Dear Prudence: How do we handle our nude neighbor?

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 6 2011 3:38 PM

The Nudist Next Door

Dear Prudence advises a reader whose new neighbor needs better curtains—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.)

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Q. Family: My little sister was put up for adoption when she was born, however we met her and my mother, older sister, and I have maintained a relationship with her for the last 10 or so years. She was also in both my older sister's and my wedding. My family is planning a family vacation this fall and she has been invited, and now my grandmother, the host, has decided to disinvite her. As we live throughout the country, I have not seen my sister in two years, since her adoptive mother's funeral. As her sister, and a mother, I do not feel that this is right, but do not know if or how to approach the subject with my grandmother. Should I say something to her or just let it go? My grandmother can be very set in her ways and is not always willing to listen to the opinions of those of my generation.

A: What your grandmother is suggesting is so ugly that I'm wondering if this is a sign that Grandma is not just set in her ways, but starting to lose it. If she is just a nasty, vindictive person, one way these people gain power is through their ability to make life miserable for everyone who doesn't follow their discordant tune. I think you and your older sister should say that your younger sister is part of your family and so will be invited on a family vacation. If her presence will be too upsetting to Grandma, then tell Grandma you will be sad, but understand, if she herself chooses not to come. If you refuse to let yourself be bullied, the bully's power melts away.

Q. Re: See-Through Curtains: I've noticed a lot of times you suggest an anonymous note. I have to say, if I were that woman—assuming I didn't realize the curtains were sometimes see-through—I'd be pretty scared to get an anonymous note saying so. I'd feel like someone is stalking me. I don't see why someone, perhaps another female neighbor, can't approach her and just state it, gently. Why must everything be anonymous? Are we so scared of opinion that we can't just go up and state a fact, tactfully, along with a suggestion for help?

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A: I sometimes suggest anonymous notes, especially in situations where the conversation requires stating, "I can see you naked/hear you having an orgasm." That conversation is going to be hard to get out of one's mind when you meet walking the dogs. I don't think it's scary to get a gently worded note saying, "You probably aren't aware, but your curtains are see-through." What would be scarier would be to find out years later that everyone was gawking and no one spoke up.

Q. Purebred Dogs: I can't believe your response regarding the breeder. There is NO excuse for purchasing a purebred dog when hundreds or thousands of animals in need of loving homes are put down every day. Pure-breeding not only costs a ton, but can produce inbred animals with serious, life-shortening health problems. I'm sorry the shelter grilled you, but you must remember that they deal with animals who have been abused, abandoned, and otherwise betrayed by their humans. I adopted my two cats at one of the most uptight shelters in the country (NYC Humane Society) and it was worth every "hoop" to give rescue animals a good home. For shame.

A: I understand your feelings. But I have heard many truly crazy stories about rescue groups' behavior. One group refused to let a family adopt a second dog because when they did the home check the family's current dog was running around "unsupervised" in the family's fenced backyard. As my friend pointed out, "My children run around in the yard unsupervised." Shelter groups do great work, but they really need to consider how they sometimes drive people to breeders.

Q. Awful Grandma Is Host: But, Prudie, the sister wrote that her grandmother is the host of the family vacation. It's either at her house or she's paying for it, right? Doesn't that mean that the sisters' only option is not to attend themselves? And hopefully their mother won't, either.

A: Thanks for pointing this out. If Grandma is controlling the purse strings or the venue, then yes, the letter writer's entire family should say that without the youngest sister being invited, they will have to decline.

Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Without rotten family members, I'd have very little column material, but I hope your evil ones give it a rest this week.

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