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Hey, Bonita!

Turning Down a Trip

Hey Bonita,

I’m in the opposite situation from Your Blue Friend. My dad keeps asking me if I want to go with my sister and her friends on a flight to a city in Canada. I don’t want to go because I’d rather be doing something else, but it doesn’t feel like my dad will take “no” for an answer. I tried to tell him I would be doing some school stuff around that time, and he responded that I should take online courses. I tried to tell him I’m not interested, and he said I should go just to say I had the experience, and to do something before I graduate and head into the workforce. I hear him talk about how he just wants to know what I want and how it’s OK if I don’t want to go, but it really seems like he just wants me to go anyway.

I wish I [could] say no, but it’s very hard to. I always feel like I’m a constant disappointment to him, and it often feels like I have to earn his love. At this point, I’m wondering if I should go anyway.

My sister doesn’t really care if I go or not; it’s more for her and her friends, really. My mom asked my dad, and it seemed to me that she was fine with me saying no.

Anonymous

Hey Anon,

If your sister is fine with you not going, then you need to tell your dad. He seems misled into thinking that your sister desperately wants you to be there, so he needs to know that’s not the case. Get it from your sister in no uncertain terms that you do not have to go on this trip, and then repeat your dad’s words to him when he said it’s OK if you don’t want to go.  

I can think of a reason he’s being so pushy: Do you live at home with him right now? I can only imagine a parent being this insistent about their kid going on an international trip because they are desperate for that child to get out of their goddamned house. My mom has lived alone since my dad died, and she absolutely loves the peace and quiet of living alone. She is absolutely unbothered by me and my siblings visiting only for a weekend, and she’s visibly happy during our goodbyes after longer stays. I’m not offended by it at all, as someone who’s lived alone since 2017. Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you what my least favorite thing is: people in my house.

Dad may also be overcompensating out of care for you, though that doesn’t minimize how annoying he’s being by bothering you about this. Have you lamented your boring life or lack of travel recently, or mentioned being lonely? Sometimes parents don’t know how to respond to that kind of stark honesty out of their offspring, but they still want to address the issue because they love their kids. His comment about you having fun before graduating is most likely sincere, because unless you’re going into a high-earning field with a nest egg already in the bank, you probably aren’t going on another vacation for a while. I only managed my first “real” vacation a few weeks ago, and I graduated from college in 2007. Dad has a point when he says that now is the time to splash out, because you’re most likely going to be sharing one order of orange chicken with three roommates for at least a year after graduation.

On the bigger issue of feeling like a disappointment who can’t say no to dad: I felt this way about my own father, and I only felt that pressure lift after he died. I tried to talk through things when he was around, but the fact is that he did not respect me or my own choices enough to have that conversation with me. I really don’t have good advice for you besides the obvious—accept that you know yourself and you know what you want, and accept that your dad is a flawed human who wants to know you, too.

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