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.
What Should I Do After My Neighbor Set Up A Camera Pointed In My Windows To Catch Social Distancing Violations?
I need advice on how to handle a neighbor situation. The elderly lady across the street, who has always been a little crotchety, has now utterly lost it. She prowls the neighborhood, looking for "COVID violations."
Two neighbors talking from opposite sides of the street get 10 minutes of screaming profanities because, in her mind, social distancing means not socializing at all.
She has called the police on another neighbor so many times that she's forbidden to do it again. The reason? There were three cars parked in his driveway. He has his daughter's family staying with him, which she considers "a party."
My parents came over for my father's birthday and she called the police on us, reporting an "unsafe large gathering spreading the virus" …
She has also called the police on lone joggers without a mask and gloves, even though she herself doesn't wear them.
She has now set up video cameras conspicuously around her lawn, one of which is pointing directly at our house. She has commented that she can see in our windows and has berated us for not wearing a mask and gloves... in our own home!
My husband has suggested that we start mooning out the window. I would prefer a solution that doesn't involve her having photos of our naked backsides. I also don't want to be forced to keep the curtains closed.
How can we reason with the unreasonable?
[Tribune Content Agency]
Amy Dickinson points out that the neighbor is probably immune to reason but urges the letter writer to consult a lawyer. "You don't necessarily have an expectation of privacy while in your yard or driveway, but you do have a reasonable expectation of privacy inside your own home," she writes. Read the rest of her answer.
Should I Keep Proposing To My Girlfriend Even Though She's Rejected Me Four Times Because My Proposals Weren't Elaborate Enough?
I (24M) proposed to my girlfriend (25F) in late 2019 after two years together. Admittedly now that I think back on it, it wasn't the most well thought out or planned proposal. It was mostly spontaneous and came as we were lying in bed together, so I didn't even have a ring at the time.
At the time, my girlfriend said that she would love to marry me, but she had been looking forward to a more elaborate proposal. I assured her that I'd sort something out.
A month later after shopping for the perfect ring, I set up some candles when she was coming home one day (think the Chandler/Monica proposal in "Friends") and asked her again.
Well, my GF loved the ring (thankfully) and teared up with happiness. She said that she really appreciated my effort, but what she meant by "elaborate" was something original that she could tell our kids about one day. She mentioned the name of one of her friends whose boyfriend (we both know) proposed by making a huge video montage of their time together and putting it on a projector.
I decided to start over and in February I planned a 3-night trip away in our favourite city. This time I spared no expense and ordered all the extras: a 5-star hotel, a photographer, even an opera quartet. When I asked her to marry me, my GF said "yes" and I thought all was well. Except when we were alone again she gently told me that she didn't think now was the "right time" and she was so worried about her future/COVID-19 that a proposal now wouldn't be a good memory for her.
Since then I've carried the ring around with me almost everywhere. At this point I've even tried to involve my GF in some of the proposal planning, asking where/when/how she'd like us to get engaged and what would make her happy. However, all she has told me is that she doesn't know exactly what she's looking for and "I'll know when the right proposal comes."
Last week I thought I'd bite the bullet again, and after cooking her a homemade meal I asked her if she'd like to be my wife. She asked me if I was "trying to propose" and I asked her what was wrong with that. Once more, she told me that she can't wait to marry me but it still wasn't quite the proposal she needed…
I don't understand why she's acting this way and what I'm supposed to do to satisfy her with the "perfect proposal" at this point. I'm confused and running out of patience. How do I deal with this?
[Reddit via Twitter]
The commenters on the r/relationship_advice subreddit guess that the girlfriend isn't ready for marriage and suggest a frank conversation in lieu of a fifth proposal. "I'd get pre-marital counseling if I were you — you can really talk about your idea of what marriage looks like and the therapist will mediate and ask questions you may not think to ask," one of them writes. Read the rest of their answers (and an update from the letter writer).
Am I Wrong To Be Hurt That My Parents Sent Me And My Husband Cards 'Signed' By My Infant Daughter?
I am a first-time mom. I have had boundary issues in the past with my parents, mainly my mom, and I'm finding I need to deal with them now in a new way now that I have children. The day before Mother's Day, my parents gave me some flowers and a card, but instead of signing the card themselves, they signed it from my daughter. I let it slide, miffed that they had, in my mind, stolen what was to me my husband's job of giving me my first card from my daughter. But it happened again for Father's Day. Two days before Father's Day, they left my husband a card in our mailbox, that was signed by them as if it was from our daughter. He and I both think that this is overstepping their role as grandparents. We believe it is our job as parents to send cards from our daughter. I messaged my parents saying as much, telling them that I was hurt that they had stolen firsts from us, and that it would have been entirely different if the cards had just been addressed from them. Are we being too harsh on them? I know our daughter is their first grandchild, but before that she is our daughter. My mom's argument (in part) was that she would love to get cards from our daughter (from us) and thus she sees no issue.
I'm finding generally that I haven't told my parents about some choices my husband and I have made regarding how we plan to raise our daughter, because I know they will cause a stir… My parents raised me Southern Baptist, but my husband and I plan to raise our daughter without taking her to church unless she asks, teaching her the basic beliefs of several major religions. I know that is going to be a major issue with my parents.
I guess what my question boils down to is: Are we overreacting about the cards? On a larger level, any thoughts on how to broach what we know will be difficult choices regarding how we are raising her?
Rumaan Alam rules that the letter writer is overreacting about the cards. "The intention wasn't, I don't think, to meddle, but instead to make a sweet gesture that communicated their excitement for your first Mother's Day," he writes. "You didn't tell them this made you unhappy, so they likely thought it had been well received, and repeated the gesture for your husband." Read the rest of his answer.
Was I Wrong To Cold Call A Family Friend's Son, Whom I Don't Know Personally, About An Exciting Career Development Program?
This morning, I got an email about a terrific and free leadership program for recent college grads hosted by a highly respected entrepreneur and author. I reached out to a longtime family friend whose son fit the criteria, described the program and the author's bona fides, and asked for the son's email to tell him about it directly. (The friend had recently consulted me because the son was deciding whether to move to my area, so I had a reason for thinking he was open to leads from me.)
The family friend gratefully sent the son's info, including his phone number, so I thought, "It'll be easier to do a quick chat and then forward him the information," even though I've never spoken to him before.
When he picked up, I didn't have a practiced pitch or anything. I just mentioned that I had talked to his parent and gotten his phone number from them. I also gave him my full name and my parents' full names, explaining that we were longtime family friends. I asked if those names rang a bell. He laughed and said no. I forged ahead anyway, and told him there was a free career program that seemed tailored to him based on what he wrote on his LinkedIn profile. Midway through my second sentence, he says, "Bye," and hangs up on me.
It was a bit of a shock. I could chalk it up to youth or entitlement, but in retrospect, it seems likely he thought I was sales spam, even though I explained who I was. Next time, I'll ask friends to give their kids a heads-up before I call, so there's a legit context and my name won't be completely meaningless. (I could just forward to the family friend instead, but I'd like to err on the side of treating young adults like adults, and talking to them myself. Maybe that's a bad plan!)
Other than that, is there something else I should say or do in the future when I see possible career leads for friends' young adult children to whom I've never spoken to take what I'm saying out of the realm of robocall?
[Ask A Manager]
Alison Green says that the son almost certainly thought this was a spammy sales call. "A lot of people, especially younger people, don't do unscheduled phone calls much anymore, at least outside of work," she writes. "Plus, with email, you can include the link to more info so they can immediately see if they're interested." Read the rest of her answer.
How Can I Dissuade My Husband From Booby-Trapping Our Driveway To Deter Neighborhood Boys From Biking On It?
Two young brothers race their bikes on our cul-de-sac and come to a skidding stop at the end of our driveway. This drives my husband crazy! He has to re-rake our gravel every time. He wants to bury planks of wood with nails protruding from them to deter the boys. I'm having a hard time convincing him why he shouldn't. Help!
[The New York Times]
Philip Galanes opines that the husband's plan is sociopathic. "[I]t is monstrous to put children's safety (and your car tires) at risk this way," he writes. "Just call the boys' parents and report the problem." Read the rest of his answer.
Is There Anything I Can Do To Stop My Relative From Exercising In The Middle Of Conversations?
I have a relative who exercises during conversations. It used to be that she would drop to the floor and do situps, leg lifts or pushups. Family members didn't know what to say or do, but after she had left, we all agreed that we thought the behavior was quite strange. She even used to do leg stretches in the aisle at restaurants, and I worried that she would trip the wait staff.
Now, she no longer drops to the floor, but does standing stretches and yoga-type exercises. It's extremely distracting to any conversation the rest of the family is enjoying, particularly when she stands in the line of sight between two people who are conversing.
Is there anything we could or should do to stop this behavior? Currently, I leave the room when this occurs, taking a very long time to get a drink or find a tissue, but then I miss the conversations. There is often no place I can escape to. Do we continue to tolerate such odd behavior?
Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin, the writers behind Miss Manners, offer a script for the next time the relative starts exercising. "Mary Louise, I admire how committed you are to fitness, but it is somewhat difficult to hear you or others while you are doing all that heart-healthy breathing," they suggest saying. "Perhaps you can take a break while we talk so that all of us can enjoy the conversation." Read the rest of their answer.