Dear Prudence

Call Me Jo … sephine

Handling a friend’s sex change gracefully.

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My husband and I recently found out that a male acquaintance (we’ll call him “Joe”) has made the decision to undergo surgery to become a woman. This is something that has bugged him his whole life, and he is now coming to terms with it. The person who told us this information is a mutual friend of ours and the transgendered person, as well as a reliable source. He gave us this information solely to lessen the “blow” the next time we see Joe, since the physical changes will be quite apparent. To explain the bandages to those who might not understand or who don’t know him too well, Joe has said he had surgery to repair damage from an accident. My question is this: The next time we see him, he may still be in bandages, and if this is so, do we uphold the pretense of his being in an accident? Would it be adequate and appropriate to express concern by simply saying, “Are you feeling all right?” without mentioning his transgendered state? And if Joe is not in bandages and is re-presented as “Jane,” how do we greet him/her since we were first introduced to him/her as a him?

—Beyond Confused

Dear Be,

Prudie thinks you have doped this out quite well. With bandages, “Are you feeling all right?” is fine. Without bandages, you might remark on well she looks. Prudie will tell you this, however: Anyone you’ve known as Joe who reappears as Jane is certainly prepared, if not anxious, to talk about, uh, new developments. Let kindness and acceptance your guides.

—Prudie, sensitively

Dear Prudence,

I want to get a dog. The problem is I have two cats. One cat is not going to have an issue with a dog, but the other one will. I want a dog for many reasons, one of which is that I want a companion to go with me to inspect properties in unsavory neighborhoods. (Part of my job is inspection of commercial and industrial properties for hazardous-materials issues.) I have one picked out (a German shepherd, from a rescue, about 5 years old, who is used to cats and doesn’t chase them or want to eat them), but I also know I have a responsibility to my 8-year-old cat to take care of her. Am I selfish for wanting a dog? I’m going to be 49, and if I wait for the cat to die, I’ll have to wait till my 60s to start with a dog. My husband is willing to have a dog, so there’s no issue there. We don’t have kids. Is it silly or crazy of me to be worried about the cat?

—Judith A.

Dear Jude,

You are not crazy to worry about the cat (especially because she has issues). But neither are you selfish to want a dog—and, in fact, it sounds as if a canine companion may be necessary for your safety. Regarding the cat you think won’t do well, you might just give it a try because a visitor dog is different from a resident. IF, however, the trial does not work out, the cat with issues should be given to a new, loving owner. In addition to the safety issue, because you want a dog, your husband is willing to have a dog, and the other cat would welcome the dog, in this instance majority should rule. (And consider yourself lucky. Prudie wants a dog, too, but her only cat—Dr. Pussycat—says no.)

—Prudie, broodingly

Dear Prudie,

I need some assistance as to the best way to deal with my mother. My wife and I have decided to relocate back east from the West Coast, and at this point I have told everyone except my parents. I know my father will be sad but understanding about my leaving. Mom, however, will be a whole other story. My mother suffers from depression and has a very hard time accepting and dealing with any major changes. Many of my teenage years were spent taking care of her as opposed to hanging out with friends. (I have few regrets about doing this.) I now spend less time taking care of her but still see her quite often. I know she will become very upset about our move across the country and will attempt to do anything to stop this, from general guilt trips to threatening suicide. When my wife and I moved only an hour away from them, she told me (and still does) that I need to be closer. I need to tell my parents about this move so that we can spend as much time together as possible before we go, but I am unsure as to the when and how to do it. Should I keep it from them until closer to the time or tell them now? Also, I have toyed with the idea of lying and saying this move is due to a transfer by my company (which it is not) so that she does not feel that I am trying to get away from her. Should I do this, or should I just tell her the truth and explain that it’s simply too expensive to live here anymore and we have a better chance at buying a house and raising a financially stable family in a small town?

—Separation Anxiety

Dear Sep,

You sound as though you’ve been an extraordinarily good son, and Prudie hopes you will not allow yourself to be made to feel guilty about a decision that seems right for you and your family. Do not allow her to manipulate you with threats. And the truth is quite good enough about why you are moving. Prudie further believes the less lead time you give her, the better. Tell her you’ve loved all the closeness, and now you are entering another phase. Promise to keep up the phone calls and e-mails, as well as visits back and forth. And let us hope your mother is stabilized by the proper meds and supported by a good doc. Good luck.

—Prudie, admiringly

Dear Prudence,

I am friends with a much older man. We met through my martial arts class and keep in touch using e-mail. Our conversation is mostly about the sport or daily events. He is like an uncle to me. Recently, he sent me an e-mail saying that he could no longer converse with me through e-mail and that he hoped it wouldn’t interfere with our friendship. He said that he would tell me why “one day.” Prudie, what does that mean? When I got the chance to confront him about it, he said the same thing—that he couldn’t tell me. I am confused about this because our relationship wasn’t wrong. Yes, I am much younger, but we share an awesome hobby. Please advise.


Dear An,

Prudie’s best guess is that the man is married, his wife became aware of your e-mailing, she didn’t believe the relationship centered on martial arts, and she told him to cut it out. When you and this man were face-to-face, he declined to explain it—again—because he didn’t wish to seem henpecked. You will just have to share your hobby when you are in class together.

—Prudie, decipheredly