Even Grandpa Is on the Apps Now

On a long car ride, I caught my father-in-law using a gay dating app. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I was sitting diagonally behind him in the car. My husband was driving, and my mother-in-law was in the front passenger seat. My elementary-school-aged kids were also in the vehicle. He was having conversations with various men and typing inappropriate messages to them. I am very upset about this. I don’t care what he does in private, but he should never engage in this behavior in front of my family. I have no idea if his wife is aware. Should I confront him?


“From infancy on, we are all spies,” John Updike wrote in “Bech: A Book.” (So, I don’t blame you for leaning forward to hawk-eye your father-in-law’s smartphone on a long road trip.) “The shame is not this,” Updike continued, “but that the secrets to be discovered are so paltry and few.” Maybe that’s why your response seems so overdramatic.

Children grow up in and around all kinds of adult activity — including sexy banter on dating apps. As a parent, you can try to shield yours from as much of this as possible. I’m not clear from your question, though, whether your father-in-law’s transgression was being on a dating app, using a gay app or typing “inappropriate” (presumably, sexual) messages. Perhaps all of the above?

I also assume your children didn’t actually see any of this, or you would have mentioned it. No need to confront your father-in-law, but feel free to have a low-key talk with him: “Please stay off dating apps when you’re around the kids, O.K.?” (Even if he denies the whole thing, your point will be taken.) Then let this go. There are all kinds of marriages, and your in-laws didn’t ask for an opinion about theirs.

Such Sweet Sorrow

When my friends and I moved in together, we talked about getting an ice cream maker as our first joint purchase. Instead, they bought one for me as a birthday gift. Now, two years later, I am moving into my own place, which is much smaller, and I’d rather not bring an appliance I’ve used a total of three times. I’d also hate to hurt their feelings. Is there a tactful way to ask if they’d like to keep it?


There is an ancient tradition, Jeremy, stretching all the way back to my youth, of donating unwanted goods to survivors in shared apartments like yours (e.g., the giant coffee table, the tiny bed). Still, you raise a wrinkle that I respect: not wanting to seem ungrateful for a kind gift. Ask your roommates: “As a symbol of my esteem, may I offer you my much loved, but little used, ice cream maker?” They will probably agree. While you’re at it, ask if they’ll take my bread maker, too.

What About Me Time?

My dearest friend of 40 years is the kindest, most hospitable person I know. She frequently hosts houseguests. But some people take fierce advantage of her. Two demanding guests stayed for eight days while she battled walking pneumonia. Now, she is opening her home to an unemployed friend and her young child, rent-free, for as long as needed. We talk about everything, but I’ve never voiced my opinion on her boundary-setting challenges. May I?


I applaud your protectiveness of your pal — less so your judgment. It would be fine to say: “I worry about these houseguests tiring you out. Are you O.K.?” (Or even: “I could never have so many guests. How do you manage it?”) Then hear her out. She may love the company or not know how to avoid it.

But steer clear of pronouncements on what she should be doing. That’s not your call. If you listen closely, I suspect you will hear something that generous people seem to know intuitively: If you want to get more out of relationships, give more.

This Weekend?

I see an old friend from high school a few times a year. It’s nice. We pick up right where we left off. But she has this annoying habit of saying, “Let’s get together this weekend” when we bump into each other, then not replying to my texts about meeting. I wait months before she gets in touch again to set the time and place. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Any suggestions?


Well, you could always tell her that her vanishing act bothers you. Or just synthesize the data you already have: Your pal has a seeming verbal tic of suggesting immediate plans every time she sees you. She may mean it when she proposes them, but she rarely honors her invitations. Then she feels awkward and ghosts you when you text for specifics.

Next time, reply: “Terrific! Let me know what works for you?” Then forget about it and rest assured that she will get in touch eventually. Follow through is not her strong suit. Why try to remake a person you only see a few times a year? Expect less and enjoy her more when you do.

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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