Why does my father, who is a retired cardiac surgeon and honestly something of a snob, understand my boyfriend, who never went to college but can fix anything in the universe, better than he does me? By the way, my boyfriend is a total self-described meathead, and I’m an experienced medical professional! I was actually hesitant to introduce them…now they’re thick as thieves!
Looking forward to your reply,
Daughter and Meathead
Dear Daughter and Meathead,
A few thoughts: One, and I mean no disrespect to the surgeons among us, but a doctor is not unlike contractors, electricians, carpenters and handypeople, only with a summer house in Gstaad. They see a problem and figure out how to fix it, just like your boyfriend. I can see where they would find common areas of interest. Your dad is just your boyfriend in a white coat. Or Carhartt work pants, whichever way you want to look at it.
Two, no one is as judgemental of your partner as you. Not you specifically of course, but this is something many of us are afflicted with. Whereas we see every irritating characteristic, annoying personality flaw and confounding inability to clap to the beat, other people see charm, affability and delightful idiosyncrasy. Go figure.
Three, think of how much worse it would be if your expectations came true. Your dad may look down his nose at your boyfriend, your boyfriend may be intimidated by your dad, and no one would want to sit next to one another at Thanksgiving. Yuck. Deep breaths, Godspeed, and make sure you get some custom bookshelves out of the whole thing.
I’m finding it harder and harder to feel any kind of optimism, given the state of the world, planet, politics, justice, healthcare, gun violence, pandemic… the list goes on and on. Everyday it seems like the world just gets a little crazier. How do you stay afloat, psychologically?
I think you would have to be an alien from outer space not to feel depressed right about now. At the same time, we still have to find a way to work, go to the dentist, take care of our taxes and maybe even do something fun, like go to a Chicago Sky game. It is hard to hold two such disparate truths in your head at the same time: there is so much to be depressed about, AND, life goes on and can even be beautiful. Babies are still being born, the light still sparkles off the lake, loved ones still gather for great celebrations.
Nevertheless, I know what you mean. One thing I highly recommend is volunteering. There is nothing better to get you out of your head than helping others. This could be as simple as becoming an Evanston Scholars mentor and helping to shepherd an ETHS student through half of high school and all of college. Or Books and Breakfast. Or even donating blood. I also encourage you to move your body everyday. You don’t have to run a marathon but starting with a nice brisk walk can do wonders. The endorphins will lift your mood like a pound of chocolate from Piron or Noir d’Ebene.
And if you still find yourself unable to shake that feeling of despair, talk to someone. There are hotlines, tele-therapists, regular therapists, clergy, social workers, friends, family, etc. And many work on a sliding scale. You are not alone! It’s important to find someone that works for you, so be patient with yourself and the process.
My new neighbors posted a sign in their front yard that offends me, and I’m in a quandary about how – or whether – I should respond. The sign suggests the reader F*** the Supreme Court.
Don’t worry. This letter isn’t about the pending court decision… It’s about the pervasive use of profanity. It’s interesting that this sign looks a lot like the rainbow-hued placards that popped up a year ago about respect for all earthly creatures.
Imagine my surprise when I realized the look-alike sign – not once, but twice – suggested I do something abhorrent to the entire Supreme Court. There were additional explicit declarations on the subject, perhaps better addressed in a different forum, but it was the use of F*** that got under my skin. Why not spray paint obscenities on your garage door?
Curiously, this same yard was decorated with banners during the pandemic praising health-care workers and generally encouraging people to keep the faith. And, this homeowner also maintains a cheerfully painted Little Free Library.
So, I wonder – wouldn’t someone who promotes benevolence (and the value of literacy) be able to express themselves in a more dignified manner?
Dear Puzzled Neighbor,
People never fail to surprise us, do they? Yes, you might think that a thank-you banner-flying, tiny library-keeping household would maintain their signage in a family-friendly way, but as we know, many of the issues in front of the Supreme Court (and the general population for that matter) evoke very strong opinions. And, like it or not, we are within our rights to express our very strong opinions on our property. Just drive through Wisconsin and look at all the Trump flags so enormous you can see them from the international space station.
Few of us are able to express ourselves in a dignified manner when we get heated about a subject, and some of these subjects have basically hacked the country in two. If you’re on the side of the loudest majority, you know that nothing changes without a lot of people getting heated. If you are drowned out, you just want to get louder and hotter. And so it goes.
But, to your point, you could always knock on the door, brownies in hand, and explain that you’d prefer if your young children didn’t have to learn their phonemes on one of the seven words you cannot say on television. However, you can also use this as a learning opportunity to explain why you think it’s inappropriate to use swear words in that way. Your choice. Welcome to the United Nations of Evanston!
Dear Gabby appears in the RoundTable every Monday. Yes, Gabby is an advice columnist – but not just any advice columnist. Because that would be boring! Gabby combines wisdom with wit. And a pinch of snark. She is not a trained therapist by any means, but has seen and loved many in her day. Her aim is to make you think while she makes you laugh. Gabby welcomes all questions and queries and is only too happy to hear your opinion, no matter how much it may diverge from hers. Write to Gabby at firstname.lastname@example.org.