Is Supporting My Brother Worth the Insult to My Family?

My brother and I were close as kids. We’d drifted some by the time I came out as a lesbian in college. Now, we mainly see each other at our parents’ house. Still, my brother has met my wife (of three years) and our toddler son several times. He and his wife just had a baby. I’m happy for them! The problem? He invited me to the baby’s baptism but asked me to leave my wife and son at home. He said his wife’s family is very religious and doesn’t approve of my marriage. This is a big problem, obviously. I want to support my brother, if possible. Is there any way I can attend this baptism?


Celebrating your brother’s family should not require you to act as though yours doesn’t exist. I get that you want to support your brother. But your value as a person is equal to his. Your family is as precious as his. And my job here, as I see it, is to encourage you to refuse any lesser characterization.

Now, I don’t know your brother. He may have spoken thoughtlessly or buckled under pressure from his wife or in-laws. Frankly, I don’t care about them or their bigotry. My concern is for you. I don’t believe you can respect your wife and son (or yourself!) and accept your brother’s demeaning invitation.

This may run counter to your role as family peacekeeper, but I suggest congratulating your brother, then telling him you found his exclusionary invitation hurtful. Add that you’d like to get your families together when he can be respectful of yours. Until then, surround yourself with people who support you. You deserve it!

Ten years ago, my father’s car needed repairs. He was thinking of buying a new one. Since I was about to buy a car, I gave him my old one. I was willing to give up the trade-in value of my car, so I transferred the title to my father. He drove the car until recently when another driver caused an accident that totaled it. (My father wasn’t hurt.) The insurance company sent him a check for $4,000. My question: Who is entitled to that money — not legally, but morally?


Unless you imagine that gifts are wrong or temporary, I don’t see the moral or ethical dimension here. In fact, there’s probably a stronger moral argument for adult children doing more to pay back their parents than giving them occasional hand-me-down gifts — not that our parents would want that.

You gave your father a car. Your interest in it terminated, in every sense, when the gift was complete. It became your father’s car: He maintained it, insured it and put gas in it for 10 years. When it was totaled, he was entitled to the $4,000. Your gift was generous. Don’t muck it up by being grabby now.

My boyfriend and I share a small apartment in San Francisco. I’m in graduate school, work part-time and also intern. My partner has many friends who stay with us when they visit. I can’t stand it! The apartment gets loud and messy. They sleep on the sofa and take over the apartment, and there’s usually partying. I’ve suggested to my boyfriend that his friends could stay at Airbnbs nearby, but he feels guilty because they can’t afford it. (Also, he genuinely wants to put them up.) Thoughts?


If you and your boyfriend were just roommates, I would contend that you have the right to veto couch surfers. Since you are also a couple, though, and your mutual interest affects your relationship, I suggest looking for a compromise that you can both accept (even if a little begrudgingly). Start by asking your boyfriend to be more respectful of your workload and the greater toll these visits take on you.

Then try to spread the cost of visitors more evenly. As it is, you’re the only one who feels inconvenienced. Perhaps your boyfriend can share the cost of Airbnb rentals with some visitors. Ask him to limit his guests to close friends only. And together, set a target number of visitors per year.

I’ve sent greeting cards lately to various acquaintances for a 50th wedding anniversary, an ex’s birthday and a “get well soon” situation. Each one required a trip to the card shop, selecting from dozens of options and writing a personal note. None of the recipients responded. I’m disappointed. What’s the protocol for responding to greeting cards?


It’s kind of you to send cards to people letting them know you’re thinking about them. The rules of politeness do not generally require responses to greeting cards, though recipients can certainly reach out by phone or text. Since the time you invest in buying the cards seems to be your main concern, maybe switch to notes on stationery if you have some. (Mine is mostly collecting dust these days!)

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

Leave a Comment