A Totally Radical Plan for Getting Along With Your Siblings

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Social Q’s

My sister and I (both in our 20s) have a tense relationship. She often misinterprets things I say as criticisms of her. My “Ready to go?” will be taken as a negative comment on the clothing or accessories she’s wearing. And frankly, her nonstop advice to me gets under my skin, too. I know there will come a day when we will get along peacefully as sisters. Until then, any ideas for keeping the meanness at bay?


Why on earth do you suppose that your relationship with your sister will magically improve at some point in the future? (Do you also believe in elves?) Now, in fairness to you, I have a similar problem with the past: I let the glow of nostalgia soft-focus many hideous ancestral events. But nostalgia for the future is a new one.

Let’s start improving relations with your sister right now. Call her up and say: “I love you, Diane. But we have to stop picking at each other, or giving each other the feeling that we are. And I have an idea how to do it.” Then invite her to lunch and lay it out:

For the foreseeable future, all advice and (constructive) criticism that you both deliver out of sisterly duty is hereby suspended. Your only job is to cheerlead and encourage. This may sound Pollyanna-ish. And you will both bite your tongues more frequently than you’d wish.

But this has worked wonders with my brothers. We are not our (problematic) siblings’ keepers. Better to be an ocean of support and let them hear the digs from more palatable sources.

Not Thrilled With the Hunt

Our wealthy (and somewhat pretentious) neighbors in the country have banded together with some like-minded people to buy a large tract of open land near us. We thought it was great that they were preserving it until we learned that they intend to use it for fox hunting. (On horseback. I’m not kidding!) I am appalled by this, but not sure how to approach them. Any advice?


You haven’t specified, but I suspect your outrage is fueled by animal cruelty concerns — hunters on horseback and packs of hounds chasing after defenseless little foxes — and not by the absurd Anglophilia of twee riding breeches, fitted blazers and velvet caps. In either case, I share your alarm. But should you say something?

Fox hunting is legal in America. What’s more, hunting is deeply rooted in the traditions of many rural cultures. Deer hunters often eat the meat of the animals they kill. Fox hunters are more likely to emphasize the thrill of the chase and the seldom-caught fox. (Still, some are caught and mauled to death. Imagine that trauma!)

You are unlikely to change minds here. And it doesn’t sound as if you were invited to the hunt. So, only speak up if staying silent violates an essential principle of your being. (“Tatiana, have you considered the cruelty of these hunts?”) Unsolicited opinions are rarely required (or appreciated). But registering deeply held convictions, among friends and neighbors, plays an important role in our communities.

DNA Kits for Everyone!

We have three adult children (28, 31 and 33). Only the middle one is in a serious relationship. We discussed that it would be fun if my husband and I bought 23andMe DNA analyses for everyone for the holidays. We can compare our results when they come back. But I’m not sure what to do about the boyfriend. I don’t want to leave him out. But comparing his results with ours wouldn’t be very interesting. Should I go forward with the gift, skip the boyfriend or scrap the whole idea?


I don’t know how you feel about your Bitcoin and tech stock portfolios, but for my money, there is no better investment than inordinate kindness to your kids’ new beaus and gal pals. Making them feel welcome and accepted pays huge dividends and will encourage your children to visit more frequently.

Rule of thumb: However nice you’re inclined to be to the boyfriend, take it two steps further. Definitely buy him the 23andMe kit. True, his DNA will (hopefully) not match yours. But the data may still interest him. And more important, you’ll be showing your daughter that you support her choice of mate and intend to treat her partner as one of the family. Priceless!

It’s Secret Santa, not Secret Grinch

I have a real problem with my office’s Secret Santa party. The guy whose name I picked is very senior at the company. I just started. He’s been arrogant and dismissive of me. Sometimes, he doesn’t even acknowledge me in the hallways. Do you think I should ask the office manager for a do-over pick?


Darling, it’s Secret Santa, not kidney donation. Go out at lunchtime, buy a $20 gift and be done with it. Or take a more optimistic view: This guy (as unpleasant as he sounds) has probably seen an army of just-starting-out men and women come and go at your company. Maybe an original gift will make a lasting impression. Is anyone else picturing an origami crèche?