Dear Prudence, Live
Introducing a weekly chat with Slate's advice columnist.
Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, will be online at Washingtonpost.com every Monday at 1 p.m. to chat with readers about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. (Read her Slate columns here.) An unedited transcript of this week's chat follows.
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon. I'm going to be here every Monday at 1 pm eastern to answer questions about life's big and little (which sometimes actually are big) dilemmas. I look forward to it!
Old people and coffee shops: What is it with grumpy oldsters and coffee shops? They act like they own the joint! I took my kids into a coffee shop on Sunday morning and they gave my tots the stinkeye. My lovelies have just as much right to roam around at 8 am (not bothering anyone) as they do to slurp and silently rustle their Washington Post. People mis-remember how quiet their little darlings were at two years old.
Emily Yoffe: Hey, these people are reading the Washington Post! They should be getting awards. Maybe you are misinterpreting the stinkeye—maybe they just read about the AIG bonuses and are looking at your little darlings and thinking, "You poor kids—YOU'RE going to be paying for the AIG bailout when you grow up." Look, people are entitled to look grumpy. Just ignore them and enjoy your latte.
And now I will be hearing from people who say, "I just want to read my Washington Post in peace. Can't people take their toddlers to Gymboree?"
My older sister doesn't like me: In high school I was very pretty and popular, and my older sister was a bad combination of smart, artsy, and indifferent—in a word, poisonous to my own social standing. I was very mean to her, and her weird friends, and made sure my popular friends were, too. So now the irony sets in, because now we are in our 30's, and my sister has become very successful in a field that utilizes her talents, and has actually became almost pretty. Every time I try to tell myself that she and I should be friends now, it starts out fine, but then I am overcome with the same old mean tendencies. For her part, she seems willing to talk to me, but when I start making fun of her or criticizing, she'll just stop contact and go about her business, so I feel like I am the only one making an effort. How can I make my sister be friends with me, now that we're grown up?
Emily Yoffe: This is a fascinating twist on the mean girl story which I think the movies haven't tackled: What if your own sister is the mean girl? The one thing you have going for you here is that your recognize your own awful behavior—sort of. Yet, you seem, even at this late date, unable to control yourself. I have to admire your sister for taking the tack of enjoying her own life, pursuits, and friends, and ignoring you and your nastiness. Yes, you're making an effort: an effort to keep your old dynamic in which (for some reason) you seem compelled to rip someone else in order to make yourself feel good. But it doesn't make you feel good does it? How about if you drop the high school act, make a conscious effort to stop criticizing, and actually try to find out about your sister and her life. An apology for your years of rudeness might also help. Your older sister sounds like a great role model—so start taking advantage of this and modeling yourself on her.
Washington, D.C.: Good morning to you, Emily.
My boyfriend and I are moving in together in a few weeks. We've been together almost three years, and this wasn't a decision we came upon rashly. I am very excited about us really starting a home/life together.
That said, I am not without worry. I own a (small) home, and he will be moving in to my place. I haven't had a roommate since college (let's just say it was "several" years ago). Then of course, since we aren't engaged or married, there are the boundaries that need to be set as far as what is "our" money, etc.
We've never had to talk about any of this before. I'm not afraid to talk to my boyfriend about these things, I was just wondering what the most tactful, loving way to go about this would be. I really want to make it clear that none of this tempers my excitement about our new life. But it's incredibly important and I feel it needs to be done before he moves in. Any help?
Emily Yoffe: This is one of the difficulties of living together. When you're married, things are just assumed to be "ours." But there's no need to tiptoe around this—not clarifying your financial situation will only lead to misunderstanding down the road. Do you expect him to help pay your mortgage now that he's moving in? Or do you not want him to establish some kind of claim on your house? Do you expect to split the expenses 50-50? Do you want to set up joint checking? All this has to be figured out. Sure, it's not romantic. But also not romantic is six months from now deciding the relationship isn't working out because you two could never discuss the financial practicalities of it, and are now really mad.
Roanoke, Va.: My husband and I recently announced to our families that we are expecting our first child this fall. Immediately after we told our mothers (in the same conversation), both informed us that they want to be present when the child is born. Not in the delivery room, but in town (we live several states away) and then at the house when we come home from the hospital. I think this was extremely presumptuous on both their parts and I don't want to be inundated with family right after giving birth, even though they mean well, both mothers can be quite overbearing! I don't have any problem with people coming to visit after a few days, I think it would be lovely to have people there to help AFTER we have been home for a few days. Both mothers are quite upset with me now and feel it is their right to be there when the baby is born and I am taking that right away. My husband would like his parents in town when the baby is born, I feel that I just want a day or so of privacy before overbearing family comes flying in. Is it just me and the hormones talking? Should I back down? There have been many tears over this!
Emily Yoffe: Learning to calmly listen while other people make demands, have tantrums, and insist they should get their way will be very good practice for motherhood. Every mother is different. Some want a mother or mother-in-law there for advice and relief those first few days; some want to recover and figure out their new baby before loving family descends. This should be up to you. Yes, it's going to be difficult to balance the competition between grandmas and everyone's competing needs, but you have to decide on a schedule that works for you. But don't keep them away too long—you may find you'd welcome grandmas to hold your little one and cook some meals.
Washington, D.C.: Dear Prudence,
I am a medical student about to be married in December. Obviously, I am not making any money for the next 3 years while I am in school. My mother has very graciously stepped in and is providing for most of the wedding expenditures. We are having some troubles with putting together our guest list. Currently it is split 50/50 between my guests and the guests of my fiance and his family. My fiance is concerned with the guest list being too high and mentioned that I should exclude the more "distant relatives" or people I don't know that well, since "I seem to have more of those on my list."
My dilemma is that I feel if my mother is footing the bill, she should have precedence on who she wishes to invite. I am very grateful to her for putting on a nice event for us, and quite frankly, those "distant relatives" are very close with her (they grew up together). Of course, my mother won't say this because she is very sweet. However, I don't want her to feel like we are just ignoring her wishes and denying her of the chance to share this happy occasion with those she loves. How do I tell my fiance that I don't think it's fair to cut my mom's guests considering my mother is providing us with the means to have a beautiful wedding?
- Grateful and Worried Bride
Emily Yoffe: It turns out in the wedding business she who controls the purse strings writes the guest list. Even when times were flush, I hated to see families spend nest eggs on wedding centerpieces. Surely, especially now it would make more sense for your mother to divert some of this money from guests to helping you pay off your student loans. However, if she has the money, this is what she wants to do with it, and you and your fiance are letting her pick up the tab for the celebration, then he should be quietly grateful and let her invite Aunt Edna (who you haven't seen since the time she came to your junior high graduation).