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Dear Amanda,

At Thanksgiving dinner this year, my little sister announced that she had recently gotten engaged. She is twenty. Her boyfriend is thirty-five. They’ve been dating for a little less than two months. My parents have never met the guy. This was the first I had heard about her even seeing anyone. What should I do? I am tempted to lock my sister in her room until she’s thirty, but I thought I would wait to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Sincerely,

Older Brother Wanting to Administer a Beating to Sister’s Boyfriend

Dear Older Brother,

That sounds like a sucky Thanksgiving. Just be thankful that as bad as your Thanksgiving was, it didn’t involved severed fingers and bloody bread, like Ms. HLSGOP. If you’re really upset about your sister, just ask Katie B. to show you her lack-of-fingernail, and perhaps it will make your life look a lot better.

Anyhow, I completely sympathize with your need to take your aggression out on this old guy like a certain Aggie on Admitted Students Day. Many people will tell you that violence is not the answer. I disagree. If there’s one thing that world history has taught us, it is that violence is frequently the answer. If your sister’s fiancé fits into the sketchy old guy stereotype, then you have my blessing when it comes to beating him to a bloody pulp. Just make sure that you clear it with your dad first, in case this is something that he would like to take care of.

Before administering the necessary beating, however, you should make sure that the guy is a lecherous weirdo and has no real future with your sister. You should also try to solve the problem in more constructive ways, but if the guy is a jerk, you are free to hit repeatedly while being constructive.

The closest thing I have to a big brother is Useful Roommate and Going-To-Be-Useful-When-He’s-A-Senator Roommate. As a rule, I avoid taking their advice on all matters unrelated to administrative law or my internet connection. However, I suspect that if I had an actual big brother rather than goofy, left-wing substitutes, I would value his judgment and want to follow his advice. So, you should sit down with your sister and tell her that you think two months is just too fast. Be careful not to get all testosterone-y and try to prevent her from seeing her boyfriend. There’s nothing more enticing to a young girl than forbidden love. Just patiently explain that perhaps she should spend more time dating the old guy and getting to know him better before jumping into something semi-permanent.

Reasoned discussion with the sister and teamwork with your parents could get the nuptials postponed, but it might not get rid of the older man. You should try to meet him and give him a chance. It’s possible that he’s an okay guy. And the age difference won’t be that big a deal. When your sister is sixty. If you meet him and you still have a bad feeling about the guy, I would try bringing some attractive, age-appropriate men into her life. Don’t try to set her up, but introduce her to people that will make her notice her man’s receding hairline. Try to get her female friends on your side. Chances are that they are weirded out by the guy as well.

Yours,

Amanda

***

Dear Amanda,

One of my good friends, Mandy, has a knack for gift-giving, but is notoriously hard to shop for. This makes Christmas a very stressful time of year for her friends. After several years of Christmases, birthday housewarmings and other present-giving occasions, I am tapped out of gift ideas. What do you get for a woman who has been known to stop speaking to people after receiving especially bad presents?

Sincerely,

Gift Certificates Just Won’t Do

Dear Gift Certificates,

I want to sympathize with you, but because I finished most of my Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving, I have a hard time putting myself in your situation. Honestly, I suspect that “Mandy” puts an emphasis on gifts because she likes to shop for them and give them. If finding “Mandy” a present is such a chore, then maybe you shouldn’t get her anything. I suspect that she derives a lot more joy from watching you open your present than she would from receiving whatever crappy gift that you end up getting her. I also suspect that thing about her not talking to someone after a bad Christmas present is an old wives’ tale. There were probably other factors involved, like her former friend’s chemical imbalance.

Anyhow, if you’re going to feel too guilty about not getting her a present, then I suspect that “Mandy” is a lot easier to shop for than you think. Does she have a favorite television show? Favorite author? Favorite game? Favorite member of the Nixon family? These are the sorts of idiosyncratic obsessions that can easily be converted into commercial goods. I am guessing she has excellent taste in clothes, so you shouldn’t try to insert your own preferences into her wardrobe, but a girl is always in need of accessories. Think purses. And wallets. In fact, I would bet that “Mandy” lost her wallet a couple of months ago, and is still in need of a suitable substitute. Also, her poker chip case is probably falling apart.

Happy shopping!

Yours,

Amanda

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