Must We Make Your Stepfather’s Coronavirus Sickness a Political Issue?

My 24-year-old son and I bicker constantly over politics. He thinks I’m hypnotized by Fox News. I’m not, but I’m not impressed by his knee-jerk liberal positions either. I never doubted our love for each other. But when Covid-19 came, he began accusing his stepfather and me of not taking the virus seriously. (We’ve always followed our state’s mandates.) Now, my husband has become seriously ill with the virus. And my son has been nasty about it: blaming us and saying, “I told you so,” rather than helping me or being sympathetic. I am devastated. What can I do?


I’m sorry for your troubles: both your husband’s illness and your son’s inability to rise above the politics of a virus that never should have been politicized in the first place. Let me suggest an approach that may be helpful to you now and ignores partisanship (at least temporarily).

At 24, your son is still very young. He may benefit from some last-ditch parenting. If you have the energy, tell him: “Honey, we can fight later. But right now, I am hurting and scared. I need help from you and kindness.” He may snap into shape, whether that means running errands for you or checking in with solicitous calls.

If your son can’t put aside his anger (or possibly, his fear of losing you), put him aside for now, as hard as that may be. Focus on taking care of yourself and your husband. If there are others you can ask for support, call them. You can go back to your son later, but don’t invest more scarce energy in this conflict now.

And please be safe! This is a harrowing health crisis. Still, many government officials have minimized its danger and provided mixed messages about how to protect ourselves. That is not your fault. And from here on, follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the doctors treating your husband. I wish your family the best of luck.

Credit…Christoph Niemann

We relocated to our second home in a rural area. My daughter visited and noticed a Black lawn jockey statue on our elderly neighbor’s lawn. My daughter was offended and, frankly, so are we. But the neighbor is a friend. I don’t know if she placed it there originally or if she even understands its significance. Any ideas for handling this?


Hot take: Many of us have taken to internet shaming and social media blocking like fish to water. It’s easy, but accomplishes little. At the same time, we studiously avoid briefly awkward, civil conversations with friends, though they can actually make a big difference.

You like the woman next door! Go to her and say: “We love having you for a neighbor. Would you consider removing the lawn jockey from your property? It’s a racist caricature, and we hate to see it.” She may refuse; it’s private property. But if you’re not even willing to ask, how much does that lawn jockey really bother you?

I am subletting an apartment in New York. The contract with my roommate provides that I can leave after 30 days’ notice. But we made an oral agreement that I would stay until the end of the year. The pandemic has changed my situation, though. I am working remotely until 2021 and have moved back to my parents’ home. I know the rental market is bad, and if I leave, my roommate may be unable to rent my room. (Also, he probably can’t afford the whole rent himself.) My parents think I have a moral obligation to remain in the sublease. I’m not so sure. You?


Your signature suggests you already know the answer to your question. Let’s put aside the enforceability of your oral agreement; you haven’t provided any details. I assume you don’t pay rent to your parents, and your salary has remained the same. So, paying your roommate, as agreed, leaves you in a neutral position.

Here’s a solution that may work for both of you: Tell your roommate that you’re leaving the apartment, but you will continue paying rent through December — unless he replaces you sooner. You can even help him look for your replacement! Your decency may inspire him to act as diligently as safety allows.

I have hosted a friend for dinner four or five times. I cook and encourage guests to bring beverages of their choice. This friend has long made a point of wanting to reciprocate once she moved into a larger apartment. Finally, she did and invited us to dinner. We went, and she sent a Venmo request for payment the next day. I don’t want to be petty, but I am outraged. Help!


Two choices: Ignore her ridiculous Venmo request. Or thank her for it and tell her you will credit her bill against the much larger tab she has run up at your place. (Then drop the matter; this is not worth tangling over.) Hosts can make whatever kind of invitation they like, but the terms must be clear beforehand.

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

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