My mother-in-law puts my kids all over Facebook.

God help me, my mother-in-law has discovered Facebook. She puts pictures of my kids on it all the time, whenever my husband sends them to her. But she doesn’t know how to do the privacy settings and it creeps me out that there are possible strangers looking at my children online and commenting on them. She is also friends with people she barely knows. Am I being overprotective? How do I ask her to be more careful?

My mother-in-law is on Facebook, too. The only questionable thing she’s ever done is comment on my son’s Halloween costume picture; he was dressed as a pirate and she said he was cute, but that pirates are terrorists. I’m not sure if she was joking or taking the opportunity to make a stand against pirates, but I didn’t ask.

You, however, shouldn’t let it go if you’re uncomfortable. The easiest way to ask is to say, “Hey, Judy, I noticed that your Facebook photos are all public. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with just anyone being able to see the kids. Do you mind if I help you change your settings so that only your friends can see them?” (See how easy it is to be straightforward and honest?)

As far as how overprotective you are, I don’t know. I’m not sure I see the harm, but I think it’s all about your comfort level. I know a woman whose son is on a national TV show, and she doesn’t seem to mind that is face is all over the place all the time, so Facebook doesn’t seem like a huge deal. What’s going to happen? I don’t know any statistics and am too lazy to look them up, but are there really any kids who are stolen or stalked because their pictures were on social media? Are your mother-in-law’s friends commenting and saying things, “Hey, those kids are cute. I’m going to kidnap them!” or are they saying things like, “Congratulations on your beautiful family!” That might give you a clue as to how worried you should be.

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My mother’s cat is an asshole.

My mother has a really mean cat. It is about five years old. It has attacked people and sent them to the emergency room, and causes all of the trouble but gives none of the rewards of having a cat. My mom is elderly and has dementia, but is still living at home with assistance. No one wants to go in the house with this cat, though. What is my responsibility to the cat? Should I try to give it away? Will anyone even take it? A shelter would be a death sentence and I don’t know if I can do that. I feel responsible toward my mother and her feelings for the cat, but I don’t think it can stay in her house.

My friend recently killed a cat (by accident) with her car, and when she told me, I felt bad because she had to deal with the people who owned the cat, but really, my first reaction was, “Who cares? Cats are assholes.” And when she informed the owner’s roommate that she had run over the cat, the roommate said, “That cat was a dick.” So. I’ll try to be objective.

Your mom’s cat sounds particularly terrible, and clearly shouldn’t be living in a house with an elderly person anymore, especially considering her health problems and the people coming in and out of her house during the day. Getting sued by a mauled home healthcare worker is the last thing you need right now. If you really won’t take it to a shelter, which is probably what you should do, you have two other options. Either place an ad on Craig’s List advertising just how terrible this cat is, and hope that some whacked-out crazy cat lover will see it as an opportunity to save a dead cat walking, or keep it yourself.

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My sister won’t visit me because of Ebola. Which I don’t have.

I bought my sister plane tickets for her birthday, for her and her kids to come visit me. Now she’s saying she won’t come because she is too afraid to be in an airport and doesn’t want to expose herself and her family to Ebola. How can I change her mind? I’m also mad because it’s wasting money I spent on the tickets.

Funny. It’s a sister-travel kind of morning; I just told mine I wanted to come visit her, and now she’s suddenly claiming she’s going to be “out of the country” that week.

There’s nothing you can say or do to change your sister’s mind, but I have a technique for getting people to do what you want without them even knowing it, and it’s going to change your life. Here are a couple of scenarios when I used it, and totally got my way.

Scene 1

Me: I think we should re-do the kitchen. We need all new appliances, and the countertops are ugly, and it’s a dark and depressing pit of despair where I spend 95% of my waking hours.

Husband: No. I don’t want to.

Me: Great. I’ll call and get some estimates.

(six months later, we have a lovely new kitchen)

Scene 2

Preschooler: I don’t want to go to school and I’m not getting dressed and I’m going to eat my cereal with only my face and no hands or spoon!

Me: Okay.

(cereal is eaten)

Me: Look, now you’re all wet from milk, you silly kid, and there’s a Cheerio stuck up your nose. Let’s put on some dry clothes!

Preschooler: Fine but I’m NOT GOING TO SCHOOL.

Me: Okay.

(kid is changed and put into car and taken to school)

Do you see what I did there? I just said okay, and moved ahead as if my husband had said, Sure, let’s get a new kitchen!, or my four-year-old had said, I can’t wait to get in the car and go to school! So just agree with your sister that Ebola is terrifying and we’re all going to get it, and that only the wisest, most sensible people know to avoid leaving their houses for any reason whatsoever. And then a week before she’s supposed to arrive, tell her you got tickets for a show or made a reservation at a great restaurant, and then a couple days beforehand tell her you spruced up the guest room and the kids even put a chocolate on her pillow because they’re so excited to see her. She’ll come see you. You’ll make it happen through sheer will. No worries.

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I tooted at work and someone heard me.

I work in a dentist’s office. I ate a roll of Mentos Mints today and got terrible gas at work. I had to go downstairs in the storage area to let it off. It was a long, loud fart and it didn’t stop for a long time. When I went to go back upstairs, there was one of the doctors, standing in the kitchen doorway, laughing. I ran so fast upstairs and told my friend and coworker Candy what happened, and she laughed so loudly I had to shush her. I came home early today because I couldn’t face him. What do I do? Apologize or excuse it later, or pretend it was me pushing a box across the room? I need advice…I don’t want to get fired.

As a person who has never, ever passed gas, I’m unable to answer this question from personal experience. I do have a friend, though, who has had two painfully excruciating experiences with accidental public gas-passing, one of which involved a CCD class which my–I mean her–father was teaching, and she was in high school and there were boys in the class who told everyone in the entire school, and then 9,000,000 people knew about it, and it was possibly the worst moment of her life. I do believe she changed her name and moved to Kansas. The other time, it involved some college hockey players, the sorority dining room at formal dinnertime, and I think that time my friend just disintegrated on the spot, leaving a little pile of dust on her chair. It was very sad.

I don’t think you can get fired for passing gas; in a medical office, even one involving teeth, one would think that bodily functions would be at least tolerated, if not embraced! I think in this situation, you have two options. The first is to hold your head high, pretend it never happened, and move on with your life. Be audacious: look the doctor in the eye with boldness and confidence. And if Candy ever brings it up again, pretend like you have no idea what she’s talking about. The second option is to make a joke out of it, own it, and buy whoopee cushions for everyone in your office. 

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I don’t want my husband to move his parents’ furniture.

My in-laws are moving and they asked my husband and his brothers to help them get rid of some furniture by moving it from their home to a consignment store. My husband is not very fit, he does not work out, and he earns a very good living and supports our family. We are happy and comfortable in our life and I am afraid that if he hurts himself moving this furniture it could affect our life and his ability to support his family. Chancing a back injury from moving this old furniture so my in-laws can make some money from it doesn’t seem worth it. I am sure my sisters-in-law feel the same way about their husbands. 

I want to call them and get together as a united front to tell my husband and his brothers that they should pay a moving company or hire someone to move the furniture. I am afraid though that my husband will get mad at me for interfering. He and his brothers are happy to move the stuff. I just feel strongly about this. Should I say something?

If your husband and his brothers were jumping out of an airplane with their pants on fire and a rabid gorilla on the parachute behind them, I would say, Sure. Go ahead. Point out how this could potentially be risky. 

But moving furniture? I hate to brag about this, but I have superhuman powers, where as soon as my husband and children leave the house, I become some kind of hulking beast-woman who can move a three-part sectional all by myself to a different floor of the house. In normal life, I make my husband take out the garbage because a full Hefty bag is too heavy to carry out to the driveway. This appears to be genetic, because one time I saw my mom pick up a piano with just her pinky.

Your husband isn’t going to get hurt. His brothers aren’t going to get hurt. You only get a few opportunities in your life to raise a major stink involving all of your in-laws, and I don’t think you should waste it on furniture transportation. Save it for the time your brother-in-law tries to book you all a family reunion at a nudist resort. I think you’re feeling resentful about the move, or about your husband’s parents asking him to do something, or about them not paying for movers, or whatever.

Don’t make a fuss over this. It will stress your husband out over something not worth another thought. I would even go so far as to suggest that you make a potato salad and get some beers, and invite everyone over for a little cookout after they finish moving the stuff. Have a nice family day. Everyone’s going to be fine.

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My friends might be tacky.

I invited some friends over to hang out and swim last weekend. They said, we will bring some food, and brought cheeseburgers to grill and buns. Then they said, you owe us $20.00 for your share of the food. It was so awkward and tacky! What would you do?

I would say, “You owe us $20.00 for the chlorine you used, so I guess we’re even!”

I wouldn’t, really. But I would think they were uncouth. That’s right. Uncouth. Is there a worse insult in the world for suburban people with pools and cheeseburgers? No. I don’t think so.

You invited them over for the pleasure of their company, so I guess you should just enjoy their company. No biggie.


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I want to be a good aunt.

My older sister just had a baby, and I’m in my early 20s and don’t know much about babies or being an aunt. I find this experience amazing so far and am anxious but happy about all the changes in our relationship and our lives. What role can I take and how can I be involved in the little girl’s life? I’d like to be a help to my sister and have a good time with the baby, too. What can I do to be a good aunt?

Well, hello, sis. You came to the right place for this one, because I just happen to be the best aunt in the history of aunts. I have three nephews and six nieces, and I’m probably everyone’s favorite. Not to brag; it’s just true.

There’s one tiny little issue here, though…I know you love your sister, whatever, she’ll be fine. She doesn’t want parenting advice or help from a 22-year-old who doesn’t know shit about babies or kids. She already loves you, and you’re very sweet to want to help her, so let’s just accept the fact that being a good aunt, sometimes, will mean being a terrible sister or sister-in-law. Actually, now that I think of it, just think of the things your sister doesn’t want you to do, then do them, and you’ll be a great aunt.

For instance:

Sister’s Stance: “Susie loves Cinderella, and I hate princesses and all they stand for–patriarchy, needing a man to save you, big poofy dresses, and the concept that women naturally turn against each other. My daughter will never be into princesses.”
Your action: Buy Susie a Cinderella dress, plastic glass slippers, and a tiara. You’re a bad sister, but you’re a good aunt.

Sister’s Stance: “My daughters can’t wear makeup! It makes your eyelashes fall out and they take too long getting ready for school already as it is. They’re beautiful without it.”
Your action: Next time you see them, smuggle mascara and purple eyeliner into their handbags, along with makeup removing wipes and a note that says, “I would never condone this, but here’s something interesting I read on the internet: you can put makeup on, AND remove it, on the school bus!” Your sister will never find out, and your niece will love you, and therefore, you’re a good aunt.

Sister’s Stance: “Thank you for watching the baby overnight. We’re working really hard on getting her to sleep through the night in her crib, so if she fusses, please don’t take her out.”
Your action: The second that little bundle makes a peep, immediately fetch her from the crib, put her in bed with you, and snuggle all night. Babies can’t tell on you, so your sister won’t even know what a good aunt you are, but it won’t matter, because your niece will be happy.

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