Dear Annie: I am 60 years old and have a cousin the same age. “Kevin’s” conversations are sexist, racist, immature and extremely self-centered. He mocks people who recycle and told me helping others is “a waste of time.” His takes on current events and politics sound like drunken barroom rants. I find myself walking away from him shell-shocked.
I know we are supposed to keep away from toxic people, but Kevin and I had many wonderful adventures together when we were young. We still have our past memories and a few subjects in common. But I’m afraid he is taking my silence during these rants for tacit approval. Does he need to be challenged? Am I being idealistic to think he might change, or should I just try to keep my distance?
— Florida Cousin
Dear Florida: Kevin may never change his narrow-minded views, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit in silence. If you don’t want to cut him out of your life, understand that he is going to say things that bother you, and it’s perfectly fine to tell him so. It doesn’t require confrontation. Simply say, “Kevin, I strongly disagree with you and don’t wish to discuss it further,” and then change the subject. If he persists, you have the option of ending the conversation altogether. In time, either Kevin will understand which subjects are off-limits, or you will be spending a lot less time in his company.
Dear Annie: I am the youngest of seven children and the only one who didn’t marry young. I am also the only one who attended college. I am graduating in May and mentioned to my parents that I hoped to have a small graduation party with family and close friends. One friend already offered to make my cake.
You can imagine my disappointment when my parents said it was silly to have a graduation party, and they’d rather spend money on a wedding whenever I get married. Annie, I wasn’t asking them to spend money. I just wanted to use the hospitality of their home because my college apartment is a few hours away. I’ve worked hard for my degree, and I’m hurt by their lack of excitement. I want to share my happiness. I don’t need gifts. Would it be against etiquette to throw myself a party?
Dear Puzzled: It is OK to give yourself a party, but please don’t mention your graduation until after your guests arrive. You don’t want to give the impression of, “I’m so fantastic and accomplished — bring presents.” Simply say you want to have a party. You can then tell them during the event that you are celebrating your degree. Another option is to get together with your classmates and have a group celebration, whereby you are essentially giving a graduation party for one another.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Sickened on the East Coast,” the mom whose 8th-grade child came home with a questionable summer reading list.
As a teacher and a parent, I know that schools are as respectful as the people in charge. Reading specialists are highly trained professionals who choose books that will help children understand that there are many challenging parts of life that are not pretty. But the responsibility of what children read in their free time still belongs to parents.
Without banning books, “Sickened” can help her child choose material that builds character. Online, she can narrow her search for books that promote specific traits, such as gratitude, honesty, generosity and courage. “Sickened” also could do a web search on “character education,” where she will find numerous books written by authors who feel the same way she does.
— A Parent First
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