Etiquette Questions, Answered: Tricky Conversations
How Can I Get Nosy People to Stop Prying Into My Private Family Matters?
Q. My daughter came out to me and my husband several years ago. I have not disclosed that she is gay to any of our friends, nor do I feel the need to. Out of respect for my daughter, I don’t feel that such an announcement is necessary. But one of my friends has been asking me about my daughter and seems to be trying to coerce a disclosure. (I’m not sure how, but I think that she knows the truth.) Do you have any suggestions on how I should handle this situation?
A. I’m going to get to Mrs. Busybody in a second. But first: The phrase “out of respect for my daughter” gave me pause. Perhaps you would feel reluctant to share details about your daughter’s personal life even if she were straight. However, given our culture’s history of pressuring gay people to stay closeted, it’s worth asking yourself if remaining mum is the most considerate approach to your child’s sexuality.
You could consider the cues your daughter is giving. (For example, is she out at work?) But there is only one way to gauge how much privacy she wants: Ask her. If your daughter feels, as you do, that her orientation is nobody else’s business, then either ignore your pal’s needling comments or kindly suggest that she’s being nosy. “I’m inclined to leave my daughter’s private life private,” you might say. But if your daughter would prefer for you to be open and honest with your friends, then get on board, because that’s your train, it’s leaving the station, and you need to be on it—or risk permanently damaging the relationship you have with your child.
— Catherine Newman
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