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 email@example.com.)
Q. Wedding Etiquette: Like many people this summer, I have been invited to a wedding of an acquaintance whom I have not seen or spoken to in years. "Mary" and I are friends on Facebook and this seems to be the method she has chosen to invite her guests (at least the 189 of us on her friend list). Almost all of the communication has been via the web, including gift registries (nine!) and the RSVP notice, with the exception of a postcard that served as the formal invitation. My question is: If I "decline with regret" am I still obligated to give a gift? Normally, I would not hesitate, but this invitation seems more like a cash grab than a genuine opportunity to share in their big day, especially since she is the type of Facebook friend to invite 400 "friends" to other special occasions.
A: Remember when Facebook had those little "gifts" you could send people? (Maybe they still do, but I can't figure out where they are anymore.) It would have been perfect to send Mary an icon of a cake or maybe a troll. Otherwise, feel free to decline with no further obligation than saying you're sorry you can't be there and wishing her the best.
Q. Abusive Client: The other day my mom was working at her office and noticed that one of her clients was being awfully mean to his 8-year old son. It seemed every word out of his mouth was being said with contempt: "Drink your water!" "Do your homework!" "Quit staring off!" My mom thought the kid was behaving just fine, but his father would continually bark orders at him in a very demeaning tone. Not having been introduced to his son, my mom asked what his name was. Her client then replied, "Oh, I call him stupid, or asshole, or lazy ..." (The kid was right there too!) My mom was so flabbergasted she didn't know what to say. This is clearly verbal abuse and I worry about the harm it's doing to this poor kid. It's a difficult situation, though, because this client is an independent contractor who works out of the office. Would reporting this behavior to the office manager be the right thing to do? Would it be effective at all because he's not technically an employee? Should my mom say something to him?
A: I know that no one wants to jeopardize a relationship with a client at any time, but particularly now. But this child is being abused. Verbal abuse can be just as shredding as physical abuse—and who knows what a guy who calls his 8-year-old those names to a stranger does to his son when they're home and the kid has been "acting up." The office manager is not equipped to deal with an abusive parent, and neither is your mother. I think your mother should call child protective services and say it is imperative that she report this situation anonymously.
Q. Re: Friend Dating Married Man: Can I just say that it's a relief to know that this woman's friends are appalled by the situation? My husband had a long-term affair with a woman about a decade younger than me and apparently all her buddies thought it was just fine and dandy that she was dating a married man. In the aftermath of learning about it, I found out he had gone to parties, dinners, and, yes, even weddings as her date. Of course he had invented a whole back-story as to why he was still technically married but the bottom line is everyone knew. He told me that these days it's not seen as such a big deal to most people. It's good to know I'm not the only one who isn't "most people."
A: You call him your husband, not your ex-husband, so I'm interested in the fact that after finding this out, you're still actually married.
Q. Say Something? Or No?: One of my co-workers is from India and will sometimes make comments about Pakistani people. I'm not entirely sure how to react to it, really, when it's mentioned in the workplace. It's up to her who she wants to interact with and who she doesn't, but it doesn't seem appropriate to me for her to talk about it at work. But I don't want to get her in trouble (and I think she would have gotten in trouble already if anyone were inclined to get her for it—small office, and everyone's heard it, as far as I know, including Big Bossman.) Anything I should do? Can do? It really makes me cringe.
A: The next time she does it, pull her aside for a private talk. Say: "Obviously, your private opinions are yours to have, but I'm very uncomfortable, and I'm sure others are, hearing an entire country of people disparaged. This kind of talk just doesn't belong in the office." If she doesn't stop, bring it to the Big Bossman, who might have been too busy clipping his nails to have noted this problem.
Q. Neighbor Trouble?: We've lived in our neighborhood for about a decade and absolutely love our neighbors, to the point where they are practically family/best friends. However, circumstances have made us put our house on the market, and we've received an offer (at asking price) after less than a week. My problem is the man who submitted the offer lives near another friend, and I happen to know he is simply an AWFUL man and neighbor, and would torment my current neighborhood. I'm reasonably sure I can get another offer soon enough, and finances aren't a huge issue for us, so should I decline this offer to protect my friends? Or is this a time to be selfish? For what it's worth, if there are legal repercussions for rejecting the offer, I won't do it, but as of now I think I'm OK.
A: Check with your real estate agent about the legal ins and outs. But surely you are entitled to wait and see if there are more agreeable offers from more agreeable people. Living next door to someone who gets his or her jollies from tormenting the neighbors makes life a daily misery. If you're in the clear by rejecting this guy because of what you know about him, do it.
Q. Abusive Client: The abusive client sounds like my brother, who talks to his (amazingly beautiful) son in the same way. And he's done it since the boy was an infant. Additionally, he mocks the child by pretending to cry, calls him "baby," etc. He sends him to the corner at family gatherings for, at best, minor infractions. (Infractions only to my brother.) I have almost broken down in tears. My parents will not confront my brother because they fear he will not let my parents see their grandson. They opt to accept the abuse and support their grandson the best they can. (My nephew is now 7.) I live three hours away and have little say in this matter, but it destroys me what my brother is doing. (My brother is, as you might have guessed, highly insecure and defensive. No attempt at confronting him would be well received.) What would you suggest a loving aunt do, if anything?
A: I think you should call child protective services, too. I know they're overwhelmed and that in cases of verbal abuse only, they might not be able to do very much, but someone needs to try to intervene in this poor child's life. You can't just hope for the best because you know a monstrous parent is destroying an innocent child.
Q. Re: Regretting Adoption: Her experience is SO NORMAL. I remember frantically thinking about how I could somehow return my daughter back to the hospital, while at the same time loving and having an overwhelming need to protect her. My husband and I fought all the time. Lack of sleep can make you crazy. She now is 3 and is the light of our lives. So worth it. It will pass. Try to get some alone time every day, even if just for a 15-20 minute walk. If you can, hire a student as a "mother's helper" for a couple of hours every day, whether to let you take a nap or just have some company.