Q. Earlier this year my youngest brother “came out.” The fact that he is gay isn’t exactly shocking, but it’s something we are all still adjusting to. He is the youngest, so he is spoiled, and acts very emotional when he doesn’t get his way.
Some months back he informed me that he was seeing someone who is twice his age. I am uncomfortable with this, but have not addressed the subject with him.
We’re having a family gathering soon. My other brother will be bringing his girlfriend, so naturally the younger brother insists that his boyfriend also be invited.
I’m not comfortable with this. There is something very predatory about a 40-year-old man seeing a 20-year-old kid. Realistically, the chances of this relationship lasting are slim.
My parents are afraid to say something to him about it because they are concerned it will push him away.
The whole situation makes me dread going home. I don’t want to be forced into an awkward situation. I don’t understand how his being gay all of a sudden invalidates our feelings. We are instantly dubbed homophobic if we state that we want more time to process this.
There isn’t exactly a pamphlet on how to go from awkward to “Modern Family” status when a loved one comes out. I don’t know if I should just keep my mouth shut and keep this visit very short, or if I should say something that will inevitably hurt his feelings.
A. My first reaction is to wonder why you need so much time to process this simple (and “not shocking”) news, and why this makes you so uncomfortable.
I don’t want to label you as a homophobe, and yet: You are filled with dread and anxiety about the “awkwardness” of your brother’s sexuality. You have an aversion to it. This seems fairly phobic to me.
Your youngest brother might be spoiled, emotional, and dramatic — and perhaps that’s what you are dreading. But his sexuality is really not up for dispute or discussion. You don’t get to approve or disapprove. If a family member has a romantic partner who seems unfit, the best thing to do is to meet that person. The only way to influence this young man is from inside the family fold.
If I authored a pamphlet for “going from awkward to ‘Modern Family,’ ” it would really be a bumper sticker: Grow up!
Q. When my wife and I were first married, we would invite my parents to our home for Sunday dinner. On many occasions, my mother, who was an excellent cook, would bring pots of her cooking (without asking) to serve at the dinners. She told my wife to put away the food that she had spent time preparing for another occasion, and to use my mother’s food instead.
My wife felt that she was being belittled and unappreciated. She asked me on numerous occasions to ask my mother not to bring food without previously letting us know her intentions so that my wife would not work in vain. I did so reluctantly, to no avail.
What is the appropriate response to this situation? What is the correct and gracious thing to do?
My thought process at the time was that it was more gracious, with any guest, to use the food that the guest prepared. My wife felt intimidated by her new mother-in-law. She still insists that I was remiss in not more forcefully communicating her wishes. What is the appropriate response in this situation?
A. It is not appropriate for a guest to bring an entree and insist that her dish must be served for dinner. You and your wife should have said to her, “When we are invited to your house, we will happily eat the delicious food you prepare for us. At our house, we’d like you to eat the food we prepare. At the very least, please let us know your cooking plans in advance.”
This is an “Everybody Loves Raymond” dynamic. And, just like in the long-running sitcom, sometimes it is wisest to basically give in.
Q. I’m writing in appreciation for your “Book on Every Bed” literacy campaign. My family started putting wrapped books on our kids’ beds several years ago at your suggestion, and now this is a treasured family tradition!
A. Literacy starts with books, and takes hold when books are shared. I am grateful to families who have adopted this tradition.
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