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I'm at loggerheads with all my close girlfriends. I am a few years out of college and have a wonderful job with real possibilities for advancement. The bone of contention is my boyfriend. Everyone is saying, "Run!" but I am absolutely crazy about him. I will be perfectly honest with you: He's gorgeous and great in the sack. What everybody is worried about is that he doesn't have much ambition and goes from one job to the next ... and these "positions" are not at a very good level. He kind of knows that my friends don't like this romance, but he tells me he's sure, in time, that he'll mature into a responsible adult. I would be interested in how my situation looks to an outsider.
—Pulled and Torn
Prudie would feel more hopeful about your relationship if the young man's attributes included more than good looks and sexual skills. Ambition and maturity are not going to materialize just because the calendar advances. What Prudie thinks you need to remember is that an erection is not a sign of personal growth. Bail out, honey. It has been pretty much proved that when one's inner circle agrees that a guy is bad news, that is exactly what he is.
My mother died in 1989, my father remarried a year later, and for the last 10 years he has given me nothing but heartache. At 16, he told me to leave after my stepmother told him how much she disliked me. Several months later he told my younger brother to see if he couldn't find a place to stay. My brother was 12 years old and managed to stay with friends until an aunt and uncle took him in. Several months after that, my little sister, who was 8, was sent to live with an aunt and uncle in a different state. Since then my siblings and I have done everything we can, short of hitting him on the head with a 2-by-4, to get him to acknowledge our existence. Finally, for my own peace of mind, I gave up and got on with my life rather than harbor so much unhealthy anger.
I am now 26 and will be marrying an absolutely wonderful man in September. I am happy, have two good jobs, live in a great area, and have fantastic friends. My question to you is: What do I do about inviting my [dad] to the wedding? I don't particularly want to, but I know that if he finds out I got married without telling him, he will be furious. What do you suggest I do?
—Heartsick and Confused
Prudie has so many things to tell you. First, she hopes you are very proud of yourself for growing up to be such a sound, thoughtful, and productive adult with some heavy odds against you. Second, grown-ups are not required to be on good terms with their parents ... particularly those who behaved in cowardly ways, displaying a total lack of responsibility and loyalty. Third, do whatever will make you feel the best.
Prudie does not wish to seem excessively Freudian, but the reason the word "dad" is in brackets in your letter is that you left it out! In point of fact, you did not, could not even type in the word. This may have been merely a typo ... but what an omission! And it was meaningful that you wrote you "don't particularly want to" invite him.
As to your surmise that he will be furious if left out, Prudie has a question for you: So what? This man—a father in biological terms only—and his disgraceful wife really do not deserve to be with you on such a joyous occasion. It would be like inviting two skunks to a garden party.
Just a reminder that Slate is an Internet publication and is read all over the world. For instance, here in Finland men do wear engagement rings but not wedding rings! But I realize the original question was asked by an American.
Of course you are right on both counts. Cultural customs differ ... and the chap with the problem was an American. Prudie, by the way, loves hearing from readers all over the world. One regular correspondent even lives in Beijing.
A while back my husband and I, our two children, and an elderly acquaintance were all invited by my in-laws to dinner at a popular local restaurant. The restaurant also has a bar that is very small and is separated from the dining area by a salad bar. There was a group of eight seated at a table not far from us who were not dining, only drinking, and they were quite inebriated and carrying on one of the most vile and vulgar conversations I have ever heard in a public place. Other patrons were obviously distressed also, and our waitress asked the drunks if they could speak more quietly. As soon as she left the table, they went right back to the same conversation—and just as loudly. If it had been up to me, I would have up and left right then, but my in-laws seemed unbothered and wanted to eat. As we were leaving, the waitress apologized and said the group had been there for several hours. If the owner had been there, she said, he surely would have asked them to leave. Is there a better way this could have been handled? Should the authorities have been called? I have not been able to get this incident out of my mind since it happened.
—S. in Des Moines, Iowa
It is always unfortunate when people have been drinking for hours. The result is that they get shnockered and the decibels go up and the judgment gets turned off ... hence the high-volume vulgarity. Prudie does not know what you mean by "authorities." It would have been good if the waitress had been able to summon the boss to come deal with the situation. Or if the bartender had cut them off, citing dram shop laws. Police, however, to Prudie's knowledge, do not go into commercial establishments to tell people they've had enough to drink and to please pipe down. (Unless they become violent.) Because this distasteful evening has lingered in your mind, it might be a good idea when next you dine with your in-laws (who perhaps are hard of hearing?) that you choose a place where there is no bar.