Dear Miss Prudence,
My husband has a stepdaughter from a previous marriage. She is 15, and let's call her "Stacy." Stacy is welcome in our home whenever she wishes. However, Stacy dresses "over the top," for lack of better words. She will not wear an outfit unless her bust is busting out and over, even in the dead of winter. She parades around our home, in front of my children, thrusting her bust out. Even her PJs are tight. Also, she is rather large for her age. I am not a prude, please pardon the pun, but I do not want my children to be exposed to this. My husband tells me that IF he tells her to change her attire or bring different clothing along, Stacy will not want to come to visit. Excuse me? I have been firm with him and told him that Stacy may visit us anytime, but she must cover up. My husband and I have a continual fight about this. What can I do?
—Not Busting With Laughter
You can ask your husband to give you one good reason why the exotic-dancer-in-training should be allowed to wear inappropriate outfits, especially with younger children around. The exhibitionist's stepfather is being terrorized by a threatened boycott if a dress code is enforced; Prudie thinks he should call the kid's bluff. That is, lay down the law about revealing clothes ... and should she stop visiting because there are rules, so be it. It is entirely possible the teenager is looking for 1) attention or 2) restrictions. Kids who can do as they please are never really happy about it. (And her old man is doing her no favor by allowing behavior for which there is NO justification.)
I'm 23 years old and am (was?) engaged to a wonderful 24-year-old man. He's met my family—they loved him. His family doesn't really like me, but they've adapted. Here's my problem—I came home from class on Monday (I'm in college; he works full time), and he was gone. Left his debit card, cell phone, and keys to the apartment on the table and just left—no note or anything. We hadn't been fighting, haven't had more than the normal amount of stress, nothing unusual. He just left. It's now four days later, and I still haven't heard anything from him. He's still wearing the ring I gave him, so far as I know. He usually refers to me to the guys at work as his wife. This is really breaking my heart. I'm wondering when do I quit waiting for a phone call, take off the engagement ring, and call it quits?
Prudie does not like to be an alarmist, but the cell phone and debit card make Prudie think that he intended to return. Perhaps by now you have checked with friends, parents, and perhaps the police. It is one thing to make a cowardly getaway from a relationship, but quite another to leave behind things necessary to one's daily life. I hope things turn out alright and that you'll let Prudie know.
Three years ago my family was shattered by the death of our dad. He was very young, and he and mom had been married over 30 years. Since his death, mom has stopped being involved in our lives and spends all her time with "John" (who just happens to be in his early 30s, one year older than I). My siblings can barely tolerate him, and I try to look beyond the age thing. Mom is 54, and I'm glad she's not alone, but I could live without the Demi Moore situation. My question is this: How can I try to get my mom more involved in the lives of her grandchildren? There are only two of them. She rarely sees any of us, calling only to brag about how much better her life is now. (Our dad was ill for several years, and she was his caretaker.) She tells us that she thinks that she and John are better than she and dad ever were, and this really grates on me. Also, she is fine with things when they are going her way or she needs to borrow something (which she trashes completely or fails to return). As I said, she rarely sees us, and when she does, all she can do is twirl in circles and brag about how great she is and how wonderful she looks. Maybe my question is not how can I get her more involved, but how can we get her back to being Mom and not a 54-year-old adolescent with a big bank account and no responsibilities?
Everything you write points to the fact that your mother is a case of arrested development. Her conduct suggests that the presence of the boy-toy has somehow inclined her to be selfish, immature, irresponsible, and needlessly disparaging of her late husband. One can sympathize with a woman who was a caretaker for some years, but that in no way excuses her cutting loose in the manner she has. If, as you say, she ignores the grandchildren, shows up only to brag, and twirls—no less—while she recounts her virtues, there is little hope you can involve her with your children. (And maybe it's a good thing. What, after all, do you think they could learn from her?) By the way, get ready for this May-December pairing not to end well. It is likely that the disparity in their ages will come to mean more to the young man than the big bank account.
My boyfriend and I are serious and very much in love. Most everything is perfect—except for one problem: Our opinions concerning religion and politics are almost polar opposites. Whereas I would describe myself as an atheist, he is a devout Christian. This has never been an issue because he doesn't press his religion on me. I respect his beliefs, and he respects my lack of them. Recently though, with the political climate, I have been learning exactly how conservative he is. A few things have made my liberal blood boil, but nothing I don't think I can push past. My question to the wise woman is: How difficult or how likely is it to have a strong, successful future (and possibly marriage) when the man and woman disagree on such social issues? Does it happen often?
Funny that you say the stumbling blocks in your relationship are religion and politics—the two subjects people are advised never to discuss at dinner parties! Maybe the answer for you two is to never eat together. (Only kidding.) While your religious differences will remain static, what may be the dirtiest presidential campaign in many years has, alas, seven months to go. For whatever reason, opposing political views can really grate. To directly answer your inquiry, Prudie has no way of knowing how often a couple with clashing views survives ... save for the oft-cited Mary Matalin and James Carville. It is conceivable that if a couple is committed to the relationship, they will agree to disagree about ... whatever. It is also human nature for fundamentally divergent value systems to shift to annoyance when a few other things are not working well. You would probably be best off just not discussing the political/social arena—if such a thing is possible.