I greeted my fiancé at our country club with a spontaneous kiss. It was completely instinctual. I was thrilled to see him after a day spent apart, so I placed my hands on either side of his face and kissed him. He pulled back immediately and said, “Don’t do that!” Aside from being stunned and hurt, I was angry. I am not a P.D.A. woman, but I don’t think my gesture was inappropriate. I know I need to respect his wishes, but I think he was being oversensitive. No family or friends were present at the time. Am I wrong to think his reaction was over-the-top and rude?
Dead wrong! All of us are entitled to autonomy over our bodies. This includes stopping people, even those we love, from pawing our faces and kissing us (in public or private). You say the right thing — you want to be respectful of your fiancé — yet you still defend your actions, which clearly made him uncomfortable.
There is no “you’re too sensitive” exception to the rule of bodily integrity. And it doesn’t matter what your instincts tell you or who is present at the time. Now, I get that a fiancé recoiling from your kiss may be embarrassing, and that it may cascade into hurt and anger.
You can fix this, though. Just ask him what physical affection he is comfortable with — preferably, before the wedding. Don’t misunderstand me: I love spontaneous kisses, too! You simply need to work out if he does, or under what circumstances. A kiss is only delightful if it delights both parties.
I know you say you have stacks of letters from “interfering” in-laws who are exiled to in-law Siberia, but I need your advice about how my son-in-law treats his 7-year-old son. He has a volatile temper, and though he never hits the boy, he explodes in tirades over trivial matters: “Everyone is going to the circus, but you will stay home alone!” Or: “You will sleep alone in the yard tonight!” Both threats are empty, but I still think they’re damaging to a child. What should I do? (My daughter says nothing.)
You mistake me, Grandma. When I wrote about in-laws in exile, I was responding to the trivial horror of a daughter-in-law flossing her teeth at the dinner table, not the emotional abuse of a child. The stakes could not be more different!
You omit several relevant facts, though: Are you close to your son-in-law? Are his threats frequent? How does your grandson respond to them? And have you never discussed this with your daughter? (I find that unlikely.) Developing a productive plan here requires a fuller picture than we can establish in an advice column.
In your place, my goal would be to temper your son-in-law’s temper over the long haul, not stop a single angry outburst by challenging him on the spot. (That could alienate the man and lead to worse treatment of the boy.) I suggest consulting a counselor to discuss how to speak with your son-in-law, daughter and grandson about these episodes. This is important. Don’t mess around.
Sorry to This Man
A man at a workshop I attended joined my table for breakfast. The first thing he said was: “I don’t remember your name from last night. What is it again?” I was taken aback by this since he didn’t introduce himself that morning. It felt like he jumped at me. How could I let him know that I didn’t appreciate his behavior? I also wonder if this is a cultural thing: The conference was in California, but I live in Germany.
I suspect this man was speaking the international language of flustered. He likely felt awkward about forgetting your name without stopping to consider if you remembered his. If he’d said: “I’m sorry. I don’t remember your name. I’m Philip,” you would have felt differently, correct?
You could administer a light spanking, I suppose, by asking: “And you are?” before telling him your name again. We’re all forgettable. But do you really want to chide strangers?
Not Shy, and Retiring
A friend retired recently. Her husband sent a “save the date” email for a retirement party. As the date neared, I emailed him to ask if the party was still on. He sent me an Evite. I made travel arrangements, then texted my friend the details. Her response: “OMG! I didn’t expect you to come. Maybe we can meet for a weekend instead. [Cool cat emoji].” I am dumbfounded! Obviously, I canceled my flight. My husband says not to bother responding. You?
This was just a misunderstanding! It sounds as if your friend didn’t imagine that you would board a plane for a low-key retirement party. (I know you were on the guest list, but her text conveys sincere surprise.)
So far, you’ve behaved like a champion. Why not continue? Tell her you’d like to meet, if you would. Or ignore her suggestion and simply congratulate her on her retirement. (I leave to you the proper reply to a cool cat emoji.)
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.