Help! My Brother Acts as if His In-Laws Are His Only Real Family.

Advice on manners and morals.
Jan. 27 2014 3:11 PM

Marrying Out

In a live chat, Prudie offers advice on a brother who abandoned his real family for his wife’s.

(Continued from Page 1)

Q. Disabled-Access Toilet Stall: You may have already weighed in on this, but I was wondering if you had an opinion. I was in the restroom of a casual dining restaurant recently. There were four stalls, one of which was accessible/ADA compliant. All of the stalls were full, and there was a line of a few people. A woman in a wheelchair came in with her husband. When the person who was in the disabled access stall came out (she had gone in before the woman in the wheelchair entered), the woman and her husband rudely and nastily told her off for using the disabled access stall. So, my question is: Is this correct etiquette? Should no one ever use a disabled access stall, just in case someone disabled needs it? I always believed that the idea was to give equal access, which would mean that disabled persons would have to wait in line like the rest of us (though I believe they should be able to skip to the front of the line when the disabled access stall becomes available). Perhaps I'm being insensitive, however. (Also, I am an attorney, and, as far as I know, there is no legal requirement of patrons of an establishment to leave the stall free, as there is with a parking space. I believe it is simply an etiquette issue.) Thanks!

A: The sister-in-law in the letter above is right that handicapped parking spaces are to be left open and used exclusively by disabled drivers. But I believe the stall situation is different. People are quickly in and out of a stall, and if no one in the restroom line is in a wheelchair it just hangs everyone else up not to use all the stalls. I disagree with you that the disabled person should just wait in line. When someone who needs special facilities shows up, that person gets priority and he or she goes to the head of the line. In this case, it sounds as if the woman and her husband only had to wait a minute or so for the stall to open, and the woman using it didn't know someone with special needs would be coming in. It's unfortunate that they made a scene over a marginal inconvenience. I hope the woman coming out of the stall simply apologized, and then literally and figuratively washed her hands of the situation.

Q. Re: Thoughtless pregnancy: My cousin and I were born two days apart and our moms were even in the same hospital room. We went to the same school and were often in the same class growing up. We even shared birthday parties. We thought we were really special being "cousin-twins." The letter writer should be excited that her child will have a "cousin-twin" too and remember that attention isn't a lump sum. There's plenty to go around.

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A: Lovely—thank you!

Q. In-laws Seem Horrified Whenever We Mention Having Kids: My husband and I are in our late 20s, have been happily married for over several years now, own our home, are financially stable, and both pursing Ph.D.s in our prospective fields. Over the holidays we offhandedly mentioned that we may consider having children sometime in the next few years and possibly before we finish graduate school. My in-laws were utterly horrified! They immediately lectured us what a terrible plan this was, how they were not ready to be grandparents, and that we needed "real 9-to-5 jobs" before we should ever consider expending our family. While we don't need anyone's approval can't help but be a little offended by their strong negative reaction. They also seem determined to convince us we are still "college students" and not adults, which is utterly ridiculous considering we both teach college classes as part of our responsibilities. Is this a normal reaction for parents with grown children? Or are my in-laws delusional?

A: Can you please clone your in-laws and use them to replace the parents who incessantly harass grown children about when the grandchildren are coming. You raised the issue, thus inviting the reaction. But normally the reaction is, "I'm going out to buy the crib!" I agree that being horrified at the prospect of two responsible, married adults producing your grandchild is unusual and out of line. So now having opened the topic, you need to close it. Tell them you've heard their objections, you're sorry you brought up this issue, and you don't want to discuss your reproductive choices any more.

Q. Re: Disabled-access toilet stall: For the architects/builders that decide how a bathroom is laid out, every municipality I have dealt with has rules about how to design a bathroom. They instruct to first calculate how many stalls are required (that depends on people in the building, type of establishment etc.), and second make a percentage of those stalls handicapped. Therefore a non-handicapped person should use the handicapped stall without guilt or being yelled at, since that is what the building code intended.

A: Thanks for confirming the stalls are for everyone, unlike the parking spaces. Another writer pointed out that someone might have a not-so-visible handicap but needs to use the handrails.

Q. Infidelity?: My husband and I often host open house parties including an annual New Year's Eve party. This past year a woman who's a real estate agent and a friend of a friend showed up uninvited. The following morning I found her business card on my husband's bedside table. On the back of the card she wrote her recommendation of a "fab" divorce attorney. My husband claims he knows nothing about it; he says he doesn't even remember seeing her at our large party. He said he doesn't even know how the card came into his possession. He said he emptied his pockets and put all of the contents on his nightstand. I emailed the woman and she said she gave out some cards that night but didn't remember writing anything on the back of any of them. My husband and I have a strong, loving marriage (or at least I think so). Friends all think it’s very odd and that the woman is predatory. But would a woman be that forward with a man, unsolicited? What is a wife to do?

A: Since it's almost a month since the strange card showed up on your nightstand and you haven't been served with any divorce papers in the interim, you need to conclude this game of Clue is not going to have a satisfactory ending. Yes, it could be that this woman is your husband's mistress and she decided to move things forward by recommending a divorce lawyer to him while enjoying your hospitality. It could be that someone else entirely got the card, used it to pass along the note, the card got put aside, your husband found it while cleaning up and stuck it in his pocket, without even remembering doing so. You have tracked down all your leads to no effect, so stop now before you resemble Inspector Clouseau. You say you have a good marriage, so accept that your husband is not such a fiend and dope that he would leave his secret divorce plans on the night stand. Chalk this all up to the punch bowl packing too big a punch.

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