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I feel sick just reading this.

If you have issues with germs and stuff read at your peril. The dog waterbowl one really made feel ill.

Dear Prudence,
My boyfriend is amazing, but his parents have a loose concept of hygiene. I’m admittedly a bit of a germaphobe but this weekend his mom made brunch while announcing she was sick, coughing over the plates, licking her fingers before touching food, using paper towels from out of the garbage to wipe off food prep surfaces, and using the dog’s water bowl (with a secondslong rinse) as a serving bowl. I love this guy and want to spend my life with him, but I can’t fake indigestion or lack of appetite for the next 10 years. If I talk to him about it, he’ll just say he eats their food and he’s fine. What do I do?

—Gross In-Laws

Oh, this is a finger-licking bridge entirely too far. In future, you have carte blanche permission from me to say things like, “If you’re sick, Marilyn, I’d rather you get some rest and not run the risk of passing anything on to the rest of us—I’ll order takeout” and “Marilyn, I’d prefer not to eat something out of the dog’s bowl” when the moment arises. The sheer disruption posed by your simply saying “I’d prefer not to eat something out of the dog’s bowl” might jolt everyone into a temporary return to sanity and remind them all that humans and dogs deserve separate, unique bowls. You are well within the bounds of appropriate behavior to speak up and object when you see flagrant health code violations in a family kitchen. (If that makes you germaphobic, call me Howard Hughes.)


That said, you should still have a conversation with your boyfriend about your feelings, if for no other reason than to give him advance warning that if the same situation arises again, you won’t be eating his mother’s cooking. If he tries to fob you off by claiming he’s fine, then say, “That’s great for you, but I’m not comfortable with it, and I’d prefer it if your mom would wash her hands and stop serving potato salad out of the dog’s water bowl.” The time for delicacy definitely ended when you saw your future mother-in-law fish used paper towels out of the garbage to wipe the counters.

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