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. So far I haven't slipped and written 2011 on anything yet.
Q. Intrusive and Annoying Friend of Wife: One of my wife's friends has hated me since the day she met me. While early on, her hatred was tolerable, lately it's become annoying and more than a little creepy. I work in research and development, the same industry as her. I often have lunch with colleagues, both male and female, while we discuss work. She has spotted me a few times having lunch with a female colleague and without even talking to me, she's reported to my wife that she thinks I'm having an affair (even though it's been a different woman each time—apparently I really get around). My wife was suspicious at first but is not so worried now. (I've never cheated on her and have given her no reason to believe I have or would.) This woman ran into me last week and told me, "I'm going to destroy you" and walked away. I told my wife, and she said I must not have heard her correctly. How do I convince my wife that she needs to confront this nutcase? If she doesn't change her behavior toward me after that, I think it's only fair that my wife stop seeing her as a friend. What do you think I should do?
A: So, we've got the set-up for a thriller. In the Hollywood version you're working late one night when you hear the click-click-click of high heels coming down the corridor, and when you turn around there's the friend, wearing a wig to look like your wife, the knife in her hand glinting. Sorry, I didn't mean to get carried away, but this situation is seriously disturbing. I'm not suggesting you start keeping pepper spray in your briefcase, but you have to do something about this nut. It wouldn't take too many false reports from a "friend" that my husband was having an affair with a new woman every week for me to drop the pal. It's odd that your wife continues to have fond relations with a woman who has made it her goal to ruin your marriage. What does your wife think her friend actually said last week: "I'm going to Hanoi. You?" You need to explain to your wife that since this woman is in your industry and has an irrational hatred of you, she could spread vicious rumors that harm your career. I think you should get your wife to accompany you to a lawyer's office where you discuss this woman's behavior and find out what you can do about it. But a helpful first step would be for your wife to become your ally and make clear to her friend that this hostility to you is unwarranted and needs to end.
Dear Prudence: Deep Sleep Sex
Q. Birth Announcements: My little sister delivered a full-term stillborn child on New Year's Eve. She and her husband asked his sister, a professional photographer, to take pictures of them and their baby. Now they want to send out birth announcement with a message on the back thanking their loved ones for their support. They want to use a picture of them holding their stillborn daughter on the announcement. I cannot imagine the grief they're experiencing; I want them to do whatever helps them grieve, and using that picture doesn't seem harmful to me. My parents feel using a picture of a deceased baby is morbid, though, and confusing. My sister has asked my advice on the matter, and I feel inclined to tell her to follow her heart. Would you advise against using the picture on the announcement, which they will send to about 200 people?
A: People in mourning deserve a lot of leeway and your sister and her husband just experienced a crushing loss. However, since she's asking your advice, and you're asking mine, I strongly urge her not to send the photo. You don't send a "birth" announcement when there has been a stillbirth. And you're right the announcement and the photo will be both confusing and disturbing. It would be one thing to show the pictures to immediate family, but your sister has a very large list of friends and acquaintances. Surely, the word has gotten out about their loss, so your sister doesn't need to do any more to let everyone know. For those who have brought food and provided comfort, a short note of thanks is all that's necessary.
Q. Fruit Cake: I like fruitcake and I enjoy making it for the holiday season and distributing to my relatives. This past New Year's Day, after amassing a quantity of fruits and nuts, I produced 14 pounds of the controversial product. The problem is, I use a different recipe every year and I am an inveterate recipe meddler, and thus, this year's results are less than spectacular. I had made my own candied orange/lemon peel, and then let it sit on the counter for several weeks and its contribution to the gestalt is a citrusy bitterness. I am a stickler for quality ingredients, eschewing the weird fruits that many find objectionable, but I couldn't pass on the post-Christmas marked down green cherries (from $4.99 to 50 cents!). So what do I do with 14 pounds of subpar fruitcake?
A: Doorstop? Traffic cone? Hand weights? I believe it was humorist Russell Baker who said the original fruitcake was baked in colonial times and has been handed down ever since because no one has ever eaten one. I'm going to bet that none of your loved ones has inquired where their annual treat is. Maybe everyone is relieved they don't have to feed it to the dog again this year. Chalk up this experiment as a green cherry total loss and know that 2012 has to start improving.
Q. Take This Secret To The Grave?: My younger half-sister (Annie) will soon marry a family friend (Chris) with whom I went to college. She doesn't know that a decade ago, during a rough patch in my marriage, Chris and I carried on an intense four-month affair. It ended when I realized I love my husband more, and since then we've rarely talked about it. I now have no romantic feelings for Chris, and he has no romantic feelings for me. I feel I can safely say that we will never ever become romantic again. My husband also doesn't know about the affair. Chris doesn't want to tell Annie that we've had sex, and neither do I. Do we have any obligation at all to tell her, given the near certain unlikelihood that she will ever learn about the affair?
A: I certainly hope that "Annie" and "Chris" are pseudonyms (I rely on the discretion of letter writers when they provide names) or else a whole lot more people that you ever intended might figure this one out. Telling Annie would be an unnecessarily destabilizing revelation. I'm assuming she knows Chris is not a virgin and that's about all she needs to know. Her finding this out could cause her to break off the engagement and the reason why she ended it could end up reaching your husband. Then you have a whole lot of unhappy people in unraveling relationships for no reason. You and Chris had illicit sex with each other long ago and never will again. Tell this one to the crypt keeper.