Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
June 1 2006 6:38 AM

Honor Thy Mother

My daughter is shutting me out of my grandchild's life because I'm a lesbian.

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Dear Prudence,
My youngest daughter had a baby about a year ago, and when I went to see them last fall, I brought my new granddaughter the book Everywhere Babies. The drawings of babies were so cute and entertaining to look at that I completely missed "the numerous same-sex couples" my daughter and her husband spotted and objected to. Four months after the visit, I received a letter from my daughter and her husband asking me never to bring any more books like that into their home or even to mention same-sex relationships in the presence of their daughter. Prudie, I am lesbian. I have never talked about my sexual orientation with my six other grandchildren, yet they all know, because my children have told them. It's been a nonissue for years. On my daughter and son-in-law's honeymoon, they even stayed overnight with my former partner and her partner. My former partner helped raise my children, and they all, including my youngest daughter, love her. However, my new son-in-law is very religious in a fundamentalist way, and in the letter, they said they engaged in "prayer and discernment" before they wrote it. The language didn't sound like anything my daughter would say, and it felt like a stab in the heart. I wrote back and told them how I felt about getting a letter like that, and now I've heard nothing at all. I live a quiet, respectable life and I'm nearly 70 years old. With the world falling apart, can't they think of something better to worry about?

—Heartbroken Grandmother

Dear Heartbroken,
I bought Everywhere Babies, and you're right, it's delightful. Without your prompting, I would never have noticed the possibly two same-sex couples among the many drawings of heterosexual couples playing with their children. They are using the book as a pretext to let you know they disapprove of your sexual orientation (although apparently a free honeymoon stop on the Isle of Lesbos was OK). They say they are writing to you out of religious conviction, but their nasty and gratuitous attack surely violates the commandment to "Honor thy Father and Mother." Since you've now exchanged letters on this subject, and since you're not in the habit of discussing your sexuality with your grandchildren anyway, perhaps they will be smart enough to drop it. Get in touch with your daughter and see if you can have a pleasant conversation about how your granddaughter is doing. If she is hostile or brings up your sexual orientation, you can, as calmly as possible, explain that you are trying to be a grandmother to your 1-year-old granddaughter, not discuss your sex life with her. If your daughter wants to block that relationship, there's not much you can do—although perhaps your other children could talk to your daughter about the hurt this is causing. How sad to deprive a little girl of a loving grandmother in the name of religious piety! At least you can revel in the wonderful relationships you have with your six other grandchildren.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I will be getting married next year to the most wonderful man in the world. We share similar goals in life. One of those goals is that neither of us wants children. We are both in our 30s and don't want to be raising children into our late 50s. Our friends, family, and even acquaintances constantly ask us when we're going to start a family. When I respond that we don't want children, I get a lecture about how wonderful children are and how much I am missing. We both love children. We have plenty of nieces and nephews with whom we enjoy spending time. How do we head off those people who feel it is important to question our choices? One neighbor of mine suggested lying and telling them we are unable to have children (which will embarrass the asking party), but I am not one who can lie very well.

—No Child of Mine

Dear No,
As far as acquaintances are concerned, "I'd rather not discuss such a private matter" should do it. But family and friends are different. Yes, it's true that ultimately it's not anyone else's business, but from a human perspective this is a loss for both sets of parents. No one has parents who say, "I hope my child grows up to marry someone wonderful and they don't have children together." With your intimates, next time they bring it up, explain that you understand this is painful for them, but you are both comfortable with your decision and lecturing won't change your mind. Now I will join the chorus of people who are driving you crazy. You are about to get married, and as life's circumstances change, it is worth re-examining your goals, especially this one (and yes, I know, I am offending all happy childless people). You're only in your 30s—if you have children now, they'll be grown by the time you reach your late 50s! You say you love children, but as close as you may be to your nieces and nephews, that's no substitute for having your own. The people who know and love you best hope you and your husband have children—that alone makes it something worth considering.

—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
Recently I attended a wedding of a dear friend of mine from college. The wedding was in the town where we all went to school and many college buddies and beaus attended. The interesting thing was that a man I had had a crush on through most of college gave me a lot of attention. Problem is, I'm happily married with husband on arm! I loved the attention and wanted to e-mail him afterward to see what he's been up to in the past few years. I would never think of cheating on my husband, and there really wasn't any sexual attraction with this other man (well, in college there was, but not anymore). Is it wrong for me to want to reconnect with this other man, or any other men I used to have feelings for? I genuinely want to know how old flames' lives are going. If I were to reconnect with these other men, I know my husband would feel somewhat threatened by it. I just wanted to know your thoughts on loving old boyfriends but not being "in love" with them.

—Big Heart

Dear Big,
While your former crush was giving you so much attention at the wedding, how is it you didn't find the time to answer the now-gnawing question of what he's been up to the past few years? If you review your conversation with him, I bet you'll realize you got an answer to, "Hey, what have you been up to?" You're trying to convince yourself that you're strictly seeking biographical information, but you're not convincing me—and you rightly know you're not going to convince your husband. Especially troublesome is that you characterize as a "problem" having your husband, to whom you claim to be happily married, on your arm. And isn't it a little odd that this desire to reconnect with people from your past does not extend to catching up with female friends? In general, there's nothing wrong with being in touch with old flames. In this particular, you're playing with fire.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
My husband and I have been close friends with another couple since college. We were both recently in the bridal party for their wedding. After an engagement party, four bridal showers, a couples shower, and the wedding (we brought gifts for each) my husband and I have been set back financially due to the gift-giving extravaganzas. Now, the weekend that they have returned from their honeymoon, they are throwing a birthday party for their dog! My husband and I feel like we have been picked up, turned upside down, and shaken until everything we have has fallen out of our pockets. It seems like we have been taken advantage of in our relationship even before the wedding madness began (vacations, etc.). In addition, the wife recently inherited a large amount of money. My husband and I are nowhere near that kind of financial stability and lead a modest lifestyle. I would hate to end a close relationship that we have had for almost a decade, but to continue in this way is really putting a dent in our pocketbook.

—Gifted Out

Dear Gifted,
One shower is a celebration, six is a hosing. This couple sounds more like they were involved in a RICO conspiracy than a wedding. You shouldn't have given in to their extortion—for future reference, a single shower gift is sufficient. If you want to continue your relationship with these two, make sure you are in controlled situations (dinner at their house, a night at the movies) where a running tab is not necessary. If they want you to do such things as go on vacation with them, explain that you are on a budget and that you must have your financial obligations clearly defined before the fun begins. But what makes you think the birthday party for the dog is a gift-giving event? Have they announced the dog is registered—at someplace other than the American Kennel Club? If they truly are expecting a gift for Poochy, then a doggie bag of gristle would be an appropriate choice.

—Prudie