Ask Amy: Red wine spill uncorks teasing

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • April 5, 2014 - 2:00 PM

Dear Amy: My wife accidentally spilled red wine on a friend’s light-colored cloth couch while we were attending a dinner/wine tasting. I was conducting the wine tasting at the host’s request. The host quickly moved to clean it up, and it was 99 percent removed, but her significant other remarked that the couch was their “baby.”

I paused for the cleanup and continued the wine tasting. The host’s partner continued teasing. I do think he went overboard a little, but he always does that.

When we got home, my wife told me that she felt humiliated and that I should have come to her defense.

I admit to not being superperceptive to people’s feelings, but my wife gave me no indication at the time that she wanted me to help with the cleanup or that she wanted the teasing and jokes to stop.

I am at a loss as to what I could have done. Can you give us your take?

Amy says: If you had taken a more active role in cleaning this stain when the spill happened, you would have been in a better position to react to the teasing, but you also would have risked drawing more attention to this accident.

The person doing the teasing is actually embarrassing himself. It is unkind, uncool and ill-mannered to tease another person publicly.

If your wife had been able to react to this by saying, “I’m already so embarrassed, and this makes me feel worse,” the teaser might have backed off. (It would also have alerted you to her feelings.)

You should tell her that in the future when she is bothered and feels she needs a hand, all she needs to do is tell you.

Clicking with chemistry

Dear Amy: I am a grad student in chemistry. I’ve found that when I meet new people and they ask what I do, they often immediately say, “Oh, I took chemistry in high school. I hated it!”

I understand many people might say this, but I wouldn’t dream of saying, “Oh, you’re an actor? I hate the theater!” How can I respond in a constructive way?

Amy says: It is challenging to see a negative exclamation (“I hated it!”) as the start of a conversation, but if you could move beyond it, you could be an effective ambassador for your field.

Choose something relatable: “Really, in the end, chemistry is like working on a series of intricate puzzles. I often hear that people hate it, but I love it!”

I’m inspired by the work of the late Carl Sagan and, now, Neil deGrasse Tyson. They took on a challenging topic (astronomy) and made it fascinating to the rest of us.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at

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