Q. Sister's Drinking (and Unfortunately Driving): A couple of years ago, my sister was driving home drunk, and unbeknownst to her at the time, her boyfriend was in the back of her truck (covered by a topper), himself passed out. The awful thing is that she lost control of the vehicle, rolled it, and he was killed. Needless to say, this was just a tremendous loss for everyone involved—she loved him dearly. I can't imagine his family's feelings—and we lost my brother in a car accident four years prior, which I think is part of the reason my sister gets drunk. My sister went to trial, was found not guilty, but did get some minimum jail time and a DUI. I thought she was really facing her drinking problem, going to a therapist and AA on her own. Now I have learned from family members that not only is she drinking again, she is drinking and driving. I am furious, and I have been angry about this whole accident since it happened. I have talked with therapists and gone to AA myself, and I am accepting that I just may feel judgmental toward her, well, forever. However, now what? I can tell her how concerned, angry, etc., I am that she is again drinking and driving—but what good does it do? I live far away from her, so a family intervention isn't possible.
A: Contact the district attorney's office where she was tried and tell them you know that your sister is drinking and driving again. She may be on probation, and violating it could get her taken off the streets (I hope). Also write the DMV, give specifics about her legal history, and say you know she is drinking again so is an impaired driver. You may not be able to do a thing about your sister's addiction and terrible behavior, but you must try to protect innocent people from mayhem.
Q. RE: Husband's Gaming: I, too, am married to a gamer. And I'm completely happy with it, because it gives him an outlet to unwind after a stressful day. He'll often play games while I watch a TV show in the same room. That way we're still around each other, but we both get to do our own thing. (How much interacting would you do while watching TV anyway?) This really is no different than reading a book—you get lost in an imaginary world there, too.
A: More good advice. And I've heard from many readers who extol just how fascinating and complex these imaginary worlds are. So the letter writer is making a poor argument when she's putting down gaming and arguing for watching TV.
Q. Body Issues: I have been given the unfortunate gift of an awkward body shape. I have fairly thin legs, normal sized thighs, tiny breasts, and a huge gut. I am often asked if I am pregnant. I have been asked this question by colleagues, clients, professors, and even random people while shopping. There are many times where I've wanted to give an inappropriate response to the query. However, I don't have the heart to offend people in such a manner. I have normally taken the road to sharing with these questioning folks that I am not pregnant but just packing on a few extra pounds. I am curious to know if there is a better way to handle such issues, as I know I'm not the only portly lady to deal with such rudeness.
A: To paraphrase Dave Barry, if you don't know whether a woman is pregnant or not, you never mention the possibility, even if you notice that a baby's head is emerging from between her legs. As for you, you do not have to make any excuses for yourself when asked this question. Just smile and say, "No." The extremely awkward pause that follows should remind the questioner of Dave Barry's dictum.
Q. Re: Body Issues: I have a medical condition that sometimes leaves me "looking pregnant," and I know how annoying the questions and comments are! My favorite response comes from a friend who, when asked when she was due, calmly replied, "11 months."
A: Great reply. Thanks!
Q. Cheating Father: During my freshman year of college, I found cellphone evidence that my dad was cheating on my mom. After my dad blamed me, my sister, and my mother for "forcing him to do it," my parents seemed to move past their problems after a move to a new city and several months of couple’s therapy. For me, the whole experience was really eye-opening—for the first time I noticed my father's emotionally abusive tendencies and the horrible relationships the women in my extended family have with men. And three years later, here we are again. I have once again found digital evidence of an affair, and I'm not sure what to do. Should I tell my mother? Part of me thinks that she might know on some level but wants to turn a blind eye. Another part of me thinks that I should confront my dad and see what happens—maybe he will tell my mom and I can extract myself from this situation. I love my mother, and I want to do what is ultimately best for her.
A: Stay out of the mess that is your parents' marriage and continue to look with clear vision at the dynamics of your family. You want to make sure you don't repeat these patterns in your own relationships.
Q. How to Mend Fences: For two years, my daughter dated a guy we didn't like for various reasons, including the fact he was unemployed, lost his license, and seemed kind of shady. After a tumultuous final year, they broke up, but my daughter wouldn't share why, given that we weren't his biggest fans. I found out months later he was addicted to heroin. He apparently has been through rehab and is better now. She has no plans to get back with him, but I feel like I let her down because she didn't share her burden with me at the time. I get it, because she felt we already didn't like him. The issue now is that she still resents us for not accepting him. I have tried to diplomatically point out that there aren't many parents who would support their relationship, especially given that his issues were so large and overshadowing. She feels we should have trusted her to do the right thing (as she eventually did by breaking it off) and hasn't dated anyone since. Her resentment toward us on the issue flares up often. Can you think of an approach to the issue I can take to get her to see why we were so unsupportive of their relationship and that it was out of love?
A: Although your daughter is an adult, if she's so concerned about her relationship with her parents that she would consider family counseling, that seems like the best way to go. You thought her boyfriend was bad news, and he turned out to be even worse news than you imagined. I don't understand your daughter's assertion that you should have trusted her judgment about a guy who turned out to be a criminal. But you've left ambiguous what "not accepting him" means. Did you refuse to allow him in the house for Christmas? Or did you simply tell her you had serious reservations about this guy? In any case, there are so many crossed wires and hurt feelings here that it would help to have a neutral party sort them out.
Q. RE: How to Mend Fences: We had him over to the house a couple of times, but he wasn't really totally welcome. I always thought he was a good person, but my husband really couldn't stand the relationship. I'm the peacemaker and tried to keep the door open. I would love to go to counseling on this issue, but the other two (husband and daughter who are very similar in outlook) are very stubborn and won't go. I guess maybe time is the best mender for this one and I look forward to the day when she finds a great guy and we can all look back on this as just a rough patch on the way to a good relationship.
A: If they won't go with you, see a counselor yourself. It will feel good just to talk this out, then get some strategies for changing the dynamic.
Q. Mother Won't Come to Wedding: Next month will be my third wedding, but the only one that my parents have been able to come to. My dad has never walked me down the aisle, so I really want him there. My mother and I have always had a horrible relationship. She criticizes everyone and everything. She refuses to come to my wedding and will not let my dad come either. I'm afraid she will tell the rest of my family—aunts and uncles—not to come. She has been using the excuse that I've been ignoring them and my fiancé's son is gay and they don't want be a part of the “gay family”. My parents are in their 80s, and I'm almost 45. She doesn't call my boys for their birthdays or send cards anymore. I don't know what to do.
A: You're a 45-year-old woman who has a horrible relationship with her parents. Your mother may be a disturbed, destructive person, but as is often the case your "nice" parent has let her run wild because it's too hard to rein her in. A third wedding by its nature should be a low-key affair. You don't need to be walked down the aisle. And if your mother convinces everyone not to come because you're a "gay family,” then good riddance. Please get some therapy. You're still working out the effects of your painful childhood. That might have something to do with this being wedding No. 3. Get some help being your own person and getting your mother's voice out of your head.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Have a good week.
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