Q. Re: Unhappy Birthday to Me: I was totally stunned while reading this letter—could a 12-year-old really have been seeing someone for 18 months? I have enjoyed 60 wonderful birthdays but many of them not on the actual day itself. When I was young, my mother would make "joint" parties for my brother and me as our birthdays were close (albeit 3 years apart). Then, as an adult, I usually had to work on my birthday. What is the big deal? A celebration is when you are surrounded by people for whom you care and who, in return, care about you. The only time I remember friends actually feeling the need to celebrate on their actual birthday was when they turned 21 and simply *had* to have their obligatory "first drink." Personally, I am surprised her boyfriend, who seems to show respect for his mother, would put up with such a spoiled brat for 18 months!
A: The comments are running universally against the girlfriend who's boiling mad over the fish fry.
Q. Left Out of the Party: A longtime friend of mine, "Annie," announced her engagement last summer. We have been great friends since middle school, and I always thought that I would be part of her wedding. During the fall, she told me that she had decided on not having a wedding party because it was so complicated. So imagine my surprise when I went to her wedding website in early winter and saw the list of bridesmaids. Needless to say, I was not on it. I was hurt and surprised that Annie had never mentioned anything to me about the reason for her choices, and still hasn't, even though we have hung out multiple times and have even taken several trips together. I never asked about it, because I didn't want to put her on the spot or feel like I was asking for a place in the wedding. I am a grown-up, and understand that not everyone gets everything they want, and even though I expected to be asked, I don't have some right to be asked. Yet at the same time, I feel sad about the situation and wonder if there is some reason why (that I'm not aware of). Is there a way to tactfully bring it up to clear the air? Or should I just let it go?
A: Annie's getting married so she needs to be grown-up enough not to make a transparent lie to a good friend. She could have said when the wedding was announced, "I want you to know I'm really hoping you'll be able to attend, your friendship means so much to me." If it was so natural that you would have expected to be a bridesmaid, she could have added that unfortunately, she's had to limit the bridesmaid's list, then asked you to take on some meaningful duty at the wedding. So your friend is lily-livered. But most of the bridesmaid letters I get are about the horrendous expense in time and money bridesmaids now find themselves rooked into. You got off easy. So just go to the wedding, wear whatever you want, and simply celebrate your friend.
Q. My Foot in My Mouth: I was clicking through a friend's Facebook photos of a wedding she attended, and saw that she was expecting. I commented, "Congrats! When is the little one due? You look great." As I clicked through more photos from the evening I realized that, well, she wasn't. In my defense, this is a friend I hadn't seen for a year, we somewhat lost touch, and she was wearing a large, flowy dress while standing next to a slender woman in a tight dress. I was mortified and went back to delete my comment, but she obviously read it because the photo had disappeared. I feel awful, particularly because I know she used to see a psychologist for eating issues several years ago. I've started about 20 different apology emails but I don't know what to say. Your advice here, please?
A: There's no defense for scrolling through some photos of a semi-friend and on the basis of one flowy dress asking when the baby is due. Just send an email with the subject line, "I'm an idiot," and explain you sent your stupid note after seeing one photo and quickly realized when you saw the rest of the photos just how mistaken you were. Say you're mortified and apologize. You have learned the lesson that Dave Barry articulated years ago—I paraphrase—that you should never mention the pregnancy of anyone who hasn't confirmed it first, unless the baby is actually emerging.
Q. Boat Blues: My parents passed away over the winter and my sister is executor of the will. My parents adored boating and left a nice-sized boat to the four of us kids with the intention that we would take it out and use it together. Here is how it actually played out: Two siblings do not want to spend the fees for insurance, titles, maintenance, and storage. Since one of them lives out of state and the other doesn't have much money, I can kind of understand how they would feel that way. My executor-sister could afford these things, but simply doesn't like boating. My family loves boating and has great memories of being on the boat with my parents. My executor-sister offered for me to buy out the rest of the siblings and to be the sole owner of the boat. To be fair, she offered me a very good deal. The problem? I can't quite afford to buy anybody out, but I could afford the yearly maintenance fees. I asked my siblings if we could keep the boat one last summer and then if I still can't afford to buy out next year, they can sell it. My executor-sister told me that with three people wanting to sell the boat, they really don't want to wait for next year. I am heartbroken because I have very fond memories of boating with my parents. What can I do in this situation to keep the boat in the family? Or am I just doomed to not boat anymore?
A: Suggest that before the boat gets sold all of your take one last family boat trip as a memorial to your parents and spend the day reminiscing about the wonderful times your parents gave you. You can't keep the boat in the family, and you can't hold onto a time that's passed. If you had the financial means to take over the boat, fine. But you don't, and your siblings need the money. I know you're still mourning your parents, but please, just because you don't own a boat doesn't mean your boating days are over. If you want to get on the water, you'll rent, or find some other way. So don't lay the responsibility for being land-locked on your siblings.
Q. In-Laws and Grandparenting: My husband’s parents are devoted long-distance grandparents to my 16-month-old daughter. They are lovely people whom we get along with fairly well as long as we steer clear of political and religious topics. My FIL is a deacon at a large, conservative megachurch in Texas and their political beliefs are what I would consider extreme right-wing. We are solid Democrats, and so we just don't talk about politics with them. One of their big projects is coordinating donations and volunteers to a local Pregnancy Resource Center. This PRC, like most, is very anti-abortion. During their most recent visit, I learned that my FIL has been using one of my daughter's baby pictures on materials soliciting donations to the PRC and on thank-you cards to those who give (and has been doing so for about a year). I am pretty appalled at this but am not sure what to do. I do believe in cutting them a lot of slack with her and don't want to overregulate their relationship. But this, IMO, is not about their relationship with her. They are very well aware that we are pro-choice. Then again, I wonder if there is any point in stirring something up with them over this. Am I being overly sensitive? I just keep thinking that if I were to, for example, donate in their name to Planned Parenthood, they would be horrified (and I would never do that). This feels similar. Advice on what to do?
A: I always recommend that in conflicts with the in-laws, it is the child of the parents who should step up. Your husband should tell his parents that while he and they have differing views on many topics, and are glad they can just respect each other's point of view, it doesn't feel right to him that they are using your daughter's photo without permission on materials that conflict with your views. He should say that next time the materials go to the printer, he'd appreciate it if they used a photo of another child. Sure, it's a small thing, and maybe not worth mentioning. But sometimes you have to address the little things to keep the big things in check.
Q. Husband Afraid of Delivery Room: My husband and I have a generally peaceful relationship with just a little bit of bickering. However, this one topic has us both in a standoff with tempers getting flared. Two years ago we had our first child. After an emergency C-section, our son took his first breath, then collapsed his lungs and was under for over seven minutes. (He's doing OK now thankfully). We have been discussing increasing our family size, but my husband vehemently refuses to be in the delivery room with me because he doesn't want to be there if it happens again. I don’t want to be alone in case it does happen again. Any advice?
A: I can understand your husband was traumatized (not to mention you), but the chances of a repeat must be remote. First of all, you're not pregnant, so this issue should be tabled into you get into bed and start making babies. Once you are pregnant, this is the kind of thing that it would helpful to talk about with a professional. If your husband hears of the unlikelihood of the complications of your son's birth happening again, possibly he can relax. Maybe, once you get pregnant and the due date is approaching, if he still feels anxious he can see for a short while a therapist who specializes in phobias. Don't let this issue keep you two so mad at each other that it's impossible for you to conceive.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Talk to you next week.