How Can I (Kindly) Tell People to Wear Masks in Public?


NORA

I’m sorry you mistook a “serious” relationship for one that was permanent (or might yield great-granddaughters). That doesn’t always happen, as you now know. The ex is under no obligation, other than a sympathetic one, to return gifts that were freely given to her. Givers retain no ownership in gifts.

But perhaps a call from you to the ex about the sentimental value of the jewelry may help? When something similar happened in my family, my mother agreed to buy back the heirlooms. (She was furious about it, but she did it.) Is that possible? And next time, think twice before handing over a tiara you intend to take back if circumstances change.

My brother and I were estranged for 15 years. The pandemic helped us break through our silence. Now, he has invited me to his 60th birthday party in September, which would require a six-hour flight. Obviously, I’m not getting on a plane now. How can I preserve our relationship? (He’s sensitive.)

SISTER

I’m sorry the pandemic threw a wrench into your reconciliation with your brother. Call him and say: “I’m so happy we’re talking again! I missed you. If there was anyone I would get on a six-hour flight for, it’s you. But I can’t do that safely now. I hope you’ll understand.” Then send him a thoughtful gift, cross your fingers and keep talking. It’s not as if you have a sensible alternative, right?

For the last four years, since I was 9, I went to summer camp with my older brother in August. We love it. This year, after making many rules about masks and social distancing, our camp announced it would reopen. But my parents aren’t letting us go. They don’t think it’s safe. Can we add your name to the list of people protesting our parents’ decision?

AUSTIN

Permission denied, camper! I’m sorry you’re disappointed. But I suspect the low adult-to-kid ratio at camp would put too much pressure on you to behave responsibly all the time. (And if my math is correct, you’re only 13 or 14.) Instead, use the leverage of your parents’ guilt to persuade them to buy you some nice swag or adopt a dog.


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





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