My fiance confided to me that many years ago a teen-age relative tried to molest him when he was young. Thankfully, my fiance got away from him without anything happening to him, but he never told anyone. Well, the relative is now an adult and a director of a youth center, has his own children, and has sporadic contact with my fiance's nephew. Do we say anything? My fiance is hesitant, but we both are bothered by the implications. We have no idea if he has received psychological help or ever tried to sexually assault anyone else. I was considering writing a letter to the youth center, but these are very serious accusations. What is your advice?
—Caught in a Moral Dilemma
There really is no protocol for this kind of thing, except when a child tells a grown-up at the time. Prudie is in favor of getting things out in the open, however, so the fair thing would be to have the fiance talk openly with him. At the very least this would let him know someone is watching. Since nothing actually happened in the past (your fiance was not molested), Prudie doubts that any action could be taken. It's hard to know what is now going on with this man. The "molestation" incident could have been isolated, or this guy could be a major perpetrator. What you can do, though, is monitor his contact with your fiance's nephew. Someone with a legal background may have a different take on this.
"Lonely" wrote about her husband's excessive use of chat lines and his disk of pictures that were not "family material." There is help for Lonely, even if her husband won't get help. My husband was so addicted to online pornography that he lost his job. A 12-step group called Co-Addicts/Co-Dependents of Sexual Addicts has saved my life. I have found other women who have been through the same situation and who are thriving today. My 25-year marriage is very, very rocky, and I don't know if I will stay in the relationship, but I feel strong now, and I don't feel lonely anymore. COSA has a Web siteand a national hot line. Good luck, and I hope that someday soon Lonely will hear the comforting words, "Welcome to COSA."
—Grateful COSA Member
Prudie is also grateful, on behalf of the countless people—usually women—who have written about this relatively new but powerfully destructive problem. For those who are living with this situation and writing Prudie about it, please take note and write down the COSA Web address!
My best friend is an intelligent and fun person, but she has one trait that annoys me (and her other friends) no end: She is never on time for anything. When I go up to visit her, she is never at the station when I say I'm coming in, and I always end up having to call her from the pay phone near the parking lot. Only once in three years did she have a legitimate reason for her lateness. When she comes down to the city, she never gets it together in time to make the original plans work. She calls into work late more often than any person I know. I have given her watches as gifts, but she never wears them. When she told me she has a phobia about wearing anything on her wrist, I gave her a pendant watch (which she still does not wear). The clock in her car isn't even set to the correct time, although I know it works.
I have tried to explain to her that this chronic lack of punctuality is not charmingly childlike but inconsiderate in that it wastes hours of someone else's life. She told me that this is passive-aggressive behavior left over from a childhood of dealing with an alcoholic parent and an adulthood with a controlling husband (whom she will soon be divorcing). I say she should get real and clean up her act before it costs her a job or a relationship. Other than telling her I will arrive at 1 when the reality is 2 (I hate being dishonest), what do you suggest?
Prudie suggests unloading this colossally annoying, neurotic woman unless you are the world's most forgiving, unflappable, understanding friend. You have gone far beyond the call of duty, what with the gifts of watches and phoning from parking lots. Anyone who tells you the diagnosis for her poor behavior then excuses herself by citing a controlling husband and alcoholic parents has a kind of personality-pathology. You might ask her, now that she has diagnosed herself, what she plans to do about it. It would be perfectly understandable if YOU developed a phobia about selfish, self-indulgent friends. Enough is enough, already ... or in this case, too much.
My husband and I have casual friends who insist on injecting their political views into every social situation. We have many friends and acquaintances with different political values, but these two are the only ones who feel the need to ruin a perfectly nice evening with snide and catty comments about people whom they know we support. They don't want a stimulating discussion—the amused glances and "nudges" they share make that obvious. They once invited us to dine with them and another couple, and then spent almost the entire evening in partisan political talk, totally excluding us from the conversation. My husband and I feel that it is rude to do this to people who have obviously differing views, so we usually just stay quiet or try to change the subject. We can't imagine why they would deliberately want to make us uncomfortable in this way. Over the past few years our dates with this couple have grown further and further apart as our discomfort has grown. It seems that they define us solely on our political views (which they obviously feel are morally inferior to theirs). Should I talk frankly with them about it, or should we just terminate this relationship?
—Uncomfortable Being Skewered
This couple sound like a couple of 9-year-olds, and Prudie is mystified as to why you've hung in this long. Given the previous letter, please do not construe this as "Shed Your Friends Week," but you need evenings like this like you need a hole in the head. Forget the idea of speaking "frankly" with them about your discomfort. People who comport themselves this way wouldn't get it anyway. Should they call to make another date, tell them you're busy because you're going bowling with Trent Lott.