Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat with readers about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. A transcript of this week's chat is below. (Read Prudie's Slate columns here.)
Emily Yoffe: If you're not seeing each other anymore because things are so strained, and your only communication is a weekly e-mail, and you're wondering which medium is most appropriate for announcing your desire to break up—guess what, you've already broken up. But since you've been in a yearlong relationship, and not just had a few dates, then it is a good idea to actually go ahead and formally end it. A discussion about what went wrong might help the two of you figure out what you want out of your future relationships. So send him an e-mail and say obviously things between the two of you have gotten off-track, but you'd like to get together in person to talk about this. If he doesn't respond, or replies that he's too busy, then consider yourself on the market.
Hey! I'm 48 and have great skin, too!: But seriously, most people assume I'm in my mid-30s, as well. My kids are younger, and it really IS a problem, just like the poster said it was. For some reason it is a constant. I don't hide my age and invariably someone will bring up how "old" she is and then turn to me, "Oh, but you're older than I am, aren't you?" People DO treat you differently after that. Heck, I probably did when I was in my 30s. Anyone in their 40s seemed ancient at the time. I cannot imagine how difficult that would be for this woman in the workplace. I hope you can give her a better answer.
Emily Yoffe: Where do you and Great Skin work, on MTV's Real World? I can understand if you're the outlier at a really young workplace, you would be aware that you're at a different place in your life. You could take, "Oh, but you're older than I am" as a kind of insult, but maybe it's a thoughtless form of self-reassurance for an aging young person, a way to acknowledge that there are still productive and attractive people in their 40s out there. I'd love to give a better answer, but what's the solution except to either go work at AARP, or be comfortable and confident about yourself no matter how old you are?
Caracas, Venezuela: Recently, my husband and I were asked by his sister to have her two boys spend a week with us as their spring break vacation, without her. It seems that we're not her first choice and that everyone else she's asked has the same reservations as we do. One, that the boys would not be accompanied by her and, two, the youngest boy (8 years old) is autistic.
While our nephews are precious to us, and we enjoy spending time with them, we feel that this is too great a request for her to make of the family. Our youngest nephew requires nearly 24-hour supervision. He's destructive and impossible to control without his mother or father present. Even then, it's not unusual for him to harm himself or others.
She's taken the refusal as a sign that we do not care about her and our family. She says that this is a family obligation— to care for one another's children. She did not even want to entertain the idea of accompanying the boys herself on this visit.
I understand that she is tired. It is not easy being the mother to a child who requires so much. Yet I cannot help but feel that a week of caring for the two boys is simply too much to ask.
What say you, Prudie? Are we not upholding our family duty, or is she asking too much of us? Thank you for your help.
Emily Yoffe: Your sister-in-law sounds desperate for a break. She needs and deserves one. Being a full-time, possibly lifetime caregiver is overwhelming. What your family needs to do is pull together to find ways to give relief to your sister-in-law and brother-in-law. The discussion has to be not just about a vacation but about how to structure their lives so that your nephew is getting the help he needs, and your in-laws are not so worn out that they collapse. They need respite care, that is, professional relief so they can get away, relax, and recharge. You are your husband need to be honest with them and explain that you two don't feel competent to care for their 8-year-old for a week. But is there another way? Could the whole family come down, and you watch the boys during the day while your in-laws get some daytime vacation? Could you come up and take care of the boys for an extended weekend while they get away? As you're contemplating what to do, watch HBO's wonderful movie Temple Grandin, about the autistic woman who became a world-famous scientist. And note that her aunt was a crucial presence in her life.
My husband and I are embarking on a weight-loss regime not for health reasons but for our respective careers. Although we are both "festively plump," as Cartman would say, we've been able to maintain rewarding careers, and we are great networkers.
We have this sinking feeling that we'll reach a "cellulite ceiling" as our careers progress. I think I've already been passed over on a promotion because of my size-16 frame, which is illegal but still "done."