Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Father Thinks I’m a Lesbian”

I am a 20-year-old female, still living at home with my parents due to financial reasons. I do not have a boyfriend, but I have quite a few gay friends and deeply support gay rights. As a result, my father is convinced that I’m a lesbian. This isn’t the first time that someone has thought I’m a lesbian so normally I just laugh it off and move on. However, I live with my father and speak to him every day. Ever since he came to the conclusion that I must be gay — which he’s asked me about and I’ve outright denied — he analyzes and over-analyzes every single thing I do.

Because I live at home, I respect my parents rules and when I go out, I tell them where I’m going and when I’m coming home. When I say that I’m going to a female friend’s house, he asks if she is gay, if she has a boyfriend, who else will be there, what exactly will we be doing together, whether it’s at her house or out somewhere in public, etc. If I’m going to a guy friend’s house, he will just wink and let me go, no curfew enforced.A close guy friend has said that he will pretend to be my boyfriend to get my dad off my back but I don’t want to lie and pretending someone is your boyfriend never really works out…

Recently, my father asked why I don’t have a boyfriend. One reason is I’m really shy. I have a hard time meeting guys that I am compatible with. Another reason is that I don’t want to have a boyfriend simply for the sake of having a boyfriend. Part of me wants to let my father think whatever he wants. I’m OK with who I am and who I surround myself with. But I don’t want this to snowball into something it isn’t. My father is very intolerant of gay people. If I could afford to, I would move out and just deal with him in small doses. What’s a girl to do? — Not a Lesbian

While I sympathize with your situation, I’m really curious about one thing: what are you afraid will “snowball”? What do you mean by that? Your father thinks you’re a lesbian. Obviously, he has a problem with that. That’s annoying. But how would that snowball? What would that even look like? Are you afraid of him refusing to let you out of the house? Do you think he’d force your to therapy to “cure” you? Are you worried he’d start fixing you up with eligible young men — sons of his friends (hey, maybe that’s not such a bad thing?)? Might he begin blatantly offending any female friends you bring over? What? I mean, my imagination is going wild here and without knowing your father it’s impossible to know what he’s capable of and what your real fears here are (and whether they’re founded or not).

What I can be sure of though is that the sooner you get out of your parents’ home and out from under their rules and aggressive nosiness, the better you’ll feel. But you know that already, right? Hopefully, at 20-years-old that time isn’t too far off. If you aren’t already, I’d recommend you work as hard as you can, save as much as you’re able, and begin researching other housing options. Depending on where you live and what housing costs are in your area, sharing an apartment with a couple of friends — or friends of friends — could be a very affordable alternative to living with the ‘rents.

In the meantime, you need to decide for yourself how dangerous this potential snowball is. Maybe it’s worth a little white lying to keep him off your back. But if it’s simply a matter of being annoyed by him and having to answer more questions than you’d like or getting an earlier curfew than you think is fair, just suck it up. Them’s the breaks when you live at home — you gotta deal with rules and behavior you don’t necessarily like in exchange for a free place to crash. If you don’t like the rules or people being all up in your business, get a job and move out.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected] and be sure to follow me on Twitter.

33 comments… add one
  • emjay July 12, 2011, 7:46 am

    I could be completely off base here, but if ur dad is winking at you when u go out the door than he may just be busting your chops, and ur taking it too seriously. My dad was convinced us girls were too (he has 5 girls and 2 boys) and it was because he just didn’t understand the closeness of female friendships. But if he really does have a problem with this and won’t let up, just sit down and talk to him like the adult you are. Tell him why you don’t have/want a boyfriend right now and just because you support gay rightzs does not mean you are too, its just what you believe is right. He will eventually stop and it will become a type of inside joke between the two of you. JMO. 🙂

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  • BoomChakaLaka July 12, 2011, 8:17 am

    Wow, this was totally me 5 years ago! (I’m 25 btw). BOTH of my parents were convinced that I was a lesbian because I hadn’t had a boyfriend yet at 20. I was deathly shy and also really into the whole sweatpants, sweatshirt, ponytail thing. Some people can make it look cute. I really made it look sloppy. The poo really hit the fan when my parents found out I was in a facebook relationship with my best friend at the time. I’ll just cut to the outcome of that story: A week after that whole blow up, I met my first boyfriend. Even though it didn’t work out, that kind of put the lid on that whole thing. But, that’s my story.

    I don’t think you should put too much stock in it. Of course your parents are curious about what you’re up to and since society has dictated that heterosexual relationships are “normal,” than all they want is to know that their child is “normal” Irrespective of their flawed definitions of normality, I think you should probably not worry about it too much. If you’ve already communicated to them once that you aren’t a lesbian, that’s really all they need to know. Sure they might egg you on, but I think this happens to almost anyone that is that age. If they didn’t think you were a lesbian, then, they would most likely just wonder why you aren’t dating. And when you are dating, guess what? They’ll start nagging about marriage, then kids…its a never ending thing! I would say avoid the conversation as much as possible because you’ve said your piece.

    As a side note: I love that you aren’t into having a boyfriend just to have one. I know so many people that could have benefited from that line of thinking at 20, myself included…

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    • Diana July 12, 2011, 9:48 am

      oh the nagging! i know my parents were afraid i’d become the crazy cat lady due to my lack of dating, and they nagged me about that. then when i finally did find a guy i wanted to date they didn’t like him and nagged me about that. i’m single again and the nagging is coming back. it’s out of love. keep that in mind if it helps!

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  • PFG-SCR July 12, 2011, 8:37 am

    “Ever since he came to the conclusion that I must be gay — which he’s asked me about and I’ve outright denied — he analyzes and over-analyzes every single thing I do.”

    While I understand you live “under his roof”, that doesn’t give him the right to constantly disrespect you. To me, analyzing and over-analyzing what you do and who you do it with because of him trying to “figure out” if you’re actually a lesbian after you’ve told him that you’re not is disrespectful.

    Even though they sometimes go about it in strange and counter-productive ways, nearly all parents do want to have healthy relationships with their children, but they sometimes lose sight of how to have that when they’re focused on an agenda. I’d probably show him this letter, and let him know you wrote it. Or, you could tell him that you wrote a letter asking for advice on this matter. The bottom line is that he’s asked you, you’ve answered his question, and he should believe that without constantly doubting you. I’d explain quite clearly how his behavior makes you feel and how it’s affecting you. And very importantly, ask him to trust what you’ve told him and to stop with the inquisitions.

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  • moonflowers July 12, 2011, 9:08 am

    It sounds to me like underneath all the nudge-nudge wink-wink, your dad is anxious about your singlehood. Some folks mistake being single to mean that you’re unattractive or you must not like dating or men, when all it really just means is that you’re single here and now. (And good for you not to have a relationship for the sake of having one!)

    Whatever his reasoning, it says a lot more about him and his worldview than about you. It’s rude of him to keep insinuating it when it’s not true, but for now the best you can do is firmly but calmly deny it and walk away when he brings it up again.

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  • SGMcG July 12, 2011, 9:33 am

    LW, you make no mention about what your Mom had to say about your Dad’s hypocrisy. Can you recruit her in pointing out his ridiculous double standard? You can’t hang out with other women because he’s worried you’re a lesbian now, yet what if he found out you’re actually straight, but just haven’t found the guy worthy enough to be your boyfriend – will he start stopping you from hanging out with males then? Heaven help you if he discovers you may be bisexual – you may NEVER leave the house then.

    You need to have a discussion with your father and point out his homophobia. Now LW, you may think that your father can’t be homophobic because he still lets you support your gay rights activities, but that’s not true. Anyone else’s child can be gay, and he may not care you are supporting “their” rights, but when it comes to my child, they better not bring “that nonsense” home.

    As you can probably tell by now, I AM speaking from personal experience. I was 17 when my dad found out I was hanging out with a neighborhood girl RUMORED to be a lesbian. When he asked me not to hang out with her anymore “because of her reputation”, I started speaking out my objections to his ridiculousness and that’s when he slapped me across the face. Not only was I in shock by his act, but I started crying when he started spewing his obvious intolerance (he got into specific reasons for his homophobia) and my personal realization that, “Yes, my Dad is human” and “His love is not unconditional as it seemed – because he could never accept me if I actually WAS gay.”

    It took leaving the house for college to repair our relationship from that incident. My Dad’s fears of my being gay were probably assured when he not only found out that I am straight and I had to be sexually active because my blood was recently rejected from a drive for Hep B antigens. After sessions of personal therapy for myself and a lot of talking with our family, I’d like to say that my Dad’s homophobia is a lot more tolerant than it was when I was younger, yet I can’t be certain because my sister and I identify as straight, and I don’t know if he would be as accepting of us if we were lesbian. There were a lot of other issues to deal with other than the homophobia, but I think Dad and Mom are better people now because my sister and I, as their children-now-adults, pointed out our parents shortcomings, helping them to try and become better people.

    Your letter really hit home for me LW, because as a child we don’t expect to teach our parents how to be better people since when we were growing up we learned a lot from them. Yet part of having that adult-child relationship with your parents is for them to let you go and live the life you feel you deserve and teach your parents how to accept it. You may still live at home and respect your parents rules under their roof LW, yet you have to also teach them how to accept what you’ve learned to believe and accept if your parents can’t support you. Such lessons are easier to learn and teach once you move out under the roof of your parents house, but you can start planting the seeds of lessons by pointing out their double standards, asking questions regarding your parents opinion and not accepting, “because I said so” as an appropriate answer anymore.

    So point out your Dad’s homophobia LW in a frank, honest discussion. Use the resources available from all those gay rights organizations you deeply support. Point out how his worries that you may be gay damage the relationship you have with him. You may have learned a lot from your Dad, yet maybe he can learn something about himself from you.

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    • Greebo July 12, 2011, 10:55 am

      Just a thought, but I suspect her dad knows he’s homophobic. Mine is, too, and while I disagree with his views they don’t impact me on a daily basis the way LW’s dad’s views do. Like my father, LW’s father probably figures his views are “correct” for whatever reason and isn’t interested in changing his mind.

      I agree with Combe tots who say living under his roof doesn’t give him the right to be hyper-judgmental or invasive, but you know what? It’s his house, and for all any of us know, he’ll boot her out if she tries too hard to buck his control. Mine would have.

      LW, set a plan for yourself to get out of the house. When your dad starts in on you about your preferences, practice saying “We’ve had this conversation. Is having it again going to change anything?” Once you’re moved out, that can morph into the polite but assertive “If I have anything newsworthy to share about my personal life, I’ll let you know” followed by a quick change of subject.

      Good luck!

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      • Greebo July 12, 2011, 10:57 am

        Cryin’ out loud. “Comb tots”=”commentators”. How the heck did autocorrect get that one?

    • Calliopedork July 12, 2011, 12:22 pm

      I dont know if I misread but.i didnt get homophobic dad. I think maybe he is just making silly assumptions but doesnt care either way.

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      • SGMcG July 12, 2011, 12:46 pm

        If he were making silly assumptions then Dad wouldn’t be giving her the third degree whenever she went out with a female yet let it slide when she hung out with a male. LW even said, “My father is very intolerant of gay people.” The fact that her closest male friend is volunteering to be a stand-in boyfriend means that he’s not letting up on her sexual preference – even when he asked her about it and she said she was straight.

        There’s only one way that the LW can find out for certain if her dad is homophobic or not – call him out on it.

      • Calliopedork July 12, 2011, 12:56 pm

        Maybe, but without any examples of homophobic behavior I’m reading nosy and over-protective more than intolerant

      • SGMcG July 12, 2011, 1:19 pm

        I though my Dad was being nosy and over-protective too – until he slapped me across the face when I questioned his request why I couldn’t hang out with the girl rumored to be a lesbian. It really doesn’t take that much for racist and/or homophobic fears to be acted upon irrationally. The fact that the LW is worried about her Dad’s behavior “snowball into something it isn’t” makes me believe that she’s exercising undo caution because it’s what he actually is.

        LW, you have every right to call out your Dad and question his questioning. Constantly remind him that you already answered his question about you being gay. Ask him where are his concerns coming from. Talk until his ears ring with your objections. Call him homophobic if you have to, and see if he owns up to it. It took my Dad 10 years to apologize for the slap across my face and understand where he’s coming from.

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    Kate B July 12, 2011, 10:37 am

    I went through the same thing. I embraced the grunge rock thing, wearing flannel shirts all the time, and of course, that meant I was gay. I also didn’t date much, so that didn’t help. I’m sure my parents still wonder abouit it, but I don’t let it bother me. I know who I am. Unfortunately, my family doesn’t talk about things, so I’ve never really asked them about it. Just carry on being you and he’ll get over it or he won’t. It’s up to him.

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  • Lindsay July 12, 2011, 10:50 am

    I don’t think it’s a super big deal, but only the LW knows that, based on what this will turn into, like what Wendy said. But having all those questions about where she’s going is a little obsessive. I don’t think a white lie would be that bad, either, so if you want to get him off your back, consider that.

    Maybe it would help if you sat him down and told him the truth that you like guys but are shy. Tell him you’re a late bloomer or something and that it hurts your feelings that he keeps pressuring you.

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    • Calliopedork July 12, 2011, 12:25 pm

      Obsessive maybe but very fatherly. If he thought she was straight.he’d prob act the same about her visiting a make friend.

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  • lk July 12, 2011, 11:05 am

    I agree that you should have a frank discussion reiterating that you don’t appreciate either his assumptions about your sexuality or his view of homosexuality. You are an adult. But have the conversation in a calm, neutral way & don’t expect him to agree with everything you say.

    Exhibit A: My dad used to prohibit rap music in his car. After >100 conversations about it, he has moved – at a snail’s pace – to being a self-professed rap fan. He bought me Jay-Z’s autobiography for Christmas.

    Exhibit B: My dad used to make me promise to never, ever use marijuana. After >100 conversations about it, he has moved – at a snail’s pace – to being comfortable sitting with me on the front porch of his own home while I smoke. He recently complimented me on the quality of the j’s I roll.

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    • lk July 12, 2011, 11:15 am

      I think the best way to make these conversations successful is to end them when they start to get heated, but try to wrap it up by finding a point of agreement, even if it’s very small (these will likely be concessions to your father initially, like, “Well I’m glad that we’re starting to legalize secular gay marriage at the state level, but I agree with you that the gay community should be respectful of the beliefs of religious organizations and their individual interpretations of spiritual marriage” (I have no idea if that’s something you agree with, obviously…).

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    • lk July 12, 2011, 12:00 pm

      Pretty confused about all the thumbs-down…

      People are opposed to opening the doors to communication, but being patient & not expecting overnight change?…Or people are opposed to Jay-Z & j’s??

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      • silver_dragon_girl July 12, 2011, 12:23 pm

        To me it just seems really disrespectful to smoke weed in your father’s house, when he obviously doesn’t approve of it. Even to have gradually “won him over” over the course of a long time seems kind of manipulative.

    • Rei July 12, 2011, 12:01 pm

      I think there’s a big difference between, “I don’t want to listen to rap music; don’t do drugs,” and “you’re a lesbian and you’re having sex with all your female friends and I won’t believe anything you say to the contrary.”
      For the actual LW, the best thing you can do is move out, obviously. But until you can do that, I’d suggest that everytime he brings this up, say calmly that you don’t wish to talk about this and you’ve stated your piece many times. If he continues, leave the room. While this may make him more suspicious in the short term, I feel it is effective to get someone to stop and think about what they just said and what they really are observing. It worked with my mother who was convinced that I was anorexic and would constantly lecture me about my need to eat more (even though I eat more than her). Now, she understands that I eat healthy and just didn’t want to be accused of being something I’m not.

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      • lk July 12, 2011, 12:07 pm

        I actually don’t see a huge difference between my father attempting to keep me from listening to an entire genre of music because of his prejudices & LW’s father attempting to bully her out of her GLBT-allied lifestyle.

        Commenters seem to be saying either ignore him/lie to him or tell him what’s up/move out. I think there’s a middle road that doesn’t require her to fold or to confront him, but can really facilitate some good conversation (given time & commitment & patience).

        Anyway, just my piece.

      • Rei July 12, 2011, 12:19 pm

        Constant scrutiny of one’s every choice and refusal to believe anything another is saying is a lot harder to deal with than “Don’t listen to that music in my car.” To me, it’s his car so he gets control of what comes out of the speakers, but a father does not get control of a twenty-year-old’s entire social life.
        Also, I feel that campaigning for equal rights for adults who love each other is more important than wanting someone to like a certain music style.

      • lk July 12, 2011, 12:33 pm

        I guess it depends on the tone of the conversations that are occurring.

        I took deep offense to my father’s opinion that violence & misogyny were essentially symptomatic of what was wrong with black culture. Likewise, I took deep offense (as a hard-working, high-achieving student plagued with anxiety) to his opinion that pot use created good-for-nothing hippie stoners.

        I’m very proud to have such an open & honest relationship with my father & I have worked very hard to get our relationship there. It took a lot of frustrating conversations & brought out a side in my father that I had to work to love but it also brought us much closer.

      • lk July 12, 2011, 12:35 pm

        should read: violence & misogyny *in rap music

    • BoomChakaLaka July 12, 2011, 12:36 pm

      Actually, lik, there IS a GINORMO difference between rap music and “views on homosexuality”. Yes, you’re correct in your deduction that they both involve preferences. BUT, um your dad has the right to listen to whatever the heck he wants to listen to in his car and expose himself to whatever drugs he feels like. He wasn’t nagging you to listen to polka, he just had a preference of not wanting that kind of music arround him. (Side note, ugh, I hate Jay Z. Kanye is wayyyyy better!) Hating rap music isn’t going to (well…shouldn’t) end a relationship between a daughter and dad, but his allegations of her sexuality, despite her claims to the contrary, just might. Pray tell, lk, has your dad ever suggested anything about who you are because you listened to rap music? Probably not. He just wanted to not hear it. And, I’m ok with that!

      Also, I don’t think he’s homophobic, just annoyingly not able to mind his own business.

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      • lk July 12, 2011, 12:44 pm

        Not trying to beat a dead thread…but the conversations we were having weren’t like me saying, “But Daaaaaad, this beat is so funky fresh!!”

        It was me arguing about the value of truth-telling in music. I don’t hear hate when I hear Nas’s raps about shooting people. He’s telling real stories (whether factual or not is irrelevant) about real problems in America.

        Likewise, I was not saying, “Dad, you were alive in the 60’s, you know pot doesn’t kill.”

        It was me explaining that my truly debilitating anxiety (for which I have had years of therapy & medications) was astronomically improved by a couple hits from the bong once in a while.

  • cmarie July 12, 2011, 11:39 am

    You need to talk with your dad just one more time. Tell him how you feel and be completely honest. His homophobia is getting out of control. With the way he’s acting, winking when you go out with guys, you would think he was hoping you’d come back pregnant just to prove you’re straight. My mother used to make little comments about disowning us if we came out as gay but when it came time to put the money where her mouth was it never happened. For all her bluster, coming out to her was the easiest thing in the world. Of course I was terrified that she was going to kick me out but instead, she accepted me for who I am and welcomed my partner to our family. Point is, some parents talk a good game but when it comes down to it, all the want is a happy, healthy child. I don’t know if that’s the type of father your’s is and luckily, you ARE straight so he won’t ever have to test himself. Sit him down and tell him that while you appreciate the free home, his behaviour is getting out of control and is pushing you away. You’ve explained to him that you are straight and while you will date someday, you won’t settle for a loser just to say you have a boyfriend. Tell him you don’t appreciate the snide comments, the constant analysis and double standards and you are going to start looking for your own place once you’ve saved up enough money. Be firm that while you love him and want a good relationship with him you can’t sacrifice who you are to do it. Recruit your mom, any siblings, grandparents. Ask friends to crash if you’re afraid of getting kicked out. In the end, you’ll know your father best so hopefuly you’ll know what to say and how far to push. Good luck.

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  • Calliopedork July 12, 2011, 12:33 pm

    Okay maybe I read a different letter but I am not picking up on all the homophobia. I rhink the lw may be overeacting and feeling a little insecure. Most parents assume that by a certain age their children have engaged in a sexual relationship and wonder who with. It doesnt seem wrong for him to think this person might be female if he knows the lw has never had a boyfriend.

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  • LTC039 July 12, 2011, 1:13 pm

    Maybe her dad is secretly gay?

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  • belongsomewhere July 12, 2011, 5:56 pm

    When I was younger, my older cousin, who is a lesbian, believed wholeheartedly that I was, too (apparently because I rarely wore skirts or dresses, because I had never had a boyfriend, because when I was 14 I had a very close friend who I would hug and lounge around with, and my cousin seemed to think we were dating–on the contrary, we had a crush on the same boy). When I was about to head off to college, my cousin told me she’d come visit me in the city and take me to meet girls at a women’s basketball games. She pitched this really hard for a while, even though I kept saying stuff like, “No, really, I’d much rather meet a shaggy-haired boy who hates sports as much as I do” (which I did within my first week of college).

    I can understand your frustration. It’s aggravating to have someone you know and care about believe something about you that isn’t true, because it feels like they fundamentally misunderstand you as a person. If you can, explain to your dad, or to your mom and have her pass it along to him, why you don’t want to date right now–say that you’re devastatingly shy, that you don’t want to date someone you don’t like enough just to convince him that you aren’t a lesbian. I also understand the frustration you must be feeling having a close family member with intolerant views about a set of issues that are close to your heart, and if I were in your shoes I’d probably add something along the lines of, “I want to emphasize that I’m not denying that I’m a lesbian out of shame–I’m denying it because it’s simply not true, and I want you to understand me. There is nothing shameful about being gay, as far as I’m concerned. I know you and I might not agree about that, but I hope you can come to understand why LGBTQ rights are important to me, even though I’m straight.”

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  • oldie July 12, 2011, 5:59 pm

    Sounds more than a little homophobic to me. My father is quite homophobic and my sisters and niece have experienced it. He decided that my sister’s boyfriend was gay. When I asked him what interest he would have in dating my sister, if he were gay, he responded that perhaps bf was confused. He then said that perhaps he wasn’t actually gay, but he certainly wasn’t manly and he didn’t want his daughter dating someone that effeminate. Of course this reduced my sister to tears on multiple occasions.

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  • Elle July 12, 2011, 7:59 pm

    The way I understand this. The father is insecure about his success as a parent, and in his case, his greatest failure would be that his daughter is lesbian. So he’s projecting his fear on his daughter. LW, I think you’re doing the right thing, or else he would have thrown you out of the house. Now, how do you make him stop? This takes a lot of balls to say to your father, but maybe you can say, jokingly “you want to be in the room next time I have sex with a guy, so you can see with your own eyes that I enjoy having sex with guys, and I’m straight?”

    Another thing you can do is brush it off. I tried it on my mom, and it works. Whenever he wants to engage you, simply say that you’ve had this conversation, nothing changed, and you don’t want to waste time discussion it further. If your dad wants to talk about it, don’t engage him, let him speak, then change the subject. If he asks you why you don’t want to talk about it, remind him what you told.him at the beginning of the conversation. It will take a few months, but he will stop bringing it up.

    Good luck! And remember, slow and steady wins the race. Stick to your guns.

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    katie July 12, 2011, 9:20 pm

    ah, i went through this with my dad, but with basicaly every view i had about the world. I dont think my dad and I have ever really agreed on a serious issue. the only thing that worked for me was the final realization of my father that he wasn’t going to change my mind, or mold my life, no matter how hard he tried. and i let him know that wasn’t going to happen. i would outright tell him that i didn’t agree with what he said. i would tell him what i thought in complete detail. yea, we fought. and i stopped living with him when i was pretty young. and we honestly dont even talk that much now. he lives his life, tucked away in the middle of no where, preparing for the next y2k or government conspiracy, and i live mine, in a city, celebrating christmas with a fully legal social security number. but, when we do get together, we have fun. and i do love him, and i know he loves me. but we have just come to this agreement that i can live and believe what i want, and so can he.

    im not exactly sure about what you should do in your situation, but i think no matter what you do you just need to be very frank with him. be competely open and honest, telling him what you believe and how you think what he believes is wrong, and how he is not dealing with his feelings in the correct way. open honest communication is the solution to basically all of life’s problems, i think.

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