Help! My Co-Workers Tricked Me Into Insulting a Colleague.

Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 22 2013 6:00 AM

Despicable Me

In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman mortified after accidentally insulting a colleague.

(Continued from Page 1)

Q. Disturbing Husband: Last weekend my niece showed me an article online about a mother who was beaten up by an intruder while her young daughter was present. The website showed still shots of the act. In one of the pictures, the little girl covers her face with a pillow. This horrific incident was all caught on a nanny cam in the home. Well, when I told my husband about this article, he told me that he had already read it himself and also watched the video. Prudie! When I read the article myself, I did see the YouTube window but could not watch such a horrific act. I'm completely disturbed that my husband not only chose to watch the video in its entirety but also, feels no shame. I don't know. Just the thought of watching a young girl in the room while her mom is getting beaten up makes me sick. Do I just need to get over this?

A: A little while ago a video went around of a gruesome leg injury suffered by basketball player Kevin Ware. (Who I'm glad to see has recovered and is playing again.) I am so happy I never clicked on it, but I don't condemn the endless number of people did. Like you, I am disturbed by the distribution of a nanny cam video of a woman being assaulted while her child looks on. But people aren't monsters for clicking on something awful that's there tantalizing them—think of rubberneckers at a car accident. I don't fault your husband. If you were to discover he enjoyed the video and watched it obsessively, then you might start packing. But if he clicked out of curiosity and is simply getting on with his life, you need to accept the fact that different people have different tolerances for such things.

Q. Domestic Abuse: I have a strong suspicion that a woman in my office is the victim of domestic abuse. She came in to work with a black eye last week and an overly detailed "I'm soooo clumsy" story. My co-worker's boyfriend also works for our company indirectly as a contractor and has a sterling reputation in our office. I am friends with the ex-wife of her current boyfriend and my co-worker was the reason for the separation. The boyfriend knows that I am friendly with his ex-wife, but doesn't know the extent of our friendship and that I know all about his past history of physical abuse (injuries from one brawl in his previous relationship resulted in a doctor visit). Knowing the details of his previous relationship, I personally don't think that this will escalate in anything more than a few black eyes/bruises. Her boyfriend doesn't seem like the deadly violent type, just a guy with some serious control issues. However, I am concerned because my co-worker has a very young child and this is not a healthy environment. Do I have any obligation to report this to the authorities or say anything to someone? If I happen to be wrong about my suspicions, I don't want this to come back on me and be seen as a troublemaker or gossip.

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A: How comforting to think that this guy probably won't kill her, he'll just cause some bruises and maybe a broken bone or two. Since you know for a fact he has been violent toward his ex-wife, I concur you're on to something about the black eye not being a matter of walking into the bathroom door. Again, I suggest calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline. They will have good advice for you about whether to approach your co-worker, or just report your suspicions directly to the police. That's something you should be able to do anonymously. It is alarming there is a child involved in this mess, and there should be intervention before it escalates into tragedy.

Q. Religion in an Atheist Wedding: I am an atheist, and my wonderful fiancé considers himself "spiritual but not religious." This is not at all a problem in our relationship, and neither of us want to get married in a church or even mention God in our ceremony, but we are afraid that our families will be offended by this. Particularly, both of our mothers' sides of the families are deeply religious. I feel like it's an exercise in futility to explain my beliefs to my grandparents and/or my fiancé's mother. They are all elderly, and I think at best a discussion of my fiancé and my lack of religious inclination would benefit no one, and at worst would create animosity toward us. So what do we do? I would feel disingenuous incorporating religion into the wedding, and getting married in a church like my family undoubtedly expects me to do would be even worse. Should we suck it up and pretend we're religious for our families' benefit? Attempt to explain our situation and likely create tension and sadness for some of our elderly guests? I feel like there's no way to win here, and it's causing stress in an otherwise joyous time of life.

A: The way to win is to recognize that if you're old enough to get married, you're old enough to do it in the way that makes you happy. Let's hope your adult relatives are adult enough to behave well whatever the ceremony consists of, and to have arrived at the knowledge that you can't control other people, especially as concerns their religious beliefs. How other people act is up to them. You don't need to explain or defend yourself at all. On the other hand, if you want to avoid the whole thing, you and your fiancé could have a totally private ceremony, then you can follow it with a celebration to which all are invited. No one has to explain—or seek approval—for such personal decisions.

Q. Re: 3-year-old stepson: Is your stepson allowed to help with the baby at all? I know you mentioned he's too rough, but maybe that could be a chance to help guide him on how to work with the baby? Helping take care of him might make him feel more involved in his own family and like a big brother, rather than the other kid.

A: This is an important point. Everyone's attention is on the baby, and the 3-year-old is not only jealous, he's been told he's bad when he approaches—which only makes him want to be rougher. I do think some basic parenting classes could help. The stepfather has to understand this dynamic is totally normal, and there are ways to encourage and allow the 3 year-old to be a big brother—for which he will get a lot of attention and praise!—so that this family unit can really come together.

Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Have a great week.

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Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column. 

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