Annie Lane: Caught in the middle

Published 6:30 am Wednesday, October 21, 2020

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Dear Annie: I have close friends who in the past few years have gravitated to both the far left and far right of the sociopolitical spectrum.

It has made it hard on both my wife and me, as we sit somewhere in the middle. Today’s environment does not seem to allow for compromise or conversations of differing opinions.

I love my friends dearly, but have found myself less and less likely to join them in social gatherings. This is because conversations always turn to politics, and the sarcasm, and sometimes vitriol, of my friends’ opinions ruins what should be a happy get-together.

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The pandemic does not help, as it adds another layer of opinion to the conversation and limits the number of times we can all get together. I miss when we all could just get together and enjoy each other’s company.

Now, my wife and I would rather sit at home alone with the kids than go out and see anyone. I’m not sure how to deal with an isolation that is both pandemic and socially caused. How do we find a way to get back to a time when a get-together was a chance to unwind and visit with friends?

— Stuck in the Middle

Dear Stuck in the Middle: You’re not alone. Our politics are extremely polarized these days. My advice is to agree in advance not to discuss politics, which includes a rule saying no snide cracks from either side.

That way, you can all enjoy the many things that made you friends in the first place. If they can’t go along, then you are right to stay home with your wife and kids, but try to persuade your friends to get together to share the many bonds and interests you all have without political interference.

• • •

Dear Annie: This is regarding the man who was not interested in being a grandparent. We have a daughter, and bringing her up was a privilege, but being a grandparent is 100 times better. We have a 27-month-old granddaughter and another on the way, due just before the holidays.

I have friends who say it is better than being a parent because you don’t change diapers. Well, we still change the occasional diaper, but the greatest part is that we do not see our granddaughter every day but (until COVID-19) perhaps twice every three weeks. We have become amazingly aware just how fast young children grow. She is so different every week or two, something we never noticed when our daughter was young. It is a real treat to see our granddaughter say new words or express new ideas that were completely off the radar a few weeks before.

I used to smoke and gave it up 35 years ago so I could make sure I was here to see my daughter grow up. But the privilege of seeing my granddaughter is an even better reason, and something I could never have imagined as being so rewarding. A few weeks ago, she was visiting and wanted to come to the basement with me to try and find something. I told her she could only go if she held my hand on the stairs. It was as good a feeling as I have ever had.

— Loving Grandpa

Dear Grandpa: I love your letter because you seem to appreciate all the joys of children and being a grandparent. The image of your granddaughter grabbing for your hand and walking down the stairs, and your appreciation for it, is very touching. It is finding those little moments of joy that make for a great big lifetime of happiness.

By the way, congratulations on quitting smoking for the last 35 years. That is no easy task.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to