My nephew is 30. His parents died when he was 18, leaving him impoverished. Since then, I’ve provided financial guidance and emotional support. He was able to graduate from college debt free and has a good job. Against my advice, he used his savings for a down payment on a house I don’t believe he can afford. He is now planning an expensive wedding to his fiancée, who has substantial student debt. He asked if I would pay for their rehearsal dinner. I was outraged and refused! I will attend the wedding, but I don’t believe people should buy things they can’t afford. Was I wrong?


When we become parents (or surrogate parents, Mary), we do what we can to teach our kids the lessons we think will serve them best in life. In your case, it’s pretty clear that drilling fiscal responsibility into your nephew was a key part of your relationship.

But the miserable injustice of having children is that there comes a point when we have to let them go, fully aware that they may commit every folly under the sun. I’m sure your nephew knows that you opposed his home purchase (and probably his wedding, too). A parent’s job, though, also includes being as supportive as we can be, within the bounds of plausible authenticity.

You have no obligation to subsidize this wedding party. (It is probably obvious to every reader that a fancy dinner is just the sort of frippery for which you have no use.) But your nephew’s marriage is a big deal, and you should celebrate it if you can. How about making a gift consistent with your sensible outlook: by paying down a small part of his mortgage, maybe, or his fiancée’s student debt?

If You Want to Ruin This Wall, Fine

My boyfriend and I are moving in together. He is wonderful, thoughtful and brilliant. Just one problem: He has the worst taste in decorating! His current place is filled with African masks and murals of hunters and gatherers. (I should mention that his mother’s home is decorated similarly.) I prefer a more contemporary, less carnivorous vibe. But he’s very defensive about his taste. How do we find common ground?


Start by bringing down your snark level about your boyfriend’s taste by 65 percent. (Who died and made you the queen of HGTV?) We are all entitled to live with the art and objects that make us happy. Personally, I love African masks. And though I can’t quite picture these murals, I bet they beat not having a terrific boyfriend.

The fix here is dosage. Walk through your new place together, room by room, and haggle over how few of his pieces your boyfriend needs, and how many you can tolerate. When you are both thoroughly unhappy, you will have succeeded. Welcome to cohabitation! (And one note on his mother: Make her your friend. Trust me.)

A Late Reply Is as Good as None

Two months ago, I received a text message at 3 a.m. I turned off my phone without reading it. When I saw the message a few days later, I was horrified to learn that it was from a good friend who was writing to vent about the fact that her family had put her grandmother in critical care without consulting her. I called immediately and sent a sincere apology. No reply. Since then, I have called and texted several times, apologizing and asking about her grandmother. Still no reply. When do I give up?


I would say now. It is a sad fact of life that we are rarely able to meet all of our friends’ expectations, reasonable or otherwise. And when we are extremely upset, as your friend probably was, distinguishing between those categories can be tough. Your story is plausible, your regret is palpable, and I take you at your word that your apologies have been sincere (and not laden with mitigating excuses).

But now, the ball is in your friend’s court. She may be furious with you (which seems unreasonable), fully consumed with her grandmother’s care (which is possible) or surrounded by pals who are more dependable texters at 3 a.m. For now, give her space. And check back in with her in a few months.

“All Swimmers” … Except Him?

I swim laps at the Y.M.C.A. There is a sign at the pool that says: “All swimmers must wear swim caps.” But a man who swims regularly and shaves his head doesn’t wear a cap. When I spoke to him about this, he said the rule does not apply to him because he doesn’t have any hair. That may be true, but what about the sign?


You, my friend, have an admirable penchant for rules that will undoubtedly irritate many of those in your social orbit. No need to be literal about this one. The swim-cap code is designed to prevent hair from clogging drains or floating annoyingly on the water’s surface. By shaving his head, the man has taken himself out of the rule’s reach (and undertaken a pretty big daily commitment). Let him swim in peace.

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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