Do I Have Permission to Corona-Shame My Friend?

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I saw a post on my friend’s Instagram that infuriated me: a picture of seven boys in a row, their arms slung over each other’s shoulders, celebrating the 13th birthday of their friend (her son). Three boys wore face masks; four didn’t. We live in a state that recommends social distancing and face masks in public. I am sorry if this gets in the way of traditional birthday parties. My daughter will be extremely disappointed not to celebrate her summer birthday with friends in person. But we know these gatherings are not OK. I find this disrespectful to everyone who follows the rules and to our front-line workers. Should I confront my friend? Am I an idiot to be this furious?


You are not an idiot! (Though I recommend you stop killing time on social media.) Parties like these are risky for kids and the families to whom they return. But we may have reached a point in the pandemic when trying to reason with people who disagree with us is useless. Unless your friend has been living under a rock, she has likely made up her mind about masks and social distancing.

The human toll of Covid-19 has been harrowing. It has also been scary to watch basic principles of public health be dismissed as overreaction, conspiracy or simply less important than birthday parties or haircuts. Many sensible people are making foolish choices. And many government entities have been weak: issuing toothless recommendations rather than lifesaving requirements.

So, back to Instagram. If you think your friend may be open to a calm discussion about safety precautions at parties, go for it. But if just want to register your outrage, save your breath.

Focus instead on keeping those you love safe and hunkering down for possibly greater turmoil as people so itchy to return to normal life jump the gun before it’s safe to do so. (And no more hate-scrolling on Instagram.)


Credit…Christoph Niemann

Staycationing in a Pandemic

I am married with a new baby, and I work at a small company. My husband and I haven’t had child care since February due to coronavirus restrictions. We’ve had no free time. We’re either working, sleeping or caring for our son. I had a big deadline at work last week. After I met it, I asked my boss for a few days off. He said it was a good idea, but now I’m sensing coldness toward me. Was I selfish to ask for time off when everyone could use a break?


Please be kinder to yourself! You asked for time off, and your boss agreed. If he seems chilly, it’s probably because he is saving his charm for workers who will help him complete new tasks. That pool excludes you (for a few days). This is work; it’s not personal.

And you’re entitled to your vacation. I suspect his transactional warmth will resume shining on you like the sun on the morning you report back for duty. Now, go and relax!

Sick, but Not That Kind of Sick

My husband is suffering from a serious illness that is not coronavirus related. With the dizzying round of diagnostic tests and doctors’ appointments, we are overwhelmed and exhausted. We are also confronting two other issues: telling friends we need some space and telling our son we need his attention. Any advice?


It’s never a good time to be sick, of course. But I’m extra sorry that you and your husband have to deal with it now, during an all-consuming pandemic. Still, I predict that when you share your needs with friends and your son, most will come through for you. The trick is being clear and direct.

When friends try to engage you, say: “We’re keeping a low profile for now. My husband is dealing with a health issue.” That should take care of it. But don’t be shy to ask for help or to ignore a few calls if some pals are slow to comprehend.

The same goes for your son: Tell him exactly what you need, logistically and emotionally. It’s a common fantasy that loved ones will magically step up in times of crisis. But he may not know what you need until you tell him. I hope he delivers. If he doesn’t, move on. Now is the time for taking care of yourselves. Leave gripes for later.

Time to Reconcile?

I saw on Twitter that my ex-girlfriend posted about the death of a teacher who was a real mentor to her for years. I wanted to send my condolences, but I held back. We had a painful, drawn-out breakup, culminating in my asking her not to contact me. Did I make the right decision? (Tricky twist: I also have a book my ex lent me that is inscribed to her by this teacher.)


I respect your caution. But return the book with a warm note of condolence for your ex’s loss and a specific memory, if you have one, about this teacher’s importance to her. A selfless act of kindness nearly always trumps the angry turmoil of breakups from the past.

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.