guess sizes or come to the conclusion that she should ask people directly instead, when the real goal is to keep her from ordering the shirts at all.

    3. Batgirl*

      It feels blunt to me too, because I was raised to be A Lady, but honestly she might need that if she can’t take a hint. Most of us want to be stopped when we are being oblivious and rude. Whenever I get over myself I find that most people are glad I told them straight. OP has already tried “I don’t like that” so something like “What do you think we should like?” won’t get heard.

    4. Roci*

      Yes, I think this is highly culturally dependent. Also depends on how you deliver it, your tone, your expression, your reputation…
      If you are normally very soft spoken and gentle, a blunt direct phrase like this will seem even sharper.

      But I think there are ways to soften a message without removing the fact that it’s a rebuke. It is difficult to socially rebuke someone, as it requires disrupting the harmony. But when someone oversteps, it is important to be able to stop them and point out the unacceptable action.
      I think where your message goes wrong is when you ask “what do you think?” and try to switch to convincing her. You don’t need to convince her, you are not two parties trying to negotiate what is socially acceptable. She has overstepped, and you are delivering social judgement. Picture monkeys or dogs where one gets too rambunctious and the other nips at them or makes a face to say “knock it off!”

      I think you can add as many softening phrases as you need to be comfortable delivering it (“I think, I’m concerned that…, people might feel…, I just…”). Sometimes the message must be softened to be culturally acceptable, so that the other monkey doesn’t actually get hurt. But the important part is that they get the message “STOP IT”.

  27. Mental Lentil*

    When I first read #1, I initially thought the coworker’s name was Velveeta. (My brain is weird.)

    Seriously, if you all have some Velveeta you don’t want, send it my way!

    1. LW1*

      Some people in the office DID call her “Mrs. Velveeta” because of this, but it was like… for a week.

    2. LW1*

      Also, I ended up using the Velveeta to make cheapo nachos several times. Sorry that I don’t have any to send. I thought it was weird the first time, but I was like, “eh… I can use it.”

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Velveeta, Hormel chili (no beans), a bit of milk, all heated up in the microwave. My boys used to devour this stuff with tortilla chips!

  28. Karo*

    Oh god, I’m not actually OP1’s coworker but now I’m scared I’m verging on that territory. My coworker and I recently joked that we should get department mousepads that say “Perfect is the enemy of good” because our boss will frequently delay projects by days trying to get the punctuation or wording just right*. I realized this is a good mantra for me as well because I have an issue with anxiety/perfectionism so I bought 2 stickers with the saying and am intending to send one to her (we work in different cities) with the note “couldn’t find mousepads, sorry!” Is that weird? Or is once every 2 years is ok for a cheap joke-y present?

    *Before anyone jumps on me for not doing a good enough job – it’s things like “should this be a semicolon or should we break it into two sentences?” There’s certainly worth in discussing that, but when we wind up waiting days or sometimes weeks for her review because she’s going back and forth, it gets to a point where we’d be better off printing it and then changing it later.

    1. Tiger*

      Are you friends, or just “people who kind of know each other”? What would be your reaction if she sent this to you? I’d ask yourself those questions before sending it. Personally, I have a couple co-workers I’d think in-joke gifts were great, a handful I’d think were sweet from but kind of strange, and a lot that anything from would just be …weird.

    2. Tuesday*

      I don’t think it’s weird at all, and I think it will be appreciated! It was a shared joke, and it’s something small, not expensive, intended to stay at the office — I think you’re good. I think the problem with OP1 is that it’s happening too often, and it’s weird stuff she doesn’t know what to do with (she hates mustard, and so she gets a jar of mustard…?). I think you’re totally fine. Very different situations.

    3. Hillary*

      I agree with Tuesday – this is a shared joke and it’s small. You’re just fine.

      Now I’m going to go look for those stickers. I’m running a global software project later this year and this is going to be our main theme.

      1. Karo*

        PurplePeachStudio on Etsy! (Alison, please remove if not allowed!)

        Also thanks to all of you for your reassurance! My previous job was a lot more gift-y (every time a coworker went on vacation she’d come back with a small gift for everyone), so I started to worry I was miscalibrated.

  29. SGK*

    LW3: I did this a few years ago! I applied for–and got–a communications job with a medical technology company. I didn’t have a med tech background, but I had the important, fundamental skills for the job, and I was able to pick up the rest as I went.

    If you do end up with a comms job outside of your industry, remember to be patient with yourself. Your learning curve will be steep and it will feel overwhelming at first, but if you make an effort to learn everything you can about your new industry (online research, informational interviews with your coworkers, etc.), you’ll set yourself up to thrive. Good luck!

  30. DollarStoreParty*

    LW#2 The few times I’ve met/been told that a person was carrying children for someone else I felt nothing but admiration. I’m sad and disappointed that anyone (judge not lest ye be judged) would disapprove of you giving an amazing gift to people who cannot have children, for whatever reason, themselves. Let me join in the chorus of people who are telling you you’re wonderful.

  31. CatWoman*

    LW1 – When she brings you these odd little ‘gifts’, just announce loudly to the team, “Oh, look what So-and-So has brought us this time!”. Then put the condiment of the day out in the fridge or kitchen for everyone.

    1. Batgirl*

      You’ve done this before.
      If it’s the kind of thing no one touches I hand it back on the Friday: “We had no takers for this, so you get to enjoy!”

  32. Jennifer*

    #1 My mom is kind of like this. Her heart is in the right place but it can get to be a bit much so I get where you’re coming from. I mention casually that I want to try something – a package is in the mail. Gifts are nice but it can get to be overwhelming.

    The way I handle it is either to not mention wanting or needing anything around her, which seems extreme but there are a ton of things to talk about, or preface the subject with “this is not for you to fix, I’m just venting…”

    Or you can just say thank you and then put it in the garbage. The path of least resistance.

    1. Esmeralda*

      Please don’t throw away food, especially now. If you can spend a little time and energy on it (and you may not be able to, OP, in which case, not a problem), give it to a food bank or church or shelter that can use it. Call first…

      1. Jennifer*

        That’s a good point. Maybe have a box set aside for that purpose and take it to a food bank when it’s full.

  33. Jennifer*

    #2 Tell your boss you are giving the babies up for adoption and ask them to discreetly spread the word that you don’t want to talk about it.

    There was a similar, but much sadder, situation in my life with a person who had a pregnancy that wasn’t viable but she was carrying it to term. An email was sent out explaining the situation, at her request, so people knew not to bring it up to her.

    I have a policy of not mentioning pregnancy until the other person brings it up and think more people should adopt it.

    1. FridayFriyay*

      I don’t think LW2 should feel she has to lie about the situation. She’s not placing the babies for adoption and that lie would open her up to a whole host of other judgements and assumptions and potentially question from others for a situation she isn’t even in.

      1. Jennifer*

        That’s why the boss would ask people not to bring it up to her. People have their own personal judgment about a variety of subjects but at work we have to keep them to ourselves. If someone brought it up to her she could reiterate that she doesn’t want to talk about it and change the subject. Many people tell white lies at work to keep people out of their business. I don’t think it’s a huge deal.

  34. Esmeralda*

    LW 1, if she continues to gift you, you could reply: “OurTown Food Bank thanks you!”

    Then keep it in a bin in your office til you have a few of them, and drop off at the Food Bank. Some grocery stores do collections, as do churches. Women’s shelters may also be glad to get some of these.

    Yes, this is extra work on your part, but you’re making a point and, hopefully, getting food to someone who needs it.

  35. FormerTVGirl*


    I spent almost a decade of my career in news and sports, first as a reporter and then in communications. Three years ago (and with NO relevant experience in the industry), I applied for and got a job doing communications for a tech company. If you have strong skills in your function, a smart hiring manager will recognize that and value it over relevant experience, even in an industry that’s super lingo-heavy like mine.

    From your perspective, the best thing you can do is be armed with examples of how you’ve used your skillset and learned new “areas” fast and were able to succeed. This is absolutely the kind of thing you can mention in your cover letter and in your interviews! Best of luck!

  36. Elisa*

    Hi Alison,

    It would be super if you could keep the moralising out of your responses (e.g. the ‘wtf’ in relation to the surrogacy). As it happens, a lot of very reasonable people oppose surrogacy as they object to the commodification of women’s bodies. In many parts of the world, surrogacy is also used in ways that exploit women and put them in real physical danger. Appreciate that this isn’t the case in this instance (and that’s great). However, it’s really irresponsible of you to assume that anyone who has a different view from you is some kind of monster. You’re supposed to be a manager. Be better.

    Thanks so much!

    1. Cassidy*

      There are other blogs to read; you could even start your own – if you haven’t – rather than try to dictate how someone else writes theirs.

      No one is owed here.

    2. pjm*

      I highly doubt Alison is referring to situations where women are exploited or forced to become surrogates. Also, she is entitled to her opinion, just as you are entitled to yours.

    3. pancakes*

      The wtf is clearly in response to the idea of “someone [who] has a problem with surrogacy” making their feelings known to a coworker or acquaintance acting as a surrogate. The issue in this instance wouldn’t be a difference of views but a lack of manners. There are appropriate times and places for people who oppose surrogacy to express their views on the subject, and noticing a coworker or acquaintance is pregnant isn’t one of them.

    4. Mental Lentil*

      “However, it’s really irresponsible of you to assume that anyone who has a different view from you is some kind of monster.”

      Wow. That is really reading a lot into it.

    5. Batgirl*

      I actually really think it would be a wtf situation if someone confused those issues with the one at hand. It would be like someone raising domestic abuse when I announce my engagement.

    6. Tardie*

      As with many topics people can reasonably disagree on, there is a huge difference between

      “I oppose surrogacy, so I am not going to be a surrogate or engage the services of a surrogate, and I’ll explain my views in reasonable conversations with other people.”
      “I opposed surrogacy, so I’m going to tell another woman, who is currently bearing someone else’s child as a surrogate, that I think what she’s doing is immoral or otherwise express my personal disapproval. I will do this even though she has not asked my personal opinion on the matter, and I will do so while she is at work and thus feels obligated to treat me with some level of respectfulness, even as I am not showing her any respect.”

      If you’re doing #1, go nuts. Talk about your views on surrogacy when it comes up with your friends and family. If you think #2 and #1 are the same thing, then… you are some kind of monster. You don’t have to like the things your co-workers do, but you do have to respect their choices on things that are none of your business and know when your opinion is not actually important. Such as to this letter writer, in this advice column, right now.

    7. Autistic AF*

      A lot of people oppose Christianity for similar reasons – that wouldn’t make it acceptable to bring up anti-Christian points with a vendor wearing a cross.

    8. anonymous 5*

      Hi Elisa,
      It would be super awesome if you’d recognize that your passive aggression is not a good look and that you don’t get to insist on Alison (or anyone) meeting your vague expectation of “better.”

  37. GreenDoor*

    LW 1 I have been a seamstress for over 25 years – a hobby/profession that depends heavily on being able to accurately assess the human body in order to create clothing to cover it. Even after 25 years of doing this, I could never determine to any degree of accuracy what someone’s size is just by looking! To say nothing of personal preferences to wear things tighter or looser or in such a way as to draw attention to or away from areas of the body! Your coworker making a decision about ordering clothing sizes based on her assumptions about their size is just…..wildly presumptuous. If she said anything directly to me about it, I would be inclined to say so.

  38. Sue Wilson*

    #2: I think this depends on where you are and where your clients are. I think for the most part it is unlikely that anyone will say anything negative, if you use are a) excited and b) use gift terminology, i.e. “I’m so glad I get to give this gift to a couple/my friends/my family”. If this is non-commercial, it far less likely that anyone will say anything negative, especially in the US where it’s considered a really kind thing, and there is enough talk about how difficult having a child is for some couples, that people don’t necessarily even think they are negatives. If your clients are from countries where this is a rampant method of exploitation AND you think they have an opinion, then I would just change the subject as much as possible. (This…also has to do with what you look like and sound like. White people who are pregnant and clearly western are not going to get the same questions about surrogacy as non-white people, especially if you’re SEA, or white people from countries in eastern europe).

  39. Electric Mayhem*

    LW2 – As an Ob/Gyn, I just want to offer a slightly different perspective. I totally believe that you know which of these meetings it would be acceptable to do remotely and which in person. However, as a pregnant person (and if I understand correctly, with twins), you are at substantially increased risk of complications if you were to contract COVID. COVID causes life-threatening blood clotting, and pregnancy also has risks of blood clotting. We have seen poorer outcomes in pregnant women who get COVID compared to nonpregnant women. (There doesn’t seem to be an adverse effect on the fetus, thankfully). I just wanted to throw that out there in case it offers you new information and a way to potentially avoid doing any in-person meetings until your pregnancy is over.

    Bravo to you for being a surrogate! You are going to bring a lucky family a lot of joy.

    1. Batgirl*

      My cousin, who is well and whose baby is well thank goodness, experienced everything you describe here because she had Covid. It was only discovered mid-labour and the complications to delivery and her body were not fun. She was a young healthy woman who had no symptoms who is nevertheless left with some lasting consequences. I’m sure OP is under a doctor’s care but I was surprised this would be okayed too.

    2. LW 2*

      Hi! LW 2 here. I actually have figured this part out since December when I first wrote to Allison and because you’re 100% about the risks I have managed to not do any in person meetings. However now that I am closer to the time I might give birth (which you probably know is less concrete than a singleton pregnancy) I am finding I have to explain to clients for whom I’m the main contact why I will be unavailable for a period of time. Especially when I don’t know when that will be or for how long (still hoping to avoid a c section but who knows). So thank you for this perspective for sure but the advice on how to discuss it is still relevant.

      1. Batgirl*

        Can you say it’s a medical issue or need to isolate? Alison’s usual advice is that you don’t have to specify beyond that.

  40. Free Meerkats*

    For #1, This is the perfect place for a big old Southern, “Bless your Heart! I just couldn’t deprive you of this Wonderful Gift!” in the loudest voice you can manage without yelling. Then pointedly and forcibly (if necessary) put it back into her hands and walk away.

    As my Southern grandmother used to say, “Inside every ‘Bless your heart’ is at least a small ‘F4 you’.” I miss you Wanda!

  41. Erelen*

    I got a resume for a specialized IT position, at least 5 years experience, from a gentleman who listed his previous/current role as a roller coaster mechanic! Absolutely zero indication that he had any relevant experience. I was beyond curious and really wanted to interview him, but the company recruiter was not inclined to do so…

    I was not remotely offended or thought any less of him, just mentally wished him luck and moved on.

  42. OhBehave*

    LW 2 – there is a slight chance you will home on restricted activity when you are so far along. That’s a possibility with multiples. Add in the fact that COVID will not go away, maybe it’s best to make sure all meetings are Zoom. How awesome to be a surrogate! A friend did this and carried twins for her friend.

  43. Database Developer Dude*

    I’m having a hard time understanding why a colleague’s pregnancy should be any of anyone else’s business. Help me out here please?

    If one of my colleagues decided to be a surrogate, that’s nice for her. It’s not my business to approve or disapprove of it, and I need to keep my opinions to myself unless asked.

    1. Roci*

      There are a lot of ethical concerns regarding surrogacy internationally and it is illegal in many countries around the world. Much like sex work and abortion, both conservative and progressive groups have different values about the commodification of bodies and people.
      In the US it is generally seen as a kind thing, and it would be very rude to comment on someone else’s pregnancy like that, so I think OP will be OK.

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