My husband has a wonderful family and we all get along swimmingly. His parents own a boat and often invite us on it for a day on the lake and an annual vacation where we boat all day and only return to our rented beachfront to sleep. I am a very lucky daughter in law and sharing the boat is just one example of the loving generosity my in-laws show, with no strings attached. One of my guy's immediate family members will almost like clockwork paddle off twenty feet when we are anchored and swimming to poop in the water. It seems to be a family joke or tradition since the habit started when he was young, but he is now an adult. I adore him, but whenever I see him swim back with that little secretive smile I scramble back on the boat as fast as I can while not bringing attention to myself. Once I know it is there I can't bear to be in the water, even though the water is probably contaminated more than I think.
Part of me wants to say something regarding the environment, the other part of me worries that I will get caught this summer and his family will ask me about my frantic "urges" to get out of the poo water. If they do, I've decided to just be honest. Is that okay?
Thatz okay. You don't have to lie to spare the feelings of the sensitive guy pooping in the lake.
But the family obviously isn't particularly concerned with your opinion. (For the same reason, if you've been scrambling out of toilet water for years and no one's said a thing, it is highly unlikely this will be the summer they ask what's bothering you.)
For future reference, the correct time to make a fuss over someone defecating in an avant-garde environment is the first time it happens. If your new puppy poops at the foot of your bed every morning, you should not wait until a few months in to begin teaching him that another cool place to go to relieve himself is outside in the backyard. At this point, it's probably too late for your brother-in-law (Brother-in-law right? Who on God's earth other than a brother-in-law would do this?) to be housebroken.
Granted, it's not fair that it should have been your responsibility to squeal "Pat! Gross!" at the first Rogue Pooping to which you were privy. But it's also not fair that he should poop in the lake for no reason, and that's already happening, so what are you gonna do? Life is full of injustice. Lake is full of poop.
Should it bother you? Well, pooping in a lake where people are waterskiing is sort of like farting in a fridge in someone's home. It's rude, and strange, and everyone would probably prefer you didn't do it but, in the long term, it probably won't make a huge impact. As you acknowledge with graceful talk of "contaminated" water, lakes are full of shit—some of it literal. Any decent sized lake on the edge of a small town is bound to be swimming with animal fecal matter, illegally dumped garbage, at least a couple dozen shocking secrets, in the form of corpses weighted to the bottom. People know lakes are dirty. That's why very few municipalities pump drinking water directly from lakes to citizens' sinks. That's why swimming pools cost money and swimming holes are free.
While no one wants to be thought of as a rude guest, you are absolutely free to raise the issue of the grown man pooping in the lake just to be adorkable. In terms of rhetorical strategy, you would probably do well to steer clear of a prolonged meditation of the environmental impact of your brother-in-law's poops. The occasional stealthily pinched shits of one lovable knucklehead are nothing compared to the amount of pollution generated by a boat gassing around the lake all day.
If you've never discussed the matter with your husband (How? Got busy talking about other things?) you can even voice your concerns to him beforehand. Maybe he'll intervene with his brother on your behalf. Maybe he'll tell you a story about the origin of this family tradition that will break your heart. ("Abuelito always used to say 'Our time in this world is limited. I don't want to miss out on one second with my beautiful family.' So he would always just shit in the lake.")
If you don't wish to swim in a lake full of love and feces, you are welcome to continue doing the poop scoot. You might earn a reputation among your in-laws as a party pooper if you voice your concerns but, then again, maybe they would like that.
At a meeting yesterday, I noticed that the woman next to me had huge barcode stickers on the bottom of her shoes from Marshalls (which I knew because of the huge sticker). We had never met but got to talking and she seemed very nice and easy-going. I really wanted to tell her about the stickers. Not because they said Marshalls, but because it looks real tacky. Meanwhile, she has clearly been wearing these shoes for quite a while, as evidenced by the wear and tear. I wouldn't have said "That looks fucking tacky, lady," and would have opted for something nice, but I didn't say anything at all. I have a tendency to be a bit overly observant and have a hard time discerning between those times I should comment ("you have broccoli in your teeth" = for sure) and the times I should keep it to myself (which I learn after the fact when my wife has a mortified look on her face).
If I happen to see her at the same meeting next month and she happens to be wearing the same shoes, I'd like to mention the stickers when no one else is within earshot. Is that okay?
Thatz not okay.
As someone who has purchased footwear from every American member of the The TJX Companies, Inc. off-price department store family (minus Sierra Trading Post), I am intimately familiar with the croissant-sized price stickers slapped on the bottom of every pair of bejeweled sandals they sell. What I don't quite understand is how the soles of the shoes of a woman next to at a meeting you came into your field of vision in the first place. I have no idea what the shoes of anyone I work with look like. I barely remember what shoes I'm wearing right now. Was she sitting in a chair and you were sitting on the floor, under the table? Was she perched in her seat criss-cross applesauce? Was she reclining with her legs stretched across the table, and opposite side of the room was a wall of mirrors? Any of these are greater social infractions than her failure to remove the stickers from the bottom of her shoes, and should be addressed first.
Telling someone that they neglected to remove the price stickers from the bottom of the shoes they've clearly been wearing for a while is not the same as telling them their tag is sticking up. A visible tag is a temporary condition with a quick fix. (Note: Never fix a stranger's tag for them without prior permission. Barring a few very specific contexts, people tend not to enjoy the surprise sensation of random hands gliding down the back of their shirt.) Even if the barcode sticker were fresh at the time you first saw it (and you acknowledge that it wasn't "as evidenced by the wear and tear"), by the time you alert her at next month's meeting, it will be a month old. Practically speaking, it is difficult to remove a tattered, grimy sticker that has been ground down onto the sole of a shoe through months of wear. There's also no delicate way to tell someone they've been walking around looking like an idiot for months.
The good news, both for this confident, stylish Maxxinista and for your conscience, is that what we have here is the worst case scenario. You don't have to worry about saving her from future social mortification, because no one will care about the stickers on the bottom of her shoe as much as you do. Ninety percent of people won't notice. Of the ten percent who do, nine percent will observe it passively, like they are noticing wallpaper (stuck to the bottom of her shoe), and move on. Only you will fixate upon it. So, if you can learn to live with the sticker on her shoes, the issue will have resolved itself.
I agree that it doesn't look great to walk around with big Marshalls price tags affixed to your clothing, even if they do boast about Crumbelievable Deals So Good You've Got to Be Shittin' Me™. Class is going to Bloomingdale's, stealing one of their stickers, and affixing it over the Marshalls one. Class is taking a silver Sharpie and writing "nine thousand dollars" on the bottoms of your shoes. Class is dipping your worn, dirty shoes in gold, transforming them into GOLD SHOES. But, of course, there is nothing classier than immediately popping tags after purchase.
If you want to affect significant change, the wisest course of action is to spread the gospel of sticker price tag removal among your acquaintances, and ask them to pay it forward. If every woman you know reminds one woman she knows that it looks a little clueless to leave the price tag stickers on the bottoms of your shoes, eventually no women will have price tag stickers on the bottoms of their shoes. Then we'll be able to do anything.
Since you find your colleague "very nice and easy-going," maybe the two of you can become friends. Perhaps one day a friendly trip to the shoe department of TJ Maxx will become a teachable moment.
Otherwise, don't bother making her feel self-conscious about a minor issue no one but you will notice. (And don't point out her folly to other people.)
Thatz Not Okay is a regular column in which I school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay. Please send your questions (max: 200 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "Thatz Not Okay." Illustration by Tara Jacoby.