Q. Grasshopper and the Ant: I live with my husband and son in a different state than my parents. We are scheduled to go back for a visit next month and I am very anxious about this trip. Both of my parents, who are divorced, have recently asked me to either a) loan them large sums of cash or b) to invest in their get-rich-quick scheme (there is a reason I live out of state). Like good worker ants, my husband and I have fairly successful careers and have always lived within our means and not extravagantly. I am pretty annoyed by these requests and logically do not feel bad about denying them, although honestly I do feel somewhat guilty. The grandparents have not seen their grandson in over a year (they do not come visit us) and I would like to have the visit go as smoothly as possible and I am sure I will be subject to guilt trips and/or the silence treatment. Any advice for dealing with aging con-artist grasshoppers?
A: This is a refreshing change from the usual letter I get on this theme. In those cases the worker ants have bailed out the grasshopper parents so many times that their own financial statement looks like it's been beset by locusts. You just keep doing what you're doing, except for the guilt. Your parents have made their own mistakes, and given that they want you to finance more get-rich-quick schemes they haven't even profited from learning from their errors. Be prepared to say, "I'm sorry things are tough. Unfortunately, we just don't have a cent of disposable income." Because any income that you give them might as well go down the disposal. If doing that means the visit turns stony and silent, cut the day short and say you're sorry they don't seem to be in the mood for company. Comfort yourself that you haven't repeated this pattern and that your son will never feel this way about you.
Q. Rage-Filled Nephews: My sister-in-law wants to move to South America so she can be closer to her boyfriend. She does not want to take her two sons, 15-year-old Chris and 6-year-old Matt, with her. She assumed my husband and I would take them in, as her parents are too infirm to be their caregivers. While my husband and I could afford to care for our nephews, we're hesitant to do so. Chris and Matt have serious anger management issues. Matt will throw tantrums, bite people, and lash out at pets when he's angry. Chris, who is much bigger, will punch holes in walls, scream at the top of his lungs, and break furniture. My sister-in-law has always made excuses for their angry outbursts, but because we have young children, my husband and I don't feel comfortable inviting Chris and Matt to live with us. My sister-in-law seems determined to move, though, and without us we're not sure where Chris and Matt will live. My sister-in-law tries to guilt us whenever we explain to her why we're not comfortable having her sons live with us; we're not sure what to do that's in the best interests of the children involves.
A: What a tragic situation all around. But you cannot be guilt-tripped into taking in two violent angry boys. Since their mother is determined to abandon them, and apparently there is no father, you need to tell her you are calling in the authorities to take over the handling of her sons. I hope the state steps in and gets these two the therapeutic help they both desperately need.
Q. Language—Using Word Retard: I have a short-term roommate who has a penchant for using the word retard—all the time. If you watch TV with him, it's always "who's that retard?" or "why is she with that retard?" None of the people he's referencing, of course, have actual mental disabilities; he's just calling them stupid. I find it very cringe-inducing, and I'm sure have winced before when he has said it. I know a lot of people have used/still use it, but it seems to be rightly fading away. On the one hand, I find it offensive and keep itching to say something. It seems like he should at least be aware that some people find it inappropriate. On the other hand, we won't be roommates for much longer, and I'm not sure how appropriate it would be to correct the language of someone I've only known for a couple of months. Is it worth it?
A: You shouldn't have to cringe when relaxing in your own home, so speak up. Phrase it in a way that give him the benefit of the doubt: "Charley, would you mind not using that word? I know it used to be in common usage, but it's now considered offensive and it makes me uncomfortable. Thanks so much." Let's hope he takes this graciously, but do be prepared to be told you yourself are lacking in the intellectual capability department. If you get the latter response, try not to react, and just happily mark the days on the calendar until he's gone.
Q. Lying Supervisor: At my job there is a person above me in rank, but not my immediate supervisor. He insists on being called a specific title, and everyone does it, from entry-level people all the way up to the vice president of the company. I found out a few weeks ago that he never earned this title properly (to put it into context, it would be as if he had studied to be a paralegal but expected everyone to call him "Judge Smith"). After I found this out I immediately started calling him Mister Smith, which basically enraged him and I got lectured by him on what he "deserved" to be called. I don’t have a lot of contact with him, and the time he asked me to do something for him (when he got so mad) I said "Of course Mister Smith" with a big smile and absolutely no sarcasm or malice in my tone. I have a lot of friends who have studied law, medicine, and even culinary arts, so I know what kind of time and effort it takes to have a title or a set of letters accompanying your name. I don’t feel I should humor this guy just so he can have an ego trip. I don’t want to start trouble in my company by whistleblowing what I know about him, but I also don’t want to get IN trouble or lose my job by calling him this different name. Should I just go along with everyone else even though I know it is wrong? Or should I keep calling him Mister?
A: Just keep a straight face when you call him "The Right Honorable." He sounds pathetic, but at any workplace you will have bigger issues to use your chits on than making an issue out of giving a verbal ego stroke to a silly co-worker.
Q. Re: Gay table at wedding?: As one part of a gay couple, no no no no no. We will notice it really quickly, it will be very awkward, and you'll be discussed for years as the woman who created a gay ghetto at your wedding.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Talk to you next week.
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