DEAR AMY: My boyfriend of two years and I will be hosting Thanksgiving for my family for the first time. I know it’s still a long way off, but I’m already worried about it. The fly in the ointment is my aunt’s “boyfriend,” ”Bill.” Not only is he her former marriage counselor (eww!), he has offended and alienated every member of the family he has met. Bill gives unwanted and offensive advice and opinions on topics that do not in any way relate to him. Before you give him the benefit of the doubt, believe me, we did too. He was included in all family gatherings, and we made an effort to welcome him in, as long as he was making my aunt happy. He doesn’t, but she won’t leave him; she’s in her 60s and is afraid to be alone. Last Thanksgiving, at my cousin’s home, it was my boyfriend’s first Thanksgiving with our family. I didn’t keep a close eye on him when he engaged with Bill, but I did notice that he became a bit withdrawn after the fact, and was ready to leave as soon as it was polite to do so. On the way home, he filled me in. My boyfriend is part American Indian. He identifies strongly with his heritage. Bill went on at length about how stupid and inept American Indians are, all the while bragging about his contacts in that community. My boyfriend was offended. I was offended and furious, and my mother was livid. It was the final nail in the coffin for her. I do not want this man anywhere near my boyfriend, much less in our home. Is there a tactful way to let my aunt know that her boyfriend is not welcome at our gathering? I am a generally tactful person, but I have no tolerance for racism (and bull), so I can’t really think of a way to sugarcoat my feelings. How to say it?
DEAR PROTECTIVE: You shouldn’t have to sugarcoat your feelings. You do need to be clear about your intentions, respectful about how you explain yourself and calm while you handle the fallout.
If you don’t want this offensive person as a guest in your home, you’ll have to tell your aunt (and/or him), “Because of ‘Bill’s’ offensive comments toward my boyfriend last year, he is not welcome to come to my home when I host Thanksgiving this year.”
Understand that your aunt will likely be very upset, and may choose to stay away too. This could also cause all parties to re-litigate the original incident (be prepared).
Also understand that you are riding on the very crest of irony, Thanksgiving-wise. The original feast was a celebration of different cultures coming together peacefully for one day. But, as countless families prove each year, one day is one day more than many can manage.
DEAR AMY: My ex broke up with me more than a year ago. We’ve had no contact this year, except for when he wished me a happy birthday on Facebook. I recently messaged him on Facebook, asking about his elderly mother. He messaged back about a friend of his passing away suddenly, I messaged back, saying how sad, and it was. I wrote that he was a nice guy and how hard it must be for his family. Then I asked how he was doing. I’ve had no response in two days. I feel that when I ask him anything personal, he won’t respond. I’d like a real friendship with him, not just a Facebook friend. His birthday is coming up. Should I acknowledge it? I’m confused and hope you can help me see what’s best.
DEAR EX: A “real” friendship with your ex might not be possible. He seems to shut things down when you get too personal.
Facebook is great for keeping up with the external episodes in someone’s life. This contact could help to repair your friendship over time, but if you find this is too painful, you should unfollow him.
If you choose to remain connected on FB, definitely wish him a happy birthday.
DEAR AMY: “Facebooked” was a guy whose feelings were hurt because his co-workers didn’t “like” or comment on his posts. What a baby! If he can’t handle Facebook, he shouldn’t use it.
DEAR ADULT: Using Facebook can bring up surprising quantities of subtle and shifting hurts. I’ve felt it, myself. Taking a total break from the medium can help put things back into perspective.