You Can Leave Your Hat Off
Should we do business with someone who advertises his right-wing beliefs?
My partner and I are having our condominium remodeled. We have worked well with one company and asked them to bid a second phase of the job. The person who showed up to bid the job wore a cap with an angry bald eagle on the front with multiple American flags sewn onto the rest of the cap. When I was obviously startled at the hat, he acknowledged, "Guess I should have worn my company hat." I replied, "I would be more comfortable if you had because I can't support much of what the country is doing right now." This led to his reply, "Just so we all support America." My partner and I are gay and feel assaulted by the right wing. We are also horrified by the war in Iraq and so many other issues that our patriotism is very low. That hat was a sickening reminder of my childhood in rural America. I feel that perhaps my money should be spent in a more socially conscious fashion, but I don't relish starting my own campaign of reverse discrimination. Am I making too much of this incident? The company has done a good job for us so far.
When did an American flag come to mean, "I want to assault gay people"? You know nothing about this man's views except that he feels patriotic. Since you are the one who provoked the discussion, do you really want to require that the person building your breakfast nook pass your political litmus test? (And yes, if I were to get a letter saying, "I went to a potential construction job this morning and the owners of the condo were obviously gay. I think homosexuality is abnormal and I hate the idea of gay marriage. I don't know whether I should go ahead and submit a bid," I would find that letter just as objectionable.) We are lucky to live in a society in which one doesn't have to belong to a government-sanctioned party or avow a list of beliefs in order to make a living. I know too many people who say they could never be friends with people who have different political views from theirs, and that's unfortunate. But the economy will crash if every service person is required to agree with their client's worldview. Do you know how lucky you are to find a remodeling company that does a good job? Let the guy with the American flag cap get to work.
My 11-year-old daughter is at the start of soccer season. The girls have voted for a team name to go with the team colors of black and red. One girl came up with the "Evil Angels"; other girls suggested "the Hot Tamales," or the "Red Hot Chili Peppers." "Evil Angels" was the winner (barely). I was not present when the vote was cast, but when one of the dads and another mom protested that name, the coach insisted that the girls be allowed to pick without any interference from the parents. I asked my daughter about the team name and she didn't like it, either. Although I am not religious, the word evil conjures up things to me such as terrorism, child molesters, etc. I can't stand the thought of these 11-year-old girls being branded with such an adjective for the entire soccer season. We will be cheering the name at the games for the next 10 weeks, as well as having it printed on a banner. We have just enough time to change the name before the season starts. Should I contact the coach or the soccer organization? Pull my daughter from the team? Or maybe I'm just overreacting.
At least they aren't calling themselves "Ahmadinejad's Angels" or the "Axis of Evil." I do agree with you that the name is unpleasantly provocative. As for the girls being able to make their own decision—they're 11! Their parents are supposed to interfere with them. Since you have time to try to get a new name, why not send an e-mail to the parents and the coach. Say that while you agree with the coach's idea that the girls name themselves, explain that Evil Angels makes you uncomfortable and could be potentially offensive to some people. Since the girls already came up with some good alternatives, suggest that they choose one of the runner-up names. If the other parents don't go for this, or the coach insists on Evil Angels, then it's not worth pulling your daughter from the team. And maybe the name Evil Angels will bring on so much evil eye, they'll be happy to rename themselves next season.
I recently met a man at an out-of-state work function. Within three days we realized we had a strong connection. We even slept in each other's arms, although we did not have sex. The problem is that he's in the West and I'm in the East. We both don't want to let whatever it is we have—friendship? romance?—go. I know there's no guarantee of ending up together, and I'm afraid of giving out too much of myself, then being resentful. What are the rules for long-distance relationships? Should he come here first and show commitment or should I be brave and take a trip out there? If I go, do I just say, "I want to see you this weekend," or should I wait for him to ask if I can come see him? If he asks, does he pay? If I ask, do I pay? I don't expect a free trip, I just don't want to mess up.
—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.