Help! My Husband Tried to Record My Friend Undressing.

Advice on manners and morals.
Nov. 7 2013 6:00 AM

Cad Cam

My husband tried to record my friend undressing—and then told us about it!

(Continued from Page 1)

Dear Prudence,
Several years ago my widowed mother moved across the country to be nearer to me and my family. She was in her early 70s, and subsequently fell in love with a wonderful widower around her age and they married. To their surprise, his grown children began to exclude him from their family plans soon after the ceremony. It’s been over nine years and he no longer gets invited to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter with them. His grandchildren have been pressured to not see him. What’s confusing is that my mother’s husband and first wife were amazing parents who raised their own children and several orphaned relatives. All these siblings and cousins get together regularly, but leave their father and my mother out of their plans. The father and my mother have reached out many times, but his children said they want a relationship with only him, not both of them. I have tried to bring the families together, but was told not to get involved. One of his relatives confided to us that toward the end of his first wife’s illness she had instructed her oldest daughter to take care of her father after she died, so now his family feels my mother has made it impossible to honor their mother’s wishes. The stress has caused both my mother and her husband to be hospitalized several times. They remain committed to each other but recently told us that they have decided to move on and share their elder years only with our family. Is there anything else that can be done to repair this rift? When is it OK to stop trying?

—Saddened and Confused

Dear Saddened,
There are families who continue to get together for the holidays even after members have committed assaults, embezzlements, sexual improprieties, and general outrageousness against each other. Either there’s some part of this story that’s being left out, or your mother’s husband’s children are a bunch of cruel, heartless ingrates. Grown children generally are thrilled if a lonely, elderly parent finds love and companionship and does not need their constant attention. (The objections tend to be about a newcomer threatening a potential inheritance.) Even if they resent the arrival of a replacement, they are supposed to pull themselves together and welcome the new spouse, not alienate their parent from all his loved ones. I’d say after nine years not only is it OK to stop trying, it’s necessary. These are two old people who have been hospitalized for the stress this situation has caused them. You should reassure them that you respect their decision and are delighted they will be able to spend the holidays with you. Make sure your children treat your mother’s husband as if he is their grandfather. The poor man will go to his grave with a wounded heart. But when he’s at your Thanksgiving table, let’s hope he feels thankful to be part of your family.

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—Prudie

Ruth Bader Ginsburg street art

Photo courtesy of Ginsburg Fan

Dear Prudence,
Here’s a Washington, D.C. etiquette question for you. I was recently dining at a hip new restaurant with my husband and some friends. Seated at the table next to us was Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We had recently noticed some flattering street graffiti art about Justice Ginsburg and I had a photo of it on my phone. My husband, friends, and I debated at length whether it would be appropriate to show this art to her. Everyone but me thought it would be rude or at least annoying. Ultimately, I went with my instincts (assisted by a couple of glasses of wine); after the justice had finished eating and I was on my way out of the restaurant, I stopped by the table and showed her the graffiti on my phone. She was very pleasant, seemed interested, and the entire exchange took maybe 20 seconds. Since then, we've polled numerous family members, friends, and co-workers. A small majority support my husband’s view that it was not appropriate. So, was I just being friendly or was I a pest?

—Ginsburg Fan

Dear Fan,
I’ve lived in both Los Angeles and D.C. and you’re right that the prevailing ethic is to let celebrities dine out and go about their lives in peace (unless you’re a paparazzo). It was fun to eat out in L.A. and have a companion say sotto voce: “Bruce Willis to your left.” The only time I ever saw an entire place lose its cool was when Elizabeth Taylor walked in for lunch at a Santa Monica restaurant. People unashamedly craned their necks at one of the biggest stars to ever live. In D.C. you can see the president’s daughters at children’s sporting events, or pass a senator loaded down with bags at the airport (I saw you, Lindsey Graham!), and most everyone leaves them alone. But I think the short, positive, nonintrusive interaction you describe is fine. I can imagine it was just too much to have such a perfect piece of graffiti on your phone and not let Justice Ginsburg enjoy it. She was done eating and you kept it under a minute, so you’ve got my vote.

—Prudie

More Dear Prudence Columns

Three's a Crowd: My husband slept with the nanny. I kicked him out. Can I keep the nanny?”
Hands-Off Relationship: My husband had sex with me while I was in a drunken state. Should I divorce him?”
Spousal Surveillance: My husband has been monitoring me through my laptop. How can I get him to stop?”
Willful Blindness: My fiancé was sexually abused as a child. My stepmom defends Jerry Sandusky. How could they possibly meet?”

More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts

There’s Something About Mary: In a live chat, Prudie offers advice on a woman who hasn’t told her boyfriend she used to be a man.”
Bad Granny: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a woman whose mother-in-law plays intellectual favorites with her grandchildren.”
When Parents Aren’t Enough: In a live chat, Prudie offers advice on neighbors who care ceaselessly for their disabled son—to the neglect of their infant daughter.”
A Breast Too Far: In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman who discovered her mother-in-law suckling her newborn son.”

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