Can I Exclude My Scamming Sister From Our Christmas Dinner?


My sister staged a fake wedding years ago. Her boyfriend’s mother was giving money to her children, and the married ones got double the amount of those who were single. We flew cross-country, in good faith, for this charade and spent thousands of dollars. I discovered the truth only six years ago, when I learned that my sister receives Medicaid benefits as a single person who earns little, even though she lives with her boyfriend in a huge house with many trappings of wealth. Now, my mom wants me to invite them for Christmas dinner with my sisters’ families, but I can’t overlook their lies. My mom says it’s none of my business, but as taxpayers, my sisters and I are outraged at the way they scam the system. I think inviting them would end in a big fight. Advice?

SISTER

It’s your house. You can invite whomever you like for Christmas. From my perspective — which is not as close-up as yours — your sister and her boyfriend are still together many years after the fake wedding. That’s better than most married couples. Would you be less upset if they had called the event a commitment ceremony? They made a poor choice in response to an unusual decision by the boyfriend’s mother. I’ve made poor choices before. Have you?

As for your sister’s Medicaid benefits, you haven’t presented enough information to judge whether she is scamming the system. Generally, unmarried couples are not considered a household in establishing Medicaid eligibility. If your sister’s boyfriend can’t (or won’t) include her on his health insurance, her small income and other factors may, indeed, qualify her for Medicaid.

You are entitled to your opinions about your sister’s gamesmanship when it comes to rules and bureaucracy. I don’t see why they should take center stage at your Christmas celebration. Still, you are free to exclude her if you like, but I agree with your mother: We don’t have to admire every decision a sister makes to invite her to dinner.

My friend diagnosed herself as neurodiverse. She is 60 and feels that this is the explanation she has long needed to understand herself. She uses it as an excuse for bad behavior. Ironically, I also exhibit neurodivergent traits, but I work hard every day to improve my relationships. My friend does not. Recently, I asked her about some stinging comments she made to me. She exploded and accused me of being insensitive to her challenges. I am tired of walking on eggshells, but I am a faithful friend. What to do?

FRIEND

No two brains are exactly alike. Neurodiversity is a helpful concept for remembering that — and for acknowledging the wide spectrum of ways brains function and process information. The term “neurodivergent” describes people with special challenges (and advantages) in how they think or perceive the world. Neurodivergence isn’t bad; it doesn’t require a daily grind of self-improvement, nor is it carte blanche to treat people rudely. It simply describes differences.

Speak to your friend again. Tell her that it’s important to register when her comments are hurtful to you. She may not mean them cruelly, but if she’s unwilling to examine their effect on others, she is just being callous. (For the record: There is nothing wrong with self-identifying as neurodivergent, but working with health professionals on diagnoses and responses can often help people better understand themselves and others.)

I am a writer and editor in my late 60s. I work at a nonprofit with people who are decades younger than I am. They are smart and delightful, but one thing gets me: Several of them consistently misuse pronouns (“me and her did,” instead of “she and I did”). I cringe when I hear it, but so far, I’ve bitten my tongue. Will this mangling of the language hurt their chances for advancement in their careers? Is there a productive way to approach the perpetrators?

CO-WORKER

I receive many letters from readers with a yen to correct colleagues — on their wardrobes, office decorum and, here, grammar. The desired correction is often presented sincerely as paving the way for future advancement, but it usually ignores the controlling aspect of correcting people you do not supervise or consider close friends.

If you are collaborating on a report with an ungrammatical colleague, knock yourself out. As an editor, you can even ask your supervisor about offering a lunchtime seminar on common grammatical errors. Otherwise, keep holding your tongue. Your peers have not asked for help.

A few years ago, my friend invited me to a fancy wine tasting at his club. He told me he was embarrassed that I wore a tan camel’s-hair blazer. (He didn’t think it was cold enough for camel’s hair.) Now, I am invited to the club again, and I’m thinking of wearing corduroy pants. When is it OK to roll out the corduroy?

GUEST

When the corduroy is clean, when you are comfortable in it and when it doesn’t violate an explicit dress code. Granted, there might be spells during the dog days of summer when corduroy would be too warm for many people. But don’t let your friend’s insecurities about the judgment of others upset you. They are his problem.


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





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