Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. He’s already trying to fix me: My boyfriend of more than a year has gotten into a habit of giving me “helpful suggestions” on how to do things better, ranging from how to organize my home to how to chop vegetables. The thing is that I have my life together—I have a stable job, supportive friends, and my own home.
I’m at the point where I just ignore him or do something the way he suggested. I always considered myself to be an independent and capable woman, but I’m starting to feel insecure and stressed. I’ve broached the fact that we may not be compatible, but he tells me I’m the one he loves and that he wants to be with me and is just trying to help me improve my life.
I think I should break up with him, right?
A: One person’s “helpful suggestions” can be another’s “ceaseless barrage of uninvited criticism.” The real key is how he responded when you told him you didn’t appreciate his unsolicited advice. He didn’t say he understood and tried to back off; he said he’s “just trying to help” and persists in the behavior even though you’ve told him it’s not helping. Set him free to find a woman who chops her vegetables just the way he thinks they ought to be chopped, and find yourself someone who knows when to offer advice and when to embrace difference.
Q. Gift etiquette for sibling’s second marriage: A number of years ago my sister was in a relationship with a man who developed terminal lung cancer. They decided to elope before he died and had a trip to Las Vegas with friends. As a wedding gift my wife and I spent around $300 to buy them tickets to a show there.
Flash forward to now: My sister, after much mourning, has been able to move on and is engaged to marry a different man this fall. What obligations do I and her other family members have for gifts? I wouldn’t have felt as obligated for a second marriage after a divorce, but what’s the etiquette for a widow (or widower)?
A: If you can afford to, give your sister a wedding gift. It doesn’t have to break your monthly budget, but get her something as a gesture of love and support, and send a kind note along with it.