Ask Amy

Monday, December 28, 2009 at 10:45pm

DEAR AMY: I work for a lovely couple at a family-run educational nonprofit.

They are in their mid- and late 70s, and very open-minded for their generation. However, every time the husband talks about me to clients or introduces me to them he refers to me as their secretary.

I am a 37-year-old college-educated woman.

Before this job I was a manager at a large, prestigious company.

I was hired as the marketing department here but have ended up taking on almost all of the work, including bookkeeping and taxes — duties far beyond my job description and far beyond secretarial.

We recently hired an intern who is younger than me. When we met, I was once again introduced as the secretary.

I had to leave the room as my eyes started welling up and I was fuming.

I am aware that "secretary" didn't have negative connotations when my boss was in the prime of his career and I know that he is not intentionally demeaning me.

However I feel that he needs to realize this is an outdated expression best saved for small pieces of furniture.

— Distressed in D.C.

DEAR DISTRESSED: You seem like a very reasonable and responsible person, so I find myself wishing that you could find a way to appreciate the "secretary" title — if only for the retro-professionalism it implies.

However, you have an opportunity to start the new year with a new title, so seize the moment and ask your bosses for a meeting.

Because your duties have recently expanded, you should review your professional standing and compensation. While you're at it, be upfront with your bosses and tell them that you'd really appreciate it if they would refer to you as the marketing manager, office manager, or whatever title you mutually agree upon.

Say, "Normally you refer to me as your secretary, and I feel that doesn't quite describe the scope of my duties."


DEAR AMY: I was asked, point blank, to lend an item to someone.

I've known this woman for quite a while, but we are not close.

How to respond? I was totally flat-footed. I couldn't just say no, because it is common knowledge I have lent this item before.

In my opinion, the one asking would not take good care of my property.

I made up some B.S. story that the item would not meet her needs and that she should look elsewhere.

What should I have done?

— Rightful Owner


DEAR OWNER: Just because someone asks you for something, it doesn't mean you have to comply or even offer an explanation.

However, there are times when a slight untruth beats the unvarnished truth, and this is one of those times.

Call it "B.S." or call it a "little white lie," but if you didn't want to lend out your item, it was fine to say, "I don't think this will do the job you need done, so I'd rather not lend it out."

If you are pressed for an explanation, that's when you tell the unvarnished part of the truth, which is that you need to protect your property and don't feel confident that it will be safe with the person who has requested it.


DEAR AMY: Our parents recently celebrated 50 years of a wonderful marriage. They greatly appreciated those guests who heeded their request for "gifts only of your presence."

Mom and Dad really didn't want for people to bring gifts because they have undertaken the difficult task of cleaning a basement full of 50 years of gifts from (and memorabilia of) their large family and scores of friends. Decisions on what to keep and what to dispose of can be wrenching for my sensitive mother.

As their children, we thank all those who brought gifts of "joy and laughter" to a lovely party and did not burden our parents further with temporal things.

— Their Daughters


DEAR DAUGHTERS: I've never really considered the emotional burden that going through (and disposing of) items can cause for people. This is another good reason guests should respect their hosts' wishes when it comes to a "no gifts" request.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com

Filed under: Lifestyles

1 Comment on this post:

By: dustywood on 12/29/09 at 8:56

Regarding the issue of lending an item. DON'T do it. I have an item that was lent and has never been returned. I need it back to make a much needed repair. When this person calls to contact me, it seems always to "borrow" something else. I told him that he may borrow the next item when he returns the previous one. This item is expensive and only has one use. I suspect it is buryed in his garage somewhere with all the other "borrowed" items. It is about time I hear from him again as it has been almost another year.