Q. I’ll keep this short. What does someone do when they find out they are responsible for fixing up someone with a child molester? I was best friends for years with both parties. They never met before I introduced them, which was four years before his arrest (in late 2010). The charge was molesting his two oldest nieces, and in the two years since, my friendship with the woman has been quite tense. We don’t talk as often as we used to, and when we do, it feels forced. Needless to say, I’ve apologized, and of course this was the last thing I ever saw coming.
My problem is that this girlfriend isn’t the only person I introduced him to. There were others, as well — though not in a “matchmaker” way. I was just trying to expand his social circle. How does someone trust their own judgment after this?
A. Oh, my. Without meaning to, you have become a kind of Typhoid Mary in your social set. Although you had no inkling of this man’s perversions, the introductions did come through you, which makes it hard for people not to associate you with him. In your friends’ minds, you now have an unfortunate Pavlovian connection to this pedophile. I suggest you let the friendship with the unlucky woman wither on the vine, until she can get over it. What happened was just rotten luck.
Q. My new in-laws, whom I admire and like, are seriously religious. Before a meal, they maintain an unwavering practice of joining hands to say grace aloud. Oftentimes these prayers are quite lengthy and specific, comprising a whole catalog of the family’s present issues and those of their friends and acquaintances. In the privacy of their home, or even in ours, this doesn’t bother me. I join hands, listen, and am careful not to begin eating until I’m sure they are finished.
The problem for me is when the ritual carries over into public places. We are even expected to hold hands and pray at fast-food places, fancy restaurants, charity benefits, etc. No place or event is exempt, and what bothers me most is that they just assume everyone at the table — even if we don’t know them — will participate, if not by talking, then just by holding hands and bowing heads.
I’m not overly religious, though I was raised Catholic and sometimes attend church, but I am frankly embarrassed by these public displays of faith. I find myself looking around apologetically and hoping no one is listening. Being new to the family I haven’t mustered the nerve to tell them I don’t want to participate in the public prayers. I love my new family and would hate to have this issue create a rift. Can you help me think of an inoffensive way to opt out? Compounding the problem is that my parents are planning a visit, and they have already vowed to absolutely not participate, so I am dreading an uncomfortable scene.
A. Good Lord, no pun intended. These people sound rather presumptuous. What they do at home is fine with me, but to be at Burger King or a charity event with strangers and expect them to participate in your religious observance is to be a quart low. I suggest that you or your spouse mention to them that not everyone believes as they do, and it is rude and audacious, when not in your own home, to expect participation in grace. I actually think your parents’ refusal will be “a teachable moment.” And whatever happened to “O Lord, we thank you for the gifts of your bounty which we enjoy at this table,” anyway?