Dear Amy: I belong to a large extended family that throws a reunion every five years, back in the old country. Family members travel from around the world (but mostly the USA) to visit this charming place and enjoy a wonderful reunion.
A cousin I’ve been close to since childhood lives near the airport. She always offers her home for arriving relatives, but she is perplexed because no one (except me) ever takes her up on her offers of dinner or a place to sleep.
All members of her household are terrible housekeepers, and their house (especially the kitchen) seems to be coated with a layer of grime. They don’t seem to see it, and their environmentally friendly way of living prohibits many cleaning chemicals from being used in the house.
They are well-educated, kind and caring people.
I made peace with this mess years ago, and bring my own scrubby sponge and quietly clean the guest bathroom after I arrive.
My cousin is continually upset when people make excuses to not visit. She is hurt to see on Facebook that family members were only a few miles away and never stopped in for tea.
She thinks it’s because of something she must have said or done, but in hearing grumblings from the extended family, it’s really about the grime.
I feel caught in the middle, because I certainly understand what they mean. Should I tell my wonderful cousin about how her living situation is perceived? — Caring Cousin
Dear Caring: You should be gently and kindly honest. You can expect her feelings to be hurt, but she is laboring under a worse assumption than the reality would reveal.
I suggest that you say to her, “This is hard for me to say, but I believe people don’t want to visit because of the condition of your house. You know how picky and antiseptic Americans are, and I think this is why people don’t come over more often. Your house is very different from what I’m used to, and I’ve definitely noticed that over the years, but I don’t care about it as much as other people might. But this is NOT a personal thing. Everybody adores you. I want to assure you how loved you are! I hope you know that.” You could then offer to help her, if she asks for help. Otherwise, stay close and stay kind.
This message is both hard to deliver, and hard to hear. I’d love to hear from readers who might have been on the receiving end of this sort of challenging feedback.
Dear Amy: I am currently not in school, so I let my (former) good friend borrow an expensive graphing calculator for a semester. I was very clear that I value the calculator and that I expected it back when the semester was over.
Her semester has long been over, and I asked her to return my calculator. At first, she said she would bring it to me, but she never did. Now, whenever I call her or text her, she simply does not reply.
It makes me angry. I don’t want to spend money on another graphing calculator. I don’t know her address — only where she works.
What should I do? — Recalculating
Dear Recalculating: At this point, it seems unlikely that you will see your calculator again. You could try a different tack, by asking your former friend to repay you its approximate value.
You can text her: “I assume that you are not going to return my calculator. A second-hand calculator of this brand seems to be worth [fill in the amount], and so if you would reimburse me for the cost of replacing it, we can all move on.” You can then send her a link to an online “P2P” (person-to-person) money exchange site, and hope that she accepts and responds.
You could also take her to small claims court to try to recover the value of this item.
Doing the math, here, I calculate that your friendship has a 0 percent chance of surviving this episode, unfortunately.
Dear Amy: A rule on parent-issued punishment being followed through when the kids are at their grandparents’ house should be: “When you return home, your punishment will be.”
Grandparents should be able to enjoy their grandchildren. That doesn’t mean we will be without “house rules,” but don’t spoil the fun of going to our homes. — Grandma to 7!
Dear Grandma: I don’t disagree, but first, you would have to work this out with the parents.