Can we go back to being friends without benefits?

Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 24 2008 7:30 AM

Making Out Like a Bandit

My "friend with benefits" wants to pretend our hook-ups never happened. How do I salvage the relationship?

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Dear Prudence,
Recently, while having dinner at my in-laws' house, my very rude sister-in-law informed me that she was going to feed my 3-month-old daughter sugar-free pudding. I nicely told her that my daughter is exclusively breast-fed and is not ready for solid foods. While I was in another room, I noticed that my mother-in-law was no longer holding my baby. I walked into the dining room and caught my sister-in-law by surprise. She had fed my baby pudding from her finger. This made me extremely angry and upset. When I told her again my daughter is not ready for solid food, she rudely said it wouldn't hurt the baby. Not only could the sugar-free additives cause an allergic reaction but so could the milk in the pudding. Not to mention that I totally felt betrayed that she would do something that I asked her not to do. I am sure that she didn't wash her dirty finger before she placed it in my child's mouth, either. How do I handle this situation when we see them at family gatherings? We constantly disagree when it comes to the way we parent our children.

—Leave My Baby Alone

Dear Leave,
Your sister-in-law must have pudding for brains. While it was unlikely a fingerful of the stuff would hurt your child, what she did was a flagrant and provocative violation. Next time you're all together, I suggest both you and your husband talk privately to her and her husband and say that while you each have your point of view about being parents, surely you can all agree it's imperative that you respect the rules on how each of you are raising your children. Say that you expect that there won't be any more incidents like feeding your child something you have expressly asked that she not. Then keep an eye on your baby and this dope.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I am a twentysomething recent college grad. I live at home with my parents and work in the city. Recently a ton of confusing, frustrating, overwhelming things have happened in my life, including my parents' messy and vicious divorce and my mother's failing health and multiple hospitalizations. One of the sunny spots in all this is my wonderful relationship with my boyfriend. However, I am planning a trip to Miami to get away from it all, and I want to go alone. I don't even want my boyfriend to come. How do I explain this to him without sounding ungrateful or seeming like I'm snubbing him? He wants to be there for me, and I just want space to think ... and drink lots of cocktails on the beach.

—Stressed

Dear Stressed,
Can I join you? Oh, I guess that would defeat the purpose of the trip. Yes, it's perfectly understandable that you would want to just lie in the sun and not have to consider anyone else's needs for a few days—not even so much as where your beloved wants to go for lunch. Just be honest with your boyfriend. Say the last several months have almost done you in, and if it hadn't been for him, you don't know if you'd even be functioning. But explain that right now you are feeling that you're lousy company and totally burned out. What you need is to get away by yourself for a few days, so you can lie on a beach chair, read junky novels, and not speak to anyone—except him, when you call to say how grateful you are that he's in your life.

—Prudie

Photograph of Prudie by Teresa Castracane.