Help! Should I Hug the Dirty Old Man Who Comes Into My Shop?

Advice on manners and morals.
March 26 2012 3:12 PM

Whoa, Momma

During a live chat, Dear Prudence offers advice on having children after tragedy, elective surrogacy, and the demands of parenting twins.

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A: We only have the letter writer’s word that not disrupting work is the reason for the surrogate—there may have been others that weren't made public. But I am hearing from a surprising number of people saying this is the wave of the future. That women who can afford it will just pay to have someone else go through the difficulty of pregnancy and childbirth. But infants are so demanding, and frankly disgusting—all the poop and vomit. Why not have someone else raise the disruptive little things until they settle down and are more sentient? Surrogates have given many people the opportunity to become parents and I'm all for it. But to be able to bear your children and hire someone to do it because pregnancy is a pain—if that's a trend then I'm astounded.

Q. Drug Addict Brother Keeps Knocking: My brother "Jake" has been a drug addict since his late teens. I have supported him off and on for the last 10 years by letting him stay at my place on occasion and offering tough love and advice many times. Many of his frequent requests for money fell on deaf ears; however there were times where he swindled me out of significant amounts of money through lies and playing on emotions. He has been in and out of rehab, and we've tried as a family numerous times to help him get clean. It has progressively gotten worse and the last straw for me was his blatant theft of money and valuables from our half sister and I, for which he spent months in jail. I cut off conversation with him for a year and a half, and only have recently seen him again in passing where he suggested we "hang out." He has since been texting and calling for me to spend time with him and his young daughter, whom I adore. I'm assuming he's somewhat clean if he has visitation from his daughter, but I still don't trust him. We had a rough childhood, experiencing both physical and emotional abuse from a drug addicted parent who has since passed away three years ago. I felt a great burden lifted from me with the passing of the parent, and I cannot spend the rest of my life dealing with another hopeless drug addict. To top it all off I am getting married this summer and struggling with whether to extend an invite to him. I'm at a loss for how to deal with this, please help.

A: Thank goodness you were able to break the chain of abuse and addiction. How sad for your brother, and especially his daughter, that he hasn't. What you should do is what you're doing: Take tentative steps to rebuilt a relationship with him, but one that's predicated on his being clean. That means you can meet him at a restaurant for lunch (go ahead and pick up the tab), but you refuse his requests for money or for a place to crash. Your brother has a long way to go to prove that he's reliable, and you can't have a full relationship with him until he does. (Although I hope you can have an independent one with your niece.) You don't have to decide anything about your wedding right now. You can see how your brother's recovery progresses. And if it regresses, you should not feel guilty for telling him he can't be part of your life as long as he's destroying his.

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Q. My Boy Is Too Young To Be A Man: I married a wonderful man from another culture. We have three beautiful children, two girls and a boy, ages 19, 17, and 14. Over the years we have shown mutual respect for each other's background and ideas. We haven't always agreed on how to raise our kids, but we always talk things over and are able to compromise. Until now. My husband recently started telling our son it's about time he "become a man" and start "going with the girls." He acts like it’s almost shameful for our son to still be a virgin as he approaches 15. He certainly didn't feel the same about our girls as they have matured. I'm willing to accept that boys will be boys, and the most I can do is to educate him and hope he protects himself, but I'm absolutely appalled that my husband is encouraging, even pressuring, our son to become sexually active. I don't see any middle ground here, I'm certain that my husband is wrong. Is there some sort of compromise I should make? What course of action do you recommend?

A: I hope all your children have had their Gardasil shots, including your son. Your husband is doing something terrible. You son should not be sexually active at such a young age just because men back in his home country may be. There are reasons he's in America and not in his home country, and leaving behind a crude, macho attitude toward relations between the sexes sounds like one good one. If your husband won't listen to reason from you, schedule an appointment for the two of you with a child psychologist—leave your son at home—to discuss this. Maybe if your husband hears from a professional about the harm he's doing your son he will back off.

Q. Re: Missed the Boat To Get Married: Barf. Seriously, this person thinks being in your late 30s means you'll never get married. While parenting two kids single with a demanding job will be hard, people can do it. I realize the sister is bringing up good points, but with a bit too much 1950s rhetoric for my taste.

A: Agreed that I should have called the letter writer out on the insulting and ridiculous "missing the boat" comments. The sister is in her 30s for goodness sake! But the issue now is that someone who seems not to understand what taking care of twin infants alone will entail is just about to have them handed to her.

Q. Your Winking Boyfriend Weirds Me Out: Retail employee here. As a woman, men who winked at me immediately translated into "Oh god, he's trying to flirt with me ... and in front of his girlfriend? I'm just trying to work." Because 9 times out of 10, that is exactly what was happening. So while I realize this might not be what he means, experience taught me to limit contact and just be polite. Please tell him, again, that he's creeping us out.

A: Thanks for this insight from a winkee.

Q. Modern Bathsheba: I am not a very good person. I began dating a married man (I knew) and eventually he divorced his wife to be with me. We married when I found out I was pregnant. But our baby died from a blood infection when he was a few days old. My husband's ex-wife sent me a Bible a few weeks ago, with the tale of David and Bathsheba highlighted. I eventually showed my husband the bible, and he's livid. He wants to tell their mutual friends what she did, he wants to confront her. But part of me thinks I deserved the bible. I feel sick at how loving and kind my husband, my family, my friends have been to me since our baby died. I don't feel like I deserve their love and support. I feel so guilty for still being crazy about my husband. What should I do?

A: Please get a counselor right away. Your child's death is not a punishment for your breaking up your husband's first marriage. You have acknowledged that you—and your husband—began your relationship with an infidelity, and good for recognizing that you caused pain. But your husband's ex-wife sending you that Bible is unconscionably venomous. Maybe there's a good reason your husband wanted out of a marriage to this woman. You deserve love and support. Your child died from a terrible medical event, not because of anything you did. Find a support group for people who have lost infants, NationalShare.org is a good place to start, and get an individual counselor to help you through your grief.

Q. "White People Always...":  I am white, but most of my friends are not. Several friends in particular often say, "White people are so ridiculous." Or, "Oh, I don't date white guys." This doesn't make me feel like a victim of racism—it just makes me feel out of place. I wonder if that's how they see me. I don't know how to bring it up, though, because I don't want to make a big deal about it. Should I even bother, and if so how?

A: I like your question: "Is that how you see me?" Sure, I know people say things in their in-group that they may not say in the larger world.  But I think you're right to call your friends on the fact that they are making judgments about a vast number of people simply because of their race.

Q. Wicked Stepmothers: So if a women marries a bad stepfather, it is her fault. If a man marries a bad stepmother it is her fault. Tell me we don't have a double standard.

A: I have said over and over that I don't understand men with children who marry women who resent that fact.

Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone.  I hope all the new babies soon sleep through the night. Have a good week.