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I am in my late 20s and tend to lean to the left politically. My mother, who is in her late 50s, was never very political until Donald Trump spewed his venomous ideas about immigration. Now she refers to him as “my man Donald.” My mother works as a nurse in a clinic that caters to a mostly poor population, many of whom are Hispanic. She now thinks that anyone who speaks Spanish or who is of Latino origin is an illegal immigrant. She constantly posts things on Facebook like “When my man Donald is President, I won’t have to deal with anymore illegals and anchor babies at [name of her workplace.]” I keep warning her that she could be fired for that, which would be especially bad because she would lose her pension and is less than five years away from retirement, but she rebukes me. She speaks like this in public, trying to get people to react or agree. It makes me sick. I am a teacher and work with a poor Hispanic population. I love all of my kids and know their day-to-day struggles; I try so hard to be a positive role model in their lives and someone they can trust. My mother speaks her hateful views more each time I talk to or am around her. It’s gotten to the point where I cannot stand to be around my mother anymore. Can you offer any advice on how to deal with her or what to do to avoid her? I can’t imagine living this way until next year’s election.
Since your mother has such contempt for the people she is supposed to serve, it might be good for everyone if she lost her job. I am baffled at the polling numbers for Donald Trump, raging narcissist, but in your mother’s case, it sounds as if her political awakening could be a possible sign of a medical problem. If a previously apolitical person is mouthing off and posting on social media in a way that disparages her patients and puts her job and financial future in jeopardy, then something is off. You are describing a fairly drastic change in personality, so I think it’s worth persuading your mother to get a complete checkup. Please do let us know if the cause of her crush on the Donald is a brain tumor. (Note to Donald: I’m not menstruating.) But if Mom is fine and she’s just responding to Trump’s fantasies of an America sans Spanish speakers, then you need to have a blunt talk with her. Tell her what she’s been saying makes you sick, and you and your mother need to agree to go back to Donald-free discussions or else you two are on hiatus until Trump is no longer politically relevant. Add that if he’s elected president, you will endure an epic gloating session. Say that you’re cutting off your social media connections to her so you don’t have to read her rants. Explain to her that of course she’s entitled to her own views, but when she expresses them publicly, and especially electronically, she’s potentially creating grounds for dismissal and the loss of her pension. Let her know that if that happens, you will be unable to financially bail her out. Let’s hope “her man” craters soon for her sake, yours, and the country’s.
I am a 16-year-old male high school student. I have a longtime friend, “Jennifer.” The two of us aren’t particularly outgoing socially, and we tend to do everything together. Jennifer recently expressed a desire for a romantic relationship, which I dealt with poorly. I mumbled something about not wishing to ruin a longtime and meaningful friendship over a short-term decision. Since then, however, I can’t get the idea of a romantic relationship with her out of my head. The problem is that Jennifer’s idea of dating is essentially what we’ve been doing for the past five years. She has an overall fear of sex and physical intimacy, as well as legitimate concerns about pregnancy and STDs. But without a physical relationship, I can’t see a difference between our friendship and romance. I feel like a horrible person because of this, and I really don’t want to be the creepy guy who prods her into sex when she doesn’t want it or isn’t ready. I’m annoyed at myself that I’m even having quasi-manipulative thoughts, especially about such a dear friend. Should I go back to ignoring the whole thing? Attempt to have a lengthy discussion with her? Or do I deserve a reprimand for thinking about this at all?
Let’s hope we haven’t arrived at the point at which a 16-year-old boy needs to self-flagellate for thinking about sex with a female classmate, especially one who has expressed romantic interest in him. You actually deserve kudos for recognizing your perfectly normal desire but wanting to be sure you never pressure or manipulate a partner into sex. And let’s give props to Jennifer. She overcame what must have been serious sweaty palms and heart palpitations to make her bold suggestion. You did not handle this situation poorly. Even middle-aged people would find it awkward to deflect the expressed romantic desire of a longtime friend. You were kind and respectful, and your answer allowed this friendship to continue. But let’s say you and Jennifer did explore a romance. I agree that would mean adding a physical component to your friendship—but that can be a lot of things short of intercourse. It could be that despite her expressed concerns about sex, she’d actually like you to kiss her. So I think you need to revisit Jennifer’s suggestion. Have a follow-up talk in which you say you’ve been thinking a lot about what she said and you’re intrigued and flattered. If you try romance, approach it with the idea of being sensitive to your partner’s desires. Respecting her limits won’t prevent all awkwardness—awkwardness is inevitable—but it will keep you from being a jerk.
One of my absolute best friends has been convicted of using child pornography. This revelation was devastating for those of us who know him, or at least thought we knew him. It cannot have been an accident, as he had been an elementary school teacher and certainly would know how to recognize child abuse and exploitation if he saw it. I haven’t confronted him about it, but in our last conversation I expressed my frustration toward him for not just picking up the damned phone if he was going through some sort of rough patch in his personal life. Should I give him space to heal with his family (he has a wife and a young child), or ask him what he was thinking? I am afraid of losing my friend, but I am furious with him at the same time.
—Sad and Angry
Given what your friend was prosecuted for, it’s no wonder his behavior comes as a shock. However, you seem to think he was remiss in not picking up the phone and saying, “Hey, just wanted you to know that I’m a pedophile. I have a huge collection of child porn, and boy oh boy is this a problem, especially considering that I’m an elementary school teacher!” This is not about you, and you have to decide what you do before this friend heads off to his new living accommodations. Maybe the most you can do is express to him your sorrow at this terrible turn his life has taken and say that you will be there for his family. But since he’s already been convicted, I’m assuming he has only a short time to “heal” with his family before he serves a long prison sentence. Besides the children whose images he possessed, the innocent people who are going to suffer are his wife and child. I hope that there is a group of you who will come together and support these devastated people.
I am the father of a 3-year-old daughter whom we often take to the park. She sees other people there we do not know having picnics or celebrating birthday parties. She is highly motivated to get her hands on cake, punch, and other things that adorn these picnic tables. My wife and I are split on how to instruct our daughter in these situations. One of us thinks that she should be encouraged to go up to other people by herself (under our watchful eye) and ask for the food she wants. This school of thought says that this teaches her to be confident, sociable, and assertive. (She is too shy with strangers to have actually done this yet.) The other school of thought says that walking up to people we do not know, interrupting their party, and asking for food simply is not socially acceptable behavior. Do we best serve our daughter by teaching her to pursue what she wants or understand appropriate behavior?
Your daughter may be cute as a cupcake, and thus her sidling up to other people’s parties and expressing a desire for a cupcake might result in a gustatory reward—after people look around and made sure a parent is on board. But I don’t think this is the “confident, sociable, and assertive” school of parenting. I think it’s the obnoxious, entitled, and grabby school. You best serve your daughter by teaching her to pursue what she wants and understand appropriate behavior. That means learning that although the offerings at others’ celebrations may look luscious, they are not for her. When you take her to the park, you need to pack snacks she knows are meant for her. You increase her confidence by encouraging her to politely assert herself in situations where it’s the right thing to do, which will decrease the chance she gets repeatedly slapped down because no one taught her manners.
More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
“The Un-Giver: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a woman whose boyfriend gave her a tooth for their anniversary.”
“Twin Swap: In a live chat, Prudie advises a man whose girlfriend first slept with his brother—but doesn’t know.”
“Free Not to Be Child-Free: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a woman who thinks she might want a baby after all, despite her husband.”
“Poly, Pregnant, and Proud: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a woman grossed out by her sister’s choice to raise a family with two men.”