Q. My college-age son and his male friend, “Randall,” were staying with us at our vacation home this summer. This was the first time we had met Randall.
Late one night, I went downstairs, assuming they had left the TV on and had gone to bed, and walked in on them in a state of undress during an intimate moment.
Both of them panicked, and Randall decided to leave the next morning. My son was very upset, and told me that nothing was going on. I told him several times that if he’s gay (or not sure), that’s OK, and he got very angry, said he was not gay, that he liked girls, and that I was “exaggerating” what I saw. He even called me a liar. Needless to say, the rest of our visit together was tense.
I have tried several more times to get my son to talk to me about this and he won’t. He even threatened to not come home at Thanksgiving if I brought it up again. I am worried about him repressing, or living in denial. My husband thinks I need to let it go, and just pretend it didn’t happen, but that feels very unhealthy.
What should I do?
A. I grew up in one of those New England families where an elephant could be grazing in the living room and my mother would calmly ask about the weather. But there are times when this behavior of quietly waiting to discuss something important seems less like repression and more like patience. You should try it.
Take the question of sexual identity out of this, and imagine what it would feel like at that (or any) age to be caught in flagrante delicto by your mother. Your mother. Mom. Mommy.
Most older adolescents don’t really want a maternal witness to much of anything they do, which is why so much of the doing happens away from home and on college campuses.
Imagine that you had accidentally witnessed your son being sexual with a female friend. Would he want to discuss this at length with you? I doubt it.
Stop pursuing him about this.
Aggressively telling him, “It’s OK to be gay!” might backfire, because as an emerging adult, he will push back at your maternal “permission” to be whoever he wants to be.
Your intentions are benign, but you don’t get to out your son, and you shouldn’t force him to explain or acknowledge something he may not yet want to label.
Q. My husband and I eloped in August, but my parents are hosting a reception luncheon for us in December.
They’re having it at a nicer Italian restaurant, and our guest count is about 80 people. We all agreed that we would not have young children at the reception.
We invited his one sister’s two children, who are over 10, but did not invite his other sister’s two children, who are under the age of 4.
We found a baby sitter (a close family friend) to watch the two younger kids, so my husband’s sister would be able to attend our reception.
Now she is very upset. She has said that we don’t care about her family, and that if her kids aren’t going, she won’t attend. My husband has tried reaching out to her, but she is ignoring his calls and texts. He is very upset.
I don’t know how to appease his sister, and I don’t want my husband to be upset, especially during the holiday season. What should we do?
A. The way to appease your sister-in-law is to do what she wants. The degree to which this upsets your husband indicates his willingness to be manipulated by her. You should let him decide what to do, and back him up wholeheartedly, even if this means giving in.
My own reaction is that if you two ignore this tantrum and any surrounding drama, you will be establishing yourselves as a strong and confident couple.
Q. I believe you missed something in the letter from “Sad in Suburbia.” This woman was upset because her parents didn’t attend a ticketed award ceremony.
She should have graciously purchased tickets for her parents. This was an opportunity for her to honor their role in her life.
A. That would have been a gracious and generous gesture on her part — and it would have gotten her parents to the ceremony, which was her goal. Thank you.Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.