Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
May 20 2004 10:21 AM

It's a Family Affair

Coming out of the closet in a little too public of a place.

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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,

I'm a 20-year-old lesbian who recently started dating an 18-year-old friend I've known for years. The problem: She isn't out of the closet yet to her (very conservative) mother. She's planning a dramatic coming-out at her high-school graduation party, and she wants me to be there so she can introduce me to pretty much her entire extended family as her girlfriend. The situation seems to be engineered for maximum emotional bloodshed. I've tried talking her into breaking the news about her sexuality to her mother more privately, and on a less important occasion, but she is determined. My question, then, is this: How likely is my presence to make the situation worse? I want to be there as my girlfriend's emotional support, but I'm afraid of being cast by her mother as the Evil Older Woman who seduced her child into a Sinful Lifestyle—something that would undoubtedly (knowing my girlfriend) turn into a huge and possibly irreparable fight in front of all her relatives. Of course, if I'm not there, the fight may occur anyway—but I'd prefer my presence not be the reason her family disowns her. What should I do—accede to my girlfriend's wishes and be there as emotional support and Exhibit A for her homosexuality, or let her go it alone in hopes that the explosion will be smaller? Thanks very much for your help.

—Last Straw?

Dear Last,

Guess what? If you're not there, Prudie doesn't think the graduate will announce anything. You sound very emotionally smart about all this, for which you are to be complimented. Your pal's plan for the knock-out punch to her mother reeks of hostility ... not unlike (true story) the man who, at his 25th wedding anniversary black tie dinner, announced—with dessert—that he'd been unhappy for a long time and was leaving his wife. Perhaps give your lady love a choice: You will be with her at her graduation party with there being NO announcement, or if she is dead-set on coming out then, you will not be present. Offer to join her and her mother the next day for a discussion. If you can't get through to her, explain that your good judgment is telling you that an announcement of homosexuality is not something to be sprung on a room full of celebrating relatives and to call you when it's over.

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—Prudie, judiciously

Dear Prudie,

I met "Liz" 12 years ago. We both worked for the same company and became good friends. As time went on, the friendship became strained at times due to her ongoing mental health issues. These included panic attacks and severe depression. During her bouts with depression, she would use me as her analyst, something I am certainly not qualified for, and I would always beg her to seek professional help. Finally, about six years ago, she did start on antianxiety medication, but the prescription came from her gynecologist, never a licensed psychopharmacologist, much to my dismay. She did start getting better, however, and when she became involved with a guy, all symptoms went completely away. For the past four years—since she broke up with the guy—all symptoms have returned. This took quite a toll on me because when she was in a low period, I had to "talk her down." I finally told her that I was feeling quite overwhelmed by it all and said she must seek professional guidance. She did not take this well at all. Now she has entered into an affair with a married man who has moved into her home and is waiting for his divorce so they can marry. My problem now? She has asked me to be her matron of honor, something I do not want to do both because of the 12-year history and thinking it's just wrong, what she and this man did to his wife. Any advice?

—Dazed by Friendship

Dear Daze,

This would be a natural point at which to ring off from this woman who has been leaning on you for 12 years. You've been held hostage to this woman's neurosis for more than a decade, and it's time for your declaration of independence. Tell her you wish her well, but, for many reasons, you would not feel comfortable being part of her wedding. Do not succumb to any entreaties. It will feel good, and you will have your life back.

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—Prudie, unwaveringly

Dear Prudence,

For the past two years, I have shared an apartment with my boyfriend. I no longer wish to be with him, but we have a lease in both of our names. I lived there for four years before he moved in. When we fight, he refuses to sleep on the couch. The bed, along with all the furniture, belongs to me. He's actually tried to kick me out of the bedroom! I have two questions: 1) Is it unreasonable for me to feel he shouldn't be able to sleep in MY bed? 2) He refuses to move out, so am I really stuck living with him until the lease is up several months from now? I also don't want to lose the apartment, and I am the one who paid the security deposit six years ago. What can I do?

—Looking for a Sofa Bed

Dear Look,

The thing to do is tell Mr. Sensitive the romance is O-V-E-R and, with it, the living arrangements. Tell him you will be happy to sign a document stating that you are fully responsible for the rent until the lease is up, should he throw up a supposed legal roadblock. Also tell him you're sure he's not the kind of guy who would stay with a woman who no longer wants him there. If he balks, threaten taking him to court. (Since Prudie has no idea which municipal court evicts former boyfriends, call Legal Aid and ask for advice.) Good luck.

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—Prudie, solitarily

Hi Prudie,

Love your column. I'm a 28-year-old man who has no desire to get married. Unfortunately, it appears most women my age don't share that view. I do enjoy dating and having relationships with women, as long as they don't go on for more than a year or two. How and when is the best way to let potential romantic partners know this? It seems like an odd thing to bring up in the first five minutes of meeting, but it also seems unfair to wait until they've invested a lot of energy in the relationship if they're looking for something I don't want to give. Thanks for your help!

—Permanent Bachelor

Dear Perm,

Prudie has met your kind before. You say you're not a marrying man, but one day along will come a dish who will turn your world upside-down. But in the meantime ... you are right that one cannot say, in the first five minutes, "You have really nice eyes, and, oh, by the way, I have no intention of ever being anyone's husband." Perhaps your best bet is casually dropping it into conversation that you are loving being a bachelor and don't see yourself married. And Prudie suggests such a ploy when you sense there is real interest and not after having played house for several months ... if you really want to be fair.

—Prudie, honorably