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

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
June 29 2009 3:29 PM

Grampy's Got a Gun

Prudie counsels a woman whose in-laws refuse to lock up their weapons when her children visit—and other advice seekers.

(Continued from Page 2)

Falls Church, Va.: Prudie,

Don't you think the writer who is so upset by her husband's family calling her by the "wrong name" was being a little too sensitive? What is she going to do when her (hypothetical) children's friends call her Mrs. Y instead of Ms. X as she would prefer? Chastise them as well?

Emily Yoffe: As I said, people are entitled to choose their own names. But I agree, in these kinds of informal settings it's not worth it to make a big deal or take offense. I didn't take my husband's last name, but often get called by it by my daughter's friends or her teachers. I don't feel any need to correct them because in those situations it is easier and it doesn't bother me.

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New York, N.Y.: Dear Prudence,

An old and dear friend of mine recently moved back to our hometown. She's unemployed and looking to establish herself as a freelancer in web design. I happened to have another friend (friend B) who needed a website made, so I recommended friend A. Problem is, she's been terrible! She missed multiple deadlines, was clueless about contracts, and was generally disorganized and uncommunicative. I thought this girl was brilliant—we went to high school together, where she did better than me in every subject, but since then it seems she's turned into one of those people who's great at school and terrible at the real world. Friend B recently fired friend A from the project. Now I don't know what to do—I feel embarrassed in front of friend B for having recommended someone so inept, and I feel bad for friend A since she lost this project. Should I pass along friend B's complaints to friend A as constructive criticism, or should I just butt out of the whole thing?

Emily Yoffe: Since you brought them both together, you should say something to each of them about what went wrong. To Friend B, who had to fire Friend A, apologize for recommending A. Explain what you just said here, that this woman is very intelligent and has a lot of ability, and you were distressed to hear that she has not been able to use those qualities in a professional manner. To Friend A, tell her that you're sorry the job with Friend B didn't work out, but unfortunately you heard from B that she wasn't able to perform in a timely and reliable way. Tell her you know she has lots of skills, but perhaps she needs to take some business classes or otherwise address why she can't use her abilities more professionally.

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Alexandria, Va.: I recently went home to visit my family and while I was there I stopped in the old neighborhood deli. The woman behind the counter recognized me as the older daughter of a local family who had left to join the Army. I told her that I was out now and living in Virginia. The first thing she asked me was, "so are you married?". Now that I'm in my 30's, I'm used to this and I have no problem saying no. But then she said, "Oh don't worry, you'll find someone." At first I was struck speechless, and then I managed to mutter something like, "well, my life's going pretty well, so..." and I thought about telling her about my wonderful boyfriend, but then decided it was none of her business and I just trailed off and left. But I left feeling embarrassed and wondering if the crowd of guys in line behind me were thinking that there was something wrong with me.

Did she really think that without her words of pity/encouragement that I was fearful of dying an old spinster just because I'm not married yet? And what's the deal with the general attitude that single people are just in a holding period on the way to marriage, as though we're somehow not complete on our own?

Yes, I would like to get married someday, but I'm not in a desperate rush, and I think her comment was a bit obnoxious.

Emily Yoffe: And if you were married to your boyfriend she'd grill you on why you didn't take his last name! Put this exchange in the bin for "well-meaning comments by acquaintances that got taken the wrong way." She was just making conversation, not very felicitously, but she also wasn't intending to make you feel like Miss Havisham. I bet the people behind you waiting for the turkey club on rye didn't give your love life a thought.

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Guns: My husband and I own two handguns and three shotguns, no ammo is in the house and all have gun locks. We have taken a safety course (mandated in our state) to get our license, and it was taught by a career soldier and sharpshooter who said anyone who doesn't treat his or her guns this way, if there is any chance anyone but the gun owner him or herself can get to them, is a fool. If the father-in-law places his "convenience" in having guns easily accessible above the life of his grandchild, forget visiting him. (And the gun course instructor also told us that 99 percent of the time, people who have guns for "self defense" end up shooting themselves or loved ones or having intruders take the gun away from them. People seem to think it is easy to wake up in the middle of the night and whip out your gun and accurately shoot an intruder. Nonsense—even police shoot the wrong people because of adrenaline, fear, confusion and they are trained and ready for it.)

Emily Yoffe: Hear, hear for responsible gun ownership.

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Chicago, Ill.: Hi Prudie! I have a question that has plagued me for many years. I am happily married, mom to a 3 year old, and expecting my second child. My husband is a great father and a fairly loving husband.

My first boyfriend and I have never really fallen out of touch, and it has caused problems in my marriage in the past (I've been married for 10 years, and he's been married for about 7). My husband recently found out about the continued contact because he went through my emails. The email he found wasn't to the guy; it was to a girlfriend asking her what I should do with the feelings I still have, although I have no desire to end my marriage or break up his. I guess the affair could be categorized as emotional.

Part of me feels that he preceded my marriage by many, many years, as did our feelings, so one does not have anything to do with the other. When I ask myself how I would feel if I found out my husband was doing the same thing, I thought I could honestly answer that it wouldn't bother me because I know what it feels like. But I found flirty texts and emails with a woman who works in the same location as he, and it didn't feel so good. The lack of trust is surely eroding what could otherwise be a great time in our lives. Any thoughts from you would be most appreciated. Thank you so much!

Emily Yoffe: Ah, another Gov. Sanford question! I have long advocated that people stop being unreasonably jealous because their spouse has friendships with people of the opposite sex. But the governor opened up the dark side of having a "dear, dear friend" because of it possibly leading to "that sparking thing." You're sparking. This isn't a case where a former boyfriend has become a strictly platonic friend. You and the ex are playing around with infidelity by keeping the emotional—and possibly physical—possibilities open between you two. You and your husband are about to have two children. You both are keeping up outside flirtations (maybe his is a defensive response.) You need to end the friendship with your ex, tell your husband you're doing so and why. Tell him you want to recommit to your marriage—say you two have got a great thing and it's time for you both to give up flirtatious games with others.

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Weekend away: Hi Emily,

My husband and I are going through a rough patch and we have a high-energy toddler. Recently, I had a weekend to myself. I slept in, pampered me (generally at the bottom of the list),relaxed. Now I can't stop thinking about that. I love my family, but I'm keep thinking about leaving. It's so selfish, and I don't know that I'd actually do it, but the thought is tempting! Where do I go from here (mentally, if not physically)?

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