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Carolyn Hax: The pandemic may be slowing down, but the judging persists unabated

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Hi, Carolyn: Friends who “believe in science” got vaccinated and are still terrified of being “safe.” Won’t work with a masked person inside if they are not vaccinated, won’t eat inside socially distanced from others she doesn’t know are vaccinated and just in general is hard to deal with.

I get it, covid is a scary disease, but really try to get past it. I am feeling much safer as we go along. More and more it seems people are NOT carriers if vaccinated; there are very few breakthrough cases. The only one I heard of dying was someone receiving hospice care. Yes, there are variants, yes, we don’t KNOW the vaccines will work on them, but, really, wear your mask, take precautions and live your life.

— Trying to Get Past It

Trying to Get Past It: Yes, take precautions and live your life.

Not someone else's.

When your friends are ready, they will emerge. The extent might not be to your liking, and the timing might not be to your liking, but they're not here to behave to your liking.

Our behavior does affect others' well-being, though; there's no getting around that.

So if someone is overcorrecting in a way that's mindful of public health vs. carelessly or stubbornly endangering it, then a little leeway is apt, plus a lot of patience.

Whenever you find yourself getting frustrated with people or the pandemic or the way people deal with the pandemic, try sorting it all out by the following guidelines:

  • Precautions are about the virus.
  • Feelings are about feelings.
  • Precautions are public.
  • Feelings are private.

Let's not conflate, confuse or commingle these in any way that makes this nightmare any longer for everyone else — for example, refusing to wear masks (public-precaution-related) because we're upset about having to wear masks (private-feelings-related). This is an extreme example that doesn't apply to you, obviously, but I believe you are in a small way conflating public and private get-past-its with your friends. Patience makes perfect these days.

Dear Carolyn: My daughter is in love with a man who is divorcing an abusive wife. The man is kind. He still lives with his wife while their attorneys work out who gets the house. The man recently posted to Facebook, “We went to our daughter’s house,” and just few days ago, posted a picture of a garden he made and one his wife made. My daughter was hurt by these public statements that seemed, to her, to show a partnering between the man and his wife. The man assured her the divorce is still on track, he is just trying to keep things calm at home and sees no issue with posting such things.

Please provide us with your take on this situation.

— Concerned Mother

Concerned Mother: Oh, honey. All the wives being slo-mo-divorced by husbands with new girlfriends are “abusive.”

But let's say it's true in this case — and that he's kind and decent and the divorce is on track. That means she can, with utter confidence and peace of mind, step away from the relationship fully till he signs on the line.

If she won't, then please ask her why not.

Dear Carolyn: Please help. I have a dear friend I don’t see often, part of our dinner party group pre-covid. Years ago, we had just sat down to a fancy dinner that I had worked hard on — multiple courses, fine china, etc. I was passing one of the courses when my friend said to her husband, “I really like this plate” — a crystal plate I’d had for years, though I couldn’t remember where I got it — "I think it is mine.” I was embarrassed and said, “No, I’m pretty sure it’s ours.” She was very gracious and said okay, they had had one like that and thought maybe they had left it at a previous dinner.

After everyone left, I realized the plate probably is theirs, and felt very awkward.

Anyway — I still have the plate, because nothing further was ever said. I feel very guilty and embarrassed — she is a dear friend and I want to return the plate but don’t know how to do it without sounding like a bad friend. Any suggestions?

— Not a Thief

Not a Thief: I’m not in law enforcement, but I’d say once you knowingly retained possession of something that wasn’t yours, you kind of, um, became a thief.

Though don't get the wrong idea — I write in utter delight that this is the worst thing you've got going. It's been a long time since I've addressed friends and dinner parties and crystal fripperies in some other context than their abrupt cancellation.

So, thank you. Truly.

Now, compose a text/email, right now, yes, now, to your friend: “Remember ‘my’ crystal plate you thought was yours? Long story, but I realized it is yours. Happy to deliver/ship. Or save till dinners start up again? (Can’t wait, btw)”

Cheers [ting!].