How Can I Get My Husband To Stop Surveilling Me Via Our Smart Home Devices, And Other Advice Column Questions

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There are too many excellent advice columns to keep up with, so we’re committed to bringing you links to the best advice column questions and answers every week. Here’s a roundup of the most interesting, thought-provoking and surprising questions that our favorite columnists (and subreddits) addressed in recent days.

How Can I Get My Husband To Stop Surveilling Me Via Our Smart Home Devices?

In this age of “smart homes,” where everything can be synched up by an app with notifications, are we wrong to feel a loss of privacy?

I work from home, so I am mainly at home during the day.

My husband gets alerts every time the front door is opened. If a package is delivered, he receives an image of the package. He can track the electricity usage from our solar production. He can turn off the lights and open the skylight from his phone.

Today he texted me that I shouldn’t be running the dryer during certain peak hours. He then shut it off remotely!

I have nothing to hide, but am increasingly annoyed that my own actions are being tracked.

He’s micromanaging me from afar!

How should I handle this?

[Tribune Content Agency]

Amy Dickinson advises the letter writer to get out of the house during the day if their husband won’t respect their privacy. “I wish people were more aware of the potential negative impact these devices and systems can have on our personal lives and relationships,” she writes. Read the rest of her answer.

Is It Funny To Intentionally Fall Down And Drop Everything At Work?

I was having a chat with my friend the other day, and they told me that they were having fun at work by pretending to fall down in front of coworkers and dropping all their papers as a prank. They seemed to think it was all in good fun because they never let their coworkers in on the fact that it was a prank (although they did actually hurt their wrist doing this). I was surprised and responded that I thought it was mean-spirited, because it’s making coworkers stop work to care for them as a “joke.”

They’re now angry that I’m judging them for their sense of humor and they aren’t talking to me. If I were this person’s coworker, I don’t know what I’d do, but I do think it would be weird and uncomfortable once the multiple well-timed fake falls became suspicious. What’s your take on this and how would you communicate with someone as a colleague or friend to help them see how this isn’t an okay thing to do? At this point I’m planning on dropping it with this person, but I have no idea how to most effectively bring this up if I were the colleagues being “pranked.”

[Ask A Manager]

Alison Green agrees that this “prank” is annoying, not funny. “If I managed someone doing this, I’d have serious concerns about their judgment and would probably take a closer look at their work across the board because it would be so likely that this wasn’t the only judgment problem happening,” she writes. Read the rest of her answer.

Can My Father-In-Law Confine Me To My Room For 24 Hours Because I Took A Call During Dinner?

So my wife and I are vacationing with her family. At dinner tonight, I had to take a phone call and I excused myself from the table. When I returned, my food was no longer at the table. I was told by my in-laws that I was to head to my room without dinner as I was being Insubordinate in interrupting dinner. I’m supposed to stay there for 24 hours. My wife tells me I should accept this to keep the peace. I don’t want to. Am I being unreasonable? Should I accept this punishment?

So They almost punished my sister in law for trying to sneak me food and have turned off the WiFi (I’m obviously skirting that with cellular data.) what should I do to end this?…

i don’t want to give away my exact age but my wife and I are in our 30s


The commenters on the r/relationship_advice subreddit agree that the father-in-law’s behavior is not okay. “Go home. After your wife gets home, go to couples counseling. Describe this incident. Her acceptance of her parents’ insane behavior is a huge red flag,” reads one of the top comments. Read the rest of the answers.

How Can I Get My Boyfriend To Stop Giving Our Puppy The Silent Treatment For Following Me Around?

My boyfriend, “Marcus,” and I recently adopted an adorable rescue puppy, “Daisy.” She was supposed to be mostly my boyfriend’s dog because I work a demanding full-time job, and I have a cat that lives with us. Marcus has always been a dog person, but I enjoy them, too.

The problem is, Daisy has taken a liking to me. When I’m home, she follows me everywhere. I suspect, due to her behavior, that she may have been mistreated by men previously, but nonetheless, Marcus is extremely hurt. He won’t take her outside if I’m home, and he doesn’t try to play with her or train her. Every time she rejects him in any way, he takes it personally.

We signed Daisy up for a puppy training class. He participated for about five minutes before giving up and handing me the leash during the first lesson. How do I get my boyfriend to stop taking our puppy’s behavior so personally? I should note, we went through this when my cat didn’t like him at first, but they are on good terms now.


Abigail Van Buren points out that the boyfriend’s behavior is likely strengthening the puppy’s attachment to the letter writer. “If this is the way your boyfriend reacts to perceived rejection, I’d think twice about starting a family with him if I were you,” she adds. Read the rest of her answer.

How Can I Get My Husband To Stop Adding Barbecue Sauce, Beans, Nuts, Olives, And Berries To The Meals I Cook?

I enjoy cooking. I have lots of cookbooks, and I watch cooking shows and attend cooking seminars. My family and friends enjoy my meals and dishes, helping themselves to seconds and leaving clean plates…

And then there’s my husband. He will supplement my carefully and artfully prepared meals with almost anything he likes that’s not included. For example, I served shrimp and grits (a little Parmesan cheese and scallions on top) with a side of lemony roasted asparagus. He poured barbecue sauce on top and also added pinto beans, olives, Brazil nuts and blueberries.

When I have questioned him, he says that other chefs create unusual combinations — as if he is a culinary trailblazer.

In actuality, it’s hurtful that he doesn’t like my meals and has to hide the taste or enhance the menu. It’s also, visually, a “gag” moment for others to watch him mix this mush together on his plate…

What can I do? I’m not sure I want to divorce him.


Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin encourage the letter writer to allow her husband to add condiments or garnishes, but not other ingredients, to his meals. “You may further remind him that he always has the option of making the meal himself, start to finish,” they write. Read the rest of their answer.

Should I Allow My 6-Year-Old To Put A Temporary ‘Storks’ Tattoo On Her Face For Picture Day?

My 6-year-old recently wanted to put a temporary tattoo on her face for picture day at her school. We have generally been of the opinion that our kids can dress or adorn themselves as they please, as long as they aren’t doing anything permanent or that would get them kicked out of class. However, I didn’t particularly want to have her wear a distracting tattoo on her face for her school picture.

Assuming the school would allow it, would you let your kid wear the tattoo? Does it matter what age they are? Mind you, this was not a small one with, say, a butterfly or stars; it was a palm-sized bright pink square with a picture of a mom and a baby from the movie Storks, with the word “Storks” on it.


Jamilah Lemieux says that she would not allow her child to wear a temporary tattoo on her face for picture day. “Children are now subject to being photographed on any day ending in y, but I still maintain a level of authority over any professional photos that will be shared with other family members, published in a yearbook, distributed to classmates, etc.,” she writes. Read the rest of her answer.

LV Anderson is the news editor at Grist and an advice column aficionado.

Should I Date The Man I Just Hired As My Sperm Donor, And Other Advice Column Questions

· Updated:

There are too many excellent advice columns to keep up with, so we’re committed to bringing you links to the best advice column questions and answers every week. Here’s a roundup of the most interesting, thought-provoking and surprising questions that our favorite columnists addressed in recent days.

Should I Date The Man I Just Hired As My Sperm Donor?

I recently split from my partner when he suggested I terminate my pregnancy, and at four months along I lost the baby. I’m mentally and financially stable enough to be a single parent, so when I lost her, I decided to go down the donor route to try for another baby instead of building another relationship. I met with the donor (just for a drink) after texting every day for a while, and I already felt like there might be something more there. After we met, he confirmed it by voicing everything I’d been thinking. We just really connected, had a lot in common, and found each other very attractive. We kept it professional and arranged for a donation, but the entire time we’ve been talking it’s like excitement to see him completely separate from the excitement of trying to get pregnant.

We met for the donation and it was just instant — we talked for hours, we ordered a take-away, and he ended up staying the night. It felt right, like we’d known each other for years. Now he wants us to date and see if anything comes from it, and he hopes to be a proper father to the baby. I will always keep the door open, but is dating him going to complicate things? If it goes wrong, surely the worst is that I never see him again, which was the original plan anyway. And if he wanted shared custody, that’s fine by me; it’s his child too. He has only donated to a couple of women, years ago, and is a single man with his own home, successful career, etc. He didn’t do this with the previous women and I’m not being naïve: I just want to do what is best for the baby and myself. Any advice is appreciated.

[Dear Wendy]

Wendy Atterberry advises the letter writer to slow her roll and treat this man with extreme skepticism. “It’s strange he’s talking about co-parenting with someone he’s only just met — and not just talking about it, but actively trying to make it happen,” she writes. “It is not, as you say, professional.” Read the rest of her answer.

Why Won’t My Sister-In-Law Forgive My Wife For Criticizing Her ‘Hosting Deficiencies’?

“Becky” and I stayed with my brother, “Dan,” and his wife, “Mae.” Becky and I are recently married and this was her first stay at my brother’s place.

Later she texted Mae a thank-you along with some helpful hints about some slight hosting deficiencies — nothing too bad, just that the guest room mattress needs to be replaced, the drain in the bathtub is slow and that a lot of people can’t eat carb-heavy meals first thing in the morning. Becky would sincerely welcome it if someone did this for her and thought she was doing Mae a favor.

Mae is livid and has banned us from visiting. I wish Becky had checked with me before sending the text, but Mae is really overreacting. We were really good guests — we only stayed three days, took everyone out to meals, did all the cleanup after a big meal and always cleaned up after ourselves, so this was a minor annoyance at best.

I said so to Dan when I was explaining that Becky meant no harm, and now he’s mad at me, too. My mom lives with my brother and has asked me to mend fences so Becky and I are welcome to stay there again. Where do I start fixing this mess?

[The Washington Post]

Carolyn Hax rules that the only way forward is for Becky to apologize for criticizing Mae. “Maybe Becky would ‘sincerely welcome’ the same, but that puts her among the thickest-skinned people on Earth,” she writes. “That, or it’s just theoretical and she has never in fact received an itemized list of her hostly deficiencies that her male co-host did not.” Read the rest of her answer.

How Can I Get My Boss To Stop Pretending I’m In Trouble When He’s About To Give Me Good News?

Recently, I was called into an “emergency” meeting with my grandboss, supposedly to discuss budget problems on a program I am leading. This worried me, because I hadn’t thought there were any budget problems, and I hardly ever talk to her (and, wouldn’t expect to, unless something was Very Wrong). When I got there, both my boss and his boss grilled me about the project for a minute or so, before telling me they had lied — we weren’t there to discuss the project at all and in fact they were giving me an award for my performance on it!

A few months ago I got promoted, and a similar thing happened… I was grilled on my goals and projects in a stern way that seemed a bit out of place, and was asked things like “why haven’t you started this yet?” And “how much did you REALLY contribute to that?”… And was surprised with “I’m promoting you!” At the end of the 30-minute meeting. My boss later told me he had been trying to worry me as a joke.

My bosses found both of these things hilarious. And I feel like I should too. But I hate it! I have anxiety issues that I struggle with, and although I think I’m good at masking that, and seeming calm on the surface, I have a hard time calming down after stuff like this…

[T]hese tiny pranks bothered me so much that I was wondering if it was worth saying something (like “please don’t do that again if you care about my mental health! I don’t like it!) Or should I let it go?

[Ask A Manager]

Alison Green agrees that these pranks are thoughtless and alienating. “When ‘relief’ is the best case outcome of a joke targeting someone whose paycheck you have authority over, your joke sucks,” she writes. Read the rest of her answer.

How Can I Get My Daughter To Stop Dressing Like A Butch Lesbian?

My 15-year-old daughter is dressing and grooming like a butch lesbian. Flannel shirts, Doc Martens, side-cut hair, etc. She maintains (I have asked her directly on more than one occasion) that she is not a lesbian, nor is she trans, this is just how she likes to look. Well, I’m concerned that boys she might be interested in are going to get the wrong idea, or be turned off by her appearance. I’ve offered to take her shopping in hopes of nudging her into slightly more feminine choices, but she’s turned me down each time. What, if anything, can I do? 


Nicole Cliffe urges the letter writer to apologize to her daughter and get her a gift certificate to her favorite clothing store. “Cease asking her if she is a lesbian. Cease asking her if she is trans,” she writes. “Do not worry about whether or not boys will be turned off by her side-cut.” Read the rest of her answer.

How Can I Get My Husband To Stop Sleeping With A Piece Of Tape Over His Mouth?

My husband of 42 years discovered a new way of breathing, and it has made me scared to death. I am afraid that he might die in his sleep.

“Charles” had asthma and allergies in his childhood, and he was prescribed all kinds of medication. He mostly outgrew his asthma as an adult, though he would frequently get terrible allergies and take various forms of antihistamines, usually prescribed by his doctor.

But a year ago, someone at his office was talking about the “Buteyko Breathing Technique,” which basically means taking shallow breaths through the nose. It seems that this technique was discovered in the Ukraine years ago and was used to treat people in Russia with asthma and allergies — mainly children — and to help them get off medications…

My concern is at night because he puts a piece of tape over his mouth before he falls asleep, and he sleeps the entire night with that tape on. I am afraid that if his nasal passages were to clog up, and he didn’t know it, he could actually suffocate in his sleep. I have told Charles this, but he only laughs, saying there is no way…

I asked our doctor about it, and she said breathing through the nose is a good idea because the nasal passages filter out germs, but she added that she had never heard of anyone taping their mouth shut to sleep. She did not seem concerned, but she’s not married to the guy.


Annie Lane opines that the husband will not suffocate in his sleep. “Given a choice between mouth breathing and nasal breathing, many experts recommend nasal breathing for the reason your doctor stated,” she writes. Read the rest of her answer.

Why Do People Make Rude Comments When My Twin And I, Who Are 65, Dress Identically?

My twin and I like to dress alike on Sundays, on holidays, when we go out of town, when we go on cruises, and at banquets. We are 65 years of age and very stylish. We were unable to do this when we were raising our children.

Apparently this annoys some people. We have had folks make rude remarks such as, “Are you still dressing alike?” I usually say that I did not get the memo.

Why do people care? Is there a rule out there that says we cannot dress alike at a certain age? We enjoy doing it and have similar tastes.


Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin recommend playing a joke on rude commenters. “Look intently at each other’s outfits as if seeing them for the first time, and say in unison, ‘I like your dress,'” they write. “Even the silliest busybody should understand that you dress to please yourselves.” Read the rest of their answer.

LV Anderson is the news editor at Grist and an advice column aficionado.

Should I Allow My Fiancé’s Dad To Inspect My Genitals Before Our Wedding, And Other Advice Column Questions

· Updated:

There are too many excellent advice columns to keep up with, so we’re committed to bringing you links to the best advice column questions and answers every week. Here’s a roundup of the most interesting, thought-provoking and surprising questions that our favorite columnists (and subreddits) addressed in recent days.

Should I Allow My Fiancé’s Dad To Inspect My Genitals Before Our Wedding?

My fiance proposed to me about 8 months ago. We decided on having a relatively small wedding which is in two days. Everything was going great. He seems absolutely perfect and we are very much in love.

I am a virgin and so is he, he wanted to save it for marriage and I wasn’t fussed so I agreed to saving it. He has told me earlier that in his family the father checks the virginity of the bride the night before the wedding. I laughed this off as it seriously sounds like a massive joke. No turns out he was dead serious. He wants me, the night before to open my legs up in a small ceremony type thing so his dad can check me while him, his brothers and uncle can watch so that they know I am still ‘pure’.

I told him fat chance I am going to do that and he was begging to me to go through with it and how important it is for him. He said he knew it was slightly embarrassing for me but his mom did and it will prove how much I love him and that I have nothing to hide anyway as I am still a virgin. I left and he was crying, it was very dramatic tbh.

I want to call off the whole wedding because of this and never talk to him again. But at the same time its only one thing and other then that we are genuinely perfect for each other and I dont want to spend my life with anyone else and it is very important to him and his family.

What the frick frack do I do. I am currently at my friends house and I might stay here for the night. tomorrow would be our last day as an unmarried couple and I am straight up panicking.


The folks on the r/relationship_advice subreddit overwhelmingly vote for the letter writer to run. “Who gives a fuck what his mom did to get married X years ago?” writes the author of the top comment. “He can go marry his mom if he wants someone who is comfortable with this strange tradition.” Read the rest of the answers (and an update from the letter writer). 

Should My Boss Apologize For Badgering My Girlfriend About Her Fertility So Insistently That She Broke Up With Me?

My boss considers me a friend. A couple years ago at a work-related dinner, he badgered me about having children of my own. I was in a long-term committed relationship with a woman who refused to have children… I mostly ignored him and eventually told him to stop talking about it…

Recently, I was at another work-related social event with my boss, and I brought the same girlfriend. We’ve been together for many years and had hit a rough spot that we were successfully working through. When I walked away for a moment, he started badgering her. According to him, he told her that I have given up too much to be with her. That she wasn’t being fair to me and I would never be able to break up with her so I could be truly happy with children. After a few beers, he is very persistent, bullying and basically won’t shut up. I’m an adult, and I have decided that I don’t want children. When he reported the conversation to me after the fact, he asked if he was out of line.

The relationship with my girlfriend went into a free-fall that night, and I could not recover it. We ended our relationship within a couple of awful weeks following his speech. I failed to convince her that I don’t want children.

I’m so angry toward my boss, on top of the feelings of the breakup. I have mentioned it to him, and he told me that it’s a personal matter. No remorse.

I’m not sure I can work around him anymore. What do I do?? I feel so much stress and anger toward him. I could lose a long-term relationship and a long-term career in the same month. I’m not sure where I went wrong.


Annie Lane agrees that the boss’s behavior was unacceptable. “I hope when he asked you if he was out of line, you said, in no uncertain terms, YES,” she writes. “The fact that he feels no remorse is reason enough to polish off your resume and start looking for a new job.” Read the rest of her answer.

Is It Okay For An Airline Employee To Leave A Note With His Phone Number On It In A Passenger’s Luggage?

Recently my daughter and I traveled several thousand miles via major airline. Due to various snafus, our luggage did not arrive at our destination at the same time we did. We had conversations with airline representatives at the arrival airport, while we tried to sort out the problem. They said they would deliver the bags.

Later that afternoon, my daughter’s bag arrived, and inside was a handwritten note from someone, presumably one of the baggage claim reps, who said that he found her attractive and enjoyed talking with her. He wrote down his number and asked her to call.

I was stunned. She simply dismissed it.

I feel it was completely wrong for them to open her bag in the first place, since there was a tag clearly identifying the bag on the outside. I also felt it was so wrong to put in a personal note of ANY kind.

My daughter says I’m overreacting, but YUCK.

What do you think of this?

[Tribune Content Agency]

Amy Dickinson opines that the note is creepy but that the daughter has the right to handle it herself if she’s an adult. “However, depending on her age (and perhaps depending on who paid for her airline ticket and baggage fee), if you want to complain, you might take a picture of his note and forward it to the airport’s management, asking for a response or explanation,” she writes. Read the rest of her answer.

Do I Have To Invite My Sister-In-Law To My Labor Because I Invited My Sister?

I am pregnant with my first child. I have a sister I am very close to and would like to have with me to help support me during labor and delivery. This is fine with my husband.

We made the mistake of mentioning this in the presence of my husband’s sister, with whom I do not have a close relationship. She announced that since my sister gets to be there, she also plans on being there.

I told her I am not comfortable having anyone else there. She says she will be just as closely related to the baby as my sister, so if my sister gets to be there, she should have the same right. She says there is nothing to be uncomfortable about since she is female.

Well, that is not the issue. My husband is only halfheartedly supporting me and says his sister does have a point. Shouldn’t I have the right to decide who will be present at a time like this?

[The Washington Post]

Carolyn Hax rules that the husband’s sister does not have a point. “[E]xplain to your husband that, when it comes to what will probably be the most emotionally and physically demanding day of your life — and the most intimate day of your marriage — it’s best not to place his sister’s concerns on a footing equal to yours,” she writes. Read the rest of her answer.

Is It Acceptable To Pay One’s Debts In Scratch-Off Lottery Tickets?

A good friend attempted to repay his $200 cash debt with 10 $20 scratch-off lottery cards. When I objected to this form of repayment, he became angry, saying he was giving me a chance to win many times the original loan. I returned the cards to him and wished him good luck. Since then, I haven’t heard from him or received any repayment. What should I have done?

[The New York Times]

Philip Galanes urges the letter writer to be very clear that they need to be repaid in cash. “Not to blame the victim here, but I wonder if by returning the lottery cards and summarily wishing your friend good luck, you somehow signaled that his debt — and your friendship — were canceled,” he muses. Read the rest of his answer.

Is My Toddler A Sociopath Because She Tried To Kill Some Ants?

I was walking with my 22-month-old, and while we were waiting for a traffic light to change I knelt down to the sidewalk and showed her an ant walking by. She tried to smush it with her hand, but I grabbed her arm away. Then she stomped it with her foot.

Is my toddler a lunatic? Does she understand ants are alive? Does she understand that she is killing them? Where does the urge to smush and stomp come from? I know lots of people did terrible things to ants as children, but at older ages, no? And maybe after they’ve seen friends do things, or something on TV. I don’t know that she’s ever seen an ant before, but she immediately tried to kill it. It concerns me that her pure instinct so young is murderous. It really was startling to see, and I have no idea whether this is normal.

So am I crazy? Or is she?


“It’s you. She’s fine. She’s a baby. No one is crazy,” replies Nicole Cliffe. Read the rest of her answer.

LV Anderson is the news editor at Grist and an advice column aficionado.

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