No Gift for You
In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman whose daughter is being ostracized at Christmas.
Q. Re: For the mom with cancer: Our prayers go with you for healing. Two suggestions: American Cancer Society has a good selection of advice and resources for helping kids deal with a parent's cancer: Second: Sit down now with your husband and define the kind of care you want. Make sure that he understands what YOU want and need, not what he assumes (in all love) you want and need. When you are napping or in bed, do you want the kids to come play on the bed? How do you want to handle visitors, dropped off food, flowers, etc. (e.g., create a book where caregivers can log messages and notes, a place where they can gather cards for you to read when you want to, etc.) Think about this stuff now, write it down, plan ahead so that you both understand the kind of care that works FOR YOU. Everyone is different in what feels nurturing and helpful (on the best of days). Having some of this worked through in advance will not make things easier, but it will keep from making them harder.
A: Great advice, thank you. Sounds like you've been there.
Q. My Friend/Co-worker Might Be Fired: My friend was unemployed for a couple of months before I recommended him for a position at my company. This job pays him significantly better than his last. After a period of financial stress and uncertainty he is really splurging out—he bought a brand new TV, he's treating his family and friends with gifts, and he's talking about booking a vacation to Mexico next summer. He's been shopping almost every week and I can see he's making the most out of his higher income. However, our employer privately confided that due to various unforeseen circumstances, he may have to make several positions redundant, including my friend's new role. I am of course not allowed to disclose this to anybody, but I am worried for my friend. He is on a good salary so if he starts saving now, he shouldn't be in too much trouble while he looks for another job. I tentatively asked if he was concerned about finances after being unemployed and he said he wants to enjoy his money for another month or two before he starts serious saving. He might not have a job by then! Any way I can tactfully tell him he should save his money without giving anything away?
A: The most junior person hired at a company during a fragile economy should have the sense to realize good fortune may not last forever. You've already broached the subject of your friend's spending frenzy, and he responded that he wants to indulge himself. You're under no obligation to give further lectures on belt-tightening, especially if it might mean you're violating the terms of your own employment.
Q. Friends With an Abuser: My good friends Erica and Tom remain close to my verbally abusive ex-boyfriend Todd. They witnessed Todd's treatment of me—cursing at me and calling me a [expletive] because I brought him the wrong brand of beer at a party—a number of times. Although they were appalled by Todd's behavior, they never called him on it or intervened. I know they both struggle with social anxiety and being assertive toward friends, and we have had talks about why they never said anything to Todd. I know part of the problem was that I forgave Todd too many times, and they followed my lead. The last time Todd blew up at me, he did so in a public place in our college's property, so he was expelled. He found a job in the same town, and now he , Erica, and Tom get together a few times a month. I know how immature it is to ask people to take sides, and I know I have no right to dictate with whom Tom and Erica are friends. It still wounds me that they remain friends with Todd, though, and I don't know how to stop feeling hurt or mistrusting them.
A: Since you kept forgiving Todd you are displacing responsibility for your relationship onto Erica and Tom. However, since they witnessed what an abuser he was, it's appalling in its own right that they remain close to him. But they do. Imagine the conversation in which you ask them to dump him. Since they keep their friendships separate, unless they are regaling you with reports of Todd's amusing banter, they could reply that it's really none of your business whom they see when they're not with you. If their friendship with him bothers you so much, then maybe you need to cool yours with them.
Q. Re: For mom with cancer: Another thing to keep in mind is this will be a lot of support to expect from one person. In all likelihood, it will be a mix of the parents, the ex-wife and other friends / family that will pitch in with support. A great resource for us when supporting a family member with cancer and young children was lotsahelpinghands.org which allowed the mom to define the tasks and kind of care she wanted and those of us that wanted to help the opportunity to see where we were most needed.
A: Another good suggestion, thanks. This allows the family to post news of the recovery and for people to sign up to bring meals, run errands, etc. without bothering the recovering person with lots of phone calls.
Q. Too Many Shades of Gray: Our 16-year-old son came out to us a year ago. It was not unexpected, and we accepted this well. Last week, my wife noticed he had some serious bruising on his torso. We were afraid that he was being bullied. We asked him about it and after not getting a good answer, I checked out his computer (yes, I know this is not right, but I feel that trust is a two-way street and he violated it first) and found photos showing his new boyfriend is a big BDSM fan. I know a lot about this subject from a former relationship, and what my son and he are doing is amateurish and dangerous. However, I feel like I can't tell my wife this because of the breach of trust on my part, not only to my son, but to her for not telling her fully about my past (it was a former girlfriend's interest and not mine). And what am I going to do with him, show him "reputable" bondage materials for future reference? I'm afraid for my son's health and our future relationship, too. What should I do?
A: You don't have to have personally indulged in bondage or masochism to be alarmed that your teenager looks like he's being beaten. Forget the lectures on how to do sadism right, you need to tell your son you were concerned about his safety and yes, you snooped. Tell him that you're sorry about that, but you two need to have a discussion about setting up safe sexual boundaries. Explain that from the looks of things, he's not safe and you're concerned about his relationship. Your son could use some counseling in safe sex practices, preferably from a center that deals with LBGT youth. I just got a letter recently about a young man who contracted HIV and was himself engaging in unsafe sex. Your son sounds like a vulnerable teenage boy and he needs some serious counseling on how to protect his body and psyche.
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.