Advice from staff writer Greg Gerulat
My father is apparently in the habit of making some pretty bigoted remarks. I’ve only started to notice it after friends of mine and people I know from Facebook have commented to me about things he says. I don’t think his remarks are intended to hurt anyone or are even indicative of a racist or sexist agenda. In fact, I know my dad to be a great guy who treats others with respect, despite a somewhat acerbic sense of humor. Long story short, I don’t think he’s aware sometimes of what he’s saying. Despite this, it’s still pretty embarrassing. What should I do? Do I talk to my dad about these remarks? How do I go about it without offending him?
Sincerely, Walking on Eggshells
Dear WALKING ON EGG SHELLS,
Have you ever been over to a friend’s house for the first time and get cold-cock right in the nostrils with a pungent or distinct aroma that is the product of his habitat, and when you bring it to light, he just shrugs it off, claiming he doesn’t smell it? Like living with a discrete odor, your dad’s rhetorical antics are something common enough to slip below your radar, but is a fresh blip to those who don’t know him as well. Steer him away from his stockpile of stereotypes and don’t grant him a positive reaction when he becomes a social Clint Eastwood in public. If it’s towards somebody who you know will get offended, call him out on it. He’ll eventually get the hint and move on to more topic-neutral material when there’s no more laughs. Moreover, apologize to your friends. Let them know that your dad is a great guy, his jokes smell foul, but that you’re trying your best to air out the room.
My friend is clearly suffering from a deep depression. He’s sluggish, monosyllabic and has been isolating himself from friends and family. But whenever I bring it up, he denies that anything is wrong. When I ask him what’s bothering him, he won’t say. I want to help him get out of this funk, but I don’t want to scare him off and drive him towards isolating himself further. He can be very proud sometimes, and so helping him might be tricky, since he won’t talk to anyone about his current decline in mood. What can I do to help him?
Friend in Need
Dear FrIEND IN NEED,
When it comes to battling a friend’s enigmatic depression, you’re walking a thin line. On one side, you don’t want to leave him to his own devices and want to show him you care. But on the other side, you don’t want to be too pushy and overbearing with him. Saying, “What’s wrong?” can turn from soothing to stinging really fast when repeated. Chances are he doesn’t know at all. The thing with depression is that it can be completely baseless. It’s not born out of logic, so it can’t be dealt with by logic either. Be supportive but don’t overdo it. He knows he’s in a funk, but doesn’t want it rubbed in his face via smothering. Also, pay heed to how you articulate your offers of help to him so they seem more laced with genuineness rather than obligation, such as saying, “Can I get you some coffee?” instead of, “Want me to get you some coffee?” He’ll notice the difference. At the end of the day, it’s his battle – not yours. But there’ll be a better chance of him coming around if you keep your door open instead of closed.