How Do I Get Off the Mailing List … of a Family Member?

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Social Q’s

I have a conservative 50-year-old niece who emails me pro-life articles that she has written and published. She sends them to everyone in the family. But I am pro-choice and a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood. I would like to ask her to remove me from her mailing list and tell her that my views are the opposite of hers. My husband says I should ignore the issue and just delete her emails. What is your advice?


Every few weeks, I work myself into a lather over some new mailing list I’ve fallen prey to: an art gallery that sells bronze statuettes of ballerinas or the N.R.A. fund-raising juggernaut. So I leap to action and spend an undue amount of time, growing stroppier by the second, getting myself removed from these lists. How dare they, right?

Well, your situation is a little different: Your niece has a reasonable expectation that you may be interested in articles written by a family member. But the fact that she seems to be a one-trick pony — and you’re not buying that particular trick — shifts the equation again. You could follow your husband’s suggestion and simply delete the emails. But I favor speaking up, especially now, when access to health care for women, including safe and legal abortion, is under siege.

Don’t be nasty about it; she’s still your niece. Write: “Congratulations on your publication. But I disagree with your position on abortion, so I’d prefer not to receive more articles about it. Give me a call if you’d like to discuss.” Her achievement is acknowledged; your voice is heard: win-win.

Hugging It Out

I am a guy in my late 30s who works in marketing at a small gaming company. A much younger co-worker, also male, has a habit of hugging me every day when he comes in. I don’t like it. I confess I’d be less bothered if this colleague was a woman. But don’t I have some say in whether I am hugged or not?


Paging Jerry Seinfeld, whose refusal to be hugged by the singer Kesha spurred endless coverage on my news feed recently. Honey (and I use the term advisedly), you don’t have to hug anyone you don’t want to. Your spontaneous confession of disliking physical contact with men seems gratuitous, but who cares? Next time, say, “I’m not one for hugging.” Then high-five or fist-bump or do whatever doesn’t bruise your tender masculinity. He’s just trying to be a friendly bro.

B.F.F.s and I.O.U.s

My best friend and I have been best friends for 40 years. We met in kindergarten. He is hard-working but has had an awful run of luck. I have been very fortunate; my wife and I have more money than we could ever spend. My friend asked for a loan. The sum is large, but it wouldn’t make a bit of difference to us. I would like to give it to him as a one-time gift. My wife objects to a gift or loan. She says it will ruin my relationship with him (and if not mine, hers). What should I do?


I am touched by your generosity and sense of perspective. That said, you are in a pickle. I disagree with your wife. But as your partner, she has to be on board. (No secret gifts!) So try again. Make a case for the importance of your friend to you and the irrelevance of the money (in the big picture). Promise her this will be a one-time event. Maybe she’ll go for it. If not, ask about a smaller sum. If she still won’t budge, explain your wife’s worry to your pal. With luck, he will understand that you tried your best.

Communication Breakdown

My husband’s brother and his family moved across the country last year. We didn’t know because they never told us. We’ve had no communication with them for nearly two years. I tried to friend my sister-in-law on Facebook, but she didn’t respond. Then, out of the blue, we received a graduation announcement that was “sent” by their daughter. Should I send a card and gift, or see if they send a card to my daughter first?


Your use of quotation marks around the word “sent” makes me think you suspect some nefarious plot. I, on the other hand, actually believe that your niece sent you the graduation announcement. Haven’t your brother- and sister-in-law made it pretty clear that they want nothing to do with you?

Your niece may feel differently. Perhaps she has fonder memories. (I will get lots of mail informing me that she is merely scrounging for a gift, but we don’t know that.) And I’m not sure why you would condition responding to her on your in-laws’ behavior toward your daughter. Did she send them an announcement? I suggest acting like an adult and mailing a sincere note of congratulations to your niece. Gift optional.

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