My boyfriend’s parents are ignorant about race. Why should I teach them?

I am a mixed race student and identify as black. I have been in a relationship with a white man for a year now. We’ve never had a problem racing – until now. When I first met his parents, ahead of the family’s big Thanksgiving, his father told me that a mixed race is “the best of both worlds.” I didn’t follow. So he explained, you’re “really white,” but you get the benefits of being black in college admissions and diversity recruiting. I was amazed! My friend, on the other hand, doesn’t see the problem. He says his parents have no idea about race, and it’s our job to help them understand it. But I’m not interested in that job. I canceled my Thanksgiving visit and now my boyfriend is mad at me. Advice?

TRACEY

Your friend and his father both owe you an apology, for various offenses. Let’s start with the father. His statement is based on the ugly premise that being white is better than being black. That’s not “nonsense”. It’s racist. It’s also understandably troubling and certainly not your problem to solve.

Your boyfriend is not responsible for his parents’ opinion. But a decent partner jumps in when you’re dissed. Your boyfriend should have asked you right away if you wanted to correct his father or if he should. And even if he may have overlooked the horrific nature of the comment, his gleeful assumption that you’ll be taking his parents’ racial upbringing on your shoulders is justifiable and insensitive.

Everyone makes mistakes, and relationships often involve explaining to our partners what is clear to us. (I can even imagine that he felt protective of his father.) That’s no excuse, though. And it is your call. If this boyfriend is worth it, explain clearly to him how he and his father have insulted you. If he still can’t see it and apologize, that’s a huge red flag.

I am the mother of a healthy 1 year old daughter. Since birth, she has grown taller and weighed more than most babies her age. Her pediatrician is happy with her growth rate and diet. But when we meet new people, they often say how “great” she is. A woman unkindly exclaimed that she was taller than her 4-year-old. These comments disturb us. More importantly, they cause us to worry about our daughter becoming insecure about her size. How can we let people know that these comments are dead on arrival?

MOM

I rarely get so much angry mail as when I ask readers to stop commenting on the appearance of others. I am accused of being politically correct and robbing people who like to be complimented on their appearance. But I support advice that prevents others from feeling bad. (Many people have complicated relationships with their appearance. Why go into that?)

It takes a while for your daughter to really understand what someone is saying. And I suspect it will be more destabilizing for your daughter to hear her mother talk to strangers with strangers about her size than to hear you say, “We’re really glad she’s so healthy and well.” I would leave it at that.

Recently I got to know a friend from high school again. We’ve had a few dinners with mutual friends. During one of them, she showed me a picture of the man she is dating. I told her I was happy for her, even though he sounded vague. (He can never meet on weekends, for example.) A while later, the man messaged me through a dating app. I immediately reported this to my friend. She was furious, but in the end she forgave him. Earlier this year she asked me if I had heard from him. I told her I hadn’t. But now he has messaged me a second time. What should I do? I wouldn’t want to burst her bubble.

FRIEND

I probably wouldn’t have told a newfound acquaintance that the man she’s hanging out with messaged me in the first place. You’re not that close. But you did tell her, and she seemed to appreciate it. She even contacted you and asked if he had contacted you again.

Be sure to report the new contact. Your friend has made it clear that she wants to know. Just because she forgave him once, doesn’t mean he has a free ticket forever. And you’re right: you’ll probably “burst her bubble”. But she might as well know that a bubble is all she’s got.

Back in Broadway Theatres: What if I’m sitting next to a stranger during a performance and he falls asleep and starts snoring?

BETH

When I was young and shy, I would cough or make other minor commotions to wake up snoring people. Now, ironically, I am more sympathetic to sleepers and also more direct. I tap them on the shoulder and whisper, “You’re snoring.” No hard feelings! Sometimes it’s hard to stay awake, but that doesn’t give others the right to interrupt our experience.


For help with your difficult situation, send an inquiry to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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