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

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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Emily Yoffe: Anyone can understand your reaction. That's why I pointed out that this guy had made an awful move. It's a gross violation to end one relationship and take up with the ex's good friend or neighbor (and presumably the second relationship got a head start while the first was extant). It shows your mental health that you now regret losing it with your ex and your ex friend, but I agree, they deserved an earful. But you aren't now on a campaign to destroy your ex's reputation or financially seduce his kids. That's the difference.

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Gifts: If we'd like someone to stop sending us gifts, should we stop sending thank-you notes?

Emily Yoffe: If only it were that easy. The senders of dreadful gifts probably can't be stopped through lack of gratitude.

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Salary Update: The salary is a government salary and varies according to the area of the country. My salary here is considerably higher than the highest salary I can receive for the new job, even including the promotion to a higher grade. The costs of living in both places are equal.

As to my sister, she is loving but seems to forget that not everyone lives in her world of four houses.

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Emily Yoffe: Well, if the salary can't be negotiated, then her advice for you to decide what's most important to you is on point. Maybe she's somewhat insensitive because of her cushy financial situation; maybe you're somewhat overly sensitive whenever financial matters come up with her.

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Exhausted: Husband just got out of the hospital following a serious sudden illness. We agreed during his hospitalization that I would notify only those people with a legitimate need to know (close relatives and co-workers) and wait till afterward to inform everyone else. Fortunately, husband is out of the hospital and doing much better.

Now that he's home, I've been contacting other people regarding his illness, chiefly by e-mail, and am catching flak left and right from everyone whom I didn't inform while he was in the hospital. I'm being called selfish and inconsiderate, among the more repeatable things, and my sanity has even been questioned.

If all these people had known while my husband was in the hospital, it would have been tiring for him, and possibly not even good for his health, to have had so much more company and phone calls. And I, who was already physically and emotionally exhausted coping with his ordeal, was in no mood to have to entertain company in his hospital room, nor to have to field additional interrogatory phone calls there or at home. (As it was, I got wakened out of a sound sleep at home by a call from someone who'd heard about my husband's hospitalization through the grapevine and became most irate when I refused to supply the details she demanded to know.)

Prudie, please ask your readers to respect folks who are ill and/or hospitalized and their families year-round, but especially at hectic times like over the holidays. Thanks.

Emily Yoffe: It's wonderful that you have so many dedicated, caring friends—it's just too bad that many of them sound crazy. Perhaps they don't understand this serious illness was not actually their drama. Anyone who abuses you for doing what made the most sense to you in a crisis is not a true friend. I hope your husband does not have any more crises, but for people who find themselves in this situation, it can help to have a family member act as gatekeeper—to send e-mails or field phone calls, let well-wishers know how the patient is doing, and keep fending off visits until a better time.

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Atlanta, Ga.: What do you say about a customer who returns a blender one day afterhe purchased it. It smelled like alcohol and was sticky. I asked what they had been making, and he said they had a margarita party the night before. I asked if there was a problem with it and would he like another one, and he said no, he just wanted to return it.

The company I work for accepts returns with a receipt regardless of the reason for the return, but it seems to me that there should be some kind of karmic intervention for people who use a blender and then return it the next day. My employer has to write the blender off for a complete loss now.

Emily Yoffe: The intervention should come from your employer. It's one thing to take back an unused purchase, or a defective one. It's another to take back a perfectly good item that has been used and now has to be trashed. What I say about such a customer is that he is a crude jerk. Some people really are disgusting. I once bought my husband a coffeemaker for his birthday, and when we opened it up, it already had a cup of moldy coffee in it!

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Greensboro, N.C.: I'm a graduate assistant who, admittedly, doesn't pull in a lot of cash. However, for my second wedding anniversary with my husband (tomorrow!), I purchased tickets to an event that he is very excited to attend (and a small cotton gift). Because our anniversary is so close to the holidays, I combined this anniversary gift and his Christmas gift (although he did receive two smaller gifts from me). Unfortunately, he has no plans on doing anything special for our anniversary. I understand that because of our financial situation, expensive gifts are out of the question, but I feel very hurt because I put a lot of thought and time into this gesture. I am very easy to impress, and something simple like cooking dinner or writing a heartfelt letter would make me very happy. I've tried to kindly but directly let him know how his lack of effort upsets me, but to no avail. While he is normally a very kind and thoughtful man, special occasions like these seem to hold no special meaning for him. Should I just resign myself to a golden anniversary gift of, "Really? That was today?" or is it worth further discussion?

Emily Yoffe: By the time you get to your golden anniversary, I hope you each will have come to some understanding about gifts. If your husband is, as you say, otherwise kind and thoughtful, and he knows special occasions mean something to you, it is hurtful if he simply blows them off without even a bouquet of dying subway flowers (my husband's specialty). Since you've addressed this directly, and he won't budge, don't let it ruin the occasion. Enjoy the evening out and don't bring up his lack of reciprocation (and how do you know he's not planning on surprising you with something?). If he truly doesn't do anything, then after the event explain that celebrating means a lot to you and you don't want to give it up, but you feel a little foolish having it be so one-sided. Say that the two of you need some kind of agreement—perhaps you'll scale down your effort and expectations, but you hope that he understands even some gesture on his part would mean a lot.