Dear Prudence: My son is asking about his mixed-race sister.

Help! How Do I Explain My Mixed-Race Child by an Affair?

Help! How Do I Explain My Mixed-Race Child by an Affair?

Advice on manners and morals.
Jan. 7 2013 2:36 PM

When a Woman Loves Another Man …

In a live chat, Prudie advises a wife on how to explain her mixed-race child by an affair.

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A: Go now to the head of student affairs and report this situation. This guy is violating so many laws (taking drugs on campus, threatening violence) that the people in charge need to do an assessment and take some action. And the next time he contacts you explain you want all communication with him ended now. If nothing happens and "Ted" continues unabated, your next call should be to the police to report being stalked.

Q. Baby Loss, Baby Showers: My wife and I lost our baby daughter to a painful terminal illness last year. We're at the age where all of our friends are having kids, so it's impossible to avoid babies, nor would we want to do so. We're happy for our friends, even if it's sometimes challenging to hear them complain about mundane issues like how challenging it is to find a good nanny. My wife's sister-in-law announced her pregnancy in September, and since then it's been an exhausting parade of baby-related events that for which she expects my wife's presence: gender-reveal cake party, ultrasound party, three baby showers. She sends my wife (and the rest of the family) near daily updates about her gestational progress. My wife and I suffered a miscarriage recently, so she's especially raw right now, and each new baby event kills her a little. She feels it would be miserly to back out of an event because we lost our baby, but given how overboard her sister-in-law is going, I think it's the course of action to take. What do you think?

A: I'm so sorry for your losses. You two sound remarkably strong and I admire you for understanding that other people's lives go on, despite your sorrow. However, even in the absence of your tragedy, this sister-in-law's behavior is extremely distasteful. "Gender-reveal cake" "Ultrasound party" "THREE showers"? It would be one thing if the sister-in-law and her husband had offered tickets to the baby-making event. But trying to force your loved ones into a nine-month-long gestational celebration is insane, and cruel given your circumstances. It is not miserly to put an end to this insanity. Block the sister-in-law's Facebook feed and her email if necessary. Decline the invitations. ("I'm so sorry. I won't be able to make it." Period.) And maybe you could have a family ambassador explain that a grieving parent is just not up for the kind of celebrations she's holding—maybe the ambassador can explain that actually no one is.


Q. Neighbor's Dog: I am a dog lover, having three, so seeing a dog unfairly treated is painful to me. What do I do about the neighbors across the street who have a most adorable beagle, but leave him outside all day long? Even in 20-degree weather. He scratches at the door constantly, and they throw cookies outside sometimes but, generally, ignore him. When he does go inside he is crated. I want to 1) keep my mouth shut, or 2) give them a good talking to.

A: Whether you speak to your neighbors directly or just call animal control depends on your relationship with these people. If you have even a nodding acquaintance, you could try going over and saying you're sure they love their adorable dog, but you're concerned about him being outside in cold weather all day, and being crated while inside the house. But people who think that's how you treat a dog are unlikely to respond to sweet reason. Your local animal control should do something about this situation because it's abusive. But as many frustrated readers have pointed out, often nothing is done unless the abuse is egregious.

Q. Pregnancy Announcement Etiquette: My husband and I married last year and I quickly got pregnant. On Thanksgiving Day, when I was about 15 weeks along, I was preparing to tell my family when my sister-in-law announced that she was six weeks along. She and my brother have tried for years, so I'm very happy for them. Needless to say, I shut my mouth and kept the news to myself. But over the ensuing weeks her excitement has been building—she's thrilled to be giving the first grandchild to both sides. Now I feel like a jerk for letting her have those weeks in the spotlight. How do I tell everyone about my pregnancy? I feel like I'm upstaging her now. But it's getting to the point anyway where my belly will announce the news for me.

A: You should have just gone ahead and announced that the family was going to be getting cousins. I can't stand this idea that people own certain life milestones and everyone else should back off. You're pregnant so just tell everyone the great news. Let's hope that if your brother and sister-in-law are old enough to be parents, they are old enough not to bristle at the fact that they won't be having the first grandchild.

Q. Re: Massage: As a licensed massage therapist for over 10 years, I agree with Prudie's response to the question, but I just wanted to note that many of us find the word "masseuse" to be antiquated if not a bit offensive. It sounds like no boundaries were crossed in the letter writer's case, but the profession is still fighting for legitimacy in many circles, and the word "masseuse" within the industry often carries untoward connotations. Most of us who practice legitimately prefer the term "massage therapist." Thanks for understanding.

A: Thanks for pointing this out. "Massage therapist" has the additional benefit of being gender neutral.

Q. Wedding Woes: My stepdaughter is getting married in a few months, and has told my husband that I cannot attend. She is still resentful of my relationship with her father because I'm much younger, and the both of us got together while he and her mother were still married. My husband has made the decision to attend the wedding without me to “support” his daughter, despite her lack of support for our relationship. I've had to deal with a lot of “punishments” from his daughter for being in this relationship, but this is the first time that I don't have my husband's support. Do, I let this one go, or stand my ground?

A: I wish all adult children recognized that no matter how much they disapprove of a parent's new relationship—even if that relationship was the reason their parents' marriage came asunder—once your mother or father has a new spouse, that person gets invited to family events (with the exception of the new love interest being on the sex offender registry). However, you probably have to accept your stepdaughter likely will never have a decent relationship with you. Yes it's a slap that you were excluded from the wedding, but you have nothing to gain by standing your ground and trying to have your husband miss his daughter's nuptials. He's surely torn up with both guilt and resentment, but he doesn't want to make a permanent breach with his child. Be the big one here, say you understand this is a difficult situation and that you want him to be there for his daughter.

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Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.