While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On resisting a parent's pressure, on principle, to attend a family vacation:
My 94-year-old father badgered me to go on a cruise with him. I hate cruises, and had many work obligations that week. The idea of being cooped up with my very dependent father for a week really really didn't appeal to me.
But my best friend told me I had to do it, so I did. Once I accepted that the cruise was not for me, but for him, I actually enjoyed our time together. I even used some of it to get him to tell me his life story so I could take notes against the day I might have to write his obituary; it turned out there were many things I didn't know about him.
Two days after we returned to port, quite out of the blue, my father suffered an aneurysm and died. I have never regretted that trip for an instant, and I can't thank my friend enough for urging me to take it.
On competitive parenting:
I served as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English. In my school the students were divided into three class groups - we'll say 1, 2, and 3. The 1's were generally smart kids who were very focused on getting A's. The 2's were generally just as smart as the 1's but not as focused on getting A's and "winning." The 2's also tended to be more creative and well-rounded than the 1's.
Once when I assigned the students a project to write a play, I found the stories of the 1's aimed to satisfy the project and get A's, but the plays of the 2's were far more interesting/creative even if their English wasn't as good as the 1's. One group of 2's even took a huge risk and did a spot-on send-up of me (the teacher). I have rarely laughed or applauded so hard and long as I did for that group!
The 3's? Well, they were for the most part not as bright as the 1's or 2's but they were sweet, wonderful kids who I think, in the end, I liked the most.
On people who ask rude or intrusive questions:
I'm an introvert, and have a hard time conversing with strangers or even acquaintances. I also happen to be very curious and have a terrible rude-question filter. Being told I'm being rude and walking away is devastating to me, after it took me a good half-hour just to come up with a conversation opener. I'm doing my best here, so how about a notification that it was too personal a question for a stranger, and a topic change?
While there may be people who are intentionally trying to get your goat, there are just as many of us who struggle with normal human interacting and are just trying as hard as we can.
And how about the opposite situation! I've not asked people about obvious deformities or scars or whatever, thinking it would be rude, and then they get offended that I didn't ask! Can't win.