I am a queer high school student and the daughter of evangelical Christians. I hid my sexuality from them. During the pandemic I felt lonely so I started chatting on LGBTQ bulletin boards. Unfortunately, I have been reckless with my browser history. My mother saw it and panicked. She made me swear that I’m not a lesbian. I did. My parents also make me talk to their minister every week. Otherwise, they say I will have to leave the house. They also threatened not to help with school fees next year. (They’re not joking.) So now I’m also lying to their minister. I hate that! I like to think of myself as a good person. Do I have to be clean?
Right now, when the power difference between you and your parents is so great, and the threatened consequences of honesty can hurt you so badly (and unfairly), the truth is a luxury you cannot afford. to permit. Keep lying! You are not a bad person.
You are trying to survive your parents’ bigotry over an unchanging part of your identity. For now, focus on safety: keeping a roof over your head and staying in school. When you are able to support yourself, decide how much you want to be with your parents. (Their opinions may change.)
Remember: you didn’t choose any of these. And there is nothing to be ashamed of about self-preservation. Over time, you will find that a heartbreaking number of LGBTQ youth are forced to find themselves in the same unpleasant situation as you. Take care of yourself and watch for people you can talk to safely. If I can help you, please contact me again.
Written in the stars
I received an email asking me to rate customer service at my car dealership. My experience has not been good. Despite our state’s mask mandate, many people do not wear masks indoors, including staff facing the public and other customers. When I spoke to the manager, he first said I was wrong. Then he said he was unwilling to confront customers about the masks. I gave the dealership one of five stars and explained why. Now the manager asked me to change my bill. He said my exam would put him on a pay cut next month that he couldn’t afford. He told me that I would receive another email asking me to rescore the dealership. What should I do?
Before I get to the manager, let me take a look at the ridiculous, albeit common, dealership practice of contacting reviewers. The purpose of customer surveys is to evaluate and improve service, not to bother customers for their honest responses. Don’t change a word!
Now, as for the manager, he seems to want both: he refuses to ask customers or employees to wear masks (although he can do so easily by referring to your state’s mask mandate). And he wants you to silently endure unnecessary health risks. I am sensitive to the new challenges of service jobs. But this manager is far from the base. Maybe a financial blow will encourage him to rethink his approach.
‘Young woman’? Is that so?
I just turned 67 and I feel pretty good about myself. I look like a healthy elderly woman. So why do men smile when they open doors for me and say things like, “Here you go, girl”? Do they think I don’t have a calendar or mirror? The last time it happened I felt bad about myself for hours. How to respond?
Your encounters are so steeped in sexism and ageism that I doubt that a quick comeback will help you much. It’s appalling that these men feel allowed to comment on your age, albeit in a cute way. But the fact that you are empowering male strangers to make you feel bad about yourself “for hours” is equally disheartening.
Next time this happens, be frank: “You realize you call me ‘old’ by calling me ‘young woman’, right? I bet you don’t do that to men. But your biggest takeaway, I hope, will be that the only person whose opinion about your appearance matters is you!
Tip the teacher
My youngest grandchild is bright and loving, but struggles in school. At 6, he sometimes hits other children and has temper tantrums. His parents and his teacher work hard with him. But I recently learned that his parents gave his public school teacher a monthly cash gift because my son doesn’t think teachers earn enough. Is it correct?
Your son’s heart is in the right place. Most public school teachers are underpaid. However, most districts have rules on teacher gifts. And there are good reasons for these rules: parents shouldn’t feel pressured to give, and teachers shouldn’t feel corrupted.
Suppose, however, that the teacher and your grandson’s parents know the rules for their district. Do you really want to get involved in the sensitive issue of your grandson’s behavioral problems? The rules are important. But no one has asked for your opinion here.
For help with your difficult situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.