Q. My Son Is Dating a Stripper!: My husband had numerous affairs with strippers, and now my twentysomething son is dating one. My husband's infidelity ended five years ago. Our marriage has mostly healed, and now we're happy together and very much in love. A few days ago my daughter called me and told me she found out that her brother has been dating a stripper for almost eight months—he is in love with her. He finally introduced his girlfriend to his sister last week, and the girlfriend freely admitted her profession. I called my son to confirm what his sister told me, and he doesn't seem to care about his girlfriend's profession. He told me she strips to pay off her college loans and that she wants to become a doctor. He wants to bring her home for Thanksgiving. I told him I would not allow a stripper in my house. I know I sound judgmental, but the only strippers I have ever known have had no qualms about sleeping with married men. I worry this woman will use my son for financial gain or will cheat on him. Strippers also bring up very painful memories for me. My husband agrees with me. We think it's our right to determine who can and cannot come to our house for important family gatherings. My son is very upset with us and has threatened not to come home for the holiday. Am I being too rigid or unreasonable?
A: At least when this young woman gets to medical school she will have plenty of expertise in anatomy. (And I thought most strippers are doing it to pay for law school!) Unless your son's girlfriend also slept with your husband, you are being priggish and condescending and your husband is comically hypocritical. I can see saying you don't want a drug dealer in your home; otherwise it's really none of your business what your son's girlfriend does for a living. I assume you're savvy enough to know that barring her will not make your son contemplate his error in romantic judgment while passing the gravy. It will mean he'll skip the entire event, leaving you to stew about your silly self-righteousness. Your son wants to bring a guest, so be a gracious hostess and don't make any remarks when this girl says she prefers breast meat.
Q. Abortion Bumper Sticker: My mother has strong opinions—and a strong belief in expressing them. I am in my mid-30s and learned long ago to let my mother vent/rant, and to make neutral comments until the conversation turns to something else. However, my mother recently affixed a strongly worded pro-life bumper sticker to her car. On numerous occasions, strangers have made comments in parking lots or flipped her the bird when driving. This upsets her greatly. I think that if you put a strongly worded opinion on an emotional subject out for anybody to see then you open yourself up to criticism. How do I explain to her that not everybody cares about her opinion and not everybody will give her the wide berth that our family does? My father passed away years ago and my brother more or less ignores our mother when she gets on a rant, so it is up to me to address this issue.
A: I don't know why you have to explain this to her. I hope your mother is functional enough to see for herself the truth of your insight. If you're driving with her, tell her to ignore the remarks or actions of other people—engaging could be dangerous. If she won't, refuse to go on trips in her car. Your brother's strategy is a good one. It doesn't sound as if your mother wants insight, she just wants a sounding board. But she will only hear her own voice if you just walk away.
Q. BIL's Going to Jail: My sister's husband is going to jail for sleeping with one of his underage students. My sister does not want to divorce him and they will work on their marriage while he is in jail. The issue is that my kids adore their aunt and uncle, who don't have children. My sister and brother-in-law want to visit with my kids as much as possible before my BIL goes away for a few years. My husband and I are not comfortable with letting my BIL around our kids, even if we don't believe the kids are in any danger from him. His student was 16, and that's really weird and gross to us. How do we explain our newfound feelings for my BIL while letting my sister know we still love and support her?
A: You explain to your sister that her husband is going off to jail for sexually violating a minor and you've got problems with him. You say you want to support her through this, and she of course will remain close to your children, but you're still processing what he did and you can't carry on as if nothing had happened. If she doesn't get that, well, it helps explain the mentality of a Dottie Sandusky.
Q. Mother-in-Laws: My husband and I are expecting our first child in the summer. We are absolutely ecstatic! My mother will play an active role in watching the baby when I have to go back to work, but the idea of my mother-in-law caring for our baby in her home scares us! We both love her and we are very happy for her 10-month sobriety, but are much closer to my parents. MIL's house is incredibly dirty; my husband even got food poisoning after eating dinner at her place recently. I just can't imagine allowing my child to crawl around on the rarely vacuumed floor. Although she has stopped drinking, she still smokes, as does her live-in boyfriend. She also allows my husband's younger brother (22 years old) to free-load and smoke marijuana in the house. I don't believe she realizes how dirty her home is. How do I tell her that her home is not an environment that I want my child in, without causing hurt feelings?
A: You tell her that you're more comfortable having her come to your house. It doesn't matter that things aren't equal with the two grandmothers. Your mother is great; your mother-in-law barely functions. That means you limit your mother-in-law's contact with the baby to times you can supervise. She's got a drug user in the house and she's not even a year sober. Do not be bullied into letting her baby-sit.
Q. Inherited Cousin's Money and Her Nephews Are Slighted: My mom was very close to two of her cousins, a brother and sister named Adam and Eve. I was the first kid born into this generation 18 years ago. Eve was much more like an aunt to me—buying me everything, taking me out all the time—than my own aunts and uncles were. My mom is a single parent, so Eve's financial contributions meant I never missed out. She died in a car accident a few months ago at 37. The family is devastated. Eve saved up enough money to pay for my college tuition—and I am her sole beneficiary. Eve didn't have kids. Her brother Adam's two sons got nothing. Eve was not close to them and there were often divisions in the family. But now Adam says he is going to sue and get some of the money. I feel guilty for saying this, but Adam's kids have resources and money. Eve's husband has stood by the will and has defended me. What should I do? Do I offer some of the money to Eve's nephews?
A: I'm sorry for your loss. It sounds as if to Eve you were the daughter she never had, and even her widower understands Eve's wish was for you to benefit from her financial resources. I'm no estate lawyer, but I can't imagine what grounds Adam thinks he has to challenge this will. He's just turning a tragedy into an ugly family feud. You owe nothing to Adam's well cared-for offspring. Take the money and honor Eve's memory by getting a great education.
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. Check back tomorrow for another edition!