Dear Prudence

Help! My Family Wants to Do Thanksgiving in Texas, but I Don’t Want to Support the State.

Am I allowed to boycott this year?

Collage of a woman in an apron holding a Thanksgiving turkey next to an outline of Texas.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Tom Kelley Archive/Getty Images Plus.

Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)

Dear Prudence,

About half my immediate family lives in Texas. The other half, including me, are in other U.S. states. My mom, brother, and one sister want to get together in Texas for Thanksgiving and have invited the rest of us. However, all the crazy politics in Texas right now (the new gun law, the restrictive abortion law), not to mention the crazy COVID numbers and refusal to wear masks, make my husband and me very reluctant to travel to Texas at all. We don’t want to support those policies. Are we jerks for skipping holidays with the family in Texas because of the state politics?

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—Frustrated Lib Daughter

Dear Frustrated,

OK, when it comes to potentially skipping the holidays, let’s sort your goals into two piles:

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1) Punishing the state of Texas for terrible political decisions.

2) Protecting yourself and your family from COVID.

I’d recommend ignoring any choices motivated by No. 1. While I understand the idea of a boycott and appreciate where you’re coming from, I don’t think your staying home is going to do a lot to change Gov. Greg Abbott’s mind about anything. And don’t forget, there are a lot of people in Texas—including business owners who are trying to make it—who hate the new laws as much as you do. You’d make a bigger impact supporting grassroots organizers in the state or donating to an abortion fund than you would by staying home.

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Avoiding COVID is a different story, and it’s impossible to say what’s the right amount of risk to take. It’s especially hard to say now, when we don’t know how things will look (or, God forbid, if there will be another major variant) at the time you’d be traveling. But there are some things you should consider: How comfortable are you with flying, and are there any steps you could take (better masks or double masking for example) to minimize your risk? What activities would you be engaging in once you arrived in Texas? Would your family members push you to attend large events or dine indoors, or could you mostly spend time outdoors and at home together? Have they been taking measures to avoid the virus? Would they be willing to test before your arrival? There’s probably a version of this trip that could feel reasonably safe. But if conflicting views about COVID precautions are going to drain your energy every day, I think you’d enjoy your holiday more if you spent it at home.

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Dear Prudence,

This past year, I made a really good friend, the first real one I had made my entire time at college, one whom I got to know pretty well, despite never meeting them in person due to everything being online at the time. At the beginning of the summer, we finally met in person, and I thought our outing went well, despite my being incredibly nervous and not having really been around others for over a year. My friend was smiling and laughing the whole time, and despite a couple of awkward moments, I thought I was who they expected me to be. They even texted me afterwards to tell me how much fun they had that day, and that they were so happy they could meet me.

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However, despite trying to have a conversation with them since, as we normally would, they have not responded to any of my texts, and have made no real effort to contact me, even after everybody returned to campus this year, where it would be much easier to get together. I saw them on campus about a week ago, and they seemed happy to see me, but, truth be told, I have no idea if they were being genuine or not. At this point, it feels utterly humiliating to text them again, and I would rather just be told upfront by them that they want nothing to do with me. It just hurts at times thinking that I had put all this effort into making a good friend, just for them to abandon me, and who in all likelihood is speaking negatively about me to others. At the same time, if I confront this person, they might look at me like I’m crazy, and maybe they had a good reason for not communicating with me all this time. I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. What should I do?

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—Stuck

Dear Stuck,

I’m really sorry to hear this. Rejection (or perceived rejection) by a friend hurts as much as an adult as it did in elementary school. But I’m going to tell you not to reach out again, and not to confront them about hurting your feelings. That’s because it wouldn’t change anything. This person’s actions have made clear that for whatever reason, they don’t want to spend time with you right now. Emphasis on the for whatever reason. Seriously, that part is really important. Sure, it’s possible that they really disliked you when you met up. But it’s also possible that they are dealing with depression or anxiety. Or they are in a soul-killing, dysfunctional relationship that’s zapping all their energy. Or they have a close relative with COVID. Or they have a crush on you and don’t think it’s appropriate. The possibilities are really endless. I know it sucks, but try to make peace with not knowing. And don’t let this stop you from pursuing other friendships. Just like with dating—you won’t have to chase or convince the person who is a good fit for you.

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Dear Prudence,

I’ll admit that being 24 and moving into a house with two 19-year-olds I met through undergrad (I’m a dropout who is returning to take some classes to finish) was asking for some awkward situations—regardless, I’ve managed to find myself in the middle of a truly weird one. One of the girls, K, told her girlfriend she could stay over every weeknight without asking me. When I brought it up, K broke down—she said she understood my objection, but that she feels like she’s drowning between college, a job, and the new VERY needy dog she adopted (I fully consented to her adopting a dog with the clear expectation that it would be HER dog), and that her girlfriend is the only one helping.

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I told her I needed a few days to think on what kind of boundaries or time limits I wanted to set, but I know she’s going to go for the absolute maximum possible of whatever I offer. It feels like any hard rules I lay out will be viewed by her as a direct challenge to her happiness. I get that she’s struggling, but I moved in here after living in an extremely high-tension environment with my dad where I felt very little of the space was mine. K’s girlfriend is a stranger to me, and, as much as I know she makes K happy, it’s upsetting that she seems to feel more at home in the house than I do. I don’t want to replicate the situation with my dad by being agreeable all the time, and I hate feeling like I am an adult dealing with children, but it’s striking to me just how young 19 is.

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—So Two Nights? Three Nights Max?

Dear Two Nights,

Your first stop should be your lease agreement. Is there anything there about limits on overnight guests? For your sake, I hope so! It would be easy to show that to K and ask that she honor it so that none of you suffers negative consequences.

If there’s nothing there, you might be out of luck. Even though you’re older and more mature, you’re not actually the boss of the house, and you don’t get to lay out rules unilaterally or tell K what she can and can’t do. I do think it would be reasonable to do what you hinted at in your signature and request that her girlfriend be there for less than half of the nights in any given week—so about three.

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Can you enforce that? Not really. Might you feel guilty about the effect on her happiness? Probably! Start counting the days until the end of your lease agreement, and let this be a lesson (which it seems like you’ve already learned) about not moving in with just anyone.

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

More Advice From Pay Dirt

My mom is a widow and in her 70s. Long story short, she didn’t raise me, and we got to know each other after I was 19. I am her only child. She has a sharp mind but lacks in the communication department. She tells me often that I will be the one everything is left to—which is concerning to me, because she hasn’t told me how she plans on making that an easy transfer. I have tried to talk to her to make sure that stuff is done—especially after my dad passed away and I found out what the word probate can actually mean—and would like to avoid as much of that as possible. I am hoping she makes it to 100 but would like the peace of mind that everything is set up, and I don’t have to be looking in nooks and crannies to find documents. How do I make sure that my mom has set up her estate without insulting her?

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