Dear Prudence

Help! My Childhood Best Friend Is Now Peddling QAnon Theories.

Should I let this friendship die?

Man scratching his head looking at a large Q.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by feedough/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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

Dear Prudence, 

I (27M) moved to the U.S. just over a decade ago with my family from Eastern Europe. It was difficult at first since we moved to a predominantly WASP area with no friends or relatives to support me. Thankfully, I met my best friend, “Scott,” on the first day of school, and he helped me fit right in. Scott defended me from bullies and helped me improve my English. Throughout the years, Scott and I have remained very close friends—we’ve gone on vacations together, enjoyed the same bands, and I was even a groomsman at his wedding.

Advertisement

However, in the last two years or so, Scott and his wife have become devout QAnon followers. Granted, Scott always leaned conservative and casually mentioned that he voted for Trump in 2016. I overlooked this because our conversations never veered into politics, and I have always believed that it’s not impossible to befriend someone with different political opinions. But, since the lockdowns, his views have become so extreme that his Instagram and Twitter accounts (as well as that of his wife, also a WASP) have become cesspools of alt-right memes and rambles on “the gay agenda” and “the Kalergi Plan.” They have also started bragging on social media about how they’re going to have as many kids as possible. My girlfriend, who is the daughter of Middle Eastern immigrants, said she feels distressed whenever we go to their house, despite the fact that both Scott and his wife have a strict “don’t talk politics with friends” rule. They have always been polite and courteous to both of us, but looking at their social media profiles, it’s hard to tell if they genuinely like us or if they’re just putting on a polite face.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

On one hand, Scott was a saving grace when I was a young immigrant with no friends in a strange new country. On the other hand, the rhetoric he spews online is directly harming immigrants today, some of whom are fleeing devastating poverty and war. Should I let this friendship die, or should I put my beliefs to the side as long as he doesn’t bring them into “real” life?

—Friend in Distress

Dear Friend in Distress,

To continue to nurture a friendship with someone, you really need to enjoy spending time with them and feel good after talking to them or being in their presence. If you’re a little bit on the fence about that, factors that could tip the scales toward continuing to nurture the relationship are:

Advertisement

You admire the kind of person they are
You have a meaningful history with them
You believe the reason you’re not enjoying them as much lately is temporary or not their fault

It sounds like with Scott, some of the extra credit items are there: You have a history with him, and you like the way he treats people—or at least you did when you were kids. But I’m not getting that you really enjoy your time with him now. That makes sense given your girlfriend’s discomfort around him, the many topics that are off limits when you hang out, and the fact that “polite and courteous” are qualities you hope to see in a plumber who visits your home, not a good friend.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Have a conversation with Scott about how you see what he posts online as harmful to immigrants (and lots of other people) today, which stands in stark contrast to how kind he was to you years ago. Tell him how disappointing it is. Maybe hearing your perspective will change his position. Maybe you’ll learn that there’s been some sort of misunderstanding or his account was hacked. Who knows. What’s more likely is that he’ll say some things that will solidify to you that he is no longer the person you were once friends with and that it’s time to make room for people who have the values today that he had in third grade.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Dear Prudence,

Advertisement

When my husband’s friend “Carly” had a health crisis and lost her job and housing, I agreed with him to invite her to move in with us temporarily. We have a four-bedroom house that legally belongs to my mom; we pay her rent which she deposits in our kids’ college accounts. Because of some sleep issues of mine, my husband and I have slept in separate rooms for years. This is necessary for me to get the sleep I need to be able to work. Our two kids, 9 and 7, also need their own rooms because they’re both on the spectrum with incompatible sensory issues. The original plan was for Carly to sleep in the basement, but the heat and lack of ventilation down there made her feel ill. So, for the past several weeks, she has been sharing the queen bed in the smallest bedroom with my husband. This bothers me on some level even though I trust him.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

I made the mistake of confiding this to my mom. Now she’s determined to evict Carly if my husband won’t kick her out. I’m sure she’s overreacting because she and my dad divorced when I was a teenager over an affair he had with a woman he claimed was just a friend. She doesn’t have the closeness to see how this situation is different, and she wants to spare me the same pain. But as the landlady, we’re afraid she might actually be able to do this and Carly would be effectively homeless. I’m torn up with guilt. Should I lie and tell my mom I’ve talked to my husband, reaffirmed our trust in each other, and am now totally fine with the sleeping arrangements, even though I’m really only about 80 percent fine? Or is my mom right that there’s something fishy about this, and I’ve lost my sense of boundaries?

Advertisement
Advertisement

—Bad Feeling About This

Dear Bad Feeling,

Listen to me carefully: Hand over all decision-making power to your mother starting now. This moratorium shouldn’t end until you’ve been in weekly therapy for a solid year. Your sense of boundaries is beyond lost and you are nowhere near 80 percent fine.

Dear Prudence, 

I am a nonbinary person who just graduated college, and I’m struggling with how much to let my mother into my new, mostly-independent adult life. I began to understand my gender identity when I was 14, and my mother fought me every step of the way, even threatening to homeschool me and not allow me to attend college when I tried to come out to her. I spent my teen and early adult years hiding fundamental aspects of my life from her, lying almost constantly for self-preservation, and building up a lot of resentment that she wouldn’t accept or love me for who I was.

Advertisement

Now, perhaps because she’s genuinely grown and changed or perhaps because she’s realized I’m her only child and she’ll need someone to take care of her when she’s older, my mother has abruptly come around to accepting me and my identity. She calls me by the correct name and pronouns. She even offered to bake me a cake to celebrate my legal name change. I’m completely at a loss here. I want to believe that this change of heart is genuine and that she finally learned to love the person that I am. Adjusting to adult life is tough, and I could really use the support of my mom. But I’m still so full of resentment and I worry that part of me will never really believe she means it, that she’s just waiting to explode and tear my life down again. I find myself still lying about things that I really don’t need to keep from her, like getting a new driver’s license or making friends with my co-workers. On top of all that, I feel guilty for doubting her because she’s thrown herself so completely into supporting me!

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

How do I learn to trust my mother again? Should I even try? Is it wise to allow her to continue emotionally and financially supporting me through this phase of my life, or should I be more guarded and independent so she can’t hurt me again?

—Misgivings About Mom

Dear Misgivings,

To cut yourself off from emotional and financial support without more information would be to punish yourself, perhaps unnecessarily. Ask your mom to explain her change of heart. And really listen. Then tell her you’re still struggling with the way she treated you in the past and ask for an apology. The way she behaves in this exchange will tell you a lot. If she’s able to take responsibility for what she did and explain how she has grown and changed (and most important—what she’s learned and how she will do better) along with expressing deep regret, I think you’ll feel reassured that you can begin to trust her again. I’m hopeful that you can. But you deserve more information before you decide whether that’s possible.

Advertisement

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

More Advice From Slate

My partner is admittedly bad with money. Due to the pandemic, he’s been out of work for a while and has been living off savings. I know he has debt, which he’s looking to clear with some inheritance, but he won’t tell me how this debt accrued. He was recently the victim of a scam that I tried to warn him about, but his desire to get out of his current situation overrode his best judgment, and he shut down my advice. Now he’s a few thousand dollars down and devastated…

Advertisement