Dear Carolyn: Two acquaintances are having an affair, one married, one single. They are not being discreet, and a LOT of people know. We live in a pretty small city, so I am surprised the spouse has not heard yet, as it has been going on for well over a year. The spouse is not the sort of person who would react well, so I am pretty sure there is no tacit understanding or agreement going on.
I am so very much for a MYOB stance in situations that don't directly involve me. But I keep thinking, if I were the partner, I would be very grateful if someone told me. Mortified, for sure. But EVENTUALLY grateful. I was wondering if there was ever a situation where an anonymous buttinski note was appropriate?
Carolyn says: Your impulse is generous, but anonymous notes are awful. They deny recipients the chance to gauge the credibility and motives of the source, ask follow-up questions, and process how many people know, how much they know and for how long they've known — basically, all the paths a mind travels upon receipt of news like this. Hitting a brick wall on each one adds a helpless feeling to this jackpot of pain.
And that's before the person experiences the bizarre transformation of every errand for milk and eggs into a small-town whodunit: Is that the person who sent me the note? Or did he do it? Did she?
Presumably you are not close to this person, or else you'd have said something already. If you just happen to be close to someone who is, then that's it for options — to ask that person whether and why (ahem) the spouse still doesn't know. Besides, of course, MYOB.
Quite a guest
Dear Carolyn: I have a friend who lives in the suburbs, so when he plans a night out, he stays with a friend in the city. We recently attended the same party, and when it was over he was unable to get in touch with the friend, so he asked if he could crash on my couch.
Apparently he overindulged, because in the middle of the night I was awakened by his throwing up. He was sick everywhere — in my living room, hall and bathroom (but not the toilet). He watched me clean up some and then face-planted on my couch.
He sheepishly apologized the next morning and left without offering to finish cleaning. I have spent over three hours cleaning/disinfecting my house and doing laundry. I also discovered that my couch is stained. Is it inappropriate to ask him for some money to help pay for the costs of all of this? Or is this just a hazard of having houseguests?
Carolyn says: It's hard to imagine a world where it's more appropriate to puke-stain someone's couch without taking responsibility than it is to ask the puker to reimburse you cleaning expenses. So let's not.
He owes you whatever you spent in removing him from your worldly goods. You, meanwhile, owe him a measure of gratitude on behalf of your metropolitan area, for knowing to stay off the roads.
You also owe him a call to his customary host for these sleepovers. If this houseguest routinely overindulges, it's time for friends to step in.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, or chat with her at 11 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.