The Vine: November 18, 2009
What's the proper construction for the possessive form of a noun phrase such as "commander-in-chief"? I know the plural is "commanders-in-chief," but is the plural possessive then "commanders'-in-chief"? "Or commanders-in-chief's"? That doesn't look right…
This question comes from a friend, and I've already recommended he just stay away from the apostrophe-S construction and go with a prepositional phrase instead ("belonging to the commanders-in-chief" or something to that effect). But now the plural possessive construction question is annoying me.
It's less inelegant than the alternatives, I guess.
I have a roommate problem I'm hoping you can help me resolve. Two months ago, I moved into a house where a married couple and a young man were already living. We all get along really well; they give me space, we chat when we run into each other.
The problem: the man-half of the couple (let's call him P) doesn't seem to grasp the concept of lifting the seat. I share a bathroom with the couple, and the other guy (D) lives in the attic apartment and has his own bathroom. Soon after moving in, the wife of the couple warned me that D sometimes uses our bathroom, and "makes a mess," so if I see him coming out could I please remind him to use his own bathroom instead. As a result of this conversation, for weeks when I had to wipe the seat down before I used it I was mentally blaming D, though I only saw him come out of our bathroom once.
At some point I realized that it must be P who is to blame because it happens all the time when P and I are the only ones home. Once, P also implicated D as the culprit when he saw me come out of the bathroom looking disgusted.
I've been quietly dealing with this, seething inside while I wipe the seat, but it's gotten to the point that when I'm out in public I'll look for a bathroom to use before I go home. I'm a bit of a germophobe, so that's a big deal for me. Plus, I'm the one who buys the toilet paper and, having to clean up after P, I go through at least three times as much as I should. The other day there was urine ON THE HANDLE. I don't even know how that would happen, and now I'm paranoid about touching anything in the bathroom with my bare hands.
Having learned from past Vine responses, normally I would just address a roommate problem head-on and talk to the culprit. There are a few factors that have prevented me from doing that this time. There is a significant language barrier between me and P that makes even mundane conversations pretty awkward and unclear. I have to ask him to repeat himself several times, and usually walk away unsure if I understood the conversation at all.
I'm also nervous that I'd overstep cultural boundaries stricter than those I'm used to. For example, he's told me in the past that in his country of origin, men and women never touch each other unless they're married. I'm worried about offending him and making the living situation difficult.
I don't want to leave; I really like these people, the rent is ridiculously cheap, and I don't think I can deal with the process of moving again so soon.
I'm hoping there's some solution I just don't see. Would it be completely out of line to try to talk to P's wife? I can't understand how the pee isn't a problem for her as well, unless she continues to think it's all D's fault. Is there a way to bring up the topic with P without accusing him of being the culprit? I know it's wrong to continue to blame D for this, but I was thinking of saying something like, "Hey, P, have you noticed D using our bathroom a lot lately? Because there's pretty much always a mess in there." I'm trying to find a subtle but not passive-aggressive way to address this delicate situation.
Hope you can help,
Take P (…hee) aside and tell him that you have a house matter to discuss with him involving the bathroom.You apologize if this makes him uncomfortable, and you don't wish to accuse him of anything, but the problem is one that usually attends male urination, not female, which is why you have addressed this with him — and will address it with D.
Explain as directly and briefly as you can that not all the urine is going where it belongs.Add that you worry about hygiene and germs, and don't wish to clean up the excretions of others.You can't imagine that it's on purpose, of course, but now that he's aware, you really need him to leave the bathroom in the same condition in which he found it.
The reason for the long and formal lead-up is so that you can read his body language or any other reactions, and if it seems to you as though he's either not understanding what you mean, or has become deeply uncomfortable with the topic, you can interrupt yourself and ask if you should address the problem at a house meeting instead.My feeling is that, if it's culturally permissible for him to share a bathroom and other living space with a woman not his wife, then it's also doable for him to have a five-minute conversation about basic bathroom courtesy without fainting.
Do address it with D as well, but P is a big boy and can handle the conversation, and so can you.Keep an even tone, thank him for his time, and if things don't improve, mention it to his wife — but she's not responsible, probably, so for now, leave her out of it.
My mother was recently diagnosed with a particularly awful form of cancer. On the bright side, the doctors caught it very early, and my mother was otherwise healthy, and so they were feeling pretty good about her prognosis. She had surgery shortly after the diagnosis, and in follow-up visits, her surgeon said that her recovery was remarkable (that if he had not performed the operation himself, he wouldn't have known that she just underwent a major procedure). In short, it was very, very scary, but there was a lot of hope.
But now she is consulting with her chemotherapy doctors, and they aren't as optimistic as the surgeon. I've never known anyone else with cancer before, so I don't have any comparisons to the treatment of other, less-deadly forms of cancer. She is looking at six months of chemotherapy (which seems like a lot to me, but again, I don't know), followed up with some radiation.
Originally, the doctors indicated that she wouldn't lose her hair, due to the type of cancer she has and the advancements in chemotherapy over the past few years. I think my family held onto that info as proof that she would be okay, as long as she doesn't lose her hair.
Today we found out that she would, and even though hair is not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, I am just devastated over the news. I am scared to see my mom go through this as it is, but I guess I felt like if she looked like herself, she couldn't be that sick.
When we first got her diagnosis, I couldn't stop shaking for days (teeth chattering and all) and now I've spent all day on the verge of tears. I feel so helpless. I think the only thing that will make me feel better right now is an action plan of some sort, which brings me to my question.
What can I do to help her?
Background information — my family is extremely close, but my parents also do the withholding-information-to-protect-the-kids thing, despite the fact that we are all in our twenties. I live just 15 minutes away from my mom, and my sister lives about 30 minutes away, so we spend a lot of time together as a family (I'm going to amend my "extremely close" to "freakishly close" — we all talk nearly every day).
My mom is the uber-homemaker, the caretaker, so you can image the role of the "taken care of" doesn't sit well with her. When she was in the hospital with her surgery, she didn't really want us visiting her — she didn't like us seeing her sick, and didn't want us feeling like we had to spend the evening at the hospital with her after working all day (this is the kind of woman I'm dealing with here — downplaying an extended stay in the hospital so everyone could continue their lives uninterrupted. I never realized how WASPy my family was until now!).
So I am just at a loss for how to make her feel better, or as best as one can feel when one is having poison pumped into them regularly. How can we take care of the person who usually takes care of everyone else, and who doesn't like to show weakness?
Any and all suggestions are greatly appreciated — activities, books, mantras, ANYTHING to help my family get through this.
Trying To Be The Best Daughter I Can Be
I'm so sorry for your troubles.
The day after I had a melanoma removed, to the tune of 55 stitches in my back, I worked.I'd had to sleep sitting up and slung over at a weird angle, and I couldn't really sit in a chair properly, but I worked, because if I could work, then I was fine.
And I was fine, as it turned out, but even if I hadn't been, I would still have worked that day, and every day after that for as long as I could; this is how some people are.The prospect of your mother's hair loss will probably force her, as it's likely forcing everyone else, to confront Not Fine, but if her normal routine is to take care of everyone and not need help…I mean, it kind of doesn't matter what exactly her normal routine is, as much as that she can still do parts of it, and feel like her life isn't an occupied city.Denial on that point is not always a bad thing, mentally.
Yes, she needs to take care of herself, but for her, that's what taking care of herself looks like.Physically, sure, she needs to go a little easier and not push too hard, but emotionally, if she wants to get up and handle some shit, that's good — for her.
So what you can do to take care of her specifically is to listen, respect what she's telling you, respect what she's not telling you, and just be there.Offer your help, but if it's not accepted, drop it.Make a casserole or clean the house here and there, but if you sense it's annoying her, stop.She doesn't want you to mother her; she doesn't want that to be necessary.Nobody does.Just spend time with her and support her.
I've seen the other side of it too — my father and I spent the day of my mother's surgery obsessing over insignificant scheduling and projects so that we would have something to do that we could control.And let me tell you: OBSESSING.We spent, no kidding, 20 minutes discussing where to go for lunch in town, when to leave, how to walk there, wouldn't it be better to walk this other way, would it take longer coming back since it's all uphill, how much longer — I mean, ridonk.Then we rearranged the furniture in her room like six times, "because then if she wants to swing the table over to the" OH MY GOD NO ONE CARES.But we could control exactly nothing in the situation except that little crap, so we controlled the shit out of it.
My point in telling you this is to suggest that, when you're asking me and the readers for things to do for your mother, what you're doing at the same time is asking for things to do, period, that give you a sense of purpose and usefulness in the situation.I say this without disrespect or judgment, as someone who moved a very heavy hospital Barcalounger twice in order to delay dealing with certain realities like chest tubes; this is normal and appropriate, to feel that if you do enough small things, you will get credit on the big thing.
But you have to acknowledge this, that some of it is about your own fears and feelings (and that's okay), and at some point, you should just tell your mother, "I feel very powerless over this situation, and I would appreciate it if I could feel helpful in a small way.Please find some busywork that we can do in front of the TV together."And, you know, she knows it's weird for you too.Part of me thinks my mother told me and Dad separately to be in charge of each other because she knew we needed to be in charge of something.No way did she need those flowers moved around ten times for real.
It's hard, what your family is going through.It's hard for everyone individually, and in trying to get each other through it, too.You may feel guilty for freaking out when it's not you who has the cancer, but you shouldn't; it's normal, and if you let your mother be who she is, but also tell her how it is for who you are, it'll be fine.
Good health to you both.
Tags: grammar roommates the fam