I am a queer high school senior and the daughter of evangelical Christians. I have kept my sexuality secret from them. During the pandemic, I got lonely, so I started chatting on L.G.B.T.Q. message boards. Unfortunately, I was careless with my browser history. My mother saw it and freaked out. She made me swear I’m not a lesbian. I did. My parents are also making me talk to their minister every week. If I don’t, they say I will have to leave home. They also threatened not to help with college costs next year. (They’re not kidding.) So, now I’m lying to their minister too. I hate this! I like to think of myself as a good person. Should I come clean?
Right now, when the power differential between you and your parents is so great and the threatened consequences of honesty may harm you so badly (and unfairly), the truth is a luxury you can’t afford. Keep lying! You are not a bad person.
You are trying to survive your parents’ bigotry over an immutable part of your identity. For now, focus on safety: keeping a roof over your head and staying in school. When you are able to support yourself, decide how forthcoming you want to be with your parents. (Their views may change.)
Remember: You didn’t choose any of this. And self-preservation is nothing to be ashamed of. Over time, you will see that heartbreaking numbers of L.G.B.T.Q. young people are forced into the same nasty bind as you. Look after yourself and keep an eye out for people whom you can talk to safely. If I can help, please get back in touch.
Written in the Stars
I received an email asking me to rate customer service at my car dealership. My experience has not been good. Despite our state’s mask mandate, many people do not wear masks indoors, including public-facing staff and other customers. When I spoke to the manager, he first said I was mistaken. Then he said he was unwilling to confront customers about masks. I gave the dealership one of five stars and explained why. Now, the manager has asked me to change my rating. He said my review will cause him to face a pay cut next month that he can’t afford. He told me I will receive another email asking me to rescore the dealership. What should I do?
Before we get to the manager, let me take a swipe at the dealership’s ridiculous, albeit common, practice of reaching out to reviewers. The point of customer surveys is to assess and improve service, not to hassle customers over their honest responses. Don’t change a word!
Now, as for the manager, he seems to want it both ways: He refuses to ask customers or employees to wear masks (though he could do so easily by referring to your state’s mask mandate). And he wants you to bear needless health risks silently. I’m sympathetic to the new challenges of service jobs. But this manager is way off base. Maybe a financial hit will encourage him to rethink his approach.
‘Young Lady’? Really?
I just turned 67 and feel pretty good about myself. I look like a healthy older woman. So, why do men smirk when they open doors for me and say things like: “Here you go, young lady”? Do they think I don’t own a calendar or a mirror? The last time it happened, I felt terrible about myself for hours. How to respond?
Your encounters are so steeped in sexism and ageism that I doubt a snappy comeback will help you much. It’s galling that these men feel entitled to comment on your age, albeit in cutesy fashion. But the fact that you give male strangers the power to make you feel bad about yourself “for hours” is equally disheartening.
The next time this happens, be straightforward: “You realize you’re calling me ‘old’ by calling me ‘young lady,’ right? I bet you don’t do that to men.” But your bigger takeaway, I hope, will be that the only person whose opinion about your appearance matters is you!
Tipping the Teacher
My youngest grandchild is bright and loving, but he struggles at school. At 6, he sometimes hits other children and has tantrums. His parents and teacher are working hard with him. But I learned recently that his parents give his public-school teacher a monthly cash gift because my son doesn’t think teachers earn enough. Is this right?
Your son’s heart is in the right place. Most public-school teachers are underpaid. Still, most districts have rules about gifts to teachers. And there are good reasons for these rules: Parents shouldn’t feel pressured to give, and teachers shouldn’t feel bribed.
Let’s assume, though, that your grandson’s teacher and parents know the rules in their district. Do you really want to insert yourself in the sensitive issue of your grandson’s behavior problems? Rules are important. But no one asked for your advice here.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.