My twin brother and I exchange gifts on our birthday. In recent years, he’s gotten lazy about it. His presents often seem like last-minute efforts. This year was our 30th birthday, so I expected a little more. But when he arrived at my house, he said he’d left my present in his friend’s car and would give it to me later. It sounded fishy, and he never gave me a gift. Then came my husband’s birthday last month. My brother sent a birthday text and said a card and gift would arrive in the mail soon. Sure enough, nothing came. I’m more upset about my brother’s lying than the absence of gifts. Should I say something about his dishonesty or let this go?


I have known many people like your brother. (I have even been him on occasion!) He says whatever he thinks will smooth over the awkwardness he’s feeling. By pretending to have a gift for you, when he knows he should but obviously doesn’t, he trades his trustworthiness for immediate comfort. Bad call!

In the moment, he might intend to buy you a gift later. But he doesn’t. So, what begins as a well-intentioned fib becomes a lazy lie. He also draws special attention to his thoughtlessness: By teasing a nonexistent gift, he likely makes you feel even worse. The central problem isn’t lying, though — it’s grasping for easy outs.

Tell him: “I get that you feel guilty about blowing off gifts. But when you promise to deliver one, then don’t, you underline the fact that you can’t be bothered. Do you want to stop exchanging gifts?” If you can do this gently, you may help your brother tackle an ugly habit (that is probably not limited to you) and stop hurting your feelings, as well.

Credit…Christoph Niemann

I applied for a job and was thrilled when the hiring manager contacted me to set up a phone interview. After asking me briefly about my experience, she told me the job is on-site, Monday to Friday. I assumed it would be a remote setup because of the pandemic. She explained that the company has extremely strong safety protocols, but I told her I wouldn’t be comfortable working in an office until I’ve been vaccinated (and I think it will be a while before I’m eligible for that). She said she understood and ended the interview. I sent a thank-you note, but truthfully, I was annoyed that she’d wasted my time. Shouldn’t she have told me about the on-site setup in our email exchange? Was there a gracious way to express my frustration?


Your annoyance seems overblown to me. I understand you’re disappointed, but the whole process sounds as if it took less than 30 minutes. Many companies’ attendance guidelines are in flux now. So, unless your correspondence with the hiring manager was voluminous, I think she behaved appropriately.

More important, you missed two golden opportunities here: to ask her about the company’s protocols, which may have satisfied you, and whether she would consider letting you work from home until you’re vaccinated. Applying for a job is a conversation. Try to keep it going until you’ve explored the possibilities.

Last week, in a fit of pandemic boredom, I brought home a broken-down antique chair that our neighbors had thrown away. I spent a few days in my workshop fixing it up. Now it looks great, and I’d like to give it back to them. My wife thinks this would be weird. (We don’t know them.) I could leave it on their porch anonymously or find another home for it if our neighbors don’t want it. What do you think?


I love your idea, David — and not just because I’ve knitted two million pandemic hats that I’ve foisted on nearly everyone I know. Your gesture seems neighborly and kind. And what a nice way to meet people who live on your street!

Put on a mask and bring the chair to their door. Introduce yourself and thank them for giving you a pandemic project. Then tell them you’d like to give them the refurbished chair, but if they don’t want it, you’ll be happy to take it away. Kindness is always welcome, especially in times like these.

I am a college student who returned to campus this semester. Since I’ve been back, my absolute hero has been the doctor who runs student health services. I’ve asked her a million questions about Covid-19, and she always makes time to answer them. The problem: Yesterday, I saw her walking into a shop without a mask. Now what?


If you knew the song “If You Could Read My Mind” (either the Gordon Lightfoot original or the thrilling disco version of my youth), you would probably remember its best lyric: “Heroes often fail.” They’re only human!

You’ve never stepped outside and realized you’d forgotten a mask? The campus doctor probably remembered hers eventually. Next time, remind her gently. She’ll thank you!

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.