Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. So funny I forgot to laugh: There’s a certain type of humor that makes me uncomfortable.
I’m not sure what to call it, but the common thread is that it’s at the expense of some group. For instance, jokes about Black people being stupid, or, to a lesser degree, blonde jokes. Typically, when someone makes this type of joke, I either say something pointing out that it could be offensive to the group, and explaining that I’m not comfortable with it, similarly to what you recommended to someone who knew someone who kept making racist statements.
I have a few friends who have started making these kind of jokes about gay people. I would handle it the same way as I have in the past, except for one problem. All of them are either gay or bisexual! If they’re fine with it (which they obviously are), do I have any right to be uncomfortable? And if so, should I talk to them about it, or is it better to just keep my mouth shut? If I talk to them about it, what should I say?
A: If these are true friends, it should be safe to talk about this. I would frame it as a request for advice rather than criticism or unloading on them. How about something like “Do you mind if I ask you a straight person question that may be ignorant? You know how I am and how humor that is at the expense of some group makes me uncomfortable. So when I hear all of you making jokes about gay people, I know that’s not the same, but I feel weird because I’d never make those jokes, and I don’t want to laugh. Do you have any thoughts on how I should make sure no one thinks I’m laughing at their expense? Or what I should do if I hear straight people making the same jokes? Sorry if I’m overthinking this.”
I went on a date with a woman who lives in my building. It was going well, but toward the end a couple sat behind her and started making out. They were literally sucking each other’s faces and I saw more of their tongues than I would like to have seen. After a few minutes I suggested to my date we go elsewhere, and rolled my eyes in the direction of the couple. She turned around and saw the two guys making out. We left shortly afterward and she said she had to go home and finish some work. I called her a couple of times afterward but she didn’t respond, so I got the hint and let it go. To be honest, it really bummed me out as I like her a lot. Then I saw her and a friend talking downstairs (she couldn’t see me) and she was telling her friend she liked me until she found out I was homophobic. Should I bother explaining to her I would have been just as put off by a straight couple slobbering on each other in the middle of a cafe? Or just forget about it?