Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of this week's chat is below. ( Sign up here to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie's Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Q. Surprised Now, Instead of Later: My wonderful hubby has planned a surprise party for me. Unfortunately, I found out ... several times over! So far, three paper invitations have been returned by mail, his sister left hers out, and open, on her dining room table when we visited, AND his mom had it written on her calendar! When the first two invites came back, I pretended not to see them, putting them back with some junk mail and convincing him to get the mail. Since then, he's had our daughter sort the mail before I may see it, under the guise that he ordered a gift for me that will come by mail. Once home from our vacation, our daughter sorted the mail, but missed the third returned invite. I did the same trick, putting it into the next day's mail and "forgetting" to get it, but I'm starting to feel guilty for knowing. Prudie, I've been "told" at least four times now! I let my sister know what I've found out, and she told me to play dumb and act as surprised as I can, knowing how much work he's put into this. I've been advised to never let him know that I knew! I threw him a surprise party for his 30th birthday, so I know how much goes into a party like this. I know how I felt when all the work I'd put in didn't go as planned, but is it right for me to play along even after the party is over?
A: Would it have felt better after you threw the surprise party for your husband to find out he had known all along? Or would you have preferred if he'd told you and both agreed to go ahead and at least let the guests have their fun? I worry that since you sister knows that at some point this will all come out. You know your husband—would he be hurt by your counter-deception, or appreciate that you didn't blow his cover? Since this party is all about benign deceit, I'm inclined to say you should indulge in some of your own and be prepared to make your most convincing shocked expression when everybody jumps out at you.
Q. Jobless Friends: I have two very close friends who lost their jobs during the recession ... and are openly and happily riding their 99 weeks of unemployment with an "I have X number of weeks left before I need to find a job" attitude. I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I am becoming very bitter and resentful to them. I know that this is my issue, but I work more than full time and commute over an hour each way to provide for myself and my special-needs son. I would LOVE to be at home with him for 99 weeks and be reimbursed for it, but even if I lost my job today, I would be scouring CareerBuilder within hours. Can you give me some advice on how to curb my inner witch? She is itching to make an appearance at our next get together!
A: Maybe your friends are geniuses and at the end of their almost two years of subsidy the economy will have improved so much they will walk into a great new job. If they truly plan on not looking as long as they're getting an unemployment check, then they will more than likely be among the millions of long-term unemployed desperately searching for anything. The longer one is out of work, the harder it is to find a job, so they are just being foolish. Don't waste your time wishing you were collecting temporary benefits. Don't let their short-sightedness make you bitter. When you hear them talking as if they've landed in a money pot, just quietly be assured that unless they take action, soon they'll be scraping the bottom.
Q. For Snappy Answers to Cancer: Has the writer considered joining a cancer support group? The group may have ideas on good responses to these questions, since they may get the same kinds of questions/comments. Also, this might be a good forum for sharing the inane, or idiotic, or just plain stupefying (I'm dying of cancer and the first thing you think about is getting my cookbooks?) comments and questions and getting sympathy and laughter.
A: Again, good advice, thanks.
Q. Mean Girls: 99% of your so-called BFFs in high school won't even be on your FB feed three years from now. Do the right thing and speak up. I was the bullied odd-girl-out in junior high. One girl stood up to the rest of the clique and told them to leave me alone. I cannot tell you how much it meant to me that someone would do that. It didn't stop the girls, but it did make me understand that I didn't deserve this and needed new friends. I don't want to think about what might have happened had I not had that little sliver of hope.
A: Another good point about the difference a lone, humane classmate can make. And how wonderful to be the person who was able to stand up!
Q. Thank Yous: So a couple who had a big wedding where they publicly discussed how they were "recouping" the per person costs through gifts (tacky!) did not ever send a thank you for the expensive gift I gave them. Fast forward 1.25 years, and they're pregnant. I'm disinclined to purchase a gift for the baby, as the gift-mongering attitude at the wedding was gross on its own, and compounded by the lack of thank yous. Is this OK?
A: For all the people who didn't get around to the thank you notes, or who think thank you notes are a form of extortion by gift-givers, listen up. The people you didn't thank are going to help you out by not burdening you with any more gifts for your milestone events.
Q. Meddling Busybodies: I am 19 years old and engaged to an absolutely wonderful 24-year-old man. We were friends for a year before we dated, and dated for a year before getting engaged. We also plan on having children within a couple of years of getting married. Both of us had life experience beyond our age and we feel we are mature enough to make a big decision like this on our own. The only thing that makes us sad is that so many of our friends and even my fiance's mom is against it. Prudie, I know the divorce rates for people my age, but I know I will be with my fiance for life. I feel upset that few people are sharing our happiness, and many instead are lecturing about how we should wait as well as predicting our union will end before I hit my mid 20s. Please help me: How do I deal with this negative situation, Prudie?