Dear Prudence: My brother-in-law hit on me. Should I tell someone?

Help! My Brother-in-Law Came On to Me, but No One Will Believe It.

Help! My Brother-in-Law Came On to Me, but No One Will Believe It.

Advice on manners and morals.
May 19 2014 3:25 PM

No One Will Believe

In a live chat, Prudie counsels a woman who fears telling anyone her brother-in-law came on to her would tear the family apart.

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A: If a teacher is coming on to you and offering a sexual relationship once you get a diploma, then the person you should be contacting is the principal. You may have a thing for older women, but this little dance you and the calculus teacher are doing was either initiated or escalated by her. This makes her a sexual predator, and even though you’re 18 and haven’t consummated this flirtation, this pas de deux started while you were still a student of hers. So anything that happens between you two after graduation could be a prosecutable offense. If you get involved and your friends start talking, and it gets back to the school administration, your teacher could be using her math skills to calculate her sentence. Frankly, I hope one of your friends reports this now, because this teacher may be someone who ends up targeting students more vulnerable than you. In the meantime, do your homework, finish the year, and drop the student-teacher conferences.

Q. New Workplace Childish Peer Pressure: I have recently started a new job at the online office of a retailer. This afternoon I got roped into being in some product photos which will be displayed in a shop window. I hate the photos. They’re so embarrassing—I’m not wearing any makeup, it’s hot today and I’m all disheveled at this point in the afternoon. Everyone had laughed at the pictures afterward and now I really don’t want them to be used in the shop windows, and possibly online. I’m new here and don’t want to be seen as “not a team player” but I emailed the graphic artist and said I wasn’t happy about them and was embarrassed and she said she “doesn’t have time for this now.” I didn’t have time to go and waste half an hour being in photos. I am a marketing assistant not a very moody and entitled model and I don’t want them to be used! Should I push it?

A: Marilyn Monroe used to require approval for her photos and famously would go through the contact sheets and put an X over any she didn’t like. But before you were roped into this, you failed to negotiate this clause. I understand your distress, and what’s even sillier is that this company would want someone who looks sweaty, unhappy, and disheveled promoting their product. You tried to get this corrected, and got major push-back. You’re also the new, low person on the totem pole. So let this go. The bosses may have chosen you because even in your less than Vogue-ready state, you were the best-looking amateur model they had. You will not be identified by name and this will just not be a big deal. And if your appearance is as appalling as you say, then your marketing people aren’t very savvy, unless they are selling hang-over remedies.


Q. Re: Wife and nephew: “Teenager” represents a very broad range. Behaviors that may be termed borderline affectionate with a young-looking 13-year-old will be totally inappropriate with an old-looking 19-year-old, no?

A: No. Now that you describe it, it’s more creepy to imagine back rubs between an aunt and her young-looking 13-year-old nephew, and more provocative to envision them between aunt and hunky 19-year-old.

Q. Re: LGBT issue: Does that writer also ask fat women if they’re pregnant? Really, you don’t need to know all information about everyone you meet at a party!

A: Great point!

Q. Dealing With Brother: A few years ago, my stepbrother, who is in his 30s, got the horrible diagnosis of a brain tumor. Luckily, after chemo and radiation, he has gotten a clean bill of health. The problem is, ever since, his personality has become one of a grumpy old man. While he has always been stubborn, now he is utterly unmovable. When we are all together, for example, we have to be on his schedule. He likes to get up around 4 to 5 a.m. (!) and go to bed at 7 p.m. When he is ready to eat, he eats, without consulting anyone else. We only go places where he wants to go, and if he doesn’t like our plans he gets bent out of shape. He mumbles and talks to himself constantly, which is really annoying. My stepfather completely defers to him, and gets upset when the rest of us (my mom, my other stepbrother and I) balk at being forced onto this ridiculous schedule. It is getting to the point that I try to avoid being around my family. I love my stepbrother, but he is really difficult to be around, and I can’t imagine he is enjoying life too much either. What should I do?

A: This sounds sad and awful, but it’s very likely these painful personality changes are a result of your stepbrother’s disease and treatment. I urge your family to see if you can arrange to talk about this with your stepbrother’s doctors. There may be things that can be done to address some of the side effects he’s experiencing. Or you may all have to understand how to deal with these changes in him. Your stepfather is dealing with a lot of fear and grief, so all of you need to be sensitive to that. And once the medical issues are addressed, a social worker could help your family come up with strategies to help your stepbrother better integrate back into your family and for all of you to function better as a unit.

Q. White Lies: A group of my boyfriend’s friends from college are spending a week together on the opposite side of the country from where we live. I really don’t like these people and would prefer not to spend time with them. I have decided not to go—the boyfriend will have more fun without me there and I’d be miserable. My problem is that when they asked him why I wasn’t coming, he told them it was because I don’t like them. I would have preferred he say something like I don’t have enough vacation days, particularly since I will most likely see these people again at some point. He said honesty was most important, while I feel that a harmless, face-saving lie would have been best for everyone. Who’s right?

A: Ah, honesty. I’m assuming your boyfriend would not like you to honestly say that you wish some of his body parts were bigger and some smaller. Or that the joke he told the other night fell horribly flat and he should stop trying to be funny. It’s great when a couple is comfortable enough with each other to let each other go and have a good time at an event that would make one miserable. But you’re absolutely right that your boyfriend turned a coolly distant relationship with his pals into a toxic one. In the name of honesty he’s basically pitted you against them, and as you note, any future encounters are going to be most awkward. People don’t enjoy hearing someone they have to socialize with can’t stand them. I hope your boyfriend can come to see that he’s made an unnecessary and provocative statement that will only redound badly on you. If he can’t, then maybe he has some of the qualities that make you dislike his friends.

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Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.