Got a burning question for Prudie? She'll be online at Washingtonpost.com to chat with readers each Monday at 1 p.m. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.
I’m in my early 30s, and I’ve found the man I want to marry and start a family with. He feels the same way. We still live apart for one reason: my cat. My boyfriend is extremely allergic to cats and needs a fur-free home. I've had my 8-year-old cat his whole life. I love him, and this breaks my heart, but I am considering finding him a new home. The problem is my guilt, as well as the reaction of my animal-loving friends. They're all completely incredulous that I would give up my pet. They say, “But he's like your child!” and “You made a commitment to this animal.” To complicate the situation, I spend most of my time at my boyfriend’s place, so my poor kitty has been developing some behavioral problems because he's frequently alone. I feel horrible. What should I do?
—Sad Cat Lover
If you hold off on marriage and children until your cat crosses the rainbow bridge, you could find yourself having to settle for kittens because you might be past your child-bearing years. It’s impossible for someone who’s allergic to cats to live with one, and it’s ludicrous to think you will give up becoming a wife and mother because you made a commitment to your cat. It’s good that your friends are outraged by your plan. So start implementing it by asking which one of them will be the person to give your cat a good home. If none of them volunteers, then stop listening to them and start immediately finding your cat a loving owner. Do not turn him in to a shelter—there’s no guarantee an 8-year-old cat will be placed, and you are obligated to be the one to get him in a good situation. But you could contact some rescue groups and see if they will let you use their resources on his behalf, as long as they agree you can keep him until a new owner turns up. While you are searching, spend a lot more time at home with him. Your cat is suffering because you are not around, and a cat with behavior problems is a cat that’s going to be hard to get adopted. Your kitty is doing you a great favor by allowing you to find out what your boyfriend's intentions really are. You say he wants to marry you. So before you get rid of a pet in order to move in with your boyfriend, make the engagement official. There's no sense saying farewell to a loyal companion who purrs in favor of one who finds that he’s not actually ready to commit.
Dear Prudence: Holiday Cheapskate
My husband is a wonderful man and loves me dearly. He shows his love throughout the year with occasional flowers for no reason, compliments, and tender words of love. However, he is terrible when it comes to planning for special occasions. Christmas, our anniversary, and my birthday bring promises of trips or gifts that never materialize, printouts of items he ordered online for me that day, or something he ran to the store and bought. I always plan gifts that make him feel special. He used to think ahead about gifts, and I don't understand why he won't make the effort anymore. I want to tell him that while I appreciate his spontaneous gifts, his lack of thoughtfulness for special occasions is hurtful, and I would like him to make a special effort for Christmas this year. I’d say that if he would like suggestions, all he needs to do is ask, but that I will not accept any IOUs or last-minute gifts from him, and I will be upset if he doesn’t put some thought into a gift. My hesitation is that he really does show his love for me all year, and I don't want to seem ungrateful or demanding. What should I do?
—No More Afterthoughts
Dear No More,
So, three times a year your husband disappoints you in the gifts department. This gripe is worth talking about, but your planned discourse has a rather legalistic feel: “The party of the first part notifies the party of the second part that tokens of acknowledgment of Christmas, our anniversary, and my birthday will be sent back for adjudication if they have been purchased or promised within a designated period of less than 72 hours prior to said celebration. …” Lighten up, and instead of pouting and making demands, develop a joint giving strategy that will meet your needs. Tell your husband that you’ve felt slighted by his lack of planning for big occasions and that doing something special for each other is important to you. So for Christmas this year, you’d like to go shopping together. While you’re out, each identify several gifts you would enjoy, then split up and go off to make the “surprise” purchases. Instead of having your anniversary be a gift-giving exchange, jointly plan an event such as a weekend away or dinner at a great restaurant. For your birthday, at least two weeks in advance, hand your husband some catalogs with items circled and say, “If you order one of these now, you won’t be shopping at CVS the day of my birthday, and I won’t end up in tears.” Comfort yourself that most letters to this column that begin with the phrase “My wonderful husband” end with the news that he is “a lecher,” “an alcoholic,” “a mamma’s boy,” or ”wearing my pantyhose.”
I am Jewish, my husband is not. We were married by a rabbi, attend synagogue, and have a Jewish home. Our son, born this year, had a bris. My husband's parents live in a rural town across the country and know no other Jews. They have been open and welcoming and traveled at great expense and difficulty to our son's bris. But we have run into a problem with the upcoming Christmas, which we will spend with them. We intend to explain to our son that Christmas is Grandma and Papa's holiday, and accordingly we asked my mother-in-law to wrap any gifts for him in Hanukkah paper. My mother-in-law insists that Christmas has become a secular holiday and cannot understand why our son should not enjoy Christmas as her own son did. We see them rarely, so I do not want to taint the holiday with a stern message to them. I think our suggestion is a good compromise that allows their grandson to celebrate the holiday with them with minimal confusion and is consistent with the decisions we reached. How can I help my mother-in-law respect our wishes?
—Don't Want To Be a Grinch
Someone who’s still healing from his bris is too young to notice he’s getting gifts wrapped in paper printed with Santas not dreidels. You plan to explain to your son that Christmas is the holiday of Grandma and Papa, who are not Jewish. So your demand that they use Hanukkah gift wrap won’t prevent confusion, because it’s confusing me. Your in-laws don’t celebrate Hanukkah, and trying to make their Christmas into an ersatz Jewish holiday will rightly be offensive to them. You and your husband have agreed to raise Jewish children, so you will have Jewish kids who have a set of grandparents who give them Christmas presents. Be grateful these people have warmly embraced you and your traditions, and don’t demand they change theirs.
I am a woman in my early 20s. When I was 12, we moved out of my childhood home. I've come to terms with the move, however I still have dreams about the old house all the time. I had a great childhood and have lots of wonderful memories of growing up in that house and neighborhood, which was so different from life now. Around the holidays I am reminded even more of all those good times. My sister feels the same way. We've been contemplating writing a letter to the current owners, asking if we could see the house again. (My family is very private, and I know my parents would not be gracious if the previous owners of their house showed up wanting to see it.) Is it normal for me to feel this way, and should I write the letter?
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." Well, at least your dreams of your old house are happy ones, unlike the narrator of Rebecca. I’m glad you had such a wonderful childhood, but you make your parents seem rather harsh by saying they would not be gracious if former residents of their home came to relive their memories. I think your parents are an anomaly, however. One day, at my previous home, a young man came to the door and said he was the son of the former owners and wondered if he could look around. He offered to show me his driver’s license, which confirmed he had the last name of the owners, but I could already tell he was sincere. I led him on a tour and saw the nostalgia on his face as his childhood materialized in front of him. He asked if he could bring his sister back with him, and a few weeks later the two of them went from room to room in a hush, excavating their memories. It was lovely for all of us. You and your sister should write your letter—almost certainly you will be allowed to have a look around. But before you do this, keep in mind that the house will have new furnishing, fixtures, maybe even walls, and be prepared that this could rearrange your pristine memories of this place.
More Dear Prudence Columns
"Big Love: I met a great woman online, but I'm not attracted to her body type. Is our blooming connection doomed?" Posted April 21, 2011.
"I'll Have What the Toddler's Having: Dear Prudence advises a woman whose partner eats only unsophisticated kids' food." Posted April 14, 2011.
"Dating a Cyber Snooper: My boyfriend hacked into my email and now uses my sexual past against me. Should we break up?" Posted April 7, 2011.
"A War of Words: I'm proud of my Marine brother. What do I say when people denigrate the military?" Posted March 31, 2011.
More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
"My In-Laws Should Be Outlawed: Dear Prudence offers advice on overly critical, criminal-minded, and cringe-worthy in-laws during a live chat at Washingtonpost.com." Posted April 18, 2011.
"Baby on Board: Dear Prudence advises a mom weary of rude subway riders interfering with her baby's commute—in a live chat at Washingtonpost.com." Posted April 11, 2011.
"Let's Tie the NOT! Dear Prudence advises a reader whose mate is reluctant to wed, even after five years and a baby together—in a live chat at Washingtonpost.com." Posted April 4, 2011.
"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.
A note from Slate’s Social Media Editor Jeremy Stahl: In recent weeks, the comments section has seen more personal attacks and off-topic discussions than usual. This is a reminder that these commenting pages are for the discussion of “Dear Prudence” columns. Do not use this forum for personal discussions, do not post excessively, and do not engage in ad hominem attacks. If you have any questions about our commenting rules, which you can find here, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone who breaks these rules repeatedly is subject to being banned from commenting on the site.