Dear Amy: My father is a stubborn man. He has a lot of energy and many strong opinions. We do not have a close relationship. He has recently retired, and now spends much of his time on social media, posting long-winded political rants, and engaging in emotional arguments with anyone who dares to comment on his posts.
These “conversations,” unsurprisingly, often devolve into name-calling and petty insults.
I am disgusted by this highly public airing of false information and closed-minded views. It was getting to the point that merely opening the social media app was giving me anxiety, with the anticipation of a new bigoted diatribe from my father.
I deactivated my account, and I’ve never felt better!
My immediate family continues to feel mortified by his behavior and this has led to some awkward family gatherings. I recently looked at my father’s social media account on my husband’s phone, which I immediately regretted, as his behavior seems to have gotten even worse. I’m afraid to discuss this directly with him, due to his short temper and the high likelihood that he will share our conversation publicly on social media. I want to keep our family matters private.
What should I do? Is there a way to make it clear to my extended family that his closed-minded beliefs do not align with my own, without descending into the drama myself? How can I bring myself to spend time with a person who causes me so much embarrassment? — Embarrassed
Dear Embarrassed: I applaud you for deactivating your social media account in order to avoid being triggered by your father’s (and others’) abusive online behavior.
You could have “unfollowed” or blocked him and perhaps experienced the same relief, but — I wholeheartedly endorse stepping away altogether for your mental and emotional health.
Now that you are removed from your father’s noxious postings, you are going to have to learn to trust other people. Your family members know him — and they also know you. You should trust that they understand and can differentiate between the two of you.
I don’t think it is useful to issue blanket or public apologies for someone else’s behavior. Your father embarrasses himself, but you should not give him the important role — and the power — to embarrass you.
Your father sounds like a bully. You should not trust him to keep anything private. All the same, you might feel better if you stood up to him: “Dad, I wish you would find a different hobby. Your online ranting is quite disturbing.”
It would be wise for him to get a mental health screening. Being a bigoted bully does not necessarily indicate mental decline, but because your father’s behavior seems to be getting worse, there is reason to wonder.
Dear Amy: My son just gave us the great news that he’s getting married.
Our daughter is in a serious, five-year relationship with a young man, “James.” We expect they will be engaged in the near future (within the next two years).
We have met James’ parents several times.
Should we invite James’ parents to our son’s wedding? — Wondering
Dear Wondering: Does your son know James’ parents? Does his future bride know these people? This marrying couple may want to have some say over who attends their nuptials.
Traditionally, with larger weddings the marrying couple will get half of the total guest list to invite those close to them, while each set of parents will get one-fourth of the guest total to invite people from their own list (colleagues or childhood friends, for instance).
If you have been granted a number of seats to fill at will at this wedding, and if you have developed a friendship with your daughter’s boyfriend’s parents, then by all means invite them. However, you are not socially obligated to issue this invitation.
Dear Readers: I’ve received many positive responses to my annual giving column. Since that column was published, the world has become aware of the devastation caused by wildfires sweeping through parts of Australia. As of this writing, 20 people, including three firefighters, have died. The heartbreaking toll on the unique wildlife of Australia is almost incalculable: Millions of animals have perished — some estimates bring the toll as high as 1 billion animals.
Please do not send food or material goods — transporting goods brings on more hazards.
Here are some ways to give money:
Helping fire victims: St. Vincent DePaul Society: donate.vinnies.org.au.
Helping “firies” (firefighters): Rural Fire Service, New South Wales: rfs.nsw.gov.au.
Helping wildlife: RSPCA of Australia: rspcansw.org.au.