Every week, Daniel Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Dad won’t speak to me unless I cancel move: Last year, I signed up to go abroad for a year to volunteer in a country that’s underdeveloped but stable. To me, this is wonderful: I work remotely, so I can take my income anywhere, and I had been wanting a service-based adventure before I turn 30.
To my dad, you’d think this is the end of the world. He hasn’t spoken to me in more than a month, and he’s claimed (via my mother) that he won’t speak to me when I’m back. No one in my family shares his views, and he can’t articulate why he has them. I find this ridiculous because I’m not doing anything wrong—I’m single and childless, and I’d still be working and paying my bills! But I love my father, and him icing me out has made me majorly doubt whether I should leave next week, comparing one exciting year to years of familial peace afterward. Would it be worse to not go and possibly regret it forever, or to go and have to deal with the fallout at home?
A: If your father thinks that the best way to register disagreement with a 30-year-old’s decision to travel abroad is to stop talking to said 30-year-old forever, I don’t think that canceling your trip means you’re guaranteed familial peace. I think it’s a strategy he’ll try to employ again once he knows that it works. Of course this is baffling and painful, and I totally understand why you’re feeling hurt and rejected, but I think you’ll regret it if you give up this dream you’ve been planning for so long just because your dad is sulking like a teenager.
I think you should get in touch with him directly before you go (no more intermediaries); even if he won’t take your calls, you can leave him a letter or send him an email telling him that his silence pains you, that you would much rather have an honest argument than get frozen out, and that you wish he could respect you enough to let you make your own decisions, even if he disagrees with them. Let him know that the door is open on your end if he ever changes his mind and wants to call. My guess is that he’ll eventually relent, if only because he feels ridiculous. But even if he doesn’t, you shouldn’t give in—who knows what he’ll try to stop you from doing next?