My Brother Is Adopted (He Didn’t Want Me to Tell You That)

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Social Q’s

For four years, my family’s Sunday breakfast routine has been quizzing each other about Social Q’s, so we’ve agreed to follow your advice on ours: I am 14, my brother is 13. We were hanging out with friends and started shouting random things about each other. I said, “My brother is adopted!” (He is.) Later, he told my parents that I hurt his feelings. But that’s not logical. I was just stating a fact — like if I’d said his eyes are blue. I don’t think I have to apologize. Do you?


First, I object to your family’s ritual. Four years and not a single bagel for me? Seems unfair. Here’s something we may have in common, Gabe: a certain slowness to admit we’re wrong, accompanied by the digging in of heels. I respect your appeal to logic, but you already know that not all facts are equal.

It may also be factual to point out that a friend is ugly (or stinks at Minecraft). But you wouldn’t do that. It would make him feel bad. The same with your brother: It’s true that he’s adopted, but it’s probably complicated for him. I bet he loves being a part of your family, but thinking about his birthparents (and how he ended up with you) may make him sad sometimes. And you announcing it to a gang of kids would sting.

My hunch is that you know this now, but may not have when your pals were teasing. It can be hard to find that line when you’re kidding around. My advice: Try to put yourself in other people’s shoes. How would you feel, in their place, if they said what you’re about to say? And when people tell you, “You hurt my feelings,” believe them. It can be a hard thing to admit. So, apologize. Then after you tell your brother you’re sorry (and mean it), forgive yourself, too. We all make mistakes.

A Drinking-and-Driving Intervention

Our book group meets monthly at a local restaurant. We’ve been meeting for years, and we’re pretty close. One member has increased her wine intake from one to three glasses, then drives 20 minutes home. We don’t eat much, and I arrange a ride for myself because I drink two glasses. My family says this is none of my business. You?


I disagree. And I bet the people your friend doesn’t kill will, too. We all metabolize alcohol differently (depending on weight, duration of boozing and how much we eat). But it’s hard to imagine anyone polishing off half a bottle of wine on a nearly empty stomach and not being impaired. Call her and say: “I’m worried, Jenny, so I’m going to butt in. I get a ride after having a couple of drinks at book club, but you get behind the wheel. Can we give you a lift or call you an Uber? I want you safe.” Friends don’t let friends drive (even possibly) drunk.

Washing Dishes 101

I splurged and ordered a Vitamix. How do I tell my roommate that I don’t want her using my fancy blender? She doesn’t seem to know how to wash dishes. She uses a trickle of water and whatever soap happens to be left on the sponge. Items in the dish rack are often still dirty. But we’re in our 30s. I refuse to tell a grown woman how to clean dishes.


I have a blunt friend, Joe, who leaps into awkward conversations with gusto. Many times they end in tears, but for (excuse me) relatively petty matters, like dirty dishes, I have watched him solve yearslong problems with mere moments of embarrassing candor. (Worth it!)

Here, you share a kitchen. Why not ask your roommate to clean dishes properly? In the time you save rewashing her pots, plates and utensils, you could write the Great American Novel. When the Vitamix arrives, say: “Lisa, would you come here for a minute? This is how you clean a Vitamix and other kitchenware.” Then show her in childproof detail. “If you can’t clean them, please don’t use them, O.K.?” She may astonish you — for which you may thank Joe.

Keeping a Bubbly Tradition Intact

Our family has two champagne glasses that we use to toast brides and grooms. Four generations have used them, and every couple stayed married, except my son, who divorced. (The toast includes the names of previous couples and the length of their marriages.) My daughter is marrying soon, and my son is engaged again. I know my daughter wants to use the glasses; it’s tradition. But what happens when my divorced son and his fiancée see us using the glasses at her wedding, but not at theirs? I would hate to hurt them.


Then don’t! Unless you hadn’t noticed, the infallible glasses have already lost their mojo: Your son didn’t stay hitched. Why penalize him? Be a kindhearted mom and celebrate your son’s second marriage as happily as your daughter’s first. Simply omit his failed marriage from the list of couples in your toast. It’s a sweet family tradition, not grand jury testimony to be provided under oath.