Dear Amy: My wife and I are both retired Asian-American professionals. Several months ago, a homeless person in a famous outdoor market came up to my wife and spit hot coffee in her face.

The person also harassed a Korean tourist and a Laotian flower vendor.

My wife called the police, and they identified the man. He has a past record and is mentally imbalanced. He was not arrested even though he has a record of inappropriate public activity and harassment.

My problem is that now my wife is afraid to go out in public without me. Other Asian women have been attacked randomly in our city.

She is at the point where she worries about me when I run errands. Given that we are just emerging from our COVID caves, I need to find a way to have her feel safe without arming her.

Also, I’m concerned that if someone attacks us, I will actually harm this mentally ill person, and I would be the one who would be sent to jail.

— Anonymous

Dear Anonymous: The history of hate crimes against Asian Americans is long and heartbreaking.

Quoting from a recent story published by PBS, “There are 22.9 million Asian Americans and 1.6 million Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders across the U.S. American history is pockmarked with anti-Asian exclusion, discrimination and prejudice, particularly when economic times are tough or during other times of great unrest.”

A recent survey suggested that up to 1 in 6 Asians have been targets of hate crimes, representing a dramatic rise in attacks over the course of the pandemic.

I believe that the answer — to your safety and to your sense of well-being — lies in solidarity, activism, and empowerment.

The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, passed last year, aims to empower communities to fight anti-Asian hate crimes.

The organization Stop AAPI Hate ( has some useful safety tips on their website.

The Asian Mental Health Collective has a database of therapists who might work with your wife (

I also suggest contacting your local community center and seeing if there are self-defense classes or other groups your wife could join to experience community and solidarity. See if a group of women could come to your home to visit with her, to make her feel safer, and to encourage her to go out in a group.

I also suggest that you do your best to advocate with the police and through the media to demonstrate what steps they are making to assist your community.

Dear Amy: I am in a very awkward situation, and I want to handle it with grace, dignity, and love. I am not finding the right words to express to people how I feel right now.

Let me try to explain. I am dying of cancer. My family and closest friends know. But I also have a birthday coming up shortly.

Everyone wants to celebrate this “milestone” birthday with a party and gifts.

I am happy to spend this time with the people I love and care about, and to share time with these loved ones, but the gifts portion of this “celebration” makes me extremely uncomfortable.

I have anywhere from four months to a year remaining (according to my doctor), and I would much rather see this money put to a good use after my death.

Is there anything that I can say to express my gratitude at the thought of gifts, without actually receiving them? How can I make sure they know what my wishes are, without being or sounding ungrateful or simply rude to these truly wonderful and thoughtful people in my life?

— Grateful, but Unnecessary

Dear Grateful: You are already handling your burden with abundant grace, through this expression of concern about others’ feelings. I admire this.

One way around the gift-issue is to give guests a specific request and a little task to perform: “Please do not bring material gifts to this celebration, but if you can, write a paragraph or two about a memory we’ve shared.”

You can also ask people to donate to your favorite charity in your honor.

This will be made much easier if you have a friend or family member assisting.

I wish you the very best.

Dear Amy: I’m seeing the term “gaslight” everywhere lately. What’s that about?

— Confused

Dear Confused: “Gaslighting” refers to one person or entity making another person question their own reality. In the context most often seen here, one partner convinces another that their suspicions of cheating (for instance) are the result of irrational jealousy.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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