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My son is a high school freshman, and we live in a nice neighborhood near several boys his age he’s known since first grade. Last year a group of the boys decided to create a haunted trail for the young kids to visit on Halloween. My son asked if he could help, but the other boys said there were too many people involved already. My son was crushed. The other boys are all athletes; my son is not athletic or cool. I spoke to several of the mothers explaining how hurt my son was. They all told me it was a misunderstanding and the boys never meant to exclude my son. Nonetheless, his friendship with these boys ended. I told my son that sometimes friendships have an expiration date, and it hurts, but it’s a lesson in how not to treat others. Now it’s Halloween again and signs have gone up inviting neighborhood kids to the haunted trail. My son saw a sign and said, “Oh, the haunted trail—where you have to be a cool kid to help with it.” This is killing me. I feel like I’m going to turn into a crazy monster if I have to keep hearing about this trail. My husband says drop it, but I’m in a rage. We have recommended our son invite some friends over for pizza and video games on Saturday. I know this bothers him, but not nearly as much as it bothers me. How do I get over this?
—Haunted by the Trail
You don’t want to end up inadvertently starring in the latest edition of the Halloween movie franchise, Halloween: The Revenge of Mom. You said some wise things to your son, and now you need to take your own advice. It’s true that sometimes friendships end, and that can be painful. It’s also true that you do your son no favor by showing that you find his snubbing unbearable. I think it was a mistake for you to have intervened previously. It’s one thing to step up if your child is being shunned or bullied, but you should have held your tongue about his exclusion from a single activity. I hope your confronting the other mothers didn’t end up haunting your son this past year, turning an unpleasant event into a permanent break. Even if your son was not part of this group, it would have been better if he had at least stayed friendly with the boys who live nearby and whom he has known his entire life. The good news is that you say your son has some real friends, friends who can come over and hang out with him on Halloween. So get lots of treats, host a small gathering, and listen to your husband and let this go. You don’t want to turn into a witch whose rage is a trial for your son to endure.
Our elderly dad has had long-term, concurrent relationships with multiple women for many years in the same city. It seems clear that they are not aware of this, and each of them acts as if she is his main companion. My siblings and I are uncomfortable with his deception in regard to his partners and have had conversations with him about this. He doesn’t want to make any changes. This puts us in awkward situations, when, for example, the women separately ask us why they don’t see us more often or why they can’t visit him during his occasional hospital stays. Each of the women is kind, and we enjoy being with them (although we limit this because we don’t want to be in the middle). We wonder what to do in the event of a significant health issue and how to handle the convergence of the companions at his eventual funeral. (He has suggested separate funerals.) It seems like all of them would want to continue some form of relationship with us after he dies. We would value your opinion and recommendations.
—Concerned Adult Children
Please tell me that taxpayers aren’t picking up the cost of your father’s prescription for Cialis for daily use—his refills could break Medicare. You’ve got to love an old goat who suggests that he be given a string of funerals so that his many lovers remain oblivious to one another even after his death. I recommend that if you follow through on this, you play the rascally “Mambo No. 5” instead of “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” at the funerals. If he is keeping all these women satisfied and separate, no wonder he needs occasional hospitalization. You and your siblings have made clear to your father that his activities have created uncomfortable conversations with the ladies. This has not been a sufficient incentive for him to pick one. Surely these women, with their long life experience, have had their suspicions about what’s actually going on. But given the actuarial tables, they’ve decided not to look too closely into what your father is getting up to when he’s not with them. I say remain polite but noncommittal with the women about your reasons for only seeing them intermittently. You don’t have to out your father, but neither do you have to be his manager. At some point all the threads of your father’s life will come together, and you can just tell the ladies he loved them all. You might also want to give them the novel A Circle of Wives as a memento of your dad.
I am a woman in my late 20s, and my boyfriend and I ended a nearly 10-year relationship a few months ago. I recently entered the dating world for the first time in my adult life. I am using an app that gets a lot of flak, but I’ve met several genuinely sweet men who all were adorable and charming! Well now I have six (yes, six!) guys who I like and have, or plan, to go on second and third dates with. They text me daily and want to hang out. I find myself making white lies to avoid telling the truth as to why I’m busy—that is, I have a date. I’m not looking to settle down, but I’m not looking for friends with benefits either. At what point do I have to stop seeing more than one man? If I start (safely) sleeping with them? Do I have to disclose that I am dating other people before they ask me? These guys are making me feel like they’re not dating anyone else by the amount they text and call me and how often they want to spend time together. Maybe they’re just better at the game than I am? A few of them live in the same neighborhood, which I anticipate will bring me an awkward situation (or four) eventually.
—She’s Got Game
You have set Tinder on fire. You don’t have to lie about why you can’t get together; you just say, “I’m sorry, I’m busy.” You also may genuinely like your six-pack, but I predict that as third and fourth dates unfold, you will quickly start winnowing them. It’s also likely to be the case that since you are so elusive, some of them will start actively swiping right (and yes, they probably didn’t stop even after your first date) when they realize there is no benefit to constantly texting you. Until you start having discussions with your candidates about exclusivity, I think it’s generally assumed by people who meet on Tinder that there are no strings, to start. So enjoy your newfound popularity and the fact that you are young and healthy and don’t have to coordinate your suitors’ hospital visits.
I have been dating a wonderful guy for several years. He is a great partner, handsome, hard-working, and he cares a great deal about making me happy. My parents love him, too. I recently learned that his small business is paying several employees under the table, at the employees’ request. This has left me feeling confused and upset. I believed that he was a pretty ethical person, and, in his mind, he is doing a favor to his employees. In my mind, he is risking the company that he has worked so hard to build. Help!
Here’s an article about the pitfalls of this practice. Let me sum it up for you: penalties, prosecution, potential ruination. He may be thinking he’s doing his employees a favor, but they are doing him no favor if this ultimately results in the destruction of his business due to its unraveling when he is forced to pour all his money into attorney fees. Now that you’ve found this out, you should urge him to contact a lawyer and figure out how to straighten out this mess without provoking the attention of the authorities. I find it hard to believe a successful and ethical businessman would not understand that going along with this employee request is madness. Yes, he is risking everything. That should give you pause about his judgment.
More Dear Prudence Columns
“Lies and Consequences: My teacher lost her job because I said she hurt me. It wasn’t true.”
“Mama, Didn’t Mean to Make You Cry: A capricious mother figure, an unequal bequest, and cheap body disposal—just in time for Mother’s Day.”
“Rear View Horror: I was sexually abused at 14. Years passed, and he now has a family. Is it too late to say something?”
“A Is for Amen: We stopped our kid’s teacher from conducting class prayer, and now our Southern town hates us.”
More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
“You Talkin’ to Me?: In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman who likes to think out loud—and gets flak from her boyfriend for it.”
“Swing This Way: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a couple who can hear their neighbors’ active sex life—and wonder if they’d share it.”
“Burning Love: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a man driven to lustful extremes by his wife’s habit of going naked when she gets ‘overheated.’”
“Involuntary Service: In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend’s parents are planning a wedding for them against their will.”