Advice from Slate's 'Dear Prudence'

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
Emily Yoffe
Tuesday, February 22, 2011; 1:00 PM

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

_______________________

Emily Yoffe: I look forward to your questions.

_______________________

Gestational carrier doesn't want us at the birth: After 8 years of heartbreaking infertility, my husband and I are expecting a baby girl through my sister-in-law who wonderfully offered to be our gestational carrier. She is now seven months pregnant. While discussing the pregnancy and labor last week, she made some reference to us coming to the hospital after the birth to see the baby for the first time. I was completely floored because my husband and I assumed we would be there for the labor. When I clarified, she said she felt uncomfortable about us witnessing the birth, or even being present while she's having contractions. For all own three children she only had her husband and medical staff present. I know I must respect her decision but I feel tremendously hurt at the thought of not seeing my child being born. It seems wrong that we won't be there for one of the most significant events in her life. Am I unreasonable to feel so upset?

Emily Yoffe: Again, it would have no effect on your feelings about your child. Accept with grace that her desire for privacy will have no affect on the lifetime of significant events you will experience with your child. Tell her that you understand her feelings, and reiterate that your gratitude for what she is doing for you is boundless.

_______________________

Washington, DC: My 60-year-old mother-in-law is retired, divorced and lives on a fixed income. But she loves to shop and spends thousands of dollars on luxury goods -- for herself, for family, etc. My husband is very worried about her spending, particularly since she doesn't seem to be planning for her future. So, when she actually offers to buys us these lavish things before actually spending the money, he declines. In constrast, his other siblings accept. She then gets offended. In other instances, we've expressed gratitude, then returned her gifts so that the money could be credited back to her account. Again, anger. It's becoming a cycle that is uncomfortable at best. Are we being rude by not taking these gifts? How better could we handle this?

Emily Yoffe: They should offer to work with her to get a budget in place, explaining that they want to make sure she has enough money for what they hope is a long, long life. But maybe the rest of them like the designer duds she buys more than they are concerned about her finances. In that case, since your mother-in-law gets angry if you don't accept her gifts, take them. Then return them, and put the cash in an interest-bearing account you can draw on when she inevitably comes to you for help.

_______________________

Please tell me to stop imagining a different life: Dear Prudie,I am a happily married 30-something, with 2 kids. Last year, I made a new friend - through mutual friends from college - and I cannot stop fantasizing about what could-have-been with this person. I know that the first thing you will question is my self-characterization as being happily married - but I am. My husband and I have built a wonderful life together, and I don't want to damage that in any way. Just to be clear, the object of my fantasies has been completely appropriate in all interactions with me, and has done nothing to suggest that he returns these feelings - so no "blame" falls on his shoulders for my predicament. This is all my internal monologue spinning out of control.So why am I persistently fantasizing about what might have happened with this other person, if we had met each other earlier in our lives? Why am I finding it so difficult to do the things that I know I need to do to put an end to this (i.e., defriending him on facebook; no longer finding excuses to e-mail or chat with him)? Why am I so tempted to reach out to this person and tell him how I feel - even though I know that I could never act on these feelings? -- Please tell me to stop imagining a different life

Emily Yoffe: I'm happy to oblige: Stop!

_______________________

Family Relationships: Dear Prudence,Last year, my sister "Sarah" broke off a relationship with her then-boyfriend "George." Based on what Sarah has told us, George was verbally and physically abusive, and their relationship ended after a violent physical altercation.Now, it's several months later, and Sarah has said that she's going to begin seeing George again, despite every member of our family telling her that she deserves so much better.Both my husband and I feel that we would not be comfortable being around George. We fear for Sarah's safety and our own, and we do not wish to socialize with him or welcome him back to our home. I know that these feelings will put a huge wedge between me and Sarah. We live only about 30 minutes apart, and she feels that we should all get over our negative feelings and welcome George back.Are we doing the right thing? And if so, how do we convey to Sarah that we want to continue to spend time with her but that we want nothing to do with George?Signed,Concerned Sister

Emily Yoffe: You can't be relaxed around him, because you are concerned about her safety when she's not in your sight. So tell her you want to see her and socialize with her, but you'll have to do it without George.

_______________________

family+politics=help!: A member of my husband's family is running for mayor of our smallish city. This guy is an arrogant know-it-all who has a lot of education but no common sense. The other day, his mother remarked to me that they "are going to lose a lot of friends over this" when relaying a story about a friend's non-support of her son. Frankly, I think he would be a terrible mayor,but he does have a strong shot. How in the world do I support my choice without starting the family version of WW3?

Emily Yoffe: No one has to know what you think. You can tell his family, "I certainly hope the best candidate wins." Then cast your vote to help make this happen.

_______________________

My dad is adopting NOW?: Am I totally selfish as an adult child to be upset that my dad is adopting his new wife's child from a previous marriage? It really bugs me to hear this kid call my dad "Dad". He's MY dad, no one else's dad.

Emily Yoffe: Do your best not to dwell on, "He never came to MY dance recitals!" and start thinking, "It's pretty cool to have a younger sibling." In the future, this new sibling could be a loving aunt or uncle to your kids, and someone to help you carry the load when your father is really old.

_______________________

Stay at home mothering: Dear Prudie,I am the mother of one beautiful 6 month old little girl and I have been staying home with her since she was born. My dilemma is this: I am bored to death. I feel like such a bad mom because I feel completely stifled by my day in and day out routine. If you have children, I'm sure you know what I mean. I know she thrives off of this schedule, and I adore seeing how happy and sweet she is, but I could pull my hair out most days. The highlight of my week is going grocery shopping for heaven's sake! When I realized this is how I was feeling, I started trying to take steps to fix it, ie asking my hubby to take me out to dinner(alone), trying a little harder to make time for good friends, and we even went on an overnight stay for our anniversary. I also have decided to get a part time job just to give me a chance to meet other people and have adult conversations. This is all great and I'm happy with it, but I can't get over my guilt. I feel so terrible that I'm happy to leave my baby, even if it is with her grandparents. Everyone is forever telling me that I'm going to miss her being a baby and I should spend every moment of my day soaking up my time with her, but I just don't think I can do it and keep my sanity. I'm afraid when she gets older she will think I don't like being with her, which is absolutely not the case. I just need a little time for myself when I'm not reading "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" over and over again and having conversations with an infant. I told this to my husband, who said he thinks it's perfectly normal, and he completely supports me taking steps to make myself happier. So why do I feel so bad? I love her so much and I don't want to sacrifice her happiness for mine. Am I doing the right thing Prudie??Signed,One Bored Mama

Emily Yoffe: You'll enjoy your child more if you're not beating yourself up over how you "should" be feeling.

_______________________

Gestational Carrier vs. Mom-to-Be: Pregnancy and birth are remarkable bonding experiences. Mom-to-be's sister-in-law is, as you point out, being incredibly generous with her body and time. Mom-to-be should respect her needs, and understand that perhaps she needs a few minutes with the baby she's carried for nine months - to say goodbye to her child, and hello to her niece.

Emily Yoffe: put it.

_______________________

MIL help!: Hi Prudie! Love the column. I have a MIL question. Recently, I was at my inlaws house for a break. It was great, they are wonderful people, who I generally enjoy spending time with, with one exception. Whenever my husband and I are just about to leave my inlaws, his mother proceeds to do a whole house sweep to make sure we haven't forgotten anything. While, at the beginning of our relationship I thought 'how thoughtful', I recently, find this routine slightly odd. I've tired to mention, 'oh no, I don't need any help picking up our stuff' but she literally follows me around room to room watching to make sure I've gotten everything. I feel more like a 6 year old instead of a 30 year old woman! I tried to bring up my feelings last month, that I find this behavior upsetting me now, and I was basically told 'it is her house, it makes her feel better if she checks everything, and it makes her grumpy if anything is left behind'. I guess I was frustrated that I was disregarded all together and am tired of being followed around the house. I've have tried to let this issue drop as it just seems so darn silly and tried suggesting a compromise such as if she could wait till I've left or just ask if I need help at all, to no avail. Should I just let this drop?

Emily Yoffe: This is your mother-in-law problem? She a lovely person whose company you enjoy who also doesn't want to get this phone call saying, "Marie, I left my moisturizer in the bathroom and my phone charger in the wall -- could you drop them in the mail for me?"That she does a sweep of the house before you leave is not a problem. That you think everyone has to attend to your feelings and your sense of self-regard is. You were given some good advice from your family to drop it, so do so.

_______________________

Interracial Marriage: Hi Prudie. I have been married to my husband for a few months. He is Indian and I am white. My family has completely accepted him and has no problem with our marriage. His parents, on the other hand, were not happy with our relationship and refused to come to the wedding. They have remained cool to me when I have reached out to them. My husband has been in the middle of his parents and me for a couple of years and pretty much broke off communication with his parents over their not supporting our marriage. I have tried to support him by not pressuring him and urging him to keep communicating with his family, all the while knowing they have said unpleasant stuff about me because of their displeasure. What more can I do to help heal this rift and have them accept me as their daughter-in-law? I know time will help but I still feel hurt that they didn't come to the wedding and have remained very cool to me. I don't want to end up with a lifetime of resentment, and especially don't want my husband to turn on me one day, blaming me for causing this rift. Thanks.

Emily Yoffe: I will say that I've had several letters over the years from women in your situation and some have said that lo, and behold, when the grandchildren came the hostility quickly evaporated.

_______________________

dating: Dear Prudence,I'm a senior in high school, and as unlikely as it sounds, I've never dated. I was too busy with school, friends, and hobbies. I figured there would be plenty of time for relationships. Now, I wonder if I've thrown away my chance. You see, I'm not interested in sex. I'm not ready to expose myself that intimately to anyone and I don't know if I'll ever be. I know that sex is a wonderful thing, natural, blah, blah, blah. I'm just not ready or interested. But I know that sex is an expected part of adult relationships. What are the chances, in college or beyond, that I'll find a guy who feels the same way I do? I don't want to deceive anyone, lead him to expect something I don't intend to give, so I don't see how I can try to date, even casually. Should I just give up on romance altogether? Sell out and do something I really don't want to? Become a nun? -Never Been Kissed

Emily Yoffe: you might, do so freed from any notions about how the evening is supposed to end.

_______________________

War of the Flowers: Dear Prudie,My roommate's girlfriend gave him several orchids that were near death. They were shriveled, yellow, their flowers had fallen off and they were generally in bad health. She gave them to him because she 'couldn't bear to look at how sad they were' so she sent them to him to die. As an experienced flower keeper, I immediately asked if I could have them to try and bring back. My roommate and his girlfriend didn't care. Now it's been 7 months and I managed to save two of them and they are gorgeous and in full bloom. Now she wants them back! I feel bad, because they ARE her orchids, but I've had them for so long and really appreciate them, that I really want to keep them. I also think that if she takes them back they'll be dead permanently this time. Do I give them back? Or do I try and convince her they're better off with me?

Emily Yoffe: But if you want to purchase some more orchids, I'd be happy to give you advice on how to take care of them."

_______________________

Altering my Signature: My dilema involves my signature. I have somewhat of a long last name. When I learned to sign my name in cursive as a child I always hated that it was not as "pretty" as the way my friends were able to sign their names. I have dealt with anxiety issues all of my life because I grew up with an alcoholic father. The smallest things in life give me enormous amounts of anxiety. I am now 29 and I have saught therapy in the past few years which has been a tremendous help to me in coping with my anxiety and my past. But one problem I don't know how to resolve is my "ugly" signature. because of my long name, I always felt that I took longer than other folks to sign, say for example, on a credit card receipt at the checkout. Being prone to anxiety, I became convinced that the clerk was staring at me wondering why I was wasting their time as I signed my name. As a young adult I would sign my name faster and faster so that I wouldn't be a bother, until eventually my signature became nothing more than a scribble. Through therapy I was able to get over feelings that I was a waste of other people's time. I am much happier and healthier now, but everytime I scribble my name it is an ugle reminder of my past. Everyone who sees it comments on how ugly my signature is. I would like to change my signature so that it is more legible but I wonder about the legal ramifications. It would not match my driver's license signature, nor the bank's record of my handwriting. Is is crazy of me to want to change my signature at the age of 29? would this raise redflags to the dmv or my bank?

Emily Yoffe: And no longer worrying about how everyone else responds when you write your name -- however it looks -- should be part of your therapy.

_______________________

Guilted friendships: I have a coworker who is set on chatting all day, and she could care less about actual work. I don't mind having a friendship, but it seems no matter what I do (e.g. shut door, unplug office phone), she keeps coming around to chat with me. I've tried the "I really need to get this done," and stare at the computer, but she just stands in my office and keeps talking. Today she guilted me into driving her to get lunch. Apparently she "forgot" to pack lunch and her car is in the shop - for scheduled maintenance. I don't want to go out to lunch, and I don't want to drive her anywhere, but I felt bad saying "no" to someone who might go hungry. It feels more like manipulation than a friendship. How should I handle this the next time? Thanks.

Emily Yoffe: From now on start saying, "Susan, I'm in the middle of a project and I can't talk to you now." If she won't leave, feel free to shut the door in her face. If she wants rides or other favors, respond, "Sorry, I can't help you."

_______________________

Re: Dating: I went on a few dates in college, but didn't date anyone until I was 23. My first boyfriend made our own, adult choices about our physical relationship informed by the beliefs we shared. We're now happily married. I remember feeling like it was all over at 16, 18, 20, and so on, but it had really not yet begun.

Emily Yoffe: Indeed! Thanks for this.

_______________________

Needy mother-in-law: My mother-in-law is a stroke survivor who, although impaired, is far from totally disabled. While capable of much more, she chooses to make little or no effort to better her condition in life and instead plays the invalid, more or less demanding to be taken care of, if not waited on hand and foot. My husband and I have a young child and just built our dream home (spacious, but not palatial). My mother-in-law has come right out and asked us several times if she can move in with us. If she weren't such a drain - both emotionally and physically - I'd be more likely to consider it, but I simply can't bring myself to agree to the situation. I already have one person relying on me for their care, but at least that one is 18 months old, not 60-something! Part of me feels horribly guilty for basically telling my MIL that while we have the space, we simply don't want her. Am I a horrible person?

Emily Yoffe: You and your husband can help making sure she's well cared for, but you have no obligation to sacrifice your privacy, sanity, and your marriage for her.

_______________________

Different Life: Please - please - please keep your fantasies with this other man to yourself. I was "another woman." I had a great male friend. Upon telling him the news that my husband an I were expecting, he decided to tell me that he had hoped one day we would have a life together, but I guess it's not going to work out since I'm now pregnant with my husband's child. It ruined our friendship. My husband wants nothing to do with him. Yes, it was harmless, but it's so selfish to push your fantasy on the other person.

Emily Yoffe: The beauty of a fantasy is that its yours to indulge and no on has to know. So, people with fantasies, keep them to yourselves!

_______________________

Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Talk to you next Monday.


© 2011 The Washington Post Company

Discussion Archive

Viewpoint is a paid discussion. The Washington Post editorial staff was not involved in the moderation.

Network News

X My Profile