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I’m a biracial (mom is black, dad is white) man, and my girlfriend is white. We’re both vegan, but my girlfriend is much more vocal about it. We recently went to my home for dinner. My parents aren’t vegan but prepare vegan food when I’m home. Over dinner, my girlfriend began comparing eating vegan to the civil rights movement, which my mom found offensive. I tried explaining to my girlfriend why these comments may have crossed the line, but she gets really upset. I don’t know how (or if?) I should try to talk to her about it again, and Mom refuses to talk to my girlfriend until she apologizes, and my dad sides with my mom.
Your parents are behaving appropriately in light of your girlfriend’s racism, and she should apologize immediately. It is possible—easy, even!—to advocate for vegan principles without comparing black people to animals. Comparing black people to animals is racist (not “maybe” stumbling lightly over the line of racism, but fully fledged, fully dredged, head-to-toe, top-to-tails racist), your girlfriend was being racist, she should apologize for her racism, and she should stop saying racist things. She is free to be maximally vegan from sunup to sundown without making racism a part of it. It might also be worth asking yourself if you feel comfortable dating someone who goes so immediately and so readily to that particular comparison and who bristles at the idea of having to apologize to a black person for demeaning their personhood.
I am 67, and my husband is 70. We’ve lived in a small condo community for the last four years. A few doors down from us is a slightly older couple. The four of us became fairly good friends—dining out, going places together, etc. The 73-year-old wife is fairly attractive and well-endowed. I’ve noticed on several occasions she has done things that indicate she wants attention from my husband. She calls him “the party boy” and has complimented him on how “cute” he looks. She’s never complimented me but expects compliments herself. My husband is a highly friendly, social person. Sometimes we walk around the neighborhood, and she almost never misses the chance to be right there. She comes over frequently unannounced just to “come in and talk.” I feel that my privacy is being invaded unexpectedly, plus I don’t like the way she is so bold and the feeling I am getting about the way she is around my husband. On his birthday last June, she made his favorite dessert and brought it over to him. The other day we started out for a walk together, but it was windy so I turned and went home. He went on. Later I found that she had complimented him and took his picture. Now for what reason would she want his picture? Am I just being immature? Can you give me advice on how to deal with this?
The best way to deal with this is to spend a little less time managing your neighbor’s behavior and a little more time talking to your husband about his. That’s not to say you have to like the way she’s flirtatious with him and sometimes indifferent toward you—you have every reason to be irritated in that situation. But there are so many details about her transgressions in your letter, yet all you have to say about your husband is that he’s “highly friendly” and “social,” implying that he’s somehow incapable of modifying his behavior in any way, a deluded extrovert falling victim to her wiles. That’s not at all the case—he’s a grown man, not a naïf!
If she comes to your house unannounced and you don’t want to host her, tell her, “I’m sorry, now’s not a good time,” and don’t let her in. If you want your husband to know that you sometimes feel jealous, and that you’d like him to draw you more consciously into group conversations or otherwise demonstrate consideration for you, then do so. You don’t have to paint her as an evil harpy in order to get more support from him. My guess is that she took his picture and complimented his appearance because she enjoys light, friendly flirtation, not to break up your marriage. You’re allowed to feel piqued and ask for more attention from your husband, especially when the four of you socialize as a group, but that doesn’t mean you have to consider her an enemy, either.
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My best friend started dating someone I used to be friends with—the friendship was long over before they started dating—and I miss my best friend! The person they’re dating has hurt me enough times in the past that even seeing their name makes me feel angry, and as hard as I try to be supportive and excited for my friend (because they’re happy and that’s good!), it’s really exhausting to keep this up, and I think my best friend can tell. I just want some way to tell them I miss them and I’ll be around if their partner is ever out of the picture, but I know I’ll wreck whatever’s left of our friendship if I say something like that. Is there any good way to tell someone, “I’ll be here when you break up with your partner, but until then, don’t call me”?
—Playing the Waiting Game
Do you think that “whatever’s left” of your friendship is salvageable if you don’t say something? Can you imagine yourself maintaining a meaningful relationship with your best friend if they continue to date this person? What about if they move in together or get married? Does your best friend have any idea of the history between you and their partner? Have you ever had a single conversation with them about the way this makes you feel? Openly acknowledging a dynamic that you’re both already perfectly aware of isn’t the same thing as committing an act of wreckage—it’s just stating the obvious. And I don’t think you’re going to be able to keep up this act for much longer.
Nor do I think you should! This person wounded you deeply and repeatedly, and you can’t pretend that didn’t happen. It’s lovely that you want to support your best friend’s happiness, but you can’t do that at the expense of your own. At least if you have an honest, loving conversation now (remember that you’re not offering an ultimatum, just explaining what you need to do for your own peace of mind) with your friend, you’ll leave the door open for future reconciliation. But the road you’re on now seems destined to crumble.
Help! My New Co-Worker Is a Man I Used to Bully in High School.
Danny M. Lavery is joined by Matt Lubchansky on this week’s episode of the Dear Prudence podcast.
I’m black, and my boyfriend is white and Mexican. Whenever I date interracially, I try to be sure that the person dating me isn’t fetishizing black women. About a month ago another black woman I didn’t know started viewing my Instagram stories. I asked my boyfriend if he knew her, since he was following her. His voice changed, and he told me she was from a college class. He sounded strange, and I had a gut feeling they’d dated. He kept lying but finally admitted that was his ex.
He said it was only a three-month relationship two years ago, that he was afraid I’d think he was fetishizing me, and that he didn’t want it to bother me. He’d also told me previously he wasn’t following any of his exes. I’m troubled because we’ve had a lot of conversations about interracial dating, and he’s had several moments to mention it. Even though it only lasted three months, he has referenced that relationship as both toxic and one of his most important in his life. I’m upset he lied about it even though I also understand. I would have been fine if he’d dated another black woman before—would probably have been glad not to have been his “first”—and I don’t care if he does follow his exes, so I’m unsure why he lied. He’s been super honest after this, but I can’t help wondering if there’s anything else. Any advice?
I’m not surprised you can’t help but wonder whether your boyfriend’s super honesty is super honest. It was such an odd, unnecessary, obvious lie, one that fell apart immediately, but he continued to insist it was the truth. That’s cause for concern and worth one more conversation. What was his thought process when he started lying about this to you? What did he hope to accomplish? Why did he think you’d believe he was fetishizing you if he told you he’d dated another black woman a few years ago? You don’t have to go in as if you’re interrogating him, and you can’t answer these questions for him. But the person who should be figuring out how to restore trust in this situation and offering further emotional context is your boyfriend.
There’s a lot jumbled up here that’s tricky to untangle, I’m concerned he’s trying to spin this so it’s sort of your fault, and he doesn’t have any real explanation for why he lied to you or any sense of how he’s going to make up for that strange, painful breach of trust. I’m not going to suggest you break up with him right now if you don’t feel ready yet, and maybe you two can talk things out to your satisfaction. But you have a right to be confused and hurt and to expect more from him.
Dear Prudence Uncensored
“She didn’t ‘maybe cross a line.’ She LEAPT OVER IT while screaming racist nonsense at the top of her lungs.”
Danny Lavery and Nicole Cliffe discuss a letter in this week’s Dear Prudence Uncensored—only for Slate Plus members.
I am a 55-year-old white guy married for over 30 years to a woman I love more every day. We met when we were 18. She grew up in a terribly dysfunctional household where they used shame to control her emotionally. She’d cultivated a lot of secrets when we met and collected even more by the time we got married and moved away to start a life together. She asked me to swear never to tell those secrets to our two sons (who are now in their mid-20s), and I have done my best.
Recently, during a pleasant dinner conversation, I referenced the fact that we drank in college when we were still legally underage. This was one of the secrets I wasn’t supposed to tell our sons. She got very upset with me later and said she worried that now she can’t trust me to keep the other secrets. I am worried that I don’t even remember them all given the passage of the decades and my increasing “silver moments” of minor memory loss. I want to encourage her to tell these secrets so she can be free of them. None of them show her in a bad light. It’s just an aftereffect of the shame she was raised with. She’s a wonderful wife, mother, professional, and friend. And I want to be free from the fear of making a mistake if I am telling a harmless story.
—Can’t Remember What’s Secret
There’s a balance to be struck here between honoring a confidence even if you don’t think it ought to be kept secret and encouraging your wife to let go of some of the unnecessary shame she’s carried around with her over the years. It’s reasonable to say both, “I’m sorry I forgot and mentioned our college drinking to our sons; I know you didn’t want me to” and “I think it would be good for you to try to release some of the shame you feel over our normal, age-appropriate, nondangerous drinking habits 30 years ago.” You can encourage her to reconsider how tightly she holds onto these secrets, but you won’t make her feel any less anxiety if you start telling them on her behalf.
That doesn’t mean you have to swear you’ll go to extreme measures. Tell her about your concern that you’ll forget, because you’ve noticed more-frequent memory lapses as you’ve gotten older and ask for a refresher on what stories she’d prefer be kept just between the two of you. (Also, when we’re no longer social distancing, book a checkup with your physician—I’m sure you’re fine, but it can’t hurt to schedule regular visits.) But I think you should err on the side of honoring her confidences. It’d be one thing if this meant you had to seriously edit the entirety of your 20s or the nature of how you met, but this sounds fairly low effort. Even if you don’t think they need to be secrets, it doesn’t harm anyone to keep them.
I am a below-the-knee amputee. The type of prosthesis I wear has two different silicone components, so there are some thicker layers around my knee. I wear shorts all the time because pants put yet another layer of material and pressure on my knee. I was not in the military, but because I’m a relatively fit man, people often assume I lost my foot in combat, sometimes even thanking me for my service. I always correct them. But it bothers me that they are making assumptions.
I don’t mind it if a child asks about my leg because it gives me the opportunity to talk about the importance of wearing a seat belt. I’ll even let them check out my prosthesis, touch it, or answer their questions, because they may not have ever seen one before. Adults are a different story. It really irritates me when they’re nosy. I don’t want to talk about it. I usually just tell them the truth, that I was in a car accident, but it really gets to me that people treat me like I’m some sideshow act. I’m tough about a lot of things, but sometimes I’ll break down thinking about what everyone must think about me if so many people just have to know “what happened.” What can I say that will get me out of the conversation, while also conveying the message that it is rude to ask in the first place? And am I just being oversensitive?
There’s nothing oversensitive about not wanting strangers to comment on your body or to ask intrusive questions about your prosthesis. It’s the most reasonable desire imaginable! Asking a stranger personal questions about their body is a total violation of etiquette and gives you full license to respond in any way you see fit, from ignoring them completely and walking away, to saying something brusque like “I don’t want to talk to you.” If you want them to think more carefully about just how they’ve transgressed, you can say something like, “I can’t imagine what makes you think you’re entitled to that information.” Then there’s the classic, “My God, you must be so embarrassed you just said that out loud.” You can also simply tell them: “You’re being rude. Please stop it.”
I went to a fairly cliquey college but developed a friendship with another girl outside of our cliques. We remained friends after college, keeping in touch almost daily via Gmail chat, despite living pretty far away. She was my main confidant leading up to my quickly-planned, very small wedding in 2010. Around that time, she began dating a former classmate/friend of ours. She was invited to my wedding but canceled due to a bout of pneumonia. I never heard from her again. I have spent five years racking my brain as to what I did wrong. I called and emailed her, but never heard anything. I was worried that something had happened to her. Recently there was a blurb in our alumni paper that she and the fellow had married. I was so happy to hear she was doing great! I would love to send her my congratulations, but I worry about intruding. Part of me is also still dying to know what happened. It must have been something I did or said, but I honestly cannot think of anything.