I am a mixed-race college student and identify as Black. For a year, I’ve been dating a white guy. We’ve never had an issue with race — until now. When I met his parents for the first time, ahead of the family’s big Thanksgiving feast, his father told me that being mixed race is “the best of both worlds.” I didn’t follow. So, he explained: You’re “really white,” but you get the advantages of being Black in college admissions and diversity hiring. I was stunned! My boyfriend, on the other hand, doesn’t see the problem. He says his parents are clueless about race, and it’s our job to help them understand. But I’m not interested in that job. I canceled my Thanksgiving visit, and now my boyfriend is mad at me. Advice?
Your boyfriend and his dad both owe you apologies, for different offenses. Let’s start with the father. His statement is built on the ugly premise that being white is better than being Black. That’s not “clueless.” It’s racist. It’s also understandably upsetting and definitely not your problem to fix.
Now, your boyfriend isn’t responsible for his parents’ opinions. But a decent partner will pitch in when you’ve been dissed. Your boyfriend should have asked you immediately whether you’d like to correct his father or if he should. And even if he missed the awfulness of the comment, his blithe assumption that you will shoulder his parents’ racial education is entitled and insensitive.
Everyone makes mistakes, and relationships often involve explaining to our partners what is obvious to us. (I can even imagine he may have felt protective of his father.) That’s not an excuse, though. And it’s your call. If this boyfriend is worth it, explain to him clearly how he and his father offended you. If he still can’t see it and apologize, that’s a huge red flag.
Leave Baby Alone!
I am the mother of a healthy 1-year-old daughter. Since birth, she has been taller and weighed more than most babies her age. Her pediatrician is happy with her growth rate and diet. Still, when we meet new people, they often say how “huge” she is. One woman exclaimed unkindly that she was bigger than her 4-year-old. These comments bother us. More important, they make us worry that our daughter will become self-conscious about her size. How can we let people know that these comments are dead on arrival?
I rarely get as much angry mail as when I ask readers to stop commenting on the appearance of others. I’m accused of being politically correct and robbing people who like to receive compliments about the way they look. But I stand behind advice that prevents others from feeling bad. (Many people have complicated relationships with their appearance. Why wade into that?)
It will be a while before your daughter actually understands what anyone is saying. And I suspect that hearing her mother in nasty exchanges with strangers about her size will be more destabilizing to your daughter than hearing you say: “We’re thrilled she’s so healthy and well.” I’d leave it at that.
Recently, I became reacquainted with a friend from high school. We’ve had a few dinners with mutual friends. During one, she showed me a picture of the man she’s dating. I told her I was happy for her, even though he sounded sketchy. (He can never meet on weekends, for instance.) A while later, the man messaged me on a dating app. I reported this to my friend immediately. She was livid, but eventually she forgave him. Earlier this year, she asked me if I’d heard from him again. I told her I hadn’t. But now, he’s messaged me a second time. What should I do? I’d hate to burst her bubble.
I probably wouldn’t have told a freshly renewed acquaintance that the guy she’s seeing had messaged me initially. You aren’t that close. You did tell her though, and she seemed to appreciate it. She even followed up, asking if he’d contacted you again.
Definitely report the new contact. Your friend has made it clear she wants to know. Just because she forgave him once doesn’t mean he has a free pass forever. And you’re right: You probably will “burst her bubble.” But she may as well know that a bubble is all she has.
Dozing Off in the Orchestra
Back in Broadway theaters: What should I do if I am sitting next to a stranger at a performance, and he falls asleep and starts snoring?
When I was young and bashful, I would cough or make some other small commotion to try to wake snoring people. Now, ironically, I’m more sympathetic with sleepers and also more direct. I tap them on the shoulder and whisper: “You’re snoring.” No hard feelings! Sometimes it’s hard to stay awake, but that doesn’t give others the right to interrupt our experience.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.
Tiny Love Stories: ‘Your Husband Will Probably Leave You Now’
Never Mind the Naysayers
“My mother says your husband will probably leave you now,” my friend said, two weeks after I told her I’d tested H.I.V. positive. “Your mother doesn’t know him, or me, or even what real love looks like, apparently,” I replied. My husband and I had skipped the traditional marriage vows, but that conversation showed me their value: “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” Thirty-one years later, we’re still married, he’s still H.I.V. negative and our 25-year-old twin daughters (also H.I.V. negative) are thriving. Sometimes, people’s comments say more about them than they do about you. — Rebecca Denison
‘Mixed With Love’
My youngest was born with blue eyes, fair skin and curly blond hair. Nurses marveled over genetics and said that his appearance might change in months. It didn’t matter to me; my son is my son. Most strangers don’t think twice about our family. There’s context when they see his caramel siblings. But when it’s just us two? I’m often mistaken for the nanny. When people stare, I briefly wonder how I’ll explain or prove myself before I realize that I don’t have to. My skin is brown, my husband is white and our son is mixed with love. — Wendy Newbury
The Taste of Home
I’ve always hated melons. To me, they taste strange and have a repugnant, rotten smell. In Lebanon, my jiddo (slang for “grandpa” in Arabic) would always invite me to eat melons for breakfast with him. After cutting the melon into small pieces, he would put the bites straight into my mouth. I pretended to love melon as he glimmered with pride, extolling the fresh, local produce. Years after I immigrated to the United States, I accidentally ate some melon in a fruit salad. Only then did I remember how much I hated melons, and how much I miss home. — Youssef Saklawi
Listless, Lost, Then Found
“I am listless!” my friend said, happily. “I have stopped making lists. I am free!” I was horrified. My beloved list book gently guides my days, boasting all of my tasks and accomplishments. After my friend’s internet bill went unpaid and her sink pipe rusted through, I was secretly pleased. Then I got the flu. I lacked energy to write in my list book. I lay lost, hopeless, listless, thinking of everything I could be doing. Then one morning I awoke and reached for my list book — a clear and happy sign that I was on the mend. — Janet McGiffin
At the Fashion Awards in London, Mourning and Celebration
It was bitingly cold in London on the evening of the Fashion Awards, Britain’s glitziest annual style event, and on the red carpet the model Jourdan Dunn snuggled into the makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury for warmth. “Have you seen Maria Sharapova,” a producer barked, clipboard in hand. “Where is Sharapova?”
She arrived a few moments later in a dress created from recycled water bottles, a collaboration between Iris van Herpen and Evian.
Inside, Rick Owens, svelte in black, posed with the model Adriana Lima, in plunging white. Tommy Hilfiger, who was there to receive the Outstanding Achievement Award, sat close to Kris Jenner, wrapped in a satin shawl in the red, navy and white colors of Mr. Hilfiger’s brand’s logo.
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, in a Boss suit, sat between Anna Wintour and Edward Enninful, the editor in chief of British Vogue and European editorial director of Condé Nast. “Oh my God, that’s John!” said the designer Henry Holland, pointing to John Galliano, on Ms. Wintour’s right. Next to Mr. Enninful was the musician Dua Lipa, in somber black.
“I love Dua Lipa. She’s the best Londoner — don’t tell Adele,” Mr. Khan said, “‘Future Nostalgia’ got me through the pandemic.” He was feeling buoyant. “This shows that London’s back,” he said, gesturing to the throng of sequins, frills and tuxedos.
The jubilation has a frenetic air; the mood of a last party, a final blowout, with a fearful mania beneath the fun. A reflection both on the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant and the possibility of another lockdown, and on the news, received the day before the event, that the designer Virgil Abloh had died at 41. He was a lingering presence in the room, with almost every winner paying homage to him.
“Virgil told me that he didn’t go a day in high school without wearing my clothes,” Tommy Hilfiger said in his speech, just after a mini catwalk show of models, who lip-synced and strutted to hits including “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones and Naughty by Nature’s “O.P.P.”
The actor Idris Elba read Maya Angelou’s poem “When Great Trees Fall” in Mr. Abloh’s honor. Later, Mr. Enninful read a quotation by the designer from a manifesto given out at Mr. Abloh’s spring 2021 show for Louis Vuitton: “‘As a Black man in a French luxury house, I am well aware of my responsibilities. Rather than preaching about it, I hope to lead by example, and unlock the door for future generations. I believe in making my mark with poise, style and grace.’”
The words offered a rare moment of self-effacement in an evening rich with posturing that twisted and turned, uniting not just — as one would expect — the great and good of the fashion industry, but also often disparate characters that even the strangest dinner party dream couldn’t summon: the actress Demi Moore, striding arm and arm with the Olympic diver Tom Daley to present the award for Designer of the Year to Kim Jones; the soccer player Patrice Evra presenting an award to the former GQ editor Dylan Jones for Culture Commentary; and Kylie Minogue, performing a special rendition of her hit song “Slow” in bespoke Richard Quinn, while surrounded by dancers in full face-covering floral bodysuits (the only attendees, other than servers, who were masked).
The evening’s host, Billy Porter, used wit to puncture the pomposity, welcoming “the old, the young and the old who have made their faces young.” Between several outfit changes, he quipped, “I really didn’t think I was going to make it, but luckily I got a job as a truck driver and they let me in” — a nod to Britain’s supply chain issues and the fallout of Brexit, another of fashion’s many headaches.
The award categories, in the past simple and to the point (best women’s wear designer, best men’s wear designer, best model), had been expanded to include looser, and more grandiose, themes, including “Leaders of Change,” an accolade given to 15 industry figures, under three different categories: “Creativity,” “Environment” and “People.”
An absent Alessandro Michele, the creative director of Gucci, was the winner of the Trailblazer Award, presented and accepted on his behalf by the activist Sinead Burke, in pink feathers.
“I am physically disabled, I have dwarfism,” she said when she introduced herself, noting that the award was dedicated to those who “move hearts and minds.” She praised Gucci for its work in supporting L.G.B.T.Q. rights and the rights of the disabled. Mr. Michele, she said, has made a corner of the world “where people feel safe to be themselves.”
Other winners included the up-and-comer Nensi Dojaka, who was given the BFC Foundation Award, the stylist Ib Kamara (also absent), who won the Isabella Blow Award for Fashion Creator, and Simone Rocha, who took home the Best Independent British Brand and whose label recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. The pandemic has been tough, she said, especially for those without a big group behind them and with a small, young team.
“It’s humbled a lot of people on a lot of different levels. It’s humanized the industry, and taken away a bit of the gloss and the sheen,” she said. “Anybody who shows, I respect them. Anyone who managed to keep going.”
Later, the dancer and internet phenomenon Lil Buck moonwalked and glided his way around the grand hall. His performance was apparently part of honoring Chanel for its contribution to art and culture. “Chanel: Creating the conditions for artists to dare,” announced the giant screens behind Lil Buck, before being replaced, inexplicably, by a quotation often attributed to Mother Teresa.
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples,” it read, though most guests seemed primarily focused on the fancy footwork (also footwear). Even Ms. Wintour craned her neck to watch the slides and twists. When Lil Buck finished, she broke into one of her few claps of the evening.
Jill Biden’s White House Christmas Looks Very … Normal
Gone are the blood-red trees. Gone are the icy, sparkling boughs and the imagery of a woman isolated in a winter wonderland (or a horror story, depending on your point of view).
In their place: red-and-white striped knit stockings with green heels dangling brightly from a hearth, family photos, handwritten thank-you notes and an arch of presents in bright red boxes.
The Biden White House Christmas décor, unveiled on Monday, isn’t nearly as stylized or surreal as the Trump-endorsed looks that preceded them. Oh, it’s plenty cheerful and sparkly, but in the context of recent White House holiday styles, it’s positively … accessible.
In this, it is fully in line with the tactile, unpretentious image that the current first couple likes to project. The president and first lady: Just like us! Their home is your home, only a little more so. It did, after all, require 6,000 feet of ribbon, over 300 candles, more than 10,000 ornaments and about 78,750 holiday lights to dress the White House for the holidays, according to the office of the first lady.
That may sound extravagant, but like Dr. Jill Biden herself, whose (unofficial) job it is to oversee the decoration, the effect was rather homey — social media categorized it as “normal.” Whether the response was complimentary or pejorative, it nodded to part of her husband’s campaign sell: a return to normalcy, after the turbulence and extremes of the Trump years. Since his election, it’s been an underlying theme, a foundational element of “Build Back Better.” For the holidays, it’s “Gifts From the Heart.”
That’s why Christmas at the White House is such a useful moment of pageantry, especially at a time when the usual communicative ceremonies of office — state dinners, White House tours — are on hold. Indeed, Dr. Biden’s office said she had been working on the decorations since late May. Decking the halls is one of the few widely shared, or at least widely recognized, rituals we have. That’s useful. Most people can relate.
It’s why Melania Trump’s choices caused so much controversy. Some — especially late-night TV hosts — found her alley of unnatural trees alienating; others saw them as aspirational, if unachievable (and all the more desirable for being so out of reach). And it’s why the fact that the Biden look is so unremarkable is, itself, worth remarking on. It’s a hard balancing act to pull off: walking the fine line between fancy and folksy; between representing the republic to the most polished degree, and relating to the republic. Not just politically, but visually.
Yet it’s a look that has come to define Dr. Biden’s style, which can pretty much be summed up in the dress she wore to do her Christmas hostess duties: a short-sleeved, full-skirted forest green Oscar de la Renta number splashed with white magnolias. Oscar de la Renta is, of course, a New York-based luxury brand, founded by a Dominican, now designed by Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia; a similar style, albeit pink and sleeveless, is available at Saks for $3,990. That’s a lot for a dress, even one worn for an occasion that will be documented in photos for posterity.
But what about two occasions? Or three? Because the workaround Dr. Biden has devised and made her own is not to do what Rosalynn Carter did, when she was attempting to be relatable during the stagflation of the late 1970s, and wear seemingly homespun clothes (that got Mrs. Carter criticized for being frumpy), but rather to wear very expensive, high-end clothes — to represent both the American fashion industry and the ambitions of the country — and then to re-wear them.
She did it during her first international trip, during the G7 in June, and when she represented the president at the Tokyo Olympics. And she did it again with her Christmas dress, which she wore only a month before — in Italy for a lunch with spouses at the G20. This week she wore it to read to a class of second graders and to thank a group of volunteers who helped with the decorations, but chances are it will get another airing sometime soon.
It may seem absurd to laud someone for re-wearing an expensive dress, or to see it as anything other than normal behavior, but then, that’s the point. Because for the last few administrations — and for many people in the public eye, even if it’s only the eye of Instagram — the pressure to promote new stuff was an accepted part of the job. It’s extremely rare to see a celebrity wear the same thing twice (most of them don’t even want to wear a dress once it’s arrived in stores); such was also the case for Michelle Obama and Melania Trump during their times as first ladies.
Like them, Dr. Biden understands that decoration — of her house, of her person — is a tool at her disposal, but unlike them she is using it to normalize what is by any account an abnormal role. Just like the way she is using tinsel and turtledoves. They are secular expressions of the “faith, family and friendship” described in the welcome letter of the commemorative 2021 White House Holiday Guide: everyday examples of the things — sometimes as simple as favorite shirtdresses and poinsettias — that “unite us.”