My friend’s son is a deadbeat. He’s 35, still lives at home, has never kept a job for longer than a year, buys things he can’t afford, and now his pregnant girlfriend is moving in. He has a million excuses for everything that goes wrong. It’s never his fault! The problem: My friend and I play golf three times a week, and I can’t tolerate listening to him complain about his son anymore. How do I tell him to wise up and stop supporting him? I don’t want to hurt my friend, but he needs to hear the truth.
When I was a kid, I watched my mother burn through a cavalcade of friends because she failed to respect an unspoken rule of civil society: We can complain to friends about family members all we want, but friends must never say a bad word about those family members to us, even in the same conversation. (In-laws are occasionally excepted.)
Like you, my mother thought she was doing what had to be done — a noble truth teller. But she was also dunking on other people’s loved ones. And it rarely worked! Do you really think you have something new to tell your friend about his son? You think “tough love” never crossed his mind? Keep quiet and concentrate on golf.
Now, if you simply can’t contain yourself, the next time your friend starts in on his son, ask, “Are you venting, or would you like my opinion?” Even if he claims to want advice, remember: No one wants to hear his child being trashed by a golfing buddy. Just suggest they visit a therapist together or tell a deprecating story about your own child and how you solved the problem.
My husband and I received a gift certificate to a neighborhood restaurant shortly before the coronavirus pandemic. The restaurant closed for months, then reopened for takeout and outdoor dining. I’ve felt uncomfortable using the certificate, knowing how restaurants are struggling. Now the restaurant is closing for good, and my husband wants to use the certificate before it does. I say we chalk it up to a donation. You?
Well, you’re certainly entitled to use the gift certificate. But I agree with you, Audrey: If you can afford to let this go, it seems miserly to force a restaurant that’s failed because of a pandemic to honor a gift certificate. Still, if you want one last meal at your neighborhood restaurant, I can get behind using the certificate so long as you really make it rain tip money all over the joint. The workers are suffering, too.
Thanksgiving in 2020
For seven years, we’ve hosted Thanksgiving dinner at our home in Oregon. We’ve always invited a couple from San Francisco who are conservative. (The husband, for instance, denies climate change.) To keep things civil, we send an email to the other guests reminding them to avoid politics, though the conservative husband is still outspoken. My husband doesn’t want to exclude them, but for me, this year is different. I would like to call the wife, with whom I’m close, and tell her that our tradition is on hold this year because of our momentous presidential election. With Covid, we will be down to six guests without them, but we can’t use Covid as an excuse. Any advice?
My blood sugar may be low, but I reject nearly every premise of your question. Reputable models of Covid-19 prevalence (and a cursory glance at Labor Day stories on Instagram) suggest the pandemic will still be going strong at the end of November. Why can’t you “use Covid as an excuse”? It’s the only sensible thing to do.
Also — spoiler! — the election will be over by Thanksgiving. Are you saying you won’t be able to dine with conservative friends three weeks later? And why do you only send emails to like-minded dinner guests to avoid politics, but not to the blowhard climate denier?
By Thanksgiving, it will probably be too chilly in Oregon to entertain safely outdoors. I suggest suspending all invitations to an indoor Thanksgiving, except to those who are in your Covid bubble. Your political concerns are your call, but in my view, they run a distant second to the safety of you and your guests.
The Copycat Sister Strikes Back
I don’t know if you do follow-up questions, but I’m the girl who wrote last week about my younger sister copying my style when she dresses for school. You suggested that I style her for a week and help her find her own look. My mother thought this was a great idea, but I knew it wouldn’t work. And it didn’t. She still copies me. Any other ideas?
Thanks for rubbing my nose in my failure! Unfortunately, borrowing an aesthetic is not a crime punishable by law. So, if you can’t persuade your younger sister to be more original, perhaps the best solution here is to dig deep and tweak your own look (and keep tweaking it as she catches up with you). Necessity, as you now know, is the mother of invention.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.