Q: My brother turned 50—although he looks younger—several months ago. Along with the usual card and gift, I wished him a wonderful 50th on social media.
That did not turn out well. He was in the process of looking for work and was going into his third and final interview with one particular company when I made the post. He ultimately did not get the job and blames me for possibly ruining his chances by mentioning his age on social media. The position would have involved working with a younger group.
Still out of work, he has been very hostile toward me despite my apologies. I think he’s overreacting. Do employers really look at that stuff that closely?
A: Whether employers look at this stuff—and whether this employer actually did—is beside the point. Even if you did cost your brother a job, you did so purely and clearly by accident.
To be hostile to someone for months over an unintentional wrong—intended as a loving gesture—is uncalled for.
And if your brother ever writes to me about it, then I will tell him so.
But since you’re the one who wrote, you’re the only one I can advise: You can’t undo your mistake, and you can’t hold yourself responsible for not reading your brother’s mind. But you can recognize that “You’re overreacting” is not a fair point to make in your defense.
It’s like “Relax!” or “Stop being so sensitive;” it all but guarantees bigger stress/sensitivity/reactions. Even if you’re right.
And you might be wrong; it’s not legal, but, sure, age discrimination happens. When you can’t prove your mistake was harmless, it only sounds self-serving to claim it was.
So I hope “I think he’s overreacting” is just something you’ve thought but not said out loud to your brother. If you have said it, though, then you’ll need to apologize for that, too: “I’m sorry I keep putting my foot in my mouth” would cover it. If you can do anything to boost his job prospects, then that would also help.
And communicating personally versus announcing might just save us all.
Q: A couple of months ago, I met a guy who seemed like he was exactly what I was looking for. After a few dates I brought up the topic of marriage and my long-term plans, only to hear that he doesn’t believe in “a piece of paper” that puts people together. I didn’t argue or try to get him to change his mind and simply said it’s not going to work out between us.
But how do you respond to someone who calls marriage “a contract”?
Some people tell me if we really clicked I should have given him a chance. He might have changed his mind. What do you think?
A: I think some people offered you a recipe for misery, and you wisely refused it.
The problem isn’t with his—or your, or anyone else’s—view of marriage. The problem is in the differences and the weight you put on your views. Could one of you change your mind? Sure. But I can’t see why two people with strong and strongly opposed views would start a relationship already hoping for an outcome that would force someone to change.