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. Death Around the Holidays: A man I work with and with whom I've had an affair the last two months died suddenly over the weekend. I am pregnant with his child. He didn't know. His current wife, now widow, doesn't either. How do I broach this subject? His estate is rather large.
A: I'd say I'm sorry for your loss, but since apparently you aren't, I won't bother. For your financial interests, contact a lawyer specializing in family law. I don't have any advice on where you go to get help for your lack of morals—or heart.
Q. Can't Move On: My husband and I got together while he was still married. They separated three months later and divorced. It was the worst thing that either of us had ever done, but through the years, we have done our best to be the best partners, family members, community members, friends, and employees that we can be, and try to move on from our less-than-perfect beginning. Earlier this year (six years after his divorce was finalized), we married. Our families are thrilled for us, and we're eager to have children (there are no children involved in any other way). Our problem is that my husband's ex-wife is constantly harassing me on social media, and by emailing my work and personal accounts. I would love to cancel all of my social media accounts, but I work in the industry, and cannot do so. As it is, I post mostly professional content, with very few personal posts—nothing that I would be ashamed for anyone to see. I have never responded to the weekly attacks in any way, and I never post anything that I think would directly bait her. Please help.
A: I hope you've done everything you can to block her from your accounts. Get in touch with the social media provider and explain you are being harassed. Sure, you broke up her marriage—six years ago!—and she's entitled to dislike you. But she's not entitled to carry on a bizarre campaign of public intimidation. (And believe me, she only makes herself look disturbed.) Contact a lawyer and have her or him send the ex a letter stating that the contact with you needs to cease or else you will take all the legal action open to you to stop this offensive behavior.
Dear Prudence: Office Bra Etiquette
Q. Wedding Etiquette: This is no monumental problem by any stretch, but just wondering what the etiquette is these days. I have not been to a wedding in over 20 years but in 2013 I was invited to and attended three, all couples in their mid-20s, one of the brides my niece. In each case, I gave a nice gift and my niece was given a pretty substantial financial gift. I did not get a thank you note from any of them. Is that how things work now, thank you notes not required? I guess they were never "required" to begin with but over 20 years ago, I attended a lot of weddings, like when all my friends were getting married and always got some kind of note. Just curious.
A: My inbox would suggest that is often how things are done these days, but it's not because etiquette has changed. When you send a gift for which you have not received an acknowledgement in a reasonable amount of time, it is perfectly fine to check with the recipient to make sure it was received. I have known of O. Henry–like situations in which the bride was miffed at the lack of a gift, the sender was miffed at the lack of a thank you, and it turns out the gift was lost in the mail or stolen. Even if you assume the niece got the money because the check was cashed, you can double-check to make sure it wasn't pilfered. If that that doesn't result in a thank you note, then think of your future savings when you decline to send a baby shower gift to ungrateful people.
Q. Teen Excluded From Clique: My eighth-grade daughter has been dropped by the "in crowd." She doesn't get invited to the big parties, pushed out of the lunch table and pointedly left out of group projects. She had a falling out with one girl and it's escalated to this point. What do we do? We kept her in sports, church groups, and a social club for mothers and daughters. Girls are nice to her face but clearly she is out of the loop. She is miserable and wants to be home schooled. I am not sure that's the answer either. We can't afford private school and there isn't another public middle school. How can I help her?
A: Please read Sticks and Stones by my Slate colleague Emily Bazelon, and Odd Girl Out by Rachel Simmons. Both will give you great insight and advice on dealing with the painful situation. When the winter break is over, bring this up with school administrators. The advice in the books will help you figure out how best to frame it to them and work productively to address this problem. Accept there is no magic solution, but being a steady source of support and counsel for your daughter is crucial to helping her work through this sadly common problem.
Q. Crazy Cat Lady Blues: I was evicted out of my apartment a year ago due to its being sold to new owners. Since then I have been living in my parents’ basement and paying rent. Last spring I started back to school so that I would finally finish school and have a job that would allow me to be on my own. I also have a cat and lately feel like a loser because of my living situation. I'm starting to feel like I may never move out of my parents place and am doomed to be a crazy cat lady. What should I do?
A: Being crazy and having a cat makes you a crazy cat lady. Otherwise, you're a lady with a cat. What you do is work hard at school so that you finish your degree and develop relationships with professors who would be happy to provide you with references. Keep up with your litter box scooping so your place doesn't smell. And eventually you become a lady with a job, an apartment, and a cat.
Q. Re: Wedding etiquette: I went to a wedding in November 2012 and didn't get a thank you note until about June of 2013. I know people have a year to send a gift, but if the gift is given at the time of the wedding, does the couple have a year to respond? I had assumed they weren't doing thank you notes and was honestly shocked to finally receive one (and even then it was a generic pre-printed photo card that they didn't even sign).
A: First, I don't know where the "you have a year to get a wedding gift" idea comes from. If someone has a citation, I'd like to see. Sure, some people don't get around to getting a gift until after the wedding, and that's fine, but there isn't a rule that you should wait to see if the marriage takes. As for thank yous, no matter when the gift comes in, the thank you should go out as close to immediately as possible. I was going to say better a thank you seven months later than never, but not if it's a pre-printed card that is a marker for a thank you, but not actually one. If someone has been long remiss in expressing appreciation, the note should contain an apology for the delay—as well as actual words to the gift giver expressing appreciation for the specific and thoughtful gift.