Help! My Daughter Is in Love With My Son’s Boyfriend.

Advice on manners and morals.
Jan. 2 2014 6:00 AM

Family's Guy

My daughter is in love with my son’s boyfriend.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
My wife and I have two wonderful children, "Rebekah" and "Robbie." They have always been close and share many of the same friends. Both are living at home while attending a local college. Rebekah is very popular and has many platonic male friends, but she has developed a real crush on a young man in her class, "Jason.” Recently, my wife and I returned home after a night out, and I went to check on Robbie who has a room in the basement. I was startled to find him and Jason lying on his bed, kissing and undressing each other. I was not seen and left quietly. My wife told me that Rebekah was asleep in her bedroom upstairs, and I muttered to my wife that Robbie was home. A few days later I returned home early to the sounds of two men having sex in the basement. I got into my car and took a long drive. When I got back, Rebekah had just arrived and she and Robbie and Jason were in the kitchen fixing a snack. I love my son and will always support him, but there are several issues. First, my wife will be unhappy to learn our son is gay. Robbie is an adult and it's not my place to tell her, but she will eventually find out. Also, we do not tolerate sexual activity in the house, regardless of sexual orientation, so there can't be a double standard with Robbie. I will have to tell him, and he will know that I know. Most important, I fear Rebekah will be hurt, and I don't want this development to damage the close relationship she and her brother have always had. What should I do?

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—Confused Dad

Dear Confused,
How the world has changed when it’s possible that Jason could one day be your son-in-law, despite his total lack of interest in your daughter. Anyone who’s ever had both a basement and teenagers should know that the most innocent walk down those steps could mean stumbling upon scenes of naked writhing. I don’t know what kind of marriage you have, but most husbands having seen their son in flagrante with another, male or female, would be moved to say to their fellow parent something like, “Honey, Robbie is home, and I have some news about how he’s entertaining his guest.” It is your place to tell your wife, and I think the two of you need to let Robbie know that you know. For help in dealing with all this, contact PFLAG, which gives invaluable support to parents with gay children. As for your decree that your college-age children not engage in sexual relations in your home, you’re saving a boatload of money by not having them live at college. But if they were in a dorm, you would have no control over their sexual escapades. Your kids are actually young adults, and I think you need to rethink this rule. Finally, let’s hope Rebekah is sturdy enough not to be crushed when she finds out why her crush never made a move, and that she will be accepting on discovering she’s simply not his type. It’s probably been quite confusing for her to see that Jason loves hanging out at her home, but all his lingering glances appear to be directed to Robbie. Alternately, perhaps Rebekah knows exactly what’s up, and she’s agreed to engage in a cover story to keep her parents from the truth.

—Prudie

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Dear Prudence,
Over the holiday our family spent time with my husband's brother. My brother-in-law has long been known to have undiagnosed mental problems—he is paranoid and delusional. On this visit he cornered whomever he could to blather about why the apocalypse is coming, and about socialism and the Federal Reserve. He also constantly wore a fanny pack. I tried to keep our young children away from him. On our drive home, my husband told me that his brother has been given a permit to carry a concealed weapon. It turns out there was a handgun in his fanny pack, and he took the gun across many state lines. I am beside myself. He is exactly the man who shouldn't have a firearm. My husband said the church his family attends promotes paranoia and gun-toting. My husband did speak to his parents about this, explaining that his brother’s carrying a loaded weapon was a recipe for disaster and that his paranoid tirades were a sign that his brother needed help. His mother defended him “exercising his rights.” This scenario seems to be a tragic accident waiting to happen. We aren’t going to see the brother-in-law again for a long time, but should we be contacting some public health officials?

—Gun Shy

Dear Gun Shy,
Whether one considers our lax gun laws insane or not, I wish everyone could agree that firearms and mental illness do not mix. Unfortunately, as this highly disturbing New York Times investigation shows, our laws concerning mental illness and gun ownership are an ineffectual morass that rarely results in permanent firearm confiscation. Studies show that the mentally ill who adhere to treatment are unlikely to be dangerous, but the same can’t be said for the unmedicated and undiagnosed mentally ill, especially those suffering from paranoia. But your husband’s whole family embraces a collective delusion that his ranting is an indication of his perspicuity. I agree with Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus when she wrote that Adam Lanza’s mother, his first victim, enabled his crimes by purchasing the arsenal for her disturbed son. I hope your husband uses what influence he has to get his brother to a doctor. Your husband could let the rest of your family know that he doesn’t want his children around firearms, so that future visits may be in jeopardy if the brother continues to show up carrying a weapon. He can also make the case that with help his brother can lead a happier and more productive life. But in the absence of the brother coming to the attention of the criminal justice system, things will probably continue as they are. I think your husband should call the authorities in the state where his brother lives and explain why he thinks his brother should not have a concealed carry permit or even any firearms. Be prepared that nothing will change.

—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
My husband is a rising executive for an international company. He does a lot of interviews for new hires. The other day he said to me that he was planning to have lunch at Hooters with a potential employee. When I voiced my concern about his choice of restaurant, he patronizingly said he met his boss at a Hooters. I doubt that, but as he was dressing to go, I reiterated my concern. He left for work without even his usual kiss goodbye. We exchanged several text messages later and I told him how hurt I was by his behavior. He said it would be embarrassing for him to change the meeting place now, but he would do it for me. He stated he did not see anything wrong with this venue, and I was making "mountains from molehills.” He doesn’t seem to understand that he has been conducting business at a place that holds little regard for women. Not so incidentally, the company is dealing with a discrimination action by female employees. How can he overlook the implications of having an interview lunch at an establishment known for being a "breastaurant"? I asked him if he would interview a woman there, as this would logically show him what an inappropriate place it is to conduct business. Am I overthinking this, or if my husband wants to keep his job and title, should he stay out of this place while conducting any of his company's business?

—Executive Wife

Dear Executive Wife,
It’s Hooters that insists on mountains not molehills. I agree with you that your husband is jeopardizing his standing in the company by making this salacious place his satellite office. When you asked him if he would bring a female candidate to Hooters, you don’t say what his response was. Maybe he didn’t have one because he knows it would never happen. That doesn’t mean it’s acceptable for him to limit his Hooters lunches to fellow males. If his company has a problem with women it may be in part because it is attracting the kind of male employee who would see nothing wrong with being assessed while surrounded by young women in revealing tank tops. But to get your message across, you need to lower the temperature of the discussion. Apologize for getting so bent out of shape (try to sound sincere), but say that you don’t want to just let it go out of concern for his thriving career. Then explain that as a woman, you are particularly sensitive to the signals that are being sent by what may seem to him to be an innocent choice of lunch place. Say that given the company's existing troubles with sex discrimination issues, he does not want to do anything that might draw the negative attention of the company's legal team. Tell him that a display of cleavage and a lousy hamburger are not worth unwittingly ending up as an exhibit in a lawsuit. 

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I apologize for the many tiny violins that are going to be played for my question. I'm 19 years old, a freshman in college, and I have noticed an uptick in the number of compliments I receive, especially about my looks. This started to happen in my junior and senior years of high school, and I quickly learned just how bad I was at receiving any kind of compliment. I was once told, "It was a pleasure seeing your art," at a gallery show for student work. I panicked and said, "You're welcome.” Since starting college, the number of comments I get on my looks (from both men and women, friends and strangers) has increased exponentially and I'm always at a loss for words. How do I respond to a friend saying that I'm "a babe"? I was told that I had "an amazing laugh." What does that mean? Last semester a professor who was retiring told me that freshmen like me were the reason he'd been a teacher for 40 years. I didn’t know what to say! I feel I'm being rude by gracelessly accepting these comments. How should I handle this?

—Thanks but No Thanks

Dear Thanks,
Even though this is only the first column of the new year, I already know that yours is going to be the best letter for all of 2014! OK, sorry, you’re right—as you recognize, you don’t have much of a problem. I can’t give you an all-purpose answer to all the compliments your receive for your all-purpose amazingness, because the recognition is coming from different people for different reasons. First of all, memorize this phrase: “Thank you.” That’s going to come in handy no matter what praise you receive. If a teacher is commending your work, after expressing your thanks, you can add how much you’ve learned from him or her. If the compliments are of your physical appearance, then consider the source. If a girlfriend says you look fantastic when you two are on your way out to a party, then go ahead and return the compliment. If it’s a guy hitting on you, decide if you want to encourage him or not—often a facial expression will take care of that. As for acclaim about your amazing laugh, you can say, “That’s so nice,” and follow it with peals of your delicious laughter.

—Prudie

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More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts

My Life as a Sugar Baby: In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman on whether to stay mum about having dated rich men for money.”
Tongue Oppressor: In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend obnoxiously licks her face.”
My Creepy Keeper: In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman whose brother-in-law “watches over her” by peeping through her bedroom window.”
Don’t Look, Ma!: In a live chat, Prudie advises a man whose wife refuses to hide a nude print the next time his mother comes over.”

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