In this week’s advice column: When is it OK to bail on a family event, and when is it ABSOLUTELY not.
Welcome to Couldn’t Be Me, a weekly advice column where I solicit your personal dilemmas and help out as best as I can. Have something I can help you with? Find me @_Zeets.
We’ve all ditched important events in our lives. Bailing on an event that matters to someone you care about is ostensibly awful, but it’s an admittedly satisfying feeling to be free of a dreaded obligation. Sometimes you have more important things to do, or you just don’t want to go. Other times, the reasons are more complicated.
And sometimes, you leave your wife in the hospital after she gives birth to go coach a football game because you’re a terrible person. Or you avoid a Christmas party with family members who support a cruel president to protect your own sanity.
This week, we tackle the wide range of reasons we blow off family events, and at what point is the decision truly wrong.
I’m a football coach. The sport is my life. It’s always been my life. It’s the passion that everything else around me is built on. I’ve dedicated most of my waking hours in my childhood and adult life to the sport. Now, some people think that this passion has consumed me and that it is unhealthy. The example that they use is that after my wife gave birth, I asked her, “You good?” while her organs were still out after her C-section. And when she said, “Yes,” I left to get back to my football team. Without even cutting the umbilical cord. Even my quarterback was shocked.
Now, my wife supports my obsession with the game, and I’m probably never going to change, but is there something wrong with what I did? Football is my life. The only way to be the best is to think about it 24/7. I just don’t see the problem that other people do.
That’s fucking ridiculous and I’m glad you found one of the only women in the world who would allow you to run back to a football field while her guts were hanging out after an operation to bring your child into the world. Even writing that hasn’t helped me comprehend how wild that scenario is. “You good?” is what you ask a friend when they trip while walking, not a spouse who got her stomach cut open.
Now I’m thinking of all the other inappropriate times to ask someone, “You good?”
Imagine instead of symbolically burning down the Iron throne, Drogon walked over to the body of Daenerys, nudged her with his nose, and then, in a surprisingly child-like but clear voice, said, “Hey mom, you good? I’m just going to go fly around for a bit, I’ll be back later.”
[Scene: The crucifixion of Jesus]
Jesus, looking up to the sky: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Jesus, looking at one of the thieves: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Jesus, to his mother, Mary: “Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.”
Jesus, looking to the sky again: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus, before receiving a wetted sponge: “I thirst.”
Jesus, announcing the end of his earthly life: “It is finished.”
Jesus, announcing his reunion with God: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.”
Judas, arriving late: “Yo, you good? You seem alright. Nice abs too, have you been working out? Look, I’m just going to go buy some things in the market. Take care of yourself.”
Anyway, no, that’s absurd. I understand the sports myth that to achieve true greatness you must care about the job above everything else. But that idea is extremely poisonous, wrong, and tends to produce the worst kind of human beings. It’s the sporting version of the asshole genius trope that appears in art and STEM.
More great people have also been nice in this world than the opposite, but that damn idea that being an asshole correlates with intense genius just hasn’t died. You don’t have to be Kobe Bryant or Doctor House. You can stay with your wife and spend time with your child, and still be great at your job.
In the words of Guile from Street Fighter: “Go home and be a family man.”
I’m from Brazil and now we have a president who is even worse than Trump. The guy, Bolsonaro, is a dictator wannabe, a racist, misogynist, and xenophobe (even among the Brazilians from other regions).
He was elected last year, in October.
Anyway, I’m from a kinda small/medium town called Teresópolis. A place where 80 percent of the population voted for this guy. My family is among them.
I always loved Christmas and always tried to do everything to spend my time with my dad’s family (my parents divorced when I was three years old), even if I have lived a thousand miles away from them for the last half decade.
But last Christmas was different. To avoid confrontation and stress, I blew off Christmas and didn’t return home in time for the party, just two days later. Nobody told me anything about it, but I think everybody knew why I wasn’t there.
Even now, I don’t know if I did the right thing. Should I have appeared and argued with everyone there? Should I tried to go to just withstand all the shitstorm to be with them? I really love my dad and everyone from my family, but I just didn’t find the strength to go.
What would you do in my place, man?
This problem has become common in the last few years, and it’s often reframed in an empty manner as a mere disagreement of opinion. So that when you ask a question such as, “Should I stop talking to family members who are in support of a president who is racist, bigoted, xenophobic, and is implementing policies that will harm the most vulnerable in society,” someone will inevitably chide you for failing to be civil with people who have “different political views than you.”
This is, of course, an effort to pretend that politics are merely a game of opinions and civility — of thought exercises — and not real policies and structures that affect the lives of human beings.
I’m sympathetic to having to choose between family and morality. That’s an incredibly difficult position to be in. That is your family, and it seems that until this moment in time, there hadn’t been any real political divide among you — or if there was, it had never been so wide. They raised you, and you are forever attached to them.
And of course, it’s easy for someone like me to make suggestions from a distance. While I personally have no time for people who support bigots, I at least don’t have to fight my family on the issue, and I won’t be the one who deals with the particular loneliness that comes from ostracizing yourself from family.
But I think you’ve already made your decision. Or at least, you know what you can’t withstand. As important as family is, seeing someone you care about support a cruel man like Bolsonaro can change how you view that person forever. It has changed the way I view soccer players who I used to love, for example, so I can only imagine what you would go through.
Supporting people like Bolsonaro isn’t just a matter of “different political opinions”; it’s a fundamental disagreement on who matters in the world and who doesn’t, on who deserve to have their lives and dignity preserved. For me, that’s not something that can be compromised. I imagine that you know you can’t be within the same space as those family members because the cruelty of the president is so absurd that it demands a response at every step. I don’t think that you should try to withstand the shitstorm, because the only way that ends is with you lashing out once the situation becomes unbearable.
I don’t know that you will be able to look at your family the same way even after Bolsonaro is gone, and perhaps that is just an unfortunate part of adult life. Sometimes your morals and heart don’t align with the morals and hearts of people who are close to you. It’s your right to sever those relationships when that happens, or do your best to preserve what’s good about those relationships even if it means sacrificing tradition.
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