DEAR AMY: I have a 19-year-old son. He is my only child. He has been into drugs and alcohol for more than five years. Several months ago he moved out because I told him he needed to go to a rehab if he wanted to continue to live with me. He left the house and didn’t make any contact with me until Mother’s Day. He showed up out of the blue with flowers and a card. Needless to say, I cried. On that day I invited him to come over for a barbecue with the family, to be held in a couple of weeks. He asked if he could bring a friend to the gathering. I feel like we have a lot of work to do to rebuild our relationship, and another person whom I don’t know doesn’t need to come along and interact with our family right now. I don’t even know if my son has changed his ways. Am I wrong for saying no to the friend? I don’t know this person. Of course, my son says his friend has a hard luck story and I feel bad for him. But, I want to do the right thing. Am I wrong?
DEAR MOM: If your son has a drug and alcohol problem, you are smart to accept his good intentions and behavior with an open heart, while remaining skeptical about his ability to turn his life around on a dime. You should be especially skeptical and careful concerning any people he chooses to bring to your home. You have created a boundary with reasonable limits, and your response to his request to bring a friend home (“Let’s re-establish our relationship before bringing other people into it.”) is appropriate. His instinct to bring someone with him might be simply to provide him with a little “cover” while he tiptoes back in to the fold. This is an understandable impulse.
Your attitude toward your son at this point should be, “trust, but verify.” Welcome him into your life with open arms, but do not let him live with you unless/until he has demonstrated longer-term and consistent sobriety. I hope he is working a recovery program, and I hope you are attending Al-anon meetings. Check the group’s website: al-anon.org for a local meeting.
DEAR AMY: I’m quite sure that my friend of five years (we are in our early 70s) has been aware that I am very sensitive to artificial scents. We went to lunch recently, and her perfume was becoming a problem for me. I told her this and requested that while she was in the restroom she should wipe some of it down. She later told me my request was the rudest thing she had ever experienced. She said she did not want to be my friend anymore. Did I really do something wrong? I still feel my request was reasonable.
Flabbergasted in Colorado
DEAR FLABBERGASTED: Telling a friend to “wipe herself down” in the restroom is rude.
Your intent and request might have been reasonable, but the way you expressed it was not. You owe her an apology, and if she is willing to renew the friendship, you should ask her respectfully (in advance) not to wear any scent the next time you get together.
DEAR AMY: “Hollywood Hello” wondered why women don’t return his greeting on the street. My two lovely daughters face constant harassment on the streets and public transportation. I am not exaggerating. It is constant, as well as crude, explicit, threatening and hateful. There is not much the friendly Hollywood man can do alone. All of us have to fight against our culture of sexual violence. Parents need to teach their sons, and men need to censure their friends who behave badly. Everyone needs to boycott pop culture that glorifies sexual violence, break the silence about rape and stop blaming the victims.
DEAR MOTHER: As I said in my answer to “Hollywood Hello,” women passing on the street cannot magically decode his benign intent. Nor should women have to smile at him in order for him to confirm (to himself) that he is a good guy.
I agree that street harassment is a huge problem, and women are sick of it.
And — on a more minor (but related) level — like many women, I am tired of being told to “smile.”
Hollywood Hello sounded like a nice guy. He should continue to be friendly, but not insist that strangers reciprocate.