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. Everyone Hates My Engagement Ring!: I recently got engaged to my boyfriend of two years. He is from a northern European country where engagement rings are usually simple gold bands, worn by both the man and the woman. The big diamonds that American women expect are very rare, and considered rather vulgar by most. My engagement ring is a cultural compromise: A gold band set with a very small (1/6 of a carat) diamond. I love my ring, but back home in the U.S., many people seem personally offended by it. My mother is urging me to have my ring "upgraded" because a respectable American middle-class woman needs a bigger diamond. Other people have made comments along the lines of "That looks like a promise ring that a high schooler would give to his girlfriend" and "You should have held out for something nicer." To many American women, the size of the diamond engagement ring seems to be a symbol of their success and worth as women, and the message that I have failed at this goal comes across loud and clear. It stings a bit when they wave their giant rings in my face while making their little comments. What can I do to get them to stop?
A: I have written previously about my dislike of the engagement ring industry. This is not to say that if your fiancé can afford a nice ring (and I mean write a check for the whole thing without a sweat) and you like jewelry, go for it. I mean the notion that it's not an engagement unless a rock is proffered, and the value of the relationship is tied up in the size of that rock. As far as your mother is concerned, in the nicest possible way tell her to butt out and go blow. I am fond of the non sequitur in the case of the type of rude comments you're getting from others: "Oh, thanks, I really like my ring, too." And as far as people flapping their diamonds in your face close enough to take your eye out, duck your head and say, "My, that's a lovely big ring."
Dear Prudence: Dancing With Herself
Q. No Food for Son: My ex-husband and I have been divorced for eight years. We have two sons together, the younger of whom is 10 years old. He gets frequent migraines, which are worsened by not eating or drinking enough throughout the day. A couple of years ago, my son became ill after eating pasta, and since then even the thought of pasta makes him nauseated. This past weekend, my ex took him and his brother to a family get-together for his mother-in-law's birthday where pasta was being served. My son refused to eat the pasta, which led to his stepmother informing him that he was not permitted to have bread or even a drink the rest of the day. As a result, my son went approximately 20 hours with nothing to eat or drink, and his father referred to him as an "embarrassment to the family." This is not the first time this has happened. What do I do?
A: See your lawyer. This is child abuse and a judge may consider changing the terms of custody. You need to protect your son(s) from these crazy people. As far as your son's medical condition is concerned, you need a serious consult with a doctor. It could be that some cognitive behavior therapy will help him cope better. It could also be that he's old enough to take one of the drugs that stops migraines in its tracks. But right now what has to be stopped in its tracks is the appalling treatment of your boy.
Q. In a Pickle: I don't think my problem is unique, but the particular details may be. I recently found out that my best friend's wife has been cheating on him, not with one, but two different guys. Here's the tricky part: His wife happens to be my boss. If I let him know, due to certain other details, she'll know it was me who told him. She is the owner's favorite employee, so I'd have no chance to argue that I shouldn't be fired for a personal issue. My friend is completely clueless that she's cheating on him (even though she cheated on him once during his engagement). Is there any way I can tell him without getting fired? I've made my mind up to do so, regardless of the consequences.
A: You should stay way out of the way of this one. Your best friend married a woman who cheated on him during the engagement—you seem to be saying this wasn't a secret, but that he knew about it. That means he was willing to sign up for life with someone with a very loose definition of fidelity. Perhaps you haven't heard, but when you get fired from a job these days, it can be hard to find another one before the unemployment checks run out. Yes, your friend is being played for a fool, but this is not your business. If his wife is so sloppy that you know of her two lovers, surely he could be aware of this evidence if he chooses to examine his marriage. Keep your job and leave your boss's affairs alone.
Q. Re: The value of the relationship is tied up in the size of that rock: When I got engaged, I insisted on no ring. I knew my fiancé probably couldn't afford it anyway, and I'd rather have a down payment to a house. Well he did a 180 and bailed on me in the middle of wedding planning. My family and I lost money, and he was able to walk away with no consequences. (Interestingly enough he decided to bail when a financial commitment was required of his family.) If I had asked for an engagement ring, he would have bailed a lot faster minus the embarrassing announcement/renege and without the loss of money. I cannot tell you HOW MANY people said this is why I needed a damn ring. I felt like an idiot. As valiant as you may think it is, the ring IS a symbol of a guy's commitment. As I learned the hard way by being naive, what a guy puts into the engagement IS a reflection of his dedication.
A: You are lucky this jerk left before the wedding. Stop fixating on the idea that you would have been saved this heartache if you got a ring. I assure you the absence of an engagement ring is not the sign of lack of committment. I say this as someone married to a great guy for 18 years, and all I've got to show in the jewelry department is a gold band.
Q. Last Single One Out: I know this is a bit of a trivial question. Throughout the last 10 years, I have helped throw bridal showers, engagement parties, baby showers, attended weddings, gave gifts, helped pay for bachelorette parties, etc. I am the last single one of my girlfriends. I'm getting married this summer, and I'm finding myself, well, alone. All my friends seem preoccupied with kids, moves, family drama, etc. I don't mind that, but it appears the effort I exerted during their single, engaged, married days is not being met. Everyone else seems pretty busy right now. I'm not asking for much since the wedding is small, and it's not even about the wedding. I'm beginning to feel taken advantage of. Should I just go ahead and drop these friends? We're doing our wedding list now. I guess this is what I get when I get married late in life!
A: Thank goodness your friends have moved on and are deep in the guts of real life and not "My Day." How great that you've found someone you want to spend your life with. I assure you 10 years from now the memory of your shower, your toasts, the font on the monogram on your cocktail napkins will all be a fuzzy memory. Since you will be entering the world your friends are now in, it would be better for you to hang on to these friendships instead of blowing them up because everyone has moved on. You recognize your pique is trivial. So get some perspective, plan a lovely day, and be happy.