Should I Help My Son Use My Friends?

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Social Q’s

My adult son would like me to “lay the foundation” (as he calls it) for him to stay with longtime friends of my husband and me in Washington this month. He wants to participate in a big event there, and hotel rooms are hard to find. He has known this couple since he was a boy. They are lovely people, but my son has told me many times how much he dislikes them. I am sure they would say yes. But under the circumstances, I don’t feel comfortable asking. Your thoughts?


Thanks to your curiosity-stoking tact, we don’t know whether your son is angling to attend the Inauguration or one of the many scheduled protests of the president-elect this month. That is good! (I stand far less likely to be accused of partisan advice dispensary. And my answer is the same in either event.)

Tell your son what my father told me, eons ago, when I pressed him to ask a pal of his (whom I loathed) for an invitation to play tennis at the All England Club in Wimbledon. “Love people; use things,” he said, “not the other way around.” His advice stands. If your son is determined to use people he dislikes, you can’t stop him. But don’t abet him, by “laying the foundation” or otherwise.

Monitoring the In-Laws

In my experience, women do more of the work in maintaining family relationships than men. To create a fairer division of labor in my marriage, I decided that I would not be responsible for staying close to my in-laws. My husband can be responsible for ties with his family; I will be responsible for mine. I am always happy to go along with plans he makes with his family, but he rarely initiates them. So, we see more of mine, though they live farther away. Am I being reasonable or rude?


So long as your husband didn’t sneak anything about social calendar maintenance into your wedding vows, your position seems reasonable — assuming you’ve discussed this division of labor with your husband directly. (If so, what better proof of your hypothesis about the social loads carried by women than your guilt over not scheduling more outings with his family?)

Still, take a verse from the great protest song “Bread and Roses” as you consider your next steps: “As we go marching, marching, we battle too for men. For they are women’s children and we mother them again.” Suggest that your husband create weekly, monthly or quarterly reminders (as he sees fit) on his smartphone to make dates with his family. After that, it’s on him.

Nag Nana, for Now

I am a college student. I live with my grandmother in the city where I go to school. She is in her 80s and mentally sharp. She has diabetes, which she has lived with for years. Lately, I notice her eating much more sugary food (especially baguettes with butter and raspberry jam — which she eats daily). I spoke with her; she said she was tired of going without. When I pressed, she told me to mind my own business. Is there anything more I can do without being aggressive?


Your grandmother puts me in mind of the great Maureen Stapleton in Woody Allen’s “Interiors”: “You’ll live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to.” I am not qualified to opine on the relative danger of diabetics eating bread and jam. But even assuming it is terrible for her, your grandmother may have rationally balanced the quality of her life against the quantity of it, and come down on the side of baguettes.

You and I may have trouble identifying with this decision. Still, I admire your desire to respect her choices. Say: “Nana, it’s your life, but I want you around as long as possible. May I go to one doctor’s appointment with you? After that, I promise to stay out of this.” (Nag until she agrees.)

If the doctor concurs with your assessment of your grandmother’s mental acuity and comprehension of the medical consequences of her diet, leave this one alone — hard as that may be. We all enjoy the right of self-determination, especially the elderly, with whose choices we are apt to meddle.

Hit ‘Reply’ to Send Gratitude

After making many wedding, holiday and other gifts without receiving thank-you notes, may I add a sentence in my card that says: “Acknowledgment of my gift can be made by email” and include my email address?


If you could solve this one, Jeffrey, you would be halfway to putting me out of business. Personally, I wouldn’t feel comfortable telling people the methods by which they can thank me (any more than I would send silent recipients boxes of thank-you notes as hints — à la several letter writers). What we want is for people to want to thank us, no? Try this variation: “Please let me know you received my gift at [Jeffrey’s]”? It isn’t gratitude, but it’s the next best thing.