Dear Emma,

I need advice. How can I stop my parents from killing me after they find out I spilled a cup of coffee on my laptop?


Coffee Conundrum

Of all of the many, many responses I received to my previous column (kidding) this question posed to me by a friend made me think of my own relationship with my folks. We weren’t allowed to touch the walls in my house growing up. They are orthodontists, and our white walls were pearly-white. Or rather not clean but sterile, like their instruments. White couch, white walls — again, that we were not allowed to touch — and everything was spotless.  It was a catch phrase in the house — “Don’t touch the walls!” — held firmly in my parents’ back pocket and ready to be drawn out any moment my hand neared a wall. The first act of rebellion I can claim as my own occured when I was near school age. I took hold of a black ink pen and, eyes fixed on my father, grasped it in my right hand, neared the tip to the perpetually clean walls and pressed down to draw a thin, singular black line.

So back to your coffee situation. I know you didn’t spill that coffee on purpose, but this is a column about messiness, not about intention. I did touch the walls. I fell into them, scratched them with the backs of wooden chairs, peeled paint off of them in removing Hannah Montana posters, and yes, I intentionally, spitefully drew on them. Life in its violently messy glory happened in that house, and my parents probably wouldn’t have had it any other way; in my time since leaving that house, in which blankets were placed meticulously over couches for protection, I have been continually astounded at the general chillness of my parents.

In situations like the one you are facing, I remind myself of the humanness of my parents. Though a somewhat comedic question, amid the triviality of it there lie real tensions between yourself as a grown individual and your still-childish position as a dependant person, and I think it is important not to undermine the difficulty of such a balance.

This is a long winded way of saying this: I recommend you research the repair and replacement costs associated with your coffee mishap and present these options to your parents sooner rather than later. This is the practical solution; alternatively, you could use any savings you have to quietly replace the laptop I am assuming they paid for or will have to pay to replace in this situation and never speak of it again. Up to you.


Emma Kerr

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