The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Carolyn Hax: He’s a great guy, except for the bigotry

(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)
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Dear Carolyn: I have a decades-long friendship with a guy from college. Our families are very close and vacation together each summer near his home. He is a fun person but also an ill-informed, foolish, Archie Bunker type sometimes. My college-age son no longer wants to see him and his kids based on their politics. My son said he cannot be friends with people who support racism, etc.

I completely get it and am sympathetic to my son's position. I know my friend takes his stand and influences his kids to do the same because there is a part of him that embraces an inner 1950s male self. That said, he is still a great guy and we have a long history of friendship. What do you suggest?

— Dump My Dear Friend?

Dump My Dear Friend?: Respond to their bigotry as if the people they demean are witnessing your response.

Your friendship will either survive that or it won’t. Natural consequences.

Dear Carolyn: My mother-in-law apparently didn't come with a volume button. When we are in church, at a sporting event — pre-covid — or generally out in public, she doesn't seem to notice how loudly she speaks. It's embarrassing.

Don't suggest hearing loss due to old age. She has been this way for the decades I've been married to her son. Plus if you say something quietly across the room that interests her, believe me, she will hear it.

The worst part is she has no filter, either. At a high school basketball game, for example, she will VERY loudly criticize a player, to the mortification of those sitting next to her. Please tell me how to handle this!

— Chagrined

Chagrined: When someone next to you in the stands VERY loudly criticizes a player at a youth sporting event — as in, acts like a complete, under-socialized, overweening jerk — stand up without saying a word and move to another seat.

Live your message. Feel your blood pressure un-spike. And let both the community around you and your mother-in-law see that you refuse to be a party to this kind of behavior.

I wonder whether answering this means I can deduct the cost of 11 years of youth hockey as a business expense.

Kidding, kidding, don’t @ me.

Church pews aren’t as forgiving as bleachers, but you can do the same thing with a more gradual unroll: If your mother-in-law regularly says rude things at church, then choose to sit somewhere else starting . . . whenever you can start going to church again safely. If she asks why, own it: “When you [whatever], I feel mortified.” This is for when the “whatever” is egregious and you can cite it specifically — such as, “When you mocked the acolyte’s acne.” For less-than-hateful remarks, where no moral stand is indicated, try, “I’m less distracted when I sit alone.” Not untrue, just incomplete.

If she’s merely loud in church, and her remarks are generally benign, then, beyond just not encouraging her, your burden sounds more perceived than real. She embarrasses only herself.

That doesn’t make it any more fun to be around her, of course. But it does make her behavior suitable for reframing. Repeat to yourself silently, “I’m not being judged for this, she is — but I do get to play What-Will-She-Bellow-Next Bingo” (ages 12 to adult).

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