For 15 years, my parents have paid for my adult brother to live in an upscale apartment in the expensive city where he went to college. He doesn’t work. He barely graduated from college, lost touch with his friends, then flunked out of graduate school. My parents were mortified, and I encouraged him to find work. But he never did. Now my parents are resigned to supporting him indefinitely. With the pandemic ebbing, I keep trying to convince them that they should push my brother to apply for jobs and engage with the world. But when my brother refuses, my parents are cowed by him. So, they continue to support him, giving him nice hand-me-down cars and taking him to fancy dinners. This is madness! What more can I do?
If you’d expressed concern for your brother’s emotional well-being or the roots of his seeming paralysis as an adult, it would be easier to sympathize with you. (He may be depressed, not a grifter.) But your question reads like a jealous tale of middle-age sibling rivalry: Mommy and Daddy give him too much!
And even if you’re right — your brother is a mooch, and your parents enable his laziness — it doesn’t matter. Your family doesn’t take orders from you! You’ve expressed your opinion repeatedly, it seems, but your parents and brother are free to act as they choose. (To me, his issues seem more complex than the cost of an “upscale apartment” or the “fancy dinners” you focus on. I hope he seeks professional help.)
I also get that your frustration may be drowning out your loving concern. Still, it’s hard to see how your continued involvement helps matters here. No one is asking for your assistance. Disentangle yourself and get on with your own life. Your energy will be better spent exploring how this family dynamic affects you.
Where’s My Kid’s Invite?
My 10-year-old daughter has two best friends. The three of them play together occasionally, but the other two aren’t really friends and only see each other through my daughter. One of the mothers of these girls told me she would like her daughter to have a best friend like the other girl. Now, that mother has organized a play date with the other girl and didn’t invite my daughter. My daughter is hurt, and I’m annoyed. Are we wrong? Is there an etiquette for this?
To my knowledge, there is no social equivalent of a “finder’s fee” that entitles your daughter to mandatory invitations every time children she’s introduced gather to play. Chill, Mom! It’s one play date.
One of the most common ways to make new friends is through our pals’ existing friendships. And that’s good! It creates community. I encourage you to stop policing your child’s social calendar and help her focus on making a variety of friends. No one gets invited to everything.
Dog Days of Summer
Like many Americans, my next-door neighbor adopted a cute puppy during the pandemic. While we were in lockdown, she and the dog were together all day. Now that she’s gone back to work, and the puppy is on its own for hours at a stretch, it cries and barks and whines — a lot. It’s miserable to be next door! How should I handle this with my neighbor?
Unless the puppy has a delayed reaction to being left alone (and doesn’t start crying until your neighbor is out of earshot), she is probably aware of this problem to some extent. Let her know gently that her dog’s distress continues for the length of her absence.
Say, “I’m sorry to tell you that your puppy barks and whines the whole time you’re away. It’s painful to hear! Have you started working on this yet?” Unfortunately for you and the puppy, improving its separation anxiety will be a process — one your neighbor will have to manage on her own or with the help of a good trainer (now that our dogs are accustomed to 24/7 companionship).
My brother-in-law sent us two free copies of his memoir. Our family tree is included in it. My husband (the author’s brother), one of our grandchildren and I all had our names misspelled in the book. When I pointed this out, he blamed a now-dead cousin for the mistake. No apology! May I return these unsolicited books?
Just curious: Did you ever congratulate your brother-in-law on the publication of his memoir or thank him for sending two copies, or did you launch right into the misspelling of your names? Often, the tenor in which we raise problems is a good barometer for the kind of response we will receive.
I’m sorry your feelings are hurt. No matter who provided the information or proofread the manuscript, it would have been thoughtful for the author to apologize. (Does anyone really need a proofreader to spell his brother’s name correctly?) Still, returning the books seems overdramatic. Your brother-in-law’s failure to apologize for minor errors probably doesn’t merit major escalation.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.
The Espresso Martini Is Everywhere (Again)
Ms. Chastain, 38, considers the relationship between espresso martinis and the Bravo universe as a chicken-or-egg paradox: Did reality TV stars (re)popularize the drink, or are their tastes a symptom of larger American trends?
Coffee culture flourished during the pandemic, most notably on TikTok (remember dalgona coffee?). Ty Bridgwater, 23, began a series of iced coffee reviews on the app in January 2021, and some have been viewed 6.7 million times.
Mr. Bridgwater uses TikTok’s “duet” function for his commentary on other users’ coffee-based drinks, some of them boozy. Videos with the hashtag #icedcoffee have more than two billion views, and the hashtag’s landing page reads, “It’s not just a drink, it’s a lifestyle.”
The appeal of mixing uppers and downers needs little explanation: Consider the popularity of vodka with Red Bull among clubgoers, or the appeal of Four Loko among pre-gaming college students (at least, back when it was caffeinated).
Now, as the United States approaches the post-pandemic era, that enthusiasm for caffeine will be put to good use. Bars are reopening, parties are returning, and many of us are tired (it’s been a long 15 months). This is a cocktail designed for a reawakening, and we’re on the precipice of a grand one.
Which is not to say that the drink doesn’t have its detractors. “I’m convinced this is some conspiracy,” said Andrea Hernández, 31, who writes a newsletter about upcoming food and beverage trends. She has been tweeting about the ubiquity of the espresso martini since April, when she began to feel that “it was a trend that was going to be forced on us, like it or not.” For now, she says, she’ll stick to her preferred drink: a dirty martini.
Late Night Sums Up the Biden and Putin Summit
Welcome to Best of Late Night, a rundown of the previous night’s highlights that lets you sleep — and lets us get paid to watch comedy. Looking for more to watch? Here are the 50 best movies on Netflix right now.
Ending Things Early
President Biden’s short, tense meeting in Geneva with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was the talk of late night on Wednesday.
“I had a feeling those two weren’t going to make it to the hometown date,” Jimmy Kimmel said in a reference to the dating show, “The Bachelor.”
“You do not want this guy giving a toast at your wedding. [imitating Putin] ‘Congratulations to Jeffrey and Diane. May the specter of happiness haunt you. Now, please have some cake. It is made of vanilla and children’s tears, for what is life but a difficult birth astride a grave? The light gleams for an instant, then it is night once more. Mazel tov!’” — STEPHEN COLBERT
“I’m guessing this is probably why Putin isn’t asked to speak at a lot of graduations.” — JAMES CORDEN
“There’s another expression that goes ‘If Vladimir Putin gives you pudding, don’t eat it — because it’s probably filled with plutonium.’” — JIMMY KIMMEL
The Bits Worth Watching
James Corden took the cast of “Friends” for a ride around the Warner Bros. studios, ending on their iconic set.
What We’re Excited About on Thursday Night
Saweetie will perform on Thursday’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
Also, Check This Out
Victoria’s Secret Swaps Angels for ‘What Women Want.’ Will They Buy It?
The Victoria’s Secret Angels, those avatars of Barbie bodies and playboy reverie, are gone. Their wings, fluttery confections of rhinestones and feathers that could weigh almost 30 pounds, are gathering dust in storage. The “Fantasy Bra,” dangling real diamonds and other gems, is no more.
In their place are seven women famous for their achievements and not their proportions. They include Megan Rapinoe, the 35-year-old pink-haired soccer star and gender equity campaigner; Eileen Gu, a 17-year-old Chinese American freestyle skier and soon-to-be Olympian; the 29-year-old biracial model and inclusivity advocate Paloma Elsesser, who was the rare size 14 woman on the cover of Vogue; and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, a 38-year-old Indian actor and tech investor.
They will be spearheading what may be the most extreme and unabashed attempt at a brand turnaround in recent memory: an effort to redefine the version of “sexy” that Victoria’s Secret represents (and sells) to the masses. For decades, Victoria’s Secret’s scantily clad supermodels with Jessica Rabbit curves epitomized a certain widely accepted stereotype of femininity. Now, with that kind of imagery out of step with the broader culture and Victoria’s Secret facing increased competition and internal turmoil, the company wants to become, its chief executive said, a leading global “advocate” for female empowerment.
Will women buy it? An upcoming spinoff, more than $5 billion in annual sales, and 32,000 jobs in a global retail network that includes roughly 1,400 stores are riding on the answer.
It is a stark change for a brand that not only long sold lingerie in the guise of male fantasy, but has also been scrutinized heavily in recent years for its owner’s relationship with the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and revelations about a misogynistic corporate culture that trafficked in sexism, sizeism and ageism.
“When the world was changing, we were too slow to respond,” said Martin Waters, the former head of Victoria’s Secret’s international business who was appointed chief executive of the brand in February. “We needed to stop being about what men want and to be about what women want.”
The seven women, who form a group called the VS Collective, will alternately advise the brand, appear in ads and promote Victoria’s Secret on Instagram. They are joining a company that has an entirely new executive team and is forming a board of directors in which all but one seat will be occupied by women.
Rarely has a company so dominant in its sector been exposed as trailing so far behind the culture as Victoria’s Secret was in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
It was, Ms. Rapinoe said bluntly, “patriarchal, sexist, viewing not just what it meant to be sexy but what the clothes were trying to accomplish through a male lens and through what men desired. And it was very much marketed toward younger women.” That message, she said, was “really harmful.”
Victoria’s Secret’s cultural influence is a product of its industry standing. Though the company’s share of the U.S. women’s underwear market dropped to 21 percent last year from 32 percent in 2015, according to Euromonitor International, it is still a powerhouse. Its next closest competitor is Hanesbrands, with a 16 percent share.
Founded in 1977 as a store where men could feel comfortable shopping for lingerie, even the name referred to male fantasies of prim Victorian ladies who became naughty in the boudoir. The retail billionaire Leslie H. Wexner bought Victoria’s Secret in 1982 and turned it into a phenomenon that helped shape society’s view of female sexuality and beauty ideals. Central to its ethos were the “Angels” — supermodels like Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks who posed exclusively for the brand, often in G-strings, stilettos and wings. In 1995, it introduced the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, a sort of cross between a runway show and a pole dance that aired on network television for nearly two decades.
It has taken years for Victoria’s Secret to acknowledge that its marketing was dated. In that time, the value of the brand eroded and a slew of competitors grew in part by positioning themselves as the anti-Victoria’s Secret, complete with more typical women’s bodies and a focus on inclusivity and diversity.
“I’ve known that we needed to change this brand for a long time, we just haven’t had the control of the company to be able to do it,” Mr. Waters said. As for the Angels? “Right now, I don’t see it as being culturally relevant,” he said.
Daily Business Briefing
Mr. Razek and Mr. Wexner will not be a part of the new Victoria’s Secret, which will split from L Brands and Bath & Body Works to become its own public company this summer. (The pandemic scuttled a sale to a private-equity firm and swallowed $2 billion in revenue.) There are more women in charge, including a new chief marketing officer, Martha Pease, who has led the Collective initiative. The stores that survived a year of culling are becoming lighter and brighter, and mannequins — which have typically been a size 32B — will come in new shapes and sizes. The Angels imagery, which once even appeared on store bathroom TVs, will be phased out. The company will still sell products like thongs and lacy lingerie, but its purview will expand, especially in areas like sportswear.
“In the old days, the Victoria brand had a single lens, which was called ‘sexy,’” Mr. Waters said. While that sold for decades, it also prevented the brand from offering products like maternity or post-mastectomy bras (not considered sexy) and prompted it to sell push-up sports bras (sexy, but not so popular). It also meant, he said, “that the brand never celebrated Mother’s Day.” (Not sexy.)
There are plenty of people who do, in fact, find motherhood seductive, but the myopia of the Victoria’s Secret lens was such that they were never acknowledged, let alone listened to.
“As a gay woman, I think a lot about what we think is sexy, and we are afforded the ability to do that, because I don’t have to wear the traditional sexy thing to be sexy and I don’t think the traditional thing is sexy when it comes to my partner or people I’ve dated,” said Ms. Rapinoe. “I think functionality is probably the sexiest thing we could possibly achieve in life. Sometimes just cool is sexy, too.”
Victoria’s Secret, which did finally introduce a Mother’s Day campaign last month and even featured a pregnant model, will soon begin selling nursing bras. It also said it would work with its new partners like Ms. Rapinoe and Ms. Chopra Jonas on product lines set to appear next spring.
While it was “probably time for the Angels to go,” the lingerie powerhouse will have to strike a balance between moving forward and maintaining existing customers, said Cynthia Fedus-Fields, the former chief executive of the Victoria’s Secret division responsible for its catalog.
“If it was a $7 billion business pre-Covid, and much of that $7 billion was built on this blatant sexy approach, be careful with what you’re doing,” she said.
According to Raúl Martinez, who joined as creative director in January, every aspect of the brand is being reconsidered.
“It has to have a purpose, a reason, be there for the consumer to say: Wow, they’re really evolving,” he said, acknowledging that it was his 15-year-old daughter who persuaded him to join Victoria’s Secret. “She said, ‘Dad. Do it for us. The Gen Zs,’” he recalled.
Still, the question remains: Why would women like Ms. Rapinoe and Ms. Chopra Jonas want to risk their names by placing their stamp of credibility on Victoria’s Secret? The line between selling out and infiltrating from within can be hard to discern.
“Of course there will be people who are like, ‘Does this make sense?’” said Ms. Rapinoe, who acknowledged that when she was first approached, “I, too, was like, ‘What? Why do you want to work with me?’” She said she had been convinced by the willingness of the brand’s executives to acknowledge their mistakes and history, and by the fact that her role is not limited to the typical “brand ambassadorship,” but extends to consulting on language the company uses, the assortment of products it offers and narrative it’s putting out.
Ms. Elsesser said her decision to join Victoria’s Secret “goes back to the sheer metrics of the situation.”
“I didn’t start modeling to just do all the cool stuff; I did it to change the world,” she said. “With platforms like VS, where you enter the living rooms of all people, that’s where you make radical change.” She saw part of her role as lobbying for Victoria’s Secret to increase its sizing to XXXXXL, she said. (It currently carries up to 42G in bras and XXL in nightwear.)
The VS Collective also includes Valentina Sampaio, a Brazilian trans model; Adut Akech, a model and South Sudanese refugee; and Amanda de Cadenet, the photographer and founder of #Girlgaze, the digital platform for female photographers. All of them, in the words of Ms. Rapinoe, are people who were not “typical brand targets in the past.” As for the fashion show, Mr. Waters said it would most likely return in 2022 in a very different form. What the brand will offer soon is a podcast featuring the women in the collective, a medium that requires no visuals.
“To rebrand is going to take a lot of steps to ensure that they have the consumer trust, that this isn’t just inclusivity-washing,” said Erin Schmidt, a senior analyst at Coresight Research.
Victoria’s Secret is betting a chunk of its marketing budget that persuading such unexpected personalities to join its cause will in turn convince consumers, and potential investors, to similarly believe in its shift, giving a new meaning to halo effect.
As Ms. Rapinoe said, “I don’t know if Victoria has a secret anymore.”
Contact Sapna Maheshwari at firstname.lastname@example.org or Vanessa Friedman at email@example.com.