Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I am the proud big sister of my 18-year-old brother “Baxter.” His last day of high school was yesterday, and he is set to graduate in a few weeks. He earned a 4.0 throughout high school and has worked really hard for four years. He called me yesterday (I live out of state) and told me about his last day at school. Then he dropped a bombshell on me, when he said, “Don’t tell mom, but I smoked a lot of weed today!” Amy, I was shocked! We grew up in a no alcohol, no smoking household. Now I don’t know what to do. Do I keep his secret? Do I spill to our mom? I know he’s worked so hard, so I think he was celebrating and maybe rebelling a little bit, since he was the “perfect” student for so long. I don’t want this to be a stepping stone to more bad decisions for him. What should I do?

Worried in Wisconsin

DEAR WORRIED: This is not necessarily a binary choice between either telling or not telling. You can choose to stay quiet now, but change your mind, later.

It might be best for you to communicate your next thoughts in text form, versus talking to him about this. You can write: “First, I want you to know that I appreciate your honesty. Secondly, please don’t ever ask me to keep a secret from our parents. That’s not fair to me — or them — and I will make my own choice about what to do regarding your decision to get toasted on the last day of classes. I am naturally very protective of you. I want you to know that there are extreme risks to what you are doing. You risk not graduating (if you are caught), but you also risk many other things you have worked very hard for. Soon you will be on your own and I hope you will make healthier choices. Your high school record shows how smart you are. I hope your future behavior will demonstrate that you are wise, too.”

After communicating directly with him, leave it alone. If this is the worst thing this young man ever does, he’ll be OK.

DEAR AMY: I am currently seeing a man who has two jobs, one as an “everyday civilian” and one in the National Guard. He has been a guardsman for several years. We have been seeing each other for about seven months. I just learned that he may face a deployment within the next year (he’s been through three already). I am very proud of him. I love him and he loves me. I don’t know how to communicate how I feel and how scared I am; for him, for me, for us — and for my child that has grown attached to him. My anxiety levels have risen in the past few weeks because of this. He has noticed a change in me. I fell in love with this man without a second thought of what that would mean. I don’t want to leave him over this because he is serving his country. However, I do not know how to live the life that is approaching. I need advice and guidance. Can you help?

Worried

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DEAR WORRIED: The most important thing you can do is to communicate with your guy about what might be in store for all of you if he deploys.

The National Guard offers helpful support and information to help you start this conversation. You should also seek friendship and advice from experienced people on this side of deployment. Check jointservicesupport.org

DEAR AMY: I think you let “Older but not Wiser,” (the aunt who falsely accused her niece of theft) off too lightly. On the stated facts, she should expect a defamation suit by her niece, and she should expect to lose it. She can’t duck the liability, but she might reduce the amount of the judgment if she apologized to her niece through the same media, as broadly and as loudly as she defamed her in the first place. This is one instance where the common law, common decency and common sense all point in the same direction. But she would have to accept responsibility for the consequences of her misbehavior, which she seems unwilling to do.

H.C. Macgill, Dean Emeritus, University of Connecticut School of Law

DEAR H.C.: Like many readers, I was absolutely appalled by this aunt’s behavior. Thank you for weighing in on the legality of this situation.