Dear Prudence: I used to dip toothbrushes in toilet water.

Help! I Used to Dip the Toothbrushes of the Couple I Worked for in the Toilet.

Help! I Used to Dip the Toothbrushes of the Couple I Worked for in the Toilet.

Advice on manners and morals.
Feb. 18 2014 3:03 PM

Porcelain Revenge

In a live chat, Prudie, advises a woman who used to dip a couple's toothbrushes in the toilet.

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A: Your in-laws have really high standards if they are demanding a clear "Yes, sir" and "Yes, ma'am" from a 2-year-old. I think it's fine that your children learn how Daddy's parents like to be addressed and as the years go on, they will get it. But I hope your in-laws are not doing this in an obsessive or punitive way. I think you can compromise here and accept your in-laws’ desires, within limits. That is, that they understand the "sir" and "ma'am" are for them, and that they lighten up about hearing it every time they are addressed because this is not the children's normal form of address to adults. That understanding should come out of a conversation that your husband has, with all due respect, with his own parents.

Q. Re: Parents and finance: Just as an FYI—given your parents history, it's possible they'll ask to borrow money in some form with your name. Don't co-sign, don't take out a loan and then give them the money—don't do anything that attaches your name/credit to it. Even if they were responsible people who got hit by bad circumstances, you don't want to risk trashing your own credit if/when they don't repay or things go south—because then you're on the hook and all of your hard work will be for naught for years to come.

A: Thanks for emphasizing this. Sadly I have to add that the letter writer needs to keep tabs on her own credit rating. I have heard from too many young people who discovered their parents took out credit cards under the names of the children, and ended up trashing the kids' credit rating.


Q. Depression: I think I need help. I'm 30 years old, 8 months pregnant, and have a sweet 2-year-old and a good husband. And many days, I want to kill myself after the baby is born. I worked from home, but we had to move closer to my parents because Mom has cancer and Dad has Alzheimer’s. We can't get DSL here, so I can't work from home anymore. I still do 99 percent of the housework and cooking and am solely responsible for getting up at night with and taking care of our 2-year-old. My husband works and pays for electric, cable, and phone bills. I pay the mortgage, babysitter, and Internet, and buy groceries. I've racked up $4,800 in credit card debt, though I now am able to keep to a budget. If I kill myself, they will get enough to pay off the house, my credit card, and have some extra. There's a two-year suicide exclusion on my life policies, but I've had them much longer than that. My husband could find someone else to be a mother to the kids, probably better than I could be. He says I'm the grumpiest person he's ever known. Some days I wonder why I shouldn't kill myself. Life would be better for my family.

A: Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline right now. Right now! You will be connected to someone who will start getting you the help you need. You are under so much pressure that you are no longer thinking clearly, but there are people who can help you sort things out and step by step make your life better. Please, please understand that suicide is not the answer. You think you will be helping your children, but you will be leaving them bereft and struggling for the rest of their lives to understand what happened. I know everything looks bleak but you have a 2-year-old who loves and needs you and another sweet child on the way. Your debt is manageable, there are social services available for your parents. You and your husband can get counseling. Your life is so valuable, so please make that phone call right away.

Q: My father cheated on my mother repeatedly during their marriage, which she was in some denial about. He cheated with our neighbor during my senior year of high school. By the end of the school year, he asked my mother for a divorce and ended up marrying the neighbor immediately after the divorce was finalized without telling either of his children. They had a wedding ceremony later and I bit my tongue and attended since it was important to him. My younger brother refused to attend. Ever since then Dad has tried to push us to have a new happy family with his new wife and her two adult children. My brother and I both resented this, but I was always polite in order to preserve my relationship with my father. I would like to finally talk to my father about my feelings. I am 30 years old and engaged. I would like to ask that my father not bring his new family to the wedding. I will make it clear to him that the decision is up to him and I will respect it and be polite either way. However, I just feel that I do not want one of his mistresses at the event where I promise fidelity in front of God and family. It would be much easier on my mother and brother if she were not there. Is this a reasonable conversation to have?

A: The woman your father is married to is not his mistress, she's his wife. Given the timeline, she's been that for more than a decade. You may really dislike her and forever resent your father's behavior with her and toward your mother. But it's long past time that for the sake of such milestone events as a wedding, that you accepted the new reality. Of course, you are entitled to talk to your father. It sounds as if he's good at skating over the surface of things and has never bothered to have a heart to heart with his children about the pain he knows he caused and his hopes that despite that all of you can be close. So talk. But as far as invitations to weddings are concerned, married couples get invited in tandem. So tell your mother and brother that you hope all of you can comfortably be in the same room and celebrate your happy day.

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Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.