Dear Prudence answers readers' questions live at Washingtonpost.com.

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
Dec. 14 2009 3:28 PM

Winter Woes

Prudie gives advice for all kinds of holiday dilemmas and family crises.

(Continued from Page 3)

Luckily, only family will be there and no one will be driving after church and before morning.

Emily Yoffe: My understanding that the law on allowing minors to drink alcohol in their own home varies from state to state. I'm for the most stringent anti-drunk driving enforcement, but let's face it, it's a little silly to think that young people of college age shouldn't be entitled to drink. And instead of being exposed to alcohol through binge drinking with friends, having small amounts of alcohol at home with parents is a much better way to learn to handle liquor. I think you should ask the kids' parents, but explain your would only serve a single glass of champagne or wine to those under 21. And for those under 18, you might want to simply offer sparking cider, or restrict them to a sip.

_______________________

Menlo Park, Calif.: Normally I'm a very generous tipper. Our newspaper delivery person makes no effort to deliver our paper to the walkway. Many days I have to crawl on my hands and knees under the car to retrieve it. I just don't feel like tipping him/her. Is that wrong?

Emily Yoffe: I've gotten many more comments about newspaper tipping—with people saying they are not happy with the carrier so they don't tip as a protest. If the service is not good, you should complain during the year about papers not being bagged, or not delivered conveniently. Then when that improves, you will feel happy tipping for the good service. People who provide services to you all year—unless there are extenuating circumstances, like your being broke—should be tipped.

_______________________

Brooklyn, N.Y.: I am a product of nerdy, intense people, and grew up not celebrating Christmas. Instead, my family hides out at Christmas time, and gets together soon thereafter. This is my Christmas tradition.

My husband grew up in a family that values Christmas, so now I go with him every other year to his family's house and endeavor to have the best possible attitude. And I expect to be able to continue some version of my Christmas tradition every other year, because I need it and it's a tradition my husband also finds soothing. But his parents, for the past decade, can't stop seeing the fact that we aren't doing anything as an opportunity for us to hang out with them every year.

I love my in-laws and I don't want to hurt them, but I really need to be alone and quiet at least every other Christmas, and I hate having to explain every year that this we aren't dissing them, that doing nothing is not a rejection. I have suggested more visits at other times (when frankly I am much more of a joy to be around--I grew up thinking that Christmas is a time for solo reflection!). They remain stubborn about this idea that it's bad to spend Xmas alone, and pester us mercilessly every time it's "my" Xmas!

How do I stop this? It's the one point of conflict in an otherwise really good in-law relationship. And it's too late to just lie and say that we are going to my family's house.

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Emily Yoffe: You stop it by not getting together. Your husband should be the one to explain to his parents that you grew up experiencing Christmas as a spiritual retreat (let's just put this gloss on it). He can say that having this one time of year for reflection, solitude, and long walks is important and restorative for you, and that he has found it to be important for him, too. Then actually make plans for some other time, so they have something concrete to look forward to. Then end the discussion. Once you have explained that you're only going to do Christmas every other year with them, when the off year comes up, just say, "Oh, we've talking about this and we won't be getting together—but we look forward to seeing you over President's Day weekend."

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Re: Baltimore: I was laid off the first year I was dating my husband. For our anniversary, he took me out for an extravagant meal at a fancy hotel. I gave him a photo of us in a hand-made cardboard frame (and I am not crafty). He loved it, and 7 years later it's still on his desk. Your boyfriend will appreciate whatever you give him because it comes from you!

Emily Yoffe: Great idea! Get out the glue sticks and rick rack, broke people of America!

_______________________

Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Have a wonderful Christmas free of family strife and full of generous tips!

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