Social Q’s: Social Q’s – Paying Respects to a Furry Friend

November 30th, 2012

What is the appropriate amount of time to take off from work when a pet dies? I work at a veterinary clinic, so my boss was sympathetic when I asked for three days off after my 8-year-old rabbit died. But my friends scoffed and told me I was overreacting. Was I?

Mandy

You’ve come to the wrong fellow, Mandy. When my pooch heads off to the big doghouse in the sky, I expect to take to my bed for several years. Who cares what your mean friends think? You were grieving and asked your employer for time off. He kindly gave it to you. Case closed.

If you feel guilty about it now (or sneaked off to the multiplex to watch “Silver Linings Playbook” on Day 2), pitch in a little harder at the office or stay later to make up for it. You can even work an extra shift. With less-understanding bosses, take it day by day, and see if you really need three of them to pull yourself together. But that’s for you to decide, not me. I hope you’re feeling better now.

A Family Matter

My husband and I eloped. Later, my in-laws organized and paid for a party in our honor. Many of the guests gave us generous cash gifts. My husband, who was fearful of carrying cash on the subway, asked his father to hold it for him. Now, his father (who is much better off than we) is holding back the money, citing financial difficulties. But how difficult can things be? They have live-in help, while we live on a modest income. So far, I’ve stayed out of it. Any ideas?

Rocco, Montreal

How do you feel about kidnapping their butler and ransoming him for your wedding gelt?

Your father-in-law may have adopted a “net profits” theory of the party cash: deducting his expenses and distributing the balance to you. (Though he should have told you.) Or he may be a self-centered brute. By this point in human history, it should come as no surprise that “financial difficulty” is an elastic notion, and even the ferociously wealthy will do astonishing things when faced with becoming slightly less so.

No question, the Old Man is behaving poorly. But the happiest chapter in your sad story is your penultimate sentence: you have stayed out of it. And you should continue to. If you open your mouth, your new in-laws will brand you a troublemaker for all time. If your husband wants to push for the cash, he should speak with his parents directly. He may shame them into a payout. Or decide (with your input) to let this go.

If the parents are sticklers for etiquette, he can bribe them by withholding thank-you notes to their friends until lump-sum payment is received. But didn’t you elope to avoid all this? As for future family gatherings, keep your wallet in plain sight at all times.

Step Away From the Cellphone

A good friend makes a habit of placing her cellphone on the table whenever we invite her to dinner. She answers text messages and plays games throughout our meals. I have tried to dissuade her by using humor. It hasn’t worked. She says we all have annoying traits, and real friends overlook them. How should I handle this the next time she breaks out the phone? (I should add that she is a middle-aged adult.)

Anonymous, Connecticut

Let’s start by reframing your pal’s philosophy of friendship. True, we all have our peccadilloes. But that’s not a free ticket to Rudesville. Friends also take an extra step (or three) to accommodate one another’s reasonable requests — especially if one of the friends has gone to the trouble of making a rib roast and buying dessert.

Next time, ask her to try making it through a single dinner without her phone. If she can’t do it, suggest she check it once, away from the table and between courses. If she refuses, consider another dining companion.

Kids These Days

Our 15-year-old son is not applying himself at school or anywhere else. He lies around the house cheerfully. And the more we push him to become involved in school, sports or other activities, the lazier he becomes. Any suggestions?

J. J., Long Island

Stop pushing. If it’s having the reverse effect, your son may soon turn into a three-toed sloth. As contemporary parents, you’ve probably already tried financial incentives for greater get-up-and-go, and the carrot (or stick) of part-time work. Think about consulting his school’s guidance counselor, too. And for Horatio Alger inspiration, sit him down in front of PBS’s new documentary, “Inventing David Geffen.” Sheesh! That guy makes whirling dervishes look like lazybones.

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com or SocialQ on Facebook. You can also address your queries on Twitter to @SocialQPhilip. Please include a daytime phone number.

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