Q. My youngest brother spent about six years in prison for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a young woman he met at a bar. While he was in prison, we exchanged a few letters, but I did not go to visit him. He expressed remorse for what happened, and was receiving counseling in prison.
He was released from prison earlier this year, and now lives about a 30-minute drive from where I live, so I’ve met him a few times for coffee or lunch. He now attends group therapy, and is in good standing with his probation officer.
The last time I saw him, he asked if he could spend the holidays with me and my family. I was unprepared to answer, and told him I would talk to my husband about it, knowing that my husband would probably have a problem with it.
I am incredibly uncomfortable with my brother being in my house with my three teenage kids present — two of whom are girls.
I don’t fully trust him yet, and while I believe in forgiveness, I am scared at the consequences of having him in my house. I also don’t want to be nervous the entire time he’s in our house, if we do invite him over, which would add more stress to the holidays.
My husband said he will support whatever decision I make, but I’m not sure what to do.
What do you think?
A. Your brother might believe that he is ready to enter your family circle in this way, but you are not ready, and your instincts are telling you that this is not a good idea — and that’s the only thing that matters.
You have been willing to have your brother in your life in a protected, tangential way, and I believe that both your motivations and your instincts are solid. Pay attention to your instincts!
Given the serious and violent nature of his crime, and the fact that he is a sex offender, you should not expose your children to him unless and until you feel completely ready (and you might never feel ready).
I assume that contact with family members could help him reintegrate into life in a way that would be positive for him, but all decisions concerning contact should be yours — not his — to make.
Don’t let the awkwardness of saying “no” override your parental instincts. Tell him, “I’m not ready to have you with us. We’ll just have to see how things go for you over time, and my husband and I will continue to think about it.”
It would be good if both you and your husband could bring him a gift and spend a little time with him during the holiday season.
Q. I have a friend who has a full-time job, and has started selling cosmetics on the side.
I support her right to pursue additional income, but am extremely uncomfortable with friends using friends as a revenue stream.
I’ve noticed an uptick in her e-mail communications, and she always includes her website and other information about the cosmetics in the e-mails.
She has not asked me directly to purchase anything or invited me to any sales “events,” but I anticipate one/both happening soon.
How do I politely decline any sales pitches?
Tupper-wary in NJ
A. You can respond to sales entreaties with an enthusiastic, “No thanks, I’m all set — but congratulations, and good luck with your business!” Don’t judge this woman for being an entrepreneur, but definitely exercise your own right to spend your money the way you want to.
When I find myself getting annoyed by people trying to sell me things or asking for favors, I try to remember that it’s not their fault if I feel burdened. Learning to say a respectful “Sorry — but no” is honest and empowering.
Q. “Need Advice” asked a very sensible question about how men can handle the burden of being falsely accused of sexual harassment in the workplace. You basically snapped back, even though this is a very valid question!
A. The man quoted in this letter described the burden of being a “straight white male” in the workplace. I’m not aware that straight white males have an extra burden. In my response I drew attention to and praised the scores of male colleagues I’ve had over four decades in the workplace who managed not to harass — or be accused of harassment — simply by behaving professionally.
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