Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat with readers about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. An edited transcript of this week's chat is below. (Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Read Prudie's Slate columns here.)
A: Many readers are pointing out that the letter writer doesn't sound completely remorseful about her high school behavior. And they are also emphasizing that the mother needs to consider that if the sons are miserable in their exclusive private school, they may be better off in (the shock, the horror!) public school.
Q. For the Ex-Bully: Although it might take some time, start trying to become involved at your school. If another adult says something to you—be straight about your past. "I really was a jerk in high school. Thank goodness that over time I grew up." And then show (over time) that you have changed. Volunteer, be friendly, smile (even when you want to cry). Over time, hopefully other parents will realize you are different.
A: Good advice! Let's hope the other parents start to feel very uncomfortable with the idea that children should suffer payback for sins visited on the mother long ago.
Q. Reluctance?: I am 50 and my fiance is 52. We became engaged at the first of 2011. I live with him and have for 10 months. We really haven't set a date. I dreamed the other night that I was performing "heart surgery" on him, which I interpret to mean there are issues of the heart (which I need to discuss). When we discuss setting a date, it always ends badly. He says I am issuing ultimatums, which I don't really think I am. We never set a date. Tonight, he suggested we move it back a year. Am I nuts for proceeding? Are the signs enormous? I don't want to wed if he doesn't want to. If I try to talk to him about my feelings, he gets mad.
A: I don't understand why you moved in if you are engaged to a man who gets hostile when you discuss marriage. How did the engagement get decided? He said, "Darling, I want you to marry me, but just not as long as we both shall live."
If you can be happy just living with him and dropping the issue of marriage, fine. If you're not, tell him you can't stand begging him for a commitment and him feeling badgered. Explain it was a mistake to move in together without clarifying these issues and that setting up separate domiciles while you decide what you each want seems to be the best way to proceed.
Q. Relationships: Last year, I was in a relationship with a guy who said he didn't "want to be" in a relationship. (It was our senior year of college, and our futures were uncertain.) We broke up when he left for a foreign country, with some bad feelings on my end—I felt sort of abandoned, as he was nonchalant about ending our relationship. We are now both in relationships with other people, and my new guy is an amazing, kind, caring person I love very much (and he loves me back). However, I still have Facebook access to my ex's dealings, and after only a few months, he has told his new girlfriend that he loves her, which he refused to tell me the eight months we were together, saying he was stopping himself from feeling that way. I am totally happy in my new relationship, but somehow I cannot stop feeling bitter about my ex. How do I make myself stop feeling bitter and stop comparing my relationship with my ex to his new one?
A: What do you mean you have "Facebook access" to your "ex's dealings"? This doesn't sound as if you're still Facebook friends and you're reading his declarations of love on his wall posts, but that you have his password and are reading his private messages. If that's the case send him a message saying you were just updating your passwords and realized you and he had exchanged passwords (or how is it you have his?) and he should probably change his. You also should defriend him. Here you are, in an ostensibly happy relationship, but you're putting all this psychic energy into tracking how your ex feels about his new love.
You went out with someone in college and the relationship ended. That is all perfectly normal and nothing you say here indicates he was dishonest. You've each moved on—but you actually haven't. If you remain stuck, find a therapist.
Q. Friendship and Children: A friend and I are now middle-aged, both married for many years. My husband and I have two grown children. She was unable to have children. She has always been super critical of my kids to me, sometimes couching it in terms of "kids these days" but usually directing criticism specifically toward them (our daughter, mostly). I would never say, "You don't know what you're talking about because you haven't raised kids," but I want to. How can I respond?
A: Why haven't you stuck up for your children all these years? Of course it's painful not to be able to have children if you want them, but taking out your bitterness on your friend with children is ugly. Next time she insults your kids, why not say, "Sandra, I've been meaning to say this to you for about the past 20 years. I don't want to hear any more criticism of my children from you. Thanks."
Q. Emailed Photos: Of course the employee needs to know! God forbid this whacko ex decides to stalk her or gets violent. Emailing those photos to a person's employer is NOT something a normal person does. Both employee AND employer should be on the lookout for other weirdness, and KEEP A LOG of any and all strange activities. The police may end up needing to get involved.