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My best friend of four years, “Lily,” is white, as am I. Many of our friends are people of color, and we’re all plugged into issues of racial and social justice. Recently, Lily lied about attending a protest that got violent, when I know for a fact that she wasn’t there. She’s even been telling her friends she got pushed by a police officer. I know Lily has been unsure how to support our friends during this time of crisis. I am horrified that she chose to express “support” by outright lying. She donates a lot of her time and money to worthy causes, but I don’t feel right about letting this slide. Should I confront her directly? Tell one of our friends and let them confront her? Say nothing and hope she gets discovered?
—Badly Timed Boast
I can’t imagine how it could help to ask one of your friends to talk to Lily on your behalf. You should talk to her about it. You say Lily’s been your best friend for years, which means you’re well-positioned to speak to her both lovingly and in challenge. Tell her what you told me, ask her what’s going on, and give her time and space to answer. She may be embarrassed or defensive, especially at first, and it will help not to crowd her. It may also help to say you’re not out to get her but trying to determine what drove her to lie about this in the first place, and you want to help her figure out a more productive outlet for her energies. This is not a referendum on whether her heart is in the right place or whether she’s an otherwise-truthful person. It’s a specific, discrete lie about a single event, and you want her to stop lying about it and start trying to make it right today.
Help! We’ve Got Way Too Many Cooks in Our Kitchen During Quarantine—Literally.
Danny M. Lavery is joined by Peter Labuza on this week’s episode of the Dear Prudence podcast.
My girlfriend and I have been dating happily for three years and plan to move in together soon, but a recent look at her medicine cabinet has me worried. I’m not one for digging through significant others’ things, but she had moved my toothbrush into the cabinet, so I opened it and found at least eight different prescription medications—almost all anti-anxiety meds with a few study aids as well. She has prescriptions for only some of them, and the rest are either expired or pills that she’s gotten from friends. When I asked her why she had so many pill bottles—they took up half the cabinet—she got annoyed, said she’d throw out medications she didn’t need the next time she moved, and ended the conversation.
I know she struggles with anxiety, but I can’t help but find her reaction upsetting. When I’ve talked to her about her use of pills before, she evades the question, gets defensive, or argues that she knows how to take pills properly no matter what her actual prescription says. I’ve had multiple friends struggle with drug addiction, and I’m worried because her reaction reminds me of how others have tried to distract from or explain away their problems. Hanging onto expired medications and pills from friends just seems like a bad sign, especially with Valium, lorazepam, and Xanax. On the other hand, perhaps I’m being prudish or overly judgmental. She has been resistant to seeing a therapist, so I don’t want to take away her only avenue of dealing with the anxiety. But I’m also worried about her mental health and about what living together will be like. Am I overworrying this, or should I attempt a more serious intervention-style conversation?
—Opening Pandora’s Medicine Cabinet
I’m happy to absolve you of snooping: You were looking for your toothbrush, not breaking into her diary. Intervention-style conversations are not particularly helpful nor conducive to honesty, openness, and trust, so I don’t recommend that as your next move, but it’s certainly worth revisiting this topic again before you two move in together. You don’t have to determine whether she’s an addict in order to have a conversation about prescription medications (expired and otherwise) with someone you’re seriously dating and planning on living with. Nor does having a conversation about medication mean you’re demanding she start justifying every pill she takes. But it is fair to say, “I’m concerned about the pills you take that you don’t have a prescription for, and I want to know that you’re talking honestly about your usage with a doctor or a psychiatrist, so that you can get useful advice from a medical professional. I don’t want to control or monitor your medication, but I do want to be able to talk about it sometimes, especially if it affects me.”
You say that you’ve talked to her about her use of pills in the past, and I don’t know if that’s because it’s changed her behavior, or led her to take unnecessary risks, or if she’s combining them with alcohol or other drugs, or what, so I can’t answer whether you’re being prudish or overworrying. The most important question is whether you two can agree upon a shared idea of what constitutes acceptable risk. I’d also encourage you not to think of this in terms of taking away her only avenue of dealing with anxiety. There are many ways to deal with anxiety, and you don’t control any of them. You can’t decide her relationship to medication for her, and it would only be an exercise in frustration and wasted energy for you to try. But you can, and should, affirm your right to have a conversation.
I have just moved into an apartment with a woman who is starting the hCG diet. It sounded really unhealthy to me, even dangerous: You can only eat 500 calories a day for weeks and the “hCG drops” you’re supposed to take are unregulated by the FDA. She’s done the diet once before, so she knows it gets “results.” I’ve only lived here for a month, so we’re not close. I don’t want to insult or offend her, but this diet is dangerous and will result in her gaining the weight back plus more when she finishes it. Is there any way for me to broach the subject with her?
—Worried About Roommate
It is dangerous—extremely so. Trying to live on a semistarvation diet of 500 calories a day—to say nothing of the unregulated supplements—puts her at risk of malnutrition, muscle loss, and cardiac issues. I think it is worth bringing up once to express your concerns and encourage her to seek medical advice. You can acknowledge that you two aren’t close and stress that you’re not going to bring this up with her again or tell her what or how to eat, but let her know that you’re worried about the dangers of this diet and encourage her to speak with her doctor about it. I’d leave out the question of whether she’ll gain back any weight she loses—the salient and urgent issue is that of her overall health, and if she’s struggling with disordered eating, bringing up possible future weight gain may be counterproductive. She may be dismissive or defensive, and at that point, the best thing you can do is say, “I’m sorry to have offended you, and I’ll let you make your own decisions.” It wouldn’t do either of you much good to try to monitor her diets, however unsafe they may be, or to comment on the size or frequency of her meals. That would only make her feel surveilled and controlled.
More Advice From Care and Feeding
My husband and I recently started fostering, so we’re brand new to the parenting game, with a preteen and a teenager. Easy-peasy, right?! So far, there’s only one real point of contention—meals. Our preteen refuses to eat most food, particularly if it is in contact with a vegetable. There are a couple of complicating factors. First, he comes from an immigrant family and is used to eating the ethnic food his mom usually makes. Second, he does seem to have a pretty sensitive stomach, leading to stomachaches and vomiting if we aren’t careful.
My husband and I are a little conflicted on how to handle it. I tend to be more lenient, figuring that there’s already enough change/trauma in his life, so we don’t need to make mealtimes miserable. My husband thinks that we should hold a firm line and make the kid get used to some new foods (and the occasional green thing). I’m starting to learn some new recipes, thanks to the teenager being willing to teach me, but I also value healthy eating and would like to encourage good eating habits. So how hard should we be pushing our food agenda on a kid that is, likely, only temporarily ours?
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