Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up here to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at email@example.com.)
See Emily live! She will be talking to Slate editor David Plotz and taking questions at Sixth and I in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 11. For tickets and more information, click here.
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon. I'm looking forward to your questions.
Q. My Husband Is Not Invited to My Niece's Wedding: I am one of four siblings, all in their late 50s/early 60s. I am a gay man who legally married my partner of 28 years earlier this year. Two of my sisters are lesbians with one married to her longtime partner as well. The remaining sister, the youngest, is married with five children and is a devout Catholic. Her daughter is getting married soon and the invitation arrived the other day, addressed only to me. My other married sister's invitation was addressed only to her. I don't know what to do. I emailed the niece's mother and asked if my husband was invited and if my niece was registered anywhere. I did not get a response. I'm pretty sure he and my sister-in-law are not invited as my sister does not approve of the relationships due to religious teachings. Now I'm hurt and unsure how to proceed. My husband has known my niece since she was born. My sister has always treated my husband respectfully, though she has dropped a few hints about how she feels. In the past I have even paid my sister's mortgage when her husband was unemployed to keep her and her children in their house. I don't plan to attend without my husband and am not sure if I should just decline the invitation and leave it at that or if I should let them know how hurtful their actions are. What would you do?
A: If there is anyone who grew up knowing that there's nothing wrong with being gay, it should be this young bride. So go directly to her. She is an adult and is responsible for her invitations. Tell her, "Maureen, I'm thrilled you're getting married. However, I just got the invitation and saw that it was addressed only to me. I hope that was an oversight and that my husband, your other uncle, is invited. Your Aunt Cynthia also mentioned that her wife was left of her invitation. So we need to clarify whether our spouses are included." Then hear what she has to say. If she says she left the spouses off because of her mother's feelings, you should tell her that she is old enough now to make her own decisions. If her decision is to not invite the spouses of her uncle and aunt, then you need to explain basic etiquette to her. You say that wedding invitations are one of those things that are extended to both parties in a couple. Tell her that if she isn't including your husband, then you wish her all the best, but you will not be able to attend. And if that's the case, I wouldn't worry about where this couple is registered.
Dear Prudence: Middle-Aged Twilight Fanboy
Q. Domme Past: I recently moved in with my girlfriend of two years and things are going swimmingly. She is a beautiful, caring, and devoted partner, and I am thankful for having her in my life every day. As I consider our future together, her past continues to haunt me. Early on in our relationship she shared with me that she spent a summer working as a professional dominatrix. I was shocked and disgusted by the things she did, and by the seemingly unemotional and detached way in which she talked about them. She was also involved with one of her "slaves" outside of the workplace. We have come a long way since then and I am deeply in love with the woman that I know now. We have even experimented with some kinky stuff of our own and are very comfortable with each other. However, every once and a while this comes back to haunt me. When it does, I feel like I lose control of my thoughts and focus only on negative graphic images, whereas since we have such a wonderful and charmed life together, I should really just pick up my head and take a look around. I recognize how unfair this for her and I have finally admitted to myself that I need help working through this with counseling, but am afraid that it will ruin us. How do I let go?
A: Maybe your girlfriend should slap a pair of handcuffs on you and walk on your back in stilettos until you agree to stop dwelling on her past. Your girlfriend freely confessed to you her interesting summer job, so you get points for not being the one to pry into her past sex life. Good for her for recognizing that having spent some time as a professional sex worker is something that one's partner is entitled to know. But it's been two years since you got the news that she is good at punishing people. You had the opportunity then to say, "I appreciate your telling me you have expertise in clipping electrodes to nipples, but I'm pretty vanilla, so I need someone with a less stimulating past." But you stayed and even experimented with her. You're right that if this haunts you and you have something worth saving, you should talk this out with a counselor. I don't see how that ruins you. Counseling shouldn't be drawn-out torture; instead it should pretty quickly clarify whether you're able to put this into perspective and enjoy your love, or whether you'll never stop the unwanted video loop running in your head.
Q. Dealing With Inappropriate Reactions to the Loss of Our Baby: My spouse and I tragically lost our beloved baby to SIDS. The vast majority of our family and friends are beyond wonderful and supportive, but there continue to be a few outliers who keep asking us very direct and probing questions about what happened. We've also been dealing with certain folks who keep assuring us that this is all part of God's plan (which I find quite offensive for a number of reasons). In my current state of mind, I can't trust myself to come up with a measured, appropriate way to deal with these issues, but they are very upsetting to me and I wish there was some way I could ask these people (who no doubt mean well) to stop. Do you have any suggestions?
A: I'm so sorry for your loss. You're generous to make allowances for people who make things worse for the grief-stricken, but they have to be dealt with firmly. To the nosy just say, "I don't care to discuss the details of our child's death. Now please excuse me." For those speaking for God you can try, "This isn't comforting to us and I'd rather not discuss religion, thanks."