A: What you need to do is butt out. I agree nothing warrants a slap, but I reiterate what I said at the time: It would be foolish to end a marriage over this one-time offense, particularly when the husband was immediately remorseful and suggested seeking help. Even you acknowledge he has been a model husband since then. Not letting your children be around him is a ridiculous provocation on your part and will only undermine your relationship with your sister and their marriage. It sounds as if things are on track with them, so remove yourself from their intimate life.
Q. Reading at Restaurants: Sometimes when I want to eat out but don't have anyone to dine with I take a book to read during my meal. Sometimes I also read before a play begins. Recently an older woman came up to my table at a restaurant and told me it was very rude to read in public. I was shocked and embarrassed. I never read when I'm with others. Is it rude to read in public?
A: Apparently there is a cadre of people who would like to increase the amount of illiteracy in the world. They think we should all stare straight ahead when we are relieving ourselves, or waiting for an event, or enjoying a dinner out alone. Having a nice meal while engrossed in a good book sounds like a delightful evening—I'm one of those people who when dining alone would end up reading the ingredients on the Tabasco bottle if I didn't have a book with me. I assume the old lady also goes around pulling out people's earbuds and spilling ink on their crossword puzzles. She was a nut—ignore her remarks.
Q. Dirty T-shirt: I teach English to international students. One of them is a shy 9-year-old who has been here for four months. One day she wore a T-shirt to her class that said, "Don't hate me cuz I'm beautiful. (And in larger, bolder print) [Expletive] me cuz I'm HOT." I noticed she has worn it a couple of times since. I know I need to say something but I'm not quite sure what. I've met her parents once when they were enrolling her and they speak very little English, so presumably they have no idea what it means either. In fact, I teach the very basic beginners class so none of her classmates noticed anything, but I'm sure she gets some attention outside the class. She is a very sensitive child whose face turns bright red if she makes a small mistake so I can't imagine how I'm going to tell her that she is wearing a horrendously offensive T-shirt for a child her age. What can I say?
A: Take this to the school administration. Let's hope someone there speaks the parents' language and can call and explain that their daughter is wearing a T-shirt with a sexually suggestive message on it and it needs to go into the rag bin.
Q. Painful Past: I was contacted by a 13-year-old girl, "Liz," who is the daughter of my best friend "Gina." Gina and I were friends since we were little girls right up to when she died over 10 years ago. Liz was since raised by her father's parents, and knowing so little about her mom, wanted to hear from me what kind of a person she was. There's a lot I could say about Gina, but the basic summary is this: She was sexually molested by her father for years before becoming a single mom to Liz. Gina and I spent a lot of our time drunk or stoned. She worked as a prostitute to earn a living before she crashed into a pole while driving drunk. It's by pure luck that I didn't meet the same fate—I have a decent job now and a young family of my own. I don't know how much of all this Liz knows. I've been trying to think of what I could tell this young girl about her mom that doesn't involve somebody doing something illegal or stupid, but there isn't a lot. What should I share with her?
A: What a heartbreaking tale—one that shows the devastating effects of sexual abuse. No doubt many of Gina's troubles stemmed by a childhood filled with sexual assault by her father. But I don't think Liz is coming to you for the gory details. She wants her lost mother to live in her mind. Surely you have some photos and decent memories of Gina. Was she funny? Did she love music and dancing? That's what you should start telling her. As you get to know Liz you can explain to her that her mother shared with you a devastating secret from her childhood: She was molested by her father. That terrible start in life caused her a lot of pain and troubles. But emphasize to Liz that the thing you know most about Gina is how much she loved her daughter, how excited she was to be a mother, and how proud she would be to see how Liz is growing up.
Q. Re: One job, not three: Third shift = overnight work shift, not that someone is working three jobs. Regardless, the "made me sit them down and apologize" thing is a major red flag, no? I mean, what adult "makes" another do something? And what adult does something their spouse forces on them that they don't agree with? That in conjunction with words like "obey" suggests he's got major control problems and she is in need of some counseling regardless.
A: Thanks for the clarification of third shift (which is a nicer term than "graveyard shift")! Totally agree that this family needs intervention.
Q. Five's a Crowd: My friend has five children under the age of 6, including a set of 2-year-old twins. When I have friends and their kids at my house I am sometimes reluctant to invite my friend and her family because five extra children means a lot more mess and noise than I'm willing to tolerate. It's not that they're bad kids, but they do what normal kids do and run around and get excited. I've noticed a few of our mutual friends also sometimes don't invite this friend, presumably for the same reason. Recently I had a birthday party for my 2-year-old, hosted at a local indoor play center. I did not invite my friend's children—I had a birthday package deal for eight kids, and having five additional children meant paying almost $100 extra. (Just to clarify—I didn't invite all of my daughter's friends, so it's not like I only excluded this friend and her kids.) Afterward I received an angry phone call from my friend about how I "snubbed" her and her entire family. She knows she isn't invited to people's homes very often, and told me how hurt she was to be excluded. I tried my best to explain that sometimes having five additional young children in the house is not everyone's idea of a relaxed Saturday afternoon. This did not go well with her and now she refuses to speak to me. Am I wrong here? Do I owe my friend an apology and should I open my doors for her kids whenever and wherever?
A: It would have been nice if you'd invited the 2-year-old twins to your 2-year-old's birthday party. There was no obligation to have her entire crew, however. Sure, your friend's fecundity is her choice, and regularly hosting five extra little ones can be taxing, but shunning her is unnecessary. If she's looking for company, it might be much easier if you brought your kids over to play at her house, along with some snacks for everyone. Think how overwhelmed your friend must feel. Get back in touch and say you expressed yourself badly and you miss her and want to get together. Since it's summer, maybe you can meet at a well fenced park where you two can sit on a bench and catch up and the kids can be messy and noisy.
Q. Re: Dirty T-shirt: You teach her English. Don't you think translating a T-shirt for a 9-year-old falls into your area of responsibility?
A: No, this would be very embarrassing for a sensitive child. Just have the parents told the T-shirt is a no-no.
Q. Relationship Finances: My girlfriend recently moved in with me and we are having a financial issue. We are both in our early 30s and agreed to split expenses (rent and utilities) 50/50. Her car is dying and she desperately needs a new one (almost 500,000 miles). Since she needs a new car, she wants to change the split on expenses to 70/30. Her reasoning is that since I've lived by myself for a few years (she lived with a roommate) I am used to paying higher monthly expenses and would also be spending less than I did when I was single. She makes about $10,000 more a year than I do. I'd like to finish my degree without taking out any more student loans but don't think that would be possible if I had to cover most of her car payment. I feel like she is trying to take advantage of me. How would you approach this?
A: I would have approached this by figuring out why you're moving in together in the first place. Do you plan on getting married? Are you just trying to save on expenses? If it's a trial run for a permanent commitment, you just got an insight into the kind of trials you two might face. First of all, I don't hear that she's asking you to cover her car payment—just that she doesn't want to share household expenses equally while she's dealing with a major outlay. Perhaps this is reasonable since you would be getting a 30 percent discount on your normal living expenses. Perhaps it's in indication that she's not very good with money if she's been unable to budget for the day she needs a new car. I would approach this by talking to her about how you both feel about money, your relationship, and your future plans.
Emily Yoffe: My late grandmother just tapped me on the shoulder and said it's time to end the chat and that having the newspaper on the bathroom floor is disgusting. Thanks everyone, have a great week.