We are three college students living at home for the summer, and we’ve planned a road trip to the Grand Canyon. One of us has a summer job working for the mother of another of us. The mother told our employee friend that she was uncomfortable with three “wimpy girls” camping alone. (The campsite bills itself as perfect for beginners. Rangers and flush toilets abound!) The mother offered us $ 2,500 to change plans, but only if we don’t tell her daughter where the money came from or why. We don’t want to change trips, and we don’t want to lie. Can we take the money if we tell our friend the truth?
Well, there is a rough justice in punishing the manipulative mother as you suggest: by taking the trip you want on her dime, and with her daughter fully aware of her mother’s sneaky behavior. But I don’t recommend it.
The $ 2,500 may come in extremely handy. Still, I think that accepting the payoff would (further) damage the relationship between mother and daughter. And I know that taking it requires sinking to the mother’s level — not to mention, buying into the implicit sexism of her concern. Wimpy boys go off camping on their own every day.
As soon as you verify that your friend who is employed by the mother can afford to be fired by her (which could happen), convene a meeting for three and tell the daughter what has transpired. You all get a vote on the vacation you want.
But defer to the daughter on taking the money (in good faith or bad). Imagine how hard it is to have a parent who would secretly pit you against your friends and try to control you with cash.
What Did I Do?
Two years ago, my wife met a woman who was undergoing cancer treatment. They became fast friends. Since then, we’ve spent many enjoyable evenings with her and her husband. Recently though, the woman told my wife that her husband didn’t want anything more to do with me. (He alleges that I was not communicative enough on a drive home one night.) His decision rankles; he didn’t have the courage to confront me directly and used his wife, spinelessly, to convey it. What should I do?
You should back off and let your wife and her friend try to repair the inevitable damage to their relationship. My bet is that the husband’s decision had little to do with any drive home. He’s just not that into you (or you and your wife as a couple). If you think about it, it’s nearly miraculous when all four members of two couples actually want to socialize.
Here’s the flip side on the messenger issue: Your relationship with the husband was over. On his own, he likely would have ghosted you. But the wife, who wants to continue her individual friendship, took the reins and conveyed the news gently. I sympathize with your hurt and frustration. But I get their behavior. Endings are hard.
A ‘Tired’ Remark
I start work at 7 a.m. I am not a morning person, but I’m usually in a good mood by the time I make it to work, and I try to pick nice outfits and do my hair and makeup. Still, a few times a week, my boss tells me how tired I look. Often, it’s the first thing she says when she strolls in 30 minutes after I do. I don’t think she says it to be mean. Sometimes, she seems genuinely concerned. But I find it insulting. I try to joke it off, but it’s getting old. Help!
As ever, where bosses are concerned, your next move depends on the kind of boss you have. Is she a person you can be candid with? “I appreciate your concern, but I’m fine. In fact, I put effort into looking nice, so it upsets me when you tell me I don’t. Can you stop commenting on my appearance, please?”
Talking to someone in human resources, if such a department exists in your workplace, is another option. But often, we can’t be sure how our bosses will respond to criticism, and it’s not worth the risk of finding out. If that’s the case here, say nothing. And if this really bothers you (and you feel silenced), consider finding another job where speed rounds of “Hot or Not” would rightly be frowned upon.
Three-Day Weekend in Hell
Every Labor Day weekend for the past six years, I have visited my sister and her family at their country house. I hate everything about it: their bragging and conspicuous consumption of wealth, their showy friends, and my now-irredeemable relationship with my sister. What to do?
Call your sister and tell her you’re not up to a visit now. Or tough it out and acknowledge that you may be being a trifle extreme about her.
It’s your decision. But in my experience, confrontations without affection or respect rarely go well. Can you work on finding some love for your sister and talk about your issues then?
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.