DEAR AMY: I am a married, 50-year-old, elementary school teacher. Socially and politically I lean firmly left and my family is very aware of it. My parents and my in-laws are VERY conservative and quite religious. At gatherings they are very vocal about their disdain for liberals and Democrats, calling them names, saying they're going to hell, etc. They also voice their dislike of other races, religions, and sexual orientation, using bigoted language. I don't enjoy spending time with any of them. I do not voice my opinions, as I have no interest in being part of their hostile conversations. When the assault begins, I pick up my phone and scroll through and ignore them. I have limited my time with them as much as possible, but I can't cut them out of my life completely, as that is just not my character. My husband lets it go and is mostly politically neutral. He says it's not worth arguing with 80-year-olds. I find his answer irritating. Any suggestions?
DEAR TEACHER: You seem to point your irritation toward your husband, whom you claim stays neutral, but you are doing the exact same thing, by ignoring comments from both your parents and his that you say are bigoted and offensive.
So, "Teacher," I think it's time to take these 80-year-olds to school.
I can imagine not wanting to waste your breath on your in-laws, but your parents raised you. Surely you can spend some energy in order to engage them in some thoughtful conversation about their own hate speech.
There is absolutely nothing about Christianity that gives believers license to express hatred toward other human beings. But aside from the religious aspects of this, I think it might be time for you to locate your backbone. If you consider yourself a true ally of people who are discriminated against and consigned to hell by ignorant people — then you must use your own voice to push back.
This book is currently flying off the shelves (I'm reading it now): "How to Be an Antiracist," by Ibram X. Kendi (2019, One World). Here's a quote: "Denial is the heartbeat of racism."
DEAR AMY: About two months ago, my boyfriend potentially had COVID-19. The week he started to work from home, he got very sick. Taking care of him was scary and stressful for me. He was able to get a virtual doctor's appointment. He tested negative for the virus, but still believes he had it, due to the high rate of false negative test results. He recovered in two weeks and is good, now. He brings this up whenever we have Zoom calls with family or friends; he even brings this up with his clients. When it initially happened — and the month following — bringing it up made sense. I realize that sharing with friends and family can help to process a scary event. It has now been two months (it feels like six), and he's OK. I'm confused as to why he still feels the need to talk about it now, however.
Healthy and Wondering
DEAR HEALTHY: You went through this with your boyfriend, and so you have been exposed to this story many times from many different angles. You can have whatever interior reaction you want, but your boyfriend should continue to talk about this experience if he finds it helpful. His brush with serious illness might have deepened his empathy toward others. He may also be tacitly inviting you to share in this drama, and to confirm to others how challenging this was. There are fears about people developing the illness again — after they believe they have recovered — and he might be worried about that possibility.
Some people are genuinely traumatized by an experience with serious illness. If he is ruminating excessively or seems to be stuck in an anxious loop, you should encourage him to set up another appointment with his doctor.
DEAR AMY: I smoked three packs of cigarettes a day and loved it for more than 35 years. On Nov. 1, 1992 I stopped smoking and went on the nicotine patch for six months. I still have three cigarettes in my freezer. I still feel guilty for my children (none of them smoke) when they had to put up with both parents smoking in the station wagon. I've saved enough cigarette money to take four trips to Europe and numerous cruises.
DEAR RECOVERED: What a testimony! (I may need to learn more about those cigarettes in your freezer…)