My husband and I learned last year that we are unable to have biological children. I am finally getting to a point where I can bear to talk about it. But it seems as if everyone’s immediate response to me is: “I’m so sorry! Whose fault is it?” I’m struggling to find a polite way to say it’s none of their business whether I have bad eggs or my husband has bad sperm (or both). Can you help?
One gentle clap-back coming right up! (I’m sorry you need one.) But here’s another thought: You don’t owe your fertility information to anyone. So presumably, you’re talking about it with people because it serves you. Maybe you’re confiding emotional challenges in one another or discussing coping mechanisms.
Rather than bringing a useful talk to a screeching halt because of one dumb question, how about redirecting it (“That’s not what I was talking about”) or brushing it off (“Oh, that doesn’t matter”) and returning to the valuable part of the discussion?
This is your call, of course. If the mere question of blame is enough to make you want to stop talking, say: “Why do you ask?” Then watch them squirm as they realize there is no legitimate reason (unless, possibly, they’re in the same boat and want to talk about couple dynamics). I’d hate to see you sacrifice real support because your friends aren’t perfect. Still, you’re the best person to decide.
My brother gave my 24-year-old son a gift certificate for a suit at a men’s shop. It didn’t specify an amount; it just said “one suit.” The salesman had my son try on several and helped him pick one. After it was pinned for alteration, my son went to the register and was asked to sign a receipt. He saw that the suit cost four times the amount of the certificate! He was embarrassed, so he signed the receipt and left. Now he’s received a bill for the remainder. I can afford to pay it. But should I mention this to my brother or the store owner? This feels like a con job to me.
Funny, this seems like a man-child problem to me. No harm in sharing the tale with your brother or the store owner. It may prevent similar mix-ups in the future. But save your energy for your son. Twenty-four is not 10!
Most people get, I think, that suits (and other goods) range in price. Unless they have a sugar mama — or daddy — who reliably picks up the slack, they would ask the amount of the certificate before they chose a suit. Even if they thought their uncle had given them free rein to pick any suit in the store, they would stop short when presented with a bill showing a jumbo shortfall.
I totally sympathize with your son’s embarrassment in that moment. It’s awful to be surprised at the register. But to just sign the bill and walk out? No! Part of being an adult is applying the brakes before transactions go off the rails. Next time, make sure he knows to say: “Whoa! Let’s find a suit in my price range, please.”
So Much for My Small Wedding
I’m an introvert and dislike big parties. I’m also getting married soon and having a small wedding (mostly to please my elderly grandmother). We were expecting 26 people, including a close friend who offered to make our wedding cake for free. The problem? I just received her R.S.V.P. She’s bringing her new boyfriend and his three kids (whom I’ve never met)! Maybe this is my fault? The invitation didn’t say “You and a guest …” But she knows how small the wedding is. It’s just a luncheon in a county park. This is really stressing me out. Help!
It sounds as if this free cake is costing an emotional fortune. No need to dwell on blame, though. True, you could have been clearer about who was invited. And your pal probably jumped to the wrong conclusion when she read “county park” and thought: “Oh, the kids will have fun.” It’s simply a misunderstanding. Let’s fix it.
Call your friend and say: “I’m sorry we weren’t clear that we are only inviting you and your boyfriend to the wedding. We really want to keep it tiny. Can you find a babysitter or leave the kids with their mother?” Worst case, pay for the sitter. Now, congratulations on your wedding! I hope your grandmother has fun.
Graduation Gift Etiquette
Can you please clarify if a gift is given to a beloved niece who is earning her master’s degree? We gave as generously as we could two years ago when she earned her undergraduate degree. But it’s a stretch for us this year with several relatives graduating.
You realize there’s no sacred book on gift giving, right? If you want to give and can afford to, terrific! Choose something between a Whitman’s Sampler and a Ferrari. But under the circumstances, a congratulatory letter (and maybe the offer of a celebratory dinner at your place) seems like plenty.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.
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