To the Sister: I know it seems weird for your sister and your Mom to marry brothers, but it's not. See, I'm my own Grandpa. It sounds funny, I know, but it really is so. I married a somewhat older woman, then my Mom passed on, and my dad got to know her 20-something daughter, and somehow they became close. Then we had a kid, and they had a kid, and after much consideration, I realized that in fact I'm my own Grandpa.
Emily Yoffe: If this weren't a country song, I'd say it sounded like something out of Sophocles.
I can't believe I'm saying this...: As someone who despises the whole wedding industrial/bridezilla complex... but the bride's choice of bridesmaids are supposed to be people she is close with. Presumably, that doesn't include any members of your family, and she's chosen to pick her friends and family to stand with her. Is there really anything wrong with that?
When I was married, my mother-in-law arbitrarily invited her niece to be my bridesmaid on the basis that she had a really pretty dress to wear. I didn't even know her well & my bridesmaids consisted of two people—my best friend and my cousin, which is what I wanted. I thought it odd that she would presume to add someone she felt would fit in.
Emily Yoffe: Elope, everyone, elope! I share your dislike of all this, and agree with you about choosing your own bridesmaids. But obviously the two families (the couple met in junior high) must know each other well and both bride and groom should sit down and make sure some groom's family members have a part in the wedding.
Atlanta, Ga.: Dear Prudence, You've just reconnected with someone on Facebook and want to ask whether or not their parent(s) is still alive. Is there any graceful way to ask that question?
Emily Yoffe: Now, thanks to Facebook, high school truly never has to end, no matter when you graduated. People are reconnecting to classmates they haven't heard from in decades, and there's no way people can be expected to know about the health status of older relatives. Go ahead and send a message — a private one, not posted on the wall—saying, "How are your parents doing? I think of them so fondly." Then if they're no longer around, don't be embarrassed, just express your condolence.
Washington, D.C.: For the radial aplasia writer: I work with a young woman whose hands are significantly deformed, and she follows Prudie's advice. Bright smile, totally warm and confident, no hesitation on the hand-shaking. Sure, you notice the hands right away, but you forget them just as quickly as her personality shines through.
Emily Yoffe: Wonderful! As you've seen, a confident, engaging manner can't be beat.
Detroit, Mich.: Dear Prudie,
I have a questions about interfering in someone else's life. My aunt and uncle have hit some hard times recently, my aunt was laid off and had to take a much lower position to make ends meet, and my uncle is under more stress than ever at work. They have two young children, who are wonderful and charming, but I have noticed a pretty large difference in their little girl lately. Last time I saw her she has gained a lot of weight, her face was dirty and her hair uncombed. While at my house she ate more than I did and ate cake and burgers and whipped cream with abandon and no comment from her parents. I fear that she is being lost in the hard changes that must be taking place at their house. My uncle has always been a man's man and has paid more attention to the little girl's older brother, taking him to car races and camping but leaving the girl at home. And now, with my aunt have less time than ever to spend on her, I think she has been a little forgotten. I am concerned about her, but also concerned about sticking my nose where it doesn't belong. Any advice?
Emily Yoffe: You're family, so I think your nose belongs, but you must handle this very gently. Check in with your aunt about how things are going. You can say you were concerned that "Caitlin" didn't seem like herself the last time they visited. Then you should step in and take an interest in Caitlin. Tell your aunt you've got some free time and you'd love to spend more time with Caitlin. You could take her to museums, go to a pottery class together, etc. Your consistent interest in this lonely child could make a permanent difference in her life.
Park City, Utah: I love my boyfriend very very dearly. We have been together six years, living together for three. About a year ago we had a public fight in which my boyfriend got a little physical with me (first and only time). I broke things off, but we recently got back together. Everything is great, I love being with him, but the second things turn sexual I freeze up. My skin crawls and it's all I can do not to push him away. I just want to love him again...please help me. How can I get past this?
Emily Yoffe: Your boyfriend totally lost control and what—Hit you? Pushed you around? Now your skin crawls at his touch. I think your skin's telling you you can't get past it.
Milwaukee, Wis.: I am asking for advice regarding the first year of marriage. My husband has recently let me know that he questions whether he can stay in our relationship, and cites the fact that he never has felt confident in his feelings of love toward me. I love him deeply. Any advice on how to cope with this ambiguity? We are seeing a therapist but exploring his feelings seems to be taking things to a new low.
Emily Yoffe: This is along the same lines as the letter above. The first year of marriage shouldn't be that hard. This sounds painful and humiliating, but how do you convince someone he didn't make a mistake and he should love you? Therapy is just revealing how little he wants to be in the marriage. I say you should take charge of yourself and tell him you realize you don't want to be in a marriage with someone who doesn't love you, and get out before you invest more years with Mr. Tortured.