The 40-Year-Old Mean Girl
Prudie advises a former bully whose kids are being mistreated by her victim's children—in a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.
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.)
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon, everyone. Let's get to it.
Q. Revenge of the Geek?: I enrolled my two boys into an exclusive private school in our new hometown. At a school event I bumped into an attractive woman whom I didn't recognize. She came by and asked if I remember her. It turns out that she was someone I bullied in high school. After that day I noticed other moms slowly avoiding me. I think she must have told them about how I used to bully her. Eventually my boys started coming home, crying and upset that other kids wouldn't play with them. My younger son was not allowed to join a game of hockey during recess because another boy told him, "My mom says your mom is a b***h." They are now openly being ridiculed and ostracized at school by their peers. I asked to meet my former classmate and apologized for bullying her as I was young and stupid, although I don't much remember what I did. She smiled at me in a creepy way and said she went through therapy for what I put her through. I haven't told my husband about this woman because I'm a little ashamed at how I used to treat her. Putting my boys into another school is not a feasible option, but I just don't know what to do.
A: So this woman's revenge on your long ago mistreatment of her is to lead her children in a campaign to ostracize and bully your children. Boy, oh, boy does she need more therapy. You're understandably ashamed of what you did and want to keep it quiet, but for the sake of your sons you need to tell your husband about it, and how your misdeeds are being revisited on your innocent boys. Then the two of you need to get in touch with the school administration and get this issue addressed. They should take immediate steps to stop the bullying of your sons.
But what may never stop is your own shunning. You have entered a Hollywood-ready high school revenge story. Twenty years after your reign as a mean girl, you're going to find yourself black-balled at the school bake sales and rejected as class mother. Even if you get the other kids to back off your boys, you've got a tough road ahead since now all the other mothers know just how miserably you treated their friend. Let's hope some parents will decide not to relive the worst of high school, understand people change, and refuse to be drawn into this drama. Leading a campaign to have your children mistreated may eventually backfire on this other mother and she may find herself as the unpopular girl all over again. Let's hope with some intervention, your sons' situation dramatically improves in the fall. You say there is no other feasible option but this school, but if all of you find yourselves isolated and unhappy there, there are always other choices.
Dear Prudence: Crack Mom
Q. Grabby Husband: My husband of almost 20 years will just reach out and grab my boob when I am talking to him and interrupt me with the comment, "Nice rack" or something along those lines. He'll also grind up against me. He doesn't do this if there is anyone around. This happens at least once a day. I find it disrespectful to be interrupted and grabbed when I am just trying to tell him something. I have told him this already and have just walked away when he does this. We have an active sex life. What else can I do? I am fed up!
A: I'm a little confused. Either you've been putting up with this boob for 20 years despite your complaints, or his approach to showing you how attractive you are is a new one. If it's the former, I'd be tempted to grab the old cast iron skillet when Romeo headed toward me, but that could end up being unpleasant for all. So I suggest making an appointment with a marriage counselor, telling him you're going with him or without him, but you are fed up with being married to a junior league Dominique Strauss-Kahn. If his behavior is new, tell him he needs a complete physical and mental check up because you're alarmed he's turned into a rutting teenager.
Q. Daughter Too Immodest: My daughter is in her 20s, and she's beautiful. She has a great figure—very large breasts, very small waist. But she's so inappropriate with what she wears! We went to the beach this weekend, and she wore a string bikini, something I would have never allowed her to wear growing up. I told her that she was not allowed to wear skimpy items of clothing like that when she's around me, and she told me, very rudely, that she can do whatever she wants now. I know she's an adult, but I feel that she should wear a one-piece when going to the beach with our family—it's just not appropriate. And she draws attention to our party with her immodesty. So many young men were coming over to talk to her, and it was supposed to be a family day at the beach! Am I right in trying to talk some sense into my daughter, or should I stay out of her business? My husband thinks I'm being a little ridiculous.
A: Hey, at least these young men weren't grabbing her "rack" and rubbing up against her. You didn't mention you're writing from Riyadh, so you have to accept that it's hardly shocking that a gorgeous young woman decides to wear a bikini to the beach—and ends up enjoying the frenzy she causes. Mom, your daughter is a grown woman, and she's right, she can wear whatever she wants. You may want a daughter who prefers to hide her assets under a caftan and spend the afternoon making sand castles. But stunning twentysomethings are who bikinis were invented for. You frankly sound a little jealous. If you'd had more of a sense of humor, you might have enjoyed the show. Have you noticed your "talking sense into her" only increases the amount of her undress? Your husband is right, so stop being ridiculous.
Q. Love Letters of Parents: My elderly father passed away recently after a full and happy life. While cleaning out his home I found an entire box of old love letters between him and my mother, who passed away several years ago. They were written during the six months they spent apart during their engagement period, as my father was working in Europe. I have opened one of these and they are very emotional and tender in content. I'm not sure whether to keep these as part of our family history or respect my parents' privacy and discard them. What is the protocol here?
A: First, be thrilled you didn't find a box of love letters with his mistress! Please keep these wonderful mementos of a long, loving marriage. If you feel you are getting too much of an intimate look into your parents' lives, don't read them. But it's possible their grandchildren might be moved by being able to imagine their grandparents young and in love. Is their generation even going to understand what a letter is, let alone a love letter? It is unlikely their grandchildren will come upon a trove of their collected love tweets. Please cherish and preserve this piece of your family's history.