DEAR NATALIE: I gave my friends a lot of passes during the last election. But at this point, I’m having a hard time with a few of them and their clearly racist viewpoints. Talking about “America first” or “those people” is really starting to grind on me. I feel a lot of guilt because I have been trying to educate myself to learn more about Black issues, in particular. I think some of my friends are finding me to be a bit much these days. I just feel like I’m getting to a point where I don’t know where to go with some of these relationships. One of the women in my life has been a friend of mine for 20 years. We have gone through so much together, but because of her racist views, I am feeling this disconnect. I don’t know how to bridge it. I never really noticed it before I started educating myself. She says that I’m being a “snowflake” about all this “political correctness.” Recently, she invited me to her son’s birthday party. She hasn’t been observing social distancing or wearing masks as she should be, and so I am very hesitant to be around her. But if I don’t go, I feel like this could be the end of our friendship. What do I do? — FRIENDSHIP FALLING APART
DEAR FRIENDSHIP FALLING APART: There is no rule that says that just because you have been friends for a long time means that you will always be friends. Relationships ebb and flow because people change. You are both at different points in your lives than when you met 20 years ago. It seems like you are embracing very different value systems now at this stage of your lives. There’s a difference between being friends with someone who doesn’t like the same things as you--like movie genres, for example--and friends who are committed to upholding systems that are literally killing people. Do not feel guilty that your self-education has made you more empathic to other people’s struggles. If she decides to read or listen or seek out new experiences that deepen her connection to the greater humanity, that’s great. Keep in mind, you don’t have to do anything that you feel uncomfortable with. Setting boundaries will give you back your sense of personal agency in the relationship. If she can’t practice social distancing or wear a mask or recognize that now may not be the best time for a party, that’s on her. Let her walk that road a little more alone and see what happens. Maybe she needs to feel the consequences of her own choices, too. Human rights are just not up for debate like rom-coms.
DEAR NATALIE: My fiancé is obsessed with me getting older. I’m 32, he’s 39. He is constantly dropping hints that maybe I should try Botox or some other non-invasive procedure to make my skin look “younger”. Now granted, he is a plastic surgeon, so I know this is what he does all day, but it is starting to make me feel really insecure and unhappy. We have had arguments about this, and I just don’t know what to do? Also, because of Covid-19, I’m barely leaving our house because I work from home. Not wearing make-up has been really liberating for me. It makes me kind of sad that he just doesn’t like me physically enough as I am. Should I do these treatments like he recommends to save the relationship? It really is that bad. — ANTI-AGING NIGHTMARES
DEAR ANTI-AGING NIGHTMARES: Society puts enough pressure on women, in particular, to look a certain way and our lovers are supposed to be the ones in our lives who lift us up, not tear us down. What your fiance is doing is symptomatic of the patriarchal system that harms everyone. He may also be obsessed with the aging process because he is approaching the big 4-0 and may be projecting his own internalized insecurities about getting older onto you. If you had approached him and wanted his opinion about what treatments you could do, that would be one thing. But the fact that he keeps bringing up this issue shows that he is a very superficial person. Is this someone you want to spend your life with? If you want to try Botox, that’s fine. If you want to never touch your face, that’s fine too. It’s about what you want, how you want to feel, and if he is manipulating you into thinking you need to look or be a certain way to appease his own ego, I would reconsider the relationship. If he can’t stop criticizing your appearance at 32, how will he accept you at 52? Or 72? You have to look in the mirror everyday and feel good about you, and having your partner judging you is no way to live. Call it out. This is 2020. People are speaking out more about body inclusivity, about aging with self-compassion, about radical self love. I recommend you read, “The Body Is Not An Apology,” by Sonya Renee Taylor. Tell him that his words are harmful, hurtful and not the words of someone who loves you. Life is way too short to be bullied and pushed around by someone that is supposed to be your lover. His behavior is anything but loving and, my darling, you deserve so much better for yourself.
Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @NatalieBenci and on Instagram @NatalieBenci