Advice on manners and morals (May 15, 2008).

Advice on manners and morals.
May 15 2008 6:40 AM

Wingnuts Are Family

My folks will not accept my Republican values or my conservative boyfriend. Help!

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Dear Prudence,
My family members are staunch Democrats and love to bad-mouth Republicans every time the conversation turns to politics. This is heartbreaking, because I myself am a secret Republican. My mom already knows that I'm in love with a Republican, and she won't stop condemning him behind his back for his beliefs, calling him names like "right-wing whack job" and "little lord Republiroy" (also making fun of his height). My brothers all say stuff like, "Republicans suck" and, "Those Republicans are dumb-***es." I am afraid to come out to them about my beliefs because of potential verbal abuse being heaped on me. Also, being a teenager, I do not have the advantage of moving out of the house and escaping said abuse. What should I do?

—Republican in the Closet

Dear Republican,
It sounds like your family members are disciples of Cicero—what powerful oratory they summon to make their political arguments. Their favorite peroration must be, "Nyah, nyah!" It's too bad your family doesn't understand that all its members should feel free to express their views without mockery. It would be great if they wanted to engage you in policy debates; you could have some lively discussions and hone your political arguments at the dinner table. (You might want to join your school debate team in order to learn what it's like to put forth a cogent case.) Still, it is worth it to make a stand on behalf of yourself and your boyfriend. Start with your mother and tell her you thought one essential precept of the Democratic Party's principles is that all people deserve to be treated with respect, whatever their race, creed, or stature. Explain that if your family thinks its political views give them a claim to moral superiority, they undercut it every time one of them ridicules your boyfriend for his beliefs. Let her know her insults aren't changing your feelings for him—or your own beliefs—they're only causing a breach between the two of you.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
One of the things I love most about the wonderful man I'm engaged to is his generosity and kindness to everyone he meets. However, there is one situation in which I feel his "friend" has overstepped her bounds. My fiance is a cancer survivor and has been a cancer coach to help others through this difficult time in their lives. He has a colleague who is terminally ill with cancer. They have met for drinks on a few occasions that I know about. She is married, and he says it is an unhappy marriage. One day I found text messages from her in his cell phone. They said things along the lines of, "I will be dreaming of you tonight." This made me furious. I know that my fiance has good intentions, but I have asked him not to correspond with her anymore. She knows that we are engaged and made these comments anyway. I feel that they are highly inappropriate. Am I wrong for feeling this way, and how should I deal with this situation?

—Jealous Fiancee

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Dear Jealous,
Yes, her comments are inappropriate. But knowing you are going to die soon sometimes makes people say and do crazy things. What you haven't explained, or don't know, is how your fiance responded to his colleague. He may well understand her desire to find some happiness in the time she has left but also have told her that while he cares for her, he's in love with you and that she just has to accept that nothing is going to happen between them. You've already told your fiance not to be in touch with her, but obviously he didn't agree with you or else you wouldn't be writing to me. You also must have had to admit that you came upon this information while scrolling through his messages. There is no evidence that he violated your trust in any way (he is not obligated to tell you his terminally ill friend overstepped some bounds), but there is evidence you violated his. I think the way you should handle this is to apologize for snooping; then say your jealousy got the better of you and you regret it, you trust him, and you admire the compassion he shows to others.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I am a female college student halfway through her degree. I recently started a paid internship at a local company with one of my classmates. We have the same amount of experience, the same amount of coursework, and even sit beside each other and work on nearly identical projects. We recently compared hourly wages (not usually a topic of discussion, but hey, it's college and we're broke), and it turns out my nearly identical classmate is getting paid a dollar per hour more than I am. The difference? My classmate is male. Since I just started working, I don't want to ruin my chances of being asked back or cause any awkwardness, but I feel that I am possibly being discriminated against. I know that unequal pay in the workforce is a topic that women have been struggling with for years. Do you have any suggestions for how I should approach this issue? Do I have a right to want the same pay as my classmate?

—Women's Rights

Dear Women's,
What a juicy opportunity to strike a blow for equality and learn the art of asserting yourself. Go to your supervisor and calmly and respectfully say that you discovered your fellow intern, with whom you share the same experience and duties, is making a dollar more per hour than you. Say you wanted to find out if there is a reason for this disparity, and if there isn't, you would like to get it rectified. Since no two people are precisely alike, be wary if your supervisor offers only a trivial difference between you and your classmate to justify the discrepancy. If you do receive such an answer, respond that since you and he both have the same responsibilities, that small distinction shouldn't add up to $X a week less in wages. And at that point, you can add, "Because our differences are so insignificant, it makes me wonder if there might be some unconscious gender bias at work here." If this isn't cleared up to your satisfaction, report everything to the professor or academic officer who deals most closely with these internships, and get her or his advice on getting parity.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I am graduating from college soon and moving to a foreign country with a much hotter climate in the fall, so I have a lot of clothes that I won't need anymore. Also, a lot of things no longer fit or I'm tired of them. I was planning on giving unwanted items to a second-hand store run by a women's shelter. However, my roommate and friend of four years wants to peruse my clothes first and pick out what she wants. In the past, we have traded clothes, but now I am irritated by her sense of entitlement. I have considered taking all of my stuff with me and sorting through it in my hometown, but I don't want to give my parents extra boxes to cart. Am I just being selfish or do I have a right to determine the future of my leftover turtlenecks? If so, how should I handle this clothing catastrophe?

—Almost an Alum

Dear Almost,
If you decide you want to turn your old clothes into a patchwork quilt or use them to line rabbit hutches, that's your right. Giving them to a shelter is an admirable thing to do. And your friend is being obnoxious by demanding she get a crack at them. But if you've been pals for four years and have often traded clothes, I don't understand why you won't let her get first go at your discards. The benefit to the shelter of your turtlenecks is going to be minimal, but the damage to your friendship by refusing her request (even if she should have backed off) could be substantial. This is hardly a catastrophe, but by being self-righteous, you are going to unnecessarily part on a sour note. Be happy your friend will think fondly of you when she wears that skirt and blouse you don't want anymore, and that the rest of the pile is going to a good cause.

—Prudie

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