Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up here to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Q. Family Gathering Dilemma: My father is turning 70 at the end of February and my mom has organized a party to get all of my siblings to attend. With everyone scattered across the country, this is a rare occurrence and we have decided to get a professional photographer to take some family pictures. I am the youngest in the family and the only one who is unmarried, although I am in a long-term relationship with a great guy. My dad and the family love the boyfriend and he has been included in the festivities. He's met a few of my sibs before, they all approve and I'm really happy that he has been welcomed so fully into my family's plans. Here's my problem: I love my boyfriend and I plan on being with him for the long haul, but if we do break up in the future, I don't want our family picture to include my future ex. All of my high school graduation pictures are marred by an ex that, at the time, I was clearly going to spend the rest of my life with whom I have since fallen out of touch with and they're awkward to look at now. How do I navigate having my boyfriend attend this happy event, but not include him in the pictures? Is there a delicate way to tell him I feel it would be inappropriate? I don't want it to seem like I'm planning to skip town, but these pictures are one of the few cases where my whole family will be together and I don't want everyone to look back on them in a few years and go "Oh yea, whatever happened to that guy little sis was seeing?" Any advice greatly appreciated, thanks!
A: If you don't want to end your long-term relationship with the great guy at your father's party, when the photographer is gathering everyone for group shots, do not say, "Honey, please stay in your seat. I know we've been together awhile. But you may not be around for the long haul, and I don't want your face to haunt me for years to come." You're hiring the photographer for the event, so there should be plenty of photos of various groupings: immediate family, siblings, everyone and their spouses, good friends, etc. That means your boyfriend will be in some photos and not others. If you two get married, it would be odd that there weren't any photos of him at this 70th birthday, even though he was there. It may turn out that down the road some of the happy couples captured on film will be set asunder. Fortunately, no one's going to remove them from the photographic record, Soviet-style.
Dear Prudence: Desperate Single
Q. Firing an Officiant: My fiancé and I are atheists, and we were overjoyed when our friend's boyfriend decided to get ordained to marry us. We paid him a few hundred dollars to read our vows. But he quickly became domineering, offering endlessly unsolicited advice and trying to run the show. After he came over and insulted our vows last weekend (and insulted me, believing that I wrote them), I've had enough with his behavior. He's only talked to me once since, and that was to back up his earlier comments. Since then, despite calmly telling him once again what we want, he's ignored me. I've been kind to him only to preserve my friendship, but at this point it looks lost. How do I go about firing him?
A: This is a first: an officiant-zilla. Luckily you still have time so you say, "Pastor [Ha ha!] Brad, we appreciate your willingness to officiate at our wedding, but as we've all discovered our styles aren't meshing, so we're going to go another way for our officiant. We appreciate the time you've put into this and hope the money we've given you compensates you for it. We look forward to having you as a guest at the wedding." Then you find someone who's not a nut who can perform your nuptials.
Q. Miscarriage With My Ex: I broke up with my boyfriend three weeks ago after I found out that he had been cheating on me. We had been together about a year, but did not live together. I knew he was not right for me and we were not going to end up married, but still, the infidelity and accompanying lies really stung. In the weeks leading up to the split, I suspected I was pregnant (I was) but didn't say anything to him because things were so difficult between us. A few days after we broke up, I miscarried. It was devastating. Even though I know he would not have been an ideal father, and I definitely didn't set out to get pregnant, I still wanted the baby and now feel a sense of loss mixed with relief and guilt. My question is, should I tell my ex about the miscarriage? Some of my friends say he has the right to know.
A: You had a troubled relationship with a compulsive liar, so I don't think you owe him any information about your miscarriage. In a way, telling him could be interpreted as an attempt if not to get back together, to at least see each other in a state of high emotion. I understand you're mourning this loss, but I hope your feelings eventually shift so that you do start recognizing more of the accompanying relief that you will not be yoked to someone so unsuitable as a romantic partner and father. As you go out and look for someone new, first discuss with your gynecologist some of the safe and extremely reliable forms of birth control now available, so you don't end up in this situation again. I hear from too many women who are raising children utterly alone, their kids abandoned emotionally and financially by jerk fathers.
Q. Ogling: My boyfriend (we are both around 50 years old) has a habit of ogling women, sometimes rather obviously and often when we are together. I find it rude and annoying, but not a huge issue in and of itself. However, I recently discovered that he sometimes takes pictures surreptitiously of women, often of their rear ends and legs. I am very bothered by this, find it creepy, and also wonder if he could get in trouble for it. I know that if I bent over at a bus stop to pick up a quarter, and some stranger took a picture, I would be really furious, and feel violated. If someone did that to my daughter, I would be murderous. He knows I am aware of the obvious staring, but I don't think he realizes that I have actually seen him snap a picture, and I am quite sure that if I bring it up, it will not be an easy conversation. I can't decide if I am overreacting, or if I should talk to him about it, or I should just get the hell out of Dodge. I have tried to just ignore it, but it does bother me a lot.
A: I assume you don't want to stand by him when he's hauled into court for taking an "up-skirt" photo. Often when I get letters such as yours they start by averring the wonderfulness of the (awful) partner. But all you've given me is a description of a creep. I think you should have a talk with him and it should consist of one word: "Goodbye."