The Night Lights

"Social Q's" is Philip Galanes's advice column in the New York Times.  Every Tuesday in Anti-Social Q's, I will answer the same questions as "Social Q's," with a greater regard for the sad state of the human condition.

This week Philip offers up advice on how to clear the air.  A friend has moved on but another has not, a neighbor pollutes the darkness with light, a woman is concerned about two sons' gift giving practices (or lack thereof), and a woman wonders whether she should know how much a night out should cost her.

What if Ghosting an Old Friend Doesn’t Work?

Many years ago, I was friends with a guy.  There was no acrimonious breakup; we simply drifted apart.  But he is needy, so I consciously ignored his attempts to get in touch over the years.  Lately, he has renewed his efforts to reach me.  I send his calls straight to voice mail.  But that doesn’t stop him from trying several times in a row or leaving long (occasionally mean) messages.  He is clearly living in the past and not taking the hint that I don’t want to speak with him.  How do I get rid of him without changing my number?

Lindsay

You should tell him to stop calling you, once.  Sometimes people just don't get a clue and persist until that brick wall of "No!"  You have to be stern though.  You cannot allow your voice to sound flirtatious at all.  Once that is done, if he continues, sadly, you either have to put up with it or get a new number.

Waste of Energy

A hedge fund manager from New York City tore down a home in our small private association and built one worth three times what the rest of our houses are worth.  He only uses it on weekends.  But he lets his porch and driveway lights burn through the night, whether or not he is there.  This is hard to ignore because it’s such a waste of energy and makes it impossible to get a good night’s sleep.  When he moved in, I asked him politely to turn them off.  He didn’t.  Last week, I emailed the same request.  No response.  What else can I do?

Anonymous

Cover your windows.  Unfortunately, if he chooses to be like this, there is not much you can do about what he does on his property, even if the light encroaches on yours.  However, if you are able to afford to live next to a person like this, why isn't there more space between you and your neighbor's house?  Isn't the point of making a lot of money to distance yourself from the rest of humanity as much as possible?

Presenting …

My boyfriend of six years has two sons: one in college and a recent graduate who lives at home.  He’s had sole custody since his divorce and paid for their educations.  But in all the time I’ve known them, they have never gotten their father a single gift.  My boyfriend says he doesn’t want them spending money on him, but the situation breaks my heart.  I don’t have a close relationship with the boys, but it’s cordial for the most part.  Would it be out of line for me to suggest a gift or offer to contribute to one?  I don’t want to meddle.

Anonymous

You could ask them what they are buying so that you can make sure you don't buy the same thing as them.  Beyond that, you just have to hope they can take a hint.  But gifts are just material things and maybe they have developed deeper bonds that go beyond that.  It wouldn't hurt us all to grasp that being a decent human being to the people that we love is far more important than some useless object.

Check, Please!

My husband and I received a gift card to a very expensive restaurant as a wedding gift.  But the card didn’t note the amount of the gift.  My husband thinks it would be appropriate to ask the restaurant, in advance, how much money is on the card.  But I think that would be in poor taste.  You?

Jessica

Ask.  You don't want an unexpected surprise once you get there.


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