Dear Prudie: A neighbor took it on himself to punish my prankster son, and now my family is incensed.

Help! My Son Played a Prank on a Neighbor and Got a Smack on the Back for It. Should…

Help! My Son Played a Prank on a Neighbor and Got a Smack on the Back for It. Should…

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 5 2012 6:00 AM

Not So Sweet Child o’ Mine

In a live chat, Prudie offers advice on a prankster son, a pedophile son, and a love child tired of apologizing for existing.

(Continued from Page 2)

Q. Get Over It, Love Child: Oh for goodness sakes. The dad actually sees his out-of-wedlock kid. He provides child support and brings her into his home. Now she wants to be treated as some sort of legitimate half-sister, when all she's really doing is sucking up inheritance money, funds for an extra week at the beach, etc. Fact is, love child hit the jackpot—her mom knew with whom she should sleep. Love child needs to learn you get what you get and you don't get upset.

A: Either you're joking or you're the wife.

Q. How To Exclude Someone Nicely: I am a part of a coffee club for moms and their babies and we meet together fortnightly. I love catching up with the other ladies but there is one mom who consistently makes me feel uncomfortable. I've known "Teresa" long before I met these other moms. I stopped meeting up with her a year ago because she asks invasive personal questions, she treats my house and things like her own, she tracks my Facebook page and makes weird remarks about it later (until I unfriended her, that is). These are just the tip of the iceberg. The final straw was when she made fun of my surgery scar and started poking it. I wasn't pleased when she started coming along to our local coffee group but of course it wasn't my place to dictate where she chooses to socialize. But I face a dilemma whenever I organize a social event with the coffee club ladies outside of our fortnightly meetings. I feel like a Mean Girl to exclude Teresa, but on the other hand, I feel uncomfortable inviting her into my home. I don't know how the other ladies feel about her and I don't want to start a gripe session about why I don't want to invite Teresa around. Do I have to invite her every time I want to see my other friends? Or is there any way I can tactfully exclude her from the invitation?


A: It sounds as if Teresa is a permanent member of the fortnightly group. But that doesn't mean she has a permanent place on the invitation list of any other social event you have in your home. If you are inviting everyone except Teresa and this is brought up by the others, you can explain that you knew her before the group formed and unfortunately because of some conflicts between you two, you've had to limit your contact with her. (However, what you post on your Facebook page is fair game for others "to track." It's another thing if she makes rude comments about what you've posted.) Presumably some of them will know what you're talking about, but then don't engage in Teresa-bashing. Since this isn't high school and you're not moving in a designated pack, you should also have get-togethers with just one of two other mothers so it becomes more normal not to have to invite everyone to everything.

Q. Workplace Bathroom Rules: I work for a small nonprofit in an office of around 30 employees, mostly women. Our director has some quirks about—ahem—bodily elimination, and she insists on taking them out on her staff. Our building has three bathrooms: a nice, two-stall bathroom on the main level for women, a private main-level bathroom for men and an old one-stall bathroom in the basement. Our director has sent repeated emails instructing staff that doing number two is prohibited in the main bathroom, and that we must use the basement toilet for such business. I feel it's preposterous to dictate which perfectly human functions an employee may do in the privacy of a bathroom stall. Making a trip to the basement has become something of a Walk of Shame, and I feel it's inappropriate for an employer to legislate bathroom activity. It hardly seems worth it to raise my concern, but I have to wonder if her request is even legal.

A: I can imagine that in some cases it turns into a Trot of Shame to the bowels of the building. You don’t want to dump a good job just because of your boss’s issues, but her orders stink. Perhaps you could spring for a big can of air freshener, which might help alleviate her concerns. If that doesn’t do it, either continue to ignore her, or, number two, the next time she discharges one of her memos get a committee together to tell her, using more diplomatic language please, that she’s full of crap. If she keeps at it, forwarding her series of missives anonymously to the board of directors might not eliminate her as a boss, but it could end the memos. 

Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Talk to you next week.

In a new approach, we’re publishing the chat transcript in shorter, more digestible pieces. You will still be getting all the questions and answers, and we may even publish bonus letters Prudie didn’t get to address during the chat hour.

Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.