Advice from Slate's 'Dear Prudence'

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Emily Yoffe
Monday, January 24, 2011; 1:00 PM

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

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Emily Yoffe: Let's go.

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Resentful : I've been dating the same guy now for a year and a few months. During the month of December, marriage was brought up, and he even talked to my dad about marrying me. I made a huge, dumb mistake and told my sister, my best friend, and my SIL. Fast forward to today, and here I am, still un-engaged. I don't want to bring it up again, because I brought it up the first time and now I feel like a huge idiot. I'm also building a resentment for him b/c now people (including my grandparents/aunts/uncles are asking me b/c my own dad spilled the beans) are asking if and when are getting married! My bf and I also looked up resorts in another country b/c we wanted to have a destination wedding, and we even made up a budget so we could save, and he said he'd save all his money from his second job to go to our wedding fund. Well, there ISN'T a wedding fund. I'm starting to feel like I got duped or something, and starting to resent him for it. I don't know what to do, please help!

Emily Yoffe: Over and over again I hear from strong, independent, successful, accomplished women who are desperately waiting for their boyfriend to pop the question. Why is this one area of life where men get all the power? I understand the romance of a proposal. But there's nothing romantic if the proposal is not forthcoming, and you feel your future and fertility slip away year by year. feel perfectly justified sitting down with him and asking him to clarify your previous conversation. And if you get this discussion back on track, please rethink the best use of the money from a second job. Blowing it on a one day celebration seems like a poor way to start your joint financial life.

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Small children and their artwork: My husband and I are friends with another couple - Barbara and Lance. Lance has a 3 year old girl from a previous marriage. My husband and I do not like children, but we tolerate this child in order to see more of our friends. Recently Barbara has been giving us "gifts" that the child has made - usually small fingerpainted or crayoned scraps of paper. We do the normal things you are supposed to do - smile broadly, say to the child how talented she is, and say how you are so lucky to have been given such a nice gift. Then, after they leave the paper gets thrown away. Lately Barbara has been suggesting that these "gifts" be framed and displayed in our home. She has even gone so far as to send me links on framing companies and choices of frames that she thinks will match! Prudie, we have no intention of framing a piece of paper from a child we see rarely and merely tolerate. How do we politely say we are not going to be setting up an art gallery for this child in our home anytime soon?

Emily Yoffe:

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Woefully broke bridesmaid: I'm a graduate student, putting myself through school with part-time job, student loans, and some savings. I have two friends getting married this year, and I am in the bridal party in both weddings. As planning kicks into high gear, it looks as though I'll be forced to spend upwards of 1k between dresses, shoes, gifts, showers, bachelorette, etc. I will likely have to take out even larger student loans next year as a result. I'm not sure how to approach this with my very excited bride-to-be friends. Please help

Emily Yoffe: If they pout, and stomp and say you're not "being there" for them, make sure they're right, withdraw from the wedding party, and don't be there.

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Relationships--How Can I Forget?: About a year ago, I found my first love after looking for her off and on for several decades. I have no romantic interest in her anymore--just wanted to find out what happened to her. We are both happily married, long term, to others. We even met for lunch one day when other matters caused me to be half way across the country near where she lives. No sparks reignited and this was done with full transparency with my spouse. We email each other occasionally and talk on the phone every 2-3 months. I do enjoy our conversations as she does. We talk about the common concerns of people our age, our aging parents, our children and our work. Here is the thing, I think I spend way too much time thinking about her. Again, not in the romantic sense--time and distance have proven to me that we would have never made a good married couple. Some days, I so much want to get her out of my head but I am afraid that she will always be stuck in my heart. I know this is not the greatest problem in the world, Prudence, but what to do?

Emily Yoffe:

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Military wife vs. job: Dear Prudence,My husband and I have been married for one year and are getting ready for our first deployment. He will be leaving for Afghanistan in a few short months for one year. Prior to deployment he will receive two weeks off and we have a trip planned to visit his parents and then fly to Paris to enjoy some uninterrupted time together before our separation. I have mentioned to my boss that I would like the two weeks off work, however she indicated that I would not be able to take the time off. My husband and our marriage is much more important to me than this job, however I am on track for a management position soon and very happy at this job. The thought of starting over at a new job sounds horrible. How do I explain to my boss how important this trip is to us? And if she still refuses, do I quit?

Emily Yoffe: If they won't budge, don't resign, but contact an employment lawyer.

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Obsessive Mom Threatens Daughter's Sanity: I have been dating a great guy for a year and a half. We love each other and have talked about marriage. He just moved for work, and I am planning on moving to be with him in April. Although I'm leaving my job and my family, I'm really excited to take this next step with him and am looking forward to our future together.The problem is with my mom. My bf is somewhat in the public eye and has Facebook and Twitter accounts to which he posts regularly. My mom scours the web for any mentions of his name and then relays all that information back to me - everyday. I feel like all she does is gossip about things she read online. She has anonymously posted to message boards regarding my bf, and most recently, she has concocted a relationship between a random woman and my boyfriend, purely because this woman follows him on Twitter and is also a Facebook "friend". I know I shouldn't let my mom's obsession get to me, but sometimes I can't help but be drawn into it. What can I do to not go crazy in these 3 months before I move to be with him?

Emily Yoffe: "Mom, you are free to spend as much time was you want scouring the web for news about Tim, but I don't want to hear the updates. A lot of it is gossip and it's unpleasant for me to get this daily barrage. So please stop. If you won't, I'm not going to open your emails, and if you start telling me this stuff on the phone, I'm going to cut our call short. Sorry to sound so tough, but this has really been bothering me." As I've mentioned, I hear from too many young women now living with someone with whom they sorta, kinda thought they had an understanding about marriage, but they're finding they didn't.

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Politics at work: A couple months ago, I saw a colleague protesting at a facility where I volunteer, and I'm certain she saw me. Now she avoids me at work and tries to make sure her projects go to someone else in my department. I don't really care if she doesn't want to socialize or engage in chatter and I don't want to bring up controversial political topics at work, but I also don't want people to think her avoidance of me is any reflection on my work skills. Is it appropriate to discuss this with my boss, knowing that my boss might then have to approach my colleague's boss?

Emily Yoffe: So you wanted to clear the air about this.Then if things don't change, do go to your boss, calmly explaining how you tried to resolve this, and saying unfortunately, you need to bring it to her attention because it is affecting your ability to discharge your duties.

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Wedding gifts: What is the acceptable maximum limit for sending wedding gift thank you notes, in other words is there a point where it's simply too late? Signed, Woefully Late in Waldorf

Emily Yoffe: then say how you've been enjoying their gift all these months -- or years.

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Prom: What should you do if your best friend got a prom date but you don't?

Emily Yoffe: Ask a guy who you'd like to go with (it will be good training for avoiding the situation of waiting for the marriage proposal outlined above). An equally good solution is going with some other girls who you know don't have, or don't want, dates.

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DIL wants a gun: My son and his wife are separated and now I hear she wants a gun "for protection." This is a woman that can't be trusted to turn off a stove or drive responsibly. I'm so worried for my grandchildren and I know this was a discussion that provoked a major fight between my son and his wife. Anything I can do?

Emily Yoffe: Perhaps he needs custody of the kids. Irresponsible woman+ gun lying around the house+ young children=tragedy.

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Re: Military wife vs. job : Unless she has a contract that stipulates that she can take two weeks of her choice off every year I'm not sure how an employment lawyer could help in this situation. I am a valued employee of ten years at my current employer but taking two weeks off is just not a possibility in our industry. One week off, yes, but not two. It is most unfortunate that her employer shut her down, but she may have to slim down her leave request.

Emily Yoffe: This woman's husband is going to Afghanistan! What in the world could she be doing at her job that other people can pick up the slack for her for one week, but the whole place falls apart if she's gone for two?

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Military Wife: I'm an employment attorney and will tell you that, based purely on the facts presented in the question, I don't see any recourse for the woman who wants to take 2 weeks off to be with her husband before his deployment. If the company, as a matter of policy or practice, doesn't allow employees to take 2 weeks off at a time, it's entitled to do that, regardless of the reason the employee wants 2 weeks. Off the top of my head, I don't see what legal action she could take for the company's denial of her two weeks.If the company has been known to grant other employees 2 weeks of vacation, but is for some reason denying this woman's, a good employment lawyer may want to look into whether she's being denied her request for discriminatory reasons (which may or may not be related to her husband's deployment).

Emily Yoffe: Surely, someone shouldn't have to choose between a job and two week vacation with a husband about to go to war.

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Army Wife : Hello, this is Army Wife. Thank you for your advice. My boss does know of the situation. Although, I don't believe she truly understands what it is like to say good-bye to your husband for a year and wanting to spend every minute you have with him. I feel if I go above her, she will resent this and see me as trying to usurp her authority when she has said, "No." I will have a very serious talk with her though as it gets closer and I have already come to terms with saying good-bye if she will not budge. In the end I believe my marriage will come before this job. Thank you again.

Emily Yoffe: But I completely understand your position, and I don't care what the company policy is, it needs to be changed because this is inhumane.

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Relationships--How Can I Forget?: Prudie,No, I am not looking for a change of scenery--not even deep in my heart. I really do value her intelligence and wit. I consider her a friend with a very small shared past and more sharing as adults who have parents and children.

Emily Yoffe: Then what's the problem and why are you writing? Normally I don't get letters from people that can be summed up, "All is well, just wanted you to know."

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Co-workers: I have a co-worker that I can not get to shut-up. She will stand in my office doorway and will complain about her personal life and work. Most of what she complains about seems ridiculous to me but she tends to take things too personally and I'm worried that if I upset her she will make life at work very difficult. How do I get her to leave me alone and leave me out of it?

Emily Yoffe: It is almost impossible to reform the logorrheic, so you have to make it unrewarding for them to spew in your ear.

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Lost in Translation: My sister has a class with a deaf boy. The class was asked by the teacher if one of them would volunteer to take notes for the boy. My sister volunteered to do so. At the end of the first day of class, she turned to the boy's translator to have the translator tell him that she would get the notes to him the next day. His translator proceeded to yell at my sister that the boy is a human being, and she should talk directly to him instead of turning to the translator to talk to him. My sister was mortified because this happened in front of the whole class, and because of course she thinks of him as a human being! My sister is a very caring person, and would never mean to offend anyone. Prudie, did my sister commit that big of a translation faux pas? Any suggestions as to how to deal with this translator in the future?

Emily Yoffe: She should apologize for making an inadvertant mistake, but explain if they're going to work together, they need to treat each other with respect and clarify misunderstandings in private.

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Military wife...: An employee who was off work for a stroke or other serious illness would obviously be protected by FMLA. But the military wife might actually qualify for FMLA, which also supports leave for the spouses of active military for "certain qualifying exigencies." Not sure a trip to Paris would count as one, but she could look into it...

Emily Yoffe: As another letter writer pointed out, a higher up might realize it would be bad publicity for the company to make an employee choose between saying farewell to a military spouse and staying in the job.

Andrea Caumont: Another questioner sends this link to FMLA policies. (PDF) And one more.

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RE: As I've mentioned, I hear from too many young women now living with someone with whom they sorta, kinda thought they had an understanding about marriage, but they're finding they didn't.: I'd love to hear your suggestions on this as it seems to be such a common problem. Is it wiser to wait for a ring? Should you ask about a specific timeframe? (Notice i'm avoiding the term "deadline" here.) How often do you bring it up before it becomes nagging? How do you know when to move on?Thanks

Emily Yoffe: I want to be married and have children. I'd like to do that with you. But if you don't want to do it with me, unfortunately, I'm not looking at the same timeline of possibility as you are."

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Is she or isn't she.... gay: I suspect my college daughter is gay, but am not sure how I should (or even IF I should) approach the subject with her. I don't want to pry into her personal life, but I do want her to know that no matter what, I will love her unconditionally.

Emily Yoffe: But I want you to know that whatever you have to tell me about yourself, I love you."

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All is well,: just wanted you to know

Emily Yoffe: dull chat.Thanks everyone. I know you're all indispensible, but I also hope that you can still go on vacation.


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