Dear Prudence


When friends throw a dinner party and expect you to cook.

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Dear Prudence,

Perhaps this is a bit irrational or old-fashioned of me, but when I am invited to someone’s home for dinner (or any meal), I don’t expect to actually provide the food. Yet this happens to me more and more often and with several people I know. I have one friend in particular who actually has regular events called “dinner parties” where she asks each guest to bring a dish to pass! In the beginning, we brought casserole dishes filled with chicken or pasta, but to the last dinner party she held, we brought only a small bowl of rice. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much more to eat for several people—just a small green salad, soda, and a few cookies. Don’t misunderstand; many times I’ve attended pot luck suppers at friends’ homes and various churches. Each time, the host/hostess has provided the main course, and guests bring side dishes or desserts. But the attendees at a pot luck supper know what to expect, and at every one I’ve ever attended, there were massive amounts of food left over. Please help me to know what to do the next time this situation arises.

—Feeling Used

Dear Feel,

The next time the situation arises, decline. If this person can’t even organize things so there’s a proper meal (no matter how many people have to bring it), you do not have to grace her evenings with your presence. It would only take one “dinner party” with a green salad, soda, and a few cookies for Prudie to figure out that the hostess was a few quarts low. There is nothing irrational or old-fashioned about you. The problem is that the hostess is just this side of addlebrained.

—Prudie, customarily

Dear Prudie,

Until I was 17 years old, I was gay, but I wasn’t happy like I am now. I was always depressed and lonely and had the typical issues of growing up gay. I even acted the part. Instead of creating the stereotype, I let the stereotype create me—right down to talking effeminately. My parents caught on to this and cornered me in my room and told me I wasn’t allowed to be gay. My mother’s reasoning was that she wanted grandchildren because my brother has learning disabilities and because she takes pride in me being the good son. I didn’t say much, just sort of wanted the awkward situation to pass, then afterward was mad at them. But, as I thought about it, I wanted to be straight. I wanted that “perfect” life with a wife and children produced from a loving relationship. Also, I loved my friendships with girls, one in particular I had been talking to for hours every night, often waking up with the phone still next to my ear in the morning. So, I effectively stopped checking guys out and stopped myself from finding any male attractive, and then I started dating one of my best friends. She had a crush on me, and I fell in love, and through that love, I became sexually attracted to her. It was amazing. For the first time ever in my life, I actually liked who I was. The aspects of her body are what I find attractive, whereas before, if I turned my head to look at a girl walking by, it was because I liked her outfit. I look back at that part of my life and don’t even understand who I was or what I was missing. I’m still with this girl (three years now; we’re at different colleges), and I love her deeply and find her sexually attractive. I mean, I still occasionally look at gay porn or have sexual dreams involving men, but I don’t consider myself to be gay anymore. I’m happy and I like where my life is going now, but what I’d like to know is whether changing my sexual attraction was a good thing.

—Happily Straight Now

Dear Hap,

Prudie has long felt that whatever works for people in the romance department is OK with her, provided it’s not against the law and doesn’t scare the horses. She has also long felt that the situation you describe is next to impossible. People do not DECIDE to change their sexuality; sexual preference just is. Parents cannot stop by for a chat and convince a gay son to switch his interest from lats and pecs to T&A. It is possible that your letter could be about having a little josh with Prudie. (Also odd to read that your brother’s learning disabilities would preclude his having children … though maybe this just depends on what it is he has trouble learning.) In any case, if what you wrote is actually what is happening, you are, at the very least, confused and conflicted about trying to will something to happen. Your best bet would be talking things through with a professional, and it’s a must that you level with the woman about your, um, other feelings. You need to pay attention to what you feel as well as what you want. Good luck.

—Prudie, warily

Dear Prudence,

How do I shorten pages worth into a paragraph? I’m 17 years old, and I’ve lived with my father since I was 12. Before that I lived with my mom and stepdad, seeing my dad every other weekend. He paid child support regularly. Me and my dad do not have a normal father-daughter relationship. With him I come and go as I please, speak my mind, and we don’t bother each other much. He has no “fatherlike” protective tendencies, etc. My mother is the opposite, very controlling, threatening, makes me work, punishes me if I slip below a B in school, and tries to keep a leash on me, which is ludacris [sic] because 1) I do not get any sort of child support from her, 2) I do not live with her, and 3) we have never had or will ever have a good relationship. If I had my way, I’d move far from both my parents. I am not a bad person. My teachers, mentors, and friends like me, but I’m very depressed, and my parents don’t help. They’re selfish people. There is more to this, this is just the main problem. My question: How do I confront my mother about no child support, being too controlling, rude, and down right unloving? Basically, I’ve never been happy with my parents, ever. I’m an “oh no” baby and feel reminded of that in some way everyday. Not a good feeling. Thank you for listening.

—Giving Up

Dear Giv,

It must be an exceptionally unhappy situation not to feel love from your folks, even if it’s there. What is interesting is that you find one parent too permissive and the other too controlling. It is, moreover, unusual to equate discipline or affection with child support payments. Because, in most states, you are one year from achieving your independence, it would be good for you to resolve your depression and your alienation before you are on your own. Prudie would suggest you table, for now, confronting your mother about anything (since you don’t live with her) and instead confront your difficulties and your unhappiness. Ask one of your teachers or mentors to help you get into therapy. Don’t give up hope. Frequently teenagers are successful in moving beyond a difficult childhood and less-than-wonderful parents. And maybe it’s a good omen that, meaning to write “ludicrous,” you wrote “ludacris,” the name of the rapper—and Prudie knew who it was!

—Prudie, optimistically

Dear Pru,

I could be the only one, but I may lose my lunch if I hear one more person make reference to “the love of my life.” I have a friend (a male) who has identified his last three wives this way! Don’t people know that words have meaning? Is there anything I can say the next time someone says this?

—Shirley, Harrumphing

Dear Shirl,

You are not the only one who considers “the love of my life” a frayed tribute. Prudie is right there with you. (And aren’t you good and sick of “soul mate?”) What is happening is that people are simply trying to pay a compliment to the romantic partner—the CURRENT romantic partner—and unfortunately they land on the phrase they feel is the ne plus ultra. As with any cliché, the meaning is diluted when every Tom, Dick, and the milkman is saying it. As for responding the next time you hear this stab at a superlative, Prudie thinks it best you say nothing … because what, after all, my dear, is there to say?

—Prudie, knowingly