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

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
Dec. 7 2009 3:04 PM

Turkey Takes a Holiday

Prudie counsels a vegan whose family refuses to go meatless for Christmas—and other advice seekers.

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I feel terrible, but what would you do in this situation? I miss our friendship but don't miss the pain of not being able to be together. I'm not planning on trying to patch things up, but it's awkward.

Emily Yoffe: Good for you! Not crossing the line is the way people avoid being chased down the driveway with a golf-club-wielding spouse. It is awkward because nothing was actually said, but it's clear you were having an emotional relationship that was getting out of bounds. Obviously, on some level he knows why you're acting this way. But if he continues to moon around you and seem all confused, you could simply say, "Bill, I realized I was uncomfortable knowing so much about your personal life. It's better for both of us if we keep our discussions to work matters." Then don't let him draw you in about how he's been in agony since you changed on him, and he realizes what you mean to him. He's in a lousy marriage, and unless he leaves it, he's bad news for you.

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Root of all evil: Several months ago, my brother-in-law lost his job. Shortly afterward, we had a nice talk about finances and his job search plans. At the time, I wrote him a check and told him it was a gift to help him over the hump. I asked that he not tell anyone else about it. (I had my reasons.) Well, he's re-employed, but my sister (his wife) discovered the deposit and is now annoyed with me because I gave him, not her, the money and asked it be kept secret. She's also told the rest of the family, and they're annoyed (or asking for similar gifts/loans). Sigh. How can I get everybody back on track? Is what I did so bad?

Emily Yoffe: What you did was obviously generous, but I can understand your sister is mightily annoyed that this wasn't a gift to both of them. You say you had your reasons, but since you don't say here that your sister is a compulsive gambler or a shopaholic, we're just left knowing you set your brother-in-law up to keep a secret from his wife.
What happened is none of the rest of the family's business. But to get back on track, you should apologize to your sister (even if she is a spendthrift) and say you understand why she was offended by your gesture. As for the rest of the family, tell them the bank is closed.

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Vegan Dinner: Seriously, the LW's family can't spend one evening without eating meat? There are a lot of good vegan meal options out there that anyone with a willingness to try something new would like. But I guess that's the problem ... so much for "family."

Emily Yoffe: I agree to an extent. This family is incredibly boorish not to be willing to go over for a dinner party at her house. However, the holidays are different. They involve traditions, and salivating over the expectation of dishes you eat only once a year is one of them. Given that being with your family can be difficult, at least you can have the comfort of looking forward to a big plate of dark meat. Knowing that it's going to be a steaming slab of Tofurky instead could send some people over the edge.

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Arlington, Va.: I think you glossed over this line from the disgruntled wife who gave her husband football tickets with strings attached (some gift!): "[T]his game is occurring on my birthday weekend." This is a disturbing trend for anyone, but especially an adult. Since when do you need an entire weekend to celebrate your birthday? How self-centered is this woman?

Emily Yoffe: Yes, I was so hung up on the football players wearing skates that I forgot to comment on that line. You're right that she's now heading toward martyrville with the "birthday weekend" plaint. She knew exactly when the game was when she ordered the tickets. She should celebrate her birthday by enjoying a massage or pedicure while her husband is at the game, and forget about managing everyone's leisure time.

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Knoxville, Tenn.: With regards to the feuding future in-laws at the wedding, I was best man in a wedding many years ago where the parents had gone through a bitter divorce which had torn the family apart because of children taking different sides. In the beginning, the parents gave the "me or him/her" ultimatum until the marrying child of the couple basically told them to act like grown-ups and attend the wedding (including having the father respond "her mother and I" when asked who gives this bride) but also negotiated a unique compromise for the reception, which was held in a hotel. Each parent had his/her 30-minute block of time when he/she would attend the reception. When that time was about to end, the parent would be discreetly escorted from the reception by the best man to either a hotel suite or the hotel bar while the other parent got his/her 30 minutes. This quietly went on for three hours while the guests partied unaware of the conflict. One note: The bride's mother got the rehearsal dinner to herself, so she was made to feel like the winner, while the father went out with the groom and the groomsmen later for the requisite debauchery.

Emily Yoffe: I suppose that's a good solution to a pathetic problem. But divorced parents just need to learn to act like adults at these milestone events and not draw everyone else into their dreary, endless drama.

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Atlanta: It is cold and flu season, and the sniffling and sneezing is rampant in our small office. Being in the Bible Belt, each time I sneeze, my co-workers will say, "Bless you." I know that this is somewhat customary, and a polite thing to say, but I am not comfortable saying it myself. I am not Christian, nor am I a regular church attendee, and using the word bless just doesn't feel right.

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