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My husband is ogling other women, helicopter play dates, 'save the date' etiquette, Grandma's hairspray and more advice from Slate's 'Dear Prudence'

Emily Yoffe
Monday, December 13, 2010; 1:00 PM

Live discussion with Slate advice columnist Dear Prudence, a.k.a. Emily Yoffe.

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Emily Yoffe: And no matter how much end of year stress you're under, you can always be grateful you're not in the Metrodome.

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Philadelphia: I am a man currently in a very happy relationship with a woman, "Sarah," that has been going on for about a year. She knows that I'm bisexual, and that I have had relationships with men in my past, although I've only been with women for the past few years. I haven't been too specific about this part of my life, though.After the new year, we are planning on visiting a city where I used to live. I've been thinking about looking up an old friend, "Scott," to have lunch. "Sarah" knows "Scott" and I are pals, but I've never told her that we were actually once lovers. I'm not sure what's appropriate here. Should I tell "Sarah" about my onetime relationship with "Scott?" It seems like the right thing to do, but in my experience, women don't react well to this sort of information. I love "Sarah" and don't want to lose her. Should I have lunch with "Scott?" I think he will feel snubbed if I didn't see him. If I do, should I invite "Sarah?" In my dreams, the three of us get along splendidly, and "Scott" and "Sarah" trade stories about my eccentricities. In my nightmares, "Sarah" is so freaked out by the sight of a man who used to be my lover that she dumps my ass. What should I do?

Emily Yoffe: What you don't want to do is over lunch have Sarah suddenly realize who Scott was to you when he mentions that cute little birthmark you have on your lower back.

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Family Drama: Dear Prudie,A few years ago, my cousin's wife (40) left him for a much younger man (19), a student of hers while she was a professor at a community college. The younger man moved in with her and her 2 young kids and she has since filed for divorce. It has been nasty! Both sides have been using the kids as pawns and trash talking the other in their presence. I'm writing because my aunt has recently started a facebook smear campaign against this guy, even sending lengthy letters to family members. While I feel bad for my cousin, I think it is completely inappropriate for my family to badmouth his ex wife, especially in front of the kids. How can I express my concerns to my aunt and nicely opt out of these messages? Is there such thing as facebook slander?Want to be left out!

Emily Yoffe: And have a discussion with your aunt in which you explain you perfectly well understand her hatred of her former daughter-in-law, but spreading poisonous things about her will only damage the grandchildren.

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Staring husband: Dear Prudie, My husband and I have been married for a year, and are compatible and happy in many ways, except that he is a huge flirt. If we are walking down the sidewalk he usually makes eye contact with attractive women and says "Hi". If we're in the grocery store often when I turn to talk to him he's looking off at something and distracted and when I turn to see what - voila! An attractive woman. We went to the zoo recently and I felt like he was busier studying the women than the animals. I feel very confused. I know men like looking at women and that's as far as I get in my understanding of all of this. There don't seem to be any rules. So, is my husband's behavior something I should just give up on and accept? Or is this as disrespectful as I feel it is, and he should be trying harder to stop? Help.- Tired of the staring

Emily Yoffe: exchange of meaningful glances, nor are they supposed to say "Hi," when they see someone particularly alluring, nor are they supposed to behave so outrageously that their spouse feels too humiliated to accompany them in public. And I have the sneaking suspicion that someone willing to say, "Hi" to an attractive stranger while he's with his wife, is willing to do a lot more when his wife is not around.

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Grandma's Death and LSAT: Hi Prudie:I was the person last week who had to make a decision between taking my LSAT and going to my grandmother's funeral. I just wanted to update you that I took my test and did very well. There was a moment during the test when my mind drifted to her funeral and melancholy began to overtake me. At that point, I noticed a scent of hairspray - the same one my grandma used for the past sixty years. I teared up, knowing that she was right there with me and she was proud of me. Afterwards, my mother called out of the blue to ask for my forgiveness and tell me she was so proud of all I had accomplished, and she merely acted the way she did because she was irrational at losing her mother. It was a wonderful act. In her own way, Grandma gave me peace of mind taking the test and my relationship with my mother back. I am not surprised. She always made everything look so easy. I can't wait to see her again and tell her about my life. Thanks Prudie for taking my question - in her own way, when I was lost and confused, she gave me you.

Emily Yoffe: How nice to feel your grandmother's spirit will be there to guide you on your new adventure, and that your mother will actually be here beside you encouraging you to reach your dream.

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helicopter play dates: Dear Prudence,Every time I invite a child over for a play date for any one of my sons, the parent expects to stay for the length of the visit. It makes me crazy! The whole purpose of a play date is to provide some company for my child and hopefully a few hours of relief for me; say, cleaning the kitchen or paying the bills while keeping an eye on the children. I am not a very social person and I find these helicopter visits to be weird and very intrusive, also a pain in the (*&* because it means producing a spotless house beforehand. The last time this happened, the mother gave me a sickly smile and said, "It's my husband's rule that we don't leave our child alone. But it's all okay." I wanted to say, "No, it's not okay, you are married to a weirdo control freak! Get out (of your marriage) now!" Instead, what happens is, I never invite the child over again, and my sons want to know why they have no play dates. Any suggestions?

Emily Yoffe: Whatever is really going on, it's important to figure it out so that your kids don't get isolated.

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Wedding Invitation Etiquette: Dear Prudence,I received a "save the date" card for a friends wedding in September. The wedding is now just over two weeks away and I have not received an invitation. The save the date specifically said that the invitation would follow. Normally, I wouldn't hesitate to approach my friend about this, but the situation is slightly complicated. About two months before I got the card I interviewed for a job and was hired, unknowingly replacing my friend who was also competing for the job. I'm worried that I have been uninvited to the wedding, but then again, I don't want to not show up when she was expecting me. What should I do?

Emily Yoffe: And if she dumped you because you had the temerity to enter the job market at the same time she did, consider yourself lucky you don't have to buy a wedding gift for this silly person.

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Moochers: I moved near some family members whom I did not know well. One of them attends holiday dinners at my house. As soon as the meal is over, she starts cleaning up. I always offer leftovers, but she takes whatever she wants while she is in the kitchen. She sneaks it in with whatever I invited her to take and takes the whole pile home with her. I am really annoyed. Am I too sensitive? Is this what families do? Signed, Ebenezer

Emily Yoffe: Later if she starts to head toward the kitchen just say, "Marlene, you're my guest, so I just won't let you do any cleaning up!"

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Coworker is unsafe driver: A co-worker who does virtually all of our company driving recently was cited for driving under the influence of alcohol and must use a breath-detector device in her vehicle for the next year. She already was a distracted driver prior to that. Our employer pays for her parking pass but subsidizes the transit passes of the rest of us. The company seems to think the DUI is no big deal and employees should continue to ride in her car. I disagree. I'd like to propose our employer join a car share membership in Zip (or something similar), but the site manager is notoriously stingy and previously has refused to consider this idea. I'm very fond of my colleague, but I don't want to ride with her and I can't afford to pay $200-plus a month to park near our downtown office. Any suggestions on how to bring this up with the boss? I don't want to tell my co-worker I don't trust her with my safety.

Emily Yoffe: And whatever they decide, you're in charge of your own safety, and you should refuse to drive with this menace.

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MIL Morality: I live with my husband and Mother in-Law, "Maria". Maria is 74 and unable to live alone but not in need of professional care yet. To be concise, she is a walking stereotype of the insufferable MIL. She is so rude so often that I have lost any love/respect/care for her that I may have had to begin with. The only thing that gets her to stop, even if briefly, is when I "talk back" or am very, very blunt. This, however, makes me feel bad for talking that way to my elder; but being polite seems to get me nowhere. My husband knows how Maria is and will talk to her about her attitude but it has no effect. Since this sittuation will not change anytime soon, what am I to do?

Emily Yoffe: Have a talk with your husband explaining this situation is unsustainable, you can't stand how Maria treats you, or how you act in response and something has to be done.

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Save the date: Is there ever an ok reason to not invite someone who got a save the date? I invited a friend and his girlfriend (who had become a friend) and in between the Save the Date and invite time, he very suddenly broke up with her. On her birthday. I didn't send the invite right away because I needed to issue new ones (it had been addressed to both of them), but I kept feeling a reticence, since he had been so hurtful to her. When I ran into him he actually asked me where his invite was and I told him he was still invited, I just had not mailed the invite yet. I wound up emailing him the info because I was running out of time and still felt funny about inviting him, but was dealing with my confusion over the situation poorly. Bottom line... if I had been less wishy-washy about it (i.e. gone to him honestly and explained why he was not invited), would that have been an understandable scenario in which to not follow a save the date with an invite?

Emily Yoffe:

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Helicopter play dates: Hi Prudie, I think maybe you are jumping to conclusions about the helicopter playdates. Depending on the kids, it can be a good idea to stick around a while when you are getting to know a new family. So I would open up with the conversation with acquaintances about this, just make expectations clearer that it's okay with you if the other parent leaves, etc. Or that next time once they've seen how the kids do they can leave. Maybe in some cases the other parent doesn't want to seem rude by dropping their kid off and running errands. Also, there is nothing wrong with checking out the situation when you don't know a family that well yet. I have seen some really weird situations crop up in playdates I would have thought would be okay. So just talk about it and don't judge your potential friends as weirdo control freaks. You can help put them at ease by letting them know you'll supervise the kids and make sure they are playing safely.

Emily Yoffe: I disagree. Unless you know your child is not ready to be left at someone else's house, one parent is perfectly capable of watcing two pre-schoolers play.

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Together but Separate: Currently my husband and I are living apart due to his job taking him out of the country for a year. This has been difficult but we have been doing fine with modern communication. Lately, though, I find myself missing something more though, and wondering what other relationships would be like. I have not cheated, and do not want or plan to do so, but I am concerned that when he returns it may not go back to being the same. Thoughts?

Emily Yoffe: "missing something more" I suggest you schedule a conjugal visit, rather than see who's available locally.

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To Grandma/LSAT:: Thank you for your update. Maybe its just the holiday season, but it sure brought a tear to my eye. Its so nice to hear happy at the holidays! Best and warm wishes

Emily Yoffe: a wrenching situation ended up being resolved in the best way possible for all concerned.

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re: Family Drama: Thank you for your response to this. I have known several parents who have conducted nasty smear campaigns (are there any pleasant smear campaigns??) against departing daughters-in-law. Everyone who serves on a committee/plays Bridge/sings in the church choir with these women - who, by the way, do not wish to be dissuaded - has to listen to the story repeated and repeated. Following the campaigns, of course, is the story of the cruel and evil former daughter-in-law who is denying them access to the grandchildren. I have given up asking how the smear-er thought this would play out. since there is no way that doesn't cause even more carrying on.

Emily Yoffe: Maybe it would help if people said to the smearers, "I understand your anguish, but unless you get your feelings under control, the people who are going to end up hurt the most will be your grandchildren."

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infidelity: A few months ago I fooled around with a very close friend of mine who is married when we were both drunk (not an excuse, I know). We didn't sleep together, but things were definitely more heated than they ever should have been. It was the first (and last) time anything like that has ever happened between us, but I feel awful about it. We have never discussed it since, but now I feel awkward whenever I talk to him, especially if his wife is around. Should I bring it up with him and clear the air? Or just pretend like it never happened? I don't want to end our friendship over this, but I hate feeling so guilty when I am around this couple!

Emily Yoffe: Stop feeling guilty, stop acting weird, just forget about it -- and watch the alcohol consumption.

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playdates: You may disagree as to whether it *should* be expected for the other parent of a preschooler to stay, but the fact is that it *is* expected. And it sounds like the LW is insisting that the other mother's leave, which would be a huge red flag to anyone who didn't know her well, since this is pretty far outside the norm.

Emily Yoffe: I'm fine watching the kids by myself, " I would not then come to the conclusion she wanted me out of the house so she could perform ritual Satanic abuse.

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Introducing People...: I'm a woman in a relationship with another woman. She loves my immediate family because unlike her own family, they welcome and accept her. I would love to bring her to bigger family gatherings, but I'm not sure how some members of the family would react. My parents have told me that they think I could bring her, but that I should just introduce her as my "friend" and let them figure it out. Which leads me to two questions: I've never brought a partner of any gender to a family gathering before, and they make it sound like you just bring them along. Is that true? I don't remember my cousin doing anything but just bringing his girlfriends along, but it seemed everyone else in the fam knew he was seeing somebody. So do you tell the host? And if so, would I tell the host I'm bringing "a friend?" That just seems awkward, but then, I've never brought anyone at all before. Would I bring her to something my parents are hosting first, and play the "she's my friend" game and let them figure it out? Or what?

Emily Yoffe: you should introduce her as such. It's up to "some members of the family" to react like civilized adults and welcome her graciously as they would any other guest.

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Nice Former MIL: After I dumped my ex, his mother continued to be very civil to me. I understood that it was because she wanted to see her grandson. I thought it very diplomatic of her and was happy to take my son to see her.

Emily Yoffe: Smart (former) mother-in-law. It's nice to hear about one!

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Grandma's hairspray: Dear Prudie, Just wanted to say that my beloved gran died in 1981 but she still pops in for a visit now and then. I can tell when she's around (and a very comforting presence she is) by the scent of White Shoulders perfume in the air. She always wore it. No one in my house wears it - in fact I think they don't make it anymore.

Emily Yoffe: You make me wish I could catch a whiff of "Youth Dew" and know that my grandmother is around.

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grandmother's obsession with weight: Dear Prudence:My daughter is a recent grad of a top 3 in the country school. She's kind, pretty, has friends and is employed, going back to grad school. She's a former college athlete but since school, has put on a huge amount of weight. While it's a less than ideal situation, she's seeking help for it. The issue is Grandmother. She's old-school, from a certain area of the country that values looks and femininity trumps all, especially weight. She's not at all slim herself, her kids have had eating disorders and her husband has been grossly obese for as long as I've known them. She's terrible to my daughter and what she doesn't say outright, she implies. My husband's attempted many times to talk to her, but to no avail. We try to avoid seeing them, but during the holidays, it'll be difficult. She always has the last word. Is there a polite way to shut her down?Sincerely, not a Belle.

Emily Yoffe: If grandmother won't stop, your daughter just needs to say, "Good to talk to you. Excuse me, I'm going to see Uncle Ed."

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Playdates again: Disagree that it *is* expected. I'm a parent of a four-year old, who has had plenty of playdates (at our house or friend's house) without the extra parent present.

Emily Yoffe: From the stream of letters on this I was starting to feel as if I should have had an investigation opened on me because I had other pre-schoolers over to play with my child without the mother present, and did the same with my daughter.

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Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. I hope all your playdates are properly supervised. Talk to you next week.

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