For Whom the Ding Tolls

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Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and “unusual” social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website

Hi Tim,
I am 23, a male college student and I share an apartment with another guy. We get along and he is considerate and responsible. I’m the problem. He went out of town with his family a few weeks ago. He told me I could use his car, a brand new one that he worked long hours to afford. I take the shuttle or my bike everywhere, but I did borrow it a couple of times when I was pressed for time. One of those times, I noticed when I came back home that there’s a fairly noticeable ding near the fender. This must have happened while it was parked somewhere, but I don’t know how or where. He’s been back over two weeks and never noticed! By now he’ll probably assume it happened while he was driving it. I could say nothing and be in the clear, but my conscience is eating me alive! I’m losing sleep over this and he even notices my odd behavior because I can’t relax around him at all! Should I tell him or just shut up and let him find out in due time? – Guilty Party

Hi Guilty,
This is one ding, right? Your description of being utterly consumed by gnawing guilt sounds too agonizing to bear any longer. Yes, you were responsible for the car and of course you should tell your roommate; it is the right thing to do and besides, I do not think your blood pressure can afford to fret much more about it. Tell him and remember someone else damaged his car, not you. It could have gotten bumped just as easily when he parked it, and those dings are often impossible to trace when one has been zipping around town. You should offer to pay half the cost if he even fixes it, and either way I would stick to the shuttle or bike in the future; it is not worth riling those jangled nerves.

Generosity Reconsidered

Hi Tim,
I am a mother, 30’s with a 16-year-old daughter. My husband and I are affluent, but we worked very hard to get there. When my daughter passed her driving test we went overboard and bought her a new BMW. She deserves it; she has always excelled in school and never gotten into any trouble. But, since she got into the driver’s seat of that car she has become the most vain, self-centered airhead that I’ve ever known. Now all she cares about is flaunting our good fortune and hanging around with a bunch of thankless brats who watch celebrities like the Kardashians or Paris Hilton and try to emulate them. My husband and I aren’t classist or materialistic, we give back to our community, and we raised our girl to be polite. Now she puts others down and makes rude remarks about people who have less. How can I undo what this silly car seems to have done? – Generosity Reconsidered

Hi Generosity,
A family meeting appears to be in order. Your daughter should know that you do not approve of her disparaging the less fortunate and demonstrating a class order you never taught to her. At least, not directly.

When we give children too much and protect them from all hardship, even with the best intentions we can deny them experiences that build strong character. Resilience does not come from parents’ money; it grows out of consequences and setbacks, empowering youngsters to become independent and develop their emotional intelligence. Her shift in values may also reflect an overwhelming pressure to succeed and meet only the highest standards. Maybe you did not even enforce perfection as the solitary goal; perhaps it started as innocently as praising hard work and quietly gathered momentum.

You can make your little diva pay the bills that come with her luxury car, such as fuel, repairs, registration, and any tickets she may acquire. If the immediate gainful employment necessary to maintain a luxury sports car is not an option, you can simply trade the car for a nice, used hatchback and still require that she pay the costs for the new (old) car. If this is a change that cannot be initiated without a significant disruption of school and family life, counseling would be the next step.


Hi Tim,
College guy, 20s, my bro goes home to see his family 400 miles away in the same town where mine lives. He offers me a ride home with him because I don’t have a car. Two days before the trip, he tells me what my share of the gas will cost! Rude much? He’s going there anyway, should I figure what the gas is from his family’s doorstep to mine just to make a point? -Notsogassed

Hi Notsogassed,
How dare that vile ingrate make such an affront to your sensibilities! No doubt, you promised this bro your effervescent conversation and wit to deliver him constant merriment for the duration of this journey, and what thanks do you get? Normally I am loathe to use crude language, but in this case I feel strongly that it fits. The only party that should share travel expenses is the ass that is planted in the free seat, enjoying that free ride home to be with its loved ones, in a car that must be financially acquired, maintained and cleaned by the driver who is also charged with the safety of his or her precious cargo. Now, if the ass happens to be attached to your body, then you are its owner and would be obligated to cover its expenses if it turns out to be arrogant and entitled and is not possessive of at least a basic ethical code. The moral of the story; only a cheap ass would not offer to share fuel expenses when a friend provides a road trip.

Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author’s alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions, and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.

Photo courtesy Nate Grigg, licensed under Creative Commons

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