Click here to read a transcript of Prudie's live weekly chat with readers at Washingtonpost.com.
My wife just received a series of text messages about the date and time of a funeral to take place about a week from now. This was not especially surprising as the man had been ill for some time. After a few calls to get details, my wife discovered that the man was still alive! He had taken a turn for the worse and was in a coma, so his wife had decided to go ahead and schedule the funeral. While advance planning is certainly convenient, most of those I have spoken to believe that the setting of the date should have waited until there was an actual death. Your thoughts?
Talk about "death panels"! Not even Sarah Palin has had the audacity to imagine the advent of scheduling people's funerals before they actually die in order to get the old and sick to move along. You're right that in cases where it's possible, advance planning is a good idea. The mother of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mum, spent decades meticulously planning her funeral down to the candlesticks. But even though she died at 101, she never said, "You might as well go ahead and pick a date to stick me in the ground. How much longer can I possibly last?" It is rather chilling that the wife is texting everyone with the news. (Did she write, "Hubby OOH; funeral Sat"?) I suppose you can be grateful that as a further convenience, she's not sending around advance information about her wedding gift registry in case she finds a candidate for remarriage. However, refrain from pointing out to the widow-to-be that her behavior is appalling. She'll be an actual widow soon enough, so all of you should just act as if her grief has gotten the best of her. Go ahead and mark the date of the funeral on the calendar, but write it in pencil in case the pre-deceased manages to outlive his wife's designated expiration date.
My husband and I recently found out that we are expecting our first child. We are ecstatic, as are both of our families. My dilemma is that as a child, I was molested by my paternal grandfather for about five years. I did not tell anyone until after I turned 18, because I was afraid that no one would believe my kind, funny, generous grandfather could do such a thing. I revealed my secret to my mother and siblings but have not been able to bring myself to tell my father about it, because I know it would tear him up. I have forgiven my grandfather with help from my church, a therapist, and a few good self-help books. However, my husband and I are concerned about our child. My grandfather frequently visits my parents for weeks at a time. How do I tell my parents, my father especially, that my child under no circumstances should be allowed to be alone with my grandfather? I don't want to alienate my father from my grandfather, but I do want to ensure that my child never goes through what I did.
Please stop feeling that you need to protect this criminal. The impending birth of your child has understandably churned up old feelings from the ordeal you suffered, and you need to do more than just come up with a strategy to keep your child away from an evil great-grandfather. You say you've gotten help to deal with the five years of sexual assault, but I can't understand why the clergy members, the therapist, and your own mother and siblings have not addressed the real issue. That is, a heinous crime was committed against you, and instead of encouraging you to forgive your grandfather, the people you've relied on should have been helping you bring him to justice. (And why should you forgive him? He's never even acknowledged his crimes, let alone asked for forgiveness.) The odds are significant that you are not the only child this monster has assaulted. Yet he goes on unmolested by the law because no one wants to upset the family's image of this "kind, funny, generous" sexual predator. I understand the abuse was a long time ago, and you'd rather just concentrate on becoming a mother than deal with what happened. But your fears for your child are telling you that what happened has never been properly dealt with. Perhaps it is too big a step for you to report your grandfather to law enforcement. But, at the very least, stop protecting your grandfather and tell your father the truth. And find a new therapist, one who specializes in sexual abuse and who doesn't believe it's the responsibility of the victim to absolve her perpetrator.
I wrote something not so flattering about a co-worker on my Twitter page, and she found out about it after someone on my friend list showed it to an acquaintance of hers. The co-worker went to human resources and complained that I was talking about her on Twitter. Because I tweeted on my own personal time, the only thing H.R. could suggest was to be careful about who my friends are on Twitter. So I deleted friends of friends who know the co-worker. My page is marked "private," so only the people I have chosen as friends can see my entries. Now the co-worker I talked about has made other co-workers give me the cold shoulder. All these women are over 40 and are acting like 5-year-olds. Can you suggest some options for dealing with such a hostile environment? I love my job. so I don't want to look for work elsewhere.
Dear Cold Shoulder,
Your adventure shows that social networking really works. When you throw out a piece of information juicier than what you had for dinner last night, it travels the network in ways you can't control. I know everyone is now compelled to make visible each passing thought, but you might want to give a passing thought to the purpose of your tweets. Sure, we've all had the experience of sending an embarrassing e-mail to the wrong person or finding out an e-mail has unfortunately been forwarded. But when you write an e-mail to one friend, there's an assumption that it's not for mass dissemination. Twittering is about spreading your thoughts far and wide. You've also just gotten a good lesson in how well privacy settings on social networking sites protect you from yourself. As for your office relationships, let's agree that both you and the woman you disparaged have behaved in a juvenile fashion. But, as they say on the playground, you started it. So own up to what you did—sit down with you co-worker, and tell her you behaved like a jerk. Say you are truly sorry for your ill-considered, hurtful remark and that you hope she'll accept your apology. And be glad that given Twitter's limitations, your disparaging comments were blessedly brief.
I moved to the United States from my home country a few years ago for marriage. My sister and her husband live in my parents' hometown and have three children. My parents came over for the births of both of my children, stayed for several weeks, and did everything for me; it was wonderful. My mother now sees my sister almost every day and goes above and beyond to help her with her children. It's not that I resent my mother's involvement in my sister's life; I know she would do the same for me if I lived closer. But since I talk to them both almost daily, it's hard to hear everything my mother does, from watching the children to doing my sister's ironing. We have no family living near us, and if I need a break, I pay for a baby-sitter. We are visiting next month, and I am tempted to say something to my mother, but I fear it will upset her, and she'll feel she can't talk about my sister's family. Is there any way I can ask her to tone down the very detailed descriptions of all she does for my sister without causing a problem?
Let's imagine the letter your sister might write: "I live in the same town as my parents. My mother's been a lifesaver because she's over every day to help with my three young children. But sometimes I want to scream when she starts ironing my children's underwear, or taking over in my kitchen, or deciding what the kids' nap schedule should be. My sister moved to the United States, and I find myself resenting her ability to do as she pleases without having a loving but over-involved mother hovering over her." Feel better? Well, even if you don't, consider that since your mother is at your sister's house every day, and you talk to your mother every day, it's likely that domestic details are going to be the main topic of conversation. Stretching out time between calls might help. But if you still feel jealous, instead of making your mother feel that talk about your sister's family is verboten, when it gets to you, you can say, "Mom, sometimes hearing this makes me miss you so much it hurts. Let's talk about politics."