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My Friend Won’t Share Her Boyfriend’s Age. Should I Be Worried?


My friend does missionary work in a developing country. She’s in her 60s. She took up with a local man, and now her Facebook page is filled with heart-shaped photos of them and proclamations of how he’s changed her life. She mentioned an age difference, but wouldn’t say how old he is. (He looks to be in his mid-20s.) The director of her program told her the relationship was inappropriate and posed risks to her. I agree. At best, she makes it out with a bruised heart; at worst, she marries the man and finds herself financially and emotionally ruined. So, what do I owe my old friend?

C.

I know you’re trying to look out for your friend. But your question is loaded with ungenerous assumptions (and unfounded catastrophes) about her and her relationship. Is this adult woman really such a fool that she needs you to navigate her love life? If so, it’s a pity she hasn’t asked for your help. Until she does, I’d keep quiet.

You seem awfully cynical about the young man, too, for never having met him. (Do you also worry for wealthy executives who marry women young enough to be their daughters? It happens commonly.) Many factors play into attraction: intelligence, humor, looks and — yes — wealth. If two adults spark, though, the rest of us don’t get a vote.

Unless this man is part of her ministry, I don’t see how your friend’s romance is any business of the director of the program. Let’s leave that to them. As for what you owe your friend: Why not celebrate her joy for however long it lasts? Life is short. We don’t need pals prophesying our doom from scraps they see on Facebook.

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CreditChristoph Niemann

I moved apartments last week. Months before, one of my former roommates wanted to buy a new TV. I agreed to buy the TV stand. Before I moved, I asked if he wanted to buy the stand or if I should take it with me. He told me he wanted it, so I left it. A week after the move, I reminded him to send me money for it. He waited a day to reply, then told me he’d changed his mind: He didn’t want it, after all. This is unreasonable, right?

LAUREN

Totally unreasonable. Suspicious minds might think this was a calculated move by your former roommate to inconvenience you into leaving the stand behind without his having to pay for it. (Next time, collect the money upfront.)

Explain to your former roommate that you didn’t move the stand to your new place (with all your other things) because of his promise to buy it. So, the right thing here is for him to complete the agreed purchase or bring the stand to your new apartment. If he doesn’t care about the right thing, you may have to retrieve it yourself. (But don’t let him have it for free.)

I am proposing to my girlfriend soon and have begun considering groomsmen. I decided against asking my lifelong friend, even though we were best friends for a large portion of my life. We had a falling out a few years ago when he neglected to see me while I was home for a month visiting my grandfather as he passed away. He apologized, and we are friends again, but it’s not the same. I think the strain between us would put a damper on a joyous day. How should I break the news to him?

ANONYMOUS

Unless you spoke previously to your friend about being a groomsman, there is no need to break any news to him. Ask whomever you like. The bigger question, for me, is your inability to forgive your friend over a single error (for which he’s apologized) over a lifetime of friendship. Nobody’s perfect.

And if you’re worrying about your friend before you’ve even asked your girlfriend to marry you, I suspect that excluding him from your wedding party may be a joyless result, too. This is absolutely your call. Maybe it’s time, though, to circle back to him for another conversation about the issues in your relationship?

A couple of months ago, a book arrived in the mail. It was an out-of-the-blue gift from a freelancer I used to hire but haven’t spoken to in 15 years. He was talented, though somewhat passive-aggressive. We parted ways, but not angrily. He moved, and I switched careers. I have no interest in corresponding with him or receiving his gifts, so I didn’t respond. But I care about manners, and I have the nagging feeling I didn’t do myself proud. How should I have handled this?

L.D.

You already know the answer. You may not have wanted a gift, but you got one. And he doesn’t seem to be hassling you. So, a brief thank-you note would be kind. It doesn’t have to start a lifelong correspondence. And you may be spared one, in this case, by having changed careers (and thus being of little use to the former freelancer).


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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