Best Behavior: Things Unseen

Running a Tab

Both our grandchildren still believe in Santa. I’ve heard them talking about everything they’re going to get from Santa, and they haven’t even sat on his lap. They want a lot. The gift list starts with Frozen dolls and just goes on and on. Their parents are in a flurry, trying to find everything they want — and running up their credit cards to pay for it. They’re asking us to pitch in and be part of “Santa.” That means that we’ll have to give gifts of our own too. I don’t mean to be un-Christmassy, but please!—Anonymous, Bellevue

When my brother and I were kids, our parents maintained that Santa had a budget, and he couldn’t afford everything.My mother said she’d have to have a talk with Santa. For some reason, we bought her story. For good or ill, Christmas morning was a surprise.

Your grandkids may not understand that there’s a limit to money, wherever it comes from, and they’re being set up for disappointment, either this Christmas or as the years creak along. They may be doomed if they’re expecting life to go perfectly. A reality check might come in handy, even if it starts early.

But there’s no reason for you to talk with the kids. Their parents need a talking to. They’re in a snit, precisely where they may be when bankruptcy descends and college has to be paid for. They may turn to you for help when that day comes. Perhaps you, or somebody, brought them up to expect life to come with no credit limits. That would be a good conversation for you to have with them now, even if it’s a little late.

Give the presents you please. Just bring the boxes over and present them to the children. Make sure they understand so you get credit for it. If they ask, tell them Santa’s out of cash. (It worked for my mother after all.) He and their parents can handle the explaining.

There’s Something in the Air

There’s a new guy in my AA group. He’s taken to me and sits next to me. He has dreadful breath — and a pretty unpleasant personality too. In fact, he’s a leech.I’ve tried moving, and he’s followed me. I don’t want to discourage his recovery, but I’m having a hard time putting up with the stench. I don’t know what to do.Tell me.—Rick, Manhattan

AA is about adjusting lots of things, but the guy’s breath is not on the list — and neither is his creepiness. His foul breath may be the result of post-nasal drip, a sour stomach or just poor hygiene. You don’t know, and you don’t have to know.  You may be overcompensating.

Bring a tin of breath mints to your next meeting and give them to him. Tell him he needs them. He’s new to the group; make sure he gets the message.That’s why you’re there, isn’t it?

Maybe you’re being kind, and that’s the reason he’s clinging to you. Move along.If he won’t take the mints, leave him a toothbrush.Just don’t get close enough to see if he uses it.

Have a question for John? Email him at