I like to read advice columns. I’ve enjoyed them since I was a little kid. For years, I read Ann Landers, which was the only advice column run in our local paper. Then, they got Dear Abby, too. Along came the Internet, and we got other advice columnists like Dear Prudie and Dear Amy and Dear Annie… I love ’em all.
Today, I read a news article in the Washington Post about what to do with friends and relatives who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The article itself was very good, and offered what I think to be very sensible advice about how to handle these situations. The article encourages people to be “good listeners” and hear out why friends and loved ones don’t want to get the shot(s). Although a lot of people haven’t seemed to have realized it, most adults do not like being told what to do, especially in a belligerent manner.
Of course, that common knowledge doesn’t register with some people. They recommend the “hard-nosed” snubbing approach. One woman posted in the article’s Facebook comments,
“Tell them they are not welcome in your house until they are vaccinated! Also that you will not be going to their house either. Even though I’m vaccinated I’m not willing to get a mild case of Covid and be one of those long haulers who have odd symptoms for years.”
I couldn’t help but remember my old axiom, which I frequently repeat– especially since Bill’s ex wife is a master at shunning and alienating people. And– big surprise– she’s also an asshole! And it’s really true. “It’s not a punishment to be shunned by an asshole.”
I totally get wanting to avoid mingling with the unvaccinated, but I think we should be careful not to alienate them completely… not unless they’re someone you truly don’t mind losing as a contact. Plus, the obnoxious, holier-than-thou tone of the comment pissed me off, even if I can understand and agree with the sentiment. So I responded:
“Careful with that. Sometimes not being welcome in someone’s presence is a bonus. Remember, it’s not a punishment to be shunned by a jerk.”
Being rude and belligerent to someone, even if it’s over something like vaccines, is potential jerk territory. And being hard-nosed about not spending time with someone over a personal matter like vaccines may lead to finding out that you’ve overvalued your own company. The unvaccinated person you’re trying to influence may just say, “See ya!” instead of getting the shot(s).
If it’s an acquaintance, you might not care about it, but what if it’s your mother or cousin or child? What if you try to take that hard-assed approach and the person tells you to go fuck yourself? Then you don’t hear anything from them for years?
Recently, the advice columns have been full of letters from people who have estranged relatives they want to reconnect with or their kids have “secret siblings” their children have never heard of. They write to Annie, Abby, or Prudie looking for advice on how to heal the rift or otherwise reconnect with estranged people from their pasts.
I’m not saying the hard-assed approach is never appropriate. Sometimes, it really is. In fact, it can be an excellent way to weed irritating people from your midst without flat out telling them to pound sand. But if your goal is to influence someone you actually care about, you might want to think twice about being really belligerent about the anti-vaccine stance.
I get that COVID-19 is scary and frustrating, but many of the people who aren’t vaccinated are just as scared and frustrated as you are. And a lot of them are simply trying to do what they think is right for themselves– even if it sounds irrational or irresponsible to other people. Telling them they’re being stupid, irresponsible, or irrational is probably not going to sway them, especially if you pair those thoughts with a threat. You might just piss them off enough that they’ll gladly walk away from you for good. If you care about them, that decision could really come back to haunt you and other loved ones.
So avoid having to write to an advice column, and tread carefully when you confront the anti-vaxxers among you… unless, of course, you don’t care if you never speak to them again. Many of those folks probably will survive the pandemic, after all… and you may really be sorry for being harsh if one dies while you’re still angry.
I do think you can refuse to interact with unvaccinated people, by the way. I simply advocate doing so in a kind, empathetic way, that emphasizes your concern for everyone’s overall health and well-being– theirs, your own, and those of any family members who can’t be vaccinated at this time.
Incidentally, one guy’s response to me was “Shun us all, then.”
To which I wrote, “Gladly…” because frankly, I find a lot of people extremely irritating, anyway. But, for the record, I wasn’t the one advocating shunning. I am fully vaccinated myself. Fortunately, the only person I care to see in person is Bill, and he’s fully vaccinated, too. So life is good for me… at least for now!