Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Feb. 26 2004 9:15 AM

Too Young for Grandparenthood?

When your spouse is closer in age to your children than to you.

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Get "Dear Prudence" delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)

Dear Prudence,

My only child, now a married young adult, is expecting his first child. Although I must admit it's disconcerting to think of myself as "Grandma" in my mid-40s, I'll surely get over it. It's my husband who's the problem. At just shy of 30, he is 15 years my junior and only a little over five years older than my son. Clearly, even if he himself did NOT explicitly object (and he does, vociferously!), it seems wildly inappropriate for a man still on the right side of 30, with zero relationship to the child, to be called "Grandpa." Even the ubiquitous "step" prefix doesn't cover it; my husband and my son were never in a "step" relationship. In fact, my son and his wife married before my husband and I did. HELP!

—Age-Gap Grandma

Dear Age,

Actually, being married to you does make your husband your son's stepfather; that relationship is never predicated on who gets married when. As for grandparent names, they usually just happen. For example, Prudie's older grandchildren call her by her first name. The toddler grandchild calls her GaGa, which we will assume is not a judgment because the child is only 3. In any case, with your spouse being vocal about not wishing to be Gramps, he will surely acquire a name with which he feels comfortable.

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—Prudie, ancestrally

Dear Prudence,

I have been close friends with "John" for several years and until recently would have trusted him with my life. Everyone referred to us as "joined at the hip," and we always socialized together, often sleeping in the same bed after a night out, although the friendship was completely platonic. About a year ago, I became friendly with another friend of his, "Sarah," who's also the sister of a close friend of mine. Recently Sarah and her sister came to me with something they wanted to tell me: John sexually assaulted Sarah one night after a party when she'd had too much to drink and they were sharing a futon. Sarah felt I should know this but otherwise would like it kept a secret, as she wants to forget about it and put it behind her. Obviously she is no longer friends with John. Although I feel that John should be shot, I respect her right to keep this private but cannot continue my friendship with him. Not only has it completely changed my opinion of him, but also I fear for my safety. What I would like to ask you is what should I say to mutual friends when they inquire as to why I can no longer stand the sight of him? I feel that "we fell out" is not sufficient for close friends. Your advice would be much appreciated.

—Ash

Dear Ash,

This is tricky. If you are absolutely convinced of Sarah's truthfulness—and you have no reason not to be—you do not know, for a certainty, that John committed the assault. Prudie only mentions this because to repeat such an accusation, should it be untrue, would be slanderous. On the other hand, this situation has the ring of truth, so why not act as a good citizen and warn everybody? Criminals do not deserve protective silence. But: Sarah did not pursue him legally, so there is no public record. As you can see, this is rather convoluted. Because it is human nature to confide things such as this to close friends, it would be asking a lot for you to offer no explanation as to why you and John no longer speak. It sounds as though the one thing you haven't done, however, is ask John. If he admits it, even with defenses and excuses, you will know the story is true. If he denies it, there would be a sliver of uncertainty, making it problematic for you to repeat the story. At the very least you can tell close friends, "It is just too awful to talk about." (They may imagine that he murdered someone, but you will have been true to yourself.)

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—Prudie, compromisingly

Dear Prudence,

I am 15 and attend a private Christian school, lead a good life, and attend church twice a week. My mother knows I am a good person and praises me for my good works, but she won't let me date, nor will she allow me to go out in group settings. I am becoming desperate and have snuck out a few times to feel some degree of normalcy. I believe the reason for her not allowing me to take part in normal teenage activities is because she became pregnant in high school. I believe she is correcting her mistake by forcing me to live a very controlled and, in my opinion, boring life. I wish I knew the key to her thoughts about this. When the subject is brought up, she answers with, "Because I said so." I know time will not improve this because my sister is now 18, a senior in high school, and still not permitted to go on a date. Please help me.

—A Nun at 15

Dear Nun,

You sound responsible and rational, and Prudie agrees that your mother is not being fair. She is so regretful about her youthful mistake that all she can think of, relative to you and your sister, is to lock you up. You need help in bringing her around, so perhaps a grown-up at school could be enlisted to help your mother understand that her history should not be grounds to punish you and your sister. To not allow a 15-year-old to join groups of friends sounds quite drastic. If other kids your age, at your school, are going out in groups or having "real" dates, it shouldn't be hard to recruit help. Do ask the school counselor or a favorite teacher to talk to your mother on your behalf. You might point out that your behavior, not your mother's, should determine age-appropriate privileges. The irony here, of course, is that kids raised with unduly strict rules are the likeliest to go wild at the first opportunity. In any case, Prudie wishes you good luck and a speedy end to your involuntary spinsterhood.

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—Prudie, intercessionally

Dear Prudence,

I am a 25-year-old man attracted to a 17-year-old girl. She worked at my office some time ago. We got to e-mailing recently, due to inadvertent intervention of a third party. I consider this girl my intellectual peer and have reason to believe my attraction is reciprocated. Due to legal considerations, I have resolved to not pursue this as a romantic relationship. Several months ago she made a sideways reference to romance, and it frightened me enough to quietly end our friendship. Crassly, should I just stay away from her until she is 18?

—Humbert Humbert Jr.

Dear Hum,

The concise answer is yes … due to legal considerations. You have played it just right so far. This girl will be of legal age in fewer than 12 months. Then you can explore the attraction. (And you are not THAT old. Plus, she's no Lolita. Your signatorial namesake, by the way, was a middle-aged man.)

—Prudie, patiently