Dear Amy: My niece is a lovely young woman. My daughter and I are very close to her. I often acted in a motherly fashion to her while she was growing up, and she was a bridesmaid in my daughter’s wedding.
We speak to her regularly and, although she lives in another state, we see her whenever possible. She is an adult in her mid-30s. She is beautiful, sweet, intelligent, and has a wonderful boyfriend and a good job.
Here’s the difficulty: She is constantly posting photographs on all of her social media sites that we know are stolen from other people or websites, claiming that the photos are of her. Several other friends have noticed and commented to us about it. Once, my daughter tried to delicately tell her that the photo of “her” on the beach in Hawaii was being used on a travel website for Mexico. My niece simply replied that they had stolen her photo (and then erased all traces of it from her accounts).
Although we are slightly bothered by this, we wonder why she wants to give others the impression that her life is something it is not. She seems to have a great life, and is happy and well-regarded.
We are more concerned that her online persona doesn’t end with just the posting of photos and that she may actually be pretending to be someone else and may be developing online relationships based on that. This could seriously harm (or ruin) her current relationship or her job.
Should we confront her, and if so, how do we go about it without ruining our relationship with her? — Concerned Aunt and Cousin
Dear Concerned: You and your daughter have already notified your niece that you’ve noticed her social media disconnect, and the fact that your niece immediately removed the photo tells you that she understood your message.
Stealing photos is wrong, and it is an affront to photographers, who make their living selling images, only to see them stolen and used elsewhere without credit or compensation. But I’m not sure how you get from filching photos to the idea that your niece might be engaged in catfishing.
When you see your niece posting publicly, you can freely comment on her choices. In terms of her private activities, she is a grown woman, and unless her choices have a direct impact on you, you shouldn’t speculate.
Dear Amy: What is the best way to handle smokers at an outdoor event? I enjoy going to summer concerts at my local riverfront, but inevitably a smoker will sit next to me. I choose not to smoke for a reason, and it literally makes me ill to breathe cigarette smoke. I get tired of constantly having to move, only to have yet another smoker light up next to me. Is there anything I can do? — Nonsmoker
Dear Nonsmoker: If smoking is legal at your outdoor event (and it likely is), the only thing you can do is politely ask a smoker, “Would you mind sitting downwind of me? Cigarette smoke really gets to me.” The person will either comply (or may self-consciously stub out their cigarette), or not. If they don’t comply, you will have to move your seat.
Dear Amy: “Tattoo Hater” was distraught that her daughter has gotten tattoos. I liked your response.
I think many tattoos are quite beautiful, but I also advised my children against getting them. Of the three, two have tattoos, and they are beautiful, but all I had to say to them is that when they are 60 or 70, they are going to look awful.
I used to work in a nursing home, and one of the residents there was a former “Tattooed Lady” from the circus. Her tattoos did not hold up well. As she aged, the inks faded and kind of melded together, so that the artwork was blurred and unrecognizable. Her skin was a bluish green wherever the tattoos were. I told my children about her, as a cautionary tale. But they were grown-ups when they got the tattoos, and, in the end, it is their body, even if I produced it. — Love the Kids, Hate the Tattoos
Dear Love the Kids: My uncle Harvey was in the Merchant Marine and had the requisite ship and anchor tats on his arm. Over the years, that ship sailed (so to speak), but I loved him, so I loved his tattoos, too.