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My husband and I live near a man in his 70s who is mean, complains about every little thing, and calls the police any time there is loud music in the neighborhood or if there are "suspicious-looking" kids hanging out too close to his house. He once tried to sue a neighbor over tree branches falling into his yard. My problem is that a couple of weeks ago I accidently ran over his cat while pulling into my driveway, killing him. It was well after midnight and I didn't see him until it was too late. When I told my husband, he quickly scooped up the body, disposed of it a couple of miles away, and made me promise not to tell what happened, saying it was an honest mistake and that the cat shouldn't have been out roaming in the first place. Now our neighbor has been going door to door, including ours, asking about his kitty. He has put up posters offering a reward. I feel awful and want to tell our neighbor what happened, but my husband is adamant that we keep our mouths shut, fearing the old man will make life a living hell for us. My husband says the man will get over it and has proposed buying him a new cat. Is this an acceptable solution?
Your husband has pulled off the ultimate bag job, and now he wants to show up with a kitten, which is tantamount to announcing, "We're the ones who killed your widdle puddy tat!" I am a cat lover, but if you let your cat roam free, you implicitly accept the risk that it could have a lethal encounter with a dog, a fox, or a car. If your neighbor were a normal person, you'd immediately have told him what happened, and you all would have commiserated over this terrible accident. But you are in the grindingly unpleasant situation of living near a lunatic. So I understand your husband's quick, if nefarious, decision to ditch the evidence. This action may put him on the wrong side of the law. But I'm more concerned about the mental-health necessity of avoiding endless misery meted out by a vindictive and potentially litigious neighbor. (For the record, Slate's legal team disavows my advice.)Of course it's awful to see missing-kitty posters dot the neighborhood while knowing you dispatched the cat, feeling trapped in a feline version of Without a Trace. But you've probably seen enough crime shows to know that the perpetrators get caught when cracks form in their united front, so don't go wobbly now. That means no sitting down with the neighbor for a discussion about the physics paradox Schrödinger's cat. ("The thought experiment presents a cat that might be alive or dead, depending on an earlier random event.") No blabbing to others on your block about your guilty conscience. No purchasing of kittens. Just continue to shake your head and sigh sadly when your neighbor asks about the cat, and say you're sorry you can't help.
Dear Prudence: My Friend, the Klepto?
My husband recently reconnected with a college buddy who has moved back to our hometown, and it's driving me crazy! "Steve" invites himself over to dinner two to three times a week to watch sports on our big-screen TV. I'm not a huge sports fan, so the two of them take their dinner to the basement while I eat alone in the kitchen. Worse, Steve has been bugging my husband to take time off work to go to sporting events and theme parks. We're expecting our first child in three months, so I've told him we can't afford it. When I say no, my husband tells Steve his "mean wife" isn't letting him have fun. Before Steve came into the picture, we were a happy couple. Now, we fight constantly. My husband says to cut Steve some slack—he's living with his parents and does shift work, so he's bored and alone most of the day. I wish my husband would realize he's not 20 anymore and that he needs to start telling Steve "no." I'm about to have a baby—I don't have time to parent my husband, too. What do I do?
—Not His Mother
Maybe you should put together a film festival for the three of you. Start with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and explain it's about a man who ages backward, reverting to a childlike state the older he gets. Next on the bill is You, Me and Dupree about a couple whose ne'er-do-well pal moves in and wreaks havoc on their lives. Unfortunately, it's not unheard of for someone facing parenthood and the irrevocable fact that childhood is over to decide maturity seems rather burdensome and that living like an overgrown frat boy is preferable. You're right, it's miserable to feel you're becoming a mother to your husband, and you have to stop this dynamic before you actually do become a mother. It's your home, and you are not running a soup kitchen for underemployed college grads. Tell your husband the open-door policy is closing and that when Steve shows up uninvited you're going to inform him he's come at an inconvenient time. You also need to say to your husband with as little rancor as you can muster that being referred to as the "mean wife" who keeps him from skipping out on work to go to theme parks is deeply painful and disrespectful. Explain that you have no desire to be his probation officer, and since you're on the brink of becoming parents, you need to get your relationship back on track before the baby comes. Tell him you've concluded this means seeing a counselor, and if he won't go with you, you'll go by yourself, because you need someone to help you figure out how to keep from feeling you're in this marriage alone.
My mother died a decade ago; neither she nor my father had burial plans, so we scrambled and Dad bought a double plot. A few years later, Dad met a nice woman. They live together and call themselves engaged but are not getting married for financial reasons. Recently, Dad wanted to discuss his final arrangements with me and my brother. Dad stated that he and his fiancee both want to be cremated and buried in the plot with my mother. My mother cared very much for social conventions. Putting my father and his girlfriend in the ground with her for eternity seems like a slight, and it also bothers me. After my father dies, I'm thinking of having my mother exhumed and cremated, and keeping her ashes with me. I know this is probably prohibitively expensive, and if my mother were alive she'd tell me not to spend money on a corpse. But I'm appalled at my father's lack of respect for his wife of nearly 50 years. The tombstone is going to read as if he were cheating on her throughout their marriage. She deserves better. (So does his fiancee, frankly.) How should I approach this with him?
—Grieving but Trying Not To Be Morbid
Recently I went for a weekend to Lancaster County, Va., and while there I visited their historic Christ Church, where 17th-century landowner John Carter is buried next to four of his five wives, Jane, Eleanor, Anne, and Sarah (Elizabeth slipped away to England). It was a placid scene and I don't think in the intervening centuries anyone visiting the site has concluded Carter was running a Playboy Mansion prototype. Listen to the voice in your head of your late mother. She's right that digging her up so that she's not co-mingled with your father's all-but-in-name second wife would be a huge waste of money and emotional energy. That your father and his fiancee don't intend to tie the knot surely is in part so that they can easily pass their estates along to their grown children, so they are doing you a favor by shacking up. When your father and his girlfriend are returned to ashes, I assure you none of your mother's remaining friends are going to make the trek to the graveside just to cluck about the impropriety of it all. Your father initiated a difficult discussion so that when the time comes, you aren't left scrambling after he's gone. Thank him for making his wishes clear and say you will honor them. You seem at peace with your mother's death, and your father is still with you, so try to replace your grief with gratitude.
I'm in my mid-20s and recently changed careers. My new job is a great fit. I work in a small office with a boss in his mid-50s who seems to be an alcoholic. During my training (at our headquarters) he took me and several young female co-workers out and got really drunk. There have since been a couple of occasions when I've turned down invitations to go out with him, and later heard about drunken escapades. The office is starting up a happy hour book club, which seems like a good idea, but I don't want to be around my boss in situations involving alcohol. My co-workers think he's funny and like that he pays for drinks, so I'm hesitant to voice my discomfort. Any ideas?
—Prefer Coffee Shops
That your small office has a company headquarters is great news. You don't have to voice your discomfort to your boss or his enablers; you can simply send a letter (anonymous is just fine) to the appropriate people up the ladder explaining how alcohol is affecting the propriety and productivity of your office. Stick to the facts as you describe the episodes, and say you are concerned that having asupervisor who is sometimes impairedpresents a potential liability to the company. At work continue to stay professional and friendly, and politely decline to join them on their bacchanals—you don't need to make excuses for not participating in extracurricular binges. Also resist the temptation to suggest that opening picks for the book club should be Drinking: A Love Storyand The Lost Weekend.
More Dear Prudence Columns
"Financial Affairs: I want to bequeath money to my mistress in my will. Is that wrong?" Posted March 24, 2011.
"A Fool for Love: My wife is super hot but dumb. How can I make the best of our union?" Posted March 17, 2011.
"I Can't Relate: My estranged half-sister wants to get to know me, but I'm afraid my parents won't approve." Posted March 10, 2011.
"Diamonds Aren't a Girl's Best Friend: My ex is blackmailing me for sex. How can I get out of it?" Posted March 3, 2011.
More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
"This Baby Shower Is a Wash: Dear Prudence advises a reader who thinks her brother impregnated his girlfriend to steal her own baby's thunder—in a live chat at Washingtonpost.com." Posted March 21, 2011.
"Teacher Gone Wild: Dear Prudence advises a schoolteacher caught on tape acting a drunken fool—in a live chat at Washingtonpost.com." Posted March 14, 2011.
"Dead Letters at the Office: Prudie counsels an office worker who found love letters while cleaning out the desk of a recently deceased colleague that are not from her widower—and other advice-seekers." Posted March 7, 2011.
"Nightmare Vacation: Prudie counsels a reader who regrets her promise to take an ailing family member to Disneyland—in this week's live chat." Posted Feb. 28, 2011.