A few years ago, we gave our daughter, now 18, a stuffed bear for her birthday. At the time, we had recently discovered she had a boyfriend whom she was hiding from us. It was quite a shock. We wanted to be able to keep a closer eye on what she was doing without breaking her trust, so we installed a hidden camera inside the eye of the stuffed bear. Our daughter is now in college, and we overheard her telling her roommate how grateful she was for our trust in her and our support. We have been racked with guilt ever since. How can we tell our daughter about the camera without destroying our relationship with her? Should we tell her at all?
I have no doubt that your daughter’s failure to tell you about her boyfriend, while not terribly uncommon behavior for a teenager, was worrisome to you. But the treachery and disproportion of your response — to secretly film a young woman in the privacy of her bedroom — was beyond the pale. It would constitute a crime in many jurisdictions and may explain why she kept her boyfriend a secret from you. What’s more, it is not clear from your letter that you comprehend, even still, the gravity of your error.
Sure, you say you are racked with guilt by your actions because your daughter praised you to a friend. But would you not be racked with guilt if she hadn’t praised you? You also let yourselves off the hook far too easily when you claim that installing the camera allowed you to keep closer tabs on your daughter “without breaking her trust.” That is absurd! You made a mockery of her trust.
Personally, I can’t imagine a healthy relationship with your daughter until you have confessed your behavior. At the same time, I am not sure that you are yet capable of making a true apology (or handling the likely fallout with your daughter). I suggest finding a therapist, a friend you respect or possibly a faith leader with whom to discuss this episode more fully and make a plan for talking with your daughter. And if you haven’t already, for heaven’s sake, disable the camera now!
Sometimes Quiet Support Is Kindest
I have a rare skin condition that manifests itself in very specific, visible outbreaks. Occasionally, I have seen people with the same symptoms, and I feel such kinship with them that I want to reach out and tell them I have the condition, too. I know if I didn’t have this condition, it would be impolite to comment on their skin. But is it rude to try to connect with strangers over something we both experience?
I am certain of your kind intentions here. Still, I believe that speaking to strangers in this context would be wrong. Think about it: Many of us — possibly even you — feel extremely self-conscious when we are experiencing visible outbreaks on our skin.
Now, imagine a stranger approaching you during this period of heightened self-consciousness and drawing further attention to the issue. It sounds like a terrible encounter to me, despite your good intentions. I would keep quiet.
Leaving Gratuity for Parental Hospitality?
I visited my elderly parents at their home recently. As usual, I spent a few nights on the pullout sofa in their study. For the past 20 years, my parents have employed a live-in housekeeper who helps them with cooking and cleaning. I keep the study tidy while I’m there. But on this last visit, my father said that I have been remiss by not leaving a tip for the housekeeper. I know of this practice in hotels, but not in private residences. Any advice?
Do you want to be right, or do you want to be a welcome guest in your parents’ home? (I would vote for the latter!) It probably wouldn’t have occurred to me to tip the housekeeper, either — unless he or she had done something extraordinary (picking me up at the airport, for instance, or ironing my shirts).
Still, your father may be protective of his longtime employee. That’s a good quality. And the housekeeper probably washed some of your dirty dishes and the sheets from the pullout sofa. I wouldn’t quibble over this. The next time you visit, offer the housekeeper a few dollars with your thanks. Big picture: This person is helping your older parents to stay in their home.
A Strong (if Icky) Case for a Home Gym
While showering at my gym, I frequently hear people in nearby stalls blowing their noses, clearing their throats and then spitting out the phlegm. This happens multiple times per shower. Aside from my nausea, I am concerned about the unsanitary conditions. I spoke to the maintenance manager at the gym, but nothing has changed. Thoughts?
Well, that is disgusting behavior — and a powerful argument for shower shoes! Still, it may exceed the authority of the maintenance manager to approach gym members directly. And I understand your reluctance to do so. I would raise this issue with the manager of the gym. Sadly, signs about spitting and nose blowing in the showers may be required.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on the platform X.