Dear Lisi: My sister’s husband is gross. He’s overweight, slovenly, has disgustingly filthy teeth and bad body odour. I find him hard to be around, and he’s always hugging me.
Obviously, I don’t want to be mean, and he happens to be the sweetest guy, but how do I deal with this? It’s really offensive. When I say anything to my sister, she laughs it off with an excuse, such as, ‘oh yeah, we’ve been enjoying our desserts lately!’ or something like that.
I’m just so uncomfortable in his presence. Help!
Well, I know some of the readers will say it’s none of your business. But she’s your sister and he’s your brother-in-law and I sense there’s something underlying to your nominal disgust.
You might be worried about his and/or her mental health. A drastic change in personal hygiene, personality, daily activity can all signal some mental-health issues. Or, perhaps you’re worried about their physical health. Living in filth, not washing, overeating, not taking care of oneself is unhealthy and can lead to long-term health issues.
Tell your sister you’re worried about both of them. Offer to go to the doctor with her; maybe she’ll open up about what’s going on. From your longer letter, it sounds like she is reaching out for help.
If we’re wrong and she takes offence, you must explain to her your concerns that come from a place of love.
FEEDBACK regarding the grandparents having trouble understanding their gay grandson (Oct. 17):
Reader — “As a gay man, teacher, and former equity rep at school I was disappointed with your response to the father who explained that his parents don’t understand their grandson’s sexual orientation and often make insulting and hurtful comments to him.
“By advising the father to remind his parents of choices he might have made such as dyeing his hair or getting a piercing, you are perpetuating the misunderstanding, especially among the older generation, that sexual orientation is a lifestyle choice to be dabbled in impulsively. The comparison of your random examples is dismissive of this young man’s identity and courage.
“If the grandparents think of their grandson’s sexual identity as something he just wants to try, like a new hair colour or piercing, that may give them false hope that one day his interest in men as partners will wear off. This is not fair on the grandson. They need to know that he is gay for life and it is not a phase.
“This man’s son needs an ally and an advocate to educate the grandparents with clarity, not misleading examples that further the myths of being gay. They need to be told that their grandson’s sexuality is as much a part of his genetic identity as his skin, hair and eye colour and will never change and they must respect him.”
Lisi — You may wonder why I print feedback that tells me I’m wrong. Here’s why — because a lot of what this man says is on the mark and very helpful.
My “random examples” were an attempt to speak a language the grandparents could understand. I was in no way dismissing this young man’s identity, nor myself thinking it was a phase.
But this reader said it from the heart:
‘They need to know that he is gay for life and it is not a phase. They need to be told that their grandson’s sexuality is as much a part of his genetic identity as his skin, hair and eye colour and will never change and they must respect him.’
Dear Lisi: I have a former co-worker, with whom I’ve kept in touch with. We worked together for about three years before both being laid off due to COVID.
She’s a very warm and kind person, and we helped each other during the layoff. The issue is that every birthday and Christmas she sends me gift cards. I’ve also reciprocated. In my current financial situation, I’m having to scale back on the basics even to make ends meet.
How do I say nicely, “I appreciate your friendship, but money is really tight and I would rather not exchange gifts” without hurting her feelings?
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Down but not out
If, in your current financial situation, you can’t afford gift-giving, you just have to say so. I strongly suggest you discuss it early enough before the holidays so there’s no miscommunication.
Ellie Tesher and Lisi Tesher are advice columnists for the Star and based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.