Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up here to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at email@example.com.)
Q. Should I Let My Husband Marry His Dead Fiancée’s Ghost?: Before he met me, my husband was engaged to another woman who passed away only weeks before their wedding. Her mother contacted my husband with an upsetting story of her daughter appearing in her dreams repeatedly. The mother believes the spirit of her daughter is tormented and unable to “pass over” because she has unfulfilled business, namely the wedding which never occurred. The mother has asked my husband to take part in some creepy spiritual wedding ceremony so that her daughter can find peace and enter the afterworld. After he said no in the nicest possible way, she has continued to pester and plead with him. Now he thinks he should just do it for the sake of putting an elderly grieving woman at peace. While I don’t believe in such superstition I find it weird and plain wrong for my husband to “marry” another woman, even if she has been dead for years. We have been fighting over this insane issue. Am I being stubborn or am I right in thinking this is twisted and inappropriate?
A: You can have all the compassion in the world for this grieving mother, but I agree with you that having your husband engage in a spectral wedding is not the answer. Of course, this woman will always mourn her daughter, but it sounds as if she may be experiencing complicated grief. That is she is stuck in the rawness of her loss and it’s not her daughter who is unable to move on, it’s her. Since your husband is in touch with his late fiancée’s mother, I think he should gently suggest she find a therapist who deals specifically with this issue. He needs to say that he understands her wish for a ghostly ceremony, but it is not healthy for anyone to go along with it.
Q. Etiquette for Sleeping With a Former Teacher: I graduated from high school almost 10 years ago. Since then I have lost 50 pounds and go by my formal name rather than my nickname, as I did in high school. Recently I ran into a former teacher at a bar. He struck up a conversation with me, and I quickly realized he didn’t recognize (or potentially remember) me. We hit it off, he invited me back to his place, and because I felt deeply attracted to him, I spent the night with him. It never seemed like a good time to tell him I was a former student of his, so I took the coward’s way out—and didn’t. He wants to take me on a proper date, now, and I know I have to tell him about my lie by omission. I am still struggling to find the right words. Any advice?
A: Let me begin with an aside. As a general rule, if you find you’re really attracted to and interested in someone, sleeping with him on the first date (and this wasn’t even a first date) is not necessarily the best way to start what you hope might be a promising relationship. Good that Mr. Chips wants to see you again, but be prepared that Mr. Chips expects to end the evening in bed. But since this time, you’re going to go to dinner first, find a clever way to give him the big reveal. “You know, Mr. Chips, I’m still smarting over that B-minus I got for my mid-term.” You’re an adult woman long out of high school, so there is absolutely nothing improper about your getting together with a former teacher a decade after the fact.
Q. Too Tall: I am a tall woman (5-foot-8). I have always hated being tall and wish I were petite. I was able to handle my height OK when I was married to my tall husband (6-foot-2), but now I am dating a man who is 5-foot-5 and I feel awkward and manly around him. What makes it worse is that all his friends are, like him, short (he’s Jewish and his friends are as well). I hate socializing with him because I’m not only taller than all the women in the group, but also most of the men. I don’t want to break up over height, but I’m feeling so oversize around my boyfriend and his friends. It makes me socially awkward and shy in social settings around my boyfriend. Any advice?
A: Maybe you haven’t noticed that lots of petite women are running around with what looks like a brick strapped to the bottom of their feet in order to appear Amazonian. Although I am Jewish, and petite, let me make a general announcement that Jews come in all sizes. But if you feel awkward and uncomfortable dating a man who is shorter than you, if this—ridiculous though it may be—makes you feel like you’re the man in the relationship, then it’s not going to work. You are obsessed with something superficial, but there you are. So either you realize how silly you’re being, or you set your dating sights higher and find someone with whom you feel more compatible.
Q. Cubicle Crisis: I am a new hire of a few months at my company. Another girl, Anna, was hired at the same time I was for the same project, although our tasks differ. She and I sit next to each other in cubicles separated by a wall. Last week, I was talking to the manager of another project and he told me about an issue they were running up against. I suggested a solution that seemed to fit. Later that week, I hear a woman go up to Anna at her cubicle and ask her if that was her idea, because it was so good they put it in their proposal. Imagine my dismay when I hear Anna say yes! Immediately after the woman leaves, Anna peeks over the cubicle wall and asks me how I’m doing. I was so bewildered I didn’t know what to say. I feel upset and betrayed. Anna and I are around the same age, went to the same school, and I thought we would be good friends. We’ve worked together great these past few months, so I did not see this coming. Do I do anything to address this? And moving forward, how do I suggest ideas without risking the credit be given to someone else?
A: Fortunately, your manager knows who came up with the idea, so you don’t have to address it with him. Anna popped her head over the wall because she realized cubicles are not soundproof and was trying to check whether you’d heard her appropriation. I think this is worth bringing up, but in a low-key way. Ask her to have coffee with you. Say you really enjoy working with her and think your skills are very complementary. Then say you couldn’t help but hear her talking credit for your idea the other day, and that concerned you. Let’s hope she apologizes. But even if she just stumbles around, you should then say you’ve said your piece, and don’t want to make a big deal of this. Then change the subject. Let’s hope that’s enough to get her to curb this kind of behavior.