Dear Prudence answers readers' questions live at
Dear Prudence answers readers' questions live at
Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
Jan. 11 2010 2:35 PM

Grandma's Prison Pen Pal

Prudie offers advice on what to do when an elderly relative is looking for love in all the wrong places—and other dilemmas.

Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on weekly to chat with readers about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. A transcript of this week's chat is below. (Read Prudie's Slate columns here.)

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Emily Yoffe: This morning, a man from the heating company came to fix my furnace. He didn't want to be paid with cookies.


Chicago, Ill.:

I recently signed up for an online dating site. I have never really dated before, but at 27, I figured it was about time. I met one person from the site about a month ago, and it went well. We have been talking ever since, though his schedule never allowed for a follow-up meeting. This last weekend, I met another guy, and it also went well. We had a nice lunch and talked for a few hours. I don't know if I am still ready for a relationship and liked talking to both of these guys. Am I off base to want to try to develop friendships with these men? And should I tell the other what I am doing? I just have never been in such a situation.

Emily Yoffe: Trying to develop a friendship with agreeable people of the opposite sex you meet on a dating service seems like an excellent way to go. However, your obligation to someone you dated once and whose schedule has prevented you from getting together again adds up to zero.



Raleigh, N.C.: I'm in a quandary. I recently hosted a casual dinner party with friends. We didn't invite our friend "John" because his significant other is a vegan, and, quite frankly, working around her dietary restrictions was too much of a hassle. (As a side note: the significant other is not generally well-liked among our circle of friends, but that's not the reason we excluded the couple from this particular dinner.) Now John has found out about the dinner party and is upset. Should I explain to him why they weren't invited to this particular dinner? I plan to have them over another time, when I have more energy to devote to planning a menu that accommodates a vegan. Is he wrong to be upset about this?

Emily Yoffe: Since you're having dinner parties and have significant others, I assume all of you are not in junior high school. Because once you get past junior high, you realize that people are entitled to have social events that don't include you. You owe John no explanation. If he brings it up again, just say you look forward to getting together with him another time.


Re: Controlling Spouse: I am in a similar situation with a controlling partner. Unfortunately, we just purchased a home, and it would be cruel for me to cut and run and leave said partner with a lot of bills (although I would really love to).

Emily Yoffe: You get involved with this person, then, realizing you were miserable, decided a good thing to do would be to buy a house together. You may feel trapped, but you need to figure out why you want to be trapped.


RE: Controlling Spouse/Kids: As an adult who grew up in this type of situation, PLEASE get your kids out of it. The chat is almost over, so I don't have time to go into details; please just take my first-hand experience as one opinion as you decide.

Emily Yoffe: Good point. The spouse in this situation is creating a pretty unhappy childhood for the children. There's no good solution here. Divorce is awful; so is being hectored and under constant surveillance.


Grandma's Prison Romance: I would add that you make sure her affairs are in order. I used to be in the elder-law business, and I can't tell you how many times we had to clean up the mess wrought by the elderly person's young "boyfriend." I'm pretty sure it's a common con—romance the older person, and next thing you know, you're in the will and they're writing you $200 checks every day. I'm not saying that's specifically what's happening here—it may be a real love match—but keep an eye on her finances and make sure this guy isn't planning on using her as an ATM.

Emily Yoffe: Good point. Grandma could end up seriously broke and having to turn to the family that has rejected her. As for the possibility of it being a real love match; that seems as likely as the underpants bomber just wanting to make Christmas memorable for everyone on board his flight.