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Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. My wife and I are in our late 20s. We have a widower neighbor in his 60s who has been extremely generous to us since we moved in four years ago. For example, he gives us each Christmas and birthday gifts, and we have always reciprocated.

This year, however, he gave my wife a Valentine’s Day gift of a short, sheer nightgown that leaves nothing to the imagination. He said it was “a gift we would both appreciate.” However, I feel the gift crossed the line and wonder if he is expressing a romantic interest in her.

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She sees nothing wrong with it and thinks I am being overly jealous. She doesn’t want to ruin our relationship with him, and won’t let me address my concern with him. Am I being unreasonable?

A. I don’t think you are being unreasonable, but you might reframe your concern by dialing it more toward the “bewildered” part of the spectrum.

Moreover, I don’t think you need your wife’s permission to express a point of view about this gift. Your neighbor’s statement (that it is a gift you would both appreciate) leads me to think that — in his stated intent, anyway — this negligee was a gift to both of you.

I agree that this is in poor taste but think you should start by giving your neighbor the benefit of the doubt.

He may hand you an opening when he asks if you “enjoyed” this gift. You can say, “Stan, I’ve got to admit, I am confused by your gift. I don’t like the idea of men other than me giving my wife negligees; honestly, it makes me uncomfortable.”

You and your wife need to learn that age-old dictum about fences and neighbors. Relationships thrive when the boundaries are clear and respected.

Q. My 30-year-old daughter and her boyfriend (also 30-ish) are kindred spirits. They both enjoy the recycled “grunge” look. Neither bathes regularly and often they have a noticeable waft that wanders by after they do.

They are not filthy looking but after you are around them for more than 20 minutes, you notice they are unkempt. I know this look is popular among young people — and I normally would not say a word, but I am now hearing complaints about them not being able to get jobs.

They are college educated and quite capable. They are applying for any job they can find, including fast food places. I wonder if either of them has a clue that their lack of hygiene may have more to do with their not getting jobs than the economy does. Should I say something?

A. You don’t say how these two are supporting themselves. If you are contributing toward their support you get to weigh in on their job hunt.

You can ask them how it’s going and what, typically, they do to prepare for an in-person meeting. They have very little time during the course of an interview in which to impress upon a potential employer that they are right for a job.

If they have spotty employment histories and seem unkempt, then someone hiring people to prepare or serve food will not want to hire them because they will seem unreliable and unhygienic.

Offer them this logical shorthand: Wherever they are trying for a job, they should look at current employees for clues about what that manager prefers when it comes to hiring people. I can think of many places where the grunge look would not be an impediment — but bathing is a necessity.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

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