Bossy Mom

Bossy Mom

Bossy Mom

Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 7 2000 11:30 PM

Bossy Mom

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

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Dear Prudie,
Please help! I have an overbearing, controlling mother, who is also my employer. I have worked in our family-owned business for 15 years, so changing employment is really not an option. No matter how firmly I try to tell her I am old enough to make my own decisions, she either tries to force her way of doing things or continues with the unsolicited advice. By the way, I am 37 and the oldest of two girls. She treats my sister and me like we're imbeciles. She excuses all this by saying she is "helping us." Though I have made my mistakes, I have done a good job at the agency and don't want to go looking for a job unless it becomes a necessity. She is very smart and well-known and respected in our community—except for her tactless, uncaring personality. She forces her opinion on others, which has cost her more than a few friends and business associates.

—Deep Questions

Dear Deep,
This taffy-pull of a relationship sounds hellish—and every day, yet. When you say, "changing employment is not an option," where is it written that one must stay in a (dysfunctional) family business? Prudie would rather sling hash than be a 37-year-old child. You further say you're not interested in changing jobs "unless it becomes a necessity." Not to be Clintonesque about this, but what is the meaning of "necessity"? Some people would put mental health and career satisfaction before job security. There are psychologists and counselors, by the way, who deal only with family business problems. If your mother is willing, you might try that. It is also possible, depending on how the business is set up, to demand to be bought out. Although you don't mention the type of agency, if there's no way to arrange a more peaceful work environment Prudie suggests you take yourself to a competing agency. You will at least have the benefit of knowing the business, and not have Miss Congeniality breathing down your neck.

—Prudie, pragmatically

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Dear Prudence,
I would like to say something to "Concerned Mom": The story you posted about your daughter is similar to something I went through—only I am the "loser" boyfriend. I used to be in trouble all the time—both with the law and my parents. I was arrested for burglary and smoked pot all the time, along with using other drugs. That was three years ago. Then I met an 18-year-old girl (I was 22 at the time) who turned things around. She didn't necessarily change my life, but having her in my life made me want to change. I shaped up, finished school, and now do professional computer animation and special effects. On the side I create Web pages, build computers, yada, yada. Maybe this guy is a loser, but just maybe your daughter has looked beyond the surface (which, I might add, not many people do) and found a person who, with a little encouragement, can clean up his act. That's my two cents' worth.

—RaiThioS

Dear Rai,
What a hopeful and interesting letter ... which is not to say that there aren't plenty of your unredeemed brethren out there. Thank you for the testament that anyone can change, and congratulations.

—Prudie, admiringly

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Pru,
I have been married for 18 years and now find out my husband is having an affair on the Internet. He calls her once or twice a day on the phone (our phone bills are outrageous), and they e-mail all the time—and he admits he has feelings for her. He claims he still loves me, but is not in love with me. What should I do?

—Wife Who Still Loves Her Husband

Dear Wi,
If Prudie hears about one more guy who says he loves a woman, but is not in love with her, she's going to gag. Tell him what he is in is a marriage. After 18 years, does he think he took you on approval? To quote the late Princess of Wales (because your spouse sounds like a royal pain), there are three people in this marriage ... even though the babe on the other end of the computer is virtual, not actual. They may not be doing anything physically adulterous, yet, but your husband admits he has feelings for her—and you now know about it. If he doesn't knock it off, you might consider inviting him to live separately for a while until he decides what you (and I'm guessing a family) mean to him. That ought to either clear his head or clear him out. Your choices are not easy, but one is bound to be better for you than the other: You can either live with him flaunting his flirtation and flouting convention, or live without him.

—Prudie, selectively

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Dear Prudie,
Is it ever OK to nudge your seatmate on a bus if they're snoring? Is it dependent on the decibel level?

—Zzzzzzzz

Dear Zz,
Snoring on buses is not a particularly hot topic for the etiquette mavens, so here is Prudie's best judgment. Snoring, by its very nature, is an unpleasant noise that belongs in a bedroom ... so if it's loud enough for you to hear, it is probably loud enough to disturb others. A bus ride, however, is less of a problem—snoring-wise—than, say, a night at the symphony. Prudie approves a gentle nudge to silence the sound effects, provided the seatmate is known to you. For a snoring stranger, you could try some strategic fidgeting or throat-clearing. A noiseless nap, however, may be ignored.

—Prudie, restfully