How Do I Tell My Brother That Cutting the Vaccine Line Isn’t OK?

My brother, who is a health care provider, qualified for the Covid vaccine. He also got his wife vaccinated by putting her on his office payroll temporarily and claiming that she is a health care worker too. (She is not!) I’m not sure which is worse: playing the system or gleefully bragging about it in a text he sent around after they had both been vaccinated. Other relatives won’t be vaccinated for months, though their risk of illness is greater. I ignored my brother’s text when he sent it. What should I say when I speak to him?


For as long as I’ve understood rules — about sharing toys as a kid, paying taxes to the I.R.S. or qualifying for Covid vaccines — I have known people who take pleasure (and advantage) in violating the spirit of rules while technically complying with them. Meet your brother!

His payroll trick may have made his wife eligible for a vaccine by the letter of the guidelines, even if she never went near a patient. They gamed the system for a few months’ head start on vaccination for her. And you’re right: They did it at the expense of others at greater risk.

Are you honestly surprised by their behavior, though, after nearly a year of watching neighbors advertise their indifference to the welfare of others — by refusing to wear masks, for instance? Sure, you may tell your brother you don’t respect his selfish actions. But to what end? He’s a health care worker! He knew the vaccine grab was wrong and did it anyway. Now you know him and your sister-in-law better.

Loose Ends

Two years ago, my husband and I were friends with another couple. I watched my husband’s relationship with the wife become flirtatious. They also started spending time alone together. I confronted my husband with what looked like the beginning of an affair. We dealt with the fallout, and I forgave him after he apologized. I also confronted the wife, who admitted eventually that the relationship was inappropriate. We never spoke again. But our husbands remain friendly. (Her husband forgave them both.) I still feel a pit in my stomach when I see her or when my husband sees his friend. I probably would have forgiven her if she’d apologized. But she didn’t. Should I ask for an apology? I’d hate to interfere with my husband’s friendship.


Monogamy isn’t easy. (How’s that for understatement?) The only person who wronged you, though, is your husband. The other wife was a bad friend, but she’d made no commitment to you. I would be wary of reintroducing this couple to your marriage, and I would give up on an apology by the wife. She’s had two years to tell you she’s sorry, and she hasn’t done it.

You deserve to be free from pits in your stomach! Share your discomfort with your husband and suggest that both of you take a break from this couple. He should understand. It’s a reasonable consequence of his behavior. If he doesn’t, this would make a good subject for marriage counseling.


A lovely family just moved next door. They have a fenced yard and a large dog. Every morning, they let the dog out at the crack of dawn, and he barks incessantly. We’re working from home, and the barking often wakes us. We don’t want to start off on the wrong foot with these people. What should we do?


My amateur diagnosis (based solely on years of dog ownership) is that the dog may be suffering from separation anxiety at being shut out of the house on his own.

Call your neighbors and say (nicely), “We don’t want to be difficult, but your dog’s barking is waking us when you put him out early in the morning. Can you stay with him while he does his business? He may be less likely to bark that way.” That shouldn’t raise many hackles. A good night’s sleep is worth an awkward chat (or three).

Driver’s License Pending

My daughter turned 15 recently. She is excited to start driving, but state law requires drivers to be 16 years old for a license or learner’s permit. The problem: She has a friend whose parents let the girl start driving on her own when she was 14. We doubted it, then saw for ourselves it’s true! She takes her older sister’s license with her when she drives. Should we let our daughter practice driving on neighborhood streets or discourage her friendship with this girl?


Isn’t it odd that we need a license to drive but not to raise children? It would be reckless and illegal for you to allow your daughter to drive without a license. You would also be teaching her that she is above the law. Bad all around!

Separating the girls doesn’t fix the problem. Wouldn’t it be more sensible to confirm that the girl’s parents really do know she’s driving? (I hope they don’t!) You may also call the police. An official visit may stop the illegal driving (and save the girl from getting a ticket — or worse — if she gets caught). But I’d start with the parents.

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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