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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon. I look forward to your questions.
Q. Breast Job Getting in the Way of Wedding!: I recently got engaged to my wonderful fiancé. Immediately after announcing the engagement to our families, my future SIL sat me down for a serious chat. She says she is currently saving up for breast implants and doesn't want us to marry until she gets them done. She told me she wants to have one family wedding album where she looks perfect and will be heartbroken if I got married against her wishes. The trouble is, my fiancé says we should hold off the wedding for this reason, too. He knows his sister will cause so much trouble and doesn't want to deal with the family drama. He thinks since we live together there is no hurry for marriage, anyway. I know how much he detests conflict and it's true we are pretty much living as a married couple, but I feel like this is so wrong to postpone the wedding. He says the other option is to pay for his sister's breast implant ourselves! Am I crazy for marrying into this family?
A: I've heard that people want others' wedding dates moved because of their pending reproductive plans, or because it's their anniversary which they think should be commemorated like a national holiday. But this is the first time I've heard that starting a new life should be put off until someone can afford new breasts. I often tell brides to stop making themselves nuts in an attempt to create the "perfect day." But it's really something that your sister-in-law thinks the point of your marrying her brother is that she can show off her perfect breasts. I have every confidence that right now she can afford the most jumbo set of falsies. That means that's when it's time for the photos her chest is front and center. Your fiancé should be saying, "Yeah, Stacy has always been a handful. The fact that she wants us to delay our wedding until she's more of a handful is an escalation of the crazy, so let's just ignore her." Instead he is actually considering footing the bill for the boobs, which is rather extraordinary. It's often the case that one family member is so impossible that everyone just gives in to make life easier, but it's a little concerning that your intended "detests conflict" so much he's incapable of telling his sister she's being ridiculous. The advantage of this whole thing happening is that your fiancé wants to postpone your wedding. So that gives you time to explore just how you two will handle this and other inevitable conflicts, which is crucial information you need before you tie the knot.
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Q. My Uncle and a Playground: Recently, I took my developmentally delayed uncle to a park, set him up on a swing set, and ran to the bathroom. The park was crowded, and when I came back from the bathroom two moms chastised me for leaving my uncle alone. They were also upset he was using a swing, as those were meant for children. I think my uncle, who is deaf and often makes grunting noises, frightened their young kids. I thought they were out of line but was flustered, so I left the park with my uncle. My grandma, who lives with my uncle, is upset with me for not sticking up for him. I feel awful about the whole incident. Was I wrong to leave my uncle alone because he's a grown man and was in a park full of kids? I'm not sure if it's inappropriate to take a grown man to playgrounds.
A: It's very hard in the moment when you're under attack, and possibly feeling that you were in the wrong, to have the wherewithal to respond calmly and lucidly. Then you go to your grandmother's and recount this distressing incident, and instead of receiving understanding you get attacked from another side. First of all, good for you for taking your uncle on an outing. The important thing here is that you are a kind and loving person. It is perfectly reasonable that you left your uncle in a safe situation while you attended to your call of nature. Once you returned it should have been perfectly clear to these mothers what the situation was. They were way out of line for their rude and disparaging remarks. Now that this has happened, you can be prepared for the future. If you get hassled again, you can quietly say the park is for everyone. You can say that your uncle has special needs, and he is entitled to enjoy the offerings at this facility. Let's hope that prompts these busybodies to appreciate how lucky they are to have typical children.
Q. Mistress: I'm the letter writer with the mistress. Thanks for responding to my letter. Having read the comments, I wanted to clarify something, since there was skepticism: I really don't call or text my mistress. We set up our next meeting before we part ways each time. This is important to me because I really don't want her intruding on my time with my wife in any way (hence the afternoon sex). I recognize that to many, I am just a cheater and a "scumbag." I would have said that about cheaters once, too. Seems less simple to me now, and while I don't feel guilt exactly, the way I have found happiness has surprised me. How that happiness has improved my marriage surprises me even more.
A: I, too, came in for a lot of criticism for not calling you a scumbag. I understand that you think you have walled off this relationship and because you only have sex with your girlfriend (does she call herself a "mistress"?) during the work day so it doesn't intrude on your marriage. It's also not surprising that you feel less tension in your marriage. That's because you're having sex with someone else! Yes, I said as long as you're doing this it's good that you're actually more present in your marriage and not carrying on emotionally with your paramour. But this affair will end. And if you think the secret to sustaining your marriage is permanently having something on the side, you may find that leads to surprises you didn't anticipate.
Q. Chatterbox Mom: My mom is divorced and retired. Love her lots, but she's a horrible gossip. She constantly tells me her friends’, neighbors’, and other family members’ personal business. I also know she discusses my life with others because folks have asked me about things and when I inquire how they knew X they indicate my mom informed them (of a medical procedure, for example). It's never “secret”-worthy intel, but it's often pure gossip I prefer she not be sharing. I find myself telling her less about my life because of it, and recently she's expressed hurt that I'm not sharing more with her. I've tried to change the subject when she tells me things about others I'd rather not hear, but she seems to relish her role as the “town crier” (she also seems to enjoy being judgmental about whatever she's gossiping about, which is probably part of my issue with the entire situation). I want to level with her about why I'm keeping so quiet, but not sure how. She does have a temper.
A: Sure your mother is mad, you're cutting off the oxygen that feeds her gossip fires. If your mother is retired I'm assuming you are a grown woman yourself. Your mother has a temper, but you're way past the point that she can confine you to your room, take away the car keys, or wag her finger and yell at you. Your reluctance to make clear your feelings about her gossiping about you and others only has the effect of making you more harassed because she's nagging you about feeling hurt. You tell her by telling her. Since she's noticed your distance you say, "Mom, you're right, I haven't been telling you what's going on with me because I don't want to hear it spread all over town. I tell you things in confidence—such as my medical procedures—then I hear back from other people that you've told them. I just makes me really uncomfortable. I also don't want to hear about their private lives from you. I love you, but I want to talk about things other than gossip." It sounds like your mother desperately needs something to fill up her time more productively. Maybe she could volunteer at an animal shelter—she can gossip to her heart's content about Fluffy's heartworms and Bowser's anxiety disorder.