DEAR AMY: I am a 19-year-old college student. I date on rare occasions. My father has raised me to be open-minded and to look for a guy who makes me feel amazing, unless he’s African American (I’m white). My father is racist and has said to my face that he will disown me if I become committed to a man of that race.
The older I become, the more I am attracted to black men. I really want to respect my father and live up to his expectations (and that of my extended family, who share his ideology). But is it right to follow my heart and date whomever I choose? -- Unsure in South Carolina
DEAR UNSURE: I think of your attraction as an understandable, inevitable reaction to the deficit of reason, logic and old-fashioned family values in your household. Denying your right to date whomever you want to date forces you and your family into an ancient dance of forbidden love (for cultural references, read about Tristan and Isolde, Romeo and Juliet, Miss Piggy and ... everyone).
If you choose to date an African American man, you must understand that this is high-stakes behavior on your part. Though some families are transformed by being forced to face these issues, you should assume that your family is actually capable of following through on their threat to cut you off completely. Follow your heart, but prepare yourself.
DEAR AMY: I am a grad student with somewhat limited funds. I save up for really nice presents for my friends for Christmas, and I try to make the gifts personal.
I’ve always done this because I want that person to feel special. Although my friends make decent incomes, it’s clear that they don’t spend very much on presents and don’t make them personal.
I know it is the thought that counts, but it seems to me that they didn’t put much thought into it at all! I wish I didn’t feel hurt by this, but I do. What should I do? -- Disappointed
DEAR DISAPPOINTED: You need to explore why you are giving gifts. Are your gifts a reflection of your tastes and values and an expression of your natural generosity, or do you use gifts to inspire other people to give equally to you?
You should not put more money or time into your gift-giving than you have to spare — happily, willingly and without expectation. When you free yourself from an expectation of reciprocity, you may end up adjusting your giving so it’s less stressful for you. You will definitely receive more pure joy from the act of giving.
DEAR AMY: Like “Democrat in Hiding,” described in your column, I married a very conservative man who has become more and more radical.
He has refused to concede that there is any validity in my views, although I certainly agree that sometimes there is some in his (not much, but some). However, occasionally agreeing with him doesn’t seem to have helped much, consequently we have made politics off-limits in our household.
This mostly works, although occasionally he goes off on a rant. When this happens, I respond either by leaving the room or by asking him to moderate his tone. He usually stops. If he keeps on, I leave.
I have told him a few times that the way he states his views is disrespectful to me. I’ve told him that in my family we are used to having a civil discourse if we disagree. This sounds pretty priggish, but I sometimes feel like I have to say it.
Walking out works pretty well, though. It is a difficult (but not impossible) situation. -- Mixed Marriage
DEAR MIXED: Peacefully leaving the scene of the crime sounds like an excellent idea.
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