Currently Clueless

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Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and “unusual” social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website

Hi Tim,
I am a woman in my mid-20’s with a professional job at a telecomm company. We have the typical office setting, where coworkers take breaks together and convene during lunch in a cafeteria, and conversations get started. But lately, when I have tried to contribute and offer my opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Russia-Ukraine conflict, or politics, people seem to be uneasy, and now they are avoiding me completely! It seems fine for others to share their opinions on current events like this, and I do not have an odd opinion, I am not the weird outlier or freak, and I consider myself informed since I do only watch cable news at home. Now I can’t even sit down near someone silently without them walking away! Aren’t we all adults? Don’t we care? If celebrities can tweet their positions on controversial topics why are we so sensitive about this stuff?
– Exiled Employee 

Hi Exiled, 
I am going to be harsh, but this is because I care about helping you. What you are calling “stuff” is something you do not seem to be connected with personally. Let me remind you that people are losing their lives and their childrens’ and parents’ lives over this “stuff.” Your idea of water-cooler and snack break chat topics are offensive and inappropriate for most workplaces.

Please do not be the stereotypical American and “pick your side,” like spectators at the O.K. Corral. This is not a football game or American Idol. The State Department is not on pins and needles waiting for your call on the red phone.There are conflicts in the world to which you are not a party and are not entitled to pick a side. You judge the merit of your opinion on whether or not it dissents from the majority in your group? Is your opinion an informed one or just regurgitation of the manufactured slop you have been spoon-fed by mass and social media?

Was Syria taken by another table at the cafeteria? How about North and South Korea? When you plan these depressing coffee clatches do you ever consider topics that never make the news? In fact, popular cable news networks have disturbing omissions, and outrageous bias, on both sides depending on the “brand” of news. Compare coverage of a single story between networks; it spins like a top. I would suggest the closest to objectivity as the wire that all news sources use: Associated Press (AP), Reuters and Agence France-Presse (AFP) all offer apps so you can also enjoy constant alerts. You will benefit the most from using all three so you can compare and sift out any spin that seeps into these agencies.

Read, read, and read some more. Read some history. Argue both sides for yourself. Imagine what you would do if you were in either place. Think about the issues critically in your own head. When you have a solid opinion you can back up with plenty of references, congratulations. Be selective about sharing; do not ever share it at work again. Even amongst friends there may only be one or two who can derive the kind of satisfaction you do from such discourse. For those who do, test it out with him or her, argue both sides, play devil’s advocate, etc.

Since you will hopefully have a new appreciation for the suffering of others, you may not want to simply go online and rant endlessly about it because that does nothing to ease the plight of those for whom you choose to advocate. Text talk is cheap, and too many celebrities “pick a side” and draw more misdirected attention. I would seriously rule out celebrity rants as a source of information but I will reference a celebrity quote. The incredibly talented Brad Pitt absolutely nailed it with this dated yet timeless, spot-on quote regarding “celebrity opinions.”

You shouldn’t speak until you know what you’re talking about. That’s why I get uncomfortable with interviews. Reporters ask me what I feel China should do about Tibet. Who cares what I think China should do? I’m a f**king actor! They hand me a script. I act. I’m here for entertainment. Basically, when you whittle everything away, I’m a grown man who puts on makeup. – From “A Conversation Runs Through It” by Bruce Handy, Time magazine, 13 October 1997.

The truly committed, like Mr. Pitt and the equally incredibly talented Angelina Jolie for example (I did not plan to reference them together, but good for them), act on their convictions. So if you really care, put your money where your opinion is and donate or if money is tight, then volunteer. Stuffing envelopes, providing graphic design or other services, educating the public, putting together relief packages, whatever you like it is needed desperately and a non-profit is waiting to sign you up. You say you are bothered by injustice, war, etc. Prove it. Stop running your mouth and take some action. Help the people you are supposed to care so much about.

Husband on the Edge

Hi Tim, 
I know this seems trivial, but I am a man, 39 and married to my wife, also 39 for 14 years. She has lost a lot of weight recently (60 lbs.) but insists on wearing “skinny clothes.” Such as jeans, shorts, etc. I love her body and always will, and the new look is pretty sexy in my opinion but maybe these are not the best clothes for her to be wearing at her age? My 17 year-old daughter mentioned it to me. She said that my wife is embarrassing herself and that I should confront her about this if I care about her at all. Should I tell her?
-Husband on the Edge

Hi Edgy,

I would have ended it there, but I want to avoid any misunderstanding. I am not advising you to keep quiet because women are potentially unhinged, hormone-driven time bombs that question themselves and erupt into tears and/or physical violence over the slightest provocation. Rather, I am understanding that the opinion that concerns you is not your own. Your daughter is the party with the concern for her stepmother’s public appearance, not you. That is her problem to deal with as she sees fit. In your own words, you are happy and even aroused by your beloved and her new look, so honesty is the best policy. You do not have a problem so say nothing. If you are on the spot and she questions you directly— “Honey, does my [noun] look [adjective] in this?”—just relax, breathe and tell the truth. She is going to know you told the truth and appreciate you for it in the long run. If she doesn’t, send her the link to this page and blame it all on me.

Third Wheel

Hi Tim, 
I am a single woman, 28, dating a guy for 2 months I have known about six months. We have been pretty casual about the whole thing but he suggested we take it up a notch, as he put it “to the next level” and meet each others families. We started partying with my younger sister and her friends, and now we meet out every weekend but his behavior has changed. Sometimes we all go to a gay bar, and one of my sister’s good friends is an extremely flamboyant gay guy, an actor who is 19 and very sweet, but he and my date get very drunk. They danced together, took off their shirts kind of pawed at and humped each other on the dance floor, with visible erections by the way, get other boys in on the action and sometimes disappear together, started sharing little private jokes and usually become inseparable for the night. I had to catch a cab home twice now because my date refused to leave.

I confronted him and he says that I am overreacting, that he is just open-minded and capable of being friends with a gay guy. I have my share of gay guy friends and I have never gotten so much as a blip on my gaydar for this man. We have had a physical relationship that has been just fine, but I am not okay with being ignored. Should I be worried?
– Third Wheel

Hi Third Wheel,
Gee, maybe your guy is gay. I cannot really say because, as hard as I tried, I simply cannot make myself care. Whatever his orientation, he sounds like an absolute cretin. Being ignored at these multiple get-togethers should be sending you an incredibly strong message, even if there is a logical explanation for the sweaty, gyrating, half-clothed sex acts performed during his dance floor circuit boy orgies and dark-corner, man-on-man interludes.

A lover, who professes to love you, as in romantic love and announces “meet the parents” events as an understood milestone, would have the decency to at least give you a ride home! You sound like you want to trust this man and envision a life together. Please do not do that. It is garbage day so take him out to the curb and dump him. I would be shocked if he came around later, but do you really care? If his behavior is this rude and insensitive so early in your relationship, one more day seems like a complete waste of your time.

Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author’s alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions, and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.

Photo courtesy Bill Abbott, licensed under Creative Commons

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