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Should My Brother’s Bias Dictate Our Thanksgiving Plans?

For 10 years, I have hosted Thanksgiving for my extended family. My brother and his family always join us. This year, my wife and I were excited to welcome everyone to our new apartment in Manhattan. But my brother dismissed the idea: He said his family, including his wife and teenage daughters, are afraid to go to any city after the sweeping protests following the murder of George Floyd. I am annoyed that they’re placing more faith in their slanted newsfeeds, which amplified footage of disorderly demonstrators, than in our accounts of people marching passionately but peacefully in our neighborhood. We could always host at our small cottage in the country, but it would be cramped. Thoughts?


My mother didn’t care for traditional Thanksgiving fare. (“Too bland!”) So, to minimize her annual commentary on turkey and mashed potatoes, I added some spicy Lebanese food to the menu. Few of us are strangers to bossy guests. And sometimes we go along to get along.

Your brother raises similar, but thornier issues: The protests took place over a year ago now. They were largely peaceful then and pose no threat to anyone today. And New York is generally safe — certainly as safe as any other big city. Still, these may not be the takeaways from your brother’s news diet. The question for you is whether you’re willing to humor his political bias to have him at your holiday table.

My advice: Have a heart-to-heart with him. Tell him you love him and his family, and that you would never put them in danger. You can share crime statistics if you like, but data is probably not the solution here. Ask him to trust you instead. Assure him that your neighborhood is safe. And tell him you hope they come.

Now, you may be willing to host them in the country. That’s your call. But don’t do it if you’ll end up resenting them. The distinction in my mother’s case is that, deep down, I agree with her about Thanksgiving food.

Two colleagues of mine were placed on administrative leave after they refused to take the Covid-19 vaccine. I have not replied to the farewell emails they sent me because I think my employer was justified in putting them on leave. We work at a hospital, but they don’t “trust the science.” I don’t feel close enough to either of them to engage their paranoid foolishness. My instinct is not to respond. I don’t want to be put in position where I’m asked to sympathize with them. Your thoughts?


Personally, it takes more energy for me to ignore people than to find a way to acknowledge them. (That you wrote this letter suggests you may be similar.) How about a simple reply: “I’ll miss seeing you at the hospital. I hope you reconsider taking the vaccine and come back to work soon.” All true, right? And no need to engage further if they launch into baseless conspiracy theories or false claims of victimhood.

I have been a Big Brothers mentor for six years to a boy who is now 17. He is a fine young man. We share a love of dining out, so we often go to restaurants during our time together. The problem: Apparently, no one taught him not to order the most expensive item on the menu when someone is treating him to dinner — particularly if his host does not. Before our last dinner, I played up the restaurant’s burgers and pastas, which are reasonably priced. I ordered an $18 entree. My Little Brother ordered a $14 appetizer and a $36 strip steak. I can afford it, but it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Advice?


Isn’t the point of being a Big Brothers mentor to deal directly with issues like this? Big Brothers Big Sisters of America caters to children who face disadvantages of all kinds. You haven’t shared your mentee’s story, but it’s possible that restaurant dynamics have not played a big part in his life.

So talk to him. Say, “When people treat you to a restaurant meal, try to follow their lead by ordering things that cost about as much as theirs do. They may not be able to afford the most expensive items on the menu, or you may offend them by ordering lavishly. Does that make sense?” This may lead to an interesting discussion of the issue and the (strange) limits of generosity.

A dear friend died recently at the age of 47. When she was ill, she tried to give me a ring of hers that I always admired, but I demurred. (It felt grabby.) Now I see her sister is wearing the ring. Can I say something about her late sister’s wishes?


I wouldn’t. I understand why you refused the offer of the ring while your friend was ill. But you refused it. Now her sister, who is also grieving, has claimed the ring, likely in honor of her late sister. Mourn your friend but leave her jewelry out of it.

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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