Dear Prudence: My boyfriend is a reformed swinger.

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 12 2011 3:30 PM

Am I Dating a Swinger?

Dear Prudence advises a woman who craves a monogamous relationship but can't seem to find one—during a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.

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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 prudence@slate.com.)

(Continued from Page 1)

Q. Should We Just Elope? I recently became engaged and have started wedding planning. Recently, I have been approached by several family members about who is going to be invited. There have been several references about how "some other family members" might be "uncomfortable" if "certain" people are invited. While they are trying to be vague and subtle in their comments, I can clearly read between the lines. My maid of honor is a lesbian. Her partner is invited and I am planning to invite several other friends who happen to be gay. In addition, despite a few explanations that my fiance is Christian (Greek Orthodox, in fact), because he is Lebanese, several people in my family are certain he is Muslim and just saying he is Christian. Their solution is that I review the guest list with them. They are adamant that I put family first. I have resisted but they are making a really big deal out of this—daily calls and emails plus trying to get other family members involved. Now that my fiance has brought up elopement, I have begun to consider it. Do you have any thoughts on this wedding drama?

A: Forget letting your family vet the list, I think it should be reviewed by Homeland Security and Focus on the Family. Normally, I'm all in favor of eloping. But if you want to have a wedding, you should not let yourself be bullied by homophobic and xenophobic relatives. You need to tell them that putting together a guest list is between you and your fiance and their input is not needed and has to stop immediately. Say that if this leaves them too uncomfortable, you will understand if they send their regrets when they get their invitations.

Q. Wedding Snub: I was just not-invited to my first wedding, of two close friends from college (we've only been out a few years). I know the reception wasn't huge, but I thought we were close until a year ago, when we just sort of lost touch. Other friends who I know also haven't been in touch lately were invited. I'm struggling about writing them a congratulatory note, because I'm worried my hurt over the snub will be too obvious. But I feel not sending one would just deepen the cycle of our not feeling close to each other.

A: Your 20s are going to be very hard if you view every weekend as a desert of wedding non-invitations. From my inbox, I've concluded anyone not invited to a wedding should dance with joy at the money saved on gifts, travel, showers, and pre- and post parties. (And, as in the letter above, avoiding terrifying contact with lesbians and Lebanese.) You concede about this once close friend, "we just sort of lost touch." That helps put you in the "we can't afford to put her on the guest list" category.

Instead of struggling with a note that will surely be read as a rebuke, if you want to get back in touch with your friend, just do so in a few weeks' time when perhaps you won't feel so touchy. Call or email and say something (not the wedding page!) reminded you of her and you wanted to catch up. During the conversation you can also say you're excited to hear she's now married, and try to mean it.

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Q. Re: Are You Sure You're Not the Crazy One Here?: Well, that was not nice! These things do happen. I know somebody whose now-ex-husband not only had an affair with her best friend, but he left her and married the other woman. Sadly, it's not as uncommon as you would hope.

A: I know it happens, but there were so many odd things about the letter that I had to raise an alternative possibility.

Q. Overkill: I was a member of the military who lost colleagues and friends on Sept. 11. This anniversary seemed to me like media hype, picking a scab rather than allowing it to heal. Did I mourn? Yes. But can we put this in context, finally, and move ahead? Surely there is more to our nation than the events of this one day.

A: Thanks for this perspective. To the letter writer worried about her husband, I'm hearing from many people who had reactions just like his.

Q. Resting Place: My husband and I are re-doing our wills. This time 'round we've addressed some issues regarding what to do with us after our deaths. My husband said he wanted to be cremated, which was fine, but the next bit upset me—he wants his cremated remains to be sent to his mother, if he were to die first. If his mother dies first, or after my husband but before me, the remains would be given to me. Why am I second in line to get my own husband's remains? I know we're likely to outlive my mother-in–law, but it is upsetting me that he prioritizes her ahead of me. Am I being selfish here?

A: I can just see you and your mother-in-law tussling over your late husband's cremains and the two of you making the whole question moot when you end up tipping the vase and both covered with his eternal dust. Of all the things for couples to fight over, who gets hold of your ashed should be pretty low on the list. Nonetheless, it is bizarre that a married man would want to be returned to Mom if he bites the dust prematurely. The real questions here are: Is he a mama's boy? Do you have a lot of conflict with your mother-in-law? Does your husband take her side? If none of that is a problem, then you need to calmly revisit this with your husband. Tell him that discussing all these hypotheticals is kind of silly. But you were surprised how much it hurt that you both wouldn't mutually decide to entrust your remains to each other, and you'd like to hear more about what he's thinking.

Q. Second-Hand Baby Items : I am a mom of two, with no plans for any more kids. When I found out one of my friends was expecting, I invited her over to take away whatever second-hand baby items she wanted to take. She took most of my kids' old things. A couple of weeks later she unfortunately had a miscarriage. Because the baby was planned, I assumed she would keep the baby items and clothes for later use. Then I found out she was selling them off on the Internet! I am a little angry over this. Even though I expected to give them away for good and I know I have no say over how she uses them, I gave the beloved items away in anticipation that a dear friend will use them for her own child, not to be sold off for extra cash. Should I say something about this or not?

A: People who have undergone a loss get a fair amount of leeway on their behavior. But the obvious thing for your friend to do would have been to ask you if you wanted the things back, or should she hang on to them, or even pass them on to another pregnant friend. It's true that people are free to do with gifts whatever they like, but your friend really violated the spirit of helping out a new mother by passing along your used baby items. Instead she turned your generosity into her windfall. I hope you've already expressed your sadness at her miscarriage. If so, then you are free to say, "Marcy, I saw that you were selling the baby items I gave you. If you weren't going to keep them, I wish you'd have let me know, because I would have liked to pass them on to another friend." Then let it go.

Q. Husband's Affections Gone Overboard: Ten years after trying for a baby, we finally had a child who is now 18 months. Our entire family is ecstatic, naturally. My husband in particular is tremendously affectionate and can't do enough for our daughter. He insists on dressing her in nothing but designer label clothing, he bought three different expensive dollhouses and even a miniature car for her to "drive" around the house. We are not well off, but my husband feels like he can't do enough for our little girl. These expenses are eating into our wallets. We've had arguments over how much he spends on our daughter, but he says he's just showing his love. What can I do to make him see sense here?

A: Love is not shown by giving your toddler a car. It's better demonstrated by clapping as she bangs on pots or singing to her while she plays with her cheap little bath toys in the tub. You should be getting your clothes from friends who are passing them on or thrift shops (see letter above). After 10 years of trying, I can only imagine the joy all of you feel. But now after 18 months, it's time for your husband to stop appeasing the fertility gods by decorating your daughter in expensive finery. Look for a parenting class in your area. Going together will help your husband learn the very best way to nurture your darling girl.

Q. Politics in the Workplace: I work in a setting where the vast majority of my coworkers and the people I encounter are, politically speaking, quite conservative. I am not. Maybe I was naive in assuming this was a non-issue when I started this job (which I genuinely love, by the way), but the 2008 election proved otherwise. It was assumed that I was of the right-wing persuasion, and the very few times I mentioned that I wasn't, I was told (seriously, not jokingly), "You'd better not say that too loudly around here." I had to hear a lot of nasty name-calling and ugly generalizations, but kept my mouth shut because, frankly, I don't want to lose my job because of how I vote. The next presidential election is over a year away still, but already things are starting to get ugly again. I dislike confrontation, but I'm already dreading months of sitting in silence while ugly insults fly. Do I continue to turn the other cheek, or potentially risk my job by saying: "Hey, I'm one of those people you're talking about. Please stop!"?

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