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Dear Amy: I work in an office where many people work remotely but are in the office a day or two a week for a few hours at a time.

We all have individual offices but often chat briefly about our personal lives.

A co-worker recently said she was "uncomfortable" about the amount of traveling I do on my days off and requested I always wear a mask around her.

I acknowledged her concern by saying that of course I would wear a mask.

I have decided to no longer engage in personal conversations at work and now this seems to be a problem for her.

I haven't been mean about it; I am simply choosing to no longer engage in private conversations with her.

What I do away from work is really no one else's business. I am a very safe traveler and practice good hygiene and have not been sick since the outbreak of the pandemic.

This particular co-worker smokes and drinks to excess on her days off, but I have never judged her or spoken to her about her chances of contracting cancer.

Do you have any words of wisdom for those of us still working in an office on handling the various attitudes and personal responsibilities to one another during this time?

Amy says: If you don't want to be harshly judged, then don't be reactive and judgmental.

Your co-worker's smoking and drinking habits when she is at home have no bearing on your health — and you know it.

Your traveling could (conceivably) have a bearing on hers — and others' — and you know that, too.

My advice to people sharing office space is to comply with the local, statewide and companywide guidelines.

My advice to people wrestling with how to behave toward others who are at risk, nervous, anxious — or outright neurotic about contracting COVID — is that the people who are physically and mentally healthier should adjust their behavior to the level of the most vulnerable.

It's no fun, and sometimes (as in your case), you can feel manipulated, disrespected, or wounded.

Your co-worker's mask request was reasonable. Your defensive response was ridiculous, as was hers! At last, common ground.

Not a 'new' normal

Dear Amy: I want to give your readers a different perspective on how rough the holiday season has been.

I am married to a police officer. We do not have children. A lot of years I am alone on Christmas or attend family events by myself because he is working or sleeping to prepare for his shift.

And you know what? It's OK! I plan movies to watch, light some candles and buy food I love to indulge in.

Several years ago, my mom was in the hospital on Christmas and those doctors, nurses and support staff were there, too.

Firefighters, hotel workers, road crews do not get to celebrate with their families, either.

For us, this is not the "new normal," it's just normal.

Hopefully next year will be normal for those of you going through this "new normal," but remember next year that your normal is not everyone's reality.

Amy says: Thank you! You've offered your important perspective at the perfect time. None of us should ever forget the lessons we have learned this year. My gratitude goes out — way, way out — to all who work so hard to give the rest of us a "normal."

Send Ask Amy questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.