Dear Ann Cannon • What do you do when one of your longest-held friendships is dissolving due to support of hateful political speech online and in person?
— Sad and Appalled
Dear Appalled • Sometimes I wonder how many relationships have been damaged because of the things people are posting online during this era of corrosive political discourse.
I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to refer to one of my own experiences here. An important friendship of mine had begun to change and I didn’t like it. I wanted things to remain the same between my friend and me, so I doubled down on all the things that had brought us together in the first place, hoping this would preserve the friendship and allow us to carry on the way we always had. That’s when another friend pointed out to me that friendships do change because people, as well as their circumstances, change. Sometimes the individuals involved can successfully adapt to those changes and grow even closer as a result. Sometimes they can adapt — sort of — and still enjoy the relationship on a limited basis. And sometimes they may just have to acknowledge that it’s time to part ways while still honoring the friendship for what it once was. This perspective, especially the part about honoring the memory of a good friendship, allowed me to let go and move on.
So. What does this mean in practical terms for you? Maybe you can (if you haven’t already) stop engaging with this person online. Avoid the places where you know he/she goes to engage in hate speech. It’s doubtful you’ll change each other’s minds — or even shed much light on your individual positions — so why torture yourself? The same advice holds true for dealing with this friend in real time. Don’t put yourself in a position where your friend is likely to spout off about politics. And if she/he does, have a response strategy in mind that feels comfortable to you. Will you say something? Remain silent? Excuse yourself and leave? It’s your choice.
Meanwhile, I’m truly sorry. Navigating a shifting friendship can be hard work. Hang in there.
Dear Ann Cannon • I love animals. Especially cats. I’m retired now and would like a companion pet. Cats are pleasantly aloof and not quite as needy as dogs, so that would be my pet of choice. The problem is that my son-in-law is very allergic to pet dander. Plus he hates, hates, HATES cats and told me he’d never step foot in my house again if I get a cat. On the other hand, a cat would give me companionship and pleasure. My son-in-law lives across the country and only comes to visit once or twice a year. What should I do?
— In a Quandary
Dear Quandary • Here are my inside words: Your son-in-law is behaving like an entitled little brat. Here are my outside words: Politely explain to your son-in-law that while you truly don’t wish to make him suffer, you need the companionship of a pet now that you’re retired, which means you are not engaging on a daily basis with a community of peers in the same way you were before. Tell him that if he lived next door or that you saw him more regularly, you’d obviously make a different decision. But since you only see one another a few times a year, you’ve decided to invite a cat into your life.
If he still refuses to step foot in your home, then tell him you’ll happily meet him for Sunday brunch at Little America whenever he comes into town. P.S. Tell your server to stick him with the bill. Hope this helps!