Q. The "Wrong" Sister Got Pregnant First: I am a married woman in my mid-20s with a gay sister who is a decade older than I. We have been very close my whole life despite the fact we come from a very conservative family (I think I'm the only one who couldn't care less about her sexual orientation) and that she lives states away. She has been trying through ART (assisted reproductive technology) to conceive for about a year with no success, and I am the only one she has shared this information with. Well, my husband and I just discovered we are expecting (despite our own difficulties) and she didn't handle the news well at all. She commented that we are too young, we have no idea what we are in for, and that our upcoming vacation to see her and her girlfriend "is going to be boring." I know she is hurt, but I cannot help her struggles in conceiving and I miss being able to talk to her. No one else in the family understands why she is so upset. I love her and hope to be able to move past this before the baby is born.
A: I have very limited patience for people who behave this way. I understand the agonies of infertility, but your sister hasn't even been at it for very long. And even if someone feels a flare of jealousy over another's pregnancy, if you're old enough to be a mother, you should be old enough to be able to pause and reconsider before you say something hurtful. Or once you've blurted it out, you should be able to apologize, explain your own disappointment got the better of you and of course you're thrilled for the news. Pregnancy is not a zero sum game and someone else's pregnancy has no bearing on one's own.
If your conversation with your sister was very recent, give her the benefit of the doubt and now that the news has sunk in, just get in touch with her to catch up and talk about your trip. If she remains cold and hostile, or starts berating you about your own pregnancy, then confront this directly. Say you understand she's frustrated, but you hope she can be happy for you, just as you fervently wish someday you will be happy for her. Say you love her and are looking forward to seeing her and hope the trip is still on. If she won't shift gears, then consider changing your vacation plans until your sister does some growing up.
Q. Re: Sister's untreated postpartum depression: Thank you for the push, Prudie. I am going to call my sister and her husband, and if they won't take action I will let our parents and our brother know what's up. Between my husband, my sister-in-law, and my parents, one of us will be able to be with my sister until she is better.
A: Excellent. And don't wait. You don't want your sister to spiral further down.
Q. Stinky Friend: Over the past 6 months I have become good friends with a man from another country whom I met in a yoga class. He is very generous, intelligent, has a great job, and fun. The only problem is that he smells bad—like he doesn't wear deodorant and re-wears his shirts too many times. He would like to meet more people and date American women. I introduced him to several of my single friends and they all noted his pungent aroma. I think his personal aroma is keeping him from making friends. Should I bring this up with him? I have thought about going shopping with him to a fancy body products store and finding an upscale antiperspirant and telling him to buy it because it is sexy.
A: Forget hinting. If you're a friend, you will tell him straight. It's simply the case that different cultures have different standards of hygiene. He's in America, so he has to conform to ours. Tell him you can't fix him up until he addresses his body-odor issues. Say he needs to shower daily, use a strong deodorant and antiperspirant, and his shirts need laundering after every wearing. Be direct and matter-of-fact. You will be doing him (and everyone around him!) a great service.
Q. Re: Blogging about Mom-troll?: So instead of simply blocking mom's IP address and explaining the action in private, the letter writer should publicly shame her in a blog post about boundaries? The former would solve the problem; the latter strikes me as juvenile and could end up damaging the relationship.
A: As I said, if she decides to write a blog post about boundaries and include this issue about her mother, she should give her mother a heads-up. It can all be written in an affectionate and humorous way, "You may have noticed my No. 1 defender in the comments who goes by 'Mindy's Mom' because, well, she's my mom." The post could say mom's comments make her cringe and she's struggled with how to get her mother to stop—in fact she's told her mother she's going to write about this issue. It could be that a lot of commenters say they loved Mindy's Mom's posts, or it could be that Mindy's Mom really comes to understand she is violating her daughter's work space. It would be a provocative post, and if you're in the blogging business, I think it's fair game.
Q. Not Really a Gift ...: My 8-year-old daughter recently had a friend over for a play date. The girls played in her room, and my daughter's friend was playing with our doll house. My daughter told her she could have the doll house and all the furniture, etc. as she didn't play with it anymore, and the friend looked thrilled. Happily I was nearby to defuse this, so I jumped in to say that no, she could not have the doll house, and that my daughter was not allowed to give away things without permission first. My daughter's friend seemed fine, and I explained that this doll house was expensive, and that we were keeping it for younger siblings, and also for when cousins and friends visit. The girls moved on to play dress-up. However, about an hour after the friend went home, I got an irate email from her mother, who insists her daughter was "crushed" by my "miserly" attitude, and that I wasn't teaching my daughter the "joys of giving." She claims that my daughter's mention of the gift was binding, and that we "owe" her the doll house. I fully intend to ignore this nut, but she is stirring up drama with our mutual acquaintances at the girls' school. I hate to stoop to explain the craziness, as I feel it makes me look a bit loony, but at the same time, I don't want this woman bad-mouthing me either. Any suggestions?
A: First of all, you have to have some sympathy for this woman's daughter. Every week this column is testimony to how rough it is to grow up with a crazy mother. Be glad it's summer and that this nonissue is likely to forgotten by the time school starts. But since word is getting back to you that an unattractive version of this story is circulating, you might delicately want to tell one of your good—and blabby—friends about the odd encounter you had with this other mother. Tell it just the way you did here: Juliette in a burst of 8-year-old generosity offered to give an heirloom doll house to Courtney, and you had to explain it was staying in the family. Courtney was fine about it, but then you got an email from Courtney's mother demanding you hand over the doll house! Shake your head and say it was one of the weirder notes you've ever received. Sure, it's gossip, but it's a good story, and it's yours to tell. Then drop it. Courtney's mom is, as you say, nuts. And that will make itself more than apparent as the school years roll on.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Stay cool and talk to you next week.
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