For four years, my family has been great friends with the family next door. Their kids are the same age as ours, I became close with the mother, our husbands even work together. But during quarantine, my friend started sharing conspiracy theories about the trafficking of children. She believes “PizzaGate” is real and that Hollywood celebrities sacrifice children to drink their blood. I’ve tried to explain the alt-right origins of QAnon falsehoods. Still, in every conversation, she says something like, “I won’t shop at Wayfair. They traffic children inside storage units.” I’ve asked her nicely to stop talking about conspiracy theories with me, but she won’t. How do we move on from this?
For years, I’ve advised readers to talk it out. Whether it’s the mundane absence of a thank-you note or the highly charged presence of a Confederate flag, a calm and humble approach — one friend to another — is nearly always worth it. We may not persuade anyone in this dangerous age of so-called alternative facts, but we’re truly sunk when we stop trying.
You say you’ve tried (and failed) to disabuse your friend about QAnon and its lurid stories of blood lust and child trafficking. So, try listening. Ask her to walk you through the proof of her allegations. Perhaps you can help her see (gently) that she believes these dangerous lies because she wants to — not because she has any evidence for them.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that persuading your friend is unlikely; the ideas she has clung to reflect a distinct lack of interest in seeking out factual information. And you’re not in charge of her beliefs. If you don’t make progress with her (or with her husband, if that feels appropriate), back away from the friendship for now. Trying to salvage a relationship is worth it. Battering your head against a brick wall is not.
Before the pandemic, we had a housekeeper come to our apartment twice a month. We’ve continued to pay her because it felt cruel to cut her income while ours stayed the same. But now it seems as if I’ll be working remotely for good. To burn off nervous energy, I clean the apartment every day. It’s never been cleaner! And I would feel uncomfortable having the housekeeper here, while I work and my kids go to school remotely. At what point should I stop paying her?
I’ve been touched (and surprised, frankly) by the many readers who’ve reported paying their housekeepers, landscapers and babysitters through the pandemic, even though they were unable to work. (You’d be surprised, too, if you got as many letters as I do from people who fume about splitting checks when the other guy orders an extra glass of wine.)
I applaud your generosity. Going forward, give your housekeeper plenty of notice if she believes she’s coming back to work for you. Call her and tell her you’re planning to clean your apartment yourself, but you don’t want to leave her in the lurch. Depending on her workload and your relationship, consider paying her for another month or two while she tries to replace your gig.
P.S. I Wrote About You
I write short stories. Many of them are personal and based on real-life experiences. I’ve been publishing in literary journals for over a decade, confident that 99 percent of my acquaintances will never read a word. But now, a collection of my stories is being published as a book. The publisher has excerpted a revealing story about an ex on the book’s web page. This increases the chance that my ex and others will become aware of what I’ve written. Should I give the people involved a heads up?
Congratulations on your book! If I understand correctly, you’ve been publishing fictionalized memoir for years and have no regrets about it. If you’re like many writers, in fact, your work is urgent and important to you. So, who cares if the book’s web page makes it (slightly) more likely to be seen by those who’ve inspired you?
Writing is your art! You’re welcome to show advance copies to anyone you like. But if you haven’t for the last 10 years, why start now? Do you think Anna Wintour’s former assistant gave her a “heads up” before she published “The Devil Wears Prada”?
Is it OK to tell white people they are not “native”? I follow the Twitter account of a white woman who calls herself “a native Oaklander.” But it is the Ohlone people who are native to Oakland, and this woman claims no ties to the Ohlone. Wouldn’t it be better to say, “born and raised in Oakland,” without the appropriation?
Being careful about the words we use to describe racial and ethnic groups is important. The term “Native American” became popular in the 20th century; “Native” and “Indigenous” have also grown in usage and should be deployed according to a person’s or group’s preferences.
Lowercase “native,” a centuries-old descriptor of people or plants that hail from a particular place, only refers to geography. So while I understand what you’re saying, I think there are bigger battles to fight.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.