What Is This, Ranch Dressing?
In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman whose daughter might get kicked out of her playgroup for bringing store-bought snacks.
Q. Re: Clean Food Army: Mom didn't say how old Bella is, but the environment seems ripe for the making of some "mean girls." If the food she sends isn't good enough for these wealthy moms, chances are eventually Bella is not going to be good enough for the girls. I agree with you, find another playgroup, fast!
A: Great point. "Oh, Bella, you don't have a Kate Spade tote bag, that's so sad!" "Bella, what's a 'thrift shop'?" "Your mom shops at Wal-Mart? My mom calls it Mall-Wart!" Bella's mom, get out!
Q. Public or Private?: My husband and I have a 3-year-old daughter going into her last year of preschool, and we're starting to think about kindergarten for next fall. I went to private school from kindergarten through high school, and my husband went to public; each of us is adamant that our experience was the better one. I loved everything that my private-school experience had to offer—more than the academics, I appreciated the extra enrichment that my school was able to offer, and I would love to give my daughter that opportunity. My husband insists that his education was just as good at his public schools, and that she'll learn more independence with a higher teacher/student ratio. (I know that there are of course brilliant people who graduate from publics, but my husband happens to be terrible at writing and grammar despite insisting that he's great at it. I don't correct him for the sanctity of our marriage, but to me, it's not helping his argument and I don't want to bring it up.) Our city has good public schools—far from failing, but not spectacular either. It's not a hometown for either of us, so there's no school allegiance to consider. We can afford private school, but it would mean less money for other activities. How do we settle this? Neither of us wants to give in!
A: Instead of fighting about recapitulating your own childhoods, start doing research about your daughter's. You two need to agree you will both look at all the possibilities for her with open minds. It could be that there's a lovely neighborhood public school that's in walking distance that would be great. Or maybe when you check out the kindergarten you see the kids are stuck in chairs being drilled for tests and you both realize it's not for her. Same thing with the private schools. Keep in mind that you may find what you think is the ideal private school and she doesn't get in. Also, don't feel you are making the decision now about what high school your daughter is going to graduate from. My daughter has attended both public and private schools, and each were right for her at different points in her childhood.
Q. Older Boyfriend: Age of consent in my state is 18. I just want to avoid breaking up with her.
A: Thanks for the clarification. Still, if a 17-year-old consents to have sex with her boyfriend and her parents aren't wackos, it's unlikely you'll end up in the justice system. However, if she insists on losing her virginity now, and not to you, that may indicate she's not the love of your life.
Q. I'm Not a Vampire, But …: My husband doesn't cook very often, but when he does, he goes all out, preparing exquisite, candlelight Italian dinners, complete with expensive fine wine and baroque Italian music playing softly in the background. The problem is that he uses a lot of garlic, and it's a real mood killer after dinner is over and it's time to go to bed. Even though he brushes his teeth and uses mouthwash, the smell of garlic still permeates his breath and lingers on his fingertips and it's really quite a turn-off for me. I have a very keen sense of smell, and I always feel sick to my stomach. I have tried to gently suggest that he use less garlic by trying to convince him to try his hand at French cuisine, or maybe Greek cooking. Unfortunately this approach has had no effect and I continue to suffer through his romance after each of his dinners. Would it be wrong of me to just tell him straight up that while I love his cooking, and love his romancing, they just don't mix and to stop?
A: I simply don't understand how the intimacy of marriage, and by that I don't mean sex, I mean the living in close quarters every day, doesn't allow people to say, "Honey, you must have had the garlic special for lunch," or, "You better clear the room, The burritos are working their way through my system and there are some ripe farts ahead." Of course there are women who would kill for a husband who makes romantic candlelight dinners and would happily wear a braid of garlic around their own necks for such a guy. But if the garlic smell kills your desire, you simply can't hint around. Tell him you love his cooking, and more than that you love his lovemaking. But you are stuck with a non-Italian sense of smell and the garlic you both emit after such a meal is not conducive to your getting in the mood. Say unfortunately even his excellent hygiene cannot defeat the stinking rose. Tell him you're not asking for bland food to ignite each other's ardor, just something a little less likely to scare off vampires.
Q. Thank-You Notes After a Mother's Passing: My mother passed away in February of this year. She was the sole provider and she left behind my disabled stepfather and younger teenage sister. During this hard time we had a lot of friends and family support us—both financially and spiritually. At the time of her passing I was in college and working part-time. I was also completely devastated to lose her and it was all I could do to go to school, work, and attend to my family. It isn't an excuse but I never got around to sending thank-you notes to all those who helped us. Is it too late to send them? My best friend says it would be tacky, but I want to acknowledge and thank everyone for their help. I know I should have done it earlier but I could barely hold my head above water until recently (school is done and I've started to see a counselor). Your advice would be much appreciated!
A: I'm so sorry for your loss—you are facing very adult responsibilities at a very young age, and I hope you will continue to have the help and support of friends and family. Your friend is wrong, you are not too late to want to write these notes and I think most people who get one will be astounded that given everything you have gone through, you are actually doing them. They will see it as a tribute to your mother, who raised you right. And the notes will also be a good reminder for them to check in on your family and see how they can help. You can start with a brief apology for your delay, then get right into what their love, help, and support has meant to you, and how gratifying it has been to know how much they cared for your mother, who you continue to miss every day.
Q. Sour Grapes?: In my town, you cannot build any structures on property boundary lines. Anything but a thin wire fence is outlawed. So to keep some privacy and beautify our yard, my husband and I planted a 40-foot row of concord grapes along the side of our property. The vines are beautiful and finally we have some delicious grapes. The only snag is, the neighbors regularly pick the grapes. I'm not talking a handful or so. They have been picking large bunches! Out of the 20-plus bunches, we only have two unripe ones left. We are in our early 30s and they are in their early 50s so we know that they know better. They are otherwise friendly people. How do we get them to stop?
A: Buy a bottle of wine, and knock on their door. Say you all are grape lovers, but the arbor is yours and you were planning to enjoy your own fruits of the vine. Say during the season, you would be happy to make them a gift of some grapes, but you're distressed to find that your orchard has been stripped. Tell them you have plans for what's left of your grapes and you'd appreciate a hands-off policy from them.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone, have a good week!
Going forward, we’re spreading out the chat, publishing the transcript in a shorter, more digestible form. You will still be getting all the questions and answers (just not all at once).