I have a family member who is young, very ill, and suffering from a terminal disease. She has, in the past, always had a lot of friends who came around and she has had close ties with them. At first they rallied, but now when she really needs support and friendship, most seem to have forgotten her, which makes her sad. Some call and inquire once in a while, but don't want to talk to her even when she is able. I know it is not easy to see someone you care about suffer, but just a short visit with a word of encouragement would be welcome. For a person who is ill, time drags on and the days seem very long. What I don't understand is that I have seen this same sort of thing before; they can't come visit when you are alive, yet make a big effort to attend the funeral. I think everyone would benefit from a short visit occasionally, and later on a private goodbye. No, it is not easy, but a little compassion and the giving of someone's time would make a world of difference to the person who is ill. Why is this so hard?
—Questioning and Caring
This is an old story. The reason it's hard for people—even good friends—is that it's so uncomfortable. They're not sure what to say; they don't know whether or not to discuss the illness and impending death; they don't know if they should offer (false) hope or deal with reality. A dear girlfriend of Prudie's, whose husband was dying of cancer, said she thought that some people felt afraid to come into a house where a friend had cancer because on some irrational level they felt they might "catch" it. Prudie joins you in reminding people that their friendship is never more important than when the chips are down. One can express friendship by dropping over and reporting news from the outside, or cheer up a pal with humorous distraction. As for the whopping turnouts at many funerals, it is less distressing to congregate in a social situation than to sit at the bedside of a dying person … an inherently awkward situation, and a sad one.
I am a 25-year-old gay male. I live in a small city in the Bible Belt, close to my family, who also aren't very open minded. They all know I am gay and even had a boyfriend, but they keep bringing up all the girls I "liked" while I was in middle and high school. What they don't realize is that my true crushes were always guys. Every time something comes on the news about homosexuality or something comes along that makes them think they can "fix" me, they have to watch it and then mention it to me. Even in light of the recent study about how gay male brains react to testosterone like straight females, they insist that something is wrong with me. It gives me the feeling that their love for me is connected to how well I fit into their view of what is right and wrong. How do I deal with this sort of emotional harassment from people I love?
—Hopeless in the Heartlands
Prudie happens to believe the people in need of "fixing" are your family. Many people (let us hope most) understand that being gay is hard-wired and that there is nothing broken to "fix." It is unfortunate that your relatives harbor the view that to be homosexual is to be wrong, sick, or ungodly. When the next effort is launched to remodel your personality, perhaps try the following in the hopes of stopping the harassment. Invite whomever is next to bring up the subject of what is "wrong" with you to stop for a moment and think seriously about changing his or her own sexual orientation; ask this person to visualize having a romantic relationship with a person of their same sex. If that doesn't make your point, then announce the subject is no longer open to discussion.
I caught my husband having an affair 10 years ago. After that, we went for marriage counseling and our marriage greatly improved. I just found out, however, he is now engaged in another affair, although he lies about it and says it's just a friendship thing. It is very hard for me to believe that he would do this considering our history. We've been married for almost 40 years and I do not want to break the family up, but neither can I live with a liar and a cheater. Should I get rid of him?
—Looking for the Answer
It depends on how you define "get rid of him." Considering you've been married 40 years and you do not want to break up the family, perhaps tell Romeo to get himself a little apartment and you'll stay in the house. Divorce need not enter into the picture. You say you don't wish to "live with" a liar and a cheater, and so you shouldn't have to. Just have a lawyer draw up an agreement regarding finances so the old codger doesn't loot any bank accounts. That way, he can pursue his "friendship thing" without your having to live a lie. If you really want to be big about it, invite him to family affairs, then send him home at the end of the evening. Prudie will vote for emotional comfort every time. Good luck.
My roommate and dear friend has found a great guy/co-worker who has a wonderful, sarcastic sense of humor similar to her own. He is handsome and stylish (although a little bit older than she'd like), and well-established at their workplace (and makes significantly more than she does). Basically, he's everything she's been looking for, and they're becoming good friends, going to dinner, talking on the phone, etc. She tells me that lately she's been thinking about him more and more in a nonplatonic sense. Big problem: She says everybody at work has always assumed he's gay, though he has never said anything to that effect, doesn't show any of the stereotypical manifestations—except he's not into sports. He has also never discussed any male domestic partners/companions. She has not said anything to anybody except me about her feelings for him. I have a horrible feeling about this situation, especially since it is playing itself out in the workplace. She's talking about it more and more and asking me for advice on how to deal with it. I haven't the slightest clue what to tell her. Could you offer any suggestions, Prudence?
Prudie is somehow missing what the big whoop is here. If the relationship is allowed to develop, your friend will most likely find out soon enough whether or not this gentleman is heterosexual. It is likely that if you have heard the gay rumors, so has your friend. The best thing for you to tell her is to let things progress as they will, and to keep her antennae up for whether or not this man wants to be pals or lovers. As for not being into sports, there are straight men who are indifferent to sports. Prudie has just never met one. (Joke.)