What Kind of Person Lies to a Child With Cancer?

I am part of a large friend group. One of us has a 13-year-old daughter with cancer; she lost her hair during treatment. Before she did, I found a company to make a wig using her hair. I raised the money to pay for it and sent it to another friend who is a stylist. She cut the girl’s hair and told us she sent it to the wig company. The girl texted our stylist friend several times for updates, and the stylist told her they were working on it. Finally, the girl’s mother contacted the wig company: The stylist never sent the hair. She’d been holding it for five months! She finally returned the hair and the money. But the girl is crushed! Her mom doesn’t want anyone to know what the stylist did; she doesn’t want the drama. But I think our friends should know what a lousy person she is. Should I respect the mother’s wishes?


You don’t need me to tell you that your stylist friend behaved badly. Irresponsibility and dishonesty are bad looks for anyone, and when they affect a sick child they can seem even worse. Of course, we don’t know what challenges the stylist may be living with. Still, it’s hard to imagine that she couldn’t devise a better plan than doing nothing for five months.

What you may need me to remind you of, though, is that you are not the main character here, and neither is the stylist. Put the child and her mother first. Your friend seems to have decided that chatter about this episode may create drama — for her — and that she may not have the energy to deal with it now. She is probably prioritizing her daughter’s health.

Respect your friend’s wishes and keep quiet about the wig. You are free to find another stylist. But I suggest that you redirect your energy to supporting your friend and her daughter during a rough time, by providing meals, transportation, lawn mowing or whatever else they may need to make their lives a little easier now.

I want to invite two friends to join my husband and me at a restaurant for his birthday dinner. The four of us dine out occasionally and always split the bill. As the host of this special occasion, I believe I should pay for everyone. My husband disagrees. We can all afford the meal, but dinner — with drinks — for four foodies won’t be cheap. What’s the right thing to do?


Fifty years ago, when people generally ate less frequently in restaurants than we do today, the answer to your question would have been clear: When you invite someone to a restaurant, you pay the bill. Today, we have a wider range of options, but all of them require being clear with others when we make our invitations.

Now, if I invited two friends to celebrate my husband’s birthday with us at a restaurant, I would foot the bill. I would feel awkward asking others to subsidize our special occasion. Many people feel differently, though — and that’s their right. So, if you want your friends to pay a share of the birthday dinner, be clear when you invite them: “I’m hoping we can split the bill as we usually do.”

Since retiring seven years ago and vastly simplifying my life, I have made many contributions to charitable organizations. I never mentioned them to anyone until last year — when I told two friends that my donations came to 40 percent of my income. What do you think of breaking the taboo of talking about money to encourage friends to give more generously to worthy causes — and, I suppose, to burnish my image?


There’s a fine line between burnishing and bragging. And frequently, I am way off the mark when I make assumptions about other people’s financial conditions. Trumpeting your rate of charitable giving to people whose struggles with medical costs or family obligations are unknown to you is more likely to sow resentment than emulation (or admiration).

Don’t get me wrong: I respect your approach to retirement! But it may not be achievable for everyone, and I would hate for you to make your friends feel bad. Lead by example, not by proselytizing. When conversations turn to life plans — as they often do among my friends — feel free to advocate a simpler life and the contentment that comes from greater giving.

We were eating outdoors at our favorite restaurant when a wasp flew into my pasta. The owner refused to replace the dish and charged me full price, for a meal that I couldn’t possibly eat. It was unsanitary! I have written about this incident on several websites, but I feel bad that I might ruin a good business. Suggestions?


If you are worried about ruining a good business, I suggest you stop criticizing it on the internet. I understand that you may have been startled, but you sat outdoors voluntarily. Do you really believe the restaurant is responsible for clearing the open air of flying insects? I find it unlikely that the wasp burrowed into your pasta or posed any health risk other than stinging — which you didn’t even mention. Move on.

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

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