I am a 13-year-old girl. I get good grades, I have good friends, and I’ve never given my parents any reason for concern. However, they don’t trust me with my own phone and have gone so far as installing an app on it to track what I do with it. I’m not worried about what they’re going to find, but I am upset by the fact that they don’t trust me. Now, I don’t trust them either. What should I do?
I would probably be more sympathetic to your plight, Lauren, if a responsible teenage boy I know hadn’t shared his Instagram password with a “good friend,” only to be betrayed by him when vulgar posts began popping up on his account.
The virtual world can be an amazing place when it’s not terrifying or dangerous. By monitoring your phone, your parents are wisely (sorry!) trying to make sure that you’re ready to navigate it on your own. But I also get that their uncertainty feels insulting to you. So, let’s make this standoff productive.
Have a direct conversation with your parents about what they’re afraid of: inappropriate text messages or posts on social media, visits to adult websites, online predators, or all of the above? You may have to help them out here. Your parents may not mistrust you, but there are still things they need to be aware of, such as unsolicited contact between adults and minors.
Being transparent may help you build trust (and eventually get rid of the monitoring app). You will be called on many times in your life by skeptical bosses, friends and romantic partners to prove that you can deliver something they fear you cannot. Let this be the first time you show doubters that you are up the challenge — and then some!
Who Are You Calling “Sir”?
I am a woman who, presumably because I am tall and wear my hair quite short, is routinely greeted by salespeople with a cheerful “Hello, sir!” When I reply, they tend to fall all over themselves apologizing for their gaffe. Frankly, I don’t care that I’m called “sir,” but I know that being mislabeled can be painful for transgender and gender-nonconforming people. How should I handle this? Sometimes I think feigning distress would make people more careful about their assumptions.
Unless you are a trained actor, I’d skip the fake anguish. (Cue the loudspeaker announcement: “Chewing the scenery in Aisle 5!”) But I share your concern about hurting people. There’s no reason for greetings by salespeople or other strangers to include gender tags. “Good morning!” is no less friendly than “Good morning, sir!”
The next time you are mislabeled (or if you feel strongly about this, labeled at all), say: “You might consider dropping the ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ from your warm welcome. You can really hurt people if you get it wrong.” Those who care will try to break the habit.
My brother is so rude to my parents! He is in his 30s and has a full-time job, but still lives at home rent-free. He rarely engages with them, and when he does, he is grumpy and disrespectful. During the holidays, he snapped at them in front of guests, which made me angry, but I held my tongue. My parents are unhappy with him, but they don’t address their concerns. I think I need to step in and handle this. Should I?
Definitely not the way you’re thinking! Takers keep taking until givers stop giving. Your brother will continue to mooch and treat your parents badly until they put their feet down. Your parents are not hostages or children. If they really wanted your brother to pay rent, move out or stop behaving rudely, they would insist on it.
No amount of shouting or shaming by you is likely to alter this situation. You are an outsider to their triangle, though you may feel protective of your parents (or jealous that they let your brother slide). Try disengaging. When your parents complain about your brother, tell them there’s an easy fix: Kick him out! But don’t be too receptive to unproductive whining. When your parents have had enough, they will act.
Oh, but I Can’t Afford It
A co-worker who is engaged to be married visited a fancy dress shop and lied about her budget. When I (gently) mentioned my disapproval, she got mad at me for judging her. I know brides do this all the time, but it seems mean to the salesperson who will never make a sale. Should I have kept my mouth shut?
I think even salespeople would agree that the answer is yes. The whole point of fancy shops is to lure us inside. And if we lie about our budget, so what? We may not buy the most expensive, hand-beaded gown, but we often end up spending more than we intended. And even if we’re there on a pure lark, have you been inside a fancy shop lately? Tumbleweeds!
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.