Dear Prudence answers readers' questions live at Washingtonpost.com.

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
May 26 2009 2:58 PM

The Gift They Keep on Giving

Prudie counsels a woman whose loutish brother-in-law passed off her present as his own—and other advice seekers.

(Continued from Page 1)

Washington, D.C.: My spouse has recently taken a new job that's very challenging. This has shifted the majority of the housework to me. This, alone, is not a huge problem (although I, too, have a full-time job). However, she's constantly telling me how guilty she feels about it. The first 100 times, I said "it's no problem." But, you know, if she's going to keep telling me how unfair it is, I'm going to agree.

Sure, she has the right to feel guilty. But if I'm going to have the majority of the burden, then I ask not to be constantly reminded of it. In other words, instead of her telling me how miserable she is, perhaps she should shift to telling me how appreciative she is that I've been able to step up.

How do I communicate this? Or am I totally wrong in feeling, well, annoyed?

Emily Yoffe: You just communicated it really well. So tell her what you told me. Don't do it with annoyance—say it in a positive way that it would ease your burden and her guilt if you got recognition and appreciation from her, instead of self-flagellation. And how often has a man with an incredibly demanding job apologize incessantly for the domestic duties his wife has to shoulder?

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Cambridge, Mass.: Three weeks from now is way, way too early for a couple to socialize after just losing their daughter. I agree with the rest of your advice, but I would simply not invite them to the party. And it's not just a dinner, it's a party, with dancing. No way.

Emily Yoffe: Yes, you make a better case. But the couple having the dinner party should make plans to go out with their friends.

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Cambridge, Mass.: Dear Prudence, I have a friend with whom I am no longer very close, in part because of her lack of response to important losses in my life. Specifically, she did not offer me any condolences on the loss of a sibling, best friend, and parent over the last decade. In each case, she knew the person was ill, and in each case, I wrote to her informing her of the death, and I never got a call or card or even a mention of the death when I eventually saw this friend. After the first death, I assumed she hadn't gotten my letter, and I brought it up in a conversation, and she cut me off. With the most recent one, my father, I thought for sure she would send a card (even an e-mail!), as she has lost both of her parents in the past few years. And yes, I sent condolences. One might say, "drop her like a hot potato," but we work in a niche industry and must see each other in professional settings from time to time. I'm sorry about the loss of the real friendship, but at this point, more than anything else, I just want to know what would cause someone to be so insensitive.

Emily Yoffe: There are people who are utter clods when it comes to death. They will behave rudely and insensitively in order not to have to discuss this subject, because of their own discomfort or inability to know what to say. Obviously, "I'm so sorry for your loss. How are you doing?" is not hard—but it is to some people. You could possibly decide to let your soon-to-be former friend know that your closeness has been lost because you felt hurt that she wasn't able to offer any condolences for your string of losses. Maybe she will be able to step up. Otherwise, you can continue to have cordial relations with her while knowing that things are by necessity superficial.

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Martinsburg, W.Va.: Ack! No!

On the lady selling her prescription pain meds: offer to help her find other means of help, yes; turn a blind eye toward her drug-dealing, no. Prescription meds (especially when taken without a prescription) are dangerous: someone could treat a symptom (pain) off the record, that allows a serious condition to go uncaught. Or someone could have a drug interaction with other things they're taking, or get addicted (very common with pain-killers), or OD (another big issue with pain drugs), or...

Not only would these sorts of problems land the pusher in deep legal soup, the emotional (and moral!) ramifications of having participated in such a troubling transaction aren't worth it.

Let your friend know that you (and the rest of society) need her to stop prescribing without a license, unless she's prepared for it to be a license to kill.

Emily Yoffe: I agree about having a serious talk with this woman about the moral and legal consequences of her actions. I disagree that the way to underline these points is to call the narcotics squad.

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New York, N.Y.: In the Surgical Suite sometimes a member of the team plays music. It can be a surgeon, an anesthesiologist, a nurse or a surgical technician. Sometimes the music is loud, you don't like it, interrupts your concentration, etc. Frequently you want to stop the music but remain silent to avoid a confrontation. Obviously the person playing the music is imposing his taste and loudness wishes on the rest of the team. Shouldn't the person imposing the music ask the team members first? Who should decide?

Emily Yoffe: This is something that needs to be discussed at a time when arteries are not being clamped. Ask to have a team discussion about music. There may be some people who think it helps them concentrate—and if those people are the surgeons, you may be overruled. But if you or others find the volume or type of music distracting (death metal may set the wrong tone, for example), then that is a hazard to patient care, and everyone should be willing to work out a set of rules that makes most of you comfortable.

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Anywhere, USA: Dear Prudence,

I am in my mid-20s and have been married just a few months. What is the best response to quickly deflect questions/comments about when my husband and I will have a baby? I had three such comments directed at me this weekend by extended family—and just responded with a tight-lipped smile.

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