Kansas City, Mo.: Dear Prudence,
My parents are preparing to celebrate their 50th anniversary this summer. With the exception of my wife and me (and our four adult children), the whole family (my parents, my two brothers and their wives and school-aged children) lives in Southern California. A few months ago one of my brothers called to let us know they would like to put on a luncheon/open house for family and friends ("approximately 40 people") at their house to celebrate, and wanted to make sure we could attend and also ask if we would be interested in splitting the bill three ways among the siblings. I agreed, and have since bought plane tickets for my family, and we have been looking forward to the party. I got an e-mail from my brother over the weekend, informing me that the bill came to $6,000, so my portion is $2,000. I was, and am, astounded by the amount! When I heard "luncheon/open house for 40 people" I figured sandwiches and finger food, and paying a few hundred dollars. $6,000 seems excessive to me. I guess the lesson I should learn here is that I should have asked what they had in mind for expenses/cost, but I also think they should have clarified they were planning on dropping enough for a small wedding. Was I being naive about the cost, or is there a point at which my brothers should have clued me in on the bill?
Emily Yoffe: Is everyone going to pan for gold in the punch? Are they serving BLTs, with the "T" standing for truffles? Yes, $150 a head for an open house luncheon is outrageous. Sure, catering in Southern California may cost a lot more than Kansas City, but certainly it would be reasonable for you to have assumed your cost would be under $1,000. You need to tell the brothers that this is way over your budget and ask if there is some way the costs can be significantly scaled back. If they won't, then you have to decide how to balance both family unity and your checkbook.
Richmond, Va.: I am dealing with an elderly neighbor who is unable to accept the fact that another neighbor is gay.
She comes over about twice a week, and lately the topic is always the same—the gay guy who nobody wants around here.
I always felt the best thing to do is to just nod my head and change the subject. But now things are turning weird—she wants her son to drive down the street (he has a pickup with an exhaust system that sounds like a freight train) early in the morning. The goal is to wake this poor guy up and then nudge him to sell. So she wants us to sleep in the basement for a while so the noise won't wake us.
At this point, we would rather she not come over anymore. Is there any way to handle this so my family doesn't wind up in the middle of the mess she is creating?
Emily Yoffe: You should tell her your sorry that you can't entertain her anymore, but her insulting comments about your lovely neighbor are impossible for you to listen to. You can warn her that if she starts harassing the neighbor, you will alert him as to who's doing it and that you will call the police.
West Coast, USA... Again: Hi—
Thanks for answering my question, you've definitely given me some important things to think about.
Just to clarify, I am financially independent now, have my own job and benefits, easily pay my share of house expenses, etc. We do not share any debt or other financial obligations. I don't anticipate that will change if/when a decision about moving is made.
If I made it seem like my question was entirely about insurance money, or my "entitlement" to it, it was my mistake to not re-read my question, since that really isn't the case at all, or even close to it. I was trying to get at what happens if we move and something happens.... Where does that leave me, financially, family-wise, etc. I don't resent him, what he does, or his family. I'm just trying to figure out my place in all of it as things get more serious between us.
Thanks again though for the thoughts, I really appreciate it.
Emily Yoffe: (This is from the woman with the boyfriend in the military)
Thanks for your reply. I know I let you have it!
Brooklyn, N.Y.: Dear Prudence, I am engaged to a wonderful guy and great friend. He's been supportive of me through several challenging situations, and I trust him a lot. Recently he disclosed that he has an addiction to online porn. It's something he feels he has no control over and is very ashamed about. I try to listen and be nonjudgmental, but I don't have experience in helping people confront addictions. He needs more help than I can provide, but is too embarrassed to seek professional help or even (he says) talk to anyone else about it. I also am concerned that if he doesn't try to deal with this and get better, it will affect our relationship and potential marriage for the worse. What do you suggest I do?
Emily Yoffe: My in-box indicates that one's default assumption about anyone with XY chromosomes should be that he's addicted to porn. There is a distinction between looking occasionally at porn and being "addicted." Your fiance has just admitted to you that he has a problem. One thing to consider is that until this confession, you were not even aware of this habit, so right now his activities have not impinged on your relationship. Another is it's not clear what your fiance wants to do about it. Is he warning you that he's going to disappear for a couple of hours a day to attend to his habit? Was he afraid you'd check his computer history and stumble on it? Is he saying he wants to stop? You two need to talk about how you both feel about what he's doing. And if this is causing both of you distress, what can he do but seek help from a counselor trained to deal with addictive behaviors?
re: Richmond: If the son is willing to aid the elderly woman in chasing a gay man out of the neighborhood, I don't think it's a good idea to forewarn her (and the son) that the police may be called. That doesn't sound safe.
I would make myself unavailable for weekly chats, and I would visit the neighborhood precinct and notify them of the "plan." It's best to adopt a "know nothing" approach so as not to become the object of unwanted attention.
Emily Yoffe: Good points, because mother and son both sound out of their minds, unfortunately.