coworkers who don’t say “please” or “thank you,” a racy tattoo, and more

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

1. Coworkers who don’t say “please” or “thank you”

Over the course of my career I’ve encountered colleagues who seem to have never learned the words “please” and “thank you.”

On one hand, I get it — I’m doing my job. But, seriously? I’m currently working with two people who expect me to drop everything and work on their request because it’s a quick turnaround. When I send and don’t hear anything, I’m wondering if they even received the information they requested or if it’s what they are looking for. Even a follow-up IM is ignored. (And no, they aren’t exec level folks — they tend to be the most polite. These people are peers-ish.)

I know I’m being too sensitive, but is there a non-confrontational way to bring it up?

It would be tricky to bring up without sounding like you’re scolding them about their manners or being a bit high-maintenance. And really, a lot of people don’t say “please” with every work request; as long as the requests themselves are reasonably polite in tone, that’s what matters.

However! If there’s a larger issue with them seeming generally rude inconsiderate of your time, that larger issue is one you could raise with them/their managers. Or you could address it from the “I don’t know if you even received what I sent” angle — as in, “Could you close the loop with me when I send you something you’ve asked me to work on? I just need confirmation that you received it and it’s what you needed so I can close the request — even a quick ’thanks’ will let me know.”

All that said … if I were advising them, I’d tell them to be more polite and to say “please” and “thank you.” But on your end, it’s worth trying to care about it less; you’ll be happier.

2. Will a tattoo with visible genitalia be OK at my office?

I have plans to get a tattoo of a specific work of art. However, that artwork is of a figure with visible, though not prominent, genitalia. I work in a customer-facing role and wear short sleeves for half the year; my office is not super restrictive about dress code, and my current tattoos (which do not have genitals) are not a problem. Do I need to worry that, if I get this tattoo on my upper arm, the potentially-visible dick & balls will be inappropriate for my office? Should I ask my manager? Do people look that closely in the first place?

Yeah, it is very possible that having a visible dick and balls tattooed on your arm (even as part of a larger artwork) will be an issue at your job and that you’ll be asked to wear long sleeves, especially while working with customers. If you don’t want to deal with that, you could run it by your manager to find out for sure … although even if they tell you it’s fine, it could be Not Fine with other managers in your future and you may be looking at a lot of long sleeves in coming years.

3. One of our managers is secretly dating an employee

I’m a manager for a small local business with about 10 employees who all work closely together. There are two types of positions leading to a power imbalance (think pharmacist and assistant). All pharmacists naturally have a supervisory role over the assistants due to nature of the work.

Jake (pharmacist) is secretly dating Sally (assistant). It is a very poor secret as at least four people have guessed about the relationship on their own. Jake does not really see himself as a manager and I don’t believe he sees it as a problem — they are both just very private people. Sally would definitely be the more assertive person in the relationship but is in the vulnerable position workwise. I have seen no issues with them at work, but it would be very uncomfortable for all of us of they broke up. And honestly, it would be Sally who pays the price if something happened.

Is this a problem? Can I point-blank ask if they are dating? It is getting weirder as Jake now seems to be misleading or perhaps even lying to deflect speculation, i.e. he blamed being late on construction traffic recently but his truck was at Sally’s house. (She lives close to our work and people naturally pass her house on the way in.) I am a co-manager of the store with direct authority over Sally and rules and procedures over all. But I have less direct authority over Jake as he is a regulated licensed professional.

If Jake has any authority over Sally, it’s absolutely a problem and you should raise it with him. Most employers have policies against managers dating people in their chain of command because of the legal liability, potential for bias, and potential for the appearance of bias. So yes, you can indeed ask Jake if he’s dating Sally; explain why you’re asking so he knows it’s work-related and not just curiosity. If you have a policy against managers dating within their chain of command, you should raise that. If you don’t have that policy, you need one — and you’ll need to figure out what to do with this situation that’s already happening (which could mean building firewalls so Jake doesn’t have any influence over Sally’s job or things like her salary, evaluations, schedule, etc.).

I don’t know exactly what you mean when you say Sally is the one who would pay the price if they break up, but that’s worrisome! If you mean Jake would make things uncomfortable for her, you’re legally obligated (by sexual harassment laws) to make sure that doesn’t happen.

4. I plan on quitting my job when I have children — should I tell my boss when she discusses long-term plans?

I love my job. I am passionate about my field and I love doing a job that changes and saves lives. I have a great relationship with my boss and a coworker, and we speak every day to ask questions and bounce ideas off of each other. Due to some changes higher up in our institution and my boss’s career goals, she has mentioned the possibility of moving to a new institution and bringing my coworker and I along. If that does not happen, she has been discussing my coworker and I taking on more of a leadership role, which is leading to more mentorship from her.

I am unbelievably grateful for my incredible boss and her vision for our team and my career. However, my husband and I have decided that I will be a stay-at-home parent if and when we have children, which we’re hoping will happen in the next year or so. I’d be giving up a dream job for an even bigger dream job, but it’s already weighing on me how to make this transition gracefully. I don’t want to miss out on career opportunities as getting pregnant is no guarantee, but I would hate to waste resources and my boss’s time.

Do I tell my boss I plan on eventually leaving? As uncertainty and instability grows, my coworker frequently reassures us that we will stick together even if that means going to a new institution — should I say anything? Both my coworker and boss are working moms who will likely not relate to the desire to stay home, but I consider them good friends.

Nope, don’t mention it until you are pregnant and have concrete plans to leave — and even then, I might hold off on announcing it until your baby is born and you’re sure you don’t want to return, because sometimes plans change in ways you don’t anticipate. (Some people who think they won’t want to return after maternity leave end up changing their minds, and vice versa. Or your husband’s job could become less secure, or your family’s financial situation could change in a way you can’t predict now, and so forth.) Your boss is aware that you could leave your job at some point because that’s true of everyone — and whatever benefit she’d get from knowing that you’re currently thinking you’ll leave in a year or two is outweighed by the risk to you of limiting your professional options in ways you could end up not wanting later on.

I suspect you’re feeling awkward about not telling her now — like that maybe it’s somehow dishonest not to let her know your plans, especially because the relationship is such a strong one — but you’ll let her know your plans once you have a timeline that you’re confident of. Until then, you really don’t need to!

5. How to encourage an employee to move on to get the job they want

I am the manager of a small department. I manage two full-time and two part-time employees. One of my part-time employees has been very vocal about wanting a full-time position in our organization and specifically in my department. There is no full-time position on the horizon and we (my boss and I) were very direct about this when we hired them. It feels like this goal underpins a lot of their interpersonal behavior which vacillates between claiming to be overused (too many projects) and underused (needs more challenges). Their work is fine! It wouldn’t be impossible to replace them but it wouldn’t be easy either. I’ve had to bite my fingers to keep from forwarding full-time job opportunities. Is there anything I can do to encourage them to take the next step?

Have you been very direct with them about the situation — as in, “I want to be really up-front with you that I don’t expect us to be able to hire you full-time in the foreseeable future. I know you want full-time work and I don’t want to mislead you about the likelihood of it happening here; realistically, if that’s your goal, you need to be looking outside the organization for that.”

One caveat: If one of your full-time people leaves, would you consider hiring your part-time person into that opening? If not (whether because of skill set or something else), you should  say that too, because they might be assuming you would and figuring that they’ll wait for that.

{ 569 comments… read them below }

  1. Marajade*

    LW4 The advice not to tell your manager just yet is spot on. My husband and I planned for me to be a stay at home mom when we had kids but he unexpectedly lost his job after I gave birth. He’s working again now but at a pay cut so we’re both still working and our plans definitely changed!

    1. Allonge*

      And on the other side, it’s not actionable information for boss. As pointed out in the answer, everyone will leave their job at some point, and OP’s specific plans depend on a bunch of things not fully in their control.

      I do wonder if the issue at least partly is all the reassurance about sicking together no matter what, which is an ok sentiment but personally it would bug the hell out of me. Nobody’s guaranteed anything. Let’s just see what happens, amirite? Of course this is completely personal but still.

      1. Smithy*

        To the point of this information not being actionable – this is also news based on the OP’s plans going as they expect with their husband, this is also assuming the OP’s boss’ plans largely go as expected.

        In addition to professional hiccups, the OP’s boss might have personal challenges that the OP can’t impact or foresee. We can’t make our amazing bosses never need to leave their jobs to care for ailing family members, or never get sick, or receive an unplanned inheritance that allows for early retirement.

        This isn’t to say that these bosses won’t pivot on a dime to not care about us or our careers, but I do think that this kind of professional long term commitment can be taken with a grain of salt. If the OP’s boss is talking about getting professional support for them to get a PhD or other very long-term training that doesn’t seem like a good idea right now based on family/personal commitments, and the OP can have that conversation. But without completely divulging why.

        1. Miette*

          I would also add that you would have no control over who else your boss would share your plans with, and while you could never dream that your boss would never be biased against you for your plans, others may be.

    2. Artemesia*

      AND you don’t know if you will be able to have children quickly when you want them or at all. We struggled with fertility before we conceived our son and I know people who were unable to have kids. And a husband’s job loss is one of those things that can happen and does happen. Don’t count chickens and don’t count on feeling the same way once you are there. It would be different if you were pregnant now — but treat this possibility as something to keep to yourself until it is a reality.

      1. LadyKnight*

        Gosh yes. My husband and I have been trying to have kids for 7 years, and during that time I’ve had a stillbirth and multiple miscarriages, but no kiddo. Work has been something I have needed to do both from a financial pov and from a mental health one. Don’t tell them until you have no other option; these things can and do go wrong.

        1. KandCo.*

          Just jumping in to say, I know a little about the pain you’ve experienced and and it is soul crushing. I’m so sorry you’ve had such a painful journey to motherhood. I hope your rainbow comes soon.

        2. Eldritch Office Worker*

          And the last thing you want is intrusive (even well meaning) questions from your employer when you’re dealing with these things.

          I’m sorry for your loss LadyKnight.

      2. Trout 'Waver*

        +1. Not only that, but fertility treatment is really freaking expensive. You’ll need all of the highest possible salary. Getting sidelined or demoted now could potentially interfere with that.

      3. Whomever*

        We adopted, which is even more random. When adopting you sometimes get little or not notice…(ours got a few months)

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Gosh yes. We had great plans for me to be a SAHP.

      I had my first baby in 2008. *laughs hysterically* Also, it turned out that my mental health could not support full time SAHPing with a baby.

      I had a stretch later on with baby 2 (FT SAHP) and baby 3 (working 5 hours) when I also had a prefab support network of preschool, school, volunteering, etc, and that was much easier. But yeah, if Who You Are is based on your work, then suddenly losing that part of you to Who You Used To Be can be really hard. And if you’re used to being surrounded by like-minded adults all day long, it’s a major personal culture clash to be … alone.

      Some people really thrive in that environment. But some people don’t. And you don’t know what kind of person you are until you have experienced it.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Yes, I fortunately found being a SAHP okay – daycare would have cost more than I was making in my area! – but a friend who insisted she wanted to stay home ended up feeling so bored and unstimulated she asked her (thrilled) mom to help with childcare and went back before her leave period was up. You really don’t know how you’ll feel until you’re in it!

        Also, OP, remember that there is more than the immediate financial situation to consider. My retirement savings took a hit for my years at home, as well as my plans to retrain which has seriously affected my career progression. There is an “after” the kids are little – and an “after” they are kids – that you need to think about too. And unfortunately if your marriage is not secure – or not as secure as you think it is – it can be pretty hard on the parent who stayed home.

        I’m not saying it’s the wrong choice to stay at home, just to make sure that you’ve considered from angles beyond immediate financial security.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Right! A friend of mine worked for net zero (or even net negative) money for a while so she wouldn’t lose the advances she had made in her career, and to continue to build her pension.

          1. Cat Mom*

            Yep – I’m currently pregnant (with what might be our rainbow baby) after 4 losses, and while daycare will cost as much/more than I make, I want to retire someday and stepping out of the workforce for 3-5 years would ruin that after years of being underemployed and finally being in a role that has long term growth potential. I’d envisioned staying home for a year or two ten years ago, but now that kids are less abstract, I’m not sure about my finances being the one to take the hit. (OTOH, if my husband got a substantial raise, I might reconsider…).

          2. CommanderBanana*

            This is such a good point. I personally cringe when I hear my peers talk about becoming SAHMs. Is your partner going to contribute to your 401k while you’re out of the workforce? I’ve just seen so many women who became SAHMs and spent the rest of their careers un- or underemployed and then ended up in terrible financial situations when their husbands sprung a surprise divorce on them in their 50s and 60s.

            1. Relentlessly Socratic*

              Or staying in marriages they don’t want to be in because of lack of work opportunity.

              OP no one wants to plan for failure of a relationship, but it’s wise to keep it in mind.

              1. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

                My MIL was in this situation about 20 years ago. She’d been a SAHM for 3 kids her entire life and as soon as the oldest was out of the house, FIL cheated on her with the 20 year-old foreign exchange student they were hosting. To say none of us saw *that* coming is an understatement.

                She took him back, primarily because entering the workforce for the first time in her mid-50’s was just too daunting for her to undertake. I was aghast but I totally get it.

                1. Joielle*

                  Very similar story in my family! And honestly, it’s one of the reasons that I’ve been focused on my career all my life. I love my husband so very much, but I need to know I’m staying with him because I want to, not because I can’t afford to leave.

              2. CommanderBanana*

                Yep. I’m not married and don’t have / am not having children, so it’s more of a mental exercise for me, but I read a financial advice column some time ago that did a great job of breaking down what you lose when you leave the workforce.

                People get hung up on the salary and the whole “one paycheck going to daycare,” but that’s not the only factor. Personally, I would not become a SAHM unless my spouse was paying into my 401K at a comparable rate to what I would be making when employed AND I received a salary from my spouse that I had sole discretion over. And complete transparency over financial matters.

                The stakes are just too high. It’s financially ruinous for women who have been out of the workforce that long to get blindsided by a divorce. I have met women who were working low-paid retail jobs in their 70s because they were left near-destitute by a surprise divorce or found out that their spouse was making terrible financial decision and – surprise! – there was no money to retire on.

                1. all pensionable time*

                  I see this so often in government, especially in canada where mat/pat leave is routinely one year up to 18 months. Even if no one stays home for more than the official mat leave of a year-18 months, men (and women without kids) can retire at 55 or so with full pension, but women with children have to wait until they are 60ish (depending on how many kids they have) because they don’t have the same pensionable time or same savings allocation that men do.

                  I’m not saying that they should get something for nothing, but the simple math done to see if it’s “worth it” is really insidious, no one really considers the long-term impact on finances and compounding interest when saying well I make 20/hr after taxes and deductions and daycare is 18/hr so why bother.

              3. CommanderBanana*

                Yeah, if I had a nickel for every advice column I’ve read that started with “I want to leave my husband, but I can’t because we have X children and I’m a SAHM and have no money/can’t get a job” I would have……a lot of nickels.

            2. SadieMae*

              Yes to this. I stayed home with my children, and I adore my children, but I wish I hadn’t done that. It derailed my career, it was isolating and bad for my mental health, and I really worried about being financially dependent on my husband, even though our marriage is a strong one. I just recently got back to where I’m full-time and earning enough that I could support myself if need be, and it feels SO much better.

              Obviously, OP, YMMV … but as someone who’s been there, done that (and who has lots of friends who stayed home and mostly didn’t love it as much as they thought they would), I would suggest staying with your job (especially since you love it!) at least for a little while. You can always reconsider in six months or so after the baby comes, by which time you’ll have gotten past the “OMG I can’t possibly leave my baby with anybody else!!” panic and can assess more clearly and see how you feel. My two cents…

            3. Pogo*

              I don’t. It’s not for me and literally would not be ever (EVER – I love my kids, but…n0), but my sister and a few friends did this and it’s right for their families. In my sister’s case they do give up a lot, but live very simply because that’s what they want to do. We should support all families even if you don’t like the idea.

              1. Rainy*

                I can support someone and still privately be really concerned by the choices they’re making. When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

          3. Jiminy cricket*

            This was me. I worked for less than daycare when the kids were little. Because I did, my career was able to progress. And because of that, we weathered my husband’s job loss and his 40% pay cut to take a dream job, (ahem) marital problems, and private college tuition.

            Sure, it looked like we were several thousand in the red for a couple of years, but that investment has more than paid off. Watching friends try to get back into the workforce after 10 and 15 years was eye-opening.

            Which is not to say one shouldn’t be a stay-at-home parent! There are lots of good reasons other than financial ones to make that choice. But if finances are the reason, you have to do the long-range math, not the short-range math.

        2. CityMouse*

          Don’t get me wrong I love being a mom, but the isolation of maternity leave definitely got to me. I was very ready to go back to work.

          Don’t make big decisions until you try it out first.

          1. My Name is Mudd*

            Oh so much this. I was so lonely during maternity leave. I just wanted to do something, anything that wasn’t baby related. Like please allow me to make a decision that wasn’t about diapers or dinner.

          2. allathian*

            Yes, definitely this.

            When our son was born, I was out of the workforce for about two years on maternity leave (now called leave for late pregnancy and birth recovery, only available to the parent who has carried and given birth to the child) and parental leave, which can be shared quite freely between the parents. As much as I loved being the mom of a baby and toddler and spending time with our son, I was so ready to go back to work by the time I did.

        3. Spero*

          It is shocking to me that so many of the families that choose to have a SAHP do not budget the cost of funding a spousal IRA for that parent during their non-paid work years into the family budget. The SAHP should get funds of their own use but they should ALSO get dedicated retirement funds for the future!

          1. Daisy-dog*

            Never knew this was a thing (not a parent), but will definitely file this away. I can probably guarantee that all the families with SAHMs (only moms) that I know aren’t doing that unfortunately. I’ve already been at parties and brought up the vital importance of maximizing the company match to 401ks to young people (20-25) and how great HSAs are. I love a new party topic.

      2. Colette*

        Yeah, I had a friend (a teacher) who was planning to be a SAHP and homeschool. That plan did not survive maternity leave – she couldn’t wait to get back to work.

      3. Allornone*

        So true that not everyone is cut out for SAHP. I know a woman who became so lonely, bored and overwhelmed, she eventually developed a drinking problem (she would only drink after her children went to sleep; she never put them in danger) and wound up in rehab. Lovely woman overall who wanted to be SAHM most her adult life. But sometimes, it’s just too much.

      4. Flowers*

        I planned to be a housewife/SAHM because I had no other examples growing up and a very strict culture etc. So because that was my plan, I didnt really do well in school and got a degree that I had no plans to work in. 2 months after graduating, I hated being a housewife and I began looking for jobs.

        When I finally had a viable pregnancy, I planned to take maternity leave, come back and work for a few months/ and then quit to be a SAHM. Unfortunately the pandanda ruined that. 

        I went back to work FT when my daughter turned 2. I’m content where I am now in my career but I can’t help but think sometimes that I could have done better in school, been higher up in my career and earnings etc. 

        That was a horrible horrible idea. 

        You can have the intention but I would advise against announcing it until it’s absolutely concrete. 

        1. Employee of the Bearimy*

          I’m not a Sheryl Sandberg fan in general, but one piece of advice from “Lean In” that I thought was spot-on was, “Don’t leave before you leave.” And it’s exactly because of stories like Flowers, above. You never know what life will bring or how what you want may change, so invest fully in your own professional development until the very day you step out of the workforce.

      5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I hear you. I loved parenting my kids at every stage of their lives, including the dreaded by everyone teenage stage. But full time SAHPing with a baby (which I didn’t have a choice over – home country provided extremely long mat leaves, daycare didn’t start until 18 months because of that, and there was no way we could afford a nanny) was absolutely draining. The never-ending monotony combined with lack of sleep drove me up the wall. Maybe if I had a crystal ball where I could see my kids as adults (i.e, now) it would’ve given me motivation to enjoy being home with a baby more, but back then it felt like the baby period would just never end. I had not known that about myself and it was a tough thing to learn.

        My mom, who went back to work when I was 5 months old, wasn’t helping either with all the concerned questions about when I would go back and comments about how I was destroying my career (her 30 minute monologue after I told her we were going to try for a second is something I’ll never forget).

        I also learned that my then husband was not good at all at being the sole income provider. It went to his head and caused control issues. Things were said and done that neither of us was able to forget (at least, I couldn’t). My career did recover from the 4-year setback, but our marriage did not, and eventually ended when the kids were in high school.

        Plus the financial uncertainty as others have already mentioned – you tell everyone you are leaving the workforce in perpetuity and then the one income that your family had planned to live on, suddenly falls through. I’d have a backup plan in place to account for this.

        1. Frieda*

          This. I combined parenting infants/toddlers with graduate school and honestly loved it but my now-ex became extremely controlling. He felt entitled to manage my time and was financially abusive. I hung in there until my own career was solidly launched but things didn’t improve.

      6. MCMonkeyBean*

        It’s not the same thing, but I’m thinking now of that one LW who wrote in because she was planning on taking very little time off after giving birth and her boss was making plans assuming she might need more. She came back and was like “you were all right, I ended up needing way more time off than I expected.

        I think the thing is that OP is thinking of this as a *firm plan* like “this is what is going to happen and therefore not telling my boss feels like a lie of omission. But it’s really less of a “plan” and more of “what I hope happens.” There are so many things here that you can’t control and so many things you might change your mind on that there is definitely nothing concrete enough to be shared with your boss.

        1. Millenniiaa*

          This is so well stated. How many of us, back in fall 2019, had reasonably clear ideas of how the next couple years of our lives would go? We make plans and we work toward our goals but we also have to be ready to react to whatever life throws at us. Don’t preemptively limit your options.

          1. Kara*

            This. In 2019 my husband and i were equal earners, young and in good health. In 2023, I’m the primary earner, and we’re both still young but covid destroyed his health and full on disability may be in his future. You never know, so at least make sure you’ve got money in the bank and a plan to reenter the workforce should you need to. Life can change so fast.

        2. KH_Tas*

          Yeah, but she was making those plans due to financial need, and could only take the extra time because of a stimulus check, the people telling her her plan was bad glossed over that bit.

      7. nonprofit writer*

        Also had my first in 2008 and I second this. It took us 2 years to conceive and during that time, my husband’s job collapsed and I had to go from freelancing back to full-time work. I had originally thought I’d be a mostly SAHP & do some writing on the side, like when the baby was sleeping (LOL). I had no choice but to return to work after my leave and I realized that it was actually a good thing for me. I don’t think I would have been happy or particularly functional staying home. I realize a lot of people are saying these kinds of things, OP, and it may feel overwhelming or not applicable to your situation, but it’s worth thinking about all the financial & professional implications many others have outlined here. For me, remaining in the workforce throughout my 30s enabled me to build the network that has allowed me to return to freelancing, which does give me more time & flexibility with my kids (it’s worth considering that when they are older, they need a lot more shuttling around to activities and appointments) while still earning money and contributing to my retirement fund. In any case, I agree that you should not say anything to your boss now!

      8. MigraineMonth*

        I like the idea of a “major personal culture clash”. Going from 5 days a week in an office surrounded by adults to 7 days a week with a pre-verbal baby does sound like moving to a foreign country!

    4. Workin Mom*

      I also planned to be a SAHM after my child was born. I did that for about 4 months and HATED it. I love my kiddo but I was usually a crying mess by the time my husband was able to get home. For my own sanity, we switched. I now feel so much more balanced and am much happier when spending time with my child. My husband is an introvert anyways and also loves the arrangement.

      1. King Friday XIII*

        I was very much in the same boat as your husband – Queen Sara could not wait to get back to working and found being a SAHM stifling, and I loved staying home for multiple reasons.

    5. Tedious Cat*

      When my bestie was expecting triplets, her male coworkers kept saying “IF you come back, har de har!” She’d just stare at them and say “it’s cute that you think we can raise three kids on a single salary.”

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        All I can think of is “three kids in college at once omgomgomg!” Assuming your bestie is in the US, she made a good call.

    6. Good Luck*

      I agree with waiting. So much can happen between when you become pregnant and give birth. That could be so many different things. Health, financial, economic factors (among many others) could all factor in! So I agree that waiting is the smart choice!

    7. Not Really a Sitcom Writer*

      Agree! I don’t have kids, but I have heard from my mom many times (who does not work her “dream job” to begin with) that she was counting down the days until she could go back to work again after maternity leave because she just ended up hating staying home so much. You never know for sure until you try it!

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        My first job after the mat leave, pretty sure I spent the first two weeks just being in awe of it being quiet and no one screaming for me every few minutes, being able to sit whenever I wanted and (the most amazing thing of all) to use the bathroom whenever the heck I needed to for more than 30 seconds at a time. It was an entry-level job in a cube farm and I felt like I was in heaven.

    8. Chauncy Gardener*

      LW4: Please don’t mention this to your manager! As everyone else has said, SO many things can change, from your financial situation, to your emotions about it, to the length of time it may take for you to get pregnant.
      Also, as others have said, this is not actionable info for your manager. What is she supposed to do with this info besides think she needs to be looking for your replacement?
      Just hold this idea in your head as a future personal goal. And I hope it comes true for you!

      1. Jenny*

        I also want to add- while it’s possible (or likely) that your boss wants to work with you forever, it’s not fair to assume that she would necessarily be upset if you left. I have mentored a number of more junior people over my career and I have actually found promotions for two of my direct reports – one internally and one external. It brings me joy to see great young people succeed. I don’t want or need to hold people back in order to keep them forever!!
        Similarly, I would be very happy for someone I mentored to leave because of a life change that she wanted and planned. Sometimes your boss really just wants what is best for you, whatever that is.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I have worked with so many really great people.
          and if any of them left (and some did), I’d think, “ooh, great opportunity for them! and ooh, great opportunity for me, I wonder who else is out there to hire?”

          I’d miss them (and did miss the ones who left), but every one of them that left was replaced by someone new and interesting who was also qualified.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        “What is she supposed to do with this info besides think she needs to be looking for your replacement?”

        This is a great point – my work hired a single guy with no kids as my replacement, and he started there before my son was even born. I stopped by for a visit three days before I had my son and the guy was already there, and was introduced to me as my replacement. Then when I tried to come back after my paid mat leave was up (18 months), they said no because they had already hired the replacement and couldn’t pay me, and for me to stay on unpaid leave (up to six years in the home country back then… Very generous, but to me at the time it basically meant I’d lost that job and had no chance of getting it back.) Back in my situation, they didn’t really have a choice as they knew I would be gone a long time. But OP does not have to put herself in that situation until she’s completely sure!

    9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Not with the mat leave, but it almost happened with us. We found our first house and it was everything we’d wanted for our family back then, but was a bit over what we’d budgeted for a house. We did the numbers, decided we’d still manage it, and made an offer. Three days later, my husband’s entire team of consultants got called into a meeting and told that their jobs were going to the in-house team at the HQ and they all had two weeks before their last date at that job, and to start looking now. It was during the dotcom bust (early 2001) and IT jobs weren’t super easy to come by. And it was too late to back out of the house offer. After a few frankly horrifying days of us running around trying to figure out what to do, manager on another team offered him an internal transfer, so he’d be working for her and would have a job, but it came with a 30% paycut. We still managed to make it work but things were tight in the beginning, we had to cut our downpayment in half and so on. These things happen and we as employees have little control over them.

    10. Daisy-dog*

      And really, if you do get the promotion and then leave shortly after – isn’t that better? Depending on when you go back to work – after a couple years or after all kids are in kindergarten or above – it may be helpful for you to have left at that higher level. You will likely be unable to return to that same level if it has been many years, but may be able to return to a higher level than if you don’t get a promotion.

    11. Jules the 3rd*

      Definitely wait! It took five years for me to get pregnant. Hope yours happens sooner, but don’t make solid plans yet.

    12. 2 Cents*

      Agree with Alison — so much can happen between now and the future — you may move! You may discover you don’t want to stay home! Your role might change before you’re ready for it to!

      My whole life, I thought I’d be a SAHM. Had the baby, love him to pieces, couldn’t take staying at home for many reasons, including mental health and financial reasons. I’m back at work and even though I feel like the grass is greener sometimes, I’m OK with my decision.

    13. Michelle Smith*

      Adding to say there were several people at one of the places I worked who left for maternity leave and never came back to work. No one thought they did anything weird, wrong, unprofessional, etc. People are allowed to be people and live their lives. We all wished them well and the people they were close to at work remained friends with them. I know you are worried, LW4, about damaging those relationships, but I promise you that you aren’t doing anything wrong by not telling people your plans and if they’re normal, nice people, they won’t feel like you did anything wrong either.

    14. Budgieman*

      This is not your situation, but may be helpful for others to think about.
      When we were expecting, we had every intention of my wife being a SAHM from the start, however we chose to play it safe when B1 was born, and she did not resign until towards the end of her 12 month leave period (mostly unpaid, Australia in 1995)
      This gave us a safety net in the event that something happened with either my job or (god forbid) B1.

  2. Double A*

    For #2, I’m picturing this being a tattoo of something like the David. Something so famous that you almost forget it’s a naked guy.

    Although my daughter has this kid’s encyclopedia with a photo of the David in it, and they put red polka dot underwear on him. Which I don’t really appreciate — I think they should just have used a different statue that they don’t need to censor. Anyway, if even the David needs underpants when exposed to kids (or so as not to expose to kids), then probably there’s no nude art you can tattoo on yourself that is going to be acceptable to everyone in a general audience.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I totally figure it’s David. And no, I wouldn’t get genitalia on me for any reason.

      I used to know a guy who got a naked nymph tattooed on himself, in such a way you could not cover the boobies well. Admittedly this guy was An Artist who never planned to have a day job, but I still think it was a horrible idea.

        1. Despachito*

          I did immediately think of David too.

          And thought that if it is a widely recognized piece of classic art it perhaps should not be such a problem as it is less likely to be seen as pornography/erotica?

          But I agree there is still a risk someone will find this offensive.

          1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

            I also thought David, but I was wondering if the OP could just get some cute fig leaf stickers to cover the area.

        2. Temp tattoo*

          Whether it’s David or not, a tattoo is another artist’s interpretation/reproduction of an artwork in ink on the body, not the artwork itself. As fine as work as the tattoo may be, it lacks the original work’s artistic merit.

          Consider—what if I got a 4”x 4” tattoo consisting solely of a closeup of David’s penis, scrotum, and pubic hair. That would not fly, despite protestations of “but, but, but… Michelangelo!”

          Tattoos have come a long way to social acceptance in the past 30 or so years, but a tattoo including genitals just seems like a very bad idea. I’d choose another design, or put it somewhere it won’t show while wearing normal work clothes.

        3. raspberrysorbet*

          My immediate thought was the Cerne Abbas giant (I’m in the U.K.). That would be a pretty awesome tattoo.

          I wonder if the LW has the option to get the tattoo elsewhere on their body – somewhere that will routinely be covered at work whatever their sleeve length?

      1. Artemesia*

        A principal just lost her job in Florida for allowing an art class to include David in a school. America is ridiculous about many things, this being one of them.

        1. Transatlantic*

          I agree censoring David when discussing art is ridiculous and borderline scary. But even David, which isn’t graphic, might be a bit much in the context being a not really immediately recognisable naked figure partially visible (perhaps from the waist down) on some rando’s arm when you’re trying to interact with him professionally. I’ve run across way too many shall we say “exuberantly” graphic tattoos on people to assume we’re talking about something as discreet as David, anyways.

          1. EAM*

            Agreed, a photograph or statue replica of the original is understood, a tattoo is much less likely to be immediately recognizable , especially because out of context. If it is David, I’ll give LW#2 slight leeway for asking but I’d still advise against. If it’s pretty much anything else, do we really need to tell people that getting tattoo genitalia anywhere you plan on exposing to the public is pretty offensive? It’s not just about work.

        2. Lucy P*

          Some of our original settlers were Puritans. Guess that hasn’t changed for some of the current residents.

        3. WellRed*

          Please don’t conflate Florida with America. Individual states are all very different with Florida in its own galaxy

          1. IDIC believer*

            And maybe it’s just easy to stereotype Florida. And just to point out as a native Floridian, over 60% of our population isn’t native born but rather runaways from other states – and LOTS are retirees who have their own unique issues.

            We definitely are unique here and have our share of native crazies, but we would be happy to let the other states kept their share.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I recently learned that the reason we hear so many “Florida Man/Woman” stories is due to Florida’s awesome open records laws [which are unfortunately currently being undermined]. Instead of reporters filing FOIA requests just to get police arrest records, that information is freely available. As a result, it’s much easier to report on important things (e.g. police conduct), but also on bizarre and unimportant things (e.g. citizen conduct while high and trying to carry an alligator onto a public bus).

        4. Jack Russell Terrier*

          The situation is – to my mind – worse. It was not because David was included, it was because they accidentally failed to send mandatory opt out letters to parents and one child’s parents were so upset by this oversight they basically got her fired.

          1. IDIC believer*

            School boards need to grow spines, and whack-a-doodle parents need to accept that even elementary kids are aware that genitals (by other names) exist.

      2. lilsheba*

        Why is it a bad idea if he doesn’t plan to have a day job? It’s his right to do whatever he wants.

        1. Umiel*

          He can do whatever he wants with his tattoos, but that doesn’t guarantee employment for him. It’s a bad idea because customers and co-workers could be offended. And before anyone ridicules those who might be offended, I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect to not be subjected to images of genitalia that you weren’t expecting.

    2. Armchair Analyst*

      I thought Vitruvian Man by Leonardo daVinci. which obviously depends on the size and magnification of the tattoo. But I would feel similar if it were of a woman.

      1. SAS*

        I thought Vetruvian Man too! I think the genitals are very unobtrusive and desexualised in both. Depending on its placement on the arm and in relation to other tattoos, the eye may not be drawn there.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I have a coworker with the Vitruvian Man on his upper arm – yup – he’s been told by the manager to keep it covered. See my comment below.

      3. Saberise*

        This was my first thought too. My son-in-law has it on his chest. Definitely work friendly.

    3. E. Monday*

      I also immediately thought of Michelangelo’s David! While I feel like the full view wouldn’t be objectionable (it’s art, dammit!) the idea of just legs and junk peeking out from the bottom of a short sleeve is… uh. Significantly less classy.

      1. Pennyworth*

        Didn’t a teacher recently lose her job for showing ‘pornography’ to her students? It was David.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        But alternately, think how cute it would be if you positioned him so like a bracelet or armband could give him some tasteful shorts :)

        1. KateM*

          And I was imagining that it will positioned so that when OP wear a short-sleeved shirt, all you can see is the lower part of body like the figure was wearing a shirt but no pants.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          I was thinking a strategically placed bandaid. I’d find that funny (but then I’m European and not shocked by or bothered about nudity, especially in art – people do know that the David is displayed on a public square where thousands of people pass by him daily, right?).

          If it’s a classical statue or drawing, the junk is going to be microscopic scaled down to arm tattoo size anyway, so people would be objecting more to the idea of nudity rather than anything actually visible anyway.

          1. Rex Libris*

            A certain subset of the American populace absolutely lives to object to the idea of things, rather than anything connected to actual reality.

            1. Loulou*

              Since we have absolutely no idea of what OP’s tattoo looks like, other than that it depicts genitals, I’d say people here are certainly also responding to an idea rather than reality lol

          2. Snow*

            I still have the European health insurance card that had a picture of Vitruvian Man on it, with the chip placed to provide some modesty. My US one is just white with the company colors along the edge.

            1. WorkerAlias*

              We live in the EU and have this on our cards. My kid’s new card came in the mail literally today and my husband and I were laughing over the chip placement.

        3. bamcheeks*

          Yeah, I was trying to work out if you could cut out a little pair of pants from a plaster or tape or something. Or maybe there’s a market for underwear stickers for nudey tattoos…

          1. Kacihall*

            I’m imagining something like Colorforms (but that stuck to skin!) My kiddo had several of those sets and some of them are basically dress up sets for characters on the background.

          2. IDIC believer*

            And where larger sizes are available so as OP ages and skin sags, coverage is possible

            IMO, as a customer, I wouldn’t care what the tattoo showed. I never indicate that I find most ugly or ridiculous; but I do support adults modifying their bodies however they wish. I’ve also never had a problem explaining this to kids.

            FFS there’s serious crap going on, why give a f*ck about someone else’s tattoo? Just look away.

      3. coffee*

        The idea of just seeing the lower half with everything on display has made me laugh, so thanks for that!

      4. Carol the happy elf*

        That image is now stuck unmovably in my twisted little brain.

        A short sleeve with the bottom half of a nekkid man hanging out under the hem. How about those blouses that roll up and have a tab and loop to stay fashionably rolled up? I will never again be able to see that tab-and-button feature without thinking phallic thoughts.

        I immediately thought of David, too, but the lower half of Vitruvian Man would be- unforgettable…. Just because of his– stance!

        Putting a cartoon bandaid- or ANY bandaid- would only draw attention.

        (Husband just saw this, snorted cereal milk out of his nose, and is having a coughing fit.)

      5. Jaydee*

        I have the same concern that, depending on placement and sleeve length, the genitals could be much more prominent than intended just because half the tattoo is covered.

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      See, where I work even something as classical as “David” or the “Venus di Milo” as visible tattoos – because it violates the dress code (yes – tattoos are covered in the dress code here).

      The dress code reads: we do not want to know about your undergarment preferences (or lack there of). Please ensure that areas that undergarments should cover are Completely Covered. Additionally, any visible Tattoos must adhere to the same standards for all subjects. Additionally no gore, curse words, drug culture references, or gang culture references may be worn or displayed in Visible Tattoos.”

      Stress here on Visible. If you’ve got “The David” or similar on your back – we don’t care, it’s covered up by work appropriate clothing.

      I think the best bet with tattoos that will be visible is to go for things that you wouldn’t care if your pearl clutching grandma or a curious pre-school class would see and ask questions about. If it’a questionable design – keep it covered at work.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        This is pretty much how my workplace rolls, too. Tattoos in general aren’t an issue but the ones that can be seen while you’re wearing ordinary street clothes shouldn’t have [the list you just provided]. A lot of our patrons are from places were tattoos (especially on women) are not as acceptable as they are in the US, and where nudity or references like that would be even more problematic.

      2. EPLawyer*

        I think this explains it extremely well. We don’t want to see your bits, or anyone else’s bits. Doesn’t matter if it is well known piece of art or your favorite character from a comic, seeing genitalia at work is not acceptable.

        Get the tatoo if you must, but put it somewhere it will not show at all at work.

      3. Nodramalama*

        Drug culture and gang cultural references feel a bit weird to include there. Who is making a call of what is a drug or gang reference? if someone had a tattoo with the date 04/20 they’d be expected to cover it up?

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          We’re a hospital system right outside a military base…..some of the tattoo policy got copied straight from the DOD policy on visible tattoos.

          And as long as your hair doesn’t interfere with patient care – we don’t care. My manager currently has bubblegum pink dreds.

        2. Cmdrshprd*

          I think as with most workplaces that is subjective and up to HR/management.

          I would think a times new roman 12 pt font of the date “4/20” would be fine, but if it is something like 4/20 among a bed of the spiky pot leaf, or 4/20 resting in a cloud of smoke that is more directly a drug reference and understandable for companies/management not to want that visible on their employees.

          1. just some guy*

            I’d actually be *less* comfortable with the first option. The two main groups who make a big deal about April 20th are potheads and neo-Nazis, and if people are going to tattoo that date I appreciate having some further context.

      4. Salute*

        I agree, it needs to be covered or at least easily coverable. It might matter at future jobs if not the current one.
        At a previous job a vendor tech came in to do maintenance on lab equipment. He wore short sleeves and had a large tattoo of a hand flipping the bird on his forearm, like life-size large; I can’t say I cared, but I can’t imagine his employer would knowingly let him show up at customer locations in short sleeves with that tattoo.

      5. Tio*

        Yeah, this is basically how my work would address it. I know managers who have tattoos that are visible, but none of them have risque subjects. And honestly, if I was in an office, I wouldn’t necessarily want to look up and see dicks on Bob’s arm every Thursday, either, so it isn’t necessarily just customer facing jobs that this could be a problem. I’d strongly reconsider getting that particular art in a regularly visible place.

      6. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        “If it’a questionable design – keep it covered at work.”

        It can also be regarded as poor judgement, thus affecting your career.

    5. Rainbow*

      Funny, while reading the letter I was thinking I’d feel differently if it were David vs a giant obvious cock and balls in the style of an album cover or something. But if America considers David pornography then seriously, there’s no hope for this if OP is USian. Maybe the artist will have to shield their eyes while doing the tattoo

      1. Jill Swinburne*

        I am reminded of that old Simpsons episode: “won’t somebody please think of the children!”

        I also thought of David or Vitruvian Man. To me, there’s a big difference between Renaissance art and HUR HUR DICK, but I’m aware that others are more easily offended.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Greece has a whole souvenir segment devoted to the combination of Classical art and HUR HUR DICK.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            I saw so many massive dicks (in an entirely artistic context) in A-level Classics class at high school that I just kind of shrug at them now. This was an all girls’ school, so there was a bit of giggling at the first few and then we all got over it and started analysing the art. The brains of the folks censoring nude artworks in the US would have exploded about a minute into that class!

            1. Felis alwayshungryis*

              Maybe that’s where I got desensitised to it as well. Also, in the country I live in (not Greece!), a lot of indigenous woodcarvings are…well, many of them leave little to the imagination, let’s say.

        2. Modesty Poncho*

          “But I like that statue!”

          “I told you she was soft on frontal nudity!”

      2. EPLawyer*

        The thing is — if you only see the dick and balls sticking out of the shirt, you don’t KNOW its David or a giant cock and balls in the style of an album cover.

        Its one of those things — we all know we have genitalia, but we pretend at work that we don’t know that. Sticking it out there so to speak ruins the polite fiction.

      3. cabbagepants*

        I wouldn’t care about seeing David but I think it’s good to have a general rule about no nudity, even if it’s “art,” because then you’d have to get in to subjective assessment of artistic merit vs porniness, male gaze stuff, etc and I don’t trust your average employer to get it right.

      4. alienor*

        For what it’s worth, most of America does not consider David pornography. There are some weirdos here to be sure, but also lots of normal people who can tell the difference between art (or textbooks with illustrations of bodies, or anatomically correct dolls) and porn. That being said, it’ll make life easier for OP if they get the tattoo in a location where it can be covered up even by short sleeves at work.

          1. Loulou*

            right lol Europeans also wear clothes in public! I don’t know how this turned into a discussion of American prudery

          2. Pixx*

            I live and work in the UK, for a pretty laidback company (pink hair, tattoos, facial piercings, etc. are all absolutely fine). I’d almost certainly be asked to cover up a tattoo that depicts nudity, and I strongly suspect that my manager would be concerned that I’d needed that spelled out to me.

          3. not so serious sailor without tattoos*

            I live in Europe, where traditionally only sailors and prisoners have tattoos. If you have visible tattoos in an interview, you had better have some ocean experience on your CV. Women do have more leeway, though.

      5. ijustworkhere*

        the statue of David is not pornography. But I don’t want it sitting in my workplace. I don’t want nude photos of people in there either. It’s not appropriate to come to work nude or with your family jewels hanging out—so it seems that depictions of such would not be welcomed in most workplaces either.

        1. anon for this*

          Thank you. This is where I stand, and I don’t think I’m some kind of prude – I took nude figure-drawing courses in high school.

      1. bamcheeks*

        on second thoughts that would definitely not be “visible but not prominent”.

    6. Mercurial*

      My mind went straight to David. And further went to the solution used of creating a fig leaf that could hang over the genitals – how about a sticking plaster with a fig leaf drawn on it for when you need to cover it?

      Even if this is way off, I am chortling happily at the mere thought.

    7. avva*

      fwiw, i also have a tatooo with visible genitalia, also of a famous work of art, (not david, but in a similar vein of recognizability). It’s never been an issue at work

      1. Transatlantic*

        Out of curiosity, is your tattoo displayed in a way that it’s immediately obvious what it is in a glance (and thus not shocking IMO) as opposed to poor David hanging out of a short sleeve like Donald Duck?

    8. Frodo*

      My mind immediately went to Robert Mapplethorpe because “dick and balls” is how the artist would’ve described it.

    9. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

      A photo of David with polka dot underwear? I’m amused and annoyed in equal measure.

      1. Double A*

        This is how I feel every time I see it! For one, I would not care if my 4-year-old saw the uncovered statue. If anything, explaining why he is wearing underwear is MORE awkward than him just being nude.

    10. CityMouse*

      Would a detailed David fit on your arm? Seems like is too small for that.

    11. KatEnigma*

      But LW described the genitalia as “not prominent” – that doesn’t apply to David.

      1. metadata minion*

        I guess it depends on what you mean by prominent. To me, David’s genitals aren’t particularly prominent. Yes, it’s clearly a naked man, but it’s not in a sexual pose and the genitals aren’t unusually large or anything like that. He’s just…nude. Which, now that I think of it, is kind of hilarious for someone who’s ostensibly going off to fight a giant, but to me it just reads as “standard Classical non-sexual nude”, not “reproduction of the brothel menu from Pompeii”.

      2. Nodramalama*

        I don’t think David’s dick is any more prominent than any other naked man in art.

      3. zuzu*

        I don’t know what David you’ve been looking at, but his junk isn’t really flapping around in your face. It’s just there.

        The point is to look at his perfectly sculpted body and weirdly large head. Though I guess that’s because you look at it from below.

        1. MassMatt*

          We are getting into the weeds here but David was indeed meant to be seen from below. Not just below as in placed on a plinth/pedestal but as in being placed on a roof. When it was unveiled the city immediately decided to put it in a more prominent place due to its quality.

          And getting FURTHER into the weeds, a large penis is a fairly modern erotic aesthetic. Erotic artwork of the ancient and Renaissance periods (there’s plenty) generally do NOT feature large penises, they generally preferred small and specifically proportioned genitals and considered large penises vulgar, as in fit for barnyards not their erotica.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Cool info! I’ve always thought David’s genitalia was small in proportion to his frame.

            1. KTB*

              In one published analysis of the statue, at least some of the smallness is physiologically correct detailing for a terrified man!

        2. linger*

          See also Rodin’s Thinker, whose top-heaviness is entirely deliberate, since it was originally intended as a representation of Dante sitting on top of the Gate of Hell, and thus to be viewed only from directly below. (The Gate was a massive decades-long potboiler of a project, spawning dozens of figures that Rodin spun off into separate pieces.)

      4. Ingemma*

        This might be proving a different point than you meant – but I absolutely would describe David as a non prominent situation. Its so well known it would register very firmly as art + it’s not the main focus of the piece.

        But serves as a reminder that we all have different scales for this stuff and that absolutely reasonable people can disagree. So a strong argument for ‘could cause issues’

    12. Jezebella*

      I think it’s Dr. Manhattan from Watchman. I hope LW pops in and tells us what it is!

    13. RagingADHD*

      Michaelangelo’s David or Vitruvian Man are not going to wrinkle, sag, sprout hair or moles, have fuzzy / poorly executed lines, or fade in strange ways over time.

      Tattoos are prone to all those things, that could very forseeably make the tattoo look like an unfortunate parody, or make it unrecognizable at all.

      And even if they were flawless, with all the real estate available on the body that can be displayed in non-work clothes, why put this particular one on your arm, instead of somewhere else?

      The second thoughts that prompted the question were the right thoughts.

    14. Nargal*

      It’s funny to me cause I didn’t picture that at all. For me, the line is recognizable classical art = more tasteful while “a specific work of art” that is more modern is more likely to be sexualized & inappropriate. It’s not that classical art wasn’t meant to be seen that way at the time, but its meaning is now respectable and considered higher class. I don’t say any of this doesn’t need examining, but I’d be ok with seeing someone’s David tattoo but a bit confused/surprised/taken aback by something more modern.

    15. Jules the 3rd*

      No matter what, OP will be dealing with The Public. There’s no way that even Vitruvian Man will be ok with every member of The Public, so the tattoo would need to be covered.

      I love science and art, and I would consider visible lower half of Vitruvian Man (or David) to be… distracting… at best. And yes, The Public does look that closely.

    16. irianamistifi*

      I’m kind of surprised no one (so far) mentioned makeup! Concealer can go a long way and some really high-quality options are available out there that can cover up portions of tattoos entirely (or even the whole thing).

      I fall on the range of “it’s your body, decorate it how you want. But be aware that not everyone wants to look at the same things you do.” Within that scope, I say get the tattoo and just be prepared to cover up either with sleeves or makeup. Plenty of people are saying that a bandaid/plaster covering up the genitalia would draw more attention to it. What if, with concealer, the genitalia just . . . wasn’t there? Would that solve it? If you fill in the blank and put genitalia there in your own mind, that’s YOUR problem.

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        You know that makeup is generally bad for clothes, right? Someone is going to put concealer on their arm 5/7 days of the week instead of just getting the tattoo on their scapula instead? Where it will smear on their dress clothes? Why does one need that tattoo in that spot so badly?

    17. Fart Noise*

      Regardless of the subject matter, if you have any job where you do not work for yourself and have visible tattoos, you should resolve yourself to the possibility of having to wear long sleeves.

      Source: I’m a heavily tattooed human.

    18. LW2*

      It’s Abbé Breuil’s reconstruction of the “Sorcerer” painting from the cave of Trois-Frères, so the person who brought up the Cerne Abbas Giant was closest in time period (although not in, let’s say, scale of the anatomy in question :) ). The genitals are fairly small and not in exactly the expected place, but still, like, definitely there. I’m really grateful for Alison and everyone’s input on this; I think I’ll ask my manager before proceeding, and am leaning at this point towards getting it on my thigh instead (shorts are definitely against dress code here :) ).

      1. Leenie*

        Thanks for solving the mystery! To be honest, I’m not even sure that I’d recognize that as genitalia right off. But given the mixed responses, the thigh might be the safest option. Enjoy the new tattoo, wherever it winds up!

      2. Electric Sheep*

        Thanks for updating, I was curious! It is a cool idea for a tattoo but yeah I agree, would be safer on your thigh

    19. just some guy*

      My other thought was maybe the Pioneer plaque. Respectable as something to send on behalf of the entire human race as a potential introduction to possible alien civilisations, but too racy for a normal office.

    20. Jack B.*

      I’m maybe in a different category from some of the other replies, as I do have a sexually explicit tattoo, It’s probably less classy than LW2 is asking about, but even so, why would you put that where it can be seen in regular shirt sleeves if there’s even a question? I would advise LW2 to put it somewhere else. if s/he wants it visible, there’s the option to put it smaller and/or higher on the arm or on a calf so that it can be seen in a tank top, muscle shirt, or shorts. Mine isn’t even visible in most swimwear.

  3. phira*

    LW4: Definitely wait until you’re sure you are going to quit to be a stay at home parent full time. I’m not saying that you will definitely change your mind! I’m saying that you really will not know until you’re actually in the situation. I always assumed that I would hate being a stay at home parent, and now I am one and I way, way, way prefer it to being a working parent. And my SIL assumed she would be a stay at home parent–or at least she would cut way back on her hours to be at home more often–and she ended up desperate for her parental leave to end, she was so unhappy staying at home.

    Alison is right that things might change with your spouse’s job by the time you’re actually parents, but I just wanted to point out that you’re not going to know how you feel about being a stay at home parent until parenthood has begun. Parenthood in general is like that–there’s only so much you can prepare yourself for before you get on the roller coaster.

    1. Shakti*

      Yes! I always thought I’d work as a parent and through a variety of situations including losing my job right as I got pregnant and working in a temporary situation until I had my baby I became a stay at home parent because it was cheaper than having my child in daycare. Now I couldn’t imagine not being a stay at home parent and I love it. Some of my friends couldn’t wait to go back to work. It’s such a variable situation that honestly you can’t predict until you experience it. So it’s not being dishonest to not disclose these plans because you really don’t know what will be best for you and your family until you’re in the situation

  4. Specks*

    OP #4, I’ve been in a similar position and do not, do not base your career moves on a child that has not happened. I got laid off and didn’t take on a new full time position because we were trying to get pregnant and I wanted to SAHP for at least a year. Well, it took us a very long time to get pregnant, and I could’ve gotten hired and probably promoted in that time.

    And then it turned out that I am just not SAHP material… being a mom is very different and a lot harder for me personally in ways I didn’t expect despite all of my research, and while my one year old is the joy of my life and is just so fun, I’m enjoying him and my life a lot more now that I’m back to working part time. And I’m a much better, more engaged mom to him as well.

    This is all to say, you have no idea what parenting will be like for you, what kind of a kid you will have, how much you will miss work, how long it will even be before the baby comes along. Keep going with your career, negotiate a longer FMLA if you’re in the US, take 6 months post birth and then assess how you feel and what you want.

    1. Green great dragon*

      Echoing this. I hope everything goes very smoothly for you OP! But if, like my sister, it takes over three years to get pregnant, well, you can do a lot of career in the nearly 5 years before your first baby’s born.

      My sister had also planned on being a SAHM when her second was born, but ended up divorced after her first and is very glad of her job. Best laid plans, etc.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I was a far better parent to my very small child 3/4 days a week than 24/7. By a country mile.

      I am a far better parent to children who can reason than I was to infants and toddlers.

      1. FashionablyEvil*

        I think all parents have ages and stages they are better with. We call my brother in law the baby whisperer, but teenagers? Not his strong suit.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          I adore babies and toddlers. Once they hit 3 or 4, they’re no longer cute enough to justify the trouble, and I’d rather not interact with them until they’re adults. I will happily bounce and gurgle at a baby for hours, I have zero interest in playing with kindergartners.

          (No, I do not have children!).

          1. Dell*

            I’m the opposite! I don’t understand the point of even trying with kids until they are at a minimum about 8, preferably 10+.

          2. The Original K.*

            And I (also no kids) am the opposite – I’m not comfortable around babies but once they hit about two, I love kids. I was the “let’s make a fort/do a cooking project/play hide and seek/play freeze tag/read together” babysitter, always actively engaged with the kids, but the first time I babysat an infant I was like … now what?

          3. Irish Teacher*

            I’m just the opposite. I have no interest in babies or toddlers but once they hit about 3 or 4, I get on awfully well with them. When I was a teen, my mum used to joke that if I ever had kids, she’d mind them for the first 2-3 years, then give them back to me when they learnt to answer back (and when I was capable of communicating with them).

    3. RagingADHD*

      Adding to this, you have no idea what’s going to happen to your family finances. I had every intention of being a SAHP when my kids were born, and loved it.

      Then 2008 happened. We still haven’t fully recovered financially, and as far as we can see, we will never be able to afford to be a 1 income household again.

      You don’t know when or if the baby is going to happen, or what you’re going to want when it does happen, and you don’t know if you’ll be able to get what you want in terms of lifestyle.

  5. Tatooine*

    #2 – if I saw anyone with something crass or nude tattooed on them, I don’t think I’d be sticking around long enough to make use of their services, even if it was “tasteful art”.

    I don’t have any specific stances on tattoos as a whole, but if I knew someone had something questionable permanently affixed to their body, it would certainly make me question their ability to make rational professional decisions.

    1. the girl with silver eyes*

      You think the David or the Vitruvian Man are crass? Hope you live in Florida.

      1. Myrin*

        We don’t know that it’s either of those pieces (or one similar to it), though, that’s just something a lot of commenters guessed. “A specific piece of art” might just as well refer to a comic book OP is fond of or an illustration of a mannequin with actual genitals instead of the Ken-like smoothness a local artist created or a thousand other pieces we might’ve never even heard of.

        1. CityMouse*

          I’m skeptical of those guesses because to size that on someone’s arm the genitals wouldn’t really be detailed. Just squiggles.

          1. Transatlantic*

            I have definitely seen tattoos of entire figures on people’s arms that had plenty of rampant detail in the relevant areas. To be fair, the worst offenders were likely prison tats, but there have been plenty of professional, even artistic, ones as well. They can do a lot with colour and shading!

            1. CityMouse*

              Yes but David’s a pretty big statue. To size David down to fit on my arm, his genitals would end up quite small. The Vitruvian man would be even trickier because his arms stretch out. To make him a single image on your arm you’d have to size him down. So there’s no way in my mind you could have that specific artwork on your arm and still have detailed genitals. Not unless you were specifically emphasizing it.

          2. President Porpoise*

            I mean, I guess you haven’t read the Watchmen graphic novel. Dr. Manhattan is… well, detailed. And so blue.

      2. Tatooine*

        No. I don’t. I live in Australia. In a blue collar industry where words like “c*nt” are thrown around and no one cares.

        I’d still think any coworker was a bit of a tosser if he had a tattoo with blatant genitalia (of any sort) anywhere. There was a guy around town who used to drive around with a metal dick-and-balls hanging off the tow ball of his ute; I didn’t pearl clutch or call a town meeting, but I thought it was stupid (I’m going to assume it started as a prank, but for how long it was there he surely knew).

        Just because one can doesn’t mean one should.

        1. L. Bennett*

          At least where I am in the US, the dick and balls hanging from the back of the truck is common, but we’re offended by Michelangelo’s David…. Make it make sense.

          1. Loulou*

            would you recommend someone drive a truck with balls hanging off it to work in an office?

          2. Workerbee*

            Common but nonsensical there, too – why advertise how vulnerable your truck is? One light tap and it would curl over into a fetal position. :P

          3. NotAnotherManager!*

            Truck nuts are one of the most baffling products I’ve ever seen. I just cannot identify at all with someone who thinks they are witty, send a positive message, or in good taste. Every time I see them, it just fascinates me that someone paid money for those.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I suspect the people who buy/display truck nuts are not aiming to “send a positive message” or advertise good taste. I think they just think they’re funny.

        2. Nodramalama*

          So you would be offended with someone with a David tattoo, or you wouldn’t? Would you be offended if a workplace hung up a print of venus De Milo?

        3. Irish Teacher*

          To be fair, I wouldn’t compare putting something like that on a truck to artwork like David or the Vitruvian Man. I think the first sounds pretty distasteful but I have no problem with the latter. Those things read very differently to me.

      3. Ellis Bell*

        While I also think that they are elegant works of art, and not at all crass….. work isn’t really the place to use individual taste to decide on what’s appropriate for the comfort levels of others. If you are relying on taste and art knowledge, then you also end up in a murky policy area where it would come down to individual managers about what type of art is classic enough to feature genitalia. I wouldn’t be surprised if OP tried, and got away with this tattoo because everyone reads it ‘classic art’ rather than ‘exposed genitalia’, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if they came across someone who had never heard of the artwork and therefore objected to it. I doubt OP wants to roll the dice on that and just trust in people’s taste – it’s not like tattoos are easily removed, and it might not be convenient to cover it up later if it proves to be a problem.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Interesting point about how the image of a nude “reads” depending on whether you recognize it from some larger artistic context (e.g. the art on a specific album cover).

          Also, I think the rabbit hole “This genitalia is tasteful but this genitalia is crass” is not a debate most people want to put a lot of effort into having at work, or when buying llama statuary. So put those tattoos somewhere covered by clothing. e.g. I was completely appalled on behalf of the intern whose coworker drew a dick and balls on her cast, and she was within rights to find that upsetting.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            This is where I land. Barring a few very specific career fields, genitals don’t belong on display at work, whether one personally thinks they’re tasteful or crass or anything else, so please keep all your junk covered, both your actual and your artistic, and nobody has to make the judgement call.

      4. Boss Scaggs*

        Is Vitruvian man the Da Vinci drawing? I never understood why he has four arms and four legs, let alone the nudity.

        1. Twix*

          Yes it is. It’s not a person with 4 arms and legs, it’s an anatomical study of the idealized male form (by the standards of the time). It shows the superimposed image of the same person in a T-pose vs with fully splayed limbs. The square and circle enclosing it are geometrically accurate, which illustrate various relationships between the figure’s proportions, e.g. height is equal to wingspan, and toes and fingertips of splayed limbs are equidistant from the center of the enclosing circle.

      5. Lana Kane*

        There’s no indication that it’s something like this. Not enough to snark on someone.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      Tasteful art is pretty much by definition not crass. If it was crass, it wouldn’t be tasteful.

      Either way, probably not the best choice for the workplace.

      1. RetailEscapee*

        I have a tattoo on my leg of a mythical figure with bare breasts. I don’t show her at work because I wouldn’t wear shorts to work anyway. I’m neither unprofessional or stupid, nor irrational, based in n a 20 year history of glowing performance reviews and a career that’s right-sized for my life.

    3. ferrina*

      There’s a difference between crass and nude. You can be crass without being nude, and you can have nudity without being crass.

      I think it depends what where and how. It can reflect if the wearer were thoughtful in what they got, where they got it and how they compliment the tattoo with their clothing- to me this speaks to foresight, vision and attention to detail, which are all good things! But it can also be clear when the person lacks these things- I have a relative that got several pin-up girls tattooed on her arms and you can see genitalia, and she definitely didn’t think about long-term impact or wearability (she was also prone to completely changing her style ever 5-7 years). This thought process is reflected in the rest of her life as well. Knowing her as I do, I wouldn’t hire her. But I think it’s also silly not to decline to have her as a customer service representative or such. I guess it really depends on the role.

      1. scandi*

        But the boundary between crass and nude depends on culture and differs from person to person. And at work you’re almost guaranteed to come across someone (whether customer or coworker) who draws that boundary differently than you.

  6. ChattyDelle*

    LW #2 – people are certainly entitled to put whatever art or design they wish on their body. Tattoos still provoke strong reactions in some people, and intentionally putting naked art where it’s going to be seen by your customers seem to be self-damaging. Can you put it somewhere that’s not visible under work clothes? seems to me that not only will this employer maybe have an issue, but what about future employers? Are you planning on never changing jobs? it just doesn’t seem to be a wise decision, but you do you. Remember a teacher just lost her job for *showing* a picture of the David to middle schoolers

    1. BoksBooks*

      Well the rest of us should try hard not to let those insane fascists determine what we do with our bodies!

      1. PNWorker*

        I mean, we aren’t talking about jail for people that do this. Just professional standards.

      2. Colette*

        No one is suggesting that the OP not be allowed to get whatever tattoo she wants. But there are consequences to choices, and people will have their own level of comfort with seeing genitals in the workplace.

  7. anywhere but here*

    LW2, I would not give any business to a company where an employee had genitalia visibly displayed in any format, whether tattooed or on a shirt. None of the strangers you come into contact with have had the opportunity to consent/opt out of seeing the genitalia you will have tattooed.

    1. The Other One*

      This might be reasonable if the tattoo in question is a life sized detailed depiction of an erect prick of the like. Seeing as this is more likely to be a little squiggle no bigger the size of a finger-nail as a tiny part of a much bigger depiction of a whole body, completely over the top as a reaction. But I’m guessing you are from the US and if LW is, there are going to be so many
      of you ott prudes about, so they better not do it.

      1. HR Friend*

        This is so rude. No one knows what the tattoo is depicting. You and 50 other commenters have decided it’s tasteful fine art, but you don’t know that. Even if it is – it’s perfectly fine for people to object to seeing a nude figure on their cashier’s arm (that – let’s face it – may or may not be well drawn). It’s also perfectly fine for you to not care. Insulting people who have different opinions than you is so immature, and is a disservice to LW who is literally asking.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          There are entire online fora dedicated to tattoos that looked classy in your head and crappy on your arm. People gazing at your tattoo aren’t really reading your intentions to give it more context.

      2. Observer*

        Seeing as this is more likely to be a little squiggle no bigger the size of a finger-nail as a tiny part of a much bigger depiction of a whole body, completely over the top as a reaction

        The OP says that it is visible. And they are pretty clear that it’s pretty recognizable.

        So, yes, it’s visible genitalia. Dismissing objections to this as “over the top pudery” is exactly why many people wouldn’t do business with a company that allows this. Reasonable people don’t want to do business that look down at their customers (or vendors) because they aren’t interested in nudity or genitalia at work.

        If you are OK with limiting your options that way, that’s fine. But while you legally get to think what you want, you have no real standing to complain about the people who have an issue with it.

        1. BoksBooks*

          We absolutely have standing because this misguided draconian prudishness is part of the bigger conservative movement that’s gaining power in America and keeping people ignorant of basic biology to their and everyone’s detriment

          1. endpoint*

            Can’t say I’ve seen the conservative movement gaining a whole lot of ground. Instead what I see is stickers on people’s cars with curse words and things like “I eat a$$”. And apparently tattoos in obvious places with genitalia on them.
            Where is the line? It used to be a given that those things shouldn’t be blatantly out in public and now I’m having to give explanations to my child about things that are not age appropriate or choose to lie. It’s not about being prudish to me, but taking away people’s choice to how/when they see these things and/or introduce them to their children.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              You haven’t seen the conservative movement gain a whole lot of ground? Really?

              Have you taken a look at Florida recently, where a principal was fired for allowing a photo of David to be shown to children? Have you seen the public libraries being defunded because they have LGBT books, which many believe are “pornographic” or “pedophilic grooming of children”?

            2. Eldritch Office Worker*

              That’s pretty prudish, I’m sorry. It’s not that difficult to find age appropriate ways to explain things to a child. We’ve been taking children to zoos for decades, plenty of explicit things happen there. The world doesn’t censor itself for your comfort.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                One of my pet peeves is zoos that put a male, a female and children in the same enclosure even for animals where that isn’t normal (presumably to keep kids from asking about why the male lion has 5 female mates). We’re already putting the animals through a lot to keep them in captivity, we shouldn’t stress them further by not letting them stay in their usual groups.

                1. Kit*

                  I am suddenly very glad I was, until now, oblivious to this being a thing – the number of species where even a mixed-gender pair of adults, outside of mating, would put one or both of them at serious risk of harm is quite high! Forcing animals into some bizarre pastiche of a nuclear family is incredibly cruel.

          2. STLBlues*

            I’m about as liberal an American voter as you can be. I swear and don’t mind sex/violence/whatever in entertainment and I’m certainly not “ignorant of basic biology.”

            I’d still judge someone and be annoyed by seeing tattooed genitalia as I went about my day. Trying to tell everyone that wouldn’t like this that they’re ignorant prudes is not helping the discussion.

            I have sex, I watch sex in movies, but yet I don’t want to see someone having sex on the bus next to me. BoksBooks – People can have their own limits that you don’t get to dictate to them.

    2. Admin Lackey*

      They would have the opportunity to consent, because they could just leave if they didn’t like it. This line of thinking, that strangers feelings about a person’s appearance or lifestyle should dictate the actions that person takes is very reactionary.

      North American mores around nudity are NOT universal and as a queer person, any talk of strangers not “consenting” to see something is suspect to me. It’s good for the lw to know that people like you are out there, but please understand that your ideas are YOUR ideas and not universal moral standards.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        But like, if someone sees nudity and decides they don’t want to see nudity, it’s too late! They’ve already seen it.

        1. Admin Lackey*

          Well, such is life. It may annoy them, but no real harm will have been done

          1. Boss Scaggs*

            No real harm will have been done if I’m looking at porn on my computer and nobody sees it, but my job frowns upon that.

            This is at work – I think it’s ok if someone doesn’t want to see nudity there.

          2. EAM*

            Would you say the same for a person who has an unsolicited pic sent to them? Or a flasher in the park? The fact is that real harm is actually done.

            And while I am most definitely not saying this about this unknown tattoo, I am saying that your words here are problematic.

            1. Twix*

              But in both of those examples the harm isn’t done by viewing genitalia in and of itself, it’s done by being non-consensually used by another person for sexual gratification. It’s a fundamentally different situation.

            2. Red*

              This would be more like going to a beach and seeing topless/nude people (pretty common over here, at least). The art isn’t sexual, just nude, which makes a big difference.

              1. Boss Scaggs*

                That’s true, but unless i’m a lifeguard at one of those beaches, I don’t want to see nude people at work :).

                That’s the main difference I think – the work environment

        2. Twix*

          So what? The same could be said for any other subject matter a person might find distasteful or offensive. The notion of a right to never be exposed to nudity without prior consent is predicated on the idea that passive nudity is inherently sexual, and it isn’t. In general if we’re talking about something you don’t want to passively see rather than something you don’t want to be forcibly exposed to, the onus is on you as the viewer to exercise your consent by leaving the situation, not on everyone else to proactively censor themselves. We make certain specific exceptions to this, such as with pornography or extremely graphic and disturbing content, but there’s a clear rationale behind those exceptions that doesn’t apply to “literally any depiction of genitalia”.

          1. MissElizaTudor*

            Thank you! I really appreciate the distinctions you’re making here and in your other comments.

          2. Saberise*

            Except the whole point of this website and this letter is job related. So yes if there are going to be customers that are going to “be leaving the situation “ than OP may be asked to cover it up because their employer is likely not going to want to loss business over it.

            1. Loulou*

              Right lol we aren’t being asked to decide whether it’s immoral or violating consent for OP to get this tattoo. The question is whether it’s likely to have an impact on their working life…and the answer is obviously yes! This discussion is pretty ridiculous and off topic.

          3. Parenthesis Guy*

            But if you walk around a beach in the US completely nude, you’ll be arrested even though it’s passive nudity.

            1. I have RBF*

              Bonny Doon Beach in Santa Cruz County, California would like to correct your statement.

              Nude beaches exist all over the coasts. They are just labeled as such. It’s perfectly legal.

          4. Lucky Meas*

            But like….at work???

            This is a workplace that doesn’t allow shorts, but “nonsexual nude genitalia” is OK??

            Some of y’all are forgetting the context of the letter…

        3. JSPA*

          The idea that prudishness was always the default just doesn’t square with the art and literature and history that’s come down to us.

          Ditto the idea that art showing body areas isn’t professional.

          The original starbucks mermaid logo had breasts… because it was modeled on one of the (extremely common!) bare-breasted ships’ figureheads. Also, holding a dual tail spread invitingly open.

          The second logo was simplified, but still had the spread tails.

          It’s barely figurative, by now.

          Coats of arms: Genitals, for centuries. (Often in contrasting colors.)

      2. RagingADHD*

        I think having people leave if they didn’t like it, is exactly what management would try to avoid.

      3. Silver Robin*

        That is not how consent works when we are talking about something folks would reasonably deem sexual; it is not opt-out, it is opt-in. Noticable genitalia…well, it is a fuzzy line, and “noticable” is doing a lot of work in that phrase (what meets that threshold?). And in a work context (especially client/customer facing), best to err on the cautious side because it might not be the fight either LW or the company wants to have.

        And 100%, Americans can be really puritanical about that kind of thing. I see where you are coming from where queer folks existing/doing thing cishet folks do all the time get sexualized and demonized as part of that puritanical mindset, so we should be really careful. But even personally I would be put off by meeting someone who has a really explicit/nude tattoo placed such that it is one of the first things I see. Not immoral, but like…why. I cannot prevent myself from seeing something and processing it, just like I cannot prevent myself from hearing something or smelling or any other automatic sense. And depending on the tattoo, that could be more or less irritating.

        Without further details on the particularities of the LW’s tattoo, I cannot really have an opinion though. And again, I think the fact that it is so very context dependent means being extra careful in a customer service/professional context. Which does not mean do not get the tattoo, but it does maybe mean, be prepared to wear long sleeves while at work.

        1. Admin Lackey*

          I think we pretty much agree, except that I think that nudity isn’t inherently sexual and if the tattoo is just a nude, then it isn’t sexual and it does become an opt-out for other people. And since the person works in customer service and is likely in North America, I agree that they should get the tattoo somewhere they can easily hide. But that’s more for their own convenience.

          I’m glad you can empathize with my perspective as a queer person, because that really is what makes me take a hard line on this. I really empathize with your discomfort and think it makes total sense, I just think this is once instance where the cultural mores are wrong and all you can reasonably do is roll your eyes and move on.

          1. JSAB*

            Just to note that my experience as an ace queer trans person is on the opt-in side of consent for nudity, and would rather not see it when going about my daily business. I know that the idea of consent is weaponized against us, but I also think it’s ok to not want to see nudity most of the time & to deem that not professional for a workplace.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            On a visit to SF MOMA I eventually became quite uncomfortable at the vast amounts of female nudity on display at that time. Particularly in the context that there were almost zero male nudes. (I eventually found a tiny one in a frieze around a door–and at that point I was actively looking.) At the Asian Art Museum a couple of days later the ratio was much more balanced and I didn’t feel weird. So I don’t mind nudity in art per se… right up until the context where I do discover I mind. (This also really bugged me in the one episode of Game of Thrones I watched–the men of the north bathe while thoroughly swaddled in towels, because only women should be nude in the bath. Again, not uncomfortable from the nudity per se, but the sharp disparity in how the director showed nudity.)

            All of which is to say that if I enter a salon covered in classical paintings of female nudes, with no nude guys, I don’t think “Well this nudity is very definitely not sexual.”

            1. Capybarely*

              There’s also more discourse now about how in the Renaissance making women’s nude portraits “classical” in theme was perhaps a convenient excuse to make nudes at all. Now ideally the human body could be neutral as an artistic subject, but since we “live in a society,” there’s context that cannot be escaped.

              I’m realizing that my response to this tattoo theme changes as I consider systemic power imbalances and the identity of the LW. Without knowing those elements, the idea of “a tattoo with visible male genitalia” (and specifically framed as “dick and balls”!) is a Rorschach test for our preconceptions.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                da Vinci had a sketch of a woman’s genitalia, obstetrical view. (Possibly right after childbirth? Or possibly suggesting some odd assumptions?) Which I would probably recognize as da Vinci with the right context, and yet consider weird and off-putting if it were displayed on the arm of the person selling me llama shampoo.

      4. scandi*

        I find it fascinating that you think it’s only Americans who may find such a tattoo distasteful. I would comment right back at you that your ideas are YOUR ideas and not a universal moral standard. And a picture of genitalia is quite different from someone just existing with a particular sexuality/gender.

        1. Admin Lackey*

          I’m not American (I’m Canadian) and I didn’t say that only Americans would find it distasteful, just that NA mores around nudity are not universal and so there is nothing inherently immoral about passive nudity. If you disagree, that’s your right and you clearly have plenty of company, which is why I DO think the lw should rethink their tattoo’s location.

          But again, as a queer person, this rhetoric that strangers have to consent to anything about your passive existence that makes them uncomfortable is suspect to me. I’m glad that you don’t think that people “just existing with a particular sexuality/gender” isn’t inherently obscene, but please understand that lots of people have and do disagree with you. Plenty of people think queerness is inherently sexual, just look at the attacks on drag story times in Canada and the US.

          I’ve seen a lot of actively crass tattoos in my life and I just rolled my eyes and moved on, because that’s the only reasonable thing to do.

      5. Observer*

        They would have the opportunity to consent, because they could just leave if they didn’t like it.

        This is one of those things that really requires prior consent.

        1. Admin Lackey*

          Why? If you think nudity is inherently sexual, sure, but I don’t think that it is inherently sexual.

          I do think the letter writer should change the tattoo placement because this is such a common attitude and they work in customer service. But I don’t think this line of thinking, that strangers should censor themselves because you didn’t “consent” to something about their passive appearance, is at all legitimate

          1. Ellis Bell*

            How does OP know in advance which customers do, or don’t, see nudity as inherently sexual though? Also, I think “sexual” is a misapprehension of the problem, some people are just not up for non sexual nudity either. The example of someone drawing a cock and balls on a cast upthread is a really good example. It’s entirely possible the intent of that was humour instead of a sexual statement, but humour, taste and lots of other things have to be watered down at work because we work with so many different types of people who have different takes on what makes work pleasant for them. I completely appreciate what you’re saying from a queer perspective about not giving people observing you all the power . However sexuality is a much more unavoidably integral part of us than our politics/art/taste or humour. Asking people to keep nudity out of the workspace is really more akin to asking someone to water down their humour into dad jokes (acceptable). I don’t think it’s comparable to asking someone to water down their sexuality or other identity (unacceptable).

        2. MissElizaTudor*

          So you think it’s wrong to get this tattoo at all, if it will ever be visible in public?

        3. MassMatt*

          Poster above made a good distinction about this being something people should have to opt IN to, not out of.

    3. Nodramalama*

      So if a workplace had a replica David or a venus De Milo print, you’d be saying cusomters didn’t consent to seeing nudity in the artwork?

      1. Boss Scaggs*

        I think that’s true – depending on the workplace though it may or may not be an issue.

      2. Twix*

        I mean, that is a literally true statement. The problem is that most of what people are exposed to on a daily basis are not things they actively consented to. That’s only a problem if being exposed to something non-consensually may be damaging. And that’s the part of the argument that’s often treated as self-evident when people are trying to extend the concept of consent to something they simply don’t want to see.

      3. Silver Robin*

        See, it is so so so context dependent. David is a well known piece of art that has been culturally accepted as “tasteful nudity” (generally…looking at you, Florida). But something less well known? Less culturally influential? It would be harder to get away with because other folks will not know it as “tasteful” rather than “obscene” even if it is super pretty and aesthetically pleasing.

        Is this fair? Eh. But it is where we are.

        Side note: my experience is that nude female bodies get to be “tasteful” way more easily than male bodies. As long as they are not like spreading their legs or something. So many nude/implied nude/mostly nude female bodies in tattoos. But actually nude female bodies walking down the street…how dare. I am academically curious to see how the comments here would change if the genitalia were different.

        1. inksmith*

          I feel like most nude female bodies have their genitals covered in images though – it’s just their breasts that are shown or implied – so it’s not really equivalent.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            As recently as the Victorian era, upper legs were considered much more sexual than breasts. There are plenty of formal portraits of women from that era where the thighs are covered but the nipples aren’t.

            1. inksmith*

              Yes? But the point is that it’s not genitals, which is what the question is about on a man.

          2. Silver Robin*

            Their genitalia is plenty implied in a lot of art, and plenty in tattoos too. Covered by some hair, or a crossed leg, or a leaf. You know you are looking at a naked body. And seeing how breasts are sexualized so intensely (in America, at least), it is absolutely relevant to compare.

            1. inksmith*

              Yes, but the OP isn’t talking about implied genitals, they’re talking about explicit genitals. The comments on this post would be different if they were asking about a tattoo with a strategically placed fig leaf.
              And I didn’t say it’s not relevant to compare, I said it’s not equivalent – I was specifically responding to your comment that mentioned implied/mostly nude female tattoos, which is not the same as actually nude male tattoos, regardless of how sexualised breasts are in the US. I see a lot of tattoos, but very few of male, female or non-binary genitals, so I think your suggestion that we’d all be cool with a tattoo of a totally naked woman and it’s just male genitals people have an issue with is a bit disingenuous.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        On our trip to Italy my husband was looking in the Uffizi gift shop for a puzzle to take back to work (this is a break room tradition) and he decided that he couldn’t pick The Birth of Venus for exactly this reason. David would also have been ruled out.

        The Venus de Milo can carry a whole lot of baggage re the modern depictions it has inspired of women without arms or heads, just disembodied torsos. So I’d avoid that in my office decor.

        Basically “nudity” seems an obvious category where I can conclude that my own feelings about exactly what’s arty and what’s not will not be shared and I should lean into not being offensive. That’s a pretty normal “humans intersecting with other humans, some of them strangers” standard.

    4. MissElizaTudor*

      The notion that this might be a bad idea because it exposes people to something non-consensually, as opposed to because nudity of any kind at work is a touchy subject, implies this person shouldn’t get this tattoo at all, and if they do, they are now constantly violating the consent of others. Is that what you meant to imply?

      Nudity in and of itself isn’t something that violates consent by someone seeing it.

    5. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Id buy my stuff but I’d think ‘ that employee has bad taste in tattoos ‘. I would assume it was just one guy not the whole company.

    6. yala*

      I really hate the idea that “I didn’t consent to this” extends to strangers just living their lives. I see bumper stickers and flags and shirts that disgust me all the time. That’s just part of being in public. It feels like the same sort of attitude that tells queer people to not hold hands or have any PDA in public, or gets upset with more endowed women for having large breasts, as if they’re things being done AT you.

      I do wonder if your opinion would be different if it were, as some folks suggested, the statue of David, or the Vitruvian Man or something similar. Would that still be upsetting enough to violate your consent?

      I would still suggest LW2 err on the side of caution because, yeah, people will be upset

      1. Loulou*

        Wasn’t there a letter from someone who had a bumper sticker that could easily be seen as offensive? I’m pretty sure the advice was to remove it or cover it up at work, which seems so extremely obvious

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Yes, there was. The letter writer had a sticker on his (lifted) truck that said “Lift it! Fat girls can’t jump.” His manager asked him to remove the sticker and he didn’t want to.

          The post is “my employer wants me to remove a sticker from my truck, over-sharing anxieties, and more” from August 9, 2013 for those who want to read the whole thing.

        2. yala*

          Sure, but I’m not saying that hey, you should be able to wear/display whatever you want at work and it’s all good and fine. My problem is framing it as an issue of “consent.”

  8. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (pharmacist and assistant dating)

    Regarding why Sally would “pay the price” – I read it as not really that Jake would make it uncomfortable, but rather if it reached a point where one of them had to be reassigned / asked to leave it would be Sally because an assistant is much easier to recruit/replace than a licensed pharmacist.

    I think given the actual work (pharmacy) this situation is a bit more sensitive than the “standard” manager dating a subordinate situation, because of the potential that mistakes could be covered up or other processes not properly followed etc which of course is not good for patient safety nor for the company’s standing.

    I wonder if Jake’s regulatory board has anything to say (in policy I mean, not by asking them about Jake specifically) about this type of situation- I imagine it must be catered for in their policies.

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, that’s exactly how I understood the “pay the price” comment – it didn’t even occur to me that there could be another reading until I saw Alison’s interpretation. But from the tone of the whole letter and the general description, I’m pretty sure it’s meant the way you said in your first paragraph.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, “if it reached a point where one of them had to be reassigned / asked to leave it would be Sally because an assistant is much easier to recruit/replace than a licensed pharmacist” *is* a major problem. It means that Jake now has control over Sally’s job, since if he complains, she will be fired/moved. What if Sally wants to break up, and he takes it badly? Not only is it a sexual harassment suit waiting to happen, and it’s morally wrong to punish the person with *less* authority.

    2. Myrin*

      Forgot to mention – I believe “pharmacy” is just a stand-in (OP says “think pharmacist and assistant”) for another small-shop-situation but yeah, if it’s actually the real field, I totally agree with your second paragraph as well.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Point taken, although if it is in any way similar or has “outcomes” at stake, the principle probably still applies.

        1. Storm in a teacup*

          I thought your comment on Jake doesn’t see himself as a manager was interesting. I think your establishment has 3 distinct roles: assistant, pharmacist and manager. If Jake is the professional I imagine he has a lot of say in professional matters but if he’s not setting rotas, dealing with staffing management or even operational management issues it’s reasonable he doesn’t see himself as a manager, because he isn’t.
          However as you say, there is a power imbalance and being clear on the nature of their relationship so you can schedule accordingly is important. Having said that, a lot of people in healthcare will date and have similar scenarios (doctors and nurses, pharmacists and assistants, dentists and hygienists etc….). It’s not great but it is common, which maybe why Jake doesn’t consider it a problem.

          1. doreen*

            I was thinking the same – if we’re talking about the pharmacist who owns the drugstore, yes , he or she is almost certainly also the manager. But if it’s a chain drugstore rather than an independent, the pharmacy manager is going to be one of the pharmacists – but one of them, not all of them. The rest won’t be involved in hiring, firing, scheduling and other managerial functions , just as the doctors in the hospital don’t manage or really even supervise the nurses and various other staff even though it’s the doctors who decide what those other staff will do ( a doctor has to order the x-rays but in most situations, that doctor isn’t supervising the technician) . Which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea for these people to date and get into relationships but it would explain why Jake doesn’t see himself as a manager especially since the OP describes themself as the manager. And I know “pharmacy” was probably just a stand-in – but if it’s not the sort of business where a particular role oversees the work but not the person , it might not be the best stand-in.

        2. EPLawyer*

          It somewhere where Jake is in a regulated profession which means it still has issues. Take law. An attorney having a relationship with a paralegal, even though he does not have any control over salary, etc. It is still a power imbalance. There could still be mistakes covered up that lead to malpractice and even attorney discipline for OTHERS who should have known what was going on and prevented it.

          Also I agree that if anything goes south, it is Sally who loses her job not Jake. Because replacing a regulated professional is harder than replacing a non-regulated professional.

        3. Observer*

          although if it is in any way similar or has “outcomes” at stake, the principle probably still applies.

          Yes, this is what I was thinking. If Jake is a licensed professional in almost any field, there are probably similar issues at stake. Either safety related or financial (eg fraud or mishandling money).

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Like you, I read it as “Jake is harder to replace than Sally” because one has a qualified/licensed position and the other doesn’t. In other words, if stuff goes wrong the employer will fight harder to keep Jake, and Sally will lose her job.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Which I would argue is hugely problematic and asking for a sexual harassment lawsuit. It gives Jake the power to take away his romantic partner’s job if they do anything to displease him, which is a terrible (written or unwritten) policy.

    4. ferrina*

      I definitely read it as “we won’t protect Sally so we can keep Jake on staff”. I’m sure the LW didn’t mean it that way, but it can be really common. And if Jake mistreats Sally, Sally has no way to avoid him or protect herself due to the power imbalance. If Sally mistreats Jake, the power imbalance will protect him.

      LW definitely think about this- if they have a fight and one of them is avoiding the other, can they actually get some space without needing to ask for permission? Remember, you won’t know what is happening behind closed doors. My ex used to fight with me, give me 5 minutes to “cool off”, then demand that I “put it behind you” and put on a happy face, because (in his logic) being angry for more than 5 minutes meant I was “punishing” him. He would continually show up and pester me no matter how many times I said “I need space”. He would give me 2-3 minutes, or even just tell me that he couldn’t possibly leave me alone until I stopped “guilting” him, because it was “distracting” (Oh, and usually the argument was still going because he immediately would be defensive and deny any and all wrongdoing, insist it was a misunderstanding, and tell me I was harsh for “guilting” him about a misunderstanding. Followed by almost immediately demanding that I get over it, even though we hadn’t reached any kind of resolution.) It was hellish when we both worked from home, because I had no chance to breathe or hear my own thoughts. This was a form of gaslighting and emotional abuse. It was impossible to see from the outside- he came across as socially awkward but generally nice. I didn’t complain because the few times I tried, it would immediately be dismissed as “You’ll figure it out! He’s such a nice guy, I’m sure he doesn’t mean it.”

      LW, how will you protect your employee if they need protection? How will you do this without making them more vulnerable, or putting yourself in a position where you are the arbiter of their relationship? (i.e., if one of them says they need to avoid the other, will you allow it? will you tell them to cooperate? will you have to make a judgement call based on what they tell you?)

    5. AlsoADHD*

      It also sounded like OP as a store manager does manage the assistants but the Pharmacists are contracted possibly managed externally—it may be that stores can’t directly do as much with the Pharm?

    6. Colette*

      That’s how I understood it as well, but I don’t think it matters – asking Sally to leave would probably still be breaking the law.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, it’s way too easy for this to go from “Jake and Sally are in a relationship” to “Sally can’t leave Jake without losing her job”.

  9. Oysters and Gender Freedom*

    My local museum has a statue of Rodin’s Thinker out front, another absolutely famous naked guy. Once when I was there a group of guys in their fifties or so were being brought in in some kind of group and they absolutely did a double-take and were genuinely taken aback by it. (I was on my way out while they were going in, so I didn’t see what they made of The Kiss.) There are plenty of people who have not had exposure to Art and Culture to the point where they are inured, even to the David.

    As a side note, about fifty years ago I visited Italy as a kid, and about half the statues in the streets were as naked as the day they were made and the other half had fig leaves. Apparently it sort of went in and out of style to put fig leaves on and off until it was completely hopeless and they were always in a state of flux. It also cost money to put them on and money to take them back off and the funding always ran out. But if even the home of Renaissance sculpture can’t always tolerate it, its something to be aware of.

    1. Coverage Associate*

      The huge one almost in view of the Golden Gate? Can you see his privates? I have always been concerned with the whole which elbow on which knee thing, and whether he’s really thinking or just resting.

      Anyway, there was a time when I was bringing art books to work because of meetings afterwards, and I had to make a note to myself to be careful about any with nudes on the cover. (Leave them in my briefcase instead of in the open on my desk ) Thankfully my new office is more cultured and less up tight.

    2. Heather*

      Also: Your arm is not the Sistine Chapel, and your tattoo artist is not Michelangelo! No matter what the art is that you love, it doesn’t have the same effect / give the same vibes when it’s on your forearm.

      1. JM60*

        I’ve never personally liked tattoos, but I have a hard time understanding why some people would perceive a picture of David (for instance) on the wall that much differently than the exact same picture on someone’s skin. That being said, the fact that some people do see the latter much differently than the former is something they need to account for, regardless of why they perceive the two differently.

        1. Lady Danbury*

          Because isn’t a picture on someone’s skin, it’s a reproduction of a work of art by another artist. The quality of the reproduction is a factor in how it is perceived and how well it replicates the original is hugely dependent on the tattoo artist’s skill. We’ve probably all seen tattoos that were meant to replicate a picture and ended up missing the mark by a loooooong shot. Of course a photograph isn’t always exact, but the room for variance is a lot smaller.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Plus it can also depend on how much is easily visible from a shirt sleeve. If you see the whole of David – I’ll side eye* it a bit – but okay. It’s totally different if you’re only seeing David from the waist down.

          *and honestly it’s a know your workplace when you get nude tattoo in a visible place

    3. Emmy Noether*

      My school had a smaller copy of the Thinker out front by the entrance. I don’t think you can actually see his man-bits from most angles, no? The fact that I don’t know this for sure even though I passed by him daily for years definitely speaks to inurement-by-exposure-to-art.

    4. Morning reader*

      This reminds me of taking my small child to an art museum many years ago. She asked, why is the baby Jesus always naked? (Even with clothes, the arms and legs tend to be swaddled in renaissance art, not the body.) I’m still not sure but I told her the artist wanted to show that he was male, and that was the easiest way to do it. So many naked babies everywhere.
      Perhaps the LW could consider a naked baby in the art, they tend to seem less offensive than adult subjects to us puritanical Americans.

      1. EPLawyer*

        OH GOD NO. It might be rennaisance art but having a tatoo of a naked baby in 2023 reads child porn to me.

        1. MissElizaTudor*

          A simple tattoo of a nude infant reads to you as child sexual abuse imagery?

          That’s not what child sexual abuse material looks like, so it might make sense to rethink this.

        2. BoksBooks*

          You can’t see a picture of a naked baby without thinking porn? I don’t think that says what you think it does about you.

          Also let’s please use child sexual abuse – child porn is extremely problematic

    5. Phryne*

      There was a fairly enthusiastic campaign by the catholic church for the covering up of body parts from the 16th century onwards. Medieval people were not very prudish (not strange for an agricultural society with little focus on personal privacy), but their art tended to focus on religion and symbolism anyway, so it was not much of an issue. The rediscovery of ancient Roman and Greek art in the renaissance, combined with the move towards ever more realistic art (and the gleeful use of ancient and biblical scenes to make nudity respectable, how little has changed… ;)) made the church issue edicts against lewd art. (Imagine a statue surviving intact for 2000-3000 years and then cutting pieces off because the fact a male statue has a penis is suddenly too much to mentally bear. eyeroll.)
      Anyway, they are mostly being taken off, but unfortunately the underlying anatomy was often removed for better fitting of the prophylactic. Occasionally they are restored. How is that for a job, sculpting some replacement marble junk.

    6. DataSci*

      Yeah, if it is a Renaissance or classical figure, a literal fig leaf may be an option that covers the relevant bits while being stylistically appropriate.

  10. Zak*

    LW1 – Australian here so our lens for this is…looser.

    Friendly casual language requests generally do not warrant a please, but usually warrant a thanks.

    Eg “Hey can you pass me that Llama brush thanks” would be perfectly polite and acceptable and “Could you please pass me that Llama Brush? Thankyou” could be construed as overly polite in many environments.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Midwestern American here. I think phrasing makes a huge difference. And it sounds like these people are being a bit demanding combined with no responsive, which is really what is irking the OP. I wouldn’t consider your first example rude at all. But a little bit of consideration for a coworker’s time & gratitude for their work goes a long way.

      I have experienced the same thing as the OP with some coworkers. I don’t address it with them, but it does inform my interactions with them. (I also have a coworker who is ridiculously effusive over the smallest things. Drives me batty.)

    2. AlsoADHD*

      Yeah I usually say thanks and close the loop in an email, but I almost never say please and I feel like please comes across as passive aggressive when I do notice people saying it (could be that’s just when I notice).

      1. Baron*

        Agreed on this take of “please”. I’m Canadian and working in a professional subculture that drastically over-thanks—“Thank you for your e-mail. Thank you for your patience in waiting for my response. Thank you for screaming invective at me.” So any e-mail from me to a colleague usually includes at least two “thank you”s. But “please” in my work context tends to read very passive-aggressive, in part because it’s usually only used in that way.

        I mean, I use “please” all the time in the sense of “please see attached”, “please be advised”, etc., but if someone in my line of work were to say to someone else, “Please send me this document” instead of “Hey, could you send me this document? Thanks!” it would actually read as very rude in this setting—which is funny, isn’t it?

        1. londonedit*

          Yes, definitely – ‘please send me this document’ makes it sound like an order, or like I think I’m your boss. Even if I was the boss, I’d still want to use language like ‘Would you be able to send me the report this afternoon?’ or ‘Can I ask you to update the figures by the end of today?’ rather than ‘Please send me the report this afternoon’, which absolutely feels more brusque and officious. I’m British and we also do a lot of indirect asking and plenty of thanking (including things like ‘Sorry to ask, but would you mind checking that copy for me before the end of today? Thank you!’) and I’d definitely always do a close-the-loop ‘Thank you!’ email if someone sends me something or answers a question I’ve asked them.

        2. Clisby*

          That’s exactly how I’d use “please” – southern US here. “Thanks” is much more important here.

      2. House On The Rock*

        I came here to say something similar about how “please” may be construed as passive aggressive and there are those who don’t like to use it in work settings for that reason.

        I used to have a director would phrase things along the lines of “do the very obvious thing, please”, “respond to me by X time, please”, “don’t forget this super basic concept, please” and it always came across as a combination of belligerent, whiny, and condescending. It got to the point where many who worked with him would mock his style in our own requests, e.g. “please perform the minimum functions of your job, please”. (yes I realize, not very mature, but this guy was your classic “god give me the confidence of a mediocre, middle aged white man). But dealing with that gave me a bit of an aversion to including “please” in requests. That being said, I definitely acknowledge things with a “thanks!”, if only to close the loop.

      3. DataSci*

        This is where I land too. Lots of “thank you” even if it’s just the response emoji on Slack, “please” is passive aggressive or worse. I will say “Thanks” to close an email with a request, though.

    3. Nodramalama*

      As an Australian I disagree! “hey can do you xx” does not read perfectly polite to me at all.

      And I would definitely say thanks or cheers.

    4. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I think there’s also an issue where you’re doing a repetitive task that’s a core part of the job.

      If every Monday I have to ask Regina to please run the calibration report (because it’s 10:00 and she hasn’t done it yet grrrrrrr), then the word gets meaningless or even passive-aggressive. I mean could you imagine an assembly line worker saying please to the previous person 200 times a day when they’re ready for the next partially-completed widget?

      But if I have to ask Regina to run the report out-of-cycle for some reason, I’m much more likely to use politer language.

    5. Turquoisecow*

      Northeast US here but I don’t remember “please” being used in most work requests. “Thanks,” definitely, even if it’s just as a close the loop thing in response to an email. But please does sound maybe overly polite or like extra pleading, as though passing the llama brush was a huge imposition. “Bob, could you please do the TPS reports this week?” instead of the same sentence without the please makes me think that Bob had been refusing to do them or it was very outside of his usual job and would require a lot of extra effort for him.

    6. Arglebargle*

      Can I just say that when people respond in email or on teams or slack and just say “thanks” that it DRIVES ME CRAZY? I hate seeing unread email in my inbox and when they are just saying “thanks” I wish they didn’t send it at all. Same with Teams: I get a message asking me something, I respond, and they say thanks AND click the thumbs up emoji or whatever and it dings twice, interrupting what I’m doing. If I went above and beyond, maybe thanks is ok but:
      Person: your 10:00 is here late, should I put them on your schedule?
      Me: yes please
      Person: thanks
      Or I get an email: so and so needs this long list of medications refilled please send and then send me their chart notes from their last visit.
      I write back “meds sent, chart notes attached” and I get “thanks, have a great day!”
      Sorry for the vent.

  11. Rosie*

    #1: I can’t put my finger on why I feel this way, but in work situations, I think “thank you” is more important than “please.” Maybe it seems that “please” is more likely to be unsaid in casual interactions. For example, I could see myself ordering a coffee, and neglecting to say please, but I can’t imagine ever forgetting to say a quick thanks.

    Only actionable advice would be to unfailingly model the language you want others to use. I often notice that individual offices all have individual styles of communication. So I suspect people pick up different ways of work-speak fairly easily.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I think because “thank you” functions as “I’ve got it, that’s what I need, you’ve done your job” as much as “I appreciate it”. It’s not *just* manners, it’s a critical part of the exchange so you know you’ve finished that task.

      1. Grith*

        Ding ding ding! This is the important distinction. Thank you isn’t just classical manners, it’s also an acknowledgement and closing the loop. I’d expect something along those lines from anyone in my organisation I do work for, mainly so I know I’m done and can move on.

        “Please” coming from a manager when they’re asking you to specifically do your job is unnecessary and patronising. It implies you have a choice in complying or not, when in reality, it’s just expected that you do what’s asked. There might be exceptions if they’re asking you to do something out of your job spec (which may apply here *if* the colleague realises they’re asking for work outside the spec), but I wouldn’t normally expect please to be used when routine work is being assigned.

        1. EPLawyer*

          I think that is part of what is irking LW1. They say they send the stuff off and never hear if it is was even received. I think even a got it, would ease some of that. Especially if you tell me there is a short turnaround on something, I want to know the deadline ws made.

          1. Grith*

            Exactly, but it’s also why it’s important to distinguish between the two. Getting pissy because your manager won’t say “please” is going to generate a weird reputation around you and isn’t really in-line with what is normal in work nowadays.

            But noting that people aren’t acknowledging if work you’ve done for them is acceptable or not and is therefore leaving it as an open task in your mental planner is valid and actionable feedback. And LW1 needs to be prepared for the fact that this still might only generate responses like “acknowledged” or “received” rather than literally use of the word “thanks”, but hopefully even that will feel more satisfying than the current silence.

    2. BubbleTea*

      When I spent some time in America (specifically the East Coast and the midwest) I noted that Americans seem much more about thank you than please, compared to British people. Not sure why that is but it tracks here too.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I think British English is far more about the rest of the sentence, e.g. “Could you possibly … if it isn’t too much trouble…” than the literal word “please”.

        1. ferrina*

          Ooh, I hate these phrases because I never know if it’s an actual question or a polite demand. I prefer a direct demand with the word please (though honestly I never hardly notice if there is a please or not, unless the rest of the request is rude).
          fwiw, I’m American and neurodivergent (can sometimes struggle with unwritten social rules)

        2. Baron*

          Agreed. I’m Canadian – “please” is usually implied by the soft language in the request. As an analogy, I have a colleague who’s constantly reminding her boss that her boss is her boss. “Can I have Monday off? It’s up to you, you’re the boss!” And this is deeply irritating to the boss, because the boss already knows she’s the boss—saying it makes it seem insincere. Saying “please” works the same way, in Canada – it seems, I don’t know, over-the-top and sarcastic.

      2. Orsoneko*

        The language podcast The Allusionist has a really interesting episode about cultural differences between the US and UK with regard to common usage and perception of the word “please.” I’ll post a link to the transcript in a separate comment.

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I’ve noticed that some people seem to care far more about the actual words “please” and “thank you” whereas others care more about the general tenor of a request or acknowledgement. This is partly cultural and partly personal.

      I’ve also read that this happens about apologies. Some people want to hear the literal words “I apologise” or “sorry”, some people want to hear explanations of regret, some people want promises of restitution, some people want assurances it won’t happen again, etc. Love languages situation.

      I think from the letter it seems that these colleagues don’t routinely use *any* of the cultural procedures LW is used to. But it’s possible that LW has missed other ways of expressing positive acknowledgment if s/he is waiting for particular phrasing. Maybe Alex always speaks highly of LW to higher-ups. Maybe Barbara always asks LW when this task comes up, because she knows that means it will be perfect.

    4. Perfectly Particular*

      I’ve read advice to not use “please” in professional interactions, as it can come across as passive-aggressive. I have basically taken it out of my vocabulary to avoid coming across as a snotty teenager . Especially if you’re interrupting someone’s work to fill your request, it can easily be heard as “Could you send me that report before my 10:00 PUH-LEASE?” I would never skip the thank you, but also do make a point to not be patronizing with it.

      1. Just me*

        Very similar to what I was coming here to say…please feels incredibly passive aggressive to me. Especially in a work context. If you add please to your request it feels like you think I am unreliable and/or subordinate even if that is not your intention.
        I’m okay with thank you being used in the work place, but I also feel like it really isn’t necessary unless someone has really gone above and beyond.

        1. Just me*

          The exception being “attached please find” as an introduction to someone’s request for documents.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            Yep! It tends to be implied more than actually said. I think the OP was using a general phrase about polite language interactions, not expecting those exact words. (Where I live “not knowing ‘please’ and ‘thank you'” can be a way of saying someone is not polite in their interactions.)

        2. Baron*

          Oh, absolutely, “please” connotes “I think this person is unreliable” in my workplace. Actually, it connotes “I’m just barely controlling my rage at how unreliable this person is”.

        3. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I don’t know if it feels “incredibly” passive aggressive to me every time – but it can, depending on the request and the person sending it, and the general tone of the email. I definitely agree that “thank you” is more important, and serves multiple purposes.

      2. Daisy-dog*

        I was just thinking through how I would word that and could not come up with a way without using the word “please” that wouldn’t feel unnatural. Maybe because I’ve worked with some jerks in my past. But I would put here: “Could you please send me that report before my 10?”

      3. blerg*

        This blows my mind. I was always taught that “please” is always polite. It makes a direct request or command more respectful. So all this time I’ve been expressing my respect for my coworkers, they’ve been taking it as the opposite?

        That people actually take a word that means respect as the exact opposite of its meaning and intention kind of makes me want to just give up on talking to people at all.

        You can’t win. Say “please” and offend people. Don’t say “please” and offend other people.

        1. Critical Rolls*

          Yeah, I wish people were being a little clearer or self-aware about how context-dependent this is. There are *some* office cultures that don’t use it, and therefore it would be strange in that context. There are *some* people who consistently use it as part of their overall condescending/unnaturally peppy/overly formal communication style. There are *some* people for whom the word might hit a nerve because they can just hear their parent’s exasperated voice. But the blanket condemnation, like the commenter could never *conceive* of using “please” without it being weird, is, uh, pretty weird.

        2. No please you*

          I’m the same. I’m reading all these comments saying “please” is bad, and I’m just thinking “oh noooo my attempt to be polite is just making other people hate me!?”

          I don’t really manage people at my company, but I do work with a lot of outside contractors/consultants. If I need something from them I say please: “can you please send over your meeting notes from last week” or whatever. Does that really come across as passive aggressive!?

        3. I have RBF*


          I was taught that, even if it is their job, “please” and “thank you” are the social lubricants that make what you ask for a polite request rather than a petulant demand. Sure, they might have to do it anyway because it’s their job, but “please” and especially “thank you” indicate that you are happy that they are there to do their job.

          It’s not “passive-aggressive” or “barely controlling my rage”. It’s just being polite to others.

          What is rude is swooping in, not even bothering with a “please” or any other politenesses, and demanding service, obedience, or anything else.

          Remember when you were a kid and said “I want a cookie!” and your parent just looked sternly at you until you properly said “May I please have a cookie?” Same thing.

          IMO, our society is way too quick to throw away simple little courtesies that make other people not so damned odious to deal with. Saying “please” and “thank you” does not mean you are weak or patronizing, it means that you are regarding the other person as worthy of respect and courtesy, regardless of where you perceive them to be in your social hierarchy.

          Maybe I’m “old fashioned”, but at least I have manners.

    5. CityMouse*

      I also think maybe you shouldn’t have to ask a colleague to “please” do their job. I say this as someone who is almost obsessively please and thank you, but if I’m assigning a file to someone I don’t say “please”. That’s just their job.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah. I don’t generally use please with colleagues when I’m asking them to do something that’s part of their job. I do use it with people doing their job in other context (i.e. ordering something at a restaurant).

    6. kiki*

      I also find thank you more important than please, but I think in my role, I don’t have the authority to make anyone do anything, so I must initially ask folks if they are able to do something or have bandwidth to do something. Then, if they say yes, I thank them. I feel likes saying please in addition to asking if somebody has time comes across as more of a directive than a question. “Please let me know if you have bandwidth for Y,” Seems like I have the expectation that they do have bandwidth. Versus, “Do you have bandwidth for Y?” The latter seems more like an open-ended question to me, but maybe that’s perceived in a different way by folks?

      But I do feel like in my office, “please,” is generally used as more of a directive.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Yeah, adding ‘please’ feels like a directive to me too. Maybe because “please take out the trash” was very much a directive when I was growing up. I tried to add it to my emails for a while, in an attempt to be more polite, but it always sounded ruder with than without.

    7. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      This is exactly what I was going to say. In a work setting, getting or doing things for people is kind of your job. Generally, I don’t always put in the “please” and the request would be more like:

      “Hi Jane, can you send me the TPS reports for April and May.”

      However, I do always send a Thanks once they send it, either via pinging them or email reply. Or some times I will combine both: “Hi Jane, send me the TPS report for May when it’s done. Thanks in advance!”

      1. Beth*

        LW1 here! Thanks for the advice!

        Definitely don’t expect a “please” – was using the two together just because they roll off the tongue that way (like salt and pepper), and espcially when it’s not a regular part of my job.

        When I sent this email – I had gotten a request at 6:30 am before I was going to board a flight. Came across as urgent, so I sat with my laptop on my knees and got what he requested and never heard a word.

        Also should be noted that I am neurotic as hell, so when I ask someone to do something for me, I may come across as passive-agressive or overly effusive. I’m working on that along with my tendency to preference everything with “sorry!”

  12. Observer*

    #3- Pharmacist dating an assistant.

    Firstly, I want to pickup on what Allison said. Why would Sally be the one to bear the brunt of this if they broke up? Alison is correct that you cannot allow Jake to harass her or make her life uncomfortable. And choosing to fire her instead of him is also extremely problematic. Not just legally, but ethically.

    I’m not sure why you say you don’t have authority over Jake. The fact that he’s a regulated licensed professional should not have any bearing here. Yes, you can’t tell him how to actually fill prescriptions, but you should be able to apply any (reasonable and legal) policy around things like attendance, dating, etc to him that you can apply to Sally. (The potential exceptions relate to him probably being exempt while Sally is probably non-exempt.

    It doesn’t matter if Jake “sees himself” as a manager. If he has any oversight over Jane’s work or working conditions he should absolutely NOT be dating her. You need to shut it down. At this point, don’t even ask. Just tell him that the choices are that they break up or you adjust his schedule / oversight to have a complete firewall between him and Sally. Those are the only two options as long as both are working for the business.

    But also, shut the gossip down.

    1. ?*

      But does LW have authority over Jake? It’s a little unclear but I got the impression that LW is Sally’s direct manager, but not Jake’s. The letter title is a little misleading because it seems like while Jake is higher up than Sally, he’s not actually her boss. It makes it a little more murky (and interesting!) than the usual chain of command dating scenario, because the power balance isn’t as clear cut. I agree that the relationship isn’t a good idea but can also see why Jake doesn’t see himself as Sally’s boss and so doesn’t think it’s a big deal.

    2. LB33*

      when I worked in a pharmacy a long time ago, the pharmacists were mostly separate from the rest of us in terms of the chain of command. I don’t know if that was official or just the way it played out, but the store managers were managing the cashiers, stock clerks, etc… Pharmacists were doing their own thing

      1. Observer*

        You are right that it’s not clear what authority the OP actually has. All I’m saying is that being a *licensed professional* does not inherently mean that the OP can’t manage around issues like workplace relationships.

        If the org chart doesn’t give the OP authority, everything I said still holds, but the OP is going to have to go to the manager who has authority over both sections to enforce it.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          I took that comment to mean something more like “we’re required to have X licensed pharmacists on the premises” – implying OP can’t, for example, schedule them to always work different shifts or something (perhaps, not without hiring another person). Like, I think they meant it in more of a regulatory way in the context of the letter.

      2. Anonymous 75*

        yeah, most pharmacies I worked for back in the day had the pharmacists completely removed from the chain of command in relation to the store, primarily so the pharmacist wasn’t inappropriately influenced or intimidated by a non-licensed individual on pharmaceutical/medical matters. the good store managers were happy with it, the bad ones… but so much.

        1. Observer*

          That makes sense. But then there is someone in the chain that DOES have the authority to say “This needs to end”.

          And especially if the OP doesn’t have the authority / flexibility to create the kind of separation that really needs to be there, that has to happen.

          Which means that either the OP does that or they bring it to whoever is in charge.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      I took the part about Sally being the one to pay the price as referring to something a bit more subtle than actual retaliation. More that if they were uncomfortable working the same shifts, for example, he, as a professional, might have more power to choose his shifts which could mean she’d either have to work with him or take less favourable shifts or even that if he asked to be put on different shifts than her, it might be accommodated whereas if he were unbothered about them working together but she didn’t want to, the company might be less likely to accommodate it.

  13. Pennyworth*

    LW1 – I once read that ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’ have to be implanted before the age of four, not sure if that true, but some parents and kindergarten teachers make a point of modelling Please and Thank You in every interaction. The best I can suggest in this instance is persistently modelling what – every request, every response. Some of your coworkers might pick it up.

    1. metadata minion*

      I’m really curious what the research on that was, given that people can learn courtesy phrases/norms in other languages even as an adult.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        I read that not as learning the vocabulary, but learning the habit.

        I also don’t think it’s as cut-and-dried as all that, but the general point is a good one: that habits of speech that are instilled very early in a child’s life are most likely to “stick”. And I think it’s about behavior, not about speech proficiency.

    2. Jack Russell Terrier*

      Right – it was always drummed into me that if, for example, I’m refilling my water or wine glass I ask if anyone else at the table wants a top up first. I think there are quite a few of these things that are small habits created by our parents in early childhood.

  14. Observer*

    #4 – Family plans

    Do not tell your boss anything. You simply don’t know how life is going to work out. Hopefully, things will work out the way you are planning. But “Man plans and G-d Laughs”.

    Also, keep in mind that you will probably want to re-enter the workforce after a few years, and the more solid your work history now, the easier it’s going to be at that point. It’s not like you are planning to retire and never re-enter the workforce.

    1. Boof*

      Frankly, boss probably doesn’t want to know / shouldn’t want to know because that’s not supposed to factor into employment decision making overall (unless/until it becomes a direct need for leave) and then they won’t have to worry about whether it’s subconsciously impacted anything or if some decision they were going to make anyway now looks like bias

  15. Observer*

    #2 – Tattoo

    Pictures of genitalia do not belong at work (unless you work someplace like urologist or gynecologist’s office.) That includes on your body.

    If you get that tattoo, pretty much any workplace is going to ask you to cover it up. Because that problem is not “tattoo” but the specific content.

      1. Observer*


        Yeah, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see diagrams and pictures in appropriate spaces.

  16. Coverage Associate*

    On “please” The Atlantic just had a piece that it can actually come across as rude in written communication. They had examples where I kind of understood the point. My takeaway was never to use “please” as a whole sentence. I have been trying to just throw it in, rather than putting it at the end or beginning of sentences, because I am definitely one of those people who couldn’t bring themselves to give it up.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      “Please” in combination with “could you” always seems to me like the person writing it is on their last nerve. But maybe that’s because “please could you…” is a common phrase on the passive-aggressive “polite request” signs that you see a lot in the UK.

      I really don’t care if people say “please” when they ask me to do something at work, but the occasional “thank you” is nice.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      If it would be difficult for you to give up and people know that about you, I think it’s less likely to come off as passive aggressive. We typically read things in the voice of the sender, if we have that available to us.

      I think part of the issue here is that it’s not in the vernacular of these coworkers so adding it in would not necessarily soften the message the way OP is imagining.

  17. Brain the Brian*

    LW1: In my office, it’s considered rude and passive-aggressive to use “please” — as in, people think you’re asking them to do something that they should have already done and therefore that you’re calling them out. But “thank you” is basically required whenever someone does something as minor as read a document. These things vary by office, and I would try not to put too much stock into it if I were you.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, I can see this reading. “If you could complete the document, that would be great” is a polite request. “Please complete this document” feels kind of scolding!

      1. not a hippo*

        See I read the opposite. “That would be great” sounds passive aggressive to me. Too many rewatches of Office Space maybe?

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I agree with your read. “If you have a moment” might be softer, but again only if it was truly optional.

          I think the takeaway here is you can’t please (ha) everyone and we’re probably all overthinking it. I’m sure everyone’s email tone is grating to someone else. Cost of having human coworkers, maybe.

          1. Katara's side braids*

            I use “when you have a moment” for non-optional but non-urgent things. I feel like it’s equally courteous but harder to intentionally interpret in bad faith for an “out.”

      2. I have RBF*

        “Could you please get me the TPS report by COB tomorrow? I need it for the weekly roll up. Thanks in advance.”

        That is a perfectly normal and polite paragraph. It’s not “passive-aggressive”, or condescending, or yada, yada. It contains the polite request, the reason for the request, and a “thanks in advance” because you know they will do it.

        I would not be offended to receive this from my boss, a peer, or a subordinate.

        When politeness is seen as “passive-aggressive”, I know there is a real problem in workplace culture.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I don’t think yours is passive-aggressive either. I am certainly not saying that including “please” always sounds aggressive or passive aggressive. But there are a couple of managers where I work who use “please” with otherwise very curt and direct instructions, without including why they need something or whether it’s OK to come back to them if what they’ve asked for isn’t reasonable, possible or clear. Those are the ones I find kind of aggressive.

        2. allathian*

          I really dislike thanks in advance for two reasons. If the request is effectively an order, i.e. coming from your manager, or an internal customer in a situation where the option not to do it doesn’t exist, it’s unnecessary. If it’s a truly optional request and you can tell the person that you don’t have the time (or intention) to do it, it feels like emotional blackmail.

    2. Hotdog not dog*

      I never considered it that way. In my office I commonly use “please”, as in “please review the attached report and send me any changes by Wednesday.” Without the please, it feels like I’m issuing an order- which I guess I actually am, since reviewing the report is part of the other person’s job and isn’t actually optional.

      1. AlsoADHD*

        If it isn’t optional, I find “please” passive aggressive. If it is optional, I personally favor phrasing like “If you get a chance,” “If you’d like to review” etc. but I guess it’s okay—still across as a passive aggressive order sometimes since so many people add please to orders, like your example.

      2. alienor*

        I do too. “Could you please check this over when you have a minute?” “Please let me know if there are any questions.” I don’t think it sounds passive-aggressive (it doesn’t feel that way when I’m writing it), but maybe I’m wrong and all my coworkers think I’m a gigantic a-hole.

        1. allathian*

          “Please let me know if there are any questions/if you have any questions” doesn’t sound passive-aggressive to me. “Could you please check this over when you have a minute?” would only be passive-aggressive if what you mean is “I need your comments on this by COB tomorrow,” in which case I’d definitely prefer a more direct request.

      3. Environmental Compliance*

        I do the same as you do and am now having a slight existential crisis of whether I have been inadvertently viewed as passive aggressive.

        However, if I go and review other’s emails, many of them also use please. I would say this is a regional thing but this is an international company with examples from all of our offices.

      4. Third or Nothing!*

        I use please and thank you in almost every single email I sent out to clients. The phrase “Please let me know if you have any questions or need anything else. Thanks and have a great day!” is my go-to closer for emails. I really hope my clients don’t think I’m passive aggressive!!

        1. I have RBF*

          IMO “passive-aggressive” is being significantly overused here. It’ not automatically “passive-aggressive” to use “please” and “thank you”. Are there ways to use them passive-aggressively? Definitely. But that doesn’t mean the words in and of themselves are passive aggressive. Language doesn’t work like that.

  18. Veozah*

    LW #3 if it is pharmacist and assistant, the store should have already had policies on this beyond the normal legal reasons because this is how 1. mistakes are made in filling prescriptions (distracted by personal issues) and 2. this is how controlled meds go “missing”. Hopefully this isn’t the actual roles but if it is letting those 2 work alone together is crazy!

    1. virago*

      It isn’t pharmacist and assistant — LW 3 used that as an example of a job where one employee is licensed and the other is not. (But you raise a very good point!)

  19. GythaOgden*

    Yeah, count me in as someone who doesn’t want to look at a dick pic on someone’s arms all day. That’s something you can have as a wallpaper artwork on a personal phone or on a poster at home, but it would read as quite aggressive to me and a lot of other people regardless of gender. Perhaps unfairly it would come to be a defining feature of you and distract from your actual work — I think working across from you it would not so much bother me morally as much as it would be like I didn’t come here to look at someone else’s dick, it’s not the sort of thing I potentially want to see as a customer who doesn’t have the context of knowing you and why you got it, and I think it would be in danger of creating a hostile workplace in some cases if you’re a bloke, but even on women or non-binary people, it might raise too many questions, not least about their judgement.

    There are many less prominent and less permanent places to have this picture than on your arm. It might be best not to.

    Full disclosure: I say this as someone who has admired other tattoos and would get one if there was something I wouldn’t mind having indelibly marked on my skin long after a passing fad has worn off or video game servers have been shut down; like I love World of Warcraft but having a fading Alliance sigil in forty years is going to have lost its significance. My boss wears Doc Martens to work and my supervisor is Rosie the Riveter incarnate; I work with maintenance guys who have tattoos across their hands and plenty of people who change their hair colour every week. I wear a Panama hat to and from work in the summer to shield my sensitive eyes from the sun and have briefly considered knitting a sock dragon to go round it like my friend did when she had to wear beanies after cancer treatment. I wore a dress that gives off not very subtle Star Trek vibes yesterday, one step away from full on cosplay, and get away with it. We’re a diverse workplace and I’m glad to live in a world where I can personalise my appearance beyond just choice of coloured shirts under a suit that makes me look like a flight attendant like at the beginning of my career in the early 00s. But…I think the content of the artwork crosses a line here that even the most liberal of dress codes or workplaces is going to object to.

    1. not a hippo*

      Up until you you mentioned the dress, I could have sworn you were my friend, down to the Panama hat (he’s a cis dude and AFAIK hasn’t ventured into drag yet)

    2. Victoria Everglot*

      I’m so glad you made the distinction between customers (whose interactions are often short enough that they won’t notice and could leave anytime they want) and coworkers, who will be there all shift and can’t just leave.

    3. BoksBooks*

      You are basically saying you can’t tell the difference between art and a dick pic. I’m sorry that you haven’t been exposed to any art or culture but bodies are not inherently sinful and it’s not the Victorian times anymore.

      1. Pippa K*

        Wow, this is unnecessarily insulting. As someone who is clearly Very Cultured surely you’ve encountered the idea that artistic merit and meaning are shaped by context. If my sexist colleague displays a calendar of famous art but every page is the Birth of Venus and similar, we all know the message is “nekkid ladies hur hur but you can’t object because Art!”

        LW is, rightly, wondering how art in the context of tattoo + workplace might communicate something unintended. It’s a worthwhile discussion to have and GythaOgden raised a reasonable point that doesn’t deserve “It’s obviously An Art, you peasant.”

      2. Lucky Meas*

        Ah yes, the extensive paintings and sculptures of naked women by male artists are entirely “art” and have nothing to do with the artist’s interest in the female body

  20. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    For OP2 – what you’re describing would violate the dress code at the health system I work for. In fact – it may even get you fired if you intentionally displayed it.

    The dress code reads: we do not want to know about your undergarment preferences (or lack there of). Please ensure that areas that undergarments should cover are Completely Covered. Additionally, any visible Tattoos must adhere to the same standards for all subjects. Finally no gore, curse words, drug culture references, or gang culture references may be worn or displayed in Visible Tattoos.”

    Stress here on Visible. If you’ve got “The David” or the “Venus di Milo” or similar on your back – we don’t care, it’s covered up by work appropriate clothing.

    I think the best bet with tattoos that will be visible is to go for things that you wouldn’t care if your pearl clutching grandma or a curious pre-school class would see and ask questions about. If it’a questionable design – keep it covered at work.

  21. Oh Snap!*

    LW #1:

    The thing about please and thank you for work requests is that they feel natural when speaking to someone but become weird when it’s over email or Teams/etc chat. Many people are extremely annoyed to receive “thanks” emails that they then get an incoming mail ping, have to glance at and delete (same for chat messages). they are specifically perceived as rude, not polite. So what is any individual to do? Keep a list of who thinks it’s rude and who thinks it’s polite? Ahhhhhhhh! Nooooo!

    If you specifically want confirmation that they received what they need, put that as the first line in your email. But I think the rest of it is a personal style, work culture thing and you need to let it go.

    I am firmly in the “don’t send me more email, our system has literally never in the history of ever lost an email, so you know perfectly well that I got your email” camp. If someone told me they felt I was being rude my not responding thank you to their emails, I would think they were odd and maybe insecure and I would try to remember to email them thanks in the future but probably still only succeed 10% of the time. But if they gave me something in person or I asked for something in person I would say please and thank you because that’s just…. normal. Whereas in my work culture (and many) it’s not normal to do via email.

  22. matt r*

    lord. no, you can’t have a tattoo featuring a “visible dick and balls” if you want a job where you interact with the public. and, just to rule them out in advance, no vaginas, no assholes, no breasts, nothing else that would get flagged as inappropriate content on network television or that you wouldn’t wear on a t-shirt to your family reunion. we good? sheesh.

    1. PSA*

      FYI breasts are not genitalia, nipples are nipples and either all toplessness is unacceptable or all toplessness is fine. Misogyny normalized by network television is still misogyny. My family reunion also wouldn’t bat an eye at at shirt with the David on it, so while the OP has some things to consider about tattoos at work your supporting points aren’t as self-evident as you might think.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Assholes aren’t genitalia either, but fall into the same category of private.

        In a sense I understand that there’s more nuance with breasts, and I could hypothetically think of tattoos showing breasts that would be fine. But in reality, most tattoos showing breasts are themselves misogynistic and I really don’t like seeing cartoonish disproportionate naked women as tattoos on other people.

        1. Nodramalama*

          “most tattoos that show breasts are misogynistic” is not true and suggests a fairly narrow exposure to the tattoo art form. It makes no more sense to say that than to say “most photographers take photos of family pets”

          1. Cat Tree*

            Of course I didn’t do a scientific survey, but in my experience of seeing tattoos on other people in my daily life, breasts have nearly always been highly sexualized in a misogynistic way. It’s great to say that breasts *shouldn’t be* sexualized and should be neutral. But ignoring that they frequently are highly sexualized in an objectifying way only serves to reinforce the misogyny.

            I’m certain that tattoos of breasts exist that are just fine. But those aren’t the ones I’m seeing on a regular basis.

          2. Silver Robin*

            okay but why do we so commonly see female breasts in tattoos (and art) and relatively rarely see male chests? If I am told that someone has a topless figure in their tattoo, I am definitely assuming female. The specific tattoo may not have misogynistic intentions but the general trend feels…ick to me.

            (I specifically used male/female when discussing bodies to differentiate between physical bodies and gender.)

            1. Nodramalama*

              Probably because nobody cares about when a man is top less so they don’t bother to describe them as a “topless person”. People only CARE when it’s a woman who’s topless.

              Also there is millenia worth of art of topless men. Unless LW is talking aboit a graphic version of Donald duck they are likely discussing a topless man. But nobody cares that Davids pecs are out. They just care that the Venus has boobs

              1. Silver Robin*

                I see boobs way more often than I see pecs in tattoos. Like so so much more. And popular art in general. And I think that is not by accident and it bugs me. I think that proportion is indicative of how we treat female bodies. Happy to sexualize them and/or use them for art, not happy to have them actually out and about. Bleh

                nobody actually used “topless person” I was just trying to point out that nudity is so often female in tattoos and popular art, not male, by using a neutral phrasing to highlight what the brain fills in.

                1. eisa*

                  What’s with all this talk about “sexualizing” of boobs, as if it was some nefarious and deliberate thing ?
                  It’s biology, pure and simple.
                  We are hardwired to be attracted to features that relate to procreation and the successful rearing of offspring.
                  Genitalia, duh
                  Boobs, because breastfeeding babies. (for most of human history, the only source of food available to them)
                  (in female humans) Wide hips, emphasized by narrow waist, because associated with ease of childbearing.
                  (also in female humans) Legs in miniskirts .. because they draw the attention to what is between the legs.
                  I have read the opinion somewhere that if we had our vaginas in our armpits, arms would be sexual ;-)
                  Athletic build in men – good at protecting and providing for offspring.

                  Sure, all that sounds very antediluvial, but let’s face it – our biology still is and it is extremely powerful.

                2. Katara's side braids*

                  @Eisa: Except there are societies where breasts are completely unremarkable, or were so before Western colonization. They are in no way intrinsically sexual.

                3. Silver Robin*

                  @eisa, there are other comments here that mention how breasts/nipples were not considered as sexual in earlier European eras, but say, the thigh was. Society absolutely differentiates between body parts and what counts as sexual, and those things change over time. Which means that it is not “inherent” or “biological”.

      2. Observer*

        nipples are nipples and either all toplessness is unacceptable or all toplessness is fine.

        Uh, all toplessness is most definitely not fine in the workplace.

        As for the rest, @matt r didn’t limit their list to genitalia.

        1. Nadiatan*

          And even…at the beach or other places outside (at least in the US.) People can disagree but it is NOT social convention that they are treated the same at all.

      3. eisa*

        Breasts are not genitalia and FYI, nowhere did matt r say that they are.

        I was taught that they are “secondary sexual characteristics”, meaning features of the sexual dimorphism in humans other than actual genitalia.
        Beards are a secondary sexual characteristic of male humans.

        The difference between female breasts on the one hand, beards and male nipples on the other hand, should be fairly obvious :
        A large majority of people who fancy women get sexually excited about the former; haven’t heard that yet the other way around about beards / male nipples.
        *That* is the reason why there is a taboo against women walking around on the sidewalk topless. Misoginy doesn’t enter into it !

    2. Nodramalama*

      My mother literally has a top with the vetruvian man on it that she has worn many places.

    3. metadata minion*

      I’ve seen nude artwork (Vitruvian Man, Birth of Venus, etc.) on tv, t-shirts, etc. all the time.

  23. PoolLounger*

    I’ve worked in professional environments where a tattoo of the David/any fine art work that showed nudity would be totally fine. These were usually artsy or bookish-type places that employed many people with tattoos. Most customers/clients never looked closely anyway, and I think people who would get offended by a drawing of the human body nude just didn’t tend to use our services. Certainly no one with tattoos like that had complaints. I think this depends on your workplace, your field, and whether you’re ok with either only working in places that are ok with it or with wearing longer sleeves all year. If you don’t want to wear long sleeves and you think you’ll eventually work somewhere more conservative, get the tattoo somewhere easily hidden. I also know plenty of people who have tattoos as a way to ensure they can’t work anywhere super conservative! Some of them have regular office jobs where people don’t care, others work for themselves or have careers in the arts, academia, libraries, gyms, as behind-the-scenes tech people… even in the southern USA you can find work with a nude on your arm. (I also know teachers and lawyers with such tats, they just wear long sleeves.)

    1. Observer*

      The thing is that you don’t need to be working in a “conservative” place or even in a very conservative environment for this type of tattoo to be a problem.

      Several people have noted that their workplaces would not be ok with it. @GythaOgden in particular describes a place that’s clearly NOT conservative at all, yet this would cross the line.

      The OP needs to be clear that if he gets this tattoo on his arm, he’s either going to limit his work choices or he’s going to have to cover his arm.

      1. HonorBox*


        Conservative workplace or not, the OP needs to consider how the customers they interact with, both in this role, and future roles, will respond. And certainly there are likely to be customers who are “conservative” enough that they don’t want to see certain things when they walk into a business.

        There’s been a lot of speculation about what it is – David, etc. – and whether it is tasteful or not, and that’s doing a disservice to the OP, I think. If someone had male genitals tattooed in a visible place, that’s going to turn a portion of the customer base off. Fair or unfair, it is the truth. And if they can’t cover it, a workplace has every right to determine what is appropriate or inappropriate for customers to potentially see. If customers leave or won’t work with a particular employee because of visible genitals on a tattoo, the business suffers.

  24. Pierrot*

    Re: nude tattoo— I definitely think you should rethink the location of the tattoo, at the very least. I say this as someone with a number of large tattoos. If you got the tattoo on your upper thigh or back, you wouldn’t have to worry about concealing it and you still have the tattoo. As Allison said, you can’t know for sure what future managers or employers will feel, and I think that in a public facing role, genitalia will probably be an issue for at least some of your clients.
    I have a tattoo on my upper arm of a fairy that is technically nude, but there’s no visible genitalia (it’s basically just the outline of the body and then there’s covering things up). When I worked in the service industry, I didn’t put a tremendous amount of effort into covering it up because I worked in environments where tattoos were okay, but the tattoo was covered by most t-shirts.

    I recently started working at a legal nonprofit that serves clients, and I still cover most if not all of my tattoos, even though most clients do not visit in person and there’s no policy visible tattoos. I do this because I don’t want coworkers or clients to be distracted by my tattoos, and because when clients are seeking a free service, it’s important to convey the same level of professionalism in that they’d experience from a conventional for-profit law office. I think that these are important things to consider for any public facing job, especially at a nonprofit.
    It doesn’t mean that you need to look completely bland, but you don’t want clients’ main impression to be about your appearance instead of your work.

  25. musical chairs*

    Hm. As I’ve gained more people and project management responsibilities throughout my career, I’ve actually worked to remove some softness from my language when making work related requests. Woman in a male dominated field, and usually I’m not really asking, per se, I’m assigning work and it’s my job to do that.

    Personally, it’s second nature for me to say please, but that word usually gets cut out when I edit emails/written communication. I’m polite in that correspondence, I just don’t use that specific word.

    If the answer to my request could possibly be “no” and be fine, then maybe I might include a “please” but even then, usually not.

    But I always say “thanks” to close out communication (and because I’m genuinely thankful!).

    I’m not sure if I have a wildly different approach with peers, or direct reports or those I report to. I wonder if I’m coming across more rudely than I intend, in an effort to add more assertiveness to my communication.

  26. le teacher*

    LW4 – I am currently in year 2 of infertility. Don’t mention anything until you have a baby. There are no guarantees in life.

  27. Zarniwoop*

    You can’t insist on “Thanks” but you can insist on “Got it” just as a work flow thing.
    “Hey Fergus did you get that urgent thing? Are you all set?”

  28. Anonymous*

    Alison actually typed “visible dick and balls” and I am sooooooo here for it.

    LW, I say this as a person with 3 tattoos, none of which contains naughty bits: WTF are you thinking? If you do go ahead with this, get it in a place where David’s family jewels won’t be visible during work hours or in other awkward situations. However, if you visit Florida, make sure David is right out there for all to see.

  29. EngineerMom*

    Lw#4: My mom thought being a SAHM after about 10 years as an RN was going to be her “dream job”, too, but 6 months in, it was clearly a bad fit!

    She ended up going back to get her PhD, and teaching at the college level for the rest of her career, while having 2 more kids.

    Sometimes the realities of actually having kids is different than what we imagine! I thought I’d be a working parent, but one year in, my spouse and I decided to try having me stay home, and I discovered I actually love SAHM life. I returned to the work force for a few years when my youngest started preschool, but ended up quitting my job again when my older child was about to start high school.

    It was a weird experience for me, as the child of a 2-career-parent household, to discover I prefer staying home!

    1. CityMouse*

      My mom actually was a SAHM and then my Dad got cancer. For whatever reason my Dad didn’t have life instance at the time and had my Dad died we would have been in trouble. Fortunately the surgery worked (my Dad is still alive, this happened when I was a kid). But after that my mom restarted her career (and when he got better my Dad got life insurance). I guess that was a formative moment for me as a kid because I made a firm to make sure my husband and kid would be okay if that happened to me.

  30. MissMoxie*

    LW #1 is very timely. I found myself wondering this week if I should be saying the “please” and “thank you” that I do. I never think anything of it when I ask co-workers to do something for me, like, “Jane, could you please copy, mail, and file this and this and this for me. Thank you.” Or, “when you have a minute, can you please go back through your stuff and pull any reports you may have on X, Y and Z and send them over to Ferguson so he can do A, B, and C? Thank you. I appreciate the help.” I consider it polite, but transitioning out of my current administrative support role to more supervisory/office manager type role… does it undermine authority? Does it come off wish-washy? Does it matter at all?

    Being in an administrative type role myself now, I appreciate when people, especially a more management type position person adds in a “thank you” to me rather than just “here. Do this now,”which can start to make me feel like I’m just a robot to work work work and do their stuff with little to no appreciation or recognition of my own workload, time limits and deadlines when they add more to the plate (usually last minute). Language and words can be weird.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “I consider it polite, but transitioning out of my current administrative support role to more supervisory/office manager type role… does it undermine authority? Does it come off wish-washy? Does it matter at all?”

      Mm, I think it depends on your general demeanor and tone. If you’re already struggling to project authority or get yourself out of a support mindset, I might consider more direct language. “When you have a minute…thank you, I appreciate the help” is a lot of extra words, you can be polite and still succinct – succinct language tends to be more authoritative.

      But if you aren’t having that issue and just happen to be a little superfluously kind, it won’t be the end of the world. There are certainly bad examples in the other direction, and everyone has a different communication style.

  31. Juniantara*

    Re: LW1
    I am one of those people who gets annoyed with a mailbox full of one-word emails saying “thanks” for sending along something taking up space and time for me to read and status. My company’s email is very reliable, I know you got it because I sent it to you, and I don’t need thanks for every little thing I do.
    There are plenty of ways to maintain a polite and friendly tone without excessive use of “please” and “thank you”. I’m not trying to imply this of the LW, but the people I see most concerned about it are actually using it as a form of status signaling – they believe that *they* deserve pleases and thank yous as part of a deferential tone instead of a collegial tone. That’s why too many “pleases” can seem sarcastic – it’s can sound like you are being fake-deferential instead of collegial.

    1. Alpaca Bag*

      I find that “got it – thanks” is much less grating than just “thanks.” It’s also helpful from the people who leave things unread in their inbox as a to-do list and things get lost.

    2. Zarniwoop*

      “My company’s email is very reliable, I know you got it because I sent it to you”
      But do you know I opened it and understood it?

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          And am I going to be held responsible for not following up when you don’t actually receive/process the email?

      1. Allonge*

        The understood part is not guaranteed even with a Thanks! email. Nor does it mean that you will not forget about it, have other priorities or similar.

    3. GreenDooor*

      I also get irritated by an inbox full of “thanks” emails. As it is, I can barely get through my inbox on a daily basis. If I had to slog through 50-60 “thanks” emails, I’d go nuts. For the OP, what is the culture in your office? If no one sends “thanks” out, that’s just the culture and you should really reconsider whether this is a hill to die on. However…to think about….is it really an acknowledgment *of the email* that you want….or are you feeling underappreciated in general? (You mention you drop everything and do for certain people). In that case, can you maybe add a “Please let me know if this information is helpful” or “Your thoughts on the layout of the attached would be helpful for these requests in the future.” or whatever other specific feedback you want.

    4. Waiting on the bus*

      That’s why I love the new Outlook feature of reacting to emails. For internal mails I’ll just react with a thumbs up or a heart and get the same back, rather than the obligatory “Thanks” mails.

  32. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #1 For work or shopping, I’ve always used “please” and “thank you”.
    It’s how I was brought up (late 1950s onwards. Etiquette change? It was normal in all my UK, SWE & DE workplaces, retired 2020)

    LastJob EMs: “Hi Fergus, can you do xx, please. Thanks, Vulcan”
    and then to confirm I’ve received the competed work and it was satisfactory “xx recvd. Thanks, Vulcan”

    #2 Artistic nude tats, no problem in any workplace I’ve been (not USA). Blatant porno ink might damage your rep – if genitalia are visible & recognisable without a microscope.

    #4 No, don’t give your employer a heads-up, just the usual notification before starting maternity leave:

    – It could take years to get pregnant – or never happen because of infertility, partner dying or breakup.
    – You might continue to need your job e.g. if partner loses theirs, becomes disabled, you breakup, saving for kids uni expenses, your financial needs change drastically.
    – Even if you are OK financially as an SAHP for years, you might have difficulties in retirement due to all the lost pension years.
    – You could find SAHP drives you potty.

  33. S*

    Just here to second the point that plans change! I was planning to work less after having my first baby. Then my husband got really ill and I’ve been the primary breadwinner for the past 18 years. Life has a way of throwing curveballs! So keep your options open when you can.

  34. Sahm here*

    #4 I echo everything else people have mentioned, you never know. It took us several years to even conceive. I’m a I planner, I get it about letting people know, but for work and pregnancy and family life plans it’s best to just stay the course and take one day at a time. Nothing is official until it’s official. If you plan to use family leave at all (in the US) it better to just keep this to yourself until after that as well. Too much info might jeopardize you’re entitlement to coverage.

  35. Corrigan*

    Everyone’s guessing the genitalia is some kind of fine art (which it very well might be!) but I’m imagining something random like Dr. Manhattan.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      At least a pair of underpants would look slighly less incongruous on Dr. Manhattan than on some of the other artworks that people have mentioned!

        1. Nargal*

          Yeah, I didn’t imagine a classical work of art cause they didn’t mention it being very famous or instantly recognizable. And knowing that does impact how I feel about the question, even if my advice is the same- to get it someplace most often covered up by clothes.

  36. Queen Ruby*

    I would have never realized that saying “please” and “thank you” would be considered rude! I say them all the time (that’s how I was raised), and I would never think to be offended by someone else saying them. I guess I’ve got something to think about now!

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I wouldn’t overthink it. I think you could gently ask a coworker if your emails ever come off passive aggressive, but if not it’s probably fine in your culture, or coming from you where people know you’re not being rude. These things can vary a lot.

    2. I have RBF*

      I would disregard people who consider routine politeness to be “passive-aggressive” or rude. Just because people in our society behave like feral cats doesn’t make it okay.

  37. TX_Trucker*

    #3 Jake doesn’t see him self as a manager – but is he one? Does Jake control Sally’s schedule or have an impact on her performance review or salary? It sounds like Sally is your direct employee and not Jake’s. There is certainly a power imbalance with an “assistant” position and it’s not ideal. But a higher title/salary employee is not automatically a a supervisor or manager. My company has a clear policy against supervisors being involved in either a romantic or familial relationship with folks they supervise. But we do not prohibit relationships between managers and “assistants” who report to someone else.

    1. Sarah*

      LW3: By Sally being the one to pay the price, I assume it meant that Sally would be more replaceable. If Jake is the licensed pharmacist, he’s crucial to the daily operations and harder to replace. If they split up & were uncomfortable working together, Sally would likely be the one who had to move on.

  38. Eng Girl*

    LW #1

    I’m wondering how the initial communication is coming through. If it’s an email/written message it may be coming across as harsher than the requestor intends it. I always try to read my coworkers emails in the kindest tone possible for two reasons. First, if they meant it politely then I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt and taking it how they meant it. Second if they were trying to be aggressive/passive aggressive with me, then nothing drives people more insane than willfully ignoring the rudeness.

    I do agree that it’s super rude not to acknowledge that they received the work.

    1. KatEnigma*

      The acknowledgement that they’ve received it comes up here all the time, and it’s usually a 50/50 split. For some, it’s excess clutter in their inbox, or every email creates a ticket, or any number of reasons to not want Thanks emails. For others, they always send it to “close the loop”

  39. Risha*

    LW2, I’m tatted up (many are completely visible and difficult to cover with clothing) and I still wouldn’t advise you to get any tat where you cannot adequately cover its genitalia. Idk why everyone here is assuming it’s a tat of David, maybe because one commenter said it and everyone else just ran with it. But LW didn’t say what the tat is, they just said dick and balls will be visible. I would strongly suggest to get the tat somewhere that’s a bit easier to cover the genitalia part when you’re at work (maybe a bit higher up?). People judge, rightly or wrongly, it’s just how us humans are. You want to be seen as a professional person, not known as the person with genitalia on their arm that’s visible all the time. In many places, it will hold you back from advancing. It may even be an outright issue at some places.

    1. Nodramalama*

      They also said it’s a piece of art, so David of the vetruvian man or something like that isn’t exactly a stretch

      1. KatEnigma*

        Except they also said “not prominent”

        Well, the original David is up high enough that I suppose the genitalia is not prominent (ish) but the replica in the museum in Florence sure makes them prominent…

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Yeah but when you shrink the entire sculpture down to human arm size they become not prominent just by math. If OP’s talking about David, Vetruvian Man, any number of Venuses, those’d all fall under “not prominent”. But I don’t think the advice realllllly changes based on which art piece it is.
          Even if it’s small and nobody would notice or care, most likely the best course of action is: if you get this tattoo be prepared to wear long sleeves or a bandaid across part of the tattoo during customer-facing work.
          I feel like a lot of the parsing of “not prominent” going on is sort of a straw man. I assume OP included it basically as a way to say, look I’m not so out of touch that I don’t realize an image-whatever it is- that is giant genitalia, or focused on genitalia- or whatever other conclusion someone might jump to – ought to be covered at work. The point of saying “not prominent” seems to me like it’s the basis of “why is this even a question”.

      2. scandi*

        Art =/= fine art. Arguably, any tattoo is a piece of art. Based on the details in the letter, it could be anything from David to fanart from Steven Universe.

        1. Nodramalama*

          I don’t remember visible genitals on any Steven the universe characters.

          I still don’t think I would call a rendering of a cartoon a “piece of art”

          1. Victoria Everglot*

            Steven Universe doesn’t have any *official* art featuring nudity, but there’s a very large amount of *fan* art that does, and it doesn’t always match the show’s cartoony style…

            1. Meep*

              I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised and grossed out, but considering how r*pe-y that show is for being a kids’ show, I cannot be surprised.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I don’t know about everyone else – but I went with “David” and “Venus di Milo” because they are commonly know nudes representing both genders. They are also things that I can appreciate as classical art while not wanting to stare at on my coworkers arm all day long. The point want the art so much as the thought process behind art with exposed private bits I’m now having to see all day long at work (exceptions for the places where that would be the norm totally cool).

      I guess it just comes down to don’t pigeonhole yourself to only certain places to work if it’s easily avoided by where a certain tattoo is located.

      1. Meep*

        For me, it isn’t so much that I don’t think LW#2 shouldn’t do what they want with their body and it is just balls and a dick. At the same time, LW#2 is more confident I am, because I would not want to be known for getting balls and a dick permanently inked on my body. People are mean and you are going to be ridiculed for being weird enough to do it.

  40. Nodramalama*

    Lw2 I would personally have no issue with seeing a tattoo with visible genitalia, but as is clear from this comment section, there are plenty of people who don’t like it to the point where they may interpret it as a personal affront. For your own future employment processes, I wouldn’t get it anywhere you can’t cover up

    1. Observer*

      It’s not just that it’s a personal affront.

      The bottom line is that it’s no different than any other item in the workplace. Putting up pictures like this simply is not appropriate for the vast majority of places, especially in public facing roles (unless you are actually trying to alienate a segment of the population). Th fact that the tattoo is on your body doesn’t change that.

      1. Nodramalama*

        But this is the issue. I WOULDN’T have an issue if someone came back from Florence, bought a David minature and put it on their desk at work.

      2. HonorBox*

        Similarly, if I walked in to a business and a customer service person had their phone out so that I could see nude photos that they’re swapping with someone, I’d have a reaction. I’m not anti-nudity, but think there’s a time and place for it. It shouldn’t be something that a customer unknowingly walks in on.

  41. just another queer reader*

    #2: I’m chuckling imagining a scenario where somebody has a strategically placed band-aid on their arm to cover certain parts of a tattoo.

    (wearing a bandaid half the year would be a hassle though!)

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      I really enjoy the idea of cutting adhesive medical tape into fun shorts, kilts, skirts, or whatnot to cover. You could even draw on them.

  42. Irish Teacher.*

    LW4, I had a friend who was trying to conceive for about 6 or 7 years before she had a child. Not saying this is likely to happen to you, just that you don’t know how things will work. conceiving might take longer than you expect. As Alison says, you might find you feel different when the child is born and you actually want to go back to work or your husband might feel different and ask if you’d be OK with you both going part-time because he wants more time with the child. Or something might happen in your husband’s job that would make it make more sense for him to stay home (he gets laid-off, he gets a new boss who is impossible to work for, etc).

    If my friend had told a boss in 2013 or so that she was planning on leaving soon to be a stay-at-home parent, it could have reduced her career opportunities for about 8 years before her daughter was born in 2021.

  43. SirHumphreyAppleby*

    LW 1 – I too think saying please and thanks is just polite, but lots of people don’t bother with that in every interaction.

    OTOH I thought you might find this amusing – news station bleeped out the word “thank” out of every “thank you” because a viewer complained. they were trolling the viewer and it’s quite funny.

  44. Qwerty*

    OP2 – Do not show people unsolicitated dick pics! Does not matter if it is a picture on your phone or a picture on your arm.

    Even the most relaxed dress code still requires genitals to be covered up, this includes pictures of dicks. Even if your manager is fine with it, that manager is not able to consent on behalf of your coworkers or customers. Jane and Fergus have a right not to see literal dick-and-balls at work. And since you are in a customer facing role, that just opens up a can of worms if one of them should see it at complain (especially if they had their kid with them that day)

    1. Nodramalama*

      I do not agree that having a tattoo of a piece of art that is naked is in any way the same as sending an unsolicited dick pick. Whether it’s appropriate for work is an entirely different question.

      1. Ccbac*

        hard agree with this!! I think many aspects/comments on this letter upthread are bizarre in their interpretation of nudity in a tattoo (or artwork) as inherently sexual/nonconsensual to those who may see it/vulgar/racy/erotic. The nude body/genitals are not inherently sexual and this type of mindset that genitals must be hidden away and never spoken of contributes to a lack of understanding of how reproduction works, sexual assault, and reduced bodily autonomy. I agree that whether or not nudity in tats belongs in the work place is an entirely different question (I’ve worked with numerous people who have scantily clad women tattoos and have never thought twice about them).

    2. MicroManagered*

      Not every visual representation of the human body is an “unsolicited dick pic.” Lord…

      1. Temperance*

        Seriously, these kind of attitudes towards human anatomy are why weirdoes are infiltrated our school boards and banning fine art from our kids.

    3. Temperance*

      There’s a huge different between a “dick pic” and actual fine art, my dude.

      1. Victoria Everglot*

        A dick is a still a dick whether it was painted by Larry down the street or Leonardo da Vinci, though.

  45. Ahdez*

    For the tattooed LW, the obvious solution seems to be get the tattoo, but don’t put it in a place that will be visible with short sleeves in the workplace. I have friends who have strategically placed “less tasteful” tattoos and it seems to work fine. You get to have the tattoo but not have long term worries about it affecting your employment.

    1. Observer*


      I honestly wonder why the OP wants to have this tattoo specifically in a visible place.

      1. Elsajeni*

        You do? It seems pretty straightforward to me: the upper arm is a commonly tattooed body part; they want a tattoo of this image and have some available space on their upper arm. And in fact, the specific thing they are asking about is “it occurs to me this would be visible at work some of the time; is that cool?” They’re not, like, steepling their fingers and trying to think of the most exhibitionist possible location for their tattoo of a cool art piece that incidentally features nudity.

  46. HonorBox*

    OP1 – I think requesting that others at least close the loop to ensure they’ve received what you sent and it is what they needed makes a heck of a lot of sense. I worked with someone in a different organization previously and it almost annoyed me that she’d respond to everything with a “thank you” even when it wasn’t anything major… but thinking about it as time has gone on, I realize that not only was she just polite, she was also letting me know that the email I’d sent went through. While it would be great for your coworkers to be more polite and respectful of your time, I think pointing out that acknowledgment of any kind from them will help you cross things off your list.

    OP4 – There’s a lot going on and a lot of unknown, so I’d absolutely not say a word to your boss until you have a baby in your arms and know what you’re going to do. As Alison said, you may change your mind or your home circumstance may change, and you want or need to continue to work. Also, you may decide at some point after your child(ren) are in school that you want to get back into the working world. Building your resume now won’t hurt that one bit. And you’re not wasting your boss’s time or resources by her mentoring you and giving you greater leadership.

    Also, not for nothing, but this career transition for your boss isn’t a certainty. And even if she goes elsewhere, it may not be possible for her to bring you along right away or at all. So you need to approach this all with the mindset of where you are right now… not pregnant, at your present workplace. Stick with the status quo until there’s reason to consider doing something different and bolster yourself with the opportunities you have.

  47. greenfordanger*

    LW#1, I’m a polite Canadian and whenever I visit the States I am immediately shocked – shocked I say – at the degree to which people don’t say “please” or “thank you”. Then after a day or two it fades away and I concentrate on what they are saying and what their general attitude is and I find that most people are polite in their demeanour despite not using please or thank you as I would. Lynne Murphy, the brilliant linguist who has a blog on the difference between UK and US use of English is doing research into the different use of these “politeness” words because there is a noticeable difference but one nation is not more polite or considerate than the other. But I will admit that when I come back to Canada after a trip to the States I do feel immediately comforted by hearing please and thank you so much.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      On the flip side, sometimes I’m really thrown off when I go to Canada (or the rural northern parts of the US that are basically Canada) and get so many please and thank yous. My brain reads them as passive aggressive for like the first day, and I have a hard time reading if I’ve done something wrong or picking out the directives from what someone else says amid the extra words. Which sounds silly as I type it out, but our brains process our normal day-to-day language on autopilot so these changes in either direction can be really jarring.

    2. The Rafters*

      This letter came at a great time. Just this morning, a regular passenger was a wee bit late arriving at the bus stop. He didn’t race to the bus, which was okay b/c you never know if someone has mobility issues, but we did have to wait for him. He didn’t thank or even acknowledge the driver’s existence when he boarded. I *very* loudly thanked the driver, but I don’t think it registered with this guy.

      1. Beth*

        Ha! I’m known for loudly saying “you’re welcome” when I hold a door for someone and they just brush right past.

  48. M*

    LW5, I up until recently had an employee who was very vocal about wanting to move towards a role adjacent to the one we’d hired her for – think Llama Groomer to Llama Trainer. That not only wasn’t a role we were going to hire for any time soon, it was also a role she realistically wouldn’t have been considered a strong candidate for.

    Like you, I saw that underpin a lot of the management issues we had with her – simultaneously claiming to be overloaded and not having time for tasks we considered important (but weren’t in line with the career path she wanted), in particular. My management team and I thought she was doing generally good work despite that – but after she (finally) left and someone else started going through her work in detail to take over it, we found a *lot* of problems that had gone under the radar, because she was cutting corners on tasks she wasn’t passionate about, which was a lot of them.

    I guess what I’m saying is – it’s easy as a manager to feel like you can’t say directly to someone “if you want X, you need to be job hunting, because X is not going to happen here”, but retaining an employee who fundamentally rejects the basic nature of the role you need them to do isn’t a good longterm strategy. In retrospect, I should have been a lot blunter with my employee than I was, and directly managed her out if she didn’t take it seriously. Instead, it took her a good 2-3 years past the point at which it became clear she really was going to need to move on to do so, in part (I suspect) because other companies were also rejecting her for the kind of role she wanted.

    If you’ve got someone who ultimately doesn’t want to do the job you need her to do, you need to say that, and check in reasonably regularly to (kindly) reiterate it if you’re continuing to see signs that she hasn’t absorbed the message. It’s not kind to her not to – and it’s not good management either, even for someone who’d be hard to replace.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      And employers need to be honest with their employees. There are lots of positions and departments where there just isn’t room for growth, either because of the nature of the job or the structure of the department, or both, and employees have to move on to move up. That means that you’ll lose employees for better opportunities, but that’s unavoidable.

      I’d rather have an employee leave for better opportunities than lie to someone about their prospects are and have them stay in a role and grow increasingly dissatisfied, and then eventually leave anyway. If you’re never going to promote someone, either because of the position or because of something about them or their performance, managers need to own that decision and be honest about it.

    2. Fuel Injector*

      “and directly managed her out”

      I’d love to see the end of both this phrase and this practice. Just manage someone. Maybe they can’t meet the standard and you let them go, maybe they do meet the standard and stay, or maybe they don’t want to meet the standard and quit. All are possible outcomes. Just manage.

  49. Zarniwoop*

    “Lynne Murphy, the brilliant linguist who has a blog on the difference between UK and US use of English is doing research into the different use of these “politeness” words because there is a noticeable difference between UK and US use of English is doing research into the different use of these “politeness” words because there is a noticeable difference but one nation is not more polite or considerate than the other.”
    Too bad she didn’t include Canada. I bet she’d find you really are more polite.

  50. My Brain is Exploding* background is in health care. There are many similar provider/assistant situations. These occur mostly in large/chain practices (dental, optometry, chiropractor, etc.). The office might have a provider, a manager, and assistants/office staff. The manager does everything for the assistants – reviews, hiring, firing, etc.(although firing is often up the chain a bit) and manages the office schedule; but nothing with regards to the provider. The providers are employed by the parent company, which deals with their hiring/firing etc. Providers have some authority in the office – what care/tests should be given to particular patients, how they like their charts written, etc. They can’t hire/fire/discipline the other employees. (FYI if the provider and manager or provider and assistant don’t get along…it’s a mess. )

  51. MicroManagered*

    Re LW2:

    I think it depends highly on what the artwork actually is. If it’s Michelangelo’s David or similar, I would not consider this “visible dick & balls” that needs to be covered up. If it’s a more obscure or sexually explicit artwork, that’s obviously different.

    Frankly some of these comments about Letter #2 are ridiculous, but sometimes in our working lives we need to accommodate ridiculous people too. You can see that there are people who would be offended by any whiff of the human body being represented in visual form, so your instinct to be cautious about displaying your tattoo is probably the correct one.

    1. Meep*

      I don’t consider myself a prude and support Free the Nip movement, but even I am questioning this tattoo. It is a weird tattoo to get. Whatever it is.

      1. MicroManagered*

        So if you saw Michelangelo’s David or Botticelli’s Venus as a tattoo, that would be weird to you? I think it’s weird that YOU think that’s weird lol.

        That seems extremely conservative/prudish to me, to me… but again, that’s the point of my comment — sometimes at work we have to accommodate opinions we don’t agree with.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          I actually do kinda think those would be weird as tattoos, not because they’re nudes though. Something about like…not only is it a reproduction of the piece of art, but it’s also on your body, and you have to trust the tattoo artist to be able to repro… I mean, people do what they want to their bodies, but I don’t grok this particular one.

          1. Catwhisperer*

            It’s actually pretty common to get art tattoos. I have a half sleeve and a full calf tattoo that are all art based.

            1. MicroManagered*

              THANK YOU!!! I’m like “do these people just not know about tattoos?”

              People get reproductions of all KINDS of artwork as tattoos. Many years ago I knew a guy with the Subway sandwich logo tatted on his arm, like… that’s what tattoos are. Whatever you want. Whatever you like…

  52. Temperance*

    LW4: don’t say a word and continue to build your career. Because, frankly, if an employee let me know that being an SAHM was her “dream job”, I wouldn’t spend my time giving her growth opportunities, training, and supporting her in seeking promotions. She would become the first person at the top of my layoff list. Because you’re not serious about your career and you don’t want a future in the industry – which is fine as a personal choice, but I’m not going to do any favors or go above and beyond, either.

    One of my former coworkers mentioned to her boss that she’d like to retire at some point in the nearish future. She was the first person laid off when we had cuts, because she was seen as going to leave anyway. And she was shocked that they would lay her off after 25 years, but we needed to trim that department and she herself put it out there.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This is a bad approach and could be illegal discrimination. Be sure you’re aware of your local laws.

      1. Observer*

        Why would it be illegal discrimination?

        In neither case did the employer make assumptions based on gender or age. They acted on what they were explicitly told.

          1. Observer*

            But they weren’t making a decision based on family status. They made a decision based on the fact that the person told them that she was planning to leave.

      2. doreen*

        But there aren’t any laws that say you can’t discriminate against someone because they told you they intend to leave in a relatively short time . Whether that’s a woman who wants to be a SAHM soon , or an older person who wants to retire soon or someone who tells you they are just working at your job until something better comes along or someone who is going to leave the job when school starts, it’s not illegal to take that into account when deciding who to train, who to promote or who to lay-off.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Saying “SAHM is my dream job” does not mean that they will be able to follow through on that or, as others have pointed out, that anything will happen in any real period of time. And unlike retirement or school, treating someone differently based on the possibility they may become pregnant does carry many legal intricacies. What those are precisely can vary based on where you are, but you don’t want to be in the position of arguing in front of a judge that your discrimination was justified because she’d rather be home with her kids.

          1. Observer*

            Except that none of that is really relevant.

            If the OP’s employer wound up in front of a judge, they would not be arguing that they acted on the basis that she thought that being a SAHM is her dream job. They would be acting on her *stated plans* to actually leave in the near future. The reason she’s leaving is not something that they need to take into consideration, as long as they can make a reasonable case that they would have acted in a similar fashion to someone telling them that they plan to leave when they get into the chosen Master’s program, hopefully this coming year or similar situations.

  53. DrSalty*

    LW4, another thing to keep in mind is you don’t know how long it will take you to become pregnant. I know high school sex ed imparts us all with the innate fear that the first time you have unprotected sex you WILL get pregnant, but that’s usually not the case. It can months or even years, and you’ll want to work at the job you love during that time.

  54. CommanderBanana*

    LW#1 and everyone, more generally:

    Do not start conversations about leaving until you actually are leaving, whether it’s for having kids, going back to school, moving, whatever. Just don’t do it. You don’t owe your employer that information until you are actually ready to turn in notice.

    A friend of mine made the mistake of telling his boss that he’d likely want to leave after getting his master’s degree, which he now has, but he has no job offers or strong leads, and he’s getting pulled into conversations about “when he leaves.” I think he made a huge mistake in mentioning it and engaging in conversations about his departure before he even has another job offer.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, this! I’ve seen this happen time and time again. Don’t say you are planning to leave after X until X is real and you have a timeline. A timeline is what your boss needs- not a vague, I’ll be leaving sometime in 2 years.

  55. CommanderBanana*

    Why has no one pointed out that LW’s potential tattoo is most likely David Bowie as Jareth in Labyrinth??

          1. CommanderBanana*

            Haha thanks – I forgot that someone from the pedantic brigade would likely turn up with their pedantic pennants flying.

            I saw Labyrinth for the first time as an adult and was like this…this is for children??

    1. Nargal*

      Now that would be great, but should also be covered up cause it’s so distracting lol

  56. Victoria Everglot*

    Maybe tattoo LW could get the naked dude tattooed upside-down, so the dangly bits can be more easily covered by a standard short-sleeved shirt?

    On please and thank you, I always include thanks in a request but only use please if it’s a difficult or onerous request. “Can you give me the TPS report when you have a minute? Thanks!” vs “Can you please give me the TPS report by tomorrow? I know it’s last-minute but I only just received the request.”

  57. DivergentStitches*

    #1 – on the opposite end of the spectrum, I have to be on 2 different Teams channels – one for the overall team and one for those of us doing my specific role within that team – and the constant pings of “thanks!” and “you’re welcome!” and “smiley smile” is extremely distracting and annoying.

    I realize it’s a ME problem, and yes I’m neurodivergent, but I do really struggle to stay focused when that’s going on in my headset (I’m sometimes on the phones so I can’t take the headset off).

    I wish there were a way to say to everyone, can we not do the thanks-you’re welcome rigamarole at least in Teams, can it just be implied that we’re all grateful to each other when/if we answer each other’s questions?

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Also neurospicy here, and what I like best in a group chat is when someone adds a react/emoji to the message itself – only the person who wrote the message gets the notifications, and it’s clear what everyone else is acknowledging.

      So eg team lead says “new llama combs now on the top shelf” and each llama groomer adds a thumbs up to that message, rather than replying “OK”, “got it”, etc.

      1. Annie*

        And it’s easy to turn off the emoji react notifications in most chat apps if you don’t need that information in real time.

    2. allathian*

      Can you mute that channel, or do you get work requests on it that need immediate attention?

    1. Anonnynonnon*

      Because it’s a piece of art they enjoy enough that they want it on their body. Don’t really need a reason other than that :)

      Whether it is work place appropriate or not is another question though lol

        1. MissElizaTudor*

          Because that’s where they want to get a tattoo.

          You’ve made a couple of comments that seem to be implying there’s something nefarious going on with the LW’s choice of tattoo content+placement, and that seems really unwarranted and unfair to the LW. There’s a lot of reasons to get tattoos certain places. Maybe they want to be able to show it to people easily, maybe they want to be able to cover it with long sleeves, maybe they want to be able to see it themselves in the mirror, or maybe they just think it would look cool.

          1. Anonnynonnon*

            Yep, everything you just said, I couldn’t have said better myself. It really feels like they are trying to conflate this tattoo with LW’s morality throughout the comments.

          2. Observer*

            No, I haven’t claimed or implied that there is something nefarious. I do think that it speaks to their judgement.

            maybe they want to be able to cover it with long sleeves

            If they want to put it somewhere that it can be easily covered, there are better places. If he wants it in a spot that’s hard to cover, again, why? If they didn’t care about their job / prospects, that would be one thing. But they apparently do case, hence their letter.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              I respect you a lot as a commenter, but “this is the kind of thing that requires prior consent” is judgmental to the point of implying nefarious intent, or at least as the commenter above says conflating the tattoo with the LW’s morality. Are you saying that anywhere LW gets the tattoo, they shouldn’t go to the beach or the pool because the art might offend someone? Those things have been said about tattoos in general for decades, and it feels a little regressive in the context we’ve been given.

              I agree that this tattoo would hurt their job prospects, I do think that’s something they could figure out how to work around which other commenters have given advice on. And I know tone in text isn’t always perfect, but I can see why you are standing out here as a harsh repeat commenter on the subject.

  58. SereneScientist*

    LW2, I think the comments about your question might get a little spicy but I gotta say, I honestly laughed at your question because it feels a little absurd to me as a fellow tattoo-haver. Some workplaces, especially white collar ones, have relaxed norms around showing tattoos openly but the truth of the matter is that, not long ago, it would have been a no-go in getting the job period. I’m all for personal expression through body modification, but knowing your audience matters a bit here. Get the tattoo but maybe somewhere less conspicuous than an arm or a leg and assume it shouldn’t be visible at work.

  59. Tattoo Girl*

    I had to comment! I had half my left arm tattooed with a larger piece of stylised art which included naked figures and genitalia…and I’m in the process of getting it covered up. There were other reasons for the cover up as well I suppose, but I would bear in mind that you may move to a different line of work where it would be less acceptable or even a different climate where covering up is move uncomfortable! It knocked my confidence wondering if people were looking at the nude figures on my arm and I have spent many miserable days in long sleeves! Based on my experience, my advice would be to get this design on a different area of your body. All the best for whatever you decide!

  60. Beezus Quimby*

    #4: I noticed that the comments on this swing a certain way (to be expected, it’s a work column) and I just want to say that whatever choice you decide, when it comes down to it, is valid. Alison is totally right about not mentioning this and people are absolutely right that you can think you will feel one way and then change your mind once you have the experience. You sound like you love your job and I warn you that the satisfaction one derives from paid work is not necessarily present in SAHP work.

    Personally, I never planned to be a SAHM and I think going back to work saved my sanity. I worked for a few years and, for reasons I won’t get into here, eventually became a SAHM. I have lived both sides and they are both difficult and wonderful. When I look back on how my kid spent 10 hours a day in daycare, I don’t exactly regret it because it was good for me but I know I missed some things I can never get back. What I missed at work cannot compare. For all the talk about what is rational and financially sound, there is simply the factor that some people just want to spend that time with their kids instead of working for money and that’s okay too.

    I went back to work recently part-time and it’s been the perfect balance. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, LW.

    1. Observer*

      I noticed that the comments on this swing a certain way (to be expected, it’s a work column) and I just want to say that whatever choice you decide, when it comes down to it, is valid.

      Yes, I noticed that skew. It did bother me a bit. I never made the choice to be a SAHP, but the negativity is kind of off-putting.

      OP, whatever choice you make is valid. But also, the idea of working part time may be something to consider as well.

      1. Beezus Quimby*

        Yes, I guess some people misinterpreted that I was criticizing the comments and I wasn’t at all; I have said those same things many times in my life! I just don’t think those SAHMs who love their lives are coming onto a work column and sharing their positive experiences. I felt motivated to post that comment after seeing some people talking about cheating husbands and being financially bankrupt (it happens, absolutely, you want to be prepared if you decide not to work for pay) but sometimes… it does just work out. I was just trying to validate, that’s all. None of the advice is wrong or bad.

        1. Observer*

          Absolutely, keeping her options open at this point is a good idea. And not telling her boss or colleagues is an even better idea. Agreed.

          But *some* posters seemed to go further than that and say that becoming a SAHP is a bad idea. At the same time, I didn’t see anyone encouraging her to become a SAHM. Not that I would expect anyone to do that, but it does make the discouraging posts feel more like they represent the consensus although I agree that that’s not really the case.

    2. RagingADHD*

      I don’t see “keep your options open because you don’t know what might happen” as an anti-SAHM skew. I haven’t made a count, but my impression was that there were just as many people saying “babies don’t show up on schedule just because you want them” and “you might not be able to afford to stay home, even if you want to” as were saying anything about not wanting to be a SAHP.

      That’s just practical.

      1. Beezus Quimby*

        Hmmm I don’t know if this was directed at me but didn’t say anything about it being anti-SAHM at all. People are sharing a lot of realistic concerns for not staying home all of which are valid. Of course I did not read the entire comment section so probably missed some. I just thought I’d be the person to validate LW’s intentions of staying home (whether or not it will ever come to pass) because I just didn’t see it somewhere else.

        FWIW whenever someone has personally asked me advice on this, I tell them to keep their options open – nothing wrong with that!

        1. RagingADHD*

          But the whole question was about *announcing* the intention to quit. I don’t see anyone invalidating LW’s intention.

          They’re just saying it’s a bad idea to say something at this point.

    3. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      I think you are inferring something about the commenters that is wholly unfair. Many, many people have pointed out reasons that their plans to be a SAHP didn’t work out or lead to consequences they did not anticipate. So everyone is saying for LW not to tell her boss, because there are too many unknowns right now. No one is saying LW shouldn’t be a SAHP, just that she wants to keep all avenues open because life gets weird sometimes and LW shouldn’t opt out of good work development on her path to being a SAHP.

      I have no doubt that if LW was saying “I got this big promotion before I left on maternity leave and now I want to be a stay at home parent, am I a monster?” the comments would be equally as “You didn’t lie to them, don’t feel guilt, you didn’t know for sure how you would feel once you had the baby and you need to do what is best for you.”

      1. Beezus Quimby*

        Was this directed at me? I was just noticing that most people were sharing (totally valid) reasons to stay in the work force. I read exactly zero “I am SAHP and I love it!” comments which is certainly how many people feel, it’s just not represented in a column about work. Or it’s highly possible I just missed them. Of course plans can change, I know mine did. I am personally skeptical that anyone who thinks full time parenting is a dream job is being realistic but those people are out there, and if that’s LW, that’s all fine.

  61. Cheesehead*

    Re: the please and thank you…I totally get it. Maybe not with please, but even a simple ‘thanks’ does close the loop and it’s just a polite acknowledgement for taking up someone’s time. I have a small business where I create an item that’s tangentially related to my core business function. For a while, it was just an added income at certain times of the year, but it does take a lot of coordination and busy work. It’s something where I have to order it in bulk, so I have to be actively taking orders; for that reason, I don’t offer the item all the time. Demand has been declining, so I offered it only for a limited time when I could fit the coordination into my schedule. Got very few orders. Closed ordering. Then a few people (who have always struck me as sort of entitled) came out of the woodwork a month later and wanted the product. I explained that they missed the ordering window. No response for a while, not even a thanks for the info. Then they came back with another way of asking, offering to pay more, but still no pleasantries. I politely said no again, but gave them an opportunity to place a bulk order. Then absolutely no response again. I know it’s just a little ‘thank you’, but like the OP said, it serves as a response to close the loop and let me know that they got my response. But with absolutely no response, it honestly just gives me more of the same vibes about these people, that they’re still expecting me to bend over backwards for them even though it was their own mistake in not ordering when the item was available. And I responded politely to them and explained the situation; can’t they even be polite and say thanks (for the response and for taking up my time)?

  62. Catwhisperer*

    The comments about tattoos make me so grateful that I left the US and moved somewhere where my work product is more important than my appearance. Attitudes about tattoos weren’t great before I left, but based on the responses to this post it’s gotten even more regressive.

    LW #2, if you want the tattoo you should get the tattoo. Think of it as a screening tool to figure out which employers care about surface level things and which care more about the actual work you do.

    1. Catwhisperer*

      FWIW I have a calf sleeve with 2 nude Classical Greek statues and frequently wear dresses. No one has ever commented on it and if they did I’d wonder why they were looking so closely at my body.

    2. Observer*

      This has nothing to do with tattoos – notice how many people with tattoos are telling the OP that this would be a problem.

      1. Catwhisperer*

        You’re right, it’s about the US’s puritanical values, ingrained body shame, and backwards assumption that nudity is inherently sexual.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree this would be a very different response if this wasn’t a U.S. site.

  63. Sarah*

    OP2: invest in some nifty armbands on the days when you need to wear short sleeves but also need to cover up the risque tattoo. A friend did that with a wrist tattoo.

  64. Flare*

    LW4: even if you are 1000% sure you will stay home, yeah, don’t say stuff now unless you are somehow super sure your boss won’t (now or eventually) start quietly removing things from your job. Because look,

    [hm. Content note for the coming paragraph: difficult pregnancies and fertility woes — it’s a downer!]

    for a noninsignificant number of people, pregnancies don’t happen quickly or don’t complete easily. We don’t talk about this as a society and so women who are struggling often think it’s just them, that they are broken in some rare and dehumanizing way, etc, (this is horsepuckey), but I mean, I would say fully a quarter of the women I know who have attempted a pregnancy have had some kind of delaying problem and I know a dozen women who have had many (devastating) miscarriages, three of whom eventually concluded the effort was destroying them and stopped trying and a couple of whom ended up only getting a baby out of a year of bed rest, which is a bridge too far for a lot of people. So even if actually you are sure you will stay home and you do end up staying home, it’s possible you might be working another year, two years, five years before that even comes up.

    (I mean, maybe it will be easy! That also happens for a lot of people! But what would it feel like if it took 8 years and that whole time no one gave you cool stuff to work on because they knew you were leaving “soon”? YIKES. And then when, eventually, you returned to work because your kids are in school, your resume might be “8 years of stamping prevarnished llama boots with a numeral 42,” which, also yikes.)

    And then, being home with a baby/toddler has wonderful moments and also is hard AF. I was not a person who expected to stay home with my kids, and I was absolutely clawing at the walls to speak to other adult humans about ordinary day to day things by the time each kid was like 3 weeks old. I love my kids a lot and I like the people they turned out to be, but I spent plenty of time being home with them after work, you know? I think a lot of women have this experience, and many choose to stay home anyway (which is a valid and worthwhile personal decision), and also many are like holy sheepnuggets this staying home game is for the birds, and even if my salary does literally nothing more than pay for quality child care, it is WORTH IT.

    Anyway. All that to say: it would be great if socially we were at a place where we all fully recognized that people’s circumstances and needs can be pretty fluid and we could all just talk concretely about our somedays without it turning into limited opportunities, but we are not, so we all gotta keep our somedays on the DL at work. Alas.

  65. SarahS*

    Saw a lot of posts in defense of not saying please but not so many for not saying thanks. I used to send the “Thanks!” email a lot, but I stopped doing so because there are lots of people in my office with crazy inboxes (my boss has hundreds of unread emails every day) and I’m not going to clutter them further. If someone wants that email to close the loop I’m happy to do it, but it might not be an oblivious, impolite choice not to. Obviously when asking for something, I do say thanks in the email itself.

  66. Jaydee*

    LW #2 – I am seriously hoping your tattoo is of your favorite Animal Crossing villager using a magnifying glass to carefully study the Gallant Statue (aka Michelangelo’s David). And if it is, please update us on which villager.

  67. Ollie*

    Two stories – my mother and father fought a lot and one morning after they had just had a huge fight the night before I asked her why she didn’t get a divorce. Her answer was “I can’t support myself”. I started working at 16 and have always worked except for maternity leave when I had my daughter. I went right back to work. I was never going to put myself in that position.
    I was in computers when my daughter was born and things move very fast. I knew if I even took a year off I would be back at entry level. Plus I wanted my daughter to know that women could have a career not just a job.
    A few months ago I got a message from one of my Girl Scouts (yes I managed to fit in being a Girl Scout leader. I treasure it. It said I would not be in the position I am in today (Air Force, learning how to fly jets) if I hadn’t had your example that it could be done.

  68. Head sheep counter*

    LW2 saw your update about the piece and the new location… and I can’t look at the piece right now but good luck! The comments here have been startling. I had no idea that I was wearing my tattoos *at* someone else (consent for artwork… literal artwork… egads no wonder Florida is… firing teachers for teaching art). But again my pearl clutching is usually reserved for truly ugly tattoos or interesting placements (faces and even necks). I do know my ink means that when I travel to more conservative areas… I generally cover (because I’m traveling for work… for personal… pffft) so your new location will make that less of something you have to decide/pay attention to going forward.

  69. Library Kat*

    For poster 2 – an internet chum of mine is a public librarian with a tattoo on their upper arm of a stylized topless mermaid. They just put a bandaid over the boobs on hot days, and I think it’s adorable. You could also get some of those pimple stickers in a leaf-shape pattern for your own fig leaf :-D.
    I think a lot hinges also on how well-known the artwork is – if it’s Michelangelo’s David then you’d get less side-eye than something more obscure. I also think it’s industry-dependent. In my film jobs absolutely no one would care, at the library in my liberal area they’d ask you to cover it up because of kids being present but it wouldn’t reflect on you in any way, but you might become known as the Person with That Tattoo.

  70. Raida*

    2. Will a tattoo with visible genitalia be OK at my office?

    Hahahaaaaaa… oh my. Yeah nah mate.
    Run it by your manager, ask them what is an appropriate cover during short-sleeve part of the year, show them the artwork.

    *maybe* they’ll be fine with it, but one customer complaining about seeing naked dick pictured that they didn’t seek out could be enough to change their attitude.

  71. Milfred*

    Before the LW gets their tattoo, they may want to consider that in several states it would be illegal for him to enter some public areas (schools, libraries, parks) with the tattoo showing, as multiple states have passed laws against sexual displays, books, or artwork within sight of children.

    No, I don’t want to debate whether these laws are justified or not, just point out that they exist.

  72. Milfred*

    Not a lawyer.

    Would the LW’s tattoo fall under creating a hostile work environment?

    I’m pretty sure if I showed up to work wearing a shirt that displayed male genitalia, I’d be in danger of a sexual harassment accusation.

    He might consider it art. His female co-worker might consider it harassment. Who would would win (as is it even worth provoking that fight)?

  73. Mothman*

    I never planned to quit my job when I had kids, but if I had…I’m glad I never mentioned it. 10 years later, no kids. Turns out the parts didn’t work. And then we realized we didn’t want kids. Or, like my parents, you suddenly don’t have a choice but to work because your partner dies. Life can change on a dime. Planning is great, but letting your plans control your present is a bad idea.

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