Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
Feb. 2 2006 7:06 AM

The Happy Homophobe

How can I prevent people from ridiculing me for disliking gays?

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Get "Dear Prudence" delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)

This is my last column for Slate, as I head off to a new incarnation at Yahoo! News, writing under my own name: Margo. It has been a joy and a privilege to spend almost eight years with first-rate readers. Many thanks.

(Editor's Note: Dear Prudence continues next week with a new columnist, Emily Yoffe.)

Dear Prudie,
I'm an admitted homophobe. Often at my university issues such as gay rights are brought up in discussion and, needless to say, my point of view is not shared by many others. I do not volunteer my opinion, but when I am asked, I respectfully give it. I also do not try to "fix" anyone. However, several people have tried to "fix" me, saying I need to change my views and embrace a broader spectrum of beliefs. Others have simply resorted to ridiculing me for my beliefs. As much as I disagree with homosexuality, I do not ridicule anyone who engages in it, and I respect the fact that it is their belief. Is it too much to ask for the same thing in return? In this day and age, is it wrong to be a homophobe? If I am indeed entitled to my own opinion, how can I avoid being ridiculed for it?

—Conservatively Signed

Dear Con,
Of course you are entitled to your opinion, but being phobic about any category of people leaves you open to charges of being intolerant. Fair or not, your homophobia will make you unacceptable to quite a few people. The problem is that these days, your view of homosexuality is considered by many to be unkind, narrow, and somewhat backward. Enlightened thinking today is such that you probably can't avoid being ridiculed in certain circles, especially in a college setting. Take comfort, however, that you are not the only one with this attitude, so you will not wind up entirely friendless. You are wrong about one thing, however. You refer to people's homosexuality as "their belief." It ain't a belief, cupcake, it is who they are. Perhaps with time and maturity your views will change, or at least soften.

—Prudie, divergently

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Dear Prudence,
My young niece secretly eloped with a much older convicted felon during the holidays. None of the family, including her parents, was aware of it until after the new year. It suddenly occurred to the bride that she missed out on an opportunity to receive some nice wedding presents. She conned her doting grandparents into hosting and paying for a "wedding" with the white dress, seven bridesmaids, and a barbecue for 100 expected guests. I wouldn't have had a problem had it been billed as a wedding reception, but the invitations were the schmaltzy "you are invited to celebrate the beginning of Jack & Jill's life together" and included business cards from the merchants where she was registered for gifts. One of the cards even had a dollar figure on it as a minimum gift amount. I declined the invitation, even after the bride's grandmother threatened never to speak to me again if I didn't attend. I'm all for marital bliss, but not as a fundraiser, and announcing that you won't be my friend if I don't come to your party is a little too much like junior high school for me. Am I being picky?

—Ticked

Dear Tic,
Even with a thesaurus, Prudie is having trouble coming up with a word to apply to a minimum dollar amount written on a merchant's business card enclosed in a party invitation. (We will not even deal with an almost certainly immature bride and the groom's alma mater, as it were.) The odds are good that you are not the only one to look askance at this charade, and that Granny will be threatening quite a few others on the guest list.

—Prudie, indefensibly

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Dear Prudie,
I feel really sad and guilty about saying this, but the truth is, I don't like my mother. In fact, I don't know if I can honestly say that I love her. In the past I thought that putting a continent between us would help the situation, but it hasn't. I found that when she called I would still feel irritated and ultimately drained by her negativity, dependence, and constant offering of unsolicited advice. When she visited, I felt anxious at the thought of her being alone in my house all day while I was at work and took some of my belongings to work for safekeeping. For years our conversations consisted (and still do) of her doing most of the talking. She is clingy and very needy, and doesn't understand personal boundaries. I feel that she seeks to live through me, and I resent it. I feel angry that she's made her children her life and now that we are all well into adulthood, she doesn't have a life of her own. To complicate matters, my husband absolutely loves her and wants her around more frequently than I am comfortable with. The situation is complex. I don't want to hurt her and I have given a lot of thought to having a discussion with her about my feelings, but I'm afraid she will get sulky and/or play the martyr. Prudie, I know that I can't change her, but how do I get past my anger and resentment?

—Tired of Being Angry

Dear Tire,
Ditch the guilt. Being related by blood is an accident of DNA. Nowhere is it written that everyone must love everyone, and these discordant notes happen in the best of families. Forget having a "discussion" with her. Because of her age, her lifelong pattern, and her neuroses, you wouldn't get very far. The thing for you to do is spend a little time with a good therapist so you can get to the point where you can achieve some combination of understanding and tuning out. You may even discover, in this process, some buried stuff of your own.

—Prudie, therapeutically

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Dear Pru,
I frequently encounter a situation I'm never quite sure how to handle. I am an avid reader. At any given time I have a novel in my hand. I always keep a book in my purse to read in long lines, on my lunch break, etc. My question is this: What do I say when people ask, "What are you reading?" My usual response is, "A book," but that comes off as snotty, and then they always go, "What book?" I like to read unusual books or those by little-known authors, so it's not like I can say, "Catcher in the Rye," and they'll go, "Oh!" I know they won't know what I'm talking about and they usually give me a puzzled look when I name the book, so then I feel like I have to give them a rough outline of the book when I know they were just asking to make simple conversation or be polite. So what is a quick, polite answer to what I'm sure is meant to be a quick, polite question?

—Always Reading

Dear Al,
Prudie, like you, always carries something to read. The interesting thing is that no one has ever asked for the title; well, hardly ever. You are correct that your usual response, "A book," is more terse than it needs to be. You err, Prudie believes, in feeling you must tender an "outline" of what the book is about. We are talking about strangers, after all. As for offering a title that should guarantee an end to the conversation, you could go one of two ways. Tell them something arcane, like Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel, or name a good old, girly chestnut, like Little Women. Then put your nose back into your book.

—Prudie, briefly