You Can Leave Your Hat Off
Should we do business with someone who advertises his right-wing beliefs?
—To Fly or No To Fly
If there were a rule book for long-distance relationships, the latest edition would tell you to put all your gel products in your checked luggage. And I'm afraid no one has come up with a way to guarantee that after you make yourself vulnerable to someone else, you won't be hurt. You had a whirlwind encounter—now you have to find out if it was just one of those out-of-state work-function things, or the real thing. This will become clearer as you two talk through how to get together next. If you're both equally eager to see each other again, you can figure out which one of you has more time to travel or more frequent-flyer miles. Whoever goes should pay his or her own way. If things work out, this will even out. Since it's hard to go slow when it's so hard to get together, I urge that whoever does the visiting stay at a hotel. You want to become intimate when it's the right thing to do, not just because one of you has traveled so far and the fold-out couch in the living room is so uncomfortable.
Our daughter is planning her wedding. The bride and groom are 28 years old, and this is the first marriage for both. They have college degrees and good-paying jobs. In fact they make approximately twice what my husband and I make. Both the bride and groom have their own homes. Neither of them have been dependent on either of their parents for five years. My daughter feels that traditionally parents should pay for the entire wedding and wants us to do so. I realize that I married 32 years ago and things are not the same price as they once were, but $15,000 to $20,000 is hard for us to handle. I want to do the right thing, but should the bride and groom help with the wedding expense, or should all of the cost fall to the parents? My husband and I are planning to borrow most of the money for this wedding.
—Mother of the Bride
"Something borrowed" usually refers to a pair of earrings or an embroidered handkerchief, not the fact that your parents go into debt to pay for your truffled lobster hors d'oeuvres. It may be traditional for the bride's parents to pay for a wedding, but in that case, the parents should set the budget, not be given a bill that means they have to push back their retirement. You should have an immediate discussion about finances with your daughter, namely that you haven't got $20,000 to blow on her party. Figure out what you can comfortably contribute—without the services of a lending officer—and tell your daughter that you would love to pay for the flowers or the dinner, for example. Since both bride and groom are doing so well financially, if they want to have the party of their dreams, let them spring for the truffles.
Photograph of Prudie by David Plotz.