Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
July 15 2004 6:53 AM

When Was the Last Time You Had Sex?

Answers to those who ask inappropriate questions about infertility.

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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 am 25, and my husband is 28. We have been trying to get pregnant for about four years with no success. We've tried different fertility treatments but are not willing to take the risk of having multiples, so we haven't gone full force. At this point we have decided to stop trying and just let life happen. We are already raising my husband's 9-year-old son and consider him a blessing. My stepson and I are very close (I started dating his dad when he was a year old), and he calls me Mommy, so I feel that even though he isn't my biological child, he is still my son. So here's the question: When people ask when are we going to have a child together, what do we say without being rude or getting teary-eyed?

—Stepmommy

Dear Step,

You can be certain that anything you say that is not an in-depth answer to this prying question will be considered rude by these inquiring minds. So here are a couple responses to help you not really answer the question: "We'll let you know" or, "He IS now our child, together." Prudie feels that if people don't instinctively know what is and is not their business, they need to be educated.

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—Prudie, tutorially

Dear Prudence,

After 13 years of a very close friendship, my female friend "Q" broke off all contact with me following a phone conversation that she abruptly ended after I quoted her as often saying, "I'm rich as Croesus" (apparently some biblical character). We are both psychotherapists and live in the same town. I gather she complained to mutual acquaintances about me and my behavior over 13 years. My sister-in-law thinks Q was resentful of my growing relationship with a loving man to whom I am now married. I was physically and emotionally sick after losing her friendship. Amazingly, I still think of her fondly and wish our friendship had continued. The last contact was in 1995. I wish I could speak with her again! One time I did call, and her adult daughter called back to yell at me for causing her mother so much pain. She said Q had told her many hateful things I'd said about her/the daughter (which, actually, Q herself had said about her own daughter). Have I no recourse except to follow that ancient Chinese fortune cookie saying, "Do not worry if you cast a crooked shadow as long as you stand straight?"

—Nostalgically

Dear Nos,

Prudie thinks both of you could use a third therapist; at the very least, go with the fortune cookie. Croesus, by the way, was not from the Bible but was one of those Greek B.C. kings. For all his dough, he had a hard-knock life. But back to Q. Any person who carries on about how rich she is, becomes irate when this is pointed out, and ends a friendship because of the remark is a quart low in well-integrated-personality department. And the business with her daughter just underscores the point. Prudie understands missing your friend of many years, but looking at the big picture should tell you that you are not missing much.

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—Prudie, analytically

Dear Prudence,

My in-laws are wonderful people, but I can't seem to get over an old grudge I hold. When my now-husband first introduced me to them, the reception was rather lukewarm. I always sensed they thought I wasn't right for their son. We decided to marry after a short engagement, and when my now-husband called his parents to break the news, they were less than enthusiastic. My father-in-law even briefly tried to talk him out of it. Ever since the wedding, though, they have been warm and supportive toward me—I suppose resigning themselves to my presence and deciding to make the best of it. Five years later, we have a son of our own. My mother-in-law is staying with us for a few weeks, in part to baby-sit while our regular baby sitter is away. She is great with our son, helps out with household chores, and cooks dinner for us every night. I should be overjoyed to have her here, but instead I find myself becoming annoyed with her at the least provocation. I think I'm pretty adept at hiding my annoyance, but she probably senses something is not quite right between us. How can I overcome my resentment of her and her husband and learn to appreciate them for everything they do for us now?

—Ungrateful Daughter-in-Law

Dear Un,

You have to understand that what went on is old news, then choose the atmosphere you want to live in. For whatever reasons (legitimate or not), your in-laws would not have chosen you for their son. You have either shown them that they were mistaken, or they are very smart and are trying to have a friendly family relationship. You should let them. In acting jargon, follow the direction, "Don't go back; go on." This is a golden opportunity for you to make more than one statement without saying a word.

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—Prudie, regeneratingly

Dear Prudie,

After 25 miserable years, my parents are finally getting divorced. My youngest sister, "Kelly" (age 20), is still living with and being totally supported by our dad. She hasn't had a job in a year, doesn't go to school, and basically gets an "allowance" for breathing. Kelly now has a boyfriend (also unemployed) and though not officially engaged, they are planning a November wedding (with our parents' $$). So here is the problem: Kelly can't understand why our mother and other sister are not excited about her upcoming nuptials. She is very stubborn and defensive and continually pouts about our lack of support. Our dad defends her every step of the way, saying that "she watched her two older sisters get all the attention when they married, and it's not fair for her now." I've tried to explain to her the following: 1) We don't even know her boyfriend because she's been spending ALL her free time up north with him, and I've only seen him three times. 2) She is wasting many opportunities by not continuing her education or getting some job training. 3) I think she's basically running from our parents' divorce and is afraid to try to support herself. 4) She's NOT even engaged yet, so what do we have to get excited about? And now she's just asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. Since I am opposed to this union anyway, is it wrong to tell her no, or should I suffer in silence and try to support her in the worst decision of her life? Any advice would be appreciated.

—Begrudging Bridesmaid

Dear Be,

When people are planning a wedding and asking friends and relatives to be bridesmaids, they are engaged. No ring is required, no engagement party, no announcement in the paper. You obviously do not approve of Kelly OR her earnings-challenged fiance, and you may well be right about this being a bum decision, but your response seems to be driven by more horsepower than is called for. Sometimes wrong-seeming unions are terrific, and the ones that look heaven-sent fall apart. In any event, Prudie thinks you should definitely change your tune, be supportive, be a bridesmaid, and be quiet. Give her a fighting chance. She is your sister.

—Prudie, relatively