Dear Prudence answers readers' questions live at

Dear Prudence answers readers' questions live at

Dear Prudence answers readers' questions live at

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
Dec. 28 2009 2:48 PM

Crazy Love

Prudie counsels a man whose ex-girlfriend is trying to ruin his life.

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All of us (the kids) are mid-20s or older. He has this macho, stupid thing about making sure he's the one driving. This has made the holidays the most anxiety-inducing time of year for me. Every Christmas, I feel like I'm going to die.

Luckily, I am getting married soon. I plan to rent a car from now on. The problem is, my fiancee is not happy about the financial burden of renting a car and thinks we should just "make it work."

How do I get across to everyone that this is an extremely messed-up situation?

Emily Yoffe: It's people like your father —as they plow into families driving home from their celebrations — who make the holidays tragic for innocent people. Your father has to be stopped, and this has to be done familywide. There's no "making it work" with a drunk narcoleptic behind the wheel. If your father is not safe on the road, his behavior needs to be discussed with his doctor, and possibly reported to the department of motor vehicles (any other advice, readers, for getting a menace off the road?). As for the holidays, the keys need to be taken away from your father. The only way he should get home is in the passenger seat.


Nowheresville: I'm going to be spending new years with several people I like and one person I don't. She's going to go on and on about wedding plans and all the Christmas presents she received and blah, blah, blah until my ears bleed. Normally I'd have a short and civil conversation and then move on, but we'll be at a restaurant, and I'm afraid I'll be trapped. I just want to not be rude and spoil the evening; any tips?

Emily Yoffe: Make sure you're seated at the other end of the table. If she starts monopolizing the conversation, say something like, "I love lavender as a wedding color. I bet everything will look gorgeous. So, I wanted to hear what everyone thought about TSA's new rule that no one can stand up the last hour of a flight because of that Christmas bomber." If she keeps coming back to her wedding and gifts, respond politely, then shift the conversation to something else. Resolve that for 2010, you'll spend minimal time with this bore.



Bristol, Conn.: Is it just me, or do people no longer feel it is necessary to send a card, call, or personally thank you for gifts to their children? I am seriously considering stopping sending presents to my great-nieces as I never get a card, call, or smoke signal for birthday or Christmas presents sent for my nephew's and nieces' children. Absent minded is one thing, a sense of entitlement is something else again in this economy.

Emily Yoffe: It's not just you. If the children are too young to acknowledge the gifts themselves, contact the parents and say you were concerned about whether the gifts had arrived. If they say they have (and I assume you're talking about Christmases past, since they still have plenty of time to thank you for gifts for this one), explain that it hurts to go to the trouble of picking out something you hope the kids will enjoy, then never hear anything back. Say you love celebrating the kids' special days, but the lack of acknowledgment means that you're going to have to stop, and you hope it doesn't come to that.


Single, Salary: I have been offered my dream job, which would move me closer to my elderly parents, but which may involve a pay cut of $10,000. My married sister, hearing that I might have to decline it, stated that I "should decide what is important" to me. I bit my lip before I retorted that I was dependent on a single salary, without the cushion of a spouse's income, but I'm seething about this. I am happily single and see no reason to marry, but her blithe dismissal of my concern about finances burns me up. Should I continue to seethe or just drop it?

Emily Yoffe: You know your sister, so you know if her comment was meant as the insult you're taking it to be. Given the particulars you've laid out: dream job, closer to parents, big pay cut—it is a matter of deciding what is most important to you. I'm also wondering if you couldn't discuss the salary with your dream company. If they want you, they should know that they're asking for a huge financial sacrifice. I know that it's common for women to just accept a salary offer, while men often think of the offer as a negotiating starting point. But back to your sister—if what she said made you seethe, talk to her about it. Say her remark made you feel she was dismissing your financial concerns, which are very real to you because while you're happy to be single, it means you don't have the cushion of another salary.


Christmas etiquette? : Am I SUPPOSED to send thank-you cards for gifts I get for Christmas? My aunts and uncles give me gifts, but I give them gifts, too. ... None of us send thank-you cards.

What are the rules there? I feel like a thank-you card for a Christmas gift is awkward and brings a level of formality that isn't necessary.

Emily Yoffe: If you were all together and exchanged gifts, no, you don't owe further thanks. But if gifts were mailed to you, yes, you need to call, write, or e-mail and say the gift arrived and that you love it. It's not formality; it's information and courtesy.


Washington, D.C.: As someone who is the "ex" in Portsmouth's situation, I can identify a little bit with his ex. When my nearly four-year relationship ended recently, it was also amicable, and I was so grateful for that. Then a few weeks later, he told me that he was moving on to a new relationship with my good friend.

Upon hearing this news, a stream of obscenities came out of my mouth at him. I can't remember what exactly I said, but I know I said some really hurtful things to him—about him and about her. I also then called her right after and let her have it via voicemail. I made some really nasty comments. I wish I could have handled myself differently in retrospect, but I didn't know how else to deal with it at the time. Also, I have never felt so much anger and rage and hurt in my entire life. So, I gave myself a pass. Luckily, I do not live close to them anymore, but I can only imagine what it would be like if my friend had also been my neighbor, and every time I looked out my window I saw his car parked at her house.

It's been almost two months, and I am nowhere near being over this, but I have made some good progress. I consider myself to be a pretty rational human being, too. Just put yourself in her shoes for a minute. I am in her shoes, and it's a really awful place to be.