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.

(Continued from Page 2)

Emily Yoffe: One of the lovely things about living in Maryland is being addressed as "Hon"—the state honorific—in that inimitable Maryland accent. I like it, but I understand that you don't. But think about it, the people calling you "Hon" and "Sweetie" are doing so with a smile and trying to deliver good service. It's one thing to complain about surly service, but think how your rebuke will go over to a young person in a minimum wage job just trying to do her best. Forget the lecture, and keep leaving a nice tip.

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Cranky Town: Hi,

I have chronic insomnia and often feel like I do today, which is to say ridiculously short-tempered. I know I need to avoid people today, but I'm at work and trying to stay as even as possible. I'm getting "Wow, you look tired" today, which I thought everyone knew was rude. I don't want to yell at anyone. What's an appropriate response that changes the subject back to the other person?

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Emily Yoffe: "I am tired. Unfortunately I've been having insomnia. So is Caitlin excited about starting college in the fall?" (And I am one of those dark-circle, baggy-eyed people who has gone through life being told how tired I look, which I agree is tiring.)

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Gaithersburg, Md.: My husband and I recently became parents for the first time. Our child's only surviving grandparent is his mother with whom we have we have a rather difficult relationship. We are trying to figure out how to involve her in her grandchild's life while maintaining healthy boundaries that are important for our little family's well-being. Unfortunately, she resists what we think are healthy boundaries, no matter how diplomatically expressed. And she is beginning to label her tiny granddaughter as a bit of a problem child when she cries or fusses in front of her. I am exasperated and protective of our child and my husband. He, on other hand, understandably feels torn by guilt and loyalty at times, even though he seems to know when his mother's behavior verges on the inappropriate.

By the way, my mother-in-law is not someone to have a direct, frank conversation with, as my husband and I know from experience. We would appreciate any advice you care to share. Thank you.

Emily Yoffe: You're right, she won't understand if you explain to her that her behavior tends toward the inappropriate, so she needs to start behaving better. Taking action to draw those boundaries is the key with someone who doesn't understand such things as the fact that all babies cry and are fussy sometimes. What you should do is get together with her in limited circumstances that you can stand. Family dinners instead of weekend visits. Letting her take the baby for a short walk in the stroller instead of asking her to babysit. Train yourself not to let her remarks get to you, i.e. say something like, "Yes, the baby's a little fussy today, but that's normal and the doctor says everything is fine."

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Annapolis, Md.: Dear Prudence, I have been seeing a woman for about 9 months. We started as friends, and we really get along fine.

My problem is, while I find her funny and likable and occasionally sexy, I don't really find her "attractive." I hate myself for this, but there's just something missing.

I am hesitant to take our relationship to the next step, because I can see myself leaving her if/when I meet someone more "my type."

Should I break it off now?

Emily Yoffe: The wonderful thing about falling for someone you didn't expect to fall for is that you start to realize, "How didn't I see right from the beginning that she actually is very sexy and really pretty?" You haven't fallen that hard. If after nine months you are wondering what you're going to do when you find someone you're actually attracted to, yes, you should stop wasting her time.

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Surprise vow renewal: Don't do it. My cousin's husband did this for their 10 year anniversary and she was mortified. She thought they were going to dinner so she'd dressed up in a sexy outfit, had a couple of glasses of wine at the house, and instead they drive to their church where their minister and entire family were waiting to watch them walk down the aisle again. It's definitely an anniversary she'll never forget, but for the wrong reasons.

Emily Yoffe: This actually happens?! Okay, I take back my sentiment that I don't want to be invited to renewal of vows. I want to be invited if the "bride" didn't know it's happening and she's tipsy, showing too much cleavage and in shock. That would be worth seeing.

_______________________

Is this prying?: Prudi,

Many times while in conversation people will give generic statements about what could be potential private issues, i.e. "I'm having surgery tomorrow." Often I'll follow up with the question, "May I inquire about what kind of surgery?" This gives the person a yes or no option and clearly define the boundaries of the topic. I'm never sure if people don't wish to talk about a topic and are being vague purposefully or desire a little prompting to start a conversation because it may be difficult. I don't want to assume people don't wish to talk in the chance they do. The asking of a yes/no question seems the easiest. Would you consider this rude or prying?

Emily Yoffe: That kind of opening is ambiguous. You can respond with something also ambiguous, "I hope it's nothing too serious." Then the person can tell or not. Some people won't want to talk about it, and some will be delighted to let you know about every twist and turn of their colon (and won't you be sorry you asked).

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Herndon, Va.: The other night my husband, daughter and I went out for dinner. There was a line to get inside, so we had to wait a bit outside on the sidewalk. Our 1-year-old daughter was fidgety and didn't want to be held, so my husband let her crawl around on the sidewalk. I noticed another woman watching my child and heard her faintly say to her party, "That baby's crawling on the ground. That's so gross." I immediately saw red ... I'm still furious with her. Is something like that worth responding to? (Please note that we washed her hands before eating, of course...)

Emily Yoffe: It certainly would have gotten everyone's attention if your baby had started crawling up a wall. Learn to ignore or laugh off the dumb remarks made by strangers.

_______________________

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