Emily Yoffe: I hope this wasn't your stance at your wedding and baby showers because a lot of people now think you're an ungrateful lout. Sure, at showers people know you liked the gift that they took the time money and trouble to obtain and give to you. That doesn't mean you don't sit down and take the time to write a note. This woman can take your position, or she can make a gesture and change how people think of her. It's often petty-seeming things that really rankle.
Princeton, N.J.: On Friday, my husband and I had an unexpected evening to ourselves and we decided to take advantage of this by enjoying a dinner out. When we got to the restaurant, we had to wait for a table. We sat at the bar for a few minutes, and I happened to notice a teenage couple kissing and cuddling in the corner. I thought it was cute and looked over periodically. When they pulled apart, however, I was shocked to see that my oldest daughter (17 years old) was one-half of the couple! And the boy she was kissing was most definitely not her boyfriend of ten months. Deciding it was best not to cause a scene in the restaurant, my husband and I finished our drinks and went to dinner somewhere else. When our daughter came home that night, we confronted her with what we'd seen. She became defensive and hostile, but I did manage to wheedle out of her that she'd been cheating on her boyfriend for several weeks. I've tried explaining to her that her actions may be unforgivable and that she needs to be honest with her boyfriend, but she's refusing. How can I get her to see that what she's doing is morally wrong and unfair to a boy who has only ever treated her with respect?
Emily Yoffe: You confronted your teenager about her lousy values and moral failings and she became defensive and hostile? What a surprise! You were wise to quietly exit the restaurant. You should have exercised this restraint when "talking to" not "confronting" your daughter about this the next day. You should have unemotionally explained you saw her out with another guy and you're concerned that she's getting in a situation that is going to be painful for everyone. You should have listened if she wanted to open up, and dropped it if she didn't. Your remaining calm and available to her as this unfolds will be more helpful than driving a wedge between you by berating her.
Crystal City, Va.: My cousin is married to a man who is an extremely aggressive and reckless driver. He tailgates at very high speeds, speeds everywhere, including through residential neighborhoods, runs stop signs, aggressively weaves through traffic—you get the idea. How he has avoided getting into a major accident all of these years, I'll never know. He does all the driving in the family (my cousin doesn't like to drive) and drives the kids to school every day. I do whatever I can to avoid getting into a car with him. Here's my question: should I call the police in the town he lives in and tell them about this guy? One of these days he's going to kill someone and I think I'll feel horribly guilty if I don't do anything about it.
Emily Yoffe: Many communities have signs on the highway asking for people to report aggressive drivers. You would be doing a public service to alert the police to be on the lookout for this maniac. I don't know what your cousin is thinking, but this guy needs to be stopped.
Washington, D.C.: I was wondering how you would handle this situation. I have a friend that I have been friends with for many years, but have recently realized that because she does not have a car, the only things she asks me to do socially with her involve things she couldn't get to herself without a ride. Not only that but when she has people over for dinner I am never invited, which would be an easy gesture to make me feel included.
Instead I get the "I'd love to take this pilates class that's in such and such area (without public transportation), would you like to go with me?"
I'm starting to feel very resentful and don't know quite how to approach this. Do I say something or just start backing away from this friendship?
Emily Yoffe: Say something before you put the car in reverse and drive off. Explain that you have started to feel you only see her when she needs a ride someplace. You can say many of things you do are fun, but the relationship is starting to feel not very reciprocal to you because of this.
Ignoring the tone ... : of the previous message about thank-you notes, the standard rule I've always seen is that if you thank someone in person, a note is NOT required. In fact, the Emily Post Institute has this on their web site: "All gifts should be acknowledged with a note, unless the goodies were opened in front of the giver—then you have the chance to thank them in person."
Emily Yoffe: Fine, but guests expect to be thanked for gifts they give at a shower. This is why people have started the awful custom of having guests address your own envelope at the event. I'm sure (please correct me if I'm wrong) that Miss Manners expects newlyweds and mothers-to-be to write thank yous for gifts opened at showers. Believe me, if you don't write the note, people will be deeply annoyed.
Dayton, Ohio: Dear Prudence,
Several days ago, we had some friends over for dinner and a board game. During the course of the game my fiance said to me "you are so stupid" and he said it with a fair share of contempt. This has happened before, always with guests present. When I spoke with him about it after they had left, he claims he doesn't remember. We both don't like confrontation, but we need to talk about this. I've told him the last time that my hot button was being told I'm stupid, and he was truly amazed. How can I talk to him about this and impress on him how seriously I'm taking this comment/behavior. I've been upset for several days and know I need to resolve this issue.
Emily Yoffe: Yes, you do need to resolve this. Particularly since your fiance seems to have amnesia about insulting you vigorously in front of other people. Frankly, I think you should put the wedding on hold until you two get some counseling and you see this issue ameliorated.
Los Angeles, Calif.: How do you know when you should give up a career field because it's not working out? I've been trying to break into an extremely competitive field for the past 2.5 years. I've some bites here and there, but nothing concrete has panned out. I'm torn. I can't decide if I should just give up because I'm not qualified or because the field is competitive itself and trying to break in should take a lot of time. Should I take this personally or chalk it up to what I've decided to dedicate my life to? I've read lots of stories of people who persevere and go on to be really good at what they do after years of rejection, but you never hear about the people who gave up and what they did. What to do?
Emily Yoffe: I wonder how long the letter writer above who just made gobs on money in her creative endeavors slaved away? If you are going into a field where it's a struggle, but most people with a lot of drive and enough talent can make a go of it, then you need a better idea from more senior people about how to make sure you are making sufficient progress. But if you're in a field (show business, for example) where the vast majority of wannabes wash out, then one of the worst things you can do is read those stories of the people who struggled for 20 years and finally made it big. You need to draw up a plan—say give yourself another two years, but only if you're meeting some milestones along the way. And while you do that, look into other careers would satisfy some of these itches, and what it would take to switch.
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