Wife’s Best Friend Is Hubby’s Worst Enemy
In a live chat, Prudie advises a man whose wife’s best buddy is out to “destroy” him.
Q. Roommate's Racist Friend: One night I walked back from the library with my roommate Anna and her friend Tom. We passed a group of rowdy young men, the majority of whom were black. Tom then used the N-word when telling a racist joke about slavery. He added, "If my little sister ever dated a [N-word], my dad would shoot him and her!" I found his behavior appalling and told him so. He and Anna argued that he was "only joking." I left them, and later I told Anna I didn't want Tom to come to our room anymore. She told me I was overreacting. Later Tom called me an uptight bitch and told me not to tell anyone about what he said. Before we left for break, he began following me around saying stuff like: "Smile at me. I know you like me. Come on, smile for me!" He thinks it's hilarious, and so do his friends. My request to change rooms was just denied, and the situation has not bettered with my return to school. Any advice you can offer? Am I being unreasonable?
A: That Tom is quite the Oscar Wilde, that's some joke he told. I applaud you for calling him on his repulsive remarks and walking away. It then became more complicated when you try to bar him from visiting Anna. It probably would have been better for you to say you don't want to interact with him anymore and you'd appreciate if she'd socialize with him away from the room. However, if Tom and his friends are now on a campaign to harass you, you need to take this back to your dorm adviser. Explain exactly what happened during the precipitating incident, and say you now need some help getting this harassment stopped. Accept you may not be able to change rooms. But stay calm and resolute—don't let the jerks get a rise out of you—as you work your way through getting this idiot off your back.
Q. The Non-Reciprocating Friend: One of my closest friends has a birthday coming up and she's planning a weekend of events—dinner, club, hotel. This is fine and I'd be happy to attend, except for the fact that when it's my birthday, she's never to be found. My birthday plans have been modest (a house party and a gathering at a local watering hole) for the past two years, and she hasn't attended either, citing no baby-sitter each time. Yet I attended, and shelled out for, her last few soirees at expensive restaurants. I love her dearly, but I don't want to go because she's never at my birthday party. I'm single and childless, so maybe I just don't understand. I feel like a spoiled brat, but I'm considering being “busy” that weekend. What do you think?
A: It's one thing to throw a bash to celebrate a milestone birthday. Actually, any birthday celebration is fine if you invite your friends over and provide food and drink. But this trend of adults expecting people to underwrite an evening at an expensive restaurant annually just because they've turned 27 or 43 is pernicious. Your friend throws herself a birthday weekend and everyone else picks up the tab. What's next, billboard-sized posters of her on every corner? When she doesn't want to go to your celebration, she declines. You don't want to go to hers, so turnabout is fair play.
Q. Re: Racist Friend: Skip the dorm adviser, since the offender presumably doesn't live in the same dorm. A report of harassment should go directly to the dean of students' office.
A: Go for it.
Q. Fruitcake Dilemma: Save it and enter the annual Colorado Fruitcake Toss! Good luck!
A: Perfect! Sounds like more fun than dog dancing.
Q. Announcement: I disagree about not sending a birth announcement. It is just as important to acknowledge the lost child as it is the living. Many parents I know find the fact people ignore their loss incredibly painful—an announcement opens the door for discussion.
A: People do feel isolated when others won't discuss their loss. I hope the sister and her husband are getting a lot of help from their family and friends. They can also join a support group of others who have experienced a similar loss. But sending a disturbing photo and announcement is not going to open the door for discussion; it will leave people not knowing what to say.
Q. My Recovering Stepson: My husband's son has battled an addiction to heroin since shortly after his parent's divorce. He will leave his latest stay in rehab soon, and my husband wants him to live with us instead of at a halfway house type of situation. I want to support my husband and my stepson as much as possible. But we have two young children, and I admit I am worried about bringing a recently clean recovering drug addict into the same house as them. Four years ago, the last time he lived with my husband and me, my stepson overdosed, and I discovered him. I am very worried about my toddlers having a similar experience. What are your thoughts? I would never ask my husband to turn his son away, either. I just want to make sure our home is a safe environment for our kids.
A: Discussing what is the best next step seems as if it should be part of what happens as he is finishing his stay in rehab. Your concerns are very legitimate and do not mean you are rejecting your stepson. Surely your son has a caseworker, so you and your husband should make an appointment with him or her to talk about what's next. You can air your concerns in both a loving and honest way. It may be that he would be better off in a more controlled environment where he is being more closely monitored. You and your husband should be able to discuss all the possibilities and arrive at one that makes everyone feel safe and cared for.
Q. Hello, Baby, Redux: Last week I wrote that my ex-husband's new wife was about to have a baby. They had a little girl, and per your advice, I asked if I could pop in for a quick visit. They said yes, and I spent a half hour cooing over their new darling before bowing out. My daughters are thrilled at adding another girl to their family, and I can't wait to watch this baby grow.
A: Thank you so much for this follow up. I'm delighted your ex and his wife welcomed you. And how lovely for your husband's new wife to know you are welcoming her daughter as a third sister to your girls. Oh, if only all divorced couples with children could have it turn out this way!
Q. RE: Racist Friend: The escalation of the situation to the dean is likely to make the situation even worse—that official can't be everywhere on campus all the time where she is likely to run into crazy man. What if she first tries to address the situation by talking directly with Anna and racist friend, since after all, she does "have on him" that he doesn't want her broadcasting his comments so they could call a truce if he leaves her alone and maybe try to start anew ... it is a new year.
A: I agree the best solution is for everyone to drop it. For college students it's a good lesson to learn that not everything in life can be rectified by people in charge. However, the letter writer says that upon returning after the winter break the racist jerk is continuing his campaign. Of course the dean wouldn't be monitoring the jerk's whereabouts. The jerk would be called in and told to cut it out. That seems fair.
Q. Recovering Stepson: After treatment, I went into a half-way house. I think it's important that your son have the support of people who have been there, in his shoes, and lived to tell the tale. Unless your husband/you have addictions, you just won't get it—no matter how loving you are. He is welcome (if he earns the privilege) to visit you. Just not stay with you.
A: Thank you. Great points about what the next step should be and that professionals need to be monitoring his continued recovery.
Q. Annoying Ex: My husband's job involves going to the company's New Year party every year. His old college ex is in the same industry and attends the event as well. Every time I see her, she makes a point to tell me about how well my husband treated her and their past love life. Sometimes she belittles him, because he wasn't manly enough for her. I may be biased, but my husband is the kindest, most romantic, and strongest person I have ever known. The party is a good way for my husband to talk to people to advance in his career, so I have to see her. Instead of punching her, is there something witty I might say next year?
A: The first thing you need to do is put the ex out of your mind for the next 11 and a half months. Don't worry about stopping her with some devastating witticism. A simple, "And a happy new year to you, too. Excuse me while I get more champagne" will be enough.