A Losing Game

Sound advice on football fandom, warring parents and holiday mayhem


John D. Spooner is an investment adviser, author and novelist. His most recent book is No One Ever Told Us That: Money and Life Lessons for Young Adults. Here, he responds to queries from advice seekers of all ages. Send your conundrums to thedance@improper.com.

Football season is upon us. The problem is, I hate football. And the person I’m in love with absolutely lives for this time of year. He has season tickets and wants to take me to a game. How can I tell him it’s my idea of torture without upsetting him? He thinks this is such a great thing to offer me. I would love to have more interests in common, but I really have an aversion to this sport with overpaid players. Should I be honest with him or suck it up, put a smile on my face and just go? We can do incredibly stupid, unnecessary, dishonest, dangerous and immature things for love—and that doesn’t even scratch the surface. Going to a football game is nothing. It’s easy. Maybe you should be honest and say, “Do you really want me, need me, at games? You can be truthful with me. Aren’t you happier with your friends for this? If not, I’m delighted to go with you.” Think of it this way: If you can’t stand football, you can ask him to do two things he can’t stand for you. He’ll agree out of guilt, and you’ll have a companion at your favorite band’s concert or while binge-watching your favorite series on Netflix.

Concentrate each day on the five most important things you have to do. A football game shouldn’t even make your list.

My mother is a Democrat, and my father is a Republican. She watches CNN, and my father watches Fox News. It’s like a war zone in my family. How can I negotiate a truce? A child will always lose if he or she has the answers for parents who vehemently disagree about things like politics or watching sports instead of reality shows, or whether the house is too hot or too cold. The only time it can work out is when parents are really elderly—or alone and very needy physically and mentally. Then they’ll accept mediation from children, when they’re too frail to fight back. While they’re still volatile and feisty, and the friction is about politics, nobody wins. People will almost never be won over to the other side in a political argument, particularly these days.

Friends of mine, a married couple, have a pact when they dine out with others. Whoever is first to bring up the subject of health or ailments has to pay for the meal. That eliminates that discussion, as everyone of a certain age tries to top each other with “who’s hurting more.” Perhaps you can suggest this to your parents: Whoever brings up the subject of politics first has to buy the other a gift that costs at least $100. That ought to minimize the bickering.

But you should understand that many parents argue about all kinds of things—it’s as if it’s part of their daily routine and they’d miss it if it didn’t take place. If you’re ever married for a long time, you’ll probably come to know what I mean.

If you’re there when your folks fight, have a drink and go with the flow.

With the holidays approaching, I feel my anxiety level increasing. I know it’s supposed to be a special time of year, but I dread the pressure of giving and receiving gifts: Who to gift or not gift, tipping who and how much, etc. I’m afraid I may forget someone important in my life. I end up making a list like Santa Claus. Then there are the parties or events and what to bring, what to wear. Do you have any advice as to how to navigate the holidays with less stress so I can actually enjoy the season with the warmth and love I should feel? The good news is that it sounds as if you get invited to multiple parties and have “important” people in your life. So many people feel alone and quite depressed around the holidays. The bad news? There is nothing, zero, nada, you can do to avoid the stress of the holidays, and it goes double for those with Type A personalities. But I’ll tell you what I try to do to limit the knots in my stomach.

• Give to only the most important people in your life. You know who they are. Send all the others a card. · For special people, host a dinner party in a neighborhood restaurant, like Toscano on Charles Street. Pay for it and toast all your friends.

• Buy yourself one special outfit that can be worn with different accessories.

• As for something to bring to your hosts and hostesses, I bring gift bags of pistachios. Everyone usually brings wine or chocolate, which is fine but slightly boring. Pistachios are a lot cheaper than wine, but just as thoughtful, and the recipients will remember that you were a little different and probably invite you again.

My bottom line: Simplify, don’t complicate. ◆

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