As if Thanksgiving Weren’t Stressful Enough This Year

I was just informed that my sister’s boyfriend will be joining us for Thanksgiving. They’ve been going out for two years. I don’t like him and my other sibling downright hates him. Any other year, we could deal with this fairly easily; we have a big extended family. But this year, only immediate family members are coming to dinner because of Covid-19. I’d love to get past this in the spirit of family togetherness, but a big cause of the problem is my sister’s condescending attitude toward our other sibling and me when she’s with her boyfriend. Any suggestions other than strong holiday drinks?


This may not be the advice you had in mind, but unless your immediate family is already part of a careful Covid pod, this is not the year for mixing households at Thanksgiving. If you can’t eat outdoors with social distance, the alarming increase in Covid infections and related hospitalizations and deaths makes your plan risky for family members and everyone they meet. Don’t you want to live to hate the boyfriend in the New Year?

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Now, as for him and your sister, going to her with a vague complaint of condescension is unlikely to accomplish much. Calmly share a few specific examples, prefaced by a sincere desire to get along better with her and her boyfriend. That’s the way to work through this problem.

Credit…Christoph Niemann

My daughter is legally blind and functionally sighted. She has a service dog. At 29, she is extremely independent, and she’ll soon start grad school after working at a veterans’ hospital. She is popular and rarely idle. I love her dearly. The problem: She has slowly gained a lot of weight (maybe 50 pounds). She eats right, just too much. She starts diets, then lets them go. She exercises intermittently and has tried online dating without much success. Recently, I heard her say, “I have to lose some of this weight.” I don’t think everyone has to be thin, and I certainly don’t want to hurt her feelings. But I think she may be happier if she lost some weight. Any advice?


Your daughter is a competent adult. She is independent, hard-working and has family and friends who love her. By your own admission, she already knows that she’s heavy. (And I don’t see what her visual acuity has to do with any of this.) If she decides she wants to lose weight, for whatever reason (her health, if that’s an issue, or simply to conform to our culture’s unyielding preference for thinness), I have every confidence she will do it. If she asks for your support, give it.

But for you say or signal to your daughter that her losing weight would make you happy — even if you phrased it as something you think would make her happy — you run the risk of shaming her and undercutting her self-esteem. You seem to have raised a wonderful daughter. Now, stand back and let her be her own woman.

My best friend is in a relationship; she and I are both in our 20s. Recently, after a Tinder hookup, the guy hung around, and we showed each other people on the app we’d hooked up with before. I was shocked when he showed me my best friend’s picture. (I didn’t know she had a profile!) Should I tell her boyfriend?


What? Why tell the boyfriend? (And why are you hooking up during a pandemic?) Your question suggests that you feel considerable resentment for your best friend. Why else would you want to disrupt her relationship like this?

For the record, her sex life is none of your business. And the hookup, if it happened, may have predated her relationship or be allowed by its terms. If you’re going to discuss this coincidence with anyone, make it your best friend (or a therapist).

We live in a solid prewar building, and our neighbors are civil when we meet in passing, which is rare. The couple down the hall and their teenager let their heavy front door slam behind them when they come and go. This makes a loud bang that we hear in our apartment. It’s annoying and startling. I’ve been sitting on this for two years. I’ve rehearsed many ways to speak to them, but I’m afraid of creating bad blood. Should I just call the managing agent?


Most of us dislike confrontation. But reporting your neighbors to the managing agent is much more aggressive than simply saying with a smile: “May I ask a favor? Could you close your front door behind you rather than let it slam? That banging really startles me.” They’ve probably never considered the issue.

Try not to leave a note. Even the nicest writing doesn’t come with a neighborly smile. Just knock on their door if you can’t wait to bump into them in the hall. I predict wild success.

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