Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)
An old friend is running for office. She was a counselor for me as a teenager. We’ve never discussed politics and had lost touch (except for Facebook) until a mutual friend’s funeral recently. She asked if I would help with her campaign via Facebook messenger. She is running for local school board (non-partisan) and I am not a parent. I’ve already told her yes because I wanted to be supportive but also asked about her platform and who she was running against. She gave me her campaign website which is pretty generic about her experience. Her opponent has several endorsements but again, a pretty generic website although he does say he supports LGBTQ+ students. I decided to check her and her opponent’s party registration on our State Board of Elections website. My old friend is registered as a Republican, her opponent is unaffiliated.
I am a progressive person. I often post news stories and views on Facebook. There is no way she doesn’t know that I’m at least liberal-leaning. I have no idea what to do at this point. I know that the school board can be so contentious, but we are in an urban, liberal area so I’m not sure if that applies here. I don’t think she believes in things like banning books or critical race theory. Nothing on her Facebook page suggests she is a Trump supporter. What should I do and how do I talk to her about it? I don’t want to damage the relationship (though we haven’t been in contact, we have a bunch of mutual friends, and she is a member of my liberal protestant church). Unless she doesn’t support non-negotiable issues, I am willing to be friends (we had talked about getting together again soon), but I don’t want to support a Republican running for any office.
Dear Candidate Confusion,
“Hi Candidate Friend. I know I agreed to help with your campaign, but as I was getting up to speed on you and your opponent, I learned that you’re a Republican. As you probably know from my Facebook posts, I’m a very progressive person so I’m not sure this will be a great fit. If I’ve misunderstood something or if you want to give me a call and let me know more about your stances on the issues the school board is taking on, I would be happy to keep an open mind and see if we’re actually more aligned than I thought. Otherwise, I will go ahead and take a step back from volunteering but I hope you’re doing well during this busy time for you, and I hope we can still get together just for fun like we’d planned.”
One of my best friends called me and said they had taken all of their antidepressants. I called emergency services because I know they have a history of suicidal thoughts and depression. I’m worried they will never talk to me again. I know what I did was right, I would have contacted their family if they were near my friend, but they aren’t local. How do I move on knowing I did the right thing but might lose a long friendship because of it?
—Tearfully Trying to Be a Good Friend
Dear Tearfully Trying,
You did the right thing, but you know that. This wasn’t someone who was lightly hinting that life has become too hard. They had already taken the drugs! You would have been enormously irresponsible not to make the call.
I’m sure you’ve already thought of the much, much worse situation that you could be facing if you’d made another choice: Losing a long friendship to death instead of a falling-out.
There’s no indication in your letter that this person is furious with you, so I’m really hopeful that they’ll understand the choice you made. But if they don’t, remember that this sad turn of events is because of the effects of mental illness, not because of your wise decision.
My family lives in the deep South, and my father has always been a tyrant around the air conditioner in his home. He will turn it off completely and wait for people to complain before inching it down a single degree, complaining loudly all the while (he does not complain when he visits my 78-degree home). The last time we visited, my mother bullied him into turning on the AC at bedtime. My kids wake up, drenched in sweat, begging me to talk to grandpa. I go check and, sure enough, he has shut the AC off completely. I turn the thermostat back on, only to confront my father in the hallway as he howls that I’m an ungrateful, wasteful child; I’m 40, Prudie! The next day my wife and kids said they wanted to move to a hotel and I let them, which led to my mother crying that I was abandoning them and my father grousing that I had ruined a family trip. What should I have done? Spot dad $50 for the power bill? Stay in a hotel for future trips, knowing that two free guest bedrooms are going unused? This is a stupid hill for us to die on but I’ll do anything for some family harmony.
—Can’t Stand the Heat
Dear Can’t Stand the Heat
I know what you’re thinking: “But my parents will be upset!” Right. But the choices here are a) your parents (your father, who is a tyrant and mean to you, and your mother, who is an adult who has chosen to be with him) or b) your innocent children.
The first are upset because the rules they’ve chosen for their home make it uncomfortable for guests. And the latterdon’t have any control over their environment and are dripping in sweat while begging for relief as they listen to your father scream insults at you.
What’s currently happening during these visits is not “family harmony”—not even close. You can create family harmony at the local Best Western, where the family you created and are responsible for is living in habitable conditions. You grew up with this stingy, controlling, rude guy but they don’t have to. Choose your kids.
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