Q. Inappropriate Jokes: My father very often tells inappropriate and sexist jokes. He often makes my mother the butt of these jokes in front of their friends and her family. (He never says these jokes in front of his family because they would disapprove.) These jokes often involve calling her various sexist words such as wench, or broad, or making it seem like she is always nagging him or refusing to let him do the things he wants to do (this is entirely untrue). I started noticing this a couple of years ago when I would come home from college, and now that I've graduated and have moved back home, he makes these types of jokes every day. I have tried to intervene on her behalf but he always tells me he's just joking and to "lighten up" or that I just don't understand his humor. My mother tells me not to get involved because it just eggs him on. I don't know what else to do to get my dad to stop this offensive behavior, especially since my mom refuses to stand up for herself and doesn't want me to intervene either. Any suggestions?
A: Find a job, save your money like crazy, and get a place of your own as soon as possible. Some couples have a mutually teasing relationship that both enjoy. That doesn't sound as if that's the case here, but your mother has made it clear she would prefer to ignore your father's remarks than deal with his behavior. By not responding to his bait, she's just letting people draw their own conclusions about your father. You say you just started noticing this in the past few years. It's possible this behavior isn't new, it's just that as you were becoming a young adult you took more interest in how the adults around you behave. You've expressed your distaste to your father and your concern to your mother and it hasn't made any difference, so now you stay out of it. Sometimes parental marriage dynamics seep into one's unconscious, and without meaning to people find themselves repeating the same lousy patterns. So be aware in your choice of partner you don't pick someone who gets inordinate pleasure in picking on you.
Q. Friends With Former Bully: When I was in the eighth grade, "Tammy" seemed determined to make my life a living hell. She spread rumors about me, alienated me, and even had a boy I like ask me out as a prank! She left me alone in high school, but I still felt sick whenever I saw her. I am now 30 years old and Tammy contacted me on Facebook. I ignored her first few requests but she was persistent and eventually I agreed to meet her for drinks. While we were out I brought up eighth grade and she said, "Did we even know each other in eighth grade?" I was floored that she didn't even remember me! The problem is, she says she had a great time with me and wants to continue hanging out. It seems like she is lonely and really needs a friend. But I don't know if I can just pretend everything is OK when, not only did she not apologize for her actions; she doesn't even remember them! Should I just get over it and become friends with my former tormentor?
A: Middle school is over, and so is Tammy's bullying of you—including her harassing you now to be her friend. Her story doesn't hang together. The only time you two seriously interacted was in eighth grade. Otherwise you ignored each other through high school. So it's odd that she would want to renew an acquaintance with someone she claims not to have known. You let her badger you into getting together, perhaps expecting an overdue apology. Since none was forthcoming and you can't stand this woman, do not let her into your life. Sometimes children who are bullies are just nasty people. Sometimes they themselves are being mistreated and are acting out against a vulnerable target. If Tammy is the latter, you can have sympathy for her in an abstract way, while explaining that you're just so busy you don't have room in your life for former classmates you never really knew.
Q. A Politician's Wife: Recently, my husband decided to take a role in local politics. This requires a lot more socializing on his, and my, part. The problem is, I've always been terrifically bad at it. I try so hard, but always end up saying something offensive without realizing it. I've been like this my whole life. The social niceties and conventions that others seem to intuitively grasp are like learning a foreign language to me. My husband loves me, but I know these gaffes are probably not benefitting him. What is the best way to proceed? Beg off any but the most necessary events? Pretend I'm painfully shy? Forge ahead and understand I may get better but never be good?
A: You'll likely never love this and never be dazzling at it, but you can certainly learn how to make inoffensive small talk and refrain from saying, "You might want to try the no-carb diet" or "I never realized how many old people like you lived in this district." Find a media trainer. This person will take you through various scenarios you will encounter while you deal with the public and help you develop a set of appropriate remarks for almost any occasion. Whether or not your husband finds success in this new endeavor, you will feel better about yourself in any social setting when you're less worried about blurting out something you regret. This doesn't mean you have to smooth out all the interesting quirks of your personality, it just means you'll learn how to be a more confident you.
Q. Re: Domme past: Prudie, a dominatrix is NOT a sex worker! S&M clubs are specifically about dominance and control and it is a kink, yes, but the clubs aren't about the sex! This is why these clubs are legal around the country and not like brothels. She did not have sex with every customer that came into the club, she merely gave them the experience they paid for. Assuming these clubs are all about sex is actually ruining what they are trying to do for their community by providing a safe place for people to be open about the control they want in their lives. I hope you can find some better information on dominatrix work so that you can learn about how much these people have to deal with when it comes to assumptions and negative talk!
A: I didn't mean she had intercourse with her clients, I was using the term broadly speaking. I hope we can agree that strippers or phone sex workers are in the sex industry and don't have intercourse with their clients. I don't see how it's negative to include S&M in this category; people don't go to these venues for tax advice.
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