I am a single mom with a young son. Because of the pandemic, I had to postpone a necessary (but nonemergency) surgery. My doctor thinks I should have it now. I plan to leave my son at my sister’s house for a few days. The problem: Her husband is an avid hunter, and I’m scared of leaving my child in a house with guns. I have no reason to think my brother-in-law is careless with them, but the fact that I’ve seen his rifle indoors worries me. How should I approach this issue? I’m already asking for a favor. How difficult am I allowed to be?
I’m sorry, but you are thinking about this all wrong. Your job is to keep your son safe, not to placate your brother-in-law. Guns are inherently dangerous, as evidenced by thousands of accidental shootings every year. And keeping your stress level low after surgery is probably important for your recovery. So, let’s talk this out.
If a secure gun lock or safe would give you any comfort, ask your sister or brother-in-law how and where they store his guns. And don’t be shy about it: “Can I see the setup, please?” Be honest with yourself, though. If the mere presence of guns in the house makes you uneasy, skip this step. Storage information won’t help you.
Level with your sister, instead: “I’m really afraid of the guns. Is there any way you can stay with my son at my house?” If she agrees, thank her profusely. If she doesn’t, move on to different candidates. Maybe your parents can help you out, or a friend?
I get that asking for favors can be tough. But you will create more trouble for yourself in the long run by pretending to be OK when you’re not. A moment of awkwardness now is nothing compared to the worry you may feel later by having agreed to an arrangement that — rightly or not — makes you uncomfortable.
The Couple That Doomscrolls Together …
My boyfriend and I moved in together a few months ago, a first for both of us, and we’re still getting used to spending time together that we’d normally have spent alone, free to scroll, watch TV or zone out. But my partner is addicted to an endless loop of Twitter and Instagram. I’m not sure how to tell him it’s hurtful when he stares at his screen the whole time we’re in bed, watching TV or at a restaurant. I’ve tried to bring it up, but he counters, “You’re on your phone all the time, too,” which feels defensive and dismissive. Any advice?
Every story I know from the annals of cohabitation includes a few bugs to be worked out at the beginning (especially now, during a pandemic, when many couples are spending much more time together and have fewer safe outlets away from home).
You don’t say whether your boyfriend’s assertion that you’re also on your phone all the time is true. But I’d embrace it as truth. It may help him feel less defensive. Respond: “You’re right. Let’s work out some times when we both put our phones away and focus on each other.”
Eliminate screens at meals and when one of you asks for undivided attention. Maybe agree to scroll during TV shows, but not in bed? I’m not the arbiter here, though. You have to negotiate this with your boyfriend. If he refuses to compromise at all, that’s a bigger problem, and graduates you from advice columns to couples’ therapy.
My dear friend of many years, whom I speak to every day, insists on giving me a rundown of her bathroom habits. I have told her more than once that I don’t want to discuss the subject, and I try to steer her in other directions, to no avail. What do you suggest?
Most readers will simply assume your friend is gross. But if she’s really a “dear friend” and you speak every day, she must have some lovely qualities, too. So, you’ve asked her not to broach a subject and she’s ignored you. Fine.
For the next week, in deference to your long friendship, interrupt her the second she raises the topic: “I don’t want to discuss this.” If she continues to disregard your request, after a solid week of shutting her down, the call is yours: Do her good qualities outweigh further reporting on her digestive tract, or would you rather call these conversations quits?
What, No One Eats Anymore?
I entertain often. Increasingly, guests who show up refuse all food. I serve healthy and tasty fare. And I don’t care whether people eat or not — I just don’t want gobs of leftovers. Is it now a thing to be too cool for food?
To my knowledge, people are still eating. But as coronavirus cases rise in most states, it seems sensible for guests to skip communal dining in favor of consistent mask wearing. As for avoiding leftovers, why not let your recent experiences guide the amount of food you prepare?
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.