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DEAR CAROLYN: I am gay, and my grandma has always been totally supportive of me, even though she grew up in a conservative time and place and I was the first openly gay person she'd ever met. She sometimes asks me questions that sound clueless, but in a sweet way -- the same way she's clueless about the video games I play but still shows interest because she knows it's something I enjoy.

My boyfriend just met my grandma. They talked awhile outside my presence, then afterward he started railing about how "ignorant" she is. Apparently she asked him questions he found offensive.

I'm sure my grandma meant no harm, and blaming her is like blaming a person learning a foreign language for saying an offensive word without knowing it was offensive. My boyfriend thinks I need to "tell off" my grandma and I'm not comfortable with that. How should I navigate this?

-- Grandson

DEAR READER: Yeah! The world needs more people pushing to tell off grandmas.

[Five minutes weighing whether I need to identify that as sarcasm.]

This wants to be a question about homosexuality and conservatism and family, but it's not.

It's a question about respect between two people in a relationship, and about maturity.

You have clearly devoted much thought to the Grandma question, and come to a conscientious conclusion that she loves you, means no harm and is as open as you can reasonably expect her to be.

I'm not saying it's the right one (though I suspect it is) -- just one you took pains to draw.

When your boyfriend "railed" at you to "tell off" your grandma, the real target wasn't grandma herself. The target was your carefully considered decision to accept her as she is. Your boyfriend was trashing your judgment.

And he did so with an emotional outburst that wrongheadedly promoted emotional outbursts as an appropriate form of communication. That's the maturity piece. He seems to have little or none of it, a deal-breaking problem unto itself.

But back to the more interesting part: He has every right to challenge -- civilly, please, people -- your approach to a family member who welcomes a gay person as she would an extraterrestrial. I won't say whether your boyfriend was right or wrong, either, to call bull on her "ignorant" questions; see, "outside my presence," above. More importantly, it's the way you disagree that matters here, not who's correct.

To that end, you have every right to stand by your decision to embrace Grandma as-is; to challenge your boyfriend's default to confrontation when people don't behave as he'd like them to; and to (ahem) make it a prerequisite for any intimate relationship with anyone that you agree "tell off" culture is juvenile -- even if, especially if, you embrace diversity of opinion on just about anything else.

Do take this opportunity to view your grandmother and your approach to her through your boyfriend's eyes. Do it just because: It's a good exercise in general to separate a person's message from their method of delivery, since valid complaints can be expressed via tantrum just as calm, measured people can have utterly misplaced concerns.

Then, square up your opinion on the subject, present it to your boyfriend calmly, and own it. How he responds to that -- to you, to your judgment and self-possession -- and how you respond to him will tell you what you need to know.

DEAR CAROLYN: I learned on a recent trip that my friend and I aren't compatible for travel. I had to talk her out of parking at a drugstore and taking the bus to the beach just to save a few bucks on parking. She also spent endless amounts of time asking for recommendations and reading reviews online before going anywhere. Everything had to be the best but she didn't want to spend any money on it (she has plenty). I had to tell her several times that we were wasting time and we should just choose one and enjoy it.

Anyway. I will not be traveling with her again, but how do I tell her this? And how do I handle it when she gets upset about not being invited on my forthcoming solo trip? I guess I feel guilty because she doesn't have many friends or much in the way of family, but this trip felt like a waste of time and money.

-- Incompatible

DEAR READER: When prompted, just tell the truth -- kindly, and only in the quantity you need -- then take the pain.

"We have very different travel styles, [friend's name]. I'm saying no because you're my friend. We're better local."

If she gets upset, then say you don't mean to upset her and hope this won't come between you.

The "doesn't have many friends" thing sounds like the effect of her inclination to get upset -- and the anxiety-type behaviors you describe from your trip -- not the cause of it. If true, then the advice is the same, conveniently: Remain the best friend to her that you can be while remaining true to yourself.

Chat online with Carolyn at 11 a.m. each Friday at washingtonpost.com. Write to Tell Me About It in care of The Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071; or email

tellme@washpost.com

Style on 04/14/2019

Print Headline: Boyfriend, Grandma clash

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