Q. Re: Sleepover Sex: The woman and her husband are at fault for having sex in their own house in their own bedroom behind a closed door? Exactly why does a girl who is 8-10 have to bother an adult when she wants a glass of water in the middle of the night? Does she not know enough to find her way to the kitchen, get a glass, and run the tap? And how does a girl get to be 8-10 without learning to respect the privacy of a couple in their own bedroom? Would she not knock and get acknowledged before entering? If she does barge into the bedroom without knocking, how many time has she caught her parents fooling around? Or could it be that her parents no longer have sex?
A: This is the consensus reaction, and I am astounded. Maybe I just have known an unusual number of incompetent elementary school girls, but if I were hosting a sleepover, I would not have been surprised to have one come into my bedroom because she forgot where the bathroom was or was afraid to go to the kitchen in the middle of the night by herself. I just can't imagine getting in the mood under those circumstances. And for all the people ragging on the rude child, well, I assume the adults know how to turn the lock to prevent unwanted sex education, which they failed to do. If my kid came home from a sleepover having gotten such an eyeful, I wouldn't have been thrilled, nor would I have blamed her.
Q. MIL Cake Battle: My mother-in-law teaches cooking classes and is an excellent cook and baker. I also enjoy cooking and baking. My home is centrally located, so I host many family events. Everyone usually brings a dish (one less for me to make!). She brings five. We talk ahead of time about what she will bring, and then she always brings more. More food is usually a good thing, but for special events (baptisms, first birthdays), I would like to make a cake. She insists on bringing additional desserts (sometimes two or more). My husband has asked her not to, so has BIL and FIL. Our new policy is to put the additional food away in the freezer downstairs. At my daughter's first birthday party, she went around telling every guest that there was a cheesecake in the freezer ... ugh. She had specifically asked to bring a cake, and I said "No, I am making a cake." I have a secret desire to respond the next time she asks what she can bring, "Well you're going to bring whatever you want to anyway ... so do whatever you want." How do I host parties without going insane from the food competition?
A: You let it go. You are a terrific baker, so your family knows that, and so will your daughter on the many occasions you bake together. Since you know your mother-in-law is going to show up with a birthday cake no matter what you do, if you want to make a special cake for your little girl, do so the night before. Then accept that your Top Chef of a mother-in-law is going to bring dessert, so don't make one. When she arrives with her cake boxes, tell her how delicious it all looks and you can't wait to sample. That way you will have your cake and eat it, too.
Q. Engagement and Parents: I recently got engaged to the man who I want to spend the rest of my life with. We're really happy. We met while I was working in South Asia in rural development in his home country. We dated for about nine months and then got engaged about a month before my contract ended. I'm back in the West and he is still there waiting for visas to come through. We have one big problem: my parents. They knew from the beginning that we were dating and had "met" him on Skype multiple times. We called them after we got engaged and my mom started crying and not because she was happy. He isn't on the Ph.D. track like many members of my extended family (nor am I) and we're just three years out of college, so maybe that's on their minds, but I think the real issue is that he's Buddhist and I come from a Christian family. We've talked extensively about what our life will look like as a inter-religious family and we understand that it's a lifelong discussion. I've found our conversations edifying and challenging. How to I win my parents over? It's important to us that they are part of this.
A: I'm going to venture that the religious difference is just one thing that got your mother crying, not with joy, when you broke the news. While they were excited for you to go off and see the world and meet new people, they didn't expect your adventure would lead to your bethrothal. Your boyfriend may be a magnificent person, you may spend the rest of your life with him, and your parents may come around. But also on their mind is the thought that you haven't known him very long, you are very young, and he perhaps sees you as a ticket to America. Instead of setting out to win your parents over, talk to them about their concerns. Maybe you can reassure them. Maybe what they have to say will raise questions in your own mind. Given the gaps between you and your boyfriend in your cultures and religion, I would at the least suggest you take your time before you tie the knot.
Q. Re: Caking In-Law: Have the gal with the one-upster MIL buy lots of mini to-go boxes and when MIL brings the many cakes, divided up her many cakes as goodie bags to go for the guests.
A: Great suggestion, thanks. I'd like to be at that party!
Q. Trans Partner and Nonbiological Child: My husband is a transgendered male who had transitioned before we met, and I absolutely understand how hard it must be for people to reveal something like that about themselves when they start dating someone. Nonetheless, it is something you have to tell a partner early on—my husband and I were friends for a while before sparks started flying, and when it became clear we were headed in that direction, he told me right away about his transition. It was definitely mind-blowing, but I was able to absorb the news and decide that I wanted to be in a relationship. Anyone who isn't able to do that isn't the right partner for a trans person. On a second note, we now have a baby who does not share my husband's DNA. We often get comments from people trying to decide who he looks like, etc., including from family who know our story. I think it's just human nature to try to draw those comparisons, and we have so far just smiled and gone along with it. As he gets older, he'll certainly know about how we had him, but I think that when it's a positive comparison ("He X, Y, Zs just like his daddy"), there's no reason to dismiss it just because they don't share DNA.
A: If only you'd had a wacky sleepover story, you would be wrapping up the entire column. Thank you for this. You are absolutely right that if your potential partner can't accept such "mind-blowing" news, then you two don't belong together. And I love your response to people who see genetic resemblances between your son and his dad.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. And be sure to place a piece of heavy furniture in front of the bedroom door. Talk to you next week.