It’s Tuesday, time for me to solve all of your life’s problems.
But before we do that, let me remind you that you can now gamble in Tennessee — and Michigan and Virginia very soon too. So if you live in any of those three states plus New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, or Colorado, you need to go sign up to gamble on sports right now. If you do, you’ll bet up to a $1000 free wager with no risk at all. So go sign up today.
As always, the mailbag relies on your questions. Send your anonymous mailbag questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, anonymity guaranteed.
Okay, here we go:
“I’m a 20-year-old college kid. My mom freaks about COVID and how dangerous it is but still goes out and lives her life. In fact she was told to quarantine by the school she works at due to contract tracing and didn’t because she knew she wasn’t really exposed.
Over the two month semester break I want to go to Florida and rent an Airbnb with my high school friends and she won’t let me because ‘it’s too dangerous’ to travel, especially to Florida. How do I go about convincing her to let me go even if I pay for the whole thing.”
Your mom’s logic doesn’t make a ton of sense to me here. She’s fine with you being in college for the fall and spring semester — which requires some degree of travel — but not fine with you also being away with friends during the (longer than usual) winter break?
That doesn’t make any sense.
Fortunately, you’re old enough now to make your own life decisions. In fact, since you’re twenty years old and an adult, you have the right to make the choice you see fit, regardless of what your mom thinks.
But before you make a final decision, you have to consider four questions here: 1. How independent are you now? 2. How independent are you willing and/or able to be? 3. What will your mom do if you don’t listen to her? 4. What do you think the long-term impact of your relationship with your mom will be if you don’t listen to her about this issue?
All of these questions are intermingled in many ways, but you need to think them through before you make any decision.
First, you say you’re in college. Does your mom pay for all or most of your college now? If not, then your mom doesn’t really have much control over your decisions. But if she does pay for all or some of your college, then she has a decent amount of control over your actions. So you need to analyze this component.
While it would be a fairly harsh move on her part, it’s possible she could decide to cut off paying for your college because you defied her wishes in this situation. Do you think she would be willing to do this? Has she made threats like this in the past?
So you need to consider that as a part of the decision you make.
Finally, you need to figure out what defying her wishes does to your relationship with her going forward. In other words, how likely is she to hold a grudge in this situation and how could it impact your relationship with her in the months and years ahead?
I don’t know the answer to all these questions, but given the choice between sitting at home for two months during the middle of the winter and living in a house with my high school friends in Florida, I’d definitely pick living in a house with my high school friends in Florida.
“In today’s world, is it still necessary to ask a girl’s dad before asking to marry her or is it too old fashioned? I’m going to propose in the next few months and have thought about this part of it. I have a good hunch he’ll just say it’s not his decision and she can do what she wants.
So is this an outdated ritual, or should it continue?”
This isn’t really a question about whether asking a girl’s dad is an outdated ritual or if it should continue in the years ahead. It’s a question about whether you, in the next couple of months, should or should not personally make the choice to ask your girlfriend’s dad for her hand in marriage.
You aren’t making a larger societal decision, you’re making a personal decision in your own life.
And here’s my question back to you: is there any harm in doing it?
As a general rule, if there’s no harm in doing something and it could have a potential benefit, I’d be in favor of doing it.
So let’s analyze your situation in particular.
If you ask her father for permission to marry his daughter and he says it’s not his decision, what harm have you done by asking him?
(You don’t mention your fiancée’s opinion here, but since you didn’t, I think it’s fair to presume she’s not going to be outraged by the idea either.)
So if your analysis of this situation is correct, your decision to ask him for his permission will have no impact at all.
But what if you’re wrong? What if your father-in-law is old fashioned in this regard, expects you to ask, and you don’t do it? Then he could hold a grudge against you for not doing it, which could harm your relationship with him.
So I don’t see that you lose anything at all by asking.
In fact, I’d suggest there’s likely to be far more of a benefit here than a detriment.
Of course, when you ask for permission like this, there’s always the possibility that her father says no to you, but would that stop you from getting married? Probably not. It’s not like you are truly asking him for his permission to marry his daughter and then going to listen to him if he says no. This is really just a common courtesy, a way of acknowledging the importance of his role in your future wife’s life.
In past decades, a long time ago now actually, fathers had the power to stop their daughters from getting married. That’s no longer the case, of course, which is why I think this just gives you an opportunity to have a private conversation between the two of you. He may have advice or suggestions for you that could be helpful going forward, and he may be interested in setting up a relationship with you in the years ahead.
Which is why I just really don’t see a negative here.
Granted, I suppose there’s also the possibility that if your future father-in-law really hates you, he could go to his daughter and tell her in advance that you’re planning a proposal and he thinks she should never marry you. But if that happens, you have larger issues at play here than whether or not you asked for permission to marry her.
Honestly, I just don’t see any harm at all in asking this question.
I asked in advance when I got married and if I had girls instead of boys, I’d expect their future husbands to ask me as well. Would I be furious if it didn’t happen? No. But given the choice, I’d like to be able to talk with my future son-in-law about his decision to propose beforehand.
And if my boys ask me one day whether they should ask their future father-in-laws in advance, I’d counsel them to do so.
And I suspect that’s the position that most dads still have in this country.
Which is why I’d still ask if I were you.
“One of my older brothers got married and recently moved to a northeastern state. We are close with him, so we’ve put up with his wife even though she is not very likeable. They moved about a year ago, and my nephew/godson was born right before the COVID hysteria hit.
My parents were able to see their grandson the week he was born but not since. This is their first grandchild. We had a trip scheduled in July, on the condition that we drive there, a two-day drive, to avoid being on a plane. In July, his state designated our state as a ‘hotspot,’ and threatened fines against travelers. After that news, my brother was afraid that if we didn’t get the trip in soon, then it would likely be a while until we’d get another chance to visit. However, shortly after he told us this, he and his wife had met with their doctor to discuss the trip. Apparently, their doctor got into their heads (or hers at least)– they changed their terms so that we could still come up, but only if we wore a mask in the house with them, did not hold the baby, did not leave anywhere, and quarantined before. We were not too keen on going after they pulled that on us– wearing a mask at all times inside his house is pure insanity, and babies aren’t at risk from COVID. My parents decided to simply tell them politely ‘maybe it’s best if we wait, we wouldn’t be able to live with ourselves if we gave one of y’all COVID.’ The trip got put on hold.
Fast forward to now. My brother has been a bit cold towards my parents lately. My mom suspects that he is upset that we weren’t willing to drive all the way up there just to see him and their child (despite their other draconian demands). A few weeks ago, my brother told them that he and his wife had ‘discussed things’ (note: anytime you have a brother and he says he has ‘discussed things’ with his wife, what follows is generally bad), and they had decided that they could let us fly up to see them in December, as long as we quarantined for two weeks before the trip and were super careful during the flight. We told them it would not be feasible to quarantine for two weeks– we had jobs, etc. that did not realistically allow for it. Instead we agreed to make a good faith effort to social distance ourselves before the trip and be extra careful on our flights. They accepted. There is a plan in place now (just like there was in July), but the feeling is still a bit tense.
Now, I am highly skeptical that in 4 weeks the situation up there regarding the push for more lockdowns and whatever media narratives that are the flavor of the day won’t have simmered down. His wife has bought in hook line and sinker to the false COVID narratives, and I’m afraid he’s been duped as well. I fear that they will change things on us again. Since I’m pretty close with him, I was considering broaching the subject with him, for my parents’ sake and my own. I think they have handled it well, but they won’t speak candidly with him and say, for example, that they are statistically far more at risk from COVID than him, his wife, or their 10-month-old, and that if he is upset with them about this then it’s his own fault. I do wish to see my godson, but I’m not interested in traveling there if everyone is going to be walking on eggshells the whole time while I’ve got real life obligations that I’d be sacrificing. Me and him have never spoken about this issue, but we speak regularly and are on better overall terms than my parents right now. My relationship with my brother means more to me than my godson, obviously, but I’m also not going to be a pussy and put up with spending 4 days with him and his wife if they’re going to be weird about it. Normally our family gatherings are pretty enjoyable, but this feels different. Am I overthinking things? Recommendations?”
First, it’s not really your responsibility to get involved in the relationship between your parents and your brother, his wife, and their new baby. I understand why you think it might be, but it really isn’t your relationship to manage.
Having said that, your parents being able to visit the house BUT NOT HOLD THE BABY is such an insane rule to put in place I would refuse the trip out of principle, if I were your parents. I can only imagine how much this has to frustrate your mom who managed, after all, to raise two sons and keep them safe to adulthood. So I would imagine she probably thinks, rightly, that she can safely visit her grandchild.
What’s more, all of the data reflects that YOUR PARENTS are far more in danger than the baby, your brother, you or his wife are. If anything, your parents should be the ones implementing rules and demanding behaviors be met in order for the visit to take place. The fact that they, despite bearing most of the risk, are making none of the demands, in my opinion, makes them saints.
As if that weren’t enough, mandating a two-day drive instead of an airplane flight is pure madness.
Again, the danger from a traffic accident is more substantial to your parents, by far, than the danger of your parents getting this baby sick with COVID.
If I were them, I would be extremely frustrated by this ridiculousness.
I’m not a grandparent, so I can’t know for sure how desperate your parents are to see their first grandchild. But at this point, a part of me would just want to call off the entire trip and wait until there are vaccines. Not because I’d fear any danger, but just because this doesn’t feel like a remotely enjoyable holiday visit at all.
My general rule is the people without the young children should travel for the holidays, but what’s the harm in your parents opening up their house and inviting your brother, his wife and the baby to come visit them when they feel comfortable doing so? Again, all the data reflects your parents are the people in the real danger, not the baby.
Plus, this baby is now nearly a year old.
Having said all of this, I don’t think this is your business. This is a decision for your parents to make. If they want to make the trip, I’d take the trip and play the good soldier. Even if it seems pretty clear that the details being insisted upon by your sister-in-law are absurd and insane.
Good luck to everyone for the holidays. They are going to be a mess for many.
Thanks for reading the anonymous mailbag — sorry I was a bit late today. We have a lot of moving parts behind the scenes right now — I’m off to do TV now.