Why Is My Uncle So Mad About Student Debt Forgiveness?

I am a recent college graduate. I am also drowning in student debt. On my salary, there is no way I can save money or think about buying an apartment while I make large payments on these loans. This will continue for 15 years at least. The pandemic “pause” on payments has been a huge relief. And I’m excited by the possibility of our new president doing something to forgive some of my student debt. But when I talked to my uncle about this, he got angry and took it very personally: “No one forgave my student loans!” I didn’t know how to respond or if I should have. But it’s awkward now. Any advice?

JIL

Your uncle’s apparent grievance at the prospect of social progress seems odd. When the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, for instance, I don’t recall older members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community expressing bitterness that they hadn’t enjoyed the right to marry in their youth. No, we all celebrated the decision as a big step on the road to greater equality.

Same with student debt. The ever-rising cost of higher education has long worked as barrier to students of lesser means and saddled others with crippling debt loads. Black and Latino students have been disproportionately affected. And I would expect people who had experienced this hardship personally to applaud student debt reform.

But your uncle is not the first person I’ve heard grumbling about it. Their take seems to be: “I suffered, why shouldn’t you?” But that’s not a cogent argument against fairer access to education. It’s just punitive. Tell him: “I’m sorry you had a hard time.” That may smooth things over between you. Then add (or just think): “But I’m glad others may not have to suffer.” We don’t have to say everything we believe to everyone.

Credit…Christoph Niemann

I live in a Covid bubble with my in-laws who are helping me care for my two toddlers. We are avid mask wearers. We live in a city where masks are required (for people over the age of 2) in all public places, including outdoors. At the playground, my father-in-law always reminds mask-less people they are breaking the rules. Recently, a family entered the playground, none of whom were wearing masks. My father-in-law told them they needed masks and asked them to stay away from my daughter. I know he was right, but I felt uncomfortable. Shouldn’t we have left if their behavior bothered us?

E.L.

Why should you leave? The rules are the rules: masks in public places, including playgrounds. Now, let me backtrack immediately. If your playground isn’t marked with a sign about masks at the entrance, encourage your father-in-law to be gentle in his requests to the maskless. They may not know. (I’ve taken to offering spare surgical masks to those who need them. So far, people don’t seem to hate this.)

Still, I’ve read news reports of scuffles breaking out over mask debates, including a case that resulted in death. We don’t want that on the playground. So, if you hear or sense anything ominous in your father-in-law’s interactions, pack up your children and leave quickly. Better safe than sorry, no?

Several years ago, I met a woman at church and we clicked. (We were both pregnant.) We were friendly, but not close. After our babies were born, I moved across the country and focused on new motherhood, a new city and a new job. My friend continued to text me, mostly to check in. But now, she sends (almost exclusively) screenshots of Christian devotionals and scriptures. I am not interested in them. She sends 15 screenshots for every personal message. I don’t want to be rude, but it’s overwhelming. Advice?

C.

I may be wrong, but I suspect your friend is sending these screenshot texts to a large group of recipients in a single stroke. There is nothing rude about opting out. Just say, “I like being in touch with you. But I’d rather not receive the devotional texts. Can you remove me from that list, please?” If there’s a relationship worth saving here, this won’t end it.

My next-door neighbor is one of my best friends. When the gas line to our house had to be enlarged, we discovered it ran under her driveway. She was lovely about giving us permission to dig up her land. This morning, I saw one of the gas company workers smoking a cigarette. I told him my friend prefers that no one smoke on her property. I don’t know if this is true. I dislike people smoking on my property, and I assume she feels the same. The worker gave me a cold stare, and my husband said I was officious and had no business saying anything. Your thoughts?

BARBARA

Well, you lied. It’s not the worst one I’ve ever heard, but I’m not going to applaud you for it. Next time, limit your requests to activities taking place on your property. For what it’s worth, though, I expect the gas company would frown upon its employees smoking on the job.


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



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