Help! My Office Thinks I’m Being Heartless About Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Death.

Advice on manners and morals.
Feb. 3 2014 3:14 PM

Response Unkind

In a live chat, Prudie advises a letter writer getting flack for being unsympathetic about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death.

(Continued from Page 1)

A: Your situation is an example of the damage addicts can do to those around them. Compassion for addiction is, as I've said, not a free pass. I'm wondering if there is some kind of intervention you can do for your grandmother. That is, whether you can try adult protective services again, explain the abuse is escalating, and at least get a social worker to come with you and talk to your grandmother—away from your mother—about the cost to her of enabling her daughter. You can make clear to your grandmother that you understand she wants to help your mother, but that she isn't. You can say that as long as your mother is using drugs, you have to step away from this situation, and that it is agony for you to see your grandmother caught in the middle of this terrible cycle. Whatever happens, please seek a support group or an individual therapist. You need help for dealing with having never had a mother, and now the pain you feel over the loss of your relationship with your grandmother.

Q. Re: Daughter's wedding food—don't be so stuffy!: I actually think that is an ingenious and quirky way to have a kind of "self-sufficient" wedding. Especially since the payment of the meal is probably FAR less than the standard cost of a wedding gift, which the bride and groom have, unmaterialistically, said they don't want. Plus in this scenario, the person shelling out the money toward the wedding actually gets something in return, albeit slightly cold roast chicken and sad veggies. As long as this request is worded carefully with some acknowledgment of how strange it may seem to older, more traditional guests I say go for it and I'm impressed by the ingenuity of creating a happy, inclusive occasion to celebrate their marriage with all the people who want, and expect, to be invited.

A: No. Gifts are optional. This is charging admission to be a guest. If you can't afford to put on the wedding of your dreams, then you wake up and put on the wedding you can afford.

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Q. Revenge on Co-Worker Sabotaging Career: I just found out that for the past three years, a co-worker has been sabotaging my career for her own personal advancement, mainly by telling lies about me and by withholding important information that would allow me to do my work more effectively. She is now being promoted to a bigger position outside of our group but within the company. I have hard evidence that she has broken several major company policies along the way and am considering taking it to HR. However, I'm worried about potential blowback. I'm also interviewing for another job outside of our company, but don't yet have an offer. If I'm leaving the company, should I take it to HR as a nice parting gift as I leave? If I don't get the job, should I take it to HR with the potential consequences? Or should I just count my blessings that she won't have me to kick around anymore?

A: If this new job doesn't come through, then keep looking. I wish it were the case that if someone knows of a perfidious, manipulative co-worker, management would like to be informed so they can then take appropriate action. But since you mention possible blowback, you yourself know that isn't necessarily the case. The co-worker is being rewarded for her actions. She may have tainted you. This means that your presenting your evidence could end up hurting you, as unfair as that is. While you're looking, be glad that she's out of your immediate circle. This is a great opportunity to show just how capable you are, and things may get a lot better at work. If you do end up leaving, simply say how much you enjoyed your opportunities at the company.

Q. Only Child: We have a 5-year-old and it's likely she will be an only child. Not by choice, but because of secondary infertility. I'm conflicted about how I feel about this. On one hand, she's a very happy, confident child who makes friends with ease and I think she'll do just fine being the only one. On the other hand, I feel responsible for depriving her of knowing what it's like growing up with siblings. My husband and I both have siblings and intended on adding to our family. I know the literature that says only children are no worse off than those with siblings. But my mind goes in circles on this issue—she'll have everything she can possibly want! she'll be lonely! she'll get our full attention! she'll yearn for a larger family! How do I break out of this cycle and just enjoy the child I have instead of being fixated on this only child issue?

A: I once met a Russian immigrant family at a dinner with friends. There was a grown daughter, who was a fantastically successful computer scientist, her husband and children, and her parents. At one point I asked the woman's father if he had other children. He held up his index finger and said in his delightfully accented English, "Only one. But a good one!" My husband and I each come from a family of four siblings, and we would have liked a younger sister or brother for our daughter. But after that dinner we often repeat to each other the wise words of that Russian man. We, too, have only one, but a good one! You already know that being an only child is fine. Sure, your daughter will miss some things by not having siblings, but she will gain other things. You can also try to ensure she has close relationships with her cousins, and when she gets older and you go on family trips, you can have her invite a friend to come along. You have dealt with secondary infertility, but think of how blessed you are that you were able to have your daughter. Get out of your own head and look at those struggling around you. Then be grateful that you, too, have a good one.

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

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