Wednesday, February 19, 2014


When I was growing up, there were two popular advice-columnists, Ann Landers (real name: Esther Lederer) and her twin-sister, Abigail Van Buren (real name: Pauline Phillips).  They had separate columns in the newspaper.  I preferred Ann's advice because she was more sensible; Abby was less serious about the problems people wrote her and often made jokes instead of giving help.

Abby's column ("Dear Abby") continued after she became ill in 2002; it's now being written by her daughter.  I saw the column yesterday and was struck by a question received.  Here it is:

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I relocated to Florida a little over a year ago and were quickly welcomed into our new neighbors' social whirl. Two couples in the neighborhood are gay -- one male, one female. While they are nice enough, my husband and I did not include them when it was our turn to host because we do not approve of their lifestyle choices. Since then, we have been excluded from neighborhood gatherings, and someone even suggested that we are bigots!

Abby, we moved here from a conservative community where people were pretty much the same. If people were "different," they apparently kept it to themselves. While I understand the phrase "when in Rome," I don't feel we should have to compromise our values just to win the approval of our neighbors. But really, who is the true bigot here? Would you like to weigh in?

DEAR UNHAPPY: I sure would. The first thing I'd like to say is that regardless of what you were told in your previous community, a person's sexual orientation isn't a "lifestyle choice." Gay people don't choose to be gay; they are born that way. They can't change being gay any more than you can change being heterosexual.
I find it interesting that you are unwilling to reciprocate the hospitality of people who welcomed you and opened their homes to you, and yet you complain because you are receiving similar treatment.
From where I sit, you may have chosen the wrong place to live because it appears you would be happier in a less integrated neighborhood surrounded by people who think the way you do. But if you interact only with people like yourselves, you will have missed a chance for growth, which is what you have been offered here. Please don't blow it.


What do you think of this question and the answer?


  1. I agree with you, I always preferred Ann to Abbey though Abbey seemed to be more famous. Abbey's daughter looks to be doing an excellent job though. Having spent a great deal of time on the internet and engaged in Conservative American centric social media, the sentiments expressed by the letter writer are not new to me and I have seen them expressed in much nastier ways. "Abbey" answered well and seems to have said all the right things without undue emotion and yet making it very plain and clear. She will probably not convince the people with bigotry firmly ingrained, but every step taken towards spreading tolerance the better off we all are.

  2. I totally agree with Shawna and *Abby* She did a brilliant job and she said the right things.

  3. I remember seeing Dear Abby columns in the paper (they were near the comics pages, so I glanced over them as a kid). As for her daughter's response to this couple's letter, I say it's well-put!

    The phrase "I don't feel we should have to compromise our values just to win the approval of our neighbors" struck me--it baffles me how homophobic types can honestly say that their values are being squashed by the mere existence or proximity of gay folks. It's the same old argument as "I don't agree with gay marriage, so it should be illegal." Well, I don't agree with vegetarianism, but I'm not campaigning to outlaw it just because I love me some steak and cheeseburgers! Inviting a gay couple to their party should in no way infringes on the couple's values--it's not like they're being forced into a homosexual experience or relationship!

    Ok, rant over. It just makes me so frustrated that people like this still exist in the world.

    (I lied, one more thing: Abby's use of "integrated" was so elegant. Drew a great parallel between the civil rights movement of the 60s and that of today.)

  4. I love the answer.

    I find it quite shocking that in today's day and age people can still be so backward thinking.


  5. I bet this person would be completely fine if someone in their 'conservative community' were having an extramarital affair and it wouldn't matter in the least - thats how double standard this is. Honestly people need to stop judging others by their sexuality. I for one could careless what people do in the privacy of their own homes. I don't judge people by who they love or who they are loved by. I think people need to see the grace in being loved by someone. The world is hard enough on people and yes that person is a bigot and ignorant.

  6. very good answer!
    but the question - in the year 2014 - it seems stupidity never dies out :-(
    the tragedy is that this stupidity leads that people who do not fit into the scheme, suffer from. i assume they are older people, so what they tell they´r children or grandchildren? and they came from a whole community which thinks the same way! 2014!
    i want to cry.

  7. Abby's answer is commendable and very much inline with what I would have said. Much as Beate said above, it never cease to boggle the mind at bit that in the 21st century, at a time when we've made more advances as a species than any other ever, we (as a society) are still making any kind of a fuss about a person's sexual orientation. I truly hope that in the future we'll look back on this matter in much the same way we now do things like slavery, employing children, and baring women (and minorities, etc) from having the right to vote.

    ♥ Jessica

  8. I would not have been as polite as Abby :)

  9. I like to read advice columns, as well. I used to read Dear Abby when I looked at a physical newspaper. I think her answer was OK, she was polite enough. Dear Prudie wouldn't have been as nice. I wouldn't have been as nice. The LW is a bigot and should be called out as such.

  10. All I can think is that 'Unhappy in Tampa" must truly be ignorant of their situation if they actually sent that letter in to Dear Abby. That and how sad it is that people that narrow minded still exist in this world. It's appalling actually…I'm glad the other couples in their neighbourhood excluded them. They need to learn that intolerance like that is not okay.
    I think Dear Abby answered the question incredibly well, just enough politeness, just enough bite.


  11. When I read about this on Twitter, I developed a whole dialogue about the difficulty of befriending neighbours. Moving mere days before the snow and temperature fell, we have met a grand total of 2 of our neighbours, and that's starting to make me anxious (with the rest of the street possibly judging us on how long it takes to shovel the driveway or bring in our garbage carts)... but then reading the actual post? Made me realize how my concerns about our neighbours are really superficial. So long as they're better than Unhappy in Tampa, then we'll be just fine!

  12. They should move if they don't like it. The others were there first. Let's see how they like that argument. They aren't going to catch gayness off them or anything. They aren't compromising their values by being near them, only if they decide they are thinking of being gay too. They simply aren't thinking at all

  13. I LOVE Dear Abby's response!!! How silly these people are ... instead of seeing the neighbors for who they are and not their sexual orientation ~ they are missing out!!! I think they should move again!!!

  14. I'm a total Dear Abby fan, Ally. I think her response was very solid. How could you go to someone else's home and then exclude them from events at yours? And, I would like do the exact same thing as the neighbors where I didn't socialize with them any more. Why would I want to invite someone who has fundamental beliefs that are clearly different than mine to my home? It's not like saying you're religious and I'm not or you're a liberal and I'm a conservative. Being opposed to associating with someone because of their race or gender or sexuality is just weird and wrong.

  15. We'll answered. The part of the question that irks me most is that the questioner doesn't think they should have to compromise their values to get their neighbors' approval. But that's exactly what they are doing, they're just too blind to see it.

  16. i don't think people should have to "keep to themselves" out of fear or ridicule and be denied basic rights to live and love. i hope to one day live in a world where such hate is no longer a thing.

  17. Her response is absolutely right on point! It actually boggles my mind that people are still so closed minded in 2014.

    The Tiny Heart