Advice from Slate's 'Dear Prudence'

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Emily Yoffe
Monday, March 7, 2011; 1:00 PM

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

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Emily Yoffe: Isn't it wonderful to see the first crocuses?

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long distance guilt: My best friend of twelve years moved to the West Coast to complete a two-year degree, leaving me and another of my closest friends, her fianc, behind. They are a fabulous couple, and the distance has not hurt their relationship--they call and visit one another frequently. In the last year, however, I've found myself increasingly attached to her fiance. Until she moved away, we always functioned more or less as a trio, and I never felt any attraction to him at all. Now I feel guilty all the time, over-analyzing every interaction for signs of reciprocation - which is the LAST thing I want. We work in the same department, and do volunteer work together, so I can't really avoid him. Also, he really is a great friend, and I don't have any other close friends in the city. I've been ignoring the issue for almost a year without luck. So my question is: should I get this off my chest to them (her? him? both?), or will that just make things even worse?

Emily Yoffe: Nick has given you no sign that he's the slightest bit romantically or sexually interested in you. That's good news. Trying to move in on your best friend's fiance is a plot development best left for the next Ann Hathaway movie.

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Embarrassed at a party: I recently attended a party where I knew only the hosts (a wonderful couple). Someone at the party told an incredible story about meeting and subsequently befriending a major political figure. I was suitably impressed, and asked if he'd gotten a picture with this person when they last saw one another. The storyteller nicely said he had not, and another person listening to the story blurted out "Of course not! That would have been pretty hokey!" I was terribly embarrassed, and I can't stop thinking about it. I've never considered myself to be a rube, but now I feel very foolish. How do I stop thinking about this?

Emily Yoffe: You stop thinking about this by recognizing the other guest should be saying to him or herself, "Wow, I sounded like a jerk." But most of all you recognize you're big enough to just let it go.

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Strangers at a funeral?: I'm a high schooler that just moved into a neighborhood that's right by a funeral home. Some of the more popular kids who think they're goth in the 80's sense brag about going to funerals for people they don't even know.One of them wants me to go to the next one they're going to crash but I'm really not sure if I should do it. What I would like to know is, just how wrong is it? Is it wrong at all?

Emily Yoffe:

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Mentally Ill Brother-in-Law Hurting My Baby: My husband has an adult brother who is mentally disabled. He has the mental capacity of a young child. Although "Thomas" adores my baby daughter, I'm getting increasingly worried about how he handles her. The other day I caught him bouncing her so hard she was almost up in the air. He doesn't understand babies are fragile and shakes her as a way of playing. Generally he is okay but every now and then he will rough handle my little girl without understanding that it has the potential to cause harm. I feel freaked out every time he holds her. My husband just says he will keep an eye on him and my in-laws think I'm being insensitive to their son's disability. Am I wrong to ban Thomas from holding my baby?

Emily Yoffe: Your husband and his family need a understand recognizing reality is not insensitivity.

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Stepmother young enough to be my daughter: Dear Prudence:After my father's 3rd wife passed away last year, he pursued several young "mail order brides" from Eastern Europe and Asia that he met online. He "courted" one, visited her several times in her home country and set her up in an apartment there. He later brought her to the US then married this lady from a completely-different culture nearly 45 years younger. She is young enough to be my daughter. He feels he deserves to be happy - and I want him to be - but he is driving a wedge deeper into an already estranged relationship because of his obsession with making her happy. The final straw came when I asked for his help through hard times and he didn't come through. He rarely has. It seems little can be salvaged from my relationship with him. What moral obligations do I have?-Mail Order Stepdaughter

Emily Yoffe: If you're wondering if you have a moral obligation to look out for him as he gets even deeper into old age, feel free to say, "Ludmilla, the Depends are generally next to the feminine care products."

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family members: My sister owes me money and now she does not even pick up her phone or e-mail. Should I just go to her house and ask for the money? I set up an arrangement for payback and she agreed....it is not that much money but this is becoming very awkward.

Emily Yoffe: I love you and our relationship is more important than a few bucks."

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First crocuses: Crocuses are the Chicken Littles of spring - it doesn't start until the daffodils sing.

Emily Yoffe: But I love those little spots of color that lift your spirits and say, "Allergy season is coming!"

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Colleague: t know what to do.

Emily Yoffe: If you are able to track the man down at his place of work, give him a call and explain that you'd be happy to return the letters to him, or that you will dispose of them if he prefer. Reassure him that no one else will know what you found. Your late colleague is very lucky this sad task fell to you.

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Physical abuse at work: Dear Prudie, I'm a caregiver for adults with developmental disabilities. For almost a year now, I've been working with a client who has many self-injurious and physically assaultive behaviors. I have just recently started a new shift where I work with her during the day, which is when she has most of her behaviors. I hate it! Almost every day I'm getting hit, kicked, scratched, hair pulled, bitten, or possibly all of the above, just because I'm trying to help her out with toileting, changing, etc. On top of all this, she has an extremely demanding mother who makes my co-workers and I feel like idiots even though we're taking care of her daughter. Anyway, the point of this is... although I feel embarrassed to admit it, sometimes when my client is beating me up my natural instinct is to fight back. Should I find a way to remove myself from this situation immediately? The problem is that no one wants to work in this client's home (she only has 3 of us that work there daily for morning, evening, and overnight shifts) so my boss would have to hire a new person that I'd have to train before I could leave. I'm afraid to admit to my boss or anyone else at my company that when she hits me, I want to hit her back. I don't want to be fired over something that I'm feeling, even though I truly believe I could never raise my hand in defense against her. I'm sorry for the drawn out question, but please help. Thank you.

Emily Yoffe: You're doing difficult, important work. Do not feel guilty about recognizing you are only human, but do get the assistance you deserve.

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Dietary restrictions and dating: Dear Prudence,I have just entered the world of online dating, and I was wondering how to handle the topic of my dietary restrictions. I'm gluten intolerant (I can't eat wheat, rye, or barley or any byproducts thereof) with other food sensitivities and as such, I have to resort to being "that person". The person who has to bother the waitstaff about how everything is cooked, what sauces they use and ask them to check the ingredients in the salad dressing. I detest having to do this, but it is necessary because I get very ill (for several days) if I don't. I'm very polite when I do this and I try not to be too much of a bother, but I often see people at another table rolling their eyes at me. I would like to get your thoughts on how best to handle this in the world of online dating. I know it isn't something I would want to put on my online profile, "Oh, by the way, I can't eat this, this, this, and that" but I don't want end up going to a restaurant and not being able to eat anything, or alert him that there is an issue by giving the waitress the third degree. What do you think?That Girl

Emily Yoffe: If you're relaxed about it, you should put him at ease. And if he only wants to date people who can break bread with him, better to know that early.

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Patriarchal Papa:

Emily Yoffe: but one thing you have to agree on is that you will treat each other with respect.

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How rude would I be?: t want to embarrass her, either.

Emily Yoffe: end of the car.

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Colleague:

Emily Yoffe: One of them is, "I'm so sorry for your loss, and I have a strong reason to believe you need a full screen for STDs."

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From Fort Wayne, Indiana : Dear Prudence,How do I gently tell my in-laws to knock it off?

Emily Yoffe: You could start saying to them, "Have you thought about your funeral plans?" "I've always admired your dining room table, can we have it when you die?" "The kids are going to miss their Grammy and Grampy so much when you're gone." subject.

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Colleague: Are you serious? This colleague of a coworker was given the responsibility to clean out a desk, not be the executor of this woman's estate, or to make decisions about that person's life. By moral law (and actual law) those personal items are the property of her estate, and should be passed onto the husband (or whoever is the rightful next of kin) so that they can do with what they will. This woman has no right to interfere with someone else's affairs like this.

Emily Yoffe: (They're in her office, not her home presumably for a reason.) The colleague is simply contacting the writer of the letters asking if he'd like them back. I think that's a kindness, and yes, I'm serious about that.


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