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Tell Me About It | by Carolyn Hax

Friend's generosity brings mixed feelings

Friend's generosity

brings discomfort

Q. I have a guy friend who's always very generous. Every time we go out, he gives the credit card well in advance to the waiter, so I don't get a chance. Even when I have my friends with me, he pays for everything.

I don't want to seem like I'm taking advantage, so I don't invite him out as often. I buy him a gift as a thank-you, but I feel like his generosity outweighs what I get for him. What is the best way to return his generosity?

Too Good to Be True

A. Someone who goes that far out of his way to pick up every check is inviting people to take advantage.

Not that you should, of course; you're right to reciprocate. However, it's not about protecting him from the abuse of his generosity. That's his responsibility. Your duty is to keep the friendship from getting so out of balance that you feel infantilized.

If your gifts aren't sufficient, in your opinion, then make it clear it's a matter of dignity for you to be able to pay. Think about it: Your current strategy for acknowledging his generosity includes avoiding him. That alone suggests something is off.

Being son's grandma

is getting really old

Q. I am a 41-year-old mom to a 3-year-old boy. Less than a year ago we left D.C., where "older" moms are routine, and settled in an area where, apparently, most women become mothers in their 20s.

Consequently, I have been asked — four times now — whether my son is my grandson. This mortifies me and I truly don't know how to respond. The first time I was shocked. The second time I was hurt. The most recent time I was defiant, telling someone in no uncertain terms that he was MY SON.

Yes I know I shouldn't let such remarks bother me. My own mom tells me there is "no way" I look like a grandma. I'm wondering if you have any advice for how I could respond if (when) someone asks again, and what can I do to not let these comments bother me so much?

Mom, Not Grannie, in PA

A. Look at it this way. If you looked 40-something, these people would be so sure you were the grandmother that they wouldn't bother asking.

What else can I tell you. As a member of your species (same age, children of similar ages), I can appreciate that it's no fun to feel like a zoo exhibit. That the zoo patrons are rude makes it even worse; certainly it's nobody's fault if someone mistakenly refers to "your grandson," but asking you what your relationship is to your son is a deeply rude and personal question. Hard to keep brushing those off.

But what choice do you have? You can't stop people, unless you want to print "Yes, I'm his mother" on T-shirts. You can't turn your odometer back.

You can put the rudeness and futility to their best use: humor. There's plenty here. "Actually, it's my sister's nephew." "No, he's my grandmother's great-grandson." "I don't have grandchildren." Confuse and conquer.

Or, just conquer. In your kindest voice, turn the question back on the zoogoers: "Why do you ask?" It's a zing without rancor.


Friend's generosity brings mixed feelings

05/20/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 20, 2008 9:49am]
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