A: If you don't get this channel, I'm assuming she, and not the kids, had to order it, right? If you find a charge on your bill for porn, then you definitely need to have a conversation. Let's say after your kids were in bed she was reading 50 Shades of Grey. I assume you agree that wouldn't be any of your business. And do you really think that the way she gets the kids to settle down is to allow them an extra bowl of ice cream and 20 minutes of watching porn? However, you're entitled to tell her, next time she sits, that the TV was on a channel you don't get that provides content that makes you uncomfortable. Say you'd appreciate it if she limited herself to your current cable offerings.
Q. Living on a Budget: I am a single mother living on a very tight budget. Everywhere I go it seems that a donation is requested. Especially at work: birthdays, illness, baby showers, death, retirement, relocation, graduation, disaster, etc. I think all are important and deserve recognition in some way. My problem is I can't afford to give if I want to feed my kids or put gas in the car. I have started stressing out so much that I'm having anxiety going to work or even when socializing. I sometimes give a few dollars here and there. But it seems as though it's never-ending! What is appropriate to say to each and every person that asks? I feel terrible when I can't give to everyone, but I also feel terrible when I have to explain why I can't give. I feel like a jerk if I don't say something though. Any suggestions?
A: You shouldn't have to give any reason why you're not handing over your cash. But I understand that these are personal requests so it's awkward. You can just say that in order for you not to end up needing a fundraiser to help you make your rent, you've had to make it a policy to pass on the passing of the hat.
Q. Re: Adulterous BFF: So why does the brother get off the hook so easily? He is at least as guilty, if not more, than the BFF. Yet sister can’t see BFF but SIL can resume marriage with adulterous husband (LW's brother). If the wife can keep her adulterous husband, the sister should get to keep her adulterous BFF, as long as she doesn't bring her around to events that involve the brother and SIL.
A: Great point! The letter writer can make it if she gets caught sneaking around with her BFF.
Q. Re: Porn Channel: The way I read that is that the channel was on that number, but the porn wasn't actually on because it is not available on their TV. To me, that seems like something to let go and assume someone really did punch in the wrong channel number!
A: If this whole letter is about the fact that the TV was tuned to a "You do not subscribe to this channel" message and that the baby-sitter couldn't even have been watching porn, then yes, the mother should keep her mouth shut. (I think she should forget about it in any case.)
Q. Not a Secret Racist: A few months ago, I had a socially awkward moment at a party and made a poorly delivered joke that came off as really racist. I was appropriately mortified and I still cringe every time I think about it, but I try to comfort myself with the knowledge that I'll never make such a boneheaded comment again and at this point I'd like to try to move on. There's just one problem: One of my more social-justice-oriented friends now seems to think that I'm a huge secret racist. He keeps turning our conversations into teachable moments about the importance of tolerance and embracing diversity. I feel like I'm stuck in the middle of one of those "One To Grow On" PSAs from the 1980s, except it never ends. He's being just indirect enough that if I say something outright, I'll just end up looking defensive and he'll probably take it as confirmation that his suspicions are correct. Is there any way to make this stop?
A: Face this directly. Tell him you think you're hearing so much from him about tolerance because you made an appalling joke that came out wrong—and even if it came out right you never should have said it—that you deeply regret. Say you'd love for him to spread the word that you know you were utterly boneheaded and are mortified to think people assume you might be a racist. Say, despite one idiotic joke, you are not, and you wish you could take back what you said.
Q. Tipping: I have met the most wonderful man, except for one thing—he is the worst tipper! He is well established with his own business, owns multiple investment properties, and has a more than healthy bank account for our age, but he is the so cheap in this one area! I also make a decent living, so when we go out, we trade turns on who pays when we go out. Every time it is his turn to pay the bill, he leaves the worst tips! We are talking sometimes not even/just barely 15 percent, regardless of the service. I grew up waiting tables and always tip around 18 to 20 percent, especially for good service. I stress out at meals when the bill comes and it is his turn to pay, because as soon as we are done, I want to run before the waitress/waiter sees their tip. I have often thought of throwing a few dollars in there behind his back but am afraid I will get caught. What do I do? Sometimes I try to insinuate or joke about leaving another dollar or two, but it doesn't seem to resonate. I do not want to be mean, because he really is the most amazing man ever. The odd thing is, he is not against helping people out, he just seems to not get this. The places we go out to eat are not that expensive—to tip 18 to 20 percent versus 12 to 15 percent would only be a dollar or two! Do I spend the next 50 years running out of a restaurant every time he leaves a tip?
A: If you are planning on spending your life with someone, then you two should have the ability to directly discuss issues that come up. First of all, 15 percent is not a measly tip, it's standard. If you regularly tip 20 percent, then you're very generous. But if he's short the 15 percent, or doesn't recognize superior service, some evening when you're not eating out say you wanted to talk about tipping. Explain because you waited tables yourself, you prefer tipping more generously, say around 18 percent, and ask if he'd be comfortable doing that when it's his turn to get the check. If he says he thinks 15 is adequate, either let it go, or when the bill comes tell him you'd like to throw in a couple of extra bucks because the service was so good.
Q. Re: You Have To Donate: If Single Mother wants to live in society, she has to pay to play. She doesn't get to rent out a simple apartment in a nice school district, or take a job in a decent place, and then plead poverty left and right. If she tries to pull this at her kids' school, say by refusing to chip in for the teachers' appreciation gift, then who's going to suffer? Her kids, that's who! I think it's well worth it for her to skip lunch or dinner now and again to be sure she can chip in for birthdays and retirements and school fundraisers and other events—just like every other decent American.
A: I agree. Everyone who's broke should have a weekly day of fasting to pay for the celebrations of others.
Q. Politics at the Table: My husband's extended family gets together every week for lunch and includes my family in the festivities, which is usually a very enjoyable time. However, there is one problem. His family is very liberal while my family is conservative. My side has made it a strict policy not to bring up politics because it is so divisive, and truth be told, a debate almost never results in anyone changing their belief systems, only causing tension. But his family goes out of their way to say derogatory things about our political figures and beliefs during lunch (and at all other family gatherings), knowing full well we don't share their beliefs. As a result, my family has become wary of attending because they never know when they're going to be served a side of vitriol. My husband has finally "had it" with what he perceives as their disrespect toward me and my family, and has begun to argue back when such comments are made. Recently at lunch he got into a heated political argument with a family member that seems to have caused lasting animosity on both sides. Now this relative is less friendly and does not include my husband in events that others are invited to. The whole escalation has made him angry and he doesn't want to go to the lunches anymore, but I said that he shouldn't let politics change what can otherwise be an enjoyable afternoon. Who's right?
A: Arguing back is not the answer; changing the subject is. I think it's too bad that people with opposing viewpoints can't have a lively, non-vitriolic debate about the issues—but apparently that's generally the case. If, except for the political commentary, everyone enjoys themselves, then continue sharing pizza. Political discourse would be far more pleasant if more people knew that those with diametrically opposed views are actually decent people, and that it's better to share the pizza pie then shove it in each other's faces.
Q. Re: You would be surprised what kids are able to do playing with a remote: My toddler took ahold of the remote the other day and before I realized it he had turned it to the on demand menu and selected a random movie before I grabbed it. If he had gone on pushing buttons, we may have had a surprise bill next time around. It's pretty easy to do this even with the TV off.
A: Can I hire your toddler to come over and work our remote?
Emily Yoffe: Thanks everyone, talk to you next week.
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