Why Do None of These Women Care About My Opinion?

Posted November 30, 2018 2:54 p.m. EST

Q: I am fortunate to be in a great long-term marriage that produced a wonderful daughter and an amazing college-age granddaughter. But lately, they have told me, in plain English, that my opinions and standards (from my education at a parochial school and military academy) don’t count for much. The last time we had dinner, they talked over me and generally excluded me from the conversation. My opinions were dismissed, and my values were derided. These are the three most important women in the world to me. How do I get them to stop using me as a piñata? — MICHAEL

A: Just hazarding a guess here, Michael, but if all three of these “wonderful” and “amazing” women have had enough of your opinions and values, maybe it’s time for you to pause to reconsider them, or at least how you’re expressing them. Better yet, ask the women what they find troubling. Then listen closely.

We all have a right to our opinions, of course. But one of the interesting shifts in the past few years has been a greater public awareness of who feels entitled to speak up and expect their views to be heard — and who doesn’t. You may not suffer from blind privilege, but it’s a question worth considering. (Otherwise, why has this problem surfaced only recently?)

If you have been holding the Talking Stick for too long, perhaps the women have become impatient for their turns. So, share it! And especially because they are so dear to you, make an effort to understand how their views differ from yours. In my experience, the respect in that gesture is often reciprocated.

— ‘Friends’ Again?

Q: Ten years ago, I was asked to be a bridesmaid in two of my best friends’ weddings. Just before the weddings, the brides told me that I could not bring my partner as my date because he would make guests uncomfortable. He was significantly older than me. I declined to go without him; the brides were furious with me, and we haven’t spoken since. I am still devastated by this. One of the women tried to “friend” me recently on Facebook. (The invitation disappeared after one day.) Do you think I should reach out and try to start over with her? — ALLISON

A: Hang on! Two separate weddings with two judge-y brides, 10 years of silence, and now you’re considering going back to one of them because she tried to friend you on Facebook — probably by accident, thanks to the site’s aggressive friend-suggester algorithm?

People can change, I suppose. But I wouldn’t reach out to either of these women hoping for an apology or to discuss your feelings. They’ve had 10 years to make that move and haven’t. I’m sorry you’re still devastated. But I think the lesson here is to choose friends who are kind, not double down on the ones who’ve already proven they can be monsters.

— Utilities Include Premium Cable

Q: I am a graduate student and need to find an apartment share for winter term. I found an awesome room in an older woman’s cottage near campus. The rent is reasonable, but she wants me to split the cost of her cable package. Am I allowed to tell her that I don’t watch HBO or Showtime and that I’m totally satisfied with my iPad and streaming services? — JIMMY

A: Yes! It’s called negotiating, Jimmy. Start by telling the woman how much you like the room and want to rent it. Then tell her about your TV habits. She may say, “I see,” and eliminate the cable charge from your rent. Or she may hold out for someone who is willing to split the cost with her.

The trick here is turning this into an easy, back-and-forth conversation about what may work for both of you. (A few bucks more in rent, maybe?) Sometimes there’s a compromise to be found. But before you swear off cable for good, check out “My Brilliant Friend” on HBO, the serialized version of Elena Ferrante’s novel. It’s as riveting as the book, and that’s saying something.

— This Porta Potty Is Not a Public Restroom

Q: A good friend of mine has a home construction project underway. She is living in the house while the work is being done, and the contractor has provided a Porta Potty for his workers. But she was surprised to leave her home and see a runner coming out of the Porta Potty! What’s the protocol here? The Porta Potty is on private property. — JANET

A: Unless we are having a midlife crisis, like the title character in John Cheever’s story “The Swimmer,” private swimming pools, swing sets and Porta Potties are strictly off-limits to unauthorized passers-by. (Even in the midst of such crises, it’s still a hard no.)

But can you imagine how badly a person must need a bathroom before ducking into a stranger’s Porta Potty? So, while the protocol here says absolutely not, in the actual event, try to have a heart about it. If this really bothers your friend, have her ask the contractor to lock up the Porta Potty before the crew leaves for the day.