Hi. This is Alicia Matthews.
Please e-mail me at StatenIslander.org with your questions. Please be aware that I cannot answer every e-mail right away, but I do promise to get to everyone (sooner or later). I am not a psychologist, sociologist, or anthropologist. I am just someone who cares. While a lot of our letters are from high school students, people of any age are welcome to write in. Thanks!
March 27, 2020
I’m 16. My name is Mara. I am afraid for my grandparents that they will get the Covid virus and get sick. I love my Grandpa and Grandma and don’t want to see anything happening to them. I read that no one should be visiting but I miss them. Plus, my uncles stop by there to deliver groceries and leftovers and I know they aren’t wearing masks. What can I do? Thank you.
It is true, this coronavirus situation is very scary for a lot of people. People are mostly afraid to visit their elderly relatives, in the fear that they will transmit the virus to them. This is a justified fear, since the vast majority of people who have had the severest problems with the virus are the elderly, and those with additional health conditions.
The best thing you can do is call your grandparents, every day if possible. See if you can teach them, over the phone, how to use one of the many video conferencing apps, such as FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Zoom, etc. That way, you can’t be in their presence, but it can almost feel like you are.
You might want to call your uncles, and ask them if they can start wearing a mask when they deliver the groceries to them. If they live in New York City, they are already required to wear one to the store itself, so you can ask them to wear it also when they go to your grandparents’ house.
You can also do research on nutrition and boosting immunity, and see if they are eating wholesome, vitamin-rich foods such as chicken soup and leafy green vegetables. Nutritionists have been suggesting lately that boosting immunity is always a good thing, and can give people a better chance to fight the virus if they become infected with it.
Pray for them every day (or think positive thoughts about them if you don’t pray), and try to talk and face-time with them as much as possible. Hopefully they will be OK. I hope this helps.
March 18, 2020
My friend is a racist. She always says mean things about our black friends when they aren’t around. I’ve been to her house and her entire family talks like that. She thinks she’s better than kids in our class that are Indian and black but she has a lower average than they do! But she is a phoney and always pretends she likes them when we’re at school. Her older brother is the worst. He uses language I won’t even repeat. She isn’t one of my best friends, but I have known her since 6th grade. I feel guilty though when I am around her because I feel like its telling her its okay to feel like that. I was always raisin that we’re all equal and everyone has their own culture and gifts. Like my friend who is from India. Her Mom cooks amazing food that is so different than what we eat (I’m 75% Italian and 25% Irish) Most of my friends are Irish, Italian, Jewish, but I also have black and Indian friends. So what do I tell my friend? I don’t want to end our friendship but I for one hate going over her house. I don’t want to see her out of class anymore. Am I wrong? I don’t want to discuss it but I don’t want her to think I don’t like her either. BTW, I am a student at PRHS.
Dear Student At PRHS,
It is unfortunate that your friend is a racist. Sometimes, however, there is nothing that we can say or do to change others, especially if that is the environment in which she is being raised at home. From what it sounds like, this is the case.
It is likely that there is nothing you can say to her that would stop her from being racist, however, you can tell her that it makes you very uncomfortable when she says racist things. This makes the most sense to say right after she has made one of her comments. You can say something like, “That makes me super uncomfortable when you say things like that. I have lots of friends who are (insert race she singled out) and I think that they are smart and articulate, and their moms cook super great dinners, too! Please understand that I love you, and you are my friend, but please try not to say things like that when I am around.”
You need to be careful how you say this, and even what I suggested might offend her. Try to gauge her response by the look in her eyes and on her face. It is possible that no matter how sweetly you say it, it will cost your friendship. But most people are more open-minded than they seem. She might think it’s OK to say those things to you because you have never expressed offense before. Maybe once you have done so, your friendship will grow stronger due to the honesty.
I hope this helps.
August 14, 2019
Help! I am being messed with at work by a B**** From HELL!
My name is Blaire. I work in the city and I’ve been at my job for the last six years. About six months ago, things got weird.
It started with a new girl in the office. Her first day, she asked me to buy her lunch. I did. She didn’t pay me back. I had to ask her like five times.
I think it got her mad, and so she wanted revenge. First, I came in and there was ink all over my seat upholstery. It ruined one of my nicest work dresses.
Next, she started gossiping among the women at the office. She lied. She claimed I owed her money, which was ridiculous.
One of my managers even started saying all kinds of odd things under his breath. When I’d ask what, he’d say, “what what?” So I felt very helpless.
I don’t want to quit. I’ve gone to Hr and they told me to just deal with it. They even insinuated that I was imagining it all.
Now, I don’t want to quit. I think she’s after my job. I need the income and I have a good health care plan.
Please let me know what to do?
I am so sorry to hear that you are being harassed by your co-worker at your job. Unfortunately, this is not an easy situation to resolve. Obviously the easiest thing to do would be to change jobs. As you have said, that is not really desirable, and may not be possible. However, there are nasty people at every job, so you might end up with a terrible co-worker at your new job as well.
The only thing you probably can do if you want to keep your job is to be on your best behavior with everyone else at work, including the nasty co-worker. You can offer to order lunch for her, but just tell her you can’t lay out the money that day, as you only have enough with you (or available to you) for your own lunch that day.
You would, of course, then have to do the same for anyone else at the office that you order lunch for, so that she can’t later accuse you of singling her out.
There might be other things you can in your work setting, such as finishing up reports that she needs before she needs them, offering to make a phone call or two for her, and other things. However, do not let this interfere with your own duties, and it should be appropriate and necessary (i.e. things you are supposed to do anyway). There are often situations where co-workers are expected to work together, so being friendly and kind can go a long way.
This is a tactic that many have used to make peace with nasty co-workers, family members, and others, and it can be referred to as killing them with kindness. It doesn’t always work, but it is worth a try, and it might smooth things over enough so that she at least stops outwardly harassing you among your co-workers.
By be on your best behavior with your other co-workers, that means asking them if they need help when it appears they do, or when you can be helpful as part of your job, offering to order lunch for them (with their pre-payment, of course), and carpooling with them to work. Friendly and pleasant, appropriate conversations with them can help to smooth things over, and make her back-stabbing words a lot less effective against you.
At the very least, these tactics will make it easier for you to get along with the others that you work with, even if it doesn’t help with the nasty co-worker. But you might be surprised at how far these tactics can go to make your work life much more pleasant.
August 7, 2019
My Brother Invited Me To His Wedding, But Excluded My Long-Term Boyfriend
My younger brother recently came out to our parents as gay, and he is also having a wedding to his gay partner of one year. When my mother told me about his wedding, she also made sure to tell me that my boyfriend, who I have been with for sixteen years, is specifically not invited. I don’t have much contact with my family, seeing them once a year or so for Christmas, and speaking with my mother every so often. My brother has always been a little weird. For the last number of years when I ask him for his phone number, he won’t give it to me. He is always making excuses like that he doesn’t have a phone right now, or his phone number is being changed, etc. Suffice it to say, we are not really close at all.
My boyfriend always comes with me when we go to my family’s house on Christmas. While they are often cold and distant to him, never really making him feel welcome, he has not ever done anything to them to deserve this kind of treatment. My family is not really close, as my mother is pretty much narcissistic (based on multiple books I have read on the topic), and my childhood with them is not something I like to think about often.
I have considered going no-contact with them anyway. I am pretty certain that if I refuse to go to this wedding, they will actually turn the tables and go no-contact with me. So, I am in a dilemma, because I do still love them, but if I go to the wedding without my boyfriend, he will probably not stay with me. Since my parents aren’t really part of my life anyway, what would I lose by standing up for what is right. I have read many etiquette websites, and everyone who discusses this topic says quite clearly that my brother is wrong, and that I should not go. I do agree with them, but I am in a dilemma. Please help!
Confused About Etiquette
Dear Confused About Etiquette,
I am so sorry to hear about your situation. Unfortunately, there are people in our lives, and often in our families, who take advantage of our good nature, and find it entertaining to abuse us. It sounds like you were probably the scapegoated individual in the narcissist family dynamic, and it is true that narcissists most often will never change. It is usually the scapegoated child that decides to never speak to their family again after it can be seen that they will never change.
Sadly, I can only say that in this case, if it is a choice between your boyfriend, who has stood by you for so many years, and a family who is barely in your life, the choice seems pretty clear-cut and simple. It is a difficult decision they are forcing you to make, because it is quite likely that, should you decide to stand up for yourself and not go to the wedding, they will stop talking to you completely. The best advice I can give is to try to talk to your brother, and explain your situation. If he ignores your concerns, and insists that you don’t bring your boyfriend, then it would be socially acceptable for you to decline the invitation, with complete understanding that there are likely to be repercussions to your relationship with your family.
It is likely that they will declare that they intend to never speak with you with you again, and this will be on their terms and not yours. In other words, this is the risk you are taking. Of course, if your boyfriend would leave you if you chose to go, then understand that you are choosing between a relationship that means a lot to you and a relationship that means not very much. This is a choice that only you can make. Social etiquette does dictate that your long term boyfriend (of a very long 16 years) is automatically invited to any and all family weddings, especially immediate family. Your brother does not get to decide that your boyfriend cannot come without any reason aside from cost.
It actually sounds like either he, or they, just don’t like your boyfriend, possibly because he makes you happy, and narcissists want to see everyone around them as miserable as they are. So, it might in fact be better for your long-term happiness to leave these miserable individuals behind, as you will no doubt be better off not being subjected to their cruel and frivolous whims. It is also likely that, if you did choose to go without your boyfriend, this would be only the first in a long line of future events to which he is not invited since by accepting it, you are telling them that it is allowable and OK, when it is not. These are serious considerations, and should not be taken lightly. I wish you the best of luck in whatever you decide.
Received August 4, 2019
I Think My Mom Is Cheating On My Dad, Please Help!
I like your new columnn. I have only been reading Staten Islander for about two weeks, but its great that you are now here! I am crying all the time now. My name is Emerson. I am from Staten Island just like you!
I am thriteen and I’ll be 14 in October. The reason I’m writing is because I think my Mom is cheating on my Dad. I’ve tried telling my sisters but their only 12 and 10 and they think I’m nuts. Though my middle sister Emily did say at one point that she thought so too. Its like she forgets because she wants to.
You probably are thinking why do I wonder this. Its a bunch of stuff. There’s this guy who used to live two doors down named Joe. He seemed to get really cozy with my Mom. Of course they might have just been friends. But one day I told Emily and she said they wre saying raunchy things. So I don’t know. She won’t say what. She just wants to forget it all and pretend its not true.
As for me I never heard any of that. But my Mom is always going out and not saying where. She leaves her phone home. She turns it off. She claims she doesn’t get texts. One time I called and it sounded like some guy was talking in the background.
My Mom hates my Dad. He has severe cycstic fybrosis and is kind of out of commission. She really does hate him so I wouldn’t be shocked if she cheated. She did say he is abusive but I’ve never seen him hitting her. He does yell a lot though. But she eggs him on and yells a whole lot more and says disgusgting things to him first like most of the time.
Anyway now that I write it I realize I sound rediculous. This doesn’t sound like anything much but I have storng feelings something just isn’t right. My Mom gets defensive if anyone asks where she’s goingor where she’s been.
I think she comes home smelling like a guy. My sister thinks I’m imagining it.
Onetime my Mom was out all day and nobody knew where she was and then she came home and my Dad was asking her and she was acting all weird. Like smirking and laughing and looked 100% guiulty. So I don’t know.
She also said one time that Joe is a great guy. Around thattiem she said my Dad is garbage and if she cheats its OK because he’s a monster.
He is an amazing father to us. As far as I can tell it isn’t like he is that bad. In any way. Just sick.
What do I do???? I tried telliong my Dad to watch out but at this point I don’t even think he wants to know if it is the truth.
First off, I wanted to say that it seems like you are not crazy, and you might not be imagining things. The things that you mentioned, where she leaves her phone home, turns it off, goes out without anyone knowing where she is, and comes home smelling like someone else, these are all things that might cause you to become concerned. The events you described in your letter are all unusual. This must be very difficult for you, since you clearly love your dad and mom a whole lot. Being the only one in the family who notices these inconsistencies makes it even more of a challenge, as you undoubtedly feel very alone in your suspicions. However, she might just be going out to de-stress and take a walk, or she may be seeing a psychologist to help her deal with the issues she believes are being caused by your father. There are many different explanations, and it is difficult to know what the truth actually is.
Since your dad seems to not want to know the truth, there is very little that you yourself can do. You can’t really find out for sure if your mom is cheating. The best thing that you can do is try to not stress over it so much. It is a private marital issue between your parents, and if they don’t want to resolve the issue, it is not for you to resolve. While everyone hopes that their parents will have a happy marriage, this does not always happen. You have your own life to live, as you are still very young and in school, with your hopes and dreams stretching out before you. It is important to remember that when you become concerned about your parents’ relationship. You can only do the best that you can in your family, and you can’t really help your parents with their issues. You likely have more than enough to deal with on your own already. With homework, school work, after school activities, and friendships, you need to focus on your own life. Just try not to think about it too much, and live your own life with your own friends and with your sisters.
I wish you the best of luck in your life, with your school, friends, and family, and I hope this helps you to relax a little and not stress about it anymore.
Received August 1, 2019
Why Do My Parents Not Accept My Choices?
I’m an 18 y.o. girl living in Travis. My parents are very traditional Chinese and only want me dating Chinese boys. They don’t care if my friends are Chinese but my Mom is always making comments about them after they leave if they’re not. As far as guys, I’ve only dated three guys so far and my parents have only met one, b/c the other two were not Chinese. In fact one was Hispanic and I know my Mom would have flipped. My Dad is more mellow but I can see from his disapproving frown that he feels the same way and just doesn’t say anything.
Please help me out. I hate sneaking around but I also don’t necessarily want to date a Chinese dude just because his ancestors are from the same place. That seem limiting. I start at Wagner in September and I know I will be meeting tons of new people.
This seems like a rather common dilemma in this modern day and age, as many people who immigrated to this country now have children who are starting to date. I have met many children of immigrants from other countries who have dated and married persons who are not from their country. I have also met many who have married people who are from their home country. Usually, it is just a matter of chance, and who you end up meeting and falling in love with. Sometimes, it is a result of arranged marriages, as with immigrants to this country have come matchmakers to help their children carry on their traditions.
It has been the experience of many children of immigrants that, even if they initially disapprove, they do eventually accept the choice that their child has made. I have known Indian women who have married British men, Indian women who have married Indian men from other parts of the country, and I have also met Indian and Pakistani women who have had arranged marriages.
In all cases, the parents will eventually accept their child’s relationship choice, though it may take some time. Once you have married someone, the family essentially must accept them, or they will not be able to see or get to know their grandchildren. This is not always the case while you are dating someone, though, and they will often try to make your new boyfriend, if he is not Chinese, feel uncomfortable being around them.
If it is a person who loves you, though, he will often be understanding that it has nothing to do with him personally. It’s just how some parents are. It’s also possible, though, that you will meet a Chinese boy that you really like, and then there would be no friction. But you should know that even if there is friction in the beginning, if your parents love and care about you, they will recognize love and caring in your boyfriend. They will want what is best for you, and will want you to be happy. So, eventually, no matter where your next boyfriend comes from, your parents will eventually accept him as part of their family, and may even like him on an individual basis if they can get past their biases. At some point, they will get past their biases and focus on how he treats you. I wish you the best of luck in your future relationships, and starting college at Wagner in the Fall.