Dear Prudence: My niece is about to marry my secret son by an affair.

Help! My Niece Is About to Marry My Son.

Help! My Niece Is About to Marry My Son.

Advice on manners and morals.
Aug. 19 2013 2:49 PM

Kissing Cousins

In a live chat, Prudie advises a man whose niece is unwittingly engaged to his son.

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Q. Re: Kissing cousins: Regarding the engaged cousins, are there any likely circumstances where they would need to get DNA tests for medical reasons (maybe screening for hereditary conditions), in which case they would suddenly discover they are related? If so, it seems like somebody should tell them now.

A: That's an interesting point. This is something I'd like someone with expertise in genetic counseling to weigh in on. Would a counselor say, "Hey, did you guys know you were cousins?" (And would that be clear?) Or would a counselor simply report potential reproductive risks without commenting on any consanguinity?

Q. Wife vs. Wedding: My wife and I just booked a trip abroad. My wife has waited her entire life to be able to travel and we finally have the time and money to make this happen. My brother just announced his engagement not long ago, but at last check, he and his fiancée had no date in mind. When my wife and I mentioned in conversation this weekend that we had finally booked our trip for June of next year, my brother and his fiancée got very quiet before he said that they had just put a deposit down on a package for a destination wedding over approximately those same dates. Now my wife and I are being pressured by my family to change our trip and attend the destination wedding instead. My wife hasn't said anything, but we both know there isn't money to do both, and I know she's disappointed. My mother says we owe this to my brother because he was my best man, and it is a family wedding and missing it isn't an option. I am of course thrilled for him and was prepared to do whatever it took to attend his wedding, but it breaks my heart to see my wife so sad that there's yet another setback to this trip. What's the right thing to do?

A: I dislike destination weddings for exactly the reasons described here. The bridal couple chooses where they want to honeymoon, then everyone else has to schlep there at great expense and suck up a lot of vacation time to accompany them. But I equally dislike problems that come with this kind of disclaimer: "My wife hasn't said anything." For goodness sake, man, start talking! You two have a lot to figure out. Is the destination of the wedding a place you would generally be happy to go? Can you recoup any of your deposit? Would your absence mean a terrible breach with your brother? You have plenty of time for discussion, planning, and rebooking. Sure, your brother's plans are annoying, but missing your sibling's wedding is the kind of thing that's best avoided. If you decide to go to the wedding, don't catastrophize this to mean your dreams of travel are forever crushed. Start saving and planning for a future trip.


Q. Re: Genetic testing: I had genetic screening when I was pregnant and they specifically asked if there was any chance we were related. It had to do with calculating the probabilities of various genetic conditions to see if specific testing should be carried out. Certain ethnic groups are more susceptible to heritable diseases, and if both partners are potential carriers, then more testing would be suggested.

A: If this couple is asked, they're obviously going to say, "No." And these two are young, so genetic screening might not even come up.

Q. Mean Girl: I recently went out to dinner with old friends I've known since we were teens. We get together for dinner on one another's birthdays. One friend in particular considers herself a "truth teller" and can be quite blunt with her opinions. During dinner, I mentioned that I'd tried a new hair stylist. My friend told me that my hair did not look good, and the stylist did not do a good job! She asked others at the table to weigh in, told me I would look younger if I styled my hair differently and even invited the waitress to critique my hair! I'd like to say I gracefully shut down the conversation, but I responded angrily and things became quite awkward. We all finished dinner and I apologized for losing my cool. No apology from my friend. I don't want to lose a friendship over this, but I was hurt, angry, and embarrassed! I really felt ambushed and caught off guard. I don't want to pretend this never happened but I don't think a heart-to-heart talk will do much good.

A: It's funny that these self-described "truth tellers" always have something bad to say. Your friend sounds awful and yes, it would have been better if you'd simply said, "Thanks, I'll take this under advisement. Does anyone have any Labor Day plans?" But you apologized, she didn't, so that says a lot. It sounds as if this group only sees one another occasionally, so let this go. You will be prepared next time to deflect whatever unpleasant insights she has to offer.

Q. How to Keep Someone From Drinking at My Wedding: Many years ago at a family member's wedding one of my cousins got quite drunk, made a scene, and caused some embarrassment. Over the years she has not improved her self-control. Nevertheless due to pressures from my family we're inviting the cousin. How can I keep another incident from occurring? Can I pull this family member aside and say she cannot drink? Do I tell the bartender to not serve this person? I'm trying to minimize drama while maximizing happiness for everyone.

A: It's a wedding, so you don't want to post her picture at the bar with a sticky note saying, "Ginger ale, only." Keep in mind when someone loses it at a wedding, she only causes embarrassment to herself. For everyone else, it's something to talk about on the ride home. If your cousin is an alcoholic, I doubt pulling her aside and saying, "Don't drink," will work. What you need to do is have one or two designated minders. These people will keep tabs on your cousin and if she starts to get obstreperous will have a word with the bartender about cutting her off, and take her by the arm and try to keep her calm.

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Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.