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

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
June 8 2009 2:46 PM

The Pill Popper Next Door

Prudie counsels a man whose neighbor swipes his painkillers—and questions from other advice seekers.

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What do I do?

Emily Yoffe: Gee, he sounds like a real prize. "Oh, Honey, what should I do? Be with you? Be with her? Be with you and have you help raise the kid? Hey, maybe we can all live together and save a lot of money—and when I have sex with her it will only be about the sex, because you're the one I really care about." I know you've invested four years in this guy, but you took a break for a reason. And what's with the "We were going to move in and start working on a child of our own"? I know I sound like a troglodyte, but what about deciding to get married, establishing a stable life together, and then deciding to have kids? Stop drifting through life's big decisions and be with someone who wants to be with you.

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Out there: re: first question



My sister is having a family gathering in the fall and wants to know what to 'do' with dad. He's not speaking with her at the moment (not unusual)—but she's more upset that he's not speaking with her kids. In any event, she wanted a pow-wow with me regarding what to 'do.' I told her there is nothing to 'do.' You invite him (because it's the right thing to do) and you hope for the best. You can't be responsible for other people's actions, no matter how much you want them to behave the way you want.

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Emily Yoffe: I agree in general that trying to control other people is a losing game. And trying to keep people from behaving oddly at events like weddings reduces the fun for everyone else. But I don't really agree with you about having a father over who ostentatiously is not speaking to his daughter or her children. How miserable. I think she should break through the communication barrier and say there's an event coming in the fall and she'd like him to be there, so she's hoping to get communication going again. Have her explain it would be too painful for her and her children if he came but refused to acknowledge them.

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Surprise party: My in-laws will soon be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. My father-in-law is in the mid stages of Alzheimer's but is still able to go out and remembers his kids. I want to surprise them with a small party with a renewal of their vows on the anniversary. My husband thinks it is a terrible idea—that his dad would be confused and that his mom wouldn't care about going to the church. I am disappointed that he feels this way as I feel that, after 27 years of marriage, that I know her pretty well and think she would be touched. Do I try to plan it without his help or give up on what I think would mean a lot to her?

Emily Yoffe: This has to be a new twist to the surprise party. You invite the guest (or guests) of honor and spring a religious or legal ceremony on them. Most people would be deeply confused even if they didn't have a pre-existing medical condition. If people want to renew their vows, that's their business. I dislike turning it into a revival of a show with the same cast of characters—only older—that others are expected to sit through again. Your husband is right. Forget the "surprise" and just put together a lovely, low-key dinner.

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Arlington, Va.: My best friend and I have both had children in recent months. The first for both. I enjoyed my maternity leave, and then had to return to work. Whereas my friend and her husband have decided that she become a stay-at-home mother.

I will admit I am jealous. What new mother wouldn't want to spend more time with their new baby? The problem is she expects my child's hand-me-downs. Since my child is a few months older than hers, she expects that I should just give her the clothes I spend my hard earned money on. She and her husband spend their money on extravagant gifts for her, so why not their child?

I would feel differently about giving the clothes if she didn't expect it. Every time I mention that I may be visiting, she mentions the baby clothes. In this time of economic crisis, I am sure there are many other people out there that would benefit from the baby clothes. People who have lost their jobs, not decided to stay home. I'm just not sure how to let her know that I'd rather donate the clothes than give them to her, and not sound so ... catty?

Emily Yoffe: Does she say, "Oh that little truck outfit will look just darling on my Jason in a few months?" Yuck. How about telling her that you hope you'll be lucky enough one day to have more children, so you're keeping the outgrown baby things.

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Virginia: Me: Working single mother of three, going to college part time. Have been divorced 4 years, have not dated since divorce, thought I would wait until I am finished with school. Him: The kindest, most decent man. Great dad to his kid, divorced also. Wants to date me, wants us to get to know each other better. Problem: My days, weeks, minutes, are full with little to no room for error. But it is so tempting to date this man. We have that "it" or "chemistry" thing that you can't explain but know when it's there. What do you think? Should I stick with my goals/plans which leave a social life out of the question, or should I try this?

Emily Yoffe: This is called "life." It has a funny way of interrupting you just when you had put together the perfect plan. Don't let this guy get away! Probably one of the things that has attracted him to you is your focus and determination. He should understand what it's like to have many obligations, and that maybe some dates will be a quick dinner, then a return to the books. But don't squeeze out the possibility of love just because you've got exams. Believe me, you can find the time for someone who could possibly make the rest of your life so much richer.

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Santa Monica, Calif.: Dear Prudie:



I recently got married and have a problem concerning thank-you notes. Someone got us a wonderful wooden photo box and filled it with photos from my childhood and my parents wedding that I had never seen. The problem is that the person put the gift in a large gift bag, and many other gift cards ended up in the bag. There were six likely people who might have given us the photo box(all of them my aunts and uncles), but I don't know how to figure out who gave it to us.

How should I deal with this? I am afraid that if I start calling them, it will sound like I am demanding a gift from the five couples who only gave us a card. But I am anxious to get this person a thank you card, because it was an incredibly thoughtful gift.



Any ideas?

Emily Yoffe: Sounds like it's time to call in your mother and father to play Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. They can query their siblings to see who put together the lovely box—all they have to say is that the card came off, not that the other gifts weren't as thoughtful.

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RE: Park City: Before you do anything else, change the locks on your doors! If she comes in again when you're not there, tell her that it's trespassing and she is not welcome.

(Assuming she got in when you were away because she has a key; if she broke in, that's a whole new issue.)

Emily Yoffe: Good point about the neighbor who likes to "drop in" and empty the medicine cabinet into her mouth.

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Prescott, Ariz.: What is your feeling on younger female food servers (in their 20s) addressing older female customers (53) as "hon" or "sweetie"? I eat lunch out by myself frequently and am amazed at how often this occurs. Today my server called me "hon" no less than 10 times—each time she came by my table. She gave good service otherwise and I left her a little more than a 15% tip, but I was tempted to very politely point out that I found her addressing me in that manner to be condescending and that she might have gotten a better tip had she refrained. Should I just continue to suck it up and ignore it or would I be doing a service to the next server who does this? I'm sure I'm not the only one at there who feels this way. Your opinion, please?