Q. Trying to get Pregnant: My SIL and I are very close and share a lot with each other. Six months ago my husband and I decided to stop using birth control and "see what happens" for a year. I was excited to tell her and our other close friends that we were ready to start trying for a baby. Both of them became my cheerleaders, and although we're not actively trying yet, if I get my period my SIL takes me out on a date to treat me to sushi and wine as a "consolation" date. Having her support has meant so much to me, because each month that passes I do find myself disappointed and hoping that this time was the time. Two months ago SIL was told that unfortunately, due to health issues, kids are not in her future. She and my BIL grieved for a few weeks, and I tried to be supportive of her. At first she was nervous to tell me because she said she was afraid it would bring me down. Now, she's trying to be positive and move on, but she keeps making comments about how even though she doesn't get to be a mother, she at least gets to be an aunt and that she plans to "steal my kids" for weekend trips then give them back totally spoiled. I'm not even pregnant yet, and she has designs on my kid! How can I tell her I understand she's still upset she can't have kids, but I'm not even pregnant yet and I feel like she's trying to "steal the show" (and the kid!) away from me?
A: Support is one thing. Menstruation consolation dates is another. You and sister-in-law are way too intertwined and you must start creating some boundaries, especially as concerns your reproductive status. You sister-in-law has just received a grievous blow and she needs understanding and help. But someone who is actively seeking to get pregnant may not be the best person to give it. You should suggest that she find a support group for women dealing with infertility; Resolve is one, so that she can discuss all aspects of this with people who know more than you do. Then stop announcing your periods to her. You've got to step back and reestablish a more normal relationship, one that respects the privacy of the most intimate details of your life.
Q. Bedbugs and Hospitality: My boyfriend and I recently stayed with a friend (perhaps better described as an acquaintance) and her boyfriend, who recently moved into a new, pre-furnished apartment in a new town. We were there for a weekend, and we had a lovely time with them. The problem, however, is that we suspect that there may have been bedbugs in the guest room where we were staying—when we stripped the bed before leaving, we noticed that the mattress was extremely old and dirty (we saw at least one non-bedbug insect crawling between the mattress and the box spring), and I have developed a few small red spots that may or may not be bug related. This couple just moved into their apartment, and, as I said, it came fully furnished, so they presumably have no idea about this yet. I know for a fact that they plan on having other guests come to visit them in the coming weeks. Prudie, is it our ethical responsibility to make them aware of this situation, or does it just make us seem like ungrateful and suspicious guests? How would you go about telling them? Bear in mind that these are not super close friends of ours, where it would be comparatively easy to say something.
A: Yes, it's difficult to say, "Thank you so much for your hospitality, and by the way, your home is infested," but that's unpleasant news any host would want to know. You have explained the situation very well here sans hysterics, so just give them a call. Say you don't even have definitive evidence, but since many cities have found themselves plagued with this old scourge, you wanted to let them know it's possible they need an exterminator so that subsequent guests can sleep tight without worrying if the bedbugs will bite.
Q. Wedding Woes: I am about to get married in a few months. Our families are very religious Orthodox Jews, and though my fiancé and I are not observant anymore, we have agreed to have a traditional ceremony to satisfy our families, despite my own reservations about some elements of the Orthodox ceremony. However, my fiancé's sister is very, very religious, and I'm getting worried about boundaries! I found a band that I think is perfect—they are great musicians and really unique. However, the band has a female lead singer, and my fiancé's sister told me that under Jewish law, her husband would feel uncomfortable attending, as a woman's singing is considered "too sensual." I'm a committed feminist (and I love to sing myself), and I'm beginning to feel burdened with having to totally rethink my special day in order to accommodate these considerations! How do I make everyone happy—without feeling railroaded at my own wedding?
A: You have the wedding you want. If people don't want to come, you tell them you are sorry to miss them. There's a line between being gracious enough to respect the religious beliefs of others, and having to bend to an offensive level of gender apartheid. You simply don't have to get your choices approved by your entire mishpocheh. If the traditional wedding you have embarked on is not working for you, you find a rabbi who will have the kind of ceremony you want. You certainly don't need to have the band approved by your future in-laws. If the sound of the female voice offends your brother-in-law, then he's free to leave the party.
Q. Friends: I recently found out that one of my closest friends slept with another dear friend's ex-boyfriend. While they had been broken up for over a year, I see this as a clear breach of trust. I haven't confronted or told, but it's definitely weighing on me. I wish I didn't know.
A: Then pretend you don't know. Because what two adults who are both single do consensually to each other in bed is none of your business. You say the boyfriend had been an ex for more than a year when he slept with his former girlfriend's friend. Guess what, people don't get to scent mark others for life. Once a relationship is over, they can pursue other interests. Some of these might be awkward, yes. But this case sounds very run-of-the-mill. So don't worry about not passing on the news; you don't have any obligation to be a gossip.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks everyone. Have a great week.
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