Choking on Family Ties

Choking on Family Ties

Choking on Family Ties

Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 8 1999 3:26 AM

Choking on Family Ties

Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com.

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Dear Prudence,

About 10 years ago, after growing up in a family without an appreciation of "family values," I decided I didn't have much use for my relationships with my siblings. Both parents are deceased, and after numerous efforts to get along with my sibs, I just quit having any contact with them. This has alleviated a lot of stress in my life, and I really don't miss them at all. I have a great group of friends whom I consider my family. They are there for me like my actual siblings never were, and they understand the lack of contact.

The problem is that I run into people who, after knowing me for a while, are dumbfounded to find out I am not an only child, and they act like there's something wrong with me because I'm not in contact with my siblings. I keep hearing, "But they are your family!" I just figure I feel better mentally without the connection, and I should keep things the way they are. But all these "family" people think I should call and reconcile with them. Is there something wrong with me? Just because I'm related to them, am I really missing something by not having them in my life?

--Sincerely,

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Happy Without

Dear Hap,

Yes, you are missing something: Sturm und Drang. Prudie thought this one through years ago because of a kindred situation, though not with your particulars. If a relationship is troublesome or destructive for whatever reason, and it's comfortable to sever communication, there is no reason to stay yoked to a bad situation as though one were part of a team of mules.

Prudie is familiar with "outsiders" offering the advice that you should just fix it up. Perhaps, in your case, it would be simpler to tell new friends that you are an only child ... because that is what you've made yourself, and this would end the awkward conversations. Nowhere is it written that children of the same mother and father have anything more in common than parents, and people who push the issue belong in a home for the intrusive.

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--Prudie, experientially

Dear Prudence,

I have been dating a man who, unlike myself, still resides under the watchful eye of his parental unit. Although his parents are very open and mostly mind their own business, there is one issue that leaves me in a tight spot. Coming from a conservative background, my partner has stated on many occasions that his parents won't allow him to stay over at my apartment, even though on some nights this would be preferable to his making the long drive home. We have been camping numerous times but always with friends, which his parents "approve of." Trying to plan a weekend getaway for our anniversary has been particularly trying, as his parents would be upset, and he refuses to lie to his parents about where he is going. Should I push the issue, or just let sleeping dogs lie and wait for him to act like a man and make his own decisions?

--Sincerely,

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Trouble in Paradise (well, Toronto)

Dear Trub,

You don't say how old you both are, but you're clearly old enough to spend the night together ... and obviously have. Prudie is getting definite vibes that your young man's "parental unit" comes with strong apron strings.

You have two options. You can insist that your fella--whom I presume to be over 21--sit his parents down and tell them about the birds and the bees. It seems to Prudie that his parents are free to follow their own moral code, but so is he. If they invite him out of their house, that might not be such a bad idea. If he is unwilling to stand up to them and assert himself, then perhaps, to use your phrase, he should lie, alone, with the sleeping dogs ... I mean the parental unit.

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--Prudie, autonomously

Dear Prudie,

The end of the world must be nigh. There was a news story about a couple in Philadelphia who paid for their $34,000 wedding by selling advertising space at the ceremony and reception! Everything, according to Reuters, "from the wedding rings to a week at a penthouse in Cancun" was donated after the groom got 24 companies to sponsor the nuptials in exchange for having their names appear six times--from the invitations to the thank you notes. The bride drew the line at having advertising banners draped across the aisle, but her perfume came from a local Oscar de la Renta distributor, and the coffee was provided gratis from a neighborhood supplier. Well, you get the idea. What do you think of all this?

--Brooksie

Dear Brooks,

Gauche, gauche, gauche, and tacky. This cannot be the wave of the future, though, so calm yourself. This is just the act of two tasteless clods who fancy themselves "business minded." Prudie hesitates to think of when the baby arrives ... so she won't.

--Prudie, gapingly

Dear Prudence,

I would like your take on workplace etiquette concerning paychecks and benefits. I am beginning to wonder if these are things we earn or gifts from Santa. Currently, I work for a law firm, but I have had this experience with every job I've had in my 20-plus years of working--even when I worked as a waitress. Employers act like it's taboo or in bad form to speak of paychecks, as in, "Are the checks in today (on pay day)?" Are we supposed to just keep checking our mailbox or under our desk blotters to see if Santa was good to us this month? What's with this hush-hush attitude when it comes to being compensated for a job well done?

--Twin Cities

Dear Twin,

You must be the queen of coincidence to have worked for over 20 years at different places where the delivery of paychecks was erratic. Prudie would suggest that you go to the office manager where you work now, or whoever writes the checks, and ask that the time for their distribution be regularized. You need not be shy. If anyone tries to close you down, or makes you feel as though your are talking about things best left unspoken, just tell that person assertively that if you are interested in guessing games you will pull out your Ouija board. Prudie thinks if you make an issue of it you will get results.

--Prudie, huffily