What Should I Do About My Anti-Vaxxer Pregnant Friend?

Scaachi Koul is a senior writer at BuzzFeed Canada, formerly the managing editor of Hazlitt. Her debut collection of essays, The Pursuit of...

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I can’t possibly be the only person excited for the exquisite disaster that will be Eddie Cibrian and LeAnn Rimes’ reality show. I’ve gathered from my unofficial polling of the Hazlitt offices that reactions to the new high point of VH1 programming vary from “Who?” and “What are you talking about” to “Why are you calling me at 3 a.m.” and “Scaachi, we talked about this, it’s a fireable offense,” but I don’t care. This terrible, horrible show is going to be a glorious exploration of the human psyche.

I mean, just watch the teaser! They spend most of their time talking about how much they hate Cibrian’s ex-wife, and how they got together when they were both still married. The only thing that makes this even more delicious is that once Cibrian’s ex-wife goes back to shooting Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, we might get to see footage of her calling for a hit on Dimples over here while drowning her sorrows in Lisa Vanderpump’s sure-to-be-sour sangria collection.

Surely one of you out there in the big, brave Internet is as excited as I am about this train wreck in the making.

Still, this is a familiar problem for many of us: an ex-boyfriend or -girlfriend running their mouth around town about us. What’s a girl or boy or agendered person to do?

Of course, the best tactic, as with most things, is to take the high road—but that’s rarely any fun. Instead, wait for your ex to fire the first shitty shot, ensuring any response on your end comes off as punitive but not vindictive. The best retorts often require little speaking, so while the guy you used to date who reliably vomited in cabs before 10 p.m. starts calling you “a fat bitch” on Facebook, just calmly post a photo of yourself having dinner with another man who maybe didn’t a) make you watch We Bought A Zoo and then b) sob for the entire second half of the movie, Kevin.

Alternatively, just don’t date anyone ever, because they will leave you, and then you will hate them.

This week, we’re setting our sights on all the troubles that plague your friendships. Picking a partner is tough, but finding a good friend is another game entirely. Sometimes your pals are pillars that keep you standing when it feels like all the tendons in your knees have snapped; other times, they’re like bossy, selfish, talkative dogs that want to borrow your sweaters and then stretch them out with their big stupid breasts and don’t even offer to replace them afterwards.

Talk to Mama.

One of my best friends is pregnant for the first time. This is all really exciting! Except I have found out some weird details about what kind of mom she wants to be. The thing that scares me the most is that she’s telling me she doesn’t want to get her kid vaccinated. She’s worried that it’ll give her child autism. I have a lot of problems with that, but I’m mostly frustrated that my bright, talented, interesting friend is on the Jenny McCarthy train. Do I tell my friend this is incredibly stupid? Or should I just keep out of it?

— Friendship or Science?

My roommate and I have been friends for seven years. When I moved in with her three years ago, however, I learned some strange details in her belief-system, particularly things that I think are total, absolute, hilarious bullshit. She thinks coconut water is great for you and not secretly giraffe sweat. She eats chia seeds to stay regular instead of listening to me and just eating a sloppy burger nightly to really “clean out your system if you catch my drift.” She takes oregano oil when she starts to feel sick instead of really leaning into it like I do by smoking one or five Belmonts. I don’t know what the fuck she’s doing.

I work hard at not making fun of her, and she does her best to not lecture me about the fact that I’m going to die soon. One evening, she started explaining why she wouldn’t get her kids vaccinated, and I put my hand up and said, “Nope, we are not doing this.” Because a belief that vaccinations will fundamentally hurt your children is a deal-breaker for me. I don’t know how to be friends with that person. So instead of fighting, I just stay out of it.

It sounds like you’re in a somewhat similar situation, except it’s not hypothetical anymore, because she’s pregnant with a real baby bound to get a good ol’ case of measles. This goes beyond your friend being ignorant, and veers into this-could-hurt-the-stupid-baby territory.

My personal advice includes pinching your friend with oven-heated tongs until she listens to you, but maybe this is a moment where you should not take my advice?

Jason Tetro, author of The Germ Code, offered some (actually scientific) advice. “Back in 1998, The Lancent suggested an association—not link—between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine,” he says. “Research has since shown these associations were not correct.” Does your friend respond to science? Explain science to your friend. (My personal advice includes pinching your friend with oven-heated tongs until she listens to you, but maybe this is a moment where you should not take my advice?)

“In essence,” Tetro says, “I would tell them that if they are going to worry, they should at least be wary of the problems that could rarely happen, not ones that are fabricated.” There are so many other things that kid could get from a vaccine! How did Jenny McCarthy hijack this conversation? She was in Scream 3!

And if all of this doesn’t work, try spooking your friend with details on what illnesses her kid could get if she doesn’t get vaccinated. You can start with the fact that there are a whole bunch of whooping cough cases in California because kids aren’t getting their shots. Remember polio? Your friend may have to start remembering polio. Little wheelchairs are so cute.

But if your friend can’t be swayed by actual science, then it’s tough titties for you. This is not your kid. Say your piece, and if she tells you to fuck off, do so, and make better friends in the future.

*

What is the appropriate way to tell a friend their weight is getting out of control? I don’t mean to shame him into feeling worse about it than he already does (I suspect he does, at least), but it’s getting unhealthy and I’m worried about how it’ll affect him in the long term.

­— Not Trying To Food-Shame

Well, you certainly have the right instinct in knowing that coming out of the gate with some variation on “HEY FATTY-FAT-FAT-FAT, LAY OFF ON THE BACON-FLAVOURED CHEESE-DOODLES, YOURE LEAVING A DENT IN MY COUCH” will not be effective unless your friend is a shame-based organism.

But it does sound like this particular shift in his weight is sudden—maybe even more rapid than normal? Do you think an emotional trigger spurred it, or that some scarring event is making him eat his feelings? Maybe it isn’t even about food; could it be a medical issue underneath the surface that even he’s not aware of yet?

I’m all for eliminating body shame—trust me, my hips are big enough to bear some truly elephantine offspring, BUT DON’T GET ANY IDEAS—but if you’re genuinely worried about your friend’s health, then you should say something. Just do it gently.

If you know of a problem that’s been troubling him recently, try to talk to him about it. Find out if he’s aware of a health problem and if he is, as you suspect, feeling ill. If it’s a medical issue, suggest he see a doctor. If it’s mental, offer your assistance in finding him a therapist who is more prepared to help than you are. The most important thing you can do—and this is good advice for anyone who wants to keep a friend—is to be nice.

And if your friend is fine with his weight, and his health isn’t at risk, and he’s just enjoying extra scoops of cherry cheesecake ice cream now and then, don’t give him any cut-eye. Life is hard. We all deserve some refined white sugar now and then.

*

My best friend of 19 years sent me an email saying she doesn’t want to be friends with me anymore. Her reasons were that I lack boundaries and basic courtesy—accusations that I do not fully agree with. At this point in my life, I have similar feelings towards her, but I always assumed that friends should be open and honest with each other, build on the relationship through discussion, and get to another level of understanding. In her case, she wanted to do none of those things. When I said I’d like to speak to her in person or over the phone to discuss it, she refused via email and told me to get out of her life. I’m having trouble accepting this tremendous rejection. This is a person who was like a sister to me, and who myself and my family considered a part of the family.

— Heidi’s Hurtin’

To make this about me for just a second, this letter is identical to a situation that I went through exactly one year ago—it’s almost too similar to be true. Who are you, Heidi? What’s your game? On the chance that it is real, though, here’s what I wish someone had told me when I was busy feeling sorry for myself:

Oh my god, you idiot, wipe your soggy face, put on something that isn’t covered in Pizza Pocket-stains, and stop feeling sorry for yourself! Do you think you need someone like that in your life?

Look, I am very sorry this is happening to you. It’s the worst. Losing a friend in dramatic fashion can often be even worse than the harshest of breakups, because you can (usually) only date one person, but you can have plenty of friends, and it’s possible to let a friendship fade away naturally without putting a great big crack right in the middle of it. But you need to look at this as a real time-saver. Did you really want to be friends with someone who could drop you so easily, and with nearly no blowback on her side?

Oh my god, you idiot, wipe your soggy face, put on something that isn’t covered in Pizza Pocket-stains, and stop feeling sorry for yourself!

Learning what value you carry to another person can hurt. But now you know this is the sort of person who didn’t even have the decency to tell you to your face that she didn’t need you. Everyone deserves better than that. She might have felt like your sister, but she sure didn’t act like one.

I trust that you have other friends. Focus on them. Take some time to be sad, mourn this loss, and then invest in the other people in your life who will not do this to you. Read some books. Take up a hobby. Can you knit? Let’s you and I start a knitting circle wherein we clench our teeth and think about the people who hurt us.

Soon enough, you’ll pass her on the street and it will still be a little weird, but it won’t hurt as much. It will be sad, sure, but it will be better.

I mean, look at me! I feel totally not-bitter about it! Well, I guess sometimes I get angry but WHATEVER, JESSICA, WEVE ONLY KNOWN EACH OTHER FOR 78 PERCENT OF OUR TIME ON THIS TERRIBLE LONELY PLANET, NO BIG DEAL, THANKS FOR RUINING MY LIFE FOREVER.

See? You’re going to be just fine.

Unfuck Yourself appears every Wednesday. Got a problem? Send it here.

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