Friends’ opinions of new dating prospect
October 12, 2019 4:09 PM   Subscribe

I just started dating again after some time away and have met someone whom I feel tentatively good about so far. My friend made a pretty negative comment about him and I’m having a hard time getting out of my head about it. Help me get perspective.

I haven’t really dated seriously since I broke up with my ex in April, but I feel emotionally ready now. A couple weeks ago, I met someone who seems kind, emotionally intelligent, smart, and progressive (so far)- all things I value. I like him, and he’s also into me, which is great! I’m taking it slow and learning more about him, but I’m feeling good so far. Dating generally feels fraught to me after some accumulated bad experiences, but this person makes me feel calm and good.

I’m on a weekend trip with one of my good friends (who lives out of town) and I was telling her about him, including that his father immigrated from Switzerland. She asked whether his grandparents were Nazis or Nazi sympathizers, and said that she’s kicked people out of her house before who couldn’t acknowledge that their ancestors were complicit in the Holocaust. She said that the only acceptable way to act as a descendant of a person who wasn’t actively involved in the resistance is to channel your money into funds that support Jews, because otherwise you’re benefitting from blood money. The guy I’m interested in works a minimum-wage job and his dad was the same, and his grandparents were rural farmers, but I don’t know what their involvement was in the Holocaust. This guy has expressed an interest in and appreciation for Jewish history, but that’s as far as we’ve talked about it. My friend’s not Jewish, but my ancestors are, and a significant number of them died in the Holocaust, so this is an issue that is personal to me, but not to her.

The lingering impact of my last relationship is that I feel especially sensitive to the opinions of my friends about the people I date. I’m finding myself really ruminating about what she said. it makes me sad that she prejudged him before even having met him based on his family, and not him. I’m worried that, if I continue dating him, she’ll call him out on this and it’ll become a thing. I’m also worried that maybe I SHOULD be evaluating how he thinks about this issue- but I feel uncomfortable with the idea of essentially testing him on something that feels unwinnable. I wanted to get to know him more organically. But who knows, it could just as likely fall apart for some completely unrelated issue.

Can you help me take a more balanced perspective here?
posted by deus ex machina to Human Relations (50 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
This man is not responsible for things his ancestors may have done. Needing him to take responsibility is not normal. He is respectful of you and Jewish people on general. That is what matters. Your friend is demanding this guy take responsibility for something he had no part or say in. Scold your friend and if she doesn't listen, consider how much time you're spending with HER.
posted by Kalmya at 4:14 PM on October 12, 2019 [71 favorites]


1) your friend is welcome to her opinion, but her opinion is arguably nutty.

2) your friend's opinion isn't actually about your date, just potentially. You can find out if you can expect your friend to bring this issue up with your date by asking.

3) you are entitled to form your own opinions about important social issues and about who you like to date.
posted by windykites at 4:18 PM on October 12, 2019 [18 favorites]


There is a wide gulf between condoning what an ancestor you may never have met did in 1938 and wearing a hairshirt over what an ancestor did in 1938 every minute of your life in 2019. There is even a continuum of behavior between creating injustice and fighting it. We mostly all fall somewhere in that continuum.

Please, evaluate your new friend/dating partner on their own behavior and their own beliefs. And evaluate your friend on how reasonable she is toward human frailty and the fact that some people are fighting fights other than those she prioritizes.
posted by crush at 4:20 PM on October 12, 2019 [43 favorites]


As someone with Jewish ancestry and an interest in the Holocaust I would still say anyone born after 1945 cannot be held complicit for what their parents or other relatives did. Of course the Holocaust was the most egregious of crimes, and we need to never forget, but we should balance that with letting descendants of perpetrators move on. After all doing bad things is not in their blood, they have agency and choice over how they behave, and it sounds to me like your date is doing enough.
posted by EatMyHat at 4:24 PM on October 12, 2019 [10 favorites]


If I was dating someone of Swiss ancestry, I'd be really curious what their relationship was with that country's history. And I'd expect the answer might be a pretty nuanced and complicated thing.

If they came out with obvious antisemitism, that would be a huge red flag. (I'm Jewish but pretty assimilated.) If they came out sounding heartless and nasty about it, or just "yay capitalism, why should anyone care where the money comes from?" that would be a red flag. If they were actively involved in reparations, that would feel, to me personally, like an awesome thing that went way beyond my expectations. It would make me like them better, but it's not something I would expect or demand.

And then there's a lot of space in the middle where I'd be like "Huh. Neat. Learning things about you is fun and I'm glad we're getting to know each other." And it wouldn't feel like a moral issue either way, just another way of getting closer to a guy I liked.

You get to decide how you feel about this guy and what standards to hold him to. But it's okay if there's a lot of space in the middle for you too.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:27 PM on October 12, 2019 [14 favorites]


Let me get this straight.

You said that the person you are dating is of Swiss ancestry and your friend's reaction was to start going off about Nazi sympathizers and blood money?

The actual fuck?

I hope none of her ancestors owned slaves.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:35 PM on October 12, 2019 [105 favorites]


Hoooooold up.

Is your friend white?

Because "the only acceptable way to act as a descendant of a white person in the U.S. is to channel your money into funds that support blacks, because otherwise you’re benefitting from blood money" is, frankly, a significantly more defensible proposition. (I don't think either is correct, despite putting their finger on an important problem we should all be considering, but the scope of the theft from and murder of black Americans over, oh, all of American history can't but be broader. Which is not to minimize the Holocaust in Switzerland in any way, but to throw into sharp relief the length and breadth of the horrors of slavery, Jim Crow, and ongoing oppression. Every white person in the U.S. stands on a mass grave four centuries deep.)

If your friend isn't living according to that principle, she's being quite aggressive in pressing the claims of a morality she's forgotten all about when it comes to her own people. That tells you what you need to know about how seriously you ought to take it. You can be a sincere exponent of such principles in good faith--the question of what responsibility we have towards the past is not an easy or straightforward one--but you have to apply them consistently.
posted by praemunire at 4:38 PM on October 12, 2019 [68 favorites]


Wow.

Look, there are certainly a whole lot of people (both in Europe and the USA and later in S America) who were actively or passively complicit in the Holocaust, and there are people still benefiting from that complicity and it's up to every individual conscience as to whether one wants to, say, buy BMW cars or IBM computers or Thyssen elevators -- but interrogating someone whose grandfather was a Swiss farmer, of all things, about what he was up to during WWII? It's just such a weird stretch. Like if he was a banker I might be interested. But a Swiss farmer?

Honestly if I heard "my boyfriend's grandfather was a German fella who just happened to move to Argentina in 1945" I would assume that grandpop was an active Nazi, and I'd want to know exactly what boyfriend thought about that before proceeding. But a Swiss farmer?
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:39 PM on October 12, 2019 [35 favorites]


"She’s kicked people out of her house before who couldn’t acknowledge that their ancestors were complicit in the Holocaust. She said that the only acceptable way to act as a descendant of a person who wasn’t actively involved in the resistance is to channel your money into funds that support Jews, because otherwise you’re benefitting from blood money"

Does your friend funnel money into causes that support Native Americans, massacred by our ancestors if you've been in the US long enough and ACTIVELY marginalized by the US government today, or African Americans, whose ancestors our European and Middle Eastern/Asian fairly recent ancestors enslaved and oppressed over centuries, or any of the other peoples victimized by genocides perpetrated against other people by the ancestors of virtually every living human? Didn't think so. Do you see how absurd her argument is?

I know she means well, but your friend sounds unhinged. Do NOT let her odd views color her perception of your boyfriend. She doesn't get any say in your relationship (unless your life is at risk or some similar sort of edge case)
posted by shaademaan at 4:40 PM on October 12, 2019 [22 favorites]


In my view, your friend is having a problem with boundaries. She shouldn't be telling you what your own rules for dating are, or what your boyfriend should do. If she has that general position, fine, I guess - though even if it's a general position, it is a "should" about what others should do in her eyes - in other words, it's her opinion- and there's nothing much she can do to enforce it. There may be other ways of making sense of the crimes our ancestors were involved in, not just her way.

I'm also a little weirded out at the immigrant harassment here. I don't know what nationality you are but I'm going to frame this answer as if it's American. If it were the guy's grandparents who had immigrated in 1946 or whatever, and he was 2nd generation American, would you be having this conversation? She's immediately leapt from "Swiss by birth" to "war criminal," which I'm not sure is logically sound (and is definitely anti-immigrant). There are plenty of people living in the US whose grandparents did not-laudable things in WWII, as well. There are plenty of Americans who were delighted when refugees from Nazi Germany were turned away from these shores, and who were avidly and openly isolationist during that war, and wrote letters to newspapers saying so, and gave money to politicians to make sure it stayed that way. Is that different? Is it different from being a rural farmer at a time when your country cooperated with a dictator? How? What about segregation and Jim Crow? Would a seemingly American boyfriend be getting this quiz about whether his ancestors behaved righteously? If not, why not?

You could go on finding injustices that people's grandparents may have been on the wrong side of. So I'm just not sure why your new bf is the target. Is there any chance this friend is jealous/envious of you for finding a partner you like and having a good start on a relationship? Is there any chance this friend needs or wants dominance in your relationship, or enjoys the sense of power she gets by judging others? Just by what you describe - tossing a turd into a new relationship by making unfounded insinuations about Nazi ancestors - I am not inclined to think she is motivated by wanting your best interests. And I don't think it's about Nazis.
posted by Miko at 4:41 PM on October 12, 2019 [42 favorites]


White people, in general, or really anybody of ancestry where this is relevant, who freak out or get upset by the proposition that their ancestors were involved in atrocities--whether it's the Holocaust or any number of other things--and aren't actively trying to do better about that, like, I'd call that a bit of a red flag. But it's also kind of a red flag in a friend if they wonder about that sort of thing about some people you date and not others. If you're dating white people, you know, they come with all the baggage of being white people, and I'd say it's legitimate enough to expect that your partner be on the "open to talking about the issue and not angrily defensive" side of the reactions? But I would not expect somebody making minimum wage to worry about trying to make financial recompense for such things in a world where we've still got billionaires.

So yeah, I guess it's probably a reasonable thing to see how he feels about it, but dear lord I don't know what kind of person would suggest that somebody in his financial situation should be trying to pay off ancestral guilt instead of paying rent.
posted by Sequence at 4:43 PM on October 12, 2019 [8 favorites]


Your friend is over the top. She's a fanatic extremist. You don't need friends like her. She has some serious issues and needs therapy. DTMFriend and make up your own mind about the new guy.
posted by mareli at 5:01 PM on October 12, 2019 [14 favorites]


While I think everyone needs to be aware of how they, their families, and their communities benefited from the atrocities of the past (e.g., as white immigrants, my grandparents were more valued than Black Americans or non-European immigrants, and that rise into the middle class benefited me directly). But I think a better response would be in fighting white supremacy today with actions instead of donating a minuscule amount of money.
posted by JawnBigboote at 5:01 PM on October 12, 2019 [3 favorites]


So I definitely agree with everyone who said your friend is being extreme. And I would ever so gently wonder about a couple of possible reasons she might have said it (not that either would make it reasonable).

Is she recently "woke" (in scare quotes because she seems to be off-base here)? Excessively worried about the rise of fascism generally? Questioning the historical roots of all social imbalances? This might be her expressing an anxiety of her own (possibly one she developed since you saw her last)?

Are your feelings about the fraughtness of dating coming through more strongly than you intend? I have listened to many a friend tell me about a new romantic interest where their tone was all "I'm usually worried that my dates are serial killers, but this guy seems so normal!" And all I can think is "people thought Ted Bundy seemed normal!" I can stifle that response for a while, particularly if I meet the new person and my own spidey sense doesn't tingle. But if all I have to go on are secondhand descriptions from a nervous friend, I don't mean to amplify the anxiety, but sorry, it can be contagious, and sometimes I blurt things out.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 5:02 PM on October 12, 2019 [2 favorites]


PS your guy sounds great! Much fun and happiness to you!
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 5:05 PM on October 12, 2019 [4 favorites]


I agree with everyone else here. There is a time to listen to your friends' feedback about someone your dating: after they've met. For your friend to expect that the new guy comply with her shibboleths is weird.
posted by adamrice at 5:09 PM on October 12, 2019 [1 favorite]


Sooo... arguably your not-Jewish friend is telling you that she is the arbiter on issues of antisemitism, and has more right to make those decisions than you who have the Jewish ancestors.

I think you are very right to be uncomfortable. It may be that won't be long though, before your friend dumps you for being an antisemitic yourself. It won't necessarily be over the new boy friend. It could be because you don't express anger about the Holocaust in the right way, or if you oppose the bombing in Syria or something.

Your friend is in the grip of strong tribal instincts and is dividing people into those that she will attack and drive away, and those that support her beliefs. She could equally be telling you that you'll have to dump the guy and should hate him because of his probable behaviour and beliefs as a male, or his lack of commitment to environmental issues because he takes public transit instead of biking, or because when he finally meets her he asks her some confused questions which are therefore challenging her. This is generally a symptom of out-of-control anxiety and other stresses. Or it's a sign that she just wants to tell people what to think and who to be friends with.

Y'know you mentioned a last bad relationship? Your friendship with your good friend might need to be looked at with the same detached and logic eyes that you looked at that last bad relationship.

A lot of people barely know their grandparent's names let alone what they did seventy-five years ago. That doesn't make them bad people. I probably wouldn't bother asking your new friend about what his grandparent in Switzerland did, because honestly, he is equally likely to have had ancestors who supported the American Bund, or rode with Custer, or wouldn't hire Irish immigrants, or worked for a plantation owner in a way that supported slavery in the US, or beat their wives. You can assume he had nasty brutal ancestors, because that's a safe assumption about everyone. If the guy is progressive and remains progressive you can safely let your friend's selective prejudices towards certain Europeans be ignored.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:11 PM on October 12, 2019 [11 favorites]


... so this is an issue that is personal to me, but not to her.

That being so, you have the right to decide your boundaries on this matter and IMO your friend is way out of line, not in expressing her opinion, but (when I read your question this is how it comes across to me) as someone who is actively trying to assert her opinion into your love life. If your ancestors were Jewish and hers were not, I do not see how her opinion supersedes your own judgment and beliefs in this matter.

I’m worried that, if I continue dating him, she’ll call him out on this and it’ll become a thing.

Who's dating this guy - you or her?
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 5:36 PM on October 12, 2019 [3 favorites]


Does your friend agree that we shouldn't help the Kurds because they didn't assist us in Normandy?
posted by notsnot at 5:40 PM on October 12, 2019 [7 favorites]


I think your friend popped off in a weird and over the top way that is entirely about her, not about you or him. I'm super pissed off about Nazis too these days and there are definitely certain people I wouldn't allow in my house or my life based on the political choices they've personally made recently, but to immediately go to 11 on a friend's new love interest based on the fact his grandparents were Swiss is fucking rude and unnecessary, and treats you like you're too stupid to know how to vet people in your life in appropriate ways at the appropriate milestones of the relationship.

So, I think the actual crossroads you might be at right now is whether this friend needs to be in your closer orbits right now or if you need to bump her out a few rings until she works through whatever led her to say that to you (or apologize for just having a weird day that day). I think she's forfeited the right to meet and socialize with him for now, and you can absolutely tell her you're afraid she'll accuse him of being a Nazi when that's actually for you to decide, not her.

It's fucking weird to have the first assumption be the most aggressive one possible. It may be worth considering whether she's maybe envious of your time being spent with someone else, or that you are happy about something that she wants for herself?
posted by Lyn Never at 5:41 PM on October 12, 2019 [21 favorites]


So, I am a 1.5 generation descendent of Holocaust survivors— my mom was a child refugee, my grandfather and many other family members died in Auschwitz, and I believe she was part of the WJC lawsuit. I give you permission to date this Swiss guy, and a reality check that your friend’s opinion here is completely fucking insane. I don’t know what I was expecting when I opened your question, but I did a cartoon spit take at the story about her throwing people out of her house and “blood money.”

More background: When I was in college, I dated a German exchange student and was unsure if my mother would be OK with it. My mom had zero problem with this— but mygrandmother, who died before I was born, would have weeping meltdowns if she found German-manufactured items in her house. My mom and her sister understood this, when it happened in the 70s and 80s, as a trauma reaction, not a political position. When I was in middle and high school in Los Angeles, many of my Korean classmates had to lie about our Japanese friends’ last names and ancestry when they came over after school to hang out or work on projects, because their grandmothers had so much trauma from the war that they wouldn’t allow Japanese people in their homes. All of the kids from all ethnic groups were hyper-aware of the war atrocities that had caused that trauma and were trying to negotiate present-day relationships that tried to protect those who had been hurt while also understanding that someone who was in 8th grade in the late 90s wasn’t personally at fault for what had happened during WW2. I don’t know what your friend’s background is (other than non-Jewish), but her approach seems extremely distant from any of the lived realities of descendants of genocide events.

She said that the only acceptable way to act as a descendant of a person who wasn’t actively involved in the resistance is to channel your money into funds that support Jews, because otherwise you’re benefitting from blood money.”

Just a consensus reality check here, this is really, really bizarre. Like, completely disconnected from any mainstream or even fringe Jewish position I’ve ever encountered in real life. I’ve never heard of such a claim, except maybe in Evangelical/Zionist circles— I’m reminded of the way Meghan McCain and other white, right-wing Christian women are obsessed with a warped idea of antisemitism— but even that’s a stretch. The phrase “blood money” makes me wonder if your friend has gotten sucked into some kind of cult or conspiracy movement, and in your shoes I would be deeply concerned about her mental health. Your boyfriend isn’t a war criminal, but your friend may be having a paranoid crisis.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 6:03 PM on October 12, 2019 [46 favorites]


She said that the only acceptable way to act as a descendant of a person who wasn’t actively involved in the resistance is to channel your money into funds that support Jews, because otherwise you’re benefitting from blood money.”

This sounds like an over-literal porting of arguments for US reparations for African-Americans, since the benefits of white supremacy and slavery accrued to white and other non-black or non-slave-descended people at large in the US. There may be parallels to the Holocaust, but they strike me as very inexact.

I agree with the general sentiments others have expressed above, but also wonder how committed your friend was to this conversation--was it a one-off rant or riff, or have you seen her taking this position to this degree before?

It could have been something that set her off in the moment. It's definitely concerning, but it's hard to tell from just a text anecdote if this is a situation where you need to dump a friendship so much as take a breath or a step back in how it intersects with your dating (congrats!), and reassess over time.
posted by pykrete jungle at 6:20 PM on October 12, 2019 [1 favorite]


I’m also worried that maybe I SHOULD be evaluating how he thinks about this issue.

No. You already said your new partner seems "kind, emotionally intelligent, smart, and progressive." It sounds like you have approximately one zillion times more evidence about whether it's a good relationship than the fact that his father immigrated from Switzerland. Don't let your friend tell you how to think about someone she doesn't know and whom she has learned exactly one random fact about. No amount of philosophizing can cause this to make sense.
posted by value of information at 6:20 PM on October 12, 2019 [3 favorites]


She said that the only acceptable way to act as a descendant of a person who wasn’t actively involved in the resistance is to channel your money into funds that support Jews, because otherwise you’re benefitting from blood money.”

Doesn't this also assume that you got money from your relatives? Like, leaving aside whether "everyone of Swiss descent probably has Nazi sympathizers in the family" is an overreaction (it is! Although "everybody can safely avoid all responsibility for their ancestors' transgressions" is an overcorrection), I think she's making some assumptions that potentially say a lot about her. It's not like reparations, in which white Americans are still benefiting from a system that was set up to continuously profit off the oppression of black people, for generations. In this case, if his ancestors didn't have any money or didn't give him any money then the bloodiness of that theoretical money is irrelevant.
posted by babelfish at 6:25 PM on October 12, 2019 [4 favorites]


I mean, you can talk about his thoughts on the Holocaust and antisemitism in the course of getting to know each other. I, too, would likely have issues with a true Holocaust denier. But your friend’s over-the-top take and performative high-roading is all about her and has nothing to do with this new guy and your relationship with him. It’s just quite a leap to take based on a tiny bit of family history information. Enjoy getting to know your new guy and give your “friend” a bit of space for awhile.
posted by amanda at 6:47 PM on October 12, 2019 [2 favorites]


Well, if you have to choose, your friend just made it really easy; keep the boyfriend, ditch the friend.
posted by Jubey at 7:55 PM on October 12, 2019 [5 favorites]


She said that the only acceptable way to act as a descendant of a person who wasn’t actively involved in the resistance is to channel your money into funds that support Jews, because otherwise you’re benefitting from blood money.

This is not really a normative way to talk to anyone, about anything. It's aggressive and it's judgmental and it's actually actively unfriendly to you, her friend, about something that you are sort of stoked about (Yay you, you met a person you like who likes you back).

It might be worth modeling what a normative response might be "Hey that's great for you. But... because we are super political type of people and move in circles where everyone gets into everyone else's business, if he is Swiss do you know about what his ancestry is as far as Europe during wartime? Is that something that matters to you?" Like open-ended and letting you decide if it's important but concerned and that's true if and only if you guys are already in some sort of purity-test type of political community which it really sounds like you're not.

I mean your friend also sounds really young. I think many of us may have had that sort of cliché "First thanksgiving home from college" where you just learned a lot of stuff you didn't know before and you tell your whole family they've been pronouncing Nicaragua wrong and that they should try reading some Wittgenstein because language is a game (just me? ok...) but that sort of thing usually mellows with age and people realize that the world is complex.

That said, everyone needs to pick their battles and maybe this is the one your friend has picked? Which is her choice but I think that especially because this is a pretty non-normative opinion it's ok to say "Hey friend, I respect that you feel that way personally but that's not going to affect how I move forward in this relationship and if you make it weird, that's on you"
posted by jessamyn at 8:25 PM on October 12, 2019 [16 favorites]


Yeah, from my perspective as a Jew (and a descendant/relative of those directly impacted by the Holocaust), this seems like a bizarre and grotesque metric for measuring human worthiness. Realistically, every rich person and most non-rich people are descended from those who, somewhere along the line, profited off of grotesque abuse of the marginalized (native Americans and black Americans being the most conspicuous two groups in America, but there's plenty of abusive behavior towards marginalized groups around the globe). There's a certain limit to personal complicity in that sort of history, and I'd generally say anyone who wasn't specifically enriched by an atrocity in a way they know about (e.g. sitting on a literal pile of Nazi gold or inheriting a southern plantation house or the like) doesn't have a personal debt of responsibility (although they may have a share in a societal responsibility, cf. black reparations, which AFAICT have never been put forward as a levy on specific individuals enriched by African-American servitude).

also why does he owe reparations specifically to Jews y'know a lot of Roma died in the Holocaust too but everybody forgets about them
posted by jackbishop at 8:32 PM on October 12, 2019 [8 favorites]


I’m going to put aside the friend’s opinion and ask: why are you putting so much stock in your friend’s opinion of your new guy before she’s met him? Her opinion relates to a hypothetical of a hypothetical of a hypothetical. What about this is getting in your head? Does this friend usually show good insight into your relationships? Did your last relationship ending have something to do with your friends, or do you regret not listening to your friends’ advice in the past? Is there something about your connection to your own Jewish history that makes this feel so personal? Is this a friend who often oversteps and you’re just damn tired of it?

this is an issue that is personal to me, but not to her

Then you get to decide. She does not. And if she bugs you again, say “are you really trying to tell me how I should be Jewish?”
posted by sallybrown at 8:40 PM on October 12, 2019 [6 favorites]


My first thought, as a Jew, is that this woman, your friend, is actually anti-semitic. How dare she tell you how to deal with questions surrounding your own heritage? Would she tell a POC how to deal with racist white people?

There was a pretty good thread on Ask MeFi a few years ago about the fetishization of Jewish heritage and culture and how that's generally considered a form of anti-semitism. Unable to find it, at the moment, but you should try--and forward it to your friend.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 9:01 PM on October 12, 2019 [10 favorites]


So it was the Brits that did horrific shit to my people, not the Nazis, but considering they were responsible for, among other things, the Jalianwalah Bagh massacre, the 1943 famine, and Partition, I think I have enough locus standi to say your friend is higher than a kite being flown off the top of Mount Everest.

a) People are not responsible for the actions of their dead ancestors. They have a moral duty to repudiate them, sure, if said ancestors did vile things, and acknowledge that said things were shitty, but that's about it.

b) I swear I don't mean this in an antisemitic way, because what the Nazis did was horrific in the extreme, but does your friend give as much of a shit about, say, white Americans doing everything they can to support Black or Native charities and groups? Because I've noticed a trend, very specifically among American "woke" white people, to cast the Shoah as the "one horrific thing to rule them all" when the settling of America (both North and South) was built on slavery and genocide. It reads as - for lack of a better term, and at least to this WOC child of empire - very, very performative.

c) Nearly everyone in the world with some level of privilege got there by oppressing someone else. Obviously you should do your best to make sure that marginalised people's lives are made easier by your actions, but... look, there are no ethical purchases under late-stage capitalism, and no purity of existence (in the social justice sense, not the race sense) under post-colonialism and late-stage imperialism. As long as new BF is being a generally decent human being, you should have no reservations about dating him.

d) This friend needs to learn boundaries, and also that your boundaries need not be hers, especially since hers are unrealistic and ridiculous. Possibly also see a proctologist about that she's got her head stuck up her ass.

More seriously: You are of Jewish descent. You get to make the final call here, and if the opinion of an internet stranger means anything, I think you should keep the boy and dump the so-called friend.
posted by Tamanna at 10:13 PM on October 12, 2019 [21 favorites]


Everything everyone said above but I would like to add that I imagine the another big reason why this comment is really hard to let go of is that it’s likely triggering. In the sense that it puts you right back into the painful territory that you were consciously avoiding. It’s stirring up negative thoughts and feelings about past relationships at the hopeful start of this new one. It’s much too soon for this and you may be having to suppress anger, resentment and doubt that your killjoy friend brought. Especially if you’re working really hard at not letting all that get in the way. Lesson your contact with your friend right now and go enjoy this new person in your life. And try not to worry about anything until there’s reason to. You deserve happiness and it may be right there in front of you.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:17 AM on October 13, 2019 [3 favorites]


The lingering impact of my last relationship is that I feel especially sensitive to the opinions of my friends about the people I date. I’m finding myself really ruminating about what she said.

I wouldn't go down that road until your own instincts start raising alarms. If after multiple friends, coworkers, and multiple family members have met him and they all agree with this friend, you still don't see it, that's when I'd start thinking long and hard. Before that? My money's on your date being just fine.

I may be wrong, but this smells like jealousy to me. Consciously or not, your friend may have said this to sabotage your budding relationship. That's another thing that can end relationships.
posted by ipsative at 1:30 AM on October 13, 2019 [4 favorites]


It might be good to tell her the kinds of people who could not afford to live or stay in Switzerland. There is a funny and strange intergenerational challenge in America that many people forget that most immigration to the US were desperately poor people, not rich or even middle class people. There were educated people who did go to the US for work and never went home again. But, if he can tell her about where he is from in Switzerland and she can look it up, odds are she will apologise for being such a schmuck.
posted by parmanparman at 3:19 AM on October 13, 2019


It's very nice to have friends who care about your welfare enough to share their unfiltered opinions with you. In this case, though, your friend's position is bonkers, for the reasons mentioned above.

You say that her comment got you thinking, and turning this over in your mind. Which makes me wonder whether you are aware that this makes you sound, to me, very impressionable? I am this way in some areas of life and I've obsessed about advice from friends that seemed in retrospect and eventually, stupid advice. Maybe this is something to reflect on.

Another point about her comment is that Switzerland was not directly involved in the Holocaust (it was never occupied, nor did it round people up on Germany's behalf as so many other countries did) , so it's surprising to me that she hears the word "Switzerland" and the first thing she thinks of is this? People in France, Italy, and Greece, to name a few countries with "nice" reputations, did far more harm to far more Jews and other victims than the Swiss.
posted by Philemon at 5:37 AM on October 13, 2019 [7 favorites]


Another point about her comment is that Switzerland was not directly involved in the Holocaust (it was never occupied, nor did it round people up on Germany's behalf as so many other countries did)

Yeah though trying to read where the friend is coming from she's probably trying in some way to deal with the fact that Switzerland's neutrality allowed it to continue trading with/profiting from German expansion, and that it made some trade concessions as a way of helping to protect its neutrality, which made it complicit. Though that's a pretty simplistic analysis even if that's where the friend was coming from - there were both pro- and vociferously anti-Nazi forces in Switzerland at the time, and it played an interesting role brokering communications between the 2 sides. From what's described here it doesn't seem like the friend is bringing a lot of knowledge to the conversation, just a perception. It would be interesting to know where that perception originates (see the "blood money" conversation above - there may be a conspiracy-theory-like source from which this notion is originating).
posted by Miko at 6:48 AM on October 13, 2019 [3 favorites]


Agree with the opinions above, and more broadly, since you aren't trusting your judgement nowadays, I'd suggest introducing your new date to lots of friends from various parts of your life. If most friends mention some characteristic of the date, that's something to consider, but if it's a one-off comment, it'most likely a peculiarity of that particular friend, not the new date.
posted by sdrawkcaSSAb at 6:58 AM on October 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


Another point about her comment is that Switzerland was not directly involved in the Holocaust (it was never occupied, nor did it round people up on Germany's behalf as so many other countries did)

Swiss banks have a lot to answer for but your average farmer would seem to be a stretch. My German grandparents and great grandparents were small farmers on one side and miners on the other and my grandparents were not even old enough to vote when the Nazis came into power. I am not feeling guilty for descending from them. My feeling is that your friend is making a lot of generalisations, her line of argument may not be as self evident as she seems to feel it is. Try to take her comments as saying more about her than your date, who she has never met and knows nothing about.

Has she always held and shared strong opinions on this or is this a recent thing? I get a lot of people are really upset at the moment and for good reason. But that doesn’t mean they get to share opinions about their friends’ dates whom they have never met. Has she always had poor boundaries?

From your description I am not sure I’d want to be friends with this person. Perhaps she has many good qualities but as I get older I have a lot less patience for people who are trying to tell me how to live my life. So perhaps work out why her opinions, which are clearly not informed by knowing your date or his family history, carry so much weight for you. If you were simply taken aback by what she said and the force with which she seems to have expressed her views that’s ok. You can let go of that. This is no reason to second guess all your impressions about your date. You can start to do that if a lot of different people are concerned, which they probably won’t be.

Also consider how you want to react if she doesn’t let this go. My personal strategy would be to thank her for her opinions and change the subject. If she doesn’t drop it I’d seriously reassess the friendship.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:32 AM on October 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


Is there any chance this friend is jealous/envious of you for finding a partner you like and having a good start on a relationship? Is there any chance this friend needs or wants dominance in your relationship, or enjoys the sense of power she gets by judging others? Just by what you describe - tossing a turd into a new relationship by making unfounded insinuations about Nazi ancestors - I am not inclined to think she is motivated by wanting your best interests. And I don't think it's about Nazis.

I think Miko has a good point - this seems to me to go beyond one particular friend's overactive scruples/social conscience. Is your friend jealous and undermining of you in other ways? Is she generally happy for you when something good happens, and supportive of you in general? Or is she a subtle underminer? Is she having trouble in her own dating/romantic life and getting in a jealous snit because a friend is having more success?

I would consider, long and hard, if you really want this friend in your life. If she were MY friend, I would consider her to have "flunked Friend 101" - that is, be happy for your friends if something good happens, and be your friend's cheerleader, not critic - and dumped her judgy ass unless she was otherwise a good, kind, caring person who had a blind spot. And in that case I would lay down the law with her: "Linda, you have to treat my boyfriend with respect. You don't have to be his best buddy, but if you are out and out rude to him, I won't hang out with you anymore."
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:43 AM on October 13, 2019 [2 favorites]


I mean, you've known this guy for like two weeks, you are still DEEP in the "this person is brand new to my life and I am just getting to know them" phase of dating but nothing he has said or done has been a red or even a pink flag for you, but your friend is ranting and raving about Nazi sympathizers and potentially kicking new dude out of her home if he can't confirm that his Swiss immigrant grandparents were part of La Resistance?

It does not sound that the problematic person in this situation is the new dude. What's going on with your friend? Does she have known mental health issues, and is she practicing good mental health hygiene right now? Are strenuous objections about other people's moral and ethical purity kind of a thing with her, like, is this something she does all the time to everyone in your social circle? Is she generally a supportive and caring friend? Has she been in your life long enough for you to give this much credence to her criticism of a person she's never met and knows literally nothing about?
posted by palomar at 8:49 AM on October 13, 2019 [3 favorites]


Thank you all. This is really helpful. This was a one-off comment and she’s dealing with her own major relationship stresses, which is likely part of it and is helpful for me to consider. This has completely helped me get my head on straight and I appreciate it greatly.
posted by deus ex machina at 9:10 AM on October 13, 2019 [10 favorites]


I had a friend like that. I think you need a new friend.
posted by james33 at 9:10 AM on October 13, 2019 [3 favorites]


That makes a lot of sense - that Friend is dealing with her own relationship stresses - but that still does not give her the right to take it out on you and your relationship. Feel free to set boundaries.

"Linda, I understand you are going through a tough time in your relationship, but when you attack my boyfriend for no reason, you are not being a good and supportive friend to me. Neither my boyfriend nor I have to put up with meanness. A therapist would be a healthier and better option for you right now." If you put up firm boundaries about No Nastiness Allowed, it will be better for you, her, and the friendship.

I had a friend like this, long ago in a galaxy not far away. She was all sweetness and light when her life was better than mine, but when I found a boyfriend and a good job, boom! She turned nasty and belittling. Maybe if I had been better at standing up for myself and setting better boundaries, the relationship could have been saved - but as it was, in a fit of temper I blew it up and salted the earth because I just couldn't stand her anymore.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:05 AM on October 13, 2019 [6 favorites]


My friend’s not Jewish, but my ancestors are, and a significant number of them died in the Holocaust, so this is an issue that is personal to me, but not to her.

Then this absolutely gets to be your call, and your friend absolutely gets to keep her performative, appropriative judginess to herself.
posted by flabdablet at 10:34 AM on October 13, 2019 [3 favorites]


This was a one-off comment and she’s dealing with her own major relationship stresses.

Just as a general note -- and you know her better than we do! -- most people's snarky stressed one-off comments about their friends boyfriends do not involve implying that they are Nazi sympathizers due to their grandparents' nationality. This is....very extreme!
posted by Countess Sandwich at 11:14 AM on October 13, 2019 [7 favorites]


Nothing that your friend is bonkers
posted by Jacqueline at 2:16 PM on October 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


I’m a straight white American woman with a multiracial family, and I am very alert to how men I date talk about race and racism, because of my values but also because of who I might want to be part of my family. If a white friend with a white family started lecturing me on being attuned to this, with the assumption that somehow I am not... I would be irritated. In your case, I would be doubly so.

Maybe she thinks she has some special insight into the Swiss? Or maybe she feels like she missed red flags early in her own relationship. But that’s unrelated to you. Good luck.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:02 PM on October 13, 2019 [2 favorites]


Your friend sounds really judgmental and unpleasant, and like someone I would want to avoid.
posted by thereader at 10:47 PM on October 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


Your friend (who if I read right, is not Jewish?) sounds like they're in the early stages of what will be a very unpleasant worldview. Usually, they end up self-twisting into really vile conservatism too.

Or she's doing some weird, over-the-top performance. And it is a performance.

Either way, hard pass from me on that friendship.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:15 AM on October 14, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'm generally of the opinion that it's a good idea to listen to what your friends say about the people you're dating. Generally. But your friend's line of thinking here is really bizarre - not only would I not worry about it WRT dating, but I'd think pretty hard about whether I wanted to be friends with this person at all.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:07 AM on October 15, 2019


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