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damage control

The question

We have often invited good friends to our cottage for a weekend visit. This summer, they said that their 15-year-old son wanted to bring his girlfriend, and that the two of them would share a room! First of all, we have never met her; secondly, she is only 14 years old; thirdly, they have never spent the night together before. We said no … that we were uncomfortable with this. They said: "Our kid … our rules." We said: "Our cottage … our rules." They then cancelled their visit and our relationship has been chilly since. Who was right?

The answer

You were.

Click. Dial tone. End of column.

Just kidding. 1) I get paid by the word, 2) it's an interesting and thorny dilemma, 3) something almost exactly the same happened to me at a cottage we rented this summer.

My case involved a "bunky" (i.e., a small satellite cottage), and a pair of 17 year olds who had slept together before.

Spoiler alert: We let them share the bunky. But there was a lot of palaver beforehand, and a cross-examination about birth control in which all questions were answered to adult satisfaction.

Good parenting? Bad parenting? Old school would say "bad." I remember, back in the day, my friend had been living with his girlfriend for seven years, but his parents had an ironclad rule: "No one sleeps together at the cottage unless they're married."

So he and his common-law wife had to sleep in separate rooms even at the age of 30! Sometimes, if a lot of people were there, he had to sleep in a tent! Draconian? Uber-WASPy? Maybe. But it was their cottage, and "my cottage, my rules" as you say.

Pardon my French, but that's a droit de maison to which I think every homeowner and cottage owner is entitled. Pay the piper, call the tune.

And let's get real here. Fourteen? The age of consent in Canada is 16. True, there is something called a "close in age" exemption, colloquially known as the "Romeo and Juliet Law," which allows minors of even 12 and 13 to consent to sex with someone less than two years older.

So technically, you'd be within the boundaries of the law. But pardon my other type of French, that law is completely effed up. Nobody knows anything at the age of 12. You are a child at 12 – and I would argue still a child at 14, or at least way too young to be making these types of heavyweight adult decisions (i.e., to have sex or not).

I know people will say: "Dave, times have changed, kids grow up faster now, there's hormones in the milk that cause them to be adult-like earlier," and so on.

To which I say: rubbish. I have now had direct, up-close-and-personal, co-habitational experience with not one, not two, but three 14-year-olds (my three boys, currently 19, 17 and 14) and feel I can say with some authority and zero equivocation 14 is way too young to be having sex.

Frankly, your friends sound a little "out there." They would seriously give you the cold shoulder over the "right" of their 15-year-old son to have sex with a 14-year-old girl? At your cottage? That's kooky talk! I would tell them they could take their haughty little froideur and stick it up their… No, wait. Friendships are important and it's always better to handle things with diplomacy. It's the way of the superior being and always leads to better things.

Might be an odd analogy, but bear with me: In this cottage we rented, the website promised two full 18-litre jugs of water, but when we got there, there was nothing – just one bone-dry jug! My wife was all in favour of angrily chewing out the owner, but I called her and was nice and friendly and all like: "How can we work together to solve this problem?" She got the guy in the neighbouring cottage to bring us water, and we became friends with that neighbour and he took us around in his boat and we bought him ice cream.

My point? Friendliness and niceness is always best, even when you feel aggrieved, and leads to more positive outcomes. So explain to your friends in the nicest possible terms why you didn't feel comfortable with the situation, and tell them you hope they understand.

If they continue to be haughty and huffy, though – sorry to contradict myself here – but the hell with them. If they're really going to "die on that hill," to be in a righteous snit over such an obvious non-principle, you might be better off without them.

Anyway, you're the one with the cottage. I have a funny feeling they'll come around eventually. Just splash and play and sip chardonnay in the sunshine until they do.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.