Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com every Monday at 1 p.m. to chat with readers about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. (Read Prudie's Slate columns here.) An unedited transcript of this week's chat follows.
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm looking forward to your emails.
Chicago: My family is entering a zone of weirdness that I'm not sure I can handle. My sister is 10 years younger than I am and we're not that close. At 24, she's still living at home with my mom. My mom is widowed, and has not really dated anyone since my dad died 5 years ago. I'm married, have two kids and live about three hours away, so I don't get a lot of information about what goes on a daily basis.
I've recently learned that my sister is dating a much older man (early forties) and my mom is dating his brother. They double date! My sister is of the view that age doesn't matter and I'm old-fashioned. My mom says she's having fun for the first time in ages and I shouldn't worry. Shouldn't worry about my middle-aged mom partying with my flaky sister? How?
Emily Yoffe: So if both couples get married your sister will be your aunt, your mother will be her daughter's sister-in-law, your brother-in-law will be your step father, and Christmas gift-giving time will require a spread sheet. Yes, it's kooky, and it may all end in multi-generational heartbreak— let's hope the guys are more Marx Brothers than James Brothers. But unless you have reason to believe the brothers are up to no good, just sit back and enjoy your family's version of Big Love.
Washington D.C.: My son is now marrying his junior high school sweetheart. My question is should she make some type or arrangement to include some of his family in her wedding plans? Like maybe a flower girl or brides maid? She seems to include only her family and friends and my side of the family wish to be included also. How do you ask her to please consider our side of the family? Thanks.
Emily Yoffe: Unless this pair is still in junior high school, presumably she has known your family for years. Before everything gets set, talk to your son and ask him to discuss this with his bride. Explain that a gesture to include your side of the family in the wedding party would mean a lot. She may be oblivious to the hurt feelings she is causing. Then whatever she does—forget it! Do not start this new marriage with your family conspiring to resent her.
The Patch: My husband is trying to stop smoking. He started the patch this weekend. And he has turned into a complete jerk. He is mean and nasty and has said some really terrible things to me. He's also been really mean to our son.
I know it's temporary and I'm really excited that he is going to stop smoking, but I don't know how to deal with him. I dread going home tonight.
Emily Yoffe: You need to sit him down and say in the most loving way that all of your are thrilled that he's taking these steps to extend his life, but you're all going to feel like killing him if he doesn't get hold of his frustration and stop striking out at you and your son. He may not even be aware of how impossible he is. If he continues to go too far, don't rise to the bait, just calmly say, "I think that's the cigarette withdrawal talking. Why don't you take a walk before you say some more hurtful things."
Indianapolis, Ind.: Hello, Prudence. I have just graduated from university with my degree and am hitting the job market. Now I've run into a bit of an embarrassing problem. You see, it is customary to shake when a hand is offered to you, yes? Well, my hands are disfigured due to a birth defect (radial aplasia if you want to know). The interviewers seem a bit surprised and a little embarrassed. They are put a bit on edge, at least if I'm reading their body language and vocal tone correct. It is not conducive to a good interview. Do you have any advice for my situation?
Emily Yoffe: Unless your birth defect makes it impossible or uncomfortable for you to shake hands (and it doesn't sound as if that's the case), you need to confidently offer your hand, put a big smile on your face, and say, "So nice to meet you." Yes, you're right, people are often uncomfortable or flummoxed when faced with such differences, but by being confident the first thing you're going to show your prospective employer that you have mastered the art of putting people at ease.
Washington, D.C.: I have always been on the skinny side, but unfortunately due to a digestive disorder, I have lost even more weight recently. Whenever I go out to dinner or are with friends eating, I attract unwanted comments about the amount of food I am eating and my weight since small portions are easier on my stomach. People also tend to force food on me to "fatten me up." How do I respond to these comments and gestures? My health problems and my weight already cause much anxiety for me, and having unwanted attention on account of it does not help at all.
Emily Yoffe: Everyone knows it's a faux pas to comment on what a heavy person is eating, but since being skinny is a much desired (if unattainable) goal, everyone thinks it perfectly okay to talk about the bodies of the underweight. It's not. But since people will be commenting, you have to both convey your comfort with your body, and that you wish to end the discussion. You could say something like, "I know it looks like I'm blessed with being slender, but because of a medical condition, I can only eat a little at a time." To the inevitable follow-up questions you can say, "Let's talk about something more appetizing than my digestive system."
Pine River, Minn.: Dear Prudence, My youngest of three failed to graduate on time. He will receive his diploma after some weeks of summer school. I am wondering if it is okay to honor him with a late party once he actually finishes.
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