How Can I Tell My Friend to Get It Together?

I went to pick up my child from a school activity. (The kids are masked and grouped in small pods.) While waiting, my friend approached ...


I went to pick up my child from a school activity. (The kids are masked and grouped in small pods.) While waiting, my friend approached my car. She was obviously tipsy; even my younger child noticed how oddly she spoke and acted. I know she has a history of problem drinking. She’s also going through a contentious divorce and custody dispute. I didn’t say anything to her about driving with her child in the car, which I now regret. (She can be loud and aggressive.) I worry about her, her kids and how her drinking may jeopardize her custody battle. My husband and I have moved our child’s activity so we won’t have to deal with this again. Is there anything else I can do?

MOM

Your friend sounds messy. Two notes of caution, though: You say she was “obviously tipsy,” but do you know that for sure? (It’s important to get the facts straight here.) If you’re right, changing your child’s schedule is no solution. This woman is still driving her child, and herself, under the influence.

I think you have a duty to intervene. Keep it focused on what you saw. You may not have firsthand knowledge of her past drinking, divorce or custody dispute. But you watched her child get into her car while you believe she was drunk.

If you witness this behavior again, say matter-of-factly: “You seem to have had too much to drink. I’ll drive you both home, and you can pick up your car tomorrow.” If she resists, tell her: “I won’t have your child’s safety on my conscience.” If she continues to refuse, you may threaten to call the police, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

You can still talk to her about the earlier incident. (I hope you will!) But focus on the specific episode, not her life challenges: She poses a danger to her child and to others if she drives under the influence. You may still decide to report your suspicions. But now, after the fact and without proof, it’s unlikely to accomplish much.

For people struggling with drugs and alcohol, here are some resources (almost all of which are free.)

Credit…Christoph Niemann

I am on good terms with my neighbor. We exchanged nice texts over the holidays. Three days later, she texted again, asking me to confirm that we had conformed to our state’s quarantine rule for out-of-state visitors. I have no idea why she thought we hadn’t. (My daughter’s car has out-of-state license plates, but she’s been here for months.) I was offended by her text, so I ignored it. She texted the next day saying she assumed we hadn’t complied since I hadn’t responded. I texted back that I hadn’t replied because I thought she was out of line. We went back and forth like this until she said she was blocking my number. Is there a way to rehabilitate this relationship?

JIM

As Americans, we prize our personal freedoms: “It’s nobody’s business what I do in my home!” But for many, the pandemic has brought into clearer focus our obligations to each other. Isn’t it the abdication of responsibility to others that’s so galling about people ignoring safety recommendations?

Your neighbor may be nosy, judgmental or terribly frightened. (I have no way of knowing.) Rather than standing on principle, though, why not call and reassure her: “Of course we abided by safety protocols! Are you all right?” Hundreds of thousands of our neighbors have died. It would be totally normal if she’s not OK!

I spoke with my sister about a Hanukkah gift for my nephew, who is 14. I went with her recommendation. After Hanukkah passed, I never heard from him. When I asked my sister if he got my gift card, she told me she had rolled it into a larger gift from me and his toddler cousins that she planned to give him on Christmas. Shouldn’t I have been told about this in advance?

JASON

Who gives gifts from toddlers? Of course you should have been told. But here’s another thought: If you don’t know what your teenage nephew might like for Hanukkah, talk or text with him directly.

That way, you build your own relationship with him instead of using your sister as a go-between. This will make it more natural for him to thank you for your gifts and to talk with you generally. Win-win!

I work as an executive assistant at a prestigious management consulting firm. In October, one of my bosses was elected senior partner, for which he generously and unexpectedly gave me a cash gift of $1,000 to thank me for my hard work. Usually, he gives me a year-end gift of $2,000, but he didn’t this year. So, did he forget, or does he think the October gift was adequate? I am disappointed and rather bitter. May I say something?

ANONYMOUS

I wouldn’t. I bet 2020 was a weird year for holiday gifts and tips. And unlike your salary, your boss’s gifts are purely discretionary. If you’re dissatisfied with your pay, speak up. But we’re never entitled to gifts, even after we’ve gotten used to receiving them. Sorry!


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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Newsrust: How Can I Tell My Friend to Get It Together?
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