Dear Prudence: How do I tell my mother she’s wearing her makeup all wrong?

Help! My Aging Mother Has Started Putting On Grotesque Amounts of Makeup.

Help! My Aging Mother Has Started Putting On Grotesque Amounts of Makeup.

Advice on manners and morals.
Jan. 8 2013 6:15 AM

Cover-Up Girl

In a live chat, Prudie offers advice on a mother trying to hide her age with too much makeup.

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A: I can't imagine marrying someone without taking this kind of test drive, so good for you. You and your fiancé are both adults and your sex life is not your parents' business. Since in your parents' minds you're on track to have the cherry popped later this year, there doesn't seem to be any reason to go popping their bubble. But you also need to end this silly conversation. The next time they bring up your virginity just tell them you have become uncomfortable with the frequent references to your sexuality and you want to put this subject off limits.

Q. Parents Not Listening: I'm an adult child home for the holidays. A frequent argument I have always had with my parents is that they don't like to wear seat belts in the car. They always say things like, "We didn't wear them as kids, and we're fine" and "We're good drivers, so it's OK" and even "I don't have to wear one if I sit in the back." I've shown them videos of both crash test dummies and people being thrown around and gravely injured in crashes without seatbelts, to no avail. The only time they do wear them is when they drive my old car, which beeps if you don't plug in, but they each have another car they prefer. I've tried making agreements—when I was a teenager, I promised to wear a helmet (they didn't hold up their end), and now I've promised to use proper table manners (and they still haven't held up, and I'm 25 and think my manners are just fine). How do I make them—sane, rational, and generally very healthy people—understand that this is a dangerous and worrisome behavior?


A: You could tell them about my father. He didn't believe in seatbelts either. Then an old lady ran a stop sign into his car and his head went into the windshield. It caused a stroke, which led to a long, sad decline. However, people who don't want to wear seatbelts seem for whatever reason beyond the help of rational argument. What you can do is absolutely refuse to get in the car with them unless they're buckled up. Beyond that you have to accept that some people for some reason have a self-destructive streak and in their case there doesn't seem to be anything you can do.

Q. Re: Mom's Makeup: Buy your mom a lighted, magnifying mirror. I'm only 50, but my ability to see what my face really looks like has really diminished—I can't function without mine!

A: Ah, the lighted magnifying mirror. I have one and it's a daily adventure in identifying new and alarming topography.

Q. Birth Mother Challenges: I made contact with my birth mother "Adrian" a year ago, when I was 24 and felt ready to handle the complexities of our relationship. I love my mom, the one who raised me, and while I will always be thankful to Adrian for placing me up for adoption, I was not looking for another mom. While Adrian and I quickly bonded, it wasn't long before she revealed her bitterness about the adoption process. She has become an anti-adoption advocate, and I think it upsets her that I was not adversely impacted by my adoption growing up. I've read her blog, where she has interviewed many unhappy adult adoptees, and I think she feels rejected because I'm not one of those people. Adrian is also dating a married man and has dated numerous married men in the past. I feel uncomfortable spending time around her married boyfriend Jeremy. I want to cut back on my time spent around Adrian, but I'm worried about her reaction if I pull away.

A: It's true that one’s relationship with a newly discovered biological mother is different from the others in one’s life. But as you point out, you are grateful to have been raised by your adoptive mother, who you consider your real mother. Adrian sounds like a very unhappy person who makes lots of bad choices. If it weren't for your biological connection you surely would have little to do with her. You can be gentle, but you have to do what's right for you and so you simply need to stop seeing her so much. Be polite, but recognize you simply can't take on the burden of her emotional instability. One good choice she did make was placing you in a loving family. You can be grateful to her for that, but you do not owe Adrian a big place in your life.

Q. Re: for sexual abuse: The 15-year-old that wrote in echoed very close to home for me. I too, was sexually abused for several years (older brother in my case). Unfortunately in my case, my mother and immediate family members did decide I must be lying and completely broke off all relations with me. What helped in my case was enlisting a close friend and her family who provided me a safe haven whenever I needed support. I could spend as much time there as I needed, and they would listen without judgement. They didn't have the biases of "not wanting to think they could be associated with that kind of person" that plagued both my family and what appears to be happening for this young woman. I hope her school has a staff psychologist that can help her work through the feelings of confusion and come out of this a survivor. For the young woman, stay strong. What your father did was abhorrent, and no matter what any of your "family" tells you, you are not to blame in any way. You have already taken the biggest step in speaking up, please keep with it. It will get better.

A: Thank you for this. Even though I've heard this story many times, I remained shocked at how families can close ranks around the perpetrator. It's shameful.

Q. Drinking Problem?: So, I am a junior in college, and I will say, I like to party and drink on the weekends. However, I am also maintaining a B+ average. I never drive after drinking, and hold down a part-time job in addition to doing my coursework. The problem is that because of one incident, two of my friends are insisting that I have a major problem with alcohol. Particularly, they have been nagging me ever since a party back in October that I need to stop drinking. At this party I drank from a punch bowl that had a much higher alcohol content than I expected, so I got a lot drunker than I am used to, and got rather sick. They helped me home, into the bathtub, and cleaned up some of the mess. I had to throw out my clothes, as I couldn't face trying to clean them. The thing is, I will admit it was an awful mess, and I owe them for helping me out, but that was a one-time thing. So, how do I get them to back off, before our friendship is ruined?

A: It could be that your friends are overzealous, or it could be that after hosing you off that time, and seeing you "party" too many times, they are on to something about your drinking. It probably is worth mentioning that if you are the normal age for a college junior, all of this has likely been illegal, but I will put that aside. What you do is say to your friends that you say you appreciate their concern and you did learn a serious lesson from the October debacle. But that you are quite sure your drinking is not interfering with your life—which is going very well—and their worry is misplaced. But I'm concerned that what you describe is regular binge drinking. If you're getting drunk every weekend, even if it is not usually to the point of soiling yourself, this level of drinking can lead to a lot of unpleasant consequences. Try socializing one weekend without alcohol. If you can't enjoy the party sober, that will tell you something.

Emily Yoffe: Thanks everyone. And stay healthy! Talk to you next week.

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Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.