Is It Normal That My Boss Tapes People's Mouths Shut During Meetings, And Other Advice Column Questions

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There are too many excellent advice columns to keep up with, so we're committed to bringing you links to the best advice column questions and answers every week. Here's a roundup of the most interesting, thought-provoking and surprising questions that our favorite columnists (and subreddits) addressed in recent days.

Is It Normal That My Boss Tapes People's Mouths Shut During Meetings?

I recently started my first "real" job in a small office (eight people). We have strategy meetings every morning for about 30-45 minutes. My boss is REALLY intolerant of bad ideas. She keeps a tape dispenser on the table by her chair and whenever someone suggests something that she thinks is dumb, she will peel off a piece of masking tape and pass it to them, at which point they are required to put it over their mouths so they cannot contribute any more "bad" ideas for the rest of the meeting.

Needless to say, the first time I saw this, I was shocked! But my coworkers don't seem too bothered by it. Or maybe they just don't want to complain, I'm not sure. My boss can be kinda scary.

My issue with this is that enforcement of the rule seems arbitrary. It depends entirely on her mood. Some days, no one will "get taped," but other days, if she is feeling particularly sour most of us, if not everyone, will end up "taped" and the meeting is just her dictating to us!

Is this normal? I'm thinking not. But does that make it inherently bad? Is there something I should do? Other than this idiosyncrasy, it is mostly a great job and she is, for the most part, a good boss.

[Ask A Manager]

Alison Green disputes the letter writer's assertion that their boss is a good boss. "There's no way that someone who thinks it's appropriate to tape people's mouths shut — daily, no less! — is managing effectively outside of this," she writes. "It's not possible." Read the rest of her answer.

Was I A Jerk For Cooking My Girlfriend An Anniversary Dinner Containing Mushrooms When I Know She Hates Mushrooms?

To preface this, I'd like to say that my gf isn't a picky eater at all. She likes most of the food I cook for her as I'm the one usually doing the cooking since I love doing it. One thing she doesn't like, though, is mushrooms.

She picks it off pizzas, pies, etc. She does order dishes with mushrooms in them when we go out, however. She just picks the pieces off and says she likes the actual dish just without the mushrooms on it which I think is ridiculous…

Anyway, fast forward to last night. It's our anniversary and I wanted to cook something extra special for dinner. I found a recipe for this chicken dish that sounds absolutely divine. The problem is, it has mushrooms in it. I doubted she would be able to taste them though because the recipe calls for the mushrooms to be run through a food processor so the pieces would be really really tiny…

We sit down to the beautiful dinner I made and she asks what it is and if it has mushrooms in it because she can see bits and pieces. They were hardly visible as they were incorporated in the sauce. I told her that it did contain mushrooms but she had to trust me that it'll taste amazing and that she'll hardly notice the mushrooms in the sauce.

What's fucked up is, she refuses to even taste it! I went through all that hard work and you can't even see the mushrooms, the pieces are so tiny. She got all upset and said she's sure she wouldn't like it and asked to be excused. When I went after her, she yelled at me that I didn't care about her even when it's our anniversary… Now she isn't responding to any of my texts.

So reddit, AITA for making a special dinner on our anniversary which my gf completely refused to have an open mind and give it a try?

[Reddit via Twitter]

The commenters on the r/AmItheAsshole subreddit reach a consensus that the letter writer is indeed the asshole. "I don't know why you wouldn't just pick a recipe without mushrooms, or just not add them," writes one. "You are well aware she does not like them." Read the rest of their answers (and an update from the letter writer).

Should I Tell My Childhood Best Friend, Whom I Last Saw At Her Wedding, That I'm In Love With Her?

Until recently, I identified as a straight woman and kind of just assumed that all women were secretly attracted to women a bit too… I've accepted that I'm actually bi, and I really love the idea of dating a woman. Specifically, I want to date one woman: "Lucy," my childhood best friend. I've realized I'm in love with her and have been for a long time. Lucy is out as a lesbian now but was closeted through high school, though I knew she was attracted to women because I found out she'd had a massive crush on me. I never told her I knew, but I think I did take advantage of that a bit. I'd make out with her at parties for guys' attention, make out with her in private sometimes "for fun" ... then we went to college together, and she finally came out as gay. We stayed incredibly close throughout college, occasionally hooking up and then never talking about it. We had a huge fight in the last year of college when she accused me of "using" her and said I was taking advantage of her long-standing feelings for me by hooking up with her whenever I was down after a breakup. She wasn't 100 percent wrong, and we did make up after this fight. We were never quite as close again afterward, though, and drifted away a lot when she moved out of state to do her postgraduate degree. Fast forward three years later, and I am still thinking about her every day. I've reached out and we've had very friendly catch-ups on social media, but I'm worried about pushing for more contact. The last time I saw her was at her wedding last autumn, to a woman I can't stand and who was visibly cool toward me. I assume she knows something about mine and Lucy's past.

I am going to be in Lucy's city next month for work — obviously, I've suggested meeting up for coffee, and she's responded positively, though her message implies her wife would be joining us. I don't want this, as I want to tell her that I've realized my feelings for her… I have no idea if she still harbors any feelings for me after these last few years of distance, but I feel like if there's even a chance that she does, I need to find out. Would it be totally wrong and crazy to message her and tell her my feelings? I know she's married. I know it's been a long time. But I think about her every day and can't go on silently. What should I do?


Danny M. Lavery observes that the letter writer has no indication that Lucy returns her feelings. "[I]nstead of telling Lucy, 'Good news! I finally figured things out and I'm ready to be together, even though by all accounts you're happily married and living far away,' you should offer her a heartfelt apology for how you treated her, wish her and her wife the best, and then move on," he writes. Read the rest of his answer.

Can I Tell My Sister I'm Jealous Of Her Tax Refund And Suspect She's Doing Something Illegal?

My sister and I are open with each other. This year we got a frightening tax bill and I vented to her. She was sympathetic but didn't commiserate. I found this a little strange given what I know about her finances.

It bugged me enough to ask her how much she owes, and she said she was getting a refund but wouldn't say how much. I was floored. I asked her for more details, including who she used for tax prep, and she refused to divulge them. I am jealous she is paying a lot less and also concerned about whether what she's doing is even legal. Can I bring this up to her again? And how do I do that?

[The Washington Post]

Carolyn Hax points out that a tax refund means that a person withheld too much over the course of a year, not that they're paying less overall. "And no, you can't bring this up to her again, not without stirring a pot you never had any business stirring and that serves no purpose in being stirred," she writes. Read the rest of her answer.

What Should I Have Said To The Woman Who Offered To Pay Me To Quit Smoking As A Form Of 'Local Charity'?

Out of the blue, one of the women from my church offered to give me a small sum of money every month if I would quit smoking. She said she had been considering sponsoring a child overseas, but had realized she could do this as a more local, and therefore more satisfying, charity.

She knows how very little money I have, and went on to say that this idea had the advantages of my "earning" the assistance, of quitting being good for my health, and of my not coming to church smelling like cigarettes.

I was speechless, although not smoking certainly has much to recommend it, and I would be grateful for your expert assistance. What on Earth might I have said, beyond the involuntary reaction that nearly escaped my lips?


Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin rule that this offer was very insulting. "However, as it is rude to return one insult with another, the only proper response is to say, 'Thank you, but I do not accept charity,' and pointedly return your attention to the church service," they write. Read the rest of their answer.

Is My Husband Hiring Sex Workers In Thailand?

My husband and I have been married 20 years. He is now on vacation in Thailand with his best buddy (without me again) for the third time in as many years. After doing some research, I have discovered that this place is a major sex tourism destination also known as "Sodom on the Sea." My husband says he stays away from all the hanky-panky and goes there only for the beach, the food, the culture and "guy time" with his best friend. My girlfriends all tell me I am foolish and naive. Am I?


Abigail Van Buren says she can't make a ruling without knowing more about the husband. "My questions to you would be — in your heart of hearts — what do you think?" she asks. "And if you agree with your girlfriends, what are you prepared to do about it?" Read the rest of her answer.

LV Anderson is the news editor at Grist and an advice column aficionado.

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