Dear Starshine,

I'm organizing a trip to see a hockey game with a bunch of male friends. Once I'd sent round an email about it, one of the newer members of the group replied saying he'd love to come — and so would his wife. I didn't explicitly call it a "guys' night," but all the invitees were male, so I had assumed it was implied. Can we ask him to leave his wife at home, or should we just extend the invite to all our wives and girlfriends? His wife is five months pregnant, which makes it all the more difficult to tell her she can't come. 

Let me say up front that I adore women. Some of my closest friends are women. But buddy, you've got to shut that invasion down and shut it down fast. Because when we ladies get a whiff of a male bonding ritual — the chance to see our fellas in their mysterious hockey habitat, hooting and beering and consuming cholesterol or whatever it is that you guys do together — we're like sugar ants. We will skitter through the smallest opening, dragging a parade of curious sisters right behind us. And we're hard to get rid of.

So apologize to your friend. Don't say you're sorry for excluding femalekind, because you're not and you needn't be. But do say you're sorry that your invitation was unclear in the first place, because (Pregnant wife? Oof!) you really should be.


Dear Starshine,

What do I do when a coworker has an unbelievably annoying habit that makes my skin crawl? Suffer in misery until I explode? Kindly point out the annoyance? The guy at the next desk eats pistachios every afternoon at 2:30. He de-shells each one and then pitches each set of shells into the trash. CLANK CLANK ... CLANK CLANK. It makes me want to rip out his hair. (I do not tolerate annoying quirks very well.)

There are only two ways out of this: Through your mouth or through your nostrils.

The oral solution is to address it directly. Make it loud so that others can laugh and defuse the situation, and be sure to call out your own peculiarity (Hair-ripping? Holy hangup!) as much as his: "My friend, you're a great American and you make the world a better place every day you're in it, but your daily percussion solo is likely to drive me frickin fruit-batty. Do they make fur-lined wastebaskets?"

If you're not the type who can pull off an I'm-kidding-but-I'm-so-not-kidding confrontation — or he's not the type to respond well to one — you might need to look inward for a solution. They say regular meditation helps us accept things that are out of our control. If you could learn to focus on your breath and to gently banish all other thoughts from your head, perhaps you wouldn't be so easily ruffled.

To be honest, though, meditation makes me want to pull out my hair, so I'd try the other thing first.

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