Yes, that gift would be social-engineering through housewares

HI, CAROLYN: My husband and I live in the same suburb as his parents, which provides weekly curbside recycling pickup. But my in-laws — 70, in decent health — do not recycle. I cringe watching them throw away bottles and cans whenever we visit. I had the idea to give them, for this coming Christmas, a nice trash can with separate compartments for trash and recycling, along with a supply of the required clear bags, so all they have to do is set the bag out on the curb. But could this be perceived as imposing my hippie-dippy ideals on them, or trying to guilt them into recycling?

Hippy-Dippy Idealist

HIPPY-DIPPY IDEALIST: It could be perceived that way, yes, because that’s exactly what you’re doing.

Plus, trying to social-engineer people through housewares you want them to have is not! a! Christmas! gift! It’s like buying your spouse a new vacuum cleaner to make them better at doing chores for you. It’s coal in their stocking with a side of superiority — and, ironically, extra plastic, steel or other resources.

If you believe your in-laws would want to recycle if it were easier for them to do so, then just buy them the trash can now out of the goodness of your heart. Or even better, tell them you appreciate yours and you’ll get them one, too, if they want it.

Or even betterer, do some reading on what actually happens to most of our so-called recycling, then quit the nearly fruitless micro-activism with your in-laws and apply yourself instead to better community choices for trash. It’s mostly going to landfills regardless, unless and until we all up our game.

And for Christmas, give them something they’d want.

DEAR CAROLYN: When two adults move in together, should they always split the rent 50/50? He makes double her salary and, due to their career choices, this will likely be the case moving forward. They are 30 and 36 and in love. They plan on living together one year before getting married and starting a family.


L.: The only thing they “should” do is agree on how they split the rent.

Fortunately, this is a perfect opportunity for both — before signing anything — to be honest about what they think, how they feel, what they expect and what ghosts might still haunt them when it comes to money, power and trust. I advise them to take it.

DEAR CAROLYN: I am a very curious person by nature. I am always looking up information on the internet. I am interested in how and why and what people are up to. I ask “why” a lot. I find some people get irritated when I ask why they do something or think a certain way. I also look out the window to see what my neighbors are up to, especially being at home a lot due to the coronavirus. I have been called “nosy” and been accused of giving someone “the third degree.” I feel terrible but how do I rein my curious self in?


WONDERING: Whenever you have a trait that’s sometimes a nuisance, otherwise a strength, and possibly/likely so ingrained as to be nearly impossible to change, your best bet is just to announce it: “I’ve always been hyper-curious. Feel free to tell me if I cross a line.”

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