Social Q’s: May I Ignore Orders My Mother Says My Dead Nana Is Sending?

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Social Q’s

By PHILIP GALANES

My single mother, 65, is selling the house where I grew up. She told me the buyers asked if they could buy a picture my late grandmother stitched for my nursery. It’s always meant a lot to me. Still, she gave it to them. I didn’t say anything because she added, “It felt like Grandma was telling me to.” Plus, it was already done. Would it be rude to go to the house after the buyer has moved in and offer to buy it back? I know you’ll say I shouldn’t, but it would help to hear it from you.

COURTNEY

As Meryl Streep sang in “Postcards from the Edge” (with just a little … well, big shove from Shirley MacLaine, her screen mother): “And anyone can tell, you think you know me well. But you don’t know me.” Lucky for you, Courtney, at least where needlework is concerned,— you don’t know me, either. Go for it! But I would write a nice letter to the new owners instead of dropping by unannounced.

Not every issue needs to be talked through with our loved ones. Dismantling her longtime home, possibly single-handedly, is probably extremely stressful for your mother. And as you pointed out, the picture had already been pledged by the time she mentioned it to you. Good move not adding to her load.

Of course, she could unwind the transaction; it wouldn’t be hard. (“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize the picture meant so much to my daughter.”) But once we factor in the freaky “Sixth Sense” component of your dead Nana “telling” your mother to give it away, it feels as if we’ve marched into Do Not Enter territory. Better to handle this with the new owners.

And because your mom seems to have skipped the customary step of asking you to swing by and take your things (which we, as children, routinely ignore), perhaps you should drop by the house to make sure there’s nothing else bathed in sentimental value en route to Goodwill.

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Seeds of Disgust

I had a terrible experience with the owner of a local plant store. Some hydrangeas I bought died within three hours of purchasing them, and he refused to refund my money the next day (and was nasty in the process). My dilemma: I entertain regularly, and my guests often bring hostess gifts. Is there any way to communicate that they should never buy me anything from this man’s shop? I don’t want him to make one penny from me, even indirectly.

NATASHA, ATLANTA

Let the healing begin, Natasha. (Actually, let me revise that: Let the scorched-earth Yelp review be posted, then let the healing begin.) The only thing worse than allowing this man to profit from your dinner parties is to let him sap your good will and make you bitter. A local plant shop requires repeat customers to thrive. If he and his goods are as horrid as you say, his business will soon be as dead as your hydrangeas.

Enough Said

I survived a bout of cancer this year. It is now essential to me that my grown-up daughter understands the dietary factors linked to increased risk of cancer, like gluten and dairy. I have urged her to stop eating them — several times. But she refuses, claiming her lifestyle does not allow it. Still, I am determined to make her see that cancer is more important than convenience. My husband has asked me to remain silent on this topic at an upcoming gathering. To what extent am I obliged to respect his wishes to avoid tension?

ANONYMOUS, BOSTON

First off, how terrific that you’re feeling better! But I consulted two oncologists who disagreed about the dangers of gluten (absent celiac disease) and dairy. You are free to modify your diet as you and your doctor prefer. So is your daughter. But you have made your point a number of times. Now it’s time to respect her choices. This may be difficult for you. But harping on the subject is unlikely to persuade her. In fact, it may push her in the opposite direction. Better to lead (silently) by example. Let her watch you live and eat healthfully; it may inspire her.

That Thing You Do

I am 34 and twirl my hair. I’ve done it since I was a girl. I am often anxious, and it relaxes me. My boyfriend (and my mom) constantly tell me to stop. He says it’s distracting, looks uncomfortable and doesn’t make me look smart. I agree that it’s unprofessional, but I don’t do it at work. Is there anything wrong with twirling my hair at home in the company of family and friends?

S.M.

Well, according to said family and friends, yes! They have told you they find it annoying and distracting. Still, I hate to rob you of a relatively harmless form of self-soothing. Do you think you could replace your silky tresses with a short length of satin ribbon or a strand of worry beads? You’d still have something to fiddle with, but it would be less prominent than your hair.

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