Dear Prudence: My in-laws want to know all about my wretched childhood.

Advice on manners and morals.
Aug. 18 2011 7:33 AM

Past Imperfect

I want to bury my wretched childhood, but the new in-laws insist on a rehash.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
My in-laws are kind, generous, and fun to be around. We live in different parts of the country so we get to see them about five times a year. This has become more important now that we have a child. Our 4-year-old adores his grandparents. My in-laws want to make the next family trip a Caribbean cruise. I hate cruises. I think they're unsafe, but more importantly they're a horrible display of inequality and cluelessness about the conditions in which local populations in the "ports of visit" live. I'm horrified about the prospect of cruising on a luxury ship and docking in the "private islands" that the cruise company owns, knowing that the local people will not get a penny out of the cruise. It fills me with dread and offends every liberal bone in my body. However I don't want to deny our son the chance to spend time with his grandparents, and he'll probably have a great time. So my plan is to go, but to also give money to credible local charities to somewhat compensate for the damage that the cruise business is doing. Is this a good compromise or a pathetic cop-out?

—Up the Creek

Dear Up,
I have liberal friends who volunteer their time and money to make the world a better place who also love cruises. They've never expressed the slightest guilt over indulging in this well-earned vacation. I'm grateful I'll never have to go on a cruise because of a seasickness-prone husband and daughter. Being stuck in the middle of the ocean, having to constantly make conversation with fellow passengers, and trying not to throw myself on the dessert buffet every night is not my idea of an ideal getaway. I'd never even heard of this private island business until your letter. These ersatz retreats sound like a form of hellish fun, but you're right, your kid will think he's in heaven. I hope you realize that having to go on a cruise is not the same as being forced to walk the plank. As long as you're going, you need to stop thinking of it as penance, because your attitude will radiate across the promenade and sour everyone's fun. The money spent on the cruise is not being diverted from a soup kitchen; it's a form of economic stimulus. So pack a pile of great (or trashy) books, make a donation to a worthwhile charity, and bless your good fortune.

—Prudie

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"Awkward Family Photos: Dear Prudence advises a reader who accidentally sent sexy self-portraits to her in-laws—in a live chat at Washingtonpost.com." Posted March 28, 2011.

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