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Social Q’s: Must I Visit My Dying and Dangerously Facebook-Active Uncle?


Must I Visit My Dying and Dangerously Facebook-Active Uncle?

Credit Christoph Niemann

I am a multiracial woman from a small family that is otherwise white. A close relative is in hospice care. My family made it clear that they expect me, my (immigrant) husband and our young son to visit him before he dies. But this relative has become active in alt-right causes, posting offensive material about minorities, immigrants and women on Facebook. Some family members have asked me to “leave politics at the door” and “turn the other cheek.” Others threatened to ostracize us if we don’t visit. Should I?


Ignore your relatives’ claptrap. Leaving politics at the door is easy — so long as it’s not your race, husband or gender being trampled inside its threshold. And have you noticed that requests to “turn the other cheek” are most popular with folks asking us to turn ours, but rarely their own? Finally, the threat of ostracism (a.k.a. bullying) is ridiculous. Who needs relatives that turn off and on like spigots?

No, the only reason to make a pilgrimage to see this problematic relative is if the man ever treated you with love and kindness — even as a child. If he did, you have at least one thing to weigh against the hate-mongering of his later days. It may not be enough for you, and I would respect that too, but it’s something to keep in mind.

The other consideration is the suffering of his immediate kin. If you have a tender impulse toward them, in what is surely a terrible time, I can envision a farewell visit that is made for their sake and not for the dying man’s. There are a few moving pieces here, even putting aside your relatives’ sillier claims. Think about it, and wherever you land is the right answer (for you).


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To Gift, or Not to Gift?

A close friend who was in my wedding party and his then-girlfriend came to my wedding without giving us a gift. Now, two years later, this couple is getting married. My wife and I cannot agree how to handle the situation. Should we address the situation directly with our friends or just give them a wedding gift?


The cost of being a groomsman can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on clothing requirements, wedding locations and bachelor parties — or worse, bachelor-party weekends. In this context, it is probably not factually correct to say your friend gave you nothing. (And speaking for a tiny subset of the universe: I don’t want to be in anyone’s wedding — ever! Factor that in, too.)

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My advice: Peruse your pal’s wedding registry, choose a lovely gadget from Williams Sonoma, and stop nursing wounds from two years ago. A “close friend” is worth much more than a blender — especially if he shows up for you on your big days.

Wait, Isn’t That My Bag?

Years ago, I lent my friend an expensive handbag. (It cost more than a car.) We agreed that I would ask for it back when I wanted it. Two years later, I asked for it back. She told me her sister borrowed it and lost it. I was extremely annoyed but let it go. Later, I ran into the sister. When I asked how she lost the bag, she said she had no idea what I was talking about. Since then, I saw my friend wearing the bag at an event. She lied to me! I asked for the bag immediately, and have reiterated the request several times since then, but she always puts me off. What should I do?


Undoubtedly, it is hard to learn that a pal values your handbag more highly than you. (At least it’s expensive!) Fortunately, I own a plate by the artist John Derian with an old handwritten note from the Algonquin Hotel decoupaged on it. It contains the perfect advice for your predicament: “Please don’t make me make trouble for you in trying to get my things back. I shall not write you again myself and will give you the rest of this week to return them.” After sending a version of this note, and waiting said week, turn over the matter of the automobile-priced purse to the local police.

Yes, We Know She’s Cute

I have a 9-month-old daughter. Sometimes, when we are out, strangers ask to take her picture. I feel awkward about this and would prefer they didn’t. But how can I express this without offending someone who just told me how cute my baby is?


The same way I did, last week, when a woman approached my table in a restaurant and asked if she could photograph my fluke tartare to post on Instagram. I smiled and said: “Thank you for asking. But I’d rather you didn’t.” She looked confused but left eventually. We have no duty to cater to strangers with cameras.

Until your daughter is old enough to make her own modeling decisions, you must make them for her, governed by her best interests, not the (sort of understandable) desire to avoid momentary awkwardness with utter strangers and their creepy requests. It’s the job, Mom!

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

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