Thanks for the Piece of Plastic?

Jan 02, 2020 · 119 comments
PrairieFlax (Grand Island, NE)
Many many years ago, long before I was married (and I've been married since the 1980s), I dated a local politician. He was much older than me, had held office for a couple of decades. One year he faced tough re-election battle. He was blue in a state that was turning increasingly red. But his mother was in her 90s. She wanted to take a road trip with him - they both were travel bugs - but he was in the middle of that tough fight. He chose, at great risk to his career, to go on the road with her instead of campaigning as the election drew near. He lost the election by a handful of votes. Would he have those votes if he had stayed in town? He didn't regret going on the trip with his mother. She died a few years later. I will always admire him for that.
Patricia L. (Berkeley CA)
Ryan, perhaps you are still relatively young. When a parent approaches the end of his/her life, it’s time like you mention that one wishes one had taken m advantage of (unless the parent was abusive). I encourage you to spend time in the future with your Mom. I believe you will be glad you did later on (and no I am not assuming everything will be perfect but even with a best friend it isn’t)
Jane (Toronto)
@Patricia L. I think you might be projecting a little bit. You don't usually regret things you don't want to do. If he goes on this trip, maybe he will miss out on something else that he would regret. The question isn't should he go but how forthcoming he should be.
Flaneur (Manhattan)
The questions this week all reflected petty behavior by the ones seeking advice. Oey.
Paulie (Jersey)
Actually, a three-day trip to Portugal is possible, especially from the East coast. I've done it. There are way of minimizing the jet lag and have and enjoyable visit. In a country where we're so bad at math, I'm surprised how many people see friendship as a zero-sum game. Don't go to the the wedding; you're not being petty, you just don't deserve it.
Jane (Toronto)
@Paulie Yes, but the point is he doesn't want to go. He is asking if he should tell her he doesn't want to go.
Paulie (Jersey)
Over at the Ethicist, there's a letter in which the writer believes some gossip and wants to know if it is ethical to act on it. Over here, people are criticizing poor Ryan because mama is paying for the trip. Where did that ideas come from? It's not in the original letter. Curious.
100 Years of U.S. Women Voting (Austin)
Dear Ryan, You say your mother is lovely. I say you’re lucky. My mother is awful, behaving horribly toward me and most other family members. Because of that, I limit my visits with her to 1 day or less. While I can empathize with you not wanting to spend an entire week of vacation with your mother, I think you should find a way to make the Portugal trip work. Perhaps you can bring a friend or spend a few days with your mother in Portugal, then a few days alone in Spain. I wish I had a lovely mother with whom I could enjoy a little traveling.
Jane (Toronto)
@100 Years of U.S. Women Voting Why though? Maybe she is an early bird who likes museums and touristy locations and he is a night owl who likes to roam the city. The question isn't should he go but should he be honest. Maybe he has a lovely friend he would rather travel with?
marino777 (CA)
what's up with everyone thinking that they have to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to fly/travel to every wedding, funeral etc ???????? first world wealthy population problem for the common NYT demographic or just the norm now???
jo (co)
My mother has been gone for quite awhile now. We had a challenging relationship. What I wouldn't give now to spend some quality time with her - adult to adult. Spend the time with her while you can. Life is short and things are over before you know it.
Brigid McAvey (Westborough, MA)
My friend got my daughter a gift card for a graduation gift. When my daughter tried to use it, the card had a zero balance. I called my friend who took her receipt to the store in question and had the card reissued with the full balance. Had I not been honest with my friend, she would not have known she had gotten rooked, I might have felt slighted, and the store would have gotten away with the (mistaken) slight. Honesty is best.
JR Pal (Washington, DC)
No one is entitled to an invitation to a party. And in he course of a lifetime, people will have to miss many weddings for people they love for many reasons. Neither is a referendum on a friendship. I’m always surprised by how little grace people have for their friends who are, after all, only human and who are certainly balancing many competing/complicated needs and priorities as they navigate milestones in their lives.
ms (Midwest)
LW1 - I hurt a friend very deeply by saying I could not pay for a christening dress for a godchild. It was a month's worth of groceries for me, and I did NOT have the money. She chose another person to be the child's godmother, which hurt me. Eventually we both got over it, but we wasted a lot of years before repairing our friendship. I have found that people who have money or well-off parents simply can't comprehend struggling financially. They always have a safety net, even if it's someone else's pockets. You can't buy a friendship like you can an airplane ticket, so decide which you value more. Instead of being a big girl be a great friend.
Little Doom (Berlin)
I’m sorry your friend dissed you as a godparent and friend for not shelling out $ for a christening gown. I’ve never heard of this custom. It strikes me as grasping and mean. Was it really a friendship worth repairing?
ms (Midwest)
@Little Doom Well, it's a specific part of her culture - which I didn't know. But people who have never worried about a next meal or the rent in any real sense simply don't comprehend what that really means. And it does make sense because as a godparent you are committing to taking care of the kids if something happens to the parents, so on a practical level you should have enough money to be able to do so. The friendship was absolutely worth repairing. I've known her for about 35 years, and if something is really wrong she is there for me no matter what - and vice versa. We are long past the is-it-worth-it-she-drives-me-crazy stage.
Muriel (CA)
About the son invited by his mom in Portugal. I am the mother of 3 young children, It has been a few years that I spend all my days and parts of my nights taking care of them. They will probably forget as they grow up and go their own way. What is a week in Portugal really?
Lorenzo (Oregon)
If you can join your mother in Portugal, I say go for it! I was just there and it's a fantastic place to visit. Also, as my mother is no longer alive, I would give anything to spend a week in Portugal with her, regardless of the logistics. If it's too much time with you, I'm sure you can say you want to explore for an afternoon or whole day by yourself.
Lorenzo (Oregon)
@Lorenzo I meant, too much time with her.
Elizabeth Monnet (Sausalito)
I have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since I emigrated to the US from the UK at age 22. I’m now 67. When my husband and I were super busy with our careers, our parents visited us. His parents traveled from Oklahoma and mine traveled from Cornwall, England. Both sets of parents made the effort because they understood that they had more money and more time than we. As an added bonus they knew how to entertain themselves when we were at work. My mother kept a travel diary which I’ve had since she died. It’s a fun read full of wonderful memories. More parents should follow our parents example by remembering what it’s like to be young and struggling. If space is a problem, find a hotel or apartment accommodation close by. It shouldn’t be solely an adult child’s responsibility to visit a parent unless a parent is unable to travel. Both the parents and the adult children should share this responsibility.
Lauren (Great Neck)
Regarding the gift card letter: I recently read that at least a billion dollars' worth of gift cards go unused every year. What was the time span between the gift giving and the recipient's use? Perhaps after reviewing her financial statement, it had appeared to the giver that the card had not been used in weeks or months. Still, between friends, a phone call by the gifter could perhaps have avoided this.
PrairieFlax (Grand Island, NE)
@Lauren Usually they have to be good for at least two years. Some states let them go longer. Some individual merchants let them go on forever. Speaking of forever, use your Forever 21 gift cards now, because in bankruptcy they are only keeping open a handful of stores.
S.L. (Briarcliff Manor, NY)
@Lauren -A gift card is a purchase which shows up on the next month's cycle. There is no looking at your statement to find out if it was spent. She could have checked the card online but that would have required her to know the card number and the PIN which often means scratching off its covering which would have looked suspicious to the LW. There is no way to look at this to make it look innocent.
S North (Europe)
I'm always struck by the pettiness weddings and parties bring out of people. Take care of your own life, folks, and stop keeping tabs on who's inviting you and why. The Portugal-with-mom response is a very good one. One's time off is precious but what's its best use? It won't kill you to have a vacation with the person who brought you up. If that had been a damaging relationship I'd understand, but the writer says the mother is 'lovely'. The writer of that letter just seems young and selfish. He or she will later regret not taking that trip.
johnnymorales (Harker Heights TX)
Philip's advice is a breath of fresh air among columns that bend over backwards to answer all about me, petty, selfish complaints as if the letter writer is justified in making whatever the issue is all about them. In all the letters in this column he doesn't tolerate the meager justifications the LW have for their hurt feelings. As a result he is able to give useful and truthful advice that might make a difference if they take it. That's far better than the typical tact most advice columnists take that indulge such behavior.
farhorizons (philadelphia)
How can a son (or daughter) not have much in common with a parent?
GreenGene (Bay Area)
@farhorizons Are you serious? The answer is, "easily." Not everyone has parents who are decent, sane, kind, reasonable. Believe me, that's a fact.
Donna Freedman (Anchorage, Alaska)
@farhorizons "How can a son (or a daughter) not have much in common with a parent?" One woman I know said her father never, ever called her by her name. In fact, he rarely spoke to her or her sisters except to grumble at them for not being boys. (He was a farmer and perpetually angry that he had just one son and six daughters.) A man I know felt he had "disappointed" his father for being a music nerd instead of a football hero. His dad was a raging narcissist who talked only about himself. Another woman I know was psychologically abused by her dad. She hasn't spoken to him in probably 15 years. And so on and so on. Just because you're born to someone doesn't mean you have anything in common. In this case, the letter writer says that mother is "lovely." But maybe mom drives them crazy in close quarters. Maybe she does things like talk nonstop about the way kiddo SHOULD be living, how unattractive the new haircut is, why the kid's politics are completely wrong, how sad it is that she's not a grandmother yet, how much better the Older Sibling is doing professionally, etc. etc. That would be hard enough to listen to for a day. But for a week? Hard pass.
PrairieFlax (Grand Island, NE)
@Donna Freedman Maybe the mother is nice and the son is a brat.
zumzar (nyc)
After reading these stories that I thought exist only in tv reality shows, I am no longer surprised Trump is the president.
MS (Paris, FR)
@zumzar I am surprised it took you this long!!
S.L. (Briarcliff Manor, NY)
There was no mix-up on the gift card. Sometimes they have a zero balance because of operator error by the cashier. This was not the case. The buyer went back and stole the money to buy a dress. It is all there in black and white. The other two buyers of the card should confront the thief. If they refuse, consider that all of them are cheapskates who condone thievery and shouldn't be your friends. Go on vacation with Mom. You will be surprised at how much you will enjoy it. Your mom will not live forever and you will be sorry you didn't go.
Robert (NYC)
What are so many commenters saying the mother offered to pay for the trip? The LW didn’t say that.
John Lipman (nyc)
If you don't want to go to Portugal with your mom you might let her down gently with a note that begins something like "I'd rather be dead in a ditch . . ."
LW (In the Rural South)
I received a similar, generous invitation from my mother 18 months ago. At the time, I said "yes" but I really wanted to say NO WAY. She can be difficult and bossy and I didn't want to spend any extra time with her. But, A=as the days drew closer, I realized I was being petty and childish -- that I should accept her invitation and make the trip. Take the trip, Ryan. I can't say it will be spectacular, but it will be a memory you can cherish when she is gone. My trip with my mother was glorious. It was something I will never forget and made me realize I should invite my adult children to travel with me when I can afford it. Even if the trip has difficult moments, you won't regret it.
Mark Wilson (Seattle)
I had a similar situation. My mom some time ago wanted to go on a cruise with my brother and my wife and I I knew I needed to go and was willing to spend a week of precious Vacation with my family despite knowing as much as I loved her it would be a challenge I never regretted it. We had fun and since both my brother and mother died just a few years after I have great memories that this was our last trip together. You can never get those opportunities back and you will regret it deeply if you don’t go as I would surely have if I passed in that chance.
ABaron (USVI)
I invited my adult daughter to join me on a 2 week trip to Kenya and Spain. Her friends were horrified. She said 'yes' instead of listening to her friends. We had a memorable time, even after occasionally having to share a bed for a few nights here and there. It was truly memorable and, being adults, we got along just fine. Being grown-ups together is pretty amazing.
Shelly (New York)
@ABaron Not every adult in the world is someone you're likely to get along with long-term. There are a few people in the world that I would enjoy spending 2 straight weeks with, and my mother is not one of them.
RKP (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
Approaching my 64 birthday, I had a conversation with my mother that I had been waiting my entire adult life to have. It hasn't changed everything but has gone further than I ever imaged. I imagine Portugal would have made it all the more memorable. Ryan, it is never too late. Find a way.
Eilonwy (NC)
I am saddened by a child who writes to ask permission to be dismissive or unkind to their parent. There's lots of good advice from other writers here about either making the effort to share time with someone who the LW doesn't have much in common with (I bet the mother sees that differently) or offering an alternative meeting at a more convenient time and place. What would the letter writer be doing instead that would be more memorable or valuable than visiting a parent? Love (and kindness and compassion) are actions, not just nouns. The LW can blow off his mother if he wants to, but he shouldn't fool himself that it is an admirable pr reasonable way to behave.
carol goldstein (New York)
@Eilonwy, Spending time with my mother in the decade after she was widowed was fine especially after I myself had retired early so it was not my precious vacation time. I loved my father very much but spending extended time with him could be exhausting. We did travel together or to each other's homes but, as an example of the difficulty, he always threw a fit about something on the next to last day we were scheduled to be together. I had to limit my time spent with him in order to make any of it quality time for him, mother or me. Frankly, here are a lot of things more memorable or valuable than visiting a parent especially a difficult parent. Also, it helps if the parent has vital interests beyond their adult children. I suspect Ryan understated how much emotional work he knows it would take for him to spend a good chunk of his limited vacation time (and budget) with that person.
ms (Midwest)
@carol goldstein It sounds like your dad throwing that fit might be in response to the ending of his time with you. My partner does exactly the same thing - the last day he is usually in a bad mood because he is disappointed the vacation is ending! Once we figured that out, he lightened up.
No name (earth)
people who expect others to spend thousands of dollars to attend their weddings are incredibly selfish. just no. the gift card could have been a mistake? treat it that way and ask the friend to fix it the portugal situation is the same as the wedding -- an attempt to impose an obligatory expense. nope.
PrairieFlax (Grand Island, NE)
@No name The mother is paying for the Portugal trip, not the ungrateful son.
Shelly (New York)
@PrairieFlax No indication that the mother is paying.
TokyoBeth (New Jersey)
Philip Galanes, i hope one day to meet you because you have such a sincerely sweet heart. This: “Spending time with her in a novel setting may help you discover her in new ways — not simply as your mother. You may come to see her as a person in her own right. Try it sometime, O.K.?” brought tears to my eyes because you’re right and we’ve all had selfish moments where we mistreat those who care most about us and gosh, you’re advice is just so precisely true. I am thrilled each time I see your byline, knowing that i about to read something heartfelt and thoughtful. Thank you for always appealing to our better angels.
RKP (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
@TokyoBeth thanks for expressing so beautifully what so many of us feel.
Len (Pennsylvania)
@TokyoBeth What RKP said! I wish I had half the insight that Mr. Galanes possesses. Love his column. Your post is spot on, TokyoBeth.
Eli (NC)
@TokyoBeth I wish the NYT would have him as The Ethicist. I wish he was my next door neighbor.
Mo (Chicago)
Regarding the friend who used up the gift card: I would call her up and pretend to be outraged that the store manager give me such a obviously nonsensical story. I would let her deal with the store manager and the other friends. This will let her save face by saying that there was some type of mistake on the manager’s part (not unheard of!) and then reimbursing you. But be very very careful in dealings with her in the future. Regarding the Portugal trip: this question made me realize that having kids is a huge gamble (the Mom lost), thanks to the American corporate culture. People constantly have to prioritize other activities over their families and this lessens the bonds between parents and children. Vacation time is limited, young people have to move away from their families for career advancement and even newborns don’t have access to their mothers after outrageously short maternity leaves. Is it any wonder that the birth rate is plummeting?
Sha (Redwood City)
J.J. your assumption should be it was an innocent mistake, maybe she had bought a different gift card for someone else and mistook yours for that. Approach her with this in mind and even offer this as a way out for her. Don't do it over text though, since in an in-person interaction you can closely watch her reaction and maybe get a better sense of the truth.
If you weren’t aware of the friend’s plan to retire, you probably aren’t close enough friends to be invited to the retirement party.
Sage55 (Northest Ohio)
What a queen bee that gift card grifter is! Perhaps the other 2 friends were supposed to let the recipient know of a deadline affixed to it, or maybe she was expecting an immediate thank you and assigned her own timeline for its use. I can't imagine having a 'friend' like this. It's a pretty tacky thing to do. Please all 3 of you confront her, as a character saving intervention.
SteveRR (CA)
To all the 'moms' who commented about Ryan. Your sons [we] love you - we don't want to vacation with you - quit asking and quit trying to shame Ryan.
PrairieFlax (Grand Island, NE)
@SteveRR Hi Ryan's fraternity brothers!
Quadriped (NY, NY)
@SteveRR - You seem a bit lost and thoughtless. Love is not an obligation. Regret will be the lasting feeling of neglecting parents and family.
GreenGene (Bay Area)
@Quadriped Nope, not always. It's great that so many folks commenting here came from loving, good families. But please do not assume everyone had the same experience growing up that you did. Some people limit their time spend with biological family and are the better for it. I have a friend in that boat, and I understand her reasons. They make sense to me. In her shoes, I'd do the same thing. We're not all alike. Why is that so difficult for some people to understand?
richard wiesner (oregon)
Never look a gift card in the mouth especially when it's empty. Invite the friend that bought the dress to lunch and comment on her nice new frock and then spill catsup all over it.
Stephanie (NY)
@richard wiesner This seems so typical of things that people will suggest on the internet that they would never have the gall to carry out themselves. Giving the benefit of the doubt, I prefer to assume you're being facetious but usually people use an emoji or or something similar in order to not be misread.
Sam (San Francisco)
In essence, the three friends entered a contract to together buy a present. The third person broke the contract. The birthday present recipient should not be burdened with a confrontation as to why the third party cheated the first two. I’m not a lawyer but if I went in together with someone and found out they not only did not follow through on their end of our agreement but also stole my share, I would be hopping mad and want to sort this out myself. The two friends are wrong in asking the gift recipient to intervene on their behalf. The recipient never asked for the gift and now that “gift” has become a burden received from all three.
Stephanie (NY)
@Sam I see your point and that was my first thought. However, my experience is that trying to get a third party to initiate a very uncomfortable conversation is a non-starter. If the recipient wants results and clear communication, s/he is better off taking on the responsibility themselves. Or, somehow obtain the "support" as Philip expressed it, of the other two who paid in.
Kaleberg (Port Angeles, WA)
Both the people condemning the son who doesn't want to spend his vacation time with his mother and the LW who is still angry that her friend didn't "budget better" so he could afford to fly across the country to her wedding are ignoring some harsh realities. Most Americans work exhausting hours and get very little paid time off. It's one thing to give up a week when you have three weeks vacation, but Americans in the private sector who have five or fewer years on the job get a whopping ten days. Outside the top tier, Americans aren't paid well, either. Flying across the country, spending several nights in a hotel, paying for taxis, and eating out could run into thousands dollars. Most Americans don't even have a thousand dollars to cover an emergency. The angry bride seems awfully self-centered. Galanes' answer to the reluctant son was both wise and kind, but it would have been even kinder if he had suggested that the son and his mother find a way to connect back in the US.
Stephanie (NY)
@Kaleberg I don't see in the letter what the mom had in mind for payment of airfare and hotel. Possibly she was going to foot the bill. Ryan says nothing to indicate his mom is hard to get along with, so it doesn't look as though he'd have a difficult time in her company. He COULD decide over the long run that dedicating this year's PTO vacation time to his relationship with his mom is worth it over the long run, if financial considerations are not part of the decision. After all, he can do as he pleases every year afterward. So I think Philip is on the money here. I say this having had a series of jobs in which I had to start all over with 5 days of PTO every 5-6 years and understanding the frustration of that.
SebbyGrrl (CA)
@Stephanie Except that like many 20 somethings and other's in the US workforce where the safety gap available for a medical emergency is often 3 days of PTO and 1 paycheck. Not smart to 'spend' that capitol on this particular trip. I love Phillip's take on pushing past one's comfort zone to meet a loved one in the middle. Ryan also says it would be a week off work for 2 days on the ground in Portugal. If mom is paying that's one way to make it feasible. Otherwise maybe counter with an offer of a weekend in Ryan's city or somewhere in between he and Mom.
About ‘Anonymous’ feeling hurt over a friend not attending their wedding - sure, it would have been disappointing, but it’s also the sort of thing that happens in the course of a solid friendship. Sometimes people let us down, and vice versa, but we should let small things go and hope that others will do likewise for us. Besides, it would not have made the letter writer happy to have not been invited to this wedding!
Mel (PDX)
Regarding the friend who didn’t travel across the country for the wedding AND the guy whose mom wants him to visit Portugal... The past few years I often consider my carbon footprint in these situations. I don’t fly somewhere unless I’m going to spend some significant time in the place. I’m not saying to never fly, but I think the environmental impact ought to be considered.
Kay Tee (Tennessee)
@Mel It might be "significant" to spend a week with your mom, or to attend a close friend's wedding. No?
Stephanie (NY)
@Mel If Mom is already flying there, and Ryan joins her on the plane trip, his carbon footprint is nil, really.
mm (ME)
Regarding the vacation with Mom: I'm in a similar situation: Mom invited me to join her on a long vacation overseas, and I declined the offer. I could have gotten the time off work, but it would have meant delegating a project I enjoy. Choosing work over Mom sounds harsh, so I lied and told her the schedule wasn't possible. But instead of a flat no, I countered with something I'm more comfortable with--how about joining me at a later date for a shorter trip closer to home? We are now both excitedly planning the itinerary. It IS possible to make every happy.
I hope that Ryan will reconsider spending some time with his mother. He is quick to say that they don’t have much in common, but maybe his mom is looking to break out of their stalemate and try a new way of relating to him. So long as she is a kind person, which it sounds like, the adventure together would be worth a week of vacation time. Plus, Portugal sounds great! If his mom will have a month there, maybe he can tell her what he’d like to do for his days there and have an itinerary to look forward to with her.
carol goldstein (New York)
@NM She doesn't sound like a kind person to me. She sounds bossy and inconsiderate.
PrairieFlax (Grand Island, NE)
Ryan sounds mean and self-centered. Of course he should take his mother, who is paying, up on her offer for a week in Portugal. That could be exactly the kind of neutral territory Social Q's is talking about. BTW - Portugal is magical for many, and healing, in the family sense, for many others. I met the man who would become my husband on a family vacation there in the 1970s. We arrived from Nebraska, his family, also on vacation, from Cape Verde. Following grad school for both of us in different parts of the world, we married 10 years later. To quote the great songwriter Christine McVie (Fleetwood Mac), "Do you remember the nights in Estoril?" Yes, yes my husband and I both do.
Anne (Portland)
@PrairieFlax: To say "of course" someone should do something assumes you know more about the situation and relationship than you do. He sounds neither mean nor selfish. He took time to write for advice about his dilemma so he's clearly trying to be thoughtful about his decision.
Bee (New Jersey)
@Anne Re: Ryan-- It didn't seem that he asked for advice; it seemed that he wanted to be "let off the hook".
Shelly (New York)
@PrairieFlax It doesn't say the mother is paying. It says she wants him to visit, not that she's prepared to buy a plane ticket.
Patti Jacobs (San Diego)
The giftcard friend is no friend - drop her now, or later in life this incident will be only the first in a series of anecdotes as to why you no longer know her.
Patriot Junkies (UWS)
I disagree...I would let slid and give the friend the benefit of the doubt...Might be a case of dire straights...
Joyce (Detroit)
@Patriot Junkies maybe, but when do dire straights call for a new dress?
Jen (Mass.)
@Patriot Junkies I agree with Patti. In dire straights, I would not be buying a dress...
Pamela H (Florida)
JJ - time to find a new friend. If she calls back and asks why, tell her what happened. The other friends can make up their own minds.
RJ (New York)
The two friends who contributed to the gift card should confront the third one. They lost money on this deal. I don't think it should be up to the disappointed giftee.
CatPerson (Columbus, OH)
How about adding "If you choose not to give me the gift, fine, but in that case you owe my two friends their share, as they were not planning to give their money to you."
Stephanie (NY)
@CatPerson This comes off as very hostile, given that you don't know the true circumstances. If it was a mistake, and she didn't mean to cheat him/her out of his gift card, that is going to definitely give her the high ground and the giftee will have to eat their words. Better to allow her to explain before engaging the artillery.
Susan Miller (Pasadena)
Regarding the retirement party: l think it's tacky to wax eloquent about a party in a Christmas card or letter, and then send it to people who weren't invited.
NYCLady (New York, NY)
@Susan Miller Fair, but we can't control the tackiness of others - only our own!
Morgan (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
The gift card thing: WOW. I must admit I am in agreement with an earlier commentator. If I had shared in the cost of the gift card, I would be furious. Suggesting that the receiver deal with it seems to add insult to injury. Maybe these people are not your friends, but frenemies. I believe that’s stealing someone’s gift. I would advise not letting that person into your home unless everything is nailed down. I hate it when people say, we had a most marvellous party and we didn’t invite you. Spend time with your mom. The relationship works both ways. She probably knows the two of you have little in common but is trying to find common ground. And like many of the commentators said, ask for time apart.
I always find Philip's sharp yet funny view of the world refreshing. Today, I find the first one that I feel Philip may have missed the mark. Yes, it seems awfully unfair to point out the only one out of hundreds that he's been fabulous, so let me also mention that fact, too. In my mind, he's still the master. So here we go. In "Sorry, Mom . . .," Ryan may have a toxic parent. APA reports that childhood psychological abuse is as harmful as sexual or physical abuse. For instance, manipulating a child with an intolerable guilt unless the child does as a parent demands. And what delivers the final nail in the coffin is that these verbal cruelties are rationalized and explained as Parent’s love. A parent’s unabating demand of a grown child’s vacation time to be spent with them. When the child feels that way, then it’s no longer Parent’s love, but instead Parent’s control. A parent’s demand is so incessant that if the child balks, then the child will drown in guilt. And only to avoid such unbearable guilt, the child desperately endures parent’s obsessive control and continues to swallow all feelings and emotions.
f (austin)
@BLOG The key unknown is "toxic parent." We don't know. If Ryan proposed some solo time in hopes of settling some reasonable boundaries and she balked, well, you'd have toxicity defined. If she said, "great, got it, you're a young guy that needs to do some exploring on your own," (or something similarly recognizing that they are not joined at the hip) well, that parent knows how to help establish boundaries, and Ryan could see her not in the shadow of a childhood (where parents are often seen as controlling), but in the bright light of adulthood were we all work to negotiate and establish boundaries. In other words, beyond the trip, it is an opportunity to see who mom really is even before the tickets are purchased.
Kay Tee (Tennessee)
@BLOG But he said "she's lovely"--doesn't sound toxic in any way.
Stephanie (NY)
@BLOG Except he didn't say anything remotely indicated she was "toxic." In fact, he did say, "She's lovely." I would therefore assume she is not "toxic." Her only sin is not having enough in common with him.
Pia (Las Cruces NM)
I didn't read between the lines. Sorry for my blunt response about the Portugal trip. Go with Mom, but ask about free time first? Sure.
J.J. - I hope you can come back and leave an update in the comments! Can't wait to hear what your friend says.
Susan (Long Beach, CA)
If my friends A&B and I gave my friend C a gift and I found out that A had stolen the gift, I would not expect C to confront A, I would do it, with or without B's assistance.
Roswell DeLorean (Bondurant Iowa)
When I have been asked to travel with or stay with someone while traveling, I simply and firmly say NO. End of story.
Stephanie (NY)
@Roswell DeLorean Wow! So much compromise is possible. You don't need to be joined at the hip or sleep in the same bed. Adults can agree to do stuff alone at some times and meet up and do stuff together at other times. And you have the company of someone familiar, which is something solo travelers don't get. And I'd assume the people asking are people you basically like--not total strangers.
Sam (San Francisco)
1. The friends who bought the gift card should be responsible for confronting their thieving friend. Not the recipient of the gift. They are the ones whose money was stolen. Maybe there is some excuse. It’s hard to believe she thought she would get away with it. 2. I would bet that the “close friend” on the other coast has always had a crush on the woman. Attending her wedding may have been too emotionally difficult. She should open her eyes. Not affording the trip was likely only an excuse.
rxft (nyc)
LW2: You know that money is tight for your friend but you still feel bad he didn't come to your wedding because he didn't budget well for it in the preceding year. It is possible that you have no idea of his other financial obligations. He could have had other bills come up and eat into his meagre savings. He could have had medical bills/student loans/other emergencies that had to be dealt with. So if he's really a good friend cut him some slack. If you're still feeling "petty" by the time he invites you to his wedding: don't go. Nothing worse than a wedding guest with a grudge!
Stephanie (NY)
@rxft It would be sad if she chose to cling to her grudge, because then she loses a friend. It'd be better for her to change her attitude, and keep the friend. Two weddings, two totally different situations. As my mom would say, 2 wrongs don't make a right. (I take this to mean, if you feel you were wronged, retaliating will not fix it.)
mls (nyc)
The gift card recipient is under no obligation to confront the scammer; the co-purchasers of the gift card are, as it is from them that she stole: it was their two thirds of the card that contributed to her new dress. And it is my guess that this woman has just lost three friends: why would they trust her about anything if she behaves this way?
Mary (Philadelphia)
To the empty gift card receiver--would you consider sharing the outcome of your conversation with your "friend" with us readers? Really curious how this will be explained away. And it's as we all think it is, please do yourself a favor and get far, far away from this person.
Jim (Pennsylvania)
Re the wedding and trip to Portugal: I never cease to be amazed at those who feel they can dictate to me how I should spend my money for their benefit.
PrairieFlax (Grand Island, NE)
@Jim The mother is paying for the trip, not the ungrateful, mean son.
PrairieFlax (Grand Island, NE)
@Jim The mother is paying for Portugal.
dukes (NYC)
@Jim For their benefit? It's your mother and your close friend. What are friends and family for if not to share your life with them? Especially weddings. Especially your parents. I don't think either was obligated to accept these invitations, but your perspective is weird. Do you consider it your friends doing something "for your benefit" when they accept an invitation from you? Strange.
ebmem (Memphis, TN)
When someone retires, their coworkers throw a party in recognition of the fact that they won't be having frequent contact with the retirees in the future. Family members are invited so they can see how much the retiree is loved and respected by their soon to be former co-workers. A good friend outside of work is not going to have any difference in his contact with the retiree, other than that the retiree may have extra free time.
ebmem (Memphis, TN)
It seems odd that anyone would hold a grudge for four years because a friend wasn't willing or able to drop a couple of thousand dollars to travel cross country for a party. Even if he had a year to save up for the event.
Me (New York)
The gift-card-friend thing is kind of weird to me. Unless this friend is the scammy type, it seems like a very risky thing to try to pull off. How did the friend think it was going to play out? At some point, the recipient was going to try to use the card, and the retailer would have documentation about what exactly happened to the balance. If this would be out of character for the friend, I would want to hear the friend's explanation because it seems really brazen. And if it wasn't out of character for her, maybe she isn't somebody you want to be friends with.
Laura (Florida)
@Me Yes. The possibility of an error or mistake is too great to accuse the friend without giving her a chance to get it straightened out. Especially now that the recipient has gone to the other friends, that person deserves the chance to clear her name. I'd hate to think people were looking at me sideways because they thought I'd done something like this when I had no clue there was a problem.
Jo (Melbourne)
@Laura But the store provided evidence that the card had been used to buy a dress by the friend. For mine there is 0% chance a mistake has been made... Harsh but perhaps fair?
Stephanie (NY)
@Jo Philip pointed out a few possibilities that I wouldn't have thought of. So I'd give her the benefit of the doubt, as there may be even more possibilities that neither you nor I have thought of.
BFG (Boston, MA)
I hope that Ryan will spend time with his mother and get to know her better while he can. She likely knows and loves him far more than he could imagine at this stage in his life. People who do not treat their parents well often end up regretting it later on--and certainly hoping that their own children do not treat them similarly. And a woman who would go to Portugal on her own for a month, in part with hopes of reconciling with her son, sounds interesting--and courageous.
Ziyal (USA)
Retirement party guest lists may usually be for colleagues and family only, but not always. In fact, I was invited to a friend’s retirement party not long ago. Perhaps what made hers different was that she was also going to be moving out of state fairly soon.
Daisy (Missouri)
I agree about the retirement party. Retirement parties normally include colleagues and close family. The letter writer sounds hard up for invites. I can't imagine why./s
Savannah (Nashville, USA)
Wow, really surprised by the gall of J.J.'s supposed friend whom, I'm guessing, thought she could get away with spending the gift card on a dress by blaming the missing money on a retailer mix-up. She probably didn't think that they would provide evidence that she came back and purchased a dress with it--busted. I do disagree that the gift receiver has the onus to approach her about it. If I chipped in on a shared gift card--that's my money that was spent to buy the dress--it's up to me to confront her.
Mikey G (New York)
Yes the other friends should be involved, but the onus needs to be on the receiver. The dress buyer would probably lie, and point the finger at the card receiver, and the two friends would have no way to tell who was telling the truth. Philip’s advice was spot on, as usual
f (austin)
RE: Vacation in Portugal with mom. Vacationing with others, any person, scares me. So many expectations. That was until I had an older couple graciously invite to spend some time with them, on vacation in a mountain rental. The only ground rule, beyond cover your own food, was stated by them: "We are going to be doing our own things, and you're welcome to join us or not." What a true gift. Now I state something similar to friends and family when planning vacations and visits. And, they totally get it! People want both company and space. It is not all or nothing. Perhaps you could do something similar with your mom, and it could advance your relationship. "Mom, thank you for the offer. I'd be happy to join you, but I find vacationing with others stressful. I find I need to get away sometimes and do things on my own. And, I don't want to hurt you. Are you okay with that?" She'd probably be relieved to hear it.
jo147 (Chicago area)
@f Great response/solution. Everybody's different, but I was thinking, who doesn't want to go to Portugal for a week?
Kimiko (Orlando, FL)
@jo147 Who doesn't want to go to Portugal for a week?, for one. I'm a septuagenarian who last year made my first-ever trip to Europe, specifically Germany because my ancestry is 100% German. In the years left to me, I don't expect to have many more opportunities to travel to Europe, but if I do -- well, my apologies to Portugal, but there are many more places in Europe I'd rather see first.
Reg L (Kamuela HI)
@Kimiko Well that seemed unnecessary and harsh. Even though there may be many places you'd "rather see first", an opportunity presented itself to see Portugal and why not take advantage of that opportunity. Life (and vacations) are about being flexible and making the best possible use of what's presented to us.
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