Q. My Sister's Girlfriend: I am very close to my younger sister, who is 18. For years, my sister has been wondering about her sexual identity, but has hidden her doubts from our mother, who we know for certain would not approve. Now she is tentatively entering into a relationship with a woman. It wouldn't be a problem, except this girl is 25. They are members of the same ballet group, which includes a wide range of ages, so there is no doubt that their friendship began in an appropriate context. They seem quite happy together and this girl, as far as I can see, is a very balanced person who is not pressuring my sister in any way, but the age gap worries me. I do not know what to do! I don't want to pressure my sister to break a relationship that seems to make her happy, but I am not at all sure this is appropriate. I want to make it clear that the age gap concern is something I would have in the case of a heterosexual relationship, too, but in that case of course I could ask my mother's advice. I study abroad and carrying the secret of this relationship, while having my doubts and being unable to supervise it, feels like a burden.
A: Your sister is an adult who is entering of her own volition into a relationship with a young woman who you say is lovely. Yes, she's a few years older, but many young people have benefited from the experience of an older partner. In the larger scheme, a seven-year age difference isn't that remarkable, but it is more significant the younger the participants. Beyond the facts of birthdates, though, everything else you've said about this relationship seems just fine. So what you do is say to your sister that you're happy she's found someone she feels so compatible with and that you want to know how her relationship is progressing.
Q. Miscarriage: A few months ago, I had a miscarriage at about 10 weeks. I woke up in labor and obviously it couldn't be stopped. I returned to work the next day after asking for a few people to work half-days for me two to four days after the miscarriage—emotionally I was a wreck as it was my first expected baby. I had smoked during my pregnancy—and I was slowly cutting down more. I went from one pack a day to maybe two to three cigarettes a day. Fast-forward to present—while still fielding the "are you pregnant yet" questions, still feeling a little emptiness because I am upset about the miscarriage—my boss and his wife are expecting! At first I was happy for them, but then I started hearing from him, "My wife is further than you were right? We don't want to hear your comments as you caused your miscarriage by smoking. You weren't going to be a good mother because you were still damaging yourself." I know in about five months these comments will stop, but how do I listen to this from my boss (who also owns the company) and keep myself from punching him?
A: Your boss's comments make me want to punch him, too. What a thoroughgoing creep that he is blaming you for your miscarriage as a way to relieve his anxieties about his wife's pregnancy. Yes, this guy has power over you, but that doesn't mean you have to just take this. You should go into his office and say you want to have a talk about his recent remarks. Say that you are very happy for him and hope the pregnancy goes well, but you have to make clear that you cannot listen to him blaming you for the loss of your child. Let's hope that is the end of it. If it's not, you can consider discussing this with an employment attorney. And your painful experience is a good reminder that since miscarriage is so common, it's generally a good idea not to announce a pregnancy to a wider circle until you're into the third month, to avoid having to discuss your loss with people you don't want to deal with.
Dear Prudence: Torn Apart by an iPad
Q. Etiquette: For the last few years we have had our AC unit serviced right before the beginning of summer by a technician that we know, trust, and who charges reasonable rates. However, he and his family suffered a tragic loss last month when his young grandson passed away unexpectedly. Now that summer is approaching, I would normally be scheduling a service appointment, but I feel uncomfortable asking him about a business matter during such a painful time. At the same time, I can't imagine anyone else working on our AC unit. We haven't spoken to him and his family except to convey our deepest sympathies; is there any way to bring up this topic without sounding like a heartless jerk? Or should we simply leave him in peace and find a new technician?
A: Firing him as your technician because he suffered a terrible loss is not the way to be kind. It's good that you've already conveyed your sympathies. So now, schedule the appointment. When he comes you say, "Fred, I'm so sorry for your loss. We are heartbroken over it." Then he'll either talk to you for a few minutes about his grandson or maybe not. Do be prepared to be patient if he has to compose himself.
Q. Re: Miscarriage: Original poster here. Unfortunately my boss knew early because of medical appointments and figured it out when I had morning sickness. We didn't spread it around to others. I have talked to him repeatedly and said, "My doctor has assured me I have not caused the miscarriage." I will try again to talk to him and let him know that these comments are very upsetting and I will not hear them again, or else I may have to look harder into different employment options.
A: If you weren't volunteering the reason for your doctor's appointment and upset stomach, he should not have inquired as to whether you were pregnant. This guy is full of owner-hubris and needs to establish better work boundaries. Don't you verbally put the onus on yourself to find another job if he won't stop. When you go to discuss this with him do your best to stay calm and reasonable. Explain that his comments are not only medically incorrect but outside the bounds of reasonable workplace conversation. Let's hope that sinks in and you don't have to deal with this again.
Q. Re: Hair Down There: check out the Vagina Monologues, there's an incredible piece in there. I'd suggest both parties watch this brilliant show. It's on DVD.
A: Thanks for the recommendation—I've never seen it. I'm guessing that monologue does not conclude, "So ladies, start waxing!"
Q. My Sister, the Author: My older sister, who I love, and who has recently decided to become a 100 percent stay-at-home mom, has recently started writing a blog to tell the world her opinions on parenting and how her "new" techniques at raising her two toddlers are life-changing and earth-shattering. This is OK. I realize that she needs an outlet. However. I don't have kids and don't really care about these. In addition, she posts them and expects the whole family to have read them and have a favorite passage or hint that we each find moving or particularly correct. How do I tell her that I don't care about her blog posts or their subject matter without hurting her feelings and making her think that each of her ideas is baloney, even though that's how I feel?
A: You don't tell her, you just don't read it. While she sounds presumptuous and self-involved, you sound dismissive and superior. When she asks for your reaction to her latest insights, you tell her you're sure what's she's writing is great, but since you don't have children yourself, you just aren't her primary audience. If she pushes or pouts, you just smile and say you're sure if she keeps at it, she'll find the readers she deserves.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Talk to you next week.
Our commenting guidelines can be found here.