You Seriously Want Me to Go Out With Her?

Feb 06, 2020 · 215 comments
Tudor City Crab (Currently Boston)
#1: Perfect advice. Please have compassion and follow it for everyone’s sake. #2: When we’re all dead, no one will care what he wore. Wear what you want within reason and have a great time. You’re not the honoree. #3: I was given an engraved clock 20 years ago and I still can’t put it in the goodwill bag - maybe because it has my name on it. The gift certificate would have been better. If you do go for the engraving I suggest dedicating it “to whom it may concern “ Whew. That was relatively easy.
Tony from Truro (Truro)
It saddens me that The Times gave up on the section of Architecture but has a whole section, Style which in turn runs "articles on Kardashian and other fluff. No slight to Mr. Galanes , who means well and does offer sage advice, but I would love to see a return to serious articles on houses and movements, and no , not what the real estate section is pandering.......
Margo (Atlanta)
A few years ago, on a walk through my neighborhood, I came across a box at the foot of a neighbor's driveway that was intended for pickup with the trash. The medium sized box was filled with those unspeakable plaques, "tombstone" style awards and trophies for his long career. Some of these would have cost $30 - $50 and been presented in front of his co-workers as incentives, only to be discarded, dusty, at the end of a driveway. This made me very sad. Cut the guy some slack and give him cash or a gift card that he can use up and enjoy on what he likes.
Paul (Los Angeles)
Estrangement is the obvious outcome of selfish, intolerant, and immature changes in how one family member views another family member. How many of us know numerous incidents of family members who have not spoken to each other for years for even outrageously petty reasons, sometimes years later no longer remembering why they stopped talking. In this case the mother has a daughter who is actively reaching out to her, and she is rejecting these loving advances. The mother should be so grateful that her daughter cares enough to try to keep contact. Ask older parents how hurt they are because their offspring are so busy with their own lives that they insensitively forget to even call their parents!? The mother should run, not walk, into her daughter's embrace.
Pia (Las Cruces NM)
I would so not want a clock.
PrairieFlax (Grand Island, NE)
@Pia Nobody does (except, apparently, the letter writer).
M (Aguilera)
Eeek! Gotta step in here for Lois. White tie is serious stuff--no one puts that on an invite unless they mean business. As someone who works in the formalwear industry for men, absolutely do not wear a suit. You'll feel like an idiot. As far as dress codes go, you can pull off "one step down" if you want to. If Black Tie is on an invite, you can get away with a dark suit. For white tie, if you really don't want to rent the tails, vest and tie, I recommend having your husband wear the tuxedo he owns, but rent or buy a white bow tie as a nod to the dress code. You can rent one for $10 at The Black Tux or purchase one for $25 from The Tie Bar.
Susan (Marfa, Texas)
Regarding "Formalities": a dress code is a dress code. If you can't abide, don't go. It is a sign of disrespect to not conform. Regarding the stepdaughter with lots of issues: I think you need to follow your conscience. She is in a relationship with a married person, she gave up her child to a "friend" to be with a person who is married to someone else, and now she wants to party with you and your husband. I would be beside myself. Let your husband sort if out. Yes, keep yourself very busy. She sounds toxic and could very well sow discord between you and your husband (she already is, as your life is now exposed in the NYT!)
Iris Flag (Urban Midwest)
In re to LW#1. I understand her feelings about the situation, but if she is really concerned about the wellbeing of her step daughter's child, she will help her husband re-establish a bond with his daughter. To appear aloof or antagonistic will decrease the likelihood that the stepdaughter will open up about her child's circumstances and reaction to this arrangement. To appear judgmental may well risk losing further contact with the stepdaughter and, most importantly, her child. It sounds like the stepdaughter's relationship with her father is fragile now. She should work with your husband to strengthen their bond for the sake of his granddaughter.
Monica C (NJ)
NOOOOO. The displaced child is the crux of the problem, the need that must be addressed, the one who needs care and attention.
Terri (Columbia, SC)
"She gave guardianship of her young daughter to a friend so she could stay close to her girlfriend." She chose her girlfriend over her daughter. The details - polyamorous, married, etc. - are extraneous. She chose to give up her daughter, even if only temporarily, to stay close to her girlfriend. The mother is an adult who made a decision to prioritize her needs over her daughter's needs. It sounds like the perfect time to embrace and connect with the granddaughter; why don't they have guardianship?
A. (Nm)
Regarding the first letter: in my family it would be viewed as a family tragedy and a failing for all of us to see a child who was related to us by blood sent to live with a non-relative rather than staying with her parent, or as a last resort, going to live with a biological relative. One of my cousins went through a hard time and we all pitched in with money, food, child care, etc. to make sure she didn't have to give her daughter to her ex-husband's family, even temporarily. I'm amazed at how cavalierly both the letter writer and Mr. Galanes treated the matter of the child. In my family and among my friend circle, a grandmother acceding to a grandchild being placed with a family friend instead of with her is unheard of, and the grandmother's seemingly callous acceptance of that would draw a lot of criticism. Why isn't the child with her grandparents instead of the daughter's friend? I would love to know the rest of that story.
DD (Indianapolis, IN)
Mr Galanes might have mentioned the absence of information provided about the father or other parental figure of this child. If losing her job meant not having a place to live, as a parent myself, I'd have the primary concern of finding a temporary place where I could stay with my child.
Claire (Wilton, CT)
I'm sorry Mr. Galanes did not first remark on the abandonment of the young child, especially for a relationship with a married woman, polyandrous or not. To leave her daughter for what will probably be a short term relationship is certainly going to be traumatic for the child. I think her step-daughter is troubled and looking for love in all the wrong places.
Judith Taft (New Haven)
I also usually agree with Mr. Galanes. But failing to address the abandonment of the child in the first response is unfathomable to me. Yes, I would encourage -- or at least support -- contact with the stepdaughter, but mainly because it would give the child's grandfather more of a chance to ensure his grandchild's safety. The stepdaughter and her lover are adults and have made certain choices that may or may not bring them happiness. The abandonment of the child is guaranteed to harm the child, though staying with the mother may harm the child more. And the focus here should be on determining who this "friend" is to whom the child has been given to and whether the child is now in a safe environment. This should be paramount and whatever makes that easier to accomplish should be done.
Ann (Waterside)
There’s something about the idea of a clock with one’s name engraved on it as a retirement gift that seems ominous. I think most retirees are aware that there is less time ahead of them than behind. How about a gift that’s individualized — like a spa day, or a piece of sports equipment, or a travel-related gift for someone who plans to travel?
Kate (Massachusetts)
I completely agree. It’s also considered bad luck to gift a clock in some cultures (including China).
JF (Boston, MA)
@Ann A clock for a retirement gift is a dated (and awful) notion. Good for the colleague for asking for an end to this silly tradition. Not to mention - try living on a fixed income! That's what retirement is. In an age of income inequality, a donation is a lovely gesture.
Iris Flag (Urban Midwest)
@Ann I received an engraved clock from my employer upon my retirement and it made no sense to me. I put it on the mantel but I thought it was ugly and sort of sad...I worked 30 years for this? I put it in its box and stowed it in the back of a closet. Happily, my co-workers took up a collection and gave me a gift card. My husband and I used it to spend a few days at a local winery/resort and had a lovely time. If they truly want their co-worker to have a wonderful retirement, they should give her something she will enjoy.
Eli (NC)
Way back when (OK Boomer), we didn't have all the socially palatable euphemisms like "polyamorous relationship". We just called it a plain ole threeway. Actually I am not sure of the "poly" since there is no mention of the married woman's husband. If she is in a "polyamorous relationship", it appears to be one in which she is not welcome to stay with her multiple sex partners. OK, we should all feel sorry for her because she has given her child away to pursue hedonism. No way. Her poor child needs protection from her.
Charles Rizzo (Locust Lane)
I can’t even fathom this response. You are really beating up on the stepmother. She said her husband is very sad as well. You’re pointing out that the daughter must be having such a hard time giving up her kid to enter into a multi relationship. Who does that? Multi or not! I don’t mind the advice about not completely cutting the daughter off. I don’t think anything is ever gained in those situations by cutting off your kid as it’s very unlikely to change the behavior anyway. But cut some slack for this poor stepmother. This is a crazy situation. 
Theresa (Stockton, CA)
No. Just plain no. Giving up your child for a relationship is selfish and evil. From experience, I know that the pain can take years to heal. The appropriate response is to seek custody of the child, not have lunch with the parent. At least the child will know that someone cares enough for her to fight for her.
L.Bocchi (Ct.)
your answer made me think that Esther Williams did leave her children for a relationship...she wrote in her auto biography.
JB (Ontario)
For many Chinese people, giving a clock as a gift is very offensive. It signals death. This may be another reason the librarian may have declined.
PDA (California)
Shame on the stepdaughter for preferring her girlfriend to her child. And shame on you for not thinking of the young child. I feel for the child who has been pushed aside.
Callie (Colorado)
Wow! I usually enjoy your answers, Mr. Galanes. But this one was TERRIBLE. You barely even mention the child. There are too many things left unmentioned in the letter, and you do not seem to address them. The role of the child's father? The girlfriend's husband? Above all, who is this "friend " who is now left caring for the child?? I think if I were LW1, I would be concentrating on the child, and perhaps trying to obtain custody myself to protect it. My concern would absolutely not be for the irresponsible step daughter and her married girlfriend.
Francesca Shultz (98040)
If the invitation specifies white tie, a rarity today, then the guest absolutely should wear white tie. A tuxedo—or worse, a dark suit— is certainly not an adequate substitute. If in doubt, call the sponsor of the event.
M.K. Ward (Louisiana)
It sounds like stepdaughter may be on drugs or have some other kind of impairment. Most people would have made arrangements for another place to live when they got to the point of it looking as if they were faced with having the give their child to "a friend" so they can stay in a relationship with a married person. Anyone can lose their job and apartment, but few people wouldn't have had a Plan B for a disaster like that. How is she paying for this nice dinner? Why isn't the child with the grandfather?
To all the people on moral high horses re: question 1, I'm confused: There is ZERO possible benefit to the grandchild in shunning her mother! Philip is absolutely right. Compassion and assistance from the grandparents are the only hope (unless you get off on punishment and cruelty).
Barbara Brady (Northern California)
The granddaughter may be better off with the guardian than with any of these people. But I agree with many other commenters that the advice to try and sympathize with the polyamorous daughter without placing priority on the child is just dead wrong.
LaLa (Westerly, Rhode Island)
I love the fact you pointed out this might be a good time for the stepdaughters daughter to bond with her dad. Patriarchy shames women into identifying only as mothers. I know of women who gave the children to the father for a time and then had the children after a spell. Everyone benefited. Let’s all prop up instead of tear down. Compassion is so important for a good life.
Len (Pennsylvania)
I have been reading and thoroughly enjoying Mr. Galanes's column for too many years to count, and I think for me this is the first time that his sage advice did not ring true for me. He is still batting as close to 1.000 as his advice almost always hits a home run. But. . . for me, not this time. I am progressive in my thinking. If a person wants to enter into a three-way relationship to find love, that's their choice. Who am I to say differently. But the addition of this woman giving up her child so that it will be more convenient for her to maintain her polyamorous relationship just seems so wrong. If it was her dog or another pet, I would feel badly for the pet, but I could understand the decision for whatever the reason might be (allergies, fear of animals, etc.). But her biological child? That smacks of much more than selfishness. More like obsessive blinding need. Both the mother and the daughter will suffer by this decision I fear. The daughter more so by being abandoned by her Mom. And for what?
virginia (nyc)
Regarding the clock gift, in some cultures giving a clock is considered an unwelcome reminder of impending mortality, if not actually hastening it. Certainly not the best retirement gift!
LCD (Chicago)
Why isn't the stepdaughter asking to visit with her child so the grandparents can see the child? There is so much wrong with this whole situation. I don't think the father or stepmother should encourage the daughter's relationship when it's causing her to make such bad choices. The daughter seems to be in a tailspin. The focus should not be on whether or not to have dinner with the married girlfriend but on how to help the daughter regain her footing.
M.K. Ward (Louisiana)
@LCD Exactly. My focus would be on that child. Given to a friend? Why not the grandfather and stepmother? There's so much wrong with this that the question of going out to eat with them or not is just laughable, sadly.
engaged observer (Las Vegas)
LW 1. There is clearly a backstory here that would make sense of what sounds like a very difficult and complex situation. The letter writer seems to have already made up her mind, probably based in part on information not included in the letter. Based on what we, the readers, know maintaining open lines of communication with as much good will as possible sounds preferable to cutting members of the family off. But I suspect there is a lot we do not know about all the parties involved.
Penn (Pennsylvania)
Good for the retiree who's spoken up and asked for cash or a gift card instead of a clock. The person might need the extra cash, might intend to donate it, etc. The clock tradition should have been retired when IRAs came in, IMO.
ebmem (Memphis, TN)
@Penn We don't know that the retiree made a request of the supervisor. It's altogether possible that five years ago she commented that something else would have been a nicer gift for a retiree and the supervisor asked her if she wanted the clock.
M.K. Ward (Louisiana)
@Penn An engaged clock seems to be of another century. Retiree might put that money toward a big trip to celebrate being in this one.
M.K. Ward (Louisiana)
@ebmem @Penn An engraved clock seems to be of another century. Retiree might put that money toward a big trip to celebrate being in this one.
Tina (NH)
Regarding the gift, the letterwriter said the retiree "engineered her own gift." Maybe the supervisor asked what gift would be preferred. Maybe the supervisor personally finds the clocks unappealing, so offered an alternative. Maybe a former retiree made it known that their clock lives in a closet. Maybe lots of things. The LW just needs to quietly decide whether to contribute or not. Above all, it would be bad form indeed for the group as a whole to decide not to contribute to a retirement present because it happens to be gift card and not a clock. Really, this LW needs a hobby.
M.K. Ward (Louisiana)
@Tina It might be that LW has no choice and is peer force marched into contributing. Maybe she could say instead of contributing she will make some homemade whatever to bring to the party.
Passion for Peaches (Left Coast)
The first situation is deliciously complex. And I would not touch it with a ten-foot pole. While I agree with Galanes’s magnanimous answer — acting with compassion and and keeping an open heart are always good answers — I wonder whether he fully understands how difficult that magnanimity could be, for the stepmother. She is stuck in the middle of a situation that is not fully hers to manage. It’s not clear whether the polyamory or the (very strange, in my opinion) handoff of the daughter bothers Stepmom more. And we don’t know how long she has been a stepmom to the daughter (I became a stepdaughter as an adult, and the experience is very different to that of gaining a stepparent in childhood). My reaction would be neutral to the polyamory and the married girlfriend (consenting adults, not my business), but absolutely shocked and disgusted at the abandonment of the child. But that’s just me.
SML (Vermont)
Re LW#1: Yes, the step-daughter may have made some very questionable choices regarding her relationships with her daughter and her lover, but that's not what is at issue here. What is at issue is how the step-mother's decision to cut herself off from any interactions with her step-daughter improves the situation in any way. Coldness, anger and withdrawal will only make things worse. She doesn't have to condone her step-daughter's choices, but she should get off her high horse and keep the lines of communication open, at least for the sake of her husband and step-granddaughter.
Passion for Peaches (Left Coast)
@SML, but it must be emphasized that this is all her husband’s call, not hers. It is for her husband — the father of that child dumping daughter, to decide where the family relationship will go. If her husband wants to get together with his daughter and her girlfriend, or even invite them to visit, the gracious thing is for the stepmom to support him in his decision. But she is not required to do anything more than be gracious. She doesn’t t have to approve of her step daughter’s actions.
SML (Vermont)
@Passion for Peaches Actually, the question posed by LW#1 is not the husband's call. The writer states that she "will not 'double date' with these women at restaurants. I plan to keep myself very busy and otherwise engaged during their visit." and then she asks, "Am I being too inflexible?" Since she is an adult capable of making her own decisions regarding her behavior, she is the one who needs to decide whether her refusal to interact with her step-daughter is helpful or harmful to the overall situation. Her husband's decisions regarding the type of relationship he wants with his daughter are indeed his, not hers, but she seems very intent on trumpeting her disapproval, even if doing so will make the relationship between father and daughter more fraught. She needs to get over herself and realize she doesn't have the main role in this drama. Whether she agrees or disagrees with husband, or disapproves of her step-daughter, she should still be cordial.
Robert (NYC)
L1: I usually agree with Mr. Galanes but he went off the rails on this one. The step daughter abandoned her child to hang out with a married woman? What???? L3: Black tux is fine, but agree if it a “world stage” event, follow the dress code. L4: While it seems a bit tacky for the person receiving the gift to raise it, somebody had to. Obviously very few people want an “engraved clock.”
Passion for Peaches (Left Coast)
@Robert, judging from how many gift questions make it to publication here, Galanes much be absolutely besieged by them. I get it. It seems to me that people have become very crass about gifting (especially for weddings!). Personally, I’ve thrown my hands up on the entire subject of mandatory or “prompted” gifting. Call me a horrible person, but when the instructions for a gift are too explicit, I tend to give nothing. Workplace retirement gifts are almost always unwanted stuff like clocks or desk ornaments. That’s just the way it is. Smile and say, “Thank you.” Gifting outside of work, though, is often a fraught situation. At least for me. I have a relative who sends out professionally printed invitations for events (her child’s birthday parties, for example) to family living in other states. It’s highly unlikely anyone is going to fly in to attend, so I assume that the invitations are just a bid for gifts. But the last one she sent out said something like, “gifts are not necessary.” Really?
M.K. Ward (Louisiana)
@Passion for Peaches I've almost completely stopped giving Christmas gifts because of the lack of interest people had in my gifts, upon which I spent money I could have used elsewhere and time I also could have used elsewhere. I gave someone some valuable antique dishes with bluebirds on them to a cousin who collects bluebird items and the response was "Thanks for the old dishes." A few months later I suggested we stop "exchanging gifts" - what a term! She was especially hard to buy for and never appreciated what I gave her anyway. I gave her the CD of "Devil in the White City" because she likes stories about serial killers and later asked if she liked it and she said "I haven't listened to it. It's around here somewhere."
H (Canada)
@Robert Not tacky at all. I would prefer no gift at all if I had to receive a clock. It is important because the coworkers are pitching in their own hard earned money for this gift. I wouldn't want my money squandered on a gift that would only be given to charity. The retiree is actually being very respectful and polite in organizing a gift she will enjoy.
Morgan (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
She lost her job and her apartment and then gave up her child!?! Where is she living? The child, the child: how is the child? The whole thing sounds real messed up. Forget dinner: EVERYONE should attend some serious counselling sessions together.
Marlene (Rancho Santa Fe)
As have others, I disagree strongly with the call for readers to identify with the "pain" of a parent abandoning their child because of their love for an adult. Huh? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Pam (nyc)
@Marlene In this strange world, she put her kid in custody instead of risking having the court take her child away for being gay. Yes, IMHO, she made the right decision.
M.K. Ward (Louisiana)
@Pam I believe she said the child is with a "friend" of the stepdaughter, not in "custody." Stepmother and grandfather don't seem interested in the child. I didn't like the answer either.
Sundevilpeg (Lake Bluff IL)
@Pam No one has referenced any kind of custody battle in this matter - but it seems the stepdaughter-in-law is veering toward it now by her current actions and behavior pattern of neglectful parenting. And it would have zero to do with her sexual orientation, too.
DavidK (Philadelphia)
Letter writer 1 should ask herself what she wants to accomplish. To stay aloof from immoral people? To force her stepdaughter to change by giving her a frosty reception? Your family has an erring child. The only right move to is show them where they’ve making their mistakes and to support them as they try to correct them. Step one is to maintain a friendly presence in the daughter’s life. Go to dinner with them. Find out what her partners are like and why the daughter is so entranced by them. Once she trusts that you care about her and want the best for her, you’ll be in a position to offer her guidance in getting her kid back and establishing healthier relationships
Allie (Moss)
"Try to imagine the pain your stepdaughter may be suffering to have given up her child, even temporarily, to be with the person she loves.” I try to imagine the amounts of therapy (if the child can afford) the girl will need to cope with the fact that mom dumped her. Even worse, for someone thats not even committed to the mom, isnt the girlfriend married to someone else. Mr. Galanes, I'm a fan but here you dropped the ball. Also, to the grandpa of this child, why is this poor child with someone that isnt even related to her? What a family...
Amy M. (SF Bay Area)
My teenage children and I may get into disagreements, but they know that I will fight to protect them no matter what. Love first, questions later. If nothing else, let the step daughter come home by all means and find out where the grandchild is located! Regarding an invitation with “White Tie”, why not contact the hosting venue to verify what others will be wearing? Otherwise, I’d assume White Tie is a legitimate dress code for the event. Have fun!
Dr. M (SanFrancisco)
Rather than try to imagine the pain of the stepdaughter adult, I'm trying to imagine the pain of the abandoned child. You never even mentioned the child's rights or consideration in your reply. I'm trying to imagine if this is even legal; is the child's father aware of this? The stepdaughter has a lot going on: no job, no place to live; the LW and spouse need to reconnect to assess the situation, if only to do what's right for the child.
M. Morris (Home)
And why hasn’t Grandpa stepped in to get custody of this young child? The fact that the daughter’s new love interested is a married woman is the least of the issues here.
Silvana (Cincinnati)
In regards to LW1, following the reasoning of your response, Mr. Galanes, the father of the step daughter in question would be in the right if he too abandoned his emotional relationship to his wife in order to support his adult daughter who is choosing her lover over her own daughter. No. I do not think that's right. There are priorities and if one is married, one acts in accordance with his or her partner in important matters. The step daughter is an adult who has chosen to abandon her own child. We do not know the full reason for this abandonment, but the pursuit of romance is never justified in this circumstance. I would not support such an adult daughter in any way, shape, or form. Sometimes we have to divorce our adult children for our own well being and the well being of our own relationships.
Dr. M (SanFrancisco)
@Silvana But sometimes we have to put aside our own feelings for the sake of a child, in this case the stepdaughter's child.
Marybeth Kluck (Allentown)
In this case, I believe it it more important to advocate for the child, not for the stepdaughter who is acting like a child. Strongly disagree with the advice offered.
RC (New York)
Seriously disagree with your response and advice here. This woman’s husband to find out why his daughter feels so desperate about this girlfriend that she would give her child up for her..... even temporarily. That’s sick in my book.
mslewis (cincinnati)
I see no reason to show compassion to a woman who is "in love" with an already married woman and has chosen to dump her child to be with that person. I wouldn't even allow that person into my house. Her father can take her and her friend out to dinner, on his own.
Jeff (OR)
“Try to imagine the pain your stepdaughter may be suffering to have given up her child, even temporarily, to be with the person she loves.” Are you serious? A good parent doesn’t do that, they put their child first. Terrible advice, Mr. Galanes. The stepdaughter sounds very narcissistic, and sounds like a person whom it’s hard to have compassion for.
Longue Carabine (Spokane)
@Jeff True. Here, pain has a purpose. It's telling her to turn back and do the right thing.
marija (NYC)
Wow - are we really at the point where any type of screwball hook up has to be accepted as a legitimate relationship?! The step-daughter turned guardianship of her child over to a friend so she can hang out with a married woman? Poor child. And the unemployed stepdaughter is going to treat you to dinner - how nice! No way, no how would I sanction that mess.
Ann (NC)
LW3: "If you're tired of style, you're tired of life." --Carson, from Downtown Abbey
Phil (Ratliff)
“Try to imagine the pain your stepdaughter may be suffering to have given up her child, even temporarily, to be with the person she loves.” Truly bizarre take.
Longue Carabine (Spokane)
@Phil I agree. The pain is telling her to turn back from this mess. Dulling the pain is the opposite of what is needed.
LW1, you married a man who is probably responsible for raising a daughter who would abandon his grandchild (did you raise the girl, too?). Don't blame her entire messed up life (losing her job and home) on her, though clearly she bears some responsibility. Still, what is your pearl-clutching when she visits going to accomplish? Make you feel high and mighty? LW4, what's with clocks and retirement? Are we supposed to count down the seconds till our death or something? Good for her asking for a gift card. I wish she'd asked for a stripper.
WF (here and there ⁰)
@DD Adults have their own minds. Parents are not always responsible for their children's' actions nor can they control them. Granted there are truly harmful parents but how are we to know what the relationship was like in this case. A mother has given up her child and that is awful but why hasn't the family stepped up to help with the child? Why didn't the daughter/step-daughter seek their help with the child?
jcb (portland, or)
These questions regarding social etiquette range from the seemingly trivial--white tie invitations, retirement presents--to the truly consequential--child/step-parent/parent/(and grandchild!) relationships. Regarding the latter (Question #1), the real issue is not the etiquette of a step-mother's reluctance to socialize (not "double date") with the daughter who is in a polyamorous relationship with a married woman. It is how the grandfather/husband can best protect his *granddaughter* from the negligence of his own daughter. This has nothing to do with same-sex polyamory per se, but with the daughter's illogical and self-absorbed (non-) parenting. If I understand correctly, the daughter has a relationship with someone whose spouse (male or female) is willing to share their lover with someone else. Mature adults. No problem. The daughter, however, cannot see her own way to sharing this polyamorous relationship with her own daughter, whose claim to her mother's love and care is prior to and, arguably, greater than her lover's. So she gave her daughter away to a friend "so she could stay close to her girlfriend." We don't know if the granddaughter's father was ever in the picture. But we do know that the grandfather is. Before taking his wife out with his selfish daughter and her lover, he needs to have a private talk with the daughter to find out what makes her tick. Maybe he should ask if she'd like to also bring her own daughter along. First things first.
M.K. Ward (Louisiana)
@jcb I don't understand where the stepdaughter is living. Can you legally just hand over a child to "a friend" without anyone stepping up and saying something? What a mess.
Daisy22 (San Francisco)
You don't need to "love" your stepdaughter, but think her father...your husband. So, she left her child with a friend? How's the child doing?
Tiny Terror (Northernmost Appalachia)
Some weeks—this is one if them—this column reminds me of how absolutely petty people can be. Sigh...
Asher Taite (Vancouver)
I don't get the "I gave my child away to be with my lover" aspect of the first situation in the column. Sorry, but when you have a child, it's for life. You don't get to change your mind when the child becomes inconvenient and you'd rather do something else with someone else. That is just absurd and fairly disgusting.
Bryant (New Jersey)
She abandoned her daughter? Full stop. End of discussion.
Patti Jacobs (San Diego)
"White tie" means "white tie." Them's the rules. If you refuse to play by the rules, stay home.
M.K. Ward (Louisiana)
@Patti Jacobs I think it's ridiculous to celebrate yourself by telling people they need to wear "white tie" to an event you are giving. The nerve. I would congratulate them and stay home in my pjs. Maybe order a pizza.
Joseph (San Antonio , Texas)
Your daughter is a dummy for dating a married person. The end.
Andrew Nielsen (‘stralia!)
“Try to imagine how little your stepdaughter cares” would be closer to the truth. Or, “Try to imagine the pain of your stepdaughter’s child” is probably closer to the truth. But when you said “... to be closer to THE person she loves” (emphasis added) you were on the money. In my view, the correct thing to do would be to do whatever decreases the pain on the daughter.
Josh (New York)
There is nothing wrong with a polyamorous relationship. There is something wrong with abandoning your child.
Lu (Brooklyn)
@Josh I agree. But, there’s a part of me that thinks that the way the question was composed skewed the reality of the situation. It feels like it’s stretching the truth to self sève get self-righteousness.
Longue Carabine (Spokane)
@Josh And here I thought adultery was the one old sin that still had legs in the contemporary world. But no, it's polyamory instead. Before you know it, somebody will say that if all parties consent, it's not adultery. Nah....nobody would say that!
Anne Genendl (CA)
Instead of double-date concerns, I’d be contacting an attorney to gain custody of the step-granddaughter.
M.K. Ward (Louisiana)
@Anne Genendl That's what I would do, but LW doesn't seem to be a good alternative for the abandoned child either. Her priorities are skewed.
Susannah Allanic (France)
to the Stepmother~ The story is your side of the story. It begins by us being informed that not only is she in a same sex relationship, of which you and your husband don't approve, and to make appear even more unacceptable the other woman is currently married. She lost her job, and then her apartment, and gave guardianship to someone she could trust more than you and her father. Most single parents who are about be homeless and money-less would rather take their child to their parents but for an untold reason she didn't chose her Dad or you. It sounds to me as if the Dad is realizing his stance is going to burn bridges and, well, okay you reluctantly agree to go along and make it just about as miserable at possible so as to not encourage this sort of thing in future. Do you want a divorce? Because that is what will happen if you continue to make your husband's daughter unwelcomed. He is her parent, you are woman he married and thus he is the one who has the first and last say regarding his daughter. I think you have done enough damage. I suggest you look at yourself in the mirror tomorrow morning and decide if you are pleased with the person you are about to become.
Tai L (Brooklyn)
@Susannah Allanic Well said! She didn't abandon her child, she gave up custody until she is on her feet again.If I were in this parent's shoes I would not only attend and pay for the "double date," but do my best to entertain the partner so Dad and daughter could bond.
M. Morris (Home)
I am pretty sure that feels like abandonment to the child.
Rachael Horovitz (London)
@Susannah Allanic I wouldn't be so sure about the divorce. Legions of men choose their 'stepwives' over their children. This is one of those questions that makes me desperate for a Social Q television show. How can we just move on from this story?
Mainer (Maine)
What is your goal in refusing to see your stepdaughter with her girlfriend? Do you think your obvious disapproval will change her behavior? If she abandoned her own daughter I doubt missing a dinner with her stepmother will make a difference. This seems different than directly enabling a drug addicted child, for example by letting them live with you for free.
Joan (formerly NYC)
Re white tie: "I agree that a tuxedo or dark suit conveys an appropriate level of respect " No, it just doesn't, especially the dark suit. A "white tie" dress code is very specific. You wouldn't wear an office skirt and jacket, no matter how smart, to something that specified long gowns. He should rent the white tie outfit and enjoy the evening.
Laura (Florida)
@Joan That's what I think. If his friends convinced my husband to wear white tie when the invitation said "white tie" and I convinced him otherwise, and he got there and everyone else was wearing white tie as his friends said, I'd feel like a real worm. It's one night out of your life. Rent white tie.
Kate NYC (NY, NY)
@Joan I so agree. But since you raised the issue of women's choices for formal events, I hope the letter writer knows that ''white tie" also has a meaning for women. It means a long dress. Not cocktail dresses, not pants, but a floor-length dress. White tie is rare these days so it must be a particularly special event. I think it's unfortunate that it's become so easy to dismiss and overrule traditions or formalities, whether it's an engraved clock or white tie. Mr. Galanes used the words "silly" for one and "fusty" for the other. Perhaps to him. But not to all of us. This is how things get permanently dumbed down and why you now see people wearing shorts to funerals.
farhorizons (philadelphia)
Sounds like Lois's husband would be more comfortable going to that party in the white tie that is called for in the invitation. If that is what he's more comfortable with, I wouldn't try to talk him into a more practical decision, especially since the rental fee isn't an issue. It's likely that guests' attire will run the gamut. Then again, suppose the men are all or nearly all in white tie and tails. Just please don't let hubby use the tailor that 'dressed' Trump for his Buckingham Palace dinner. :)
Laura (Florida)
People seem very judgmental of the stepdaughter in L1, and the way it is presented by the letter writer, I would tend to agree... BUT, this lady is not the stepdaughter's biggest fan... I would hate to hear the way my MIL characterizes or ascribes motive to my actions... maybe we shouldn't take it for granted that she "gave up" guardianship "for her married girlfriend." And just give advice from the perspective that we don't necessarily know what's going on in the custody situation.
HLN (Rio de Janeiro)
I just cannot empathize with anyone who would abandon their own child in order to be with a partner. I wouldn’t want to be around that person or socialize with them. Come on, people! No one in real life is so understanding of others that they never choose who to socialize with. There are people we simply cannot accept in our lives.
Leaving (Las Vegas)
@HLN But isn't that exactly what the letter writer's husband would be doing (abandoning his child) if he chooses to side with his wife rather than go to dinner with his daughter?
Denis Pelletier (Montreal)
L1: There are so many missing details to L1 that it is easy to jump to attribution and blame. Philip is advising compassion. I suggest seeing them but at home, and listen, first. Even thinking of addressing these matters in a restaurant is bizarre, unless the home is a fraught setting. This is not a “ date”, it is a family-plus-intimate conversation. The polyamory is not the issue, it is the parent-child relationship, the precarity re stepdaughter ‘s job and financial situation, and what she hopes to do with her lif
raine (terra incognita)
Q4 Methinks the coworker does not wholeheartedly like the retiree. Why would you gift junk (my opinion of an engraved clock) which adds to more useless things to rid of later? Why not ask what the retiree would prefer, use, treasure and present this instead? Maybe a vacation or another experience, which can be paid for by currency, rather than clocks.
Just the Facts (Passing Through)
@raine I cannot agree more. We have enough useless things in our lives. Look at all the articles on how to declutter and downsize! Let alone the impact of all the manufacturing, packaging, shipping and wrapping of the item!
Mary Ann (New York)
@raine. You can't even return the clock. It is engraved. You can't regift it, it is engraved.
Rosemary (NJ)
@raine I suspect a vacation costs a good deal more than an engraved clock.
For the white tie question, see the 2014 Met Gala. There are a certain group of people who know Tom Brady best as the guy who thought he could wear a velvet smoking jacket to a white tie event. Yes, there probably will be others in tuxedos but there will also be people who will know that black tie is not white tie (probably everyone there who had to look up what to wear). Leave it up to your husband as to whether he feels like following or taking liberties with the dress code.
pschwimer (NYC)
White tie means white tie. It doesnt mean you can wear whatever you want. A tuxedo is not white tie no matter how you look at it. White tie does not mean dark suit. If the invitation meant that a tuxedo was acceptable it would have read " formal attire". It didnt. It read "white tie". End of story.
Longview (Oregon of course)
The stepmom should leave her husband for such an abysmal lack of character. If he wants to coddle his adult daughter who puts her impulsive fleeting approach to adult relationships in front of time with her daughter, then he is part of the problem, and likely a share of its origins. Go spend time with serious and truly engaged and caring people.
cruiser (NYC)
Here comes my bit of close-mindedness. I'm out as soon as someone picks a love interest over his or her own child.
Rider3 (Boston)
She gave up her young daughter to stay close to her married girlfriend? That tells me a lot of what kind of person she is. I'd stay clear of her. If her father wants to rekindle the relationship, that's his business, although his grandchild was given away. So, i you don't want to go, you don't have to.
Gare59 (San Francisco)
A polyamorous relationship involves more than one partner (minimum three), thus the prefix “poly”. No mention of a third partner was made. Perhaps the letter writer is confused. I’m surprised this was not pointed out.
Bratschegirl (Bay Area)
The polyamorous triad is the married couple plus LW’s stepdaughter. It is not necessary for the stepdaughter to be involved with both wife and husband for this group to “qualify” as polyamorous, although there certainly are poly relationships that work that way.
More And More (International)
The third party was known to the people involved in the “poly”. The letter writer knows the woman who is involved with her step daughter . It’s an open marriage and everyone can date to whomever he/ she wants .
Ben (NJ)
I find it fascinating how so many commenters choose to fill in “the rest of the story” (to borrow the late Paul Harvey’s clever tag line). There is so much we haven’t been told about the woman in the polyamorous relationship. The fact is that our Saintly columnist (not sarcasm. His capacity to hold out hope for folks who seem at first blush to be downright evil is a wonder to behold) is IMHO giving great advice no matter how we fill in the details of this story. A dinner or two holds the hope of productive communication between Father and Daughter. A chance to gently guide the lost soul toward a better outcome. A chance to improve the outcome for the grandchild. One thing is certain. It can’t get much worse with communication than it already is without it.
person of interest (anywhere,usa)
@Ben the father owes his granddaughter, not his daughter, at least one dinner to clarify the grand daughter’s whereabouts and her safety. The step mother need not be monkey in the middle. There’s far more afoot than meets the eye in this letter.
Ben (NJ)
@person of interest Dear POI...I surely agree that there is far more afoot than meets the eye, but I guess my point was that no matter what "the rest of the story" is, there is likely nothing more to be lost, and possibly much to be gained by establishing, or re-establishing some communication with the daughter in order to try to change the disastrous course upon which she is clearly embarked, for her sake and for the sake of his granddaughter. I do think there is a supportive role in facilitating this communication for the Step-mother short of, as you say, "monkey in the middle". To be quite frank, my comment was really meant as a tribute to Galanes. Sometimes when I read these letters of inquiry my first reaction is to be outraged at some selfish, horrible fool and am hoping for Philip to tear into the bad guy with some eloquent vicious put-down. Like here, I thought the daughter sounds like a truly evil person who is apparently walking away from her child for some prurient pursuit doomed to destroy her own and her daughter's life. But as always happens, Galanes takes a breath, leaps to no conclusions about anyone, and does the absolutely right thing....recommends taking the chance to give the Dad an opportunity to save his lost child and grandchild. I don't know anything about this man Galanes; but he seems to possess more basic human decency and kindness than your "average bear."
S.L. (Briarcliff Manor, NY)
Everyone does not have to accept what they consider immoral behavior just because some people in society practice it. Being polyamorous is adultery to many. Parents, or in this case a stepparent, do not have to accept the immoral or amoral behavior of a woman who chooses a lover, who is essentially unavailable, over her child. If she is such an uncaring parent, perhaps it is better for the child to live with someone else. The stepmother should not go to dinner with the stepdaughter and one of her lovers unless she herself was involved in breaking up her husband's first marriage. This is a moral issue and she has a right to judge.
More And More (International)
Step mom , try your best as a host while they are at your house. Let her and her girlfriend go out with her father, they have a lot to talk about. I think it’s better if you stay behind, but if they insist then that’s a different story, then go and try to keep the conversation as light as possible. For example, this winter is so odd, we hardly get any snow ...! But if you see the alone time won’t happen, encourage them to have it. I’m a single mom that worried to date when my son was young , I didn’t want anybody came close to him or between us for that matter.
Lisa (Auckland, NZ)
Concerning the retirement gift: how about asking people to donate the money collected to your favourite charity, and just give you the signed card? That's what I asked my workmates to do when I left my long term job recently. I suggested to my extended family a dozen years ago that we no longer buy birthday or Xmas gifts for the over-18s. To my surprise, this suggestion was adopted with enthusiasm. Instead, we each take special food and edibles (eg. expensive, specialty cheeses) to share on these occasions. Our consumerist lives are awash with things, stuff, items, the flotsam and jetsam of our lives, yet we keep accumulating more. Reducing clutter is a major concern and big business in the western world. There's so much stuff out there that you literally can't give it away any more. The Heart Foundation in London, England, told my friend there that they would charge £500 (not dollars, pounds sterling!) to collect her donation of a household of nice, clean, sturdy furniture for their thrift shop; a second-hand furniture dealer offered to charge only £275 to take it away. Here in Auckland, NZ, thrift shops everywhere have signs out saying they can't take any more donations- they're overwhelmed with what they already have. So we help ourselves and the planet, too, when we find polite ways to "just say no" to this crazy, relentless obligation to give and receive gifts.
Asher Taite (Vancouver)
@Lisa I couldn't agree more. I always ask my friends to please not bring gifts when they come to my house for parties (although they know wine is okay), and for the same reasons you raise. My husband and I have everything we need, and on the odd occasion when we need to replace something that's worn out, we prefer to select whatever it is ourselves. When I do get the occasional gift, it is almost always inappropriate (a scented candle that will exacerbate my asthma, pierced earrings that I can't wear because I am allergic to anything I try to put in my ears, clothes that don't fit me), and I quickly give it away, which makes me very sad at the trouble the giver went to, the unnecessary expense, and the plastic/fossil pollution involved in its production. I too only give wine or edibles; these, I figure, most people will enjoy or can easily pass on to a neighbor. I hope more people get the message.
MM (Boston)
@Lisa Very interesting about the thrift stores. My neighborhood has a listserv through which we exchange (or lend) many things. I find it rewarding to find good homes for unneeded items and have also received some great needed items, such as a large brand new suitcase for my child heading abroad.
Eileen (Ithaca NY)
Ah, retirement gifts...I wanted neither a gift nor a party, and so my co-workers asked about a planting in my honor in lieu of a gift (in this case, a cluster of lovely lilac bushes) and I was delighted. Then, at the annual end-of-year picnic, I turned the tables and gave each of the members of my department one special item from my work - a book, paperweight, fountain pen, picture, etc. that was meaningful to me and I chose each in hopes it would be meaningful to them. It was the perfect way to say goodbye after 30 years.
Leaving (Las Vegas)
@Eileen This is just perfect.
richard wiesner (oregon)
"You get what you get and you don't get upset." That goes along with another gem, "Everything I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten." Then I had to relearn it many times along the way.
April (NYC)
LW1: I don’t think any of the commenters have considered that the step-daughter may be coming to her parents with her girlfriend to talk about the situation with the granddaughter and not just as a casual social get together. It’s completely possible the girlfriend is more stable and is pushing to facilitate a much needed conversation. It’s possible the girlfriend is going to provide support for a difficult conversation or ensure the conversation happens. I wouldn’t assume the women left the child for a lover. For all you know the women had a breakdown and her partners arranged to take care of her and arranged a safe place that was less disruptive for the child and are now trying to arrange a meeting with the extended family for help. They should meet, listen and figure out what is going on. The priority should be the child. The rest is between consulting adults and is just noise.
@April Interesting that you mention a possible breakdown, because I was suspecting that the step daughter may be mentally ill. She sounds really unstable. And in need of support and connection, not isolation. Thanks for what you wrote. Take care.
Longue Carabine (Spokane)
@April Consenting adults? The thing with the child shows this daughter is being exploited and manipulated.
music observer (nj)
The situation with the step daughter is complicated. From the tone of the person writing in, though, it sounds to me like the step mother doesn't approve of the step daughter being in a relationship with a married woman ( I assume this isn't an affair, that the husband of the GF knows and is part of the poly equation) or maybe even a woman, rather than the situation with the daughter. When she says "I won't double date with them", it turns something that others would see as a family dinner into somehow cover for the two women or worse, in the writer's eyes, "legitimizing the relationship". Sure, as parents/step parents, we can be wary of our kids choices and things we think are mistakes, but in this case what would be gained by snubbing the step daughter and the girlfriend? Is the thinking that showing they don't approve will 'bring the girl around?" Will it make the situation any better with the daughter/grandkid? With family dinners, how many of us have gone to them when we couldn't stand someone a sibling was dating, or the cousin's wife, or the loudmouth uncle who makes everyone uncomfortable with crude behavior but we still went. The point here is that going out with the step daughter or not isn't going to 'make her come around', it isn't going to change the situation, and by blowing her off you could damage whatever relationship you have with her or her daughter, not to mention the husband.
Nikki (Islandia)
I would be very uncomfortable with the stepdaughter and her married lover. I wonder if on some level the stepdaughter is looking for approval of her "polyamorous" relationship with a married woman. If so, I would not give it, and I'd tell my husband why. "I would never cheat on you, and I can't respect someone else who would cheat on her husband, regardless of who she cheats with. It shows a lack of character and a person who can't be trusted." In an attempt not to make the husband pick sides, I would try to keep the blame on the lover rather than the stepdaughter (she's not mother-of-the-year material, but absent more information I can't be sure whether her child's living situation might actually be better than being with Mom at the moment), and hint that this woman might not have his daughter's best interests at heart. If he wanted to socialize with both of them under those circumstances, that's his right, but I agree with LW1 -- I'd be otherwise engaged.
Pam (Skan)
@Nikki, it appears you misunderstand the term "polyamorous," which denotes a sexual relationship among multiple adult partners, all of whom consent. All are aware. All are consenting. No one is cheating.
Martin (Palm Springs, CA)
I think that stepmom may not quite understand the complexity of the situation nor may she understand the subtleties of her several roles. First, we lack several important bits of information: how did she come to be the second wife, death or divorce; how long has she been the second wife; for what fraction of the step-daughter's life has she been the step-mom;for what fraction of the step-granddaughter's life has she been the step-grandma? All of these additional facts and the complexity of her intersecting roles impact the advice we might give. With respect to her husband, it seems to me that her primary role is to be supportive of him in his relationship with his daughter. At bottom, it's his daughter and it's his daughter's interaction with her father which are critical. With her step-daughter, it depends whether the granddaughter was given up due to the housing insecurity or the current love interest. What sort of relationship does step-mom have with step-daughter and what sort of support is step-daughter looking for? Given that it is my theory that step-mom/step-grandma's primary role is to be supportive of her husband, it follow that she should be urging her husband to inquire about the well-being of the granddaughter. Step-daughter's head may be in such a tumult over the housing and job situations that she is not thinking straight. Thus, IMHO, Dad should take his daughter aisde, find out about her daughter's situation, and then we can all talk further.
S. Spring (Chicago)
An engraved clock does seem like a rather anachronistic gift (sorry). We purchased a very nice non-monogrammed purse at a designer boutique for a recent retiree, and included a receipt for exchange. Turns out, she used it—to get the same purse but in a different color.
Second generation (NYS)
I have much more compassion for the polyamorous woman's daughter than I do for her or her partner(s) or the writer, for that matter. This girl is going to go through her life knowing that the one person who was supposed to love her unconditionally just couldn't do it. The effects of that realization will probably not be positive, to say the least. Our children should be the only beings in the world that we can never, ever stop loving and they should always come first-- because they're children.
Cathy Welker (Annapolis)
I agree! I usually agree with the columnist but do not have sympathy for the “pain” of the step daughter. Parents should not give away their children to pursue love affairs. Period. That poor kid.....
Marie S (Portland, OR)
@Second generation My thoughts exactly!
I don't know if I could bring myself to engineer my own retirement present, but in a situation like this, I'd be tempted. What a terrible idea to give retirees a clock! You might as well tell them to start counting the minutes.
Nikki (Islandia)
@MP Agreed it's not a great choice. I wonder if it started as kind of a feminine equivalent (the library world has always been and still is majority female, though that is changing slowly) of the gold watch many mens' jobs presented them with on retirement.
Larry (Oakland)
@Nikki No thanks on the gold watch either!
Ivy (CA)
@MP I had a lover who objected to the college-crested rocking chair they wanted to give him as a retiree!
M.R. Sullivan (Boston)
I worked at a university that gave employees a fine clock after 25 years of service. When I was offered a job elsewhere after 24 years, my boss reminded me that I would receive a clock if I stayed another year. A senior professor stopped by my office, handed me her own engraved clock, and said "go." I enjoy our clock. The retiree might be relocating or downsizing and not want more objects.
MM (Boston)
@M.R. Sullivan Ha! I believe I work at that same university. My clock is under the bed, should you want a second one.
AP (Astoria)
The query about the retirement gift seems ridiculous - why would you be offended that someone gets a gift they actually want instead of a traditional one they don't? Think about the actual point of the gift and work backwards from there.... For the polyamorous stepdaughter...I appreciate Philip's thoughts on compassion, and generally I lean toward that, but a lot would depend on how much focus the stepdaughter is spending on getting life straight for her and her daughter. I don't judge this specific relationship, but it should not be the primary focus of the stepdaughter's life right now if she's lost an apartment and given up guardianship of her daughter. I think if LW1 is judging the SD, that might be coming into play.
Joan (formerly NYC)
The "girlfriend" is married. The stepdaughter gave up her young child so she could stay close to the married girlfriend. I understand completely how the stepmother feels. However, for the sake of her grandchild I agree with the advice to have them over for dinner and otherwise leave the door open so both the stepdaughter and the grandchild will have a way out of this mess.
Madeline Conant (Midwest)
L1--We're worrying about going out to dinner when the granddaughter has just been given away to "a friend?" I think grandpa needs to get his priorities straight and make sure his grandchild is ok. Let's see how the writer feels about raising her step-granddaugher. L4--What do you care what gift the retiring co-worker gets, as long as the money spent is equal? Maybe your co-worker is experiencing financial hardship and needs the money. I don't think it is "grabby" not to want a decorative clock.
Susannah Allanic (France)
@Madeline Conant I don't own a clock in the entire house. I know I own 2 watches but have not one single idea where they are. My husband was awarded a very nice watch with a notable name at an awards ceremony last year for a title you would not be interested in I know where it is, in his sock drawer. I put it there so he could find it whenever he wants it. So far he has shown it to no but me, he has never worn it. He thinks the money would have been better spent on a scholarship perhaps. That is because he thinks a watch is about as useful as tits on a boar. Everyone has a cellphone, everyone knows the time. Here in France you will see clocks on Church Towers that were built during the 1500's. It creates an eyesore where there should not be one. If I were to discover someone was going to give me watch I would simply say "I'm not comfortable with that. Would you mind donating the money to Shriner's Hospitals for Children in my name instead? If people who gifting money for this 'present' don't want their money to be used in that manner they are perfectly acceptable to withhold funds and not worry about any gift at all."
Marie S (Portland, OR)
@Madeline Conant Yes! The granddaughter is the Number One priority in this scenario.
Michael Blazin (Dallas, TX)
The impact on the stepdaughter does not really matter here. If the wife’s husband wants her to go, the wife goes. If the husband says no or doesn’t care, she does not go. The step-daughter is not an underage child that needs support from adults. A grown step-daughter is not automatically part of the wife’s family, particularly one where wife did not know her before she came of age. Her relationship to wife is solely woman friend to woman friend, but could be more, if husband wants it to be. Does she call the wife Mom or by her first name? I assume the latter or the issue would not have arisen.
Shelly (New York)
Do you really think people (or more likely women) are required to do everything their spouse wants them to do?
Pam (Skan)
@Michael Blazin You're seriously saying the husband decides whether his wife attends the group dinner? And that his wishes determine what relationships occur among the women involved - "solely woman friend to woman friend, but could be more, if husband wants it to be"? What century are you posting from?
Dr. M (SanFrancisco)
@Pam I don't think Michael's post is sexist. He is pointing out that the father /parent get to decide how to connect with his daughter and his spouse should support that. The wife/ stepmother should not interfere with their relationship, based on who the daughter dates. Her distain is revealed by the "double date" snark - it's not a date, it's family, and the welfare of a child is involved.
Andrew Nielsen (‘stralia!)
There is an intergenerational thing happening here. Parents refusing to see their step/daughter. Stepdaughter refusing the desperate grandchild. The best way to support the grandchild would be to support the stepdaughter, I believe.
gm (Vermont)
I usually love Galanes's advice but in L1, I'm still worrying about that child -- who's been left with a nonrelative. Sure if a parent is destructive and the social workers step in, sometimes you need to place a child elsewhere. But polyamory aside, if I were the letter writer I would feel very concerned about stepdaughter's level of responsibility for and commitment to her child and her choice to prioritize a lover over that child. In my world, that's a no go -- unless the parent is incapable, destructive, and child needs to be placed elsewhere for his or her own safety.
Christine (Lenox, MA)
L1 - As a parent, I know would really struggle to find compassion for someone who willingly put a romantic relationship ahead of custody of their own child. I would just never ever understand that.
LisaLisa (Canada)
@Christine I’m not a parent but as a former child I—of course—would struggle to find compassion for that person as well.
Demelza (Monroe, NY)
There is something so wrong about the sentence: “Try to imagine the pain your stepdaughter may be suffering to have given up her child, even temporarily, to be with the person she loves.” Does she NOT love her child? No one forced her to “give up” her child, she did so willingly. I can imagine NO circumstance in which I would leave my child. The pain we should be empathetic to is this poor child’s.
Shelly (New York)
I can imagine circumstances where I would leave my child - going to get medical treatment for something life threatening, needing to leave for work with no options to work nearby, a family emergency... To stay with a lover who doesn’t want to move to be with me? No.
Ann (California)
@Demelza-The step-mother indicates she's fairly current with the stepdaughter's life--but hugely uncomfortable with the request. It may be too soon to be introduced to a new partner. Ideally, dad would step in and say "I want to see you and catch up on what's going on in your life. I've been worried, and would like some father-daughter time together. Can we meet your new partner later, after you and I have caught up?"
Marie S (Portland, OR)
@Demelza Yes! Sorry, Philip, you missed the mark entirely with that sentence. You need to hold the stepdaughter accountable.
Pecan (Grove)
A clock? Eeuuww. To add to the heaps of old engraved clocks? Each hour wounds. The last one kills.
Liz (Dallas)
I think the term "Double Date" shows a particular view of the situation. "Family Dinner" is just as accurate, and a lot less loaded. Hopefully, the writer can re-frame the nature of the dinner in her head.
It’s About Time (In A Civilized Place)
For white tail/ tuxedo. Last week I attended a black tie event in NYC that honored a Supreme Court award recipient. More than a thousand people attended. Dress ran the gamut from dark suits, tuxedos to all-black ensembles. Women dressed in everything from work clothes to gold lame evening gowns. Believe me, no one will be looking at you and your husband. A tuxedo is fine. Everyone, after all,will be there to honor the awardee.
Ellen Tabor (New York City)
@It’s About Time I disagree. If the invitation specified White Tie, that is what he should wear. If it said Formal, then his tux would suffice. (I know “formal” is not a designation but you get my point.) White tie is highly specific and therefore should be acceded to. The King of Sweden would insist. I hope the guest has a medal or two to add to the ensemble.
Larry D (Brooklyn)
Luckily there is no way I will ever be invited to a posh awards ceremony. What a relief.
Kristin (Georgia)
White tie is also the dress code for Mardi Gras balls in Mobile (not sure about other places). So it may not be as out of the ordinary as this makes it sound. If they had meant formal, they would have said so. If you’re in doubt, you can confirm with the host, but really, this was clearly intentional and it’s incredibly rude not to comply with the dress code the host has set because you don’t want to be bothered.
RLiss (Fleming Island, Florida)
LWI; what about the child the stepdaughter "gave away" to promote the relationship she's having? I can't handle that and wouldn't support it in any way!
Seabiscute (MA)
If LW #1 sees this as "double-dating," maybe it is the aspect of being seen in public that is bothersome to her. If that is the case, she could host the dinner at her place -- get takeout food for less fuss. No one would see them, and her husband could get some time with his daughter.
Eli (NC)
@Seabiscute I can understand that she would not want the married lover in her home. I sure wouldn't.
KKnorp (Michigan)
You meed to be there for your abandoned grandchild first. But do everything you can to keep the lies of communication open with your daughter because when her situation (which sounds predatory) crashes and burns she needs to know there is a lifeline available.
Rupert (Alabama)
Good lord. Giving up guardianship of your child so you can be near your married girlfriend is not okay. NOT OKAY. What has become of us that this is even debatable?
Annie (Pittsburgh)
@Rupert - Perhaps where we have come is to a realization that trying to punish people whose behavior we see as being against our own principles and beliefs but who have not done anything wrong to us ourselves can lead to disastrous outcomes. In the larger society, it leads to intolerance and bigotry. In a family situation, it can lead to an estrangement that does no good for anyone. Imagine if the situation with the daughter becomes worse and she needs to find someone else to look after her child. Her feelings might well be, "no, I can't have her live with my father and step-mother. She hates me, won't even go out to dinner with me. She would poison my daughter against me." Maybe the reason the child is with a friend and not her grand-parents now is the fact that "in the past, we've refused" to let the daughter and girlfriend even visit. Yes, sometimes it is necessary to draw the line when a family member is doing something harmful, but in this case, any harm that is being done is to the child and making the relationship with the daughter as uncomfortable and difficult as possible is exactly the wrong way to help her.
David Weintraub (Edison NJ)
@Annie "Who have not done anything wrong to us" is a strange way to say abandoned our granddaughter".
Annie (Pittsburgh)
@David Weintraub - As much as they may love the granddaughter (and I actually find that questionable), the abandonment is NOT something done to either the step-mother or the father. If anything, the fact that they, in the past, refused to let the daughter visit says that they had little concern for the granddaughter. else why would they keep the mother of the granddaughter at arms' length? Admittedly, there's a lot we don't know here and have only the step-mother's perspective and interpretation of the situation, but I don't really see any true concern for the granddaughter. Did the LW even mention any interest in finding ways to establish a relationship that would benefit the granddaughter? At least in what was printed, she only talked about her own indignation that the daughter had given away guardianship and then self-righteously defends making the relationship with the step-daughter even more distant and difficult--all on her own behalf, not the granddaughter's.
HaroldS (California)
"Try to imagine the pain your stepdaughter may be suffering to have given up her child, even temporarily, to be with the person she loves." She didn't give up the child to stay close with her girlfriend. She gave her up because she is unemployed and sounds like she'd otherwise be homeless, and clearly is prioritizing her girlfriend over being a mother to that poor kid. While the comment about not being an antagonist might be generally good advice, the rest of this response is almost insane. If you can't be more concerned about the pain the abandoned kid is going along with their health and welfare over that of the mom's decision to not do everything in her power to get her life in order to help her daughter and instead choose to be selfish and focus on her relationship, you have no right to lecture anyone on empathy - or for that matter write columns like this. Just terrible.
Anonyma (NE)
This isn’t about double dating. This is about family. You accept and support them if you can. I get that stepmom disapproves of stepdaughter’s choices. But to columnist’s point, her role here is to support.
Laura (Florida)
@Anonyma Sometimes a role isn't to support, but to point to a principle that the other person should get back to. Like, prioritize your own child's wellbeing over your romantic relationship with a person who is married to someone else.
Kevin (New York, NY)
I totally understand the issues LW has with her stepdaughter. But framing a dinner where you meet your daughters girlfriend as a "double date" is kind of bizarre to me.
Yikes! Who leaves their child to be with their girlfriend? The polyamorous relationship is a non-issue for me. I would try to stay close to the step daughter so you can support the grandchild in anyway just in case she asks.
Tolstoy (19th century Russia)
@SG Anna Karenina, sort of.
Laura (Florida)
@Tolstoy And it tore her apart.
Maria (Fredericton NB)
Brilliant response! Karenina! That’s who!
NDV (West Coast)
Letter 1: The advice is incredibly narcissistic: Give up a child for whom you are responsible for and who didn't ask to be born - for a personal relationship is revolting. I didn't do it my dog and the last ten years taught me the wonders of caring for those who trust in you. Her daughter will now have to reconcile an untrustworthy parent with love and responsibility - what a shame.
local (ny)
I had a different reaction to LW1. The writer seems to make the assumption that the stepdaughter sent her daughter away to a friend so that she could be with her lover. But the previous sentence stated that she lost her job and apartment. That is incredibly destabilizing to that child. If the stepdaughter could not give her a home or financially support her, perhaps it is in the child's best interest to have guardianship with a close friend. We don't know how temporary this arrangement is and how long it will take to get back on her feet. That issue seems entirely separate from the upcoming visit & the stepmother's distaste for going out in public with the women. To me that smacks of her discomfort with their lifestyle and her fear of being seen in public and being perceived that she approves of it.
NSH (Chester NY)
@local Well of course we don't know. It struck me too that she may have given up guardianship so that he child had a stable place to live. However, why then is she not trying to get a job and a place to live near the child as opposed to the girlfriend? Does the girlfriend live somewhere she can't afford? It's odd. And why not guardianship to dad? There is a lot of missing info. But if indeed she chose lover over child, I'd not want to see her either.
Nikki (Islandia)
@local I don't see why she shouldn't have discomfort with their lifestyle -- the lover is married to someone else. It has nothing to do with homosexuality, it has to do with cheating. I wouldn't care whether the married lover was male or female, I don't respect people who cheat on their spouse. It could be that the spouse is okay with it, which makes it slightly better, but in my book still creepy.
AP (Astoria)
@local losing job and home is incredibly destabilizing....wouldn't losing the mother be more so?
RC (Brooklyn)
Regarding the clock as a gift, my family is Chinese from Singapore and my mother and grandmother have always told us not to make gifts of clocks and watches because it's bad luck. In spoken Chinese, it sounds like that phrase for attending a funeral. It's possible that the co-worker is superstitious.
Longue Carabine (Spokane)
@RC Do not ask for whom the clock ticks; it ticks for thee.
rose (atlanta)
I sympathize with the stepmom. I understand her discomfort given the complex situation the stepdaughter has put herself in. I would tell my husband, I am happy to meet with our stepdaughter alone and give her a chance to be with us and share her life and concerns so we can better understand how she feels and what she is doing. It seems manipulative on the stepdaughter's part to insist on having her married girlfriend along perhaps as a a way to normalize and get approval from parents.
pschwimer (NYC)
in letter 1: it seems to me that the real problem is the fact that somehow the child is now living with a non relative so that Mom can do her thing with a married couple. Sounds to me like Father and daughter have alot to discuss without step mother. By and large, step parents should be their step childrens best friends. If they cannot do that, they should limit their interaction to a level they can achieve. Sometimes that means the parent deals with their own children by themselves.
shep (jacksonville)
I am less concerned with the stepdaughter in Letter 1 than I am with the well-being of her child. That child should come before all others, including romantic interests. I would have great difficulty holding my tongue in the presence of someone who failed to put her child's needs over her own wants. While I agree that kindness is the best path, I also believe we do others no favors by pretending we find their behavior acceptable. I spent years overlooking the boorish behavior of a relative. Time and again, this individual disregarded the feelings, needs, and property of family members. I finally had enough, and made my feelings known. I wish I had done so years earlier. Freeing myself from the toxic person's presence was fantastic. As Kesha sings,"Sometimes in life, you get what you give, but there are some things only god can forgive." We are not required to endure bad behavior, no matter what. If the LW cannot forgive her stepdaughter for what appears to be abandoning her child, she should not be required to pretend otherwise.
VL (Kentucky)
@shep I too would be concerned about the priorities of someone who thoughtlessly abandoned their child for a romantic partner. However, the relationship between the LW and the daughter seems quite strained, so I question whether the LW is sharing the full story and/or understands the true motivation behind the daughter's actions. She writes the daughter just lost her job and apartment. Perhaps the guardianship decision is a temporary one made out of necessity and was the best living situation for the child, rather than a selfish choice to prioritize romance over parenting. Without knowing all the details, I think the given advice to be the kindest host possible is warranted. It sounds like the daughter is reaching out to her father for some support at a difficult time. This could be a good opportunity to get to know someone who is clearly very important in their daughter's life and perhaps also mend some fences.
Re Nervous Friend: Sometimes we have to separate work from friendships. If resuming the job would be good financially or because you enjoyed the work, then go back but set aside the hope of patching things up with the coworker. I would reach out to the former boss, express a wish to go back and mention that you don’t want the falling out with the colleague to be a problem for anyone. It’s great to enjoy coworkers’ company, but what counts the most is that you can work together. Good luck.
Robert Triptow (Pahoa, Hawaii)
It is "anti-gift" to insist that a gift recipient accept a particular present, especially a home decoration like a clock. The idea of a gift is to bring pleasure to someone, not to inflict one's tastes. Decorating for others is usually a mistake. This is why we always look the other way when someone exchanges a gift.
Laura (Florida)
@Robert Triptow When I buy a gift for my daughter that will go in the kitchen, or take up room on a wall or shelf, I ask her first. I also tell her that she is free to re-gift anything I give her. This is why. You don't reach into someone else's home and decorate it for them.
LW1: It sounds like the step daughter is in a really bad place and needs some positive influence in her life. I would meet with her and demonstrate concern and love, rather than indifference and disapproval. It may be too late for her to do right by her own daughter, but this woman’s life still has hope. Good luck.
RLiss (Fleming Island, Florida)
@NM : what about the child the stepdaughter "gave away" to promote the relationship she's having? I would not act in a way that seems to support that.
@RLiss I too would not support abandonment of a child. From personal experience of having worked in the worlds of foster care and residential placement, I know how complicated these situations can be. And if a parent cannot live up to their responsibilities towards a child, sometimes in the long run it is better for the child to be under someone else’s care. Never an ideal situation or one to treat lightly, though. Thank you for taking the time to reply to my post. Best regards.
MAEC (Maryland)
I also work at an office where a clock ad various other gifts are given at anniversaries. We are usually asked in advance how we want to be feted so maybe she simply said she didn't need a clock and this was offered to her as an alternative?
DY9219 (Minneapolis)
@MAEC Also possible that co-worker is Chinese where giving a clock signifies you wish death to that person
N. Cunningham (Canada)
Kind of hard on the step-mother when the concern she has seems clearly to be the step-daughter is in a polyamorous relationship and appears to want to involve her and her husband (step-daughters father) in it via ‘double dating’. And i that’s the case, the advice is off-base. Surely in non-traditional relationships like that, all partners need to be ok with it, without coercion or pressure or it won’t work. And having a daughter/father involved in arrangements, that’s surely inviting potential trouble.
Katy (Sitka)
@N. Cunningham A couple of misconceptions here. Double-dating isn't a poly thing, it just means two couples going out to dinner together. It doesn't imply that the two couples are romantically involved with each other, just that they're friends. Going out for dinner with your daughter and her partner, however, is not generally considered double-dating, it's considered a family dinner. So it's weird for the letter-writer to use that term and be so very resistant to the idea of a dinner together. It seems likely that she's so freaked out by the idea of polyamory that she's reading an attempted incestuous pickup into a harmless dinner invitation.
RLiss (Fleming Island, Florida)
@N. Cunningham : what about the child the stepdaughter "gave away" to promote the relationship she's having? I can't handle that and wouldn't support it in any way!
ExPatMX (Ajijic, Jalisco Mexico)
@N. Cunningham I'm not sure that having a daughter invite her father and step mother to dinner with her partner is a double date. It seems to me that the daughter is trying to bridge a gap that has formed in the relationship. I have a granddaughter who classifies herself as polyamorous. I can't say that this pleases me but it isn't about me either. If she and her partner invited me to dinner, I would go and enjoy the company and the meal. Her sexual orientation is not my business.
Talbot (New York)
"In the past, we’ve refused. But my husband is softening to the idea..." It's his daughter. I wonder what this letter would look like if he'd written it. If my daughter were in the situation your step daughter is in, I would be far from thrilled. But I would never refuse to see her. Please have some compassion for those who are closer in this than you--your husband and his daughter.
RLiss (Fleming Island, Florida)
@Talbot : what about the child? I could never "support", in any way, a person giving up a child to promote a "relationship"......
Annie (Pittsburgh)
@RLiss - But just how does it help the child if the LW goes ahead and shows her disapproval by refusing to socialize with the daughter and her girlfriend? It might feel good to make a show of one's disapproval of such a weird situation, but I don't see how it does anything whatsoever to make a bad situation better.
LCD (Chicago)
@Annie It might help the daughter see how off the rails she's gone
Chandler (Boston)
I would be much more concerned about the "pain" of the abandoned grandchildren than of the mother. She left her child and she's dating a married person - it makes sense to me to not participate. I don't get the impression the LW is trying to interfere with the father but merely not getting mixed up in a mess another adult made.
Ms Wargo (North Country)
@Chandler Yes, but...if making nice at dinner is a way to keep a potential bridge to the grandchildren open, I think it's a necessity.
Bokmal (USA)
@Chandler Agree. Also, if I were you, I would be open to the stepdaughter visiting without the married "girlfriend". This would show your openness to her as an individual.
raine (terra incognita)
@Chandler Exactly! In the past PG has given the advise that parent and child meet up to bond, alone, without needing witnesses. This witness stepmother needing to go against her own beliefs and values, guilted almost into coercion. Why? Why do we need to bend over backwards to accommodate someone who places 'self' first, at all times, over and abover her own child in this instance? Why not focus on the grandchild more, who for me is the true victim here, left out by her own mother.
Me (New York)
For white tie/tuxedo, I'm not sure that "nobody would care" what he is wearing. The award winner might, and I don't think any protestations otherwise are necessarily to be believed. My general thought is if you accept an invitation, you accept the rules that go along with the invitation. If the invitation says, "white tie," and there are no financial considerations, go in white tie, or don't go. I'm curious why Lois and her husband are so resistant to that.
maybemd (Maryland)
@Me Agreed. This is not a general party where the focus would rightly be on everyone having the best time. This is an awards ceremony, and whether or not it is "on the world stage", the gathering is meant to honor not just the efforts of this term's recipient of the award, but the award itself, all its previous recipients and those who come after. If the invitation says white tie, then please honor the wishes of the organizers or stay home. Anyone who is invited but cannot afford the proper dress should contact the organizers for assistance and guidance.
Corky (From Chicago)
@ Me. I agree with your assessment and would add that wearing one’s existing tux but perhaps purchasing a white tie (bow or regular knotted tie) would be a nice gesture. A quick Google search will yield many formal ties at various price levels.
Pecan (Grove)
@Me A man might not want to wear a suit that has not been tailored for him. A suit that hundreds of men have worn before and infused with their perfume, their odor, etc. Slick and shiny. Sleazy. Peplum. (Donald at Buckingham Palace?) Imho, no one should be asked to wear rented clothes. If he doesn't own the proper outfit, buy one or stay home.
See also