Dear Annie: When I see someone with all four knuckles on top of a fork, I thank my lucky stars for my mother and the many, many lessons she taught me in my 19 years with her. So, Annie, what is the proper way to grasp a fork?
— Thankful in the Bluegrass
Dear Thankful in the Bluegrass: I think you already have a pretty good grasp of the subject, thanks to your dear mother. There’s the European, or continental, style of holding a fork, in which the left hand holds the fork, with the tines pointing downward, the index finger resting on the back of the fork.
Then there is the American way, in which the fork is held like a pen. In neither style does one grip the fork with all four fingers wrapped around it, “When’s dinner”-style.
However, you never know what mobility issues a person might have that might cause him or her to grip utensils in an unusual or “improper” way, so let’s withhold judgment.
Dear Annie: I’m in a relationship with “Ben,” who is the father of my child. Ben and I have been together for about four years now, and living together for two.
Ben is a total momma’s boy, the youngest of four siblings and therefore the most spoiled of the four. Since we’ve been living together, I have to pick up after him and do everything else for him constantly. That seems to be the expectation because he is the one who brings in all the money.
On the other hand, I do work hard to take care of our child, and I go to school full-time. Sometimes, I feel like he takes advantage of my kindness and uses me as his maid to get him things whenever he wants them.
For example, we were relaxing and watching TV in bed the other day when he asked me to bring him a bowl of cereal. I really don’t think it’s fair for him to be asking me to do things when he could easily do them for himself and we’re both relaxing. Am I overreacting?
— Twenty-Three and Confused
Dear Twenty-Three and Confused: If you’re going to live together in harmony, Momma’s Boy has some growing up to do. Talk to him about how you’re feeling. Let him know that you appreciate his hard work but that you are working hard, too. Talk about what you both think is fair in terms of household duties and child-rearing responsibilities.
This will be the start of an ongoing conversation. Focus on progress, not perfection. He’s not going to change overnight. But if he’s open to striving to do better, and if you’re open to hearing his point of view, too, you will both be on the path toward not only a happier home life but a healthier relationship.
Dear Annie: Do you have room for one more suggestion to “Sick of Being Treated This Way,” who felt that others demeaned her?
I’m an active independent 84-year-old woman, but I like to think of situations such as the ones she mentioned as “giving/receiving opportunities.” When a person opens a door for you, offers to carry your bags, etc., assume that they are trying to give you a gift — the gift of assistance, recognition or respect. By accepting that gift graciously, you are giving them a gift in return.
So, instead of either taking certain niceties for granted or resenting what we see as condescension, just smile and say, “Why, thank you!” And if you can manage to really mean it, you might find that those three words will make you both feel good.
— Patricia F.
Dear Patricia: It’s been quite some time since that letter from “Sick of Being Treated This Way” ran, but I just had to print your follow-up comment. Thanks for writing.
Annie Lane, a graduate of New York Law School and New York University, writes this column for Creators Syndicate. Email questions to email@example.com.