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.)
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon, everyone. I hope you're all looking forward to Thanksgiving. My 92-year-old mother-in-law is hosting again. When I asked what I could do, she said, "Nothing." That's what I wanted to hear, and I love her for it!
Q. Smother Those Urges: I think I am in love with the least opportune of people: the woman married to my wife's ex-husband. We've kissed, very inappropriately, on one occasion, and I know she regretted it deeply and lives in fear that I'll reveal it to our spouses. Before the kiss, we were good friends, being that our spouses have remained good friends for the betterment of their children, but since it occurred—she kissed me, by the way, but was drunk at the time—we've pretty much stopped spending any time alone. I also love my wife and do not want to leave or hurt her, so I'm wondering if you have any advice about how to smother my feelings for her ex-husband's wife. It's becoming a distraction from my marriage, one I really want to handle and get rid of.
A: Think of your infatuation as a potential economic engine. If you and your wife's ex-husband's wife (surely we need a more elegant description for this person) bust up both your marriages, much new household formation will result! The lawyer and therapist fees that will be generated will be enormous! More people behaving like scoundrels is what the economy needs. You and your WEHW engaged in one sordid kiss. Since then you've stopped spending time alone together. Continue with that plan. Accept that furtive encounters tend to produce both regret and excitement, which can be heady and dangerous. If you can't get her out of your head, consider hitting yourself on it with a frying pan (before you wife finds out and does it for you). You're a grown man, so just keep saying to yourself, "Nah, not going to go there."
Q. Laugh at the Ornithophobe: I am incredibly afraid of turkeys. I dislike their fleshy heads, their huge feathery bodies, the noises they make. Chickens freak me out, too. I literally startle if I accidentally see a picture of a turkey, never mind the panic that rises in me when I see one in real life. In general, all birds freak me out. I know it's a ridiculous fear, one that many wouldn't understand, but then again I love snakes and don't mind spiders. My boyfriend's family like to hide pictures of turkeys in places where I will find them and freak out. I have asked them to stop, and I have asked him to ask them to stop, but they insist it's all in good fun. Last time I went over they hid a picture of a beheaded turkey, my worst fear of all, don't ask, in my purse. I nearly threw up when I saw it and shook for several hours afterward. With Thanksgiving coming up, I am freaked out about what they might do. How can I make it clear to them that this really bothers me?
A: Since you're an arachnophile, you could show up at the door with a bottle of pinor noir for your hosts and a box of spiders for the family. Say your idea this Thanksgiving is to let them loose on the dining room table and watch the hilarity that results. There are families that enjoy watching others' squirm (I grew up in one), but inducing a panic attack in someone is cruel and grotesque. Tell your boyfriend that he must talk to everyone in his family and get the word out immediately that the game of 'pin the turkey head' on the guest is done. If anyone tries to freak you out, you both with leave. If one person doesn't get the message and attempts to torture you, your boyfriend should ream out the miscreant. If it is a familywide violation, you both should head for the door. If he won't go with you, call yourself a cab and spend the ride reconsidering your relationship.
Video: Dear Prudence: Thanksgiving Smackdown
Q. MIL: My mother-in-law comes over twice a week to care for my child, and the other three days my daughter goes to daycare. It's a perfect arrangement for us because my daughter loves her grandma, and we get to save money on child care. We are hugely grateful for her help, but there has been one major issue. She comes to our house unannounced. One day I was in the shower with my toddler and she barged into the bathroom—I didn't even know she was in the house! Another time I'd just gotten out of the shower stark naked when I heard the key unlock. My husband has asked her to stop coming unannounced, but it hasn't deterred her in the slightest. She must have actually complained about this to my sister-in-law, because she called me later that week to lecture me about what a big sacrifice mom was making by caring for our daughter for free. My MIL usually comes around to drop off food because I often don't have a lot of time to cook. I'd rather not have the food and get the privacy instead. What can I do to stop her from coming here without offending her? Thanks.
A: If she's complaining about her duties, then your husband has to have a talk with her about whether childcare is something she wants to continue doing. If she is sacrificing time that she might be otherwise employed, perhaps you need to change your arrangement to a paid one. It's one thing for family members to have keys to each other's homes if everyone involved has an understanding of the necessary boundaries. But if you find her standing in front of the shower stall like an apparition out of a Hitchcock movie, it's time for you the change the locks. Again, your husband should be the one to explain that while you both appreciate everything she's doing for you, you two need more respect for your privacy. If this means she cancels the babysitting, then start scrimping to pay for all week daycare.
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