Dear Prudence

Snake in the Grass

My partner’s ex wants her man back. How do I get rid of her?

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My husband of four years had a loony girlfriend he dumped before we met. She got pregnant by sleeping with his best friend while he was away on a volunteer relief mission. She had the baby and planned to give it up for adoption before he came back, in hopes that he would never find out and they would eventually get married. Needless to say he did find out and dumped her after giving her a speech about honesty. She has since had two more children out of wedlock with different men, and married the father of her third child. She is currently in the process of divorcing this husband. She found my husband’s e-mail address through a friend of a friend and has sent my husband several e-mails in the past few weeks. He, of course, has shown me all  this correspondence. In an effort to be civil to her while she is going through a divorce, he responds to her e-mails in a short and to-the-point manner. I have told him that if he continues to write to her, she will always promptly respond, and continue the e-mailing. She is trying to snake her way back into a relationship with him and it is making me sick. She keeps sending e-mails about how she is a different person, blah blah blah. She just wants my husband! Do I write her an e-mail of my own? And if so, what do I say?

—Ticked Off

Dear Tick,
Sometimes we have to explain things to the dreamboats we are married to because many of them are tone deaf to, uh, nuance. You should not write this woman yourself, because “Stay away from my husband!” missives just sound desperate. You should encourage your husband to use that very old and very effective gambit of just not responding. In other words, if he ignores her e-mails, she will take the hint. And if she doesn’t, he can still not respond. Do tell him, from Prudie, that he has already been civil and supportive, but now is the time to be silent … or he will be her pen pal—if not more—until hell freezes over.

—Prudie, conclusively

Dear Prudie,
Every time a close friend of mine tells a story or gives an opinion about something, she will immediately turn and look at me, expecting me to agree with her in front of our friends. If I try to avoid responding or change the subject, she will keep insisting by saying, “Right? Right?” This happens frequently and I don’t know how to broach the subject with her. I feel like some sort of sidekick or a straight man when she does this. Am I making too big a deal out of this?


Dear Ann,
Your friend’s need for validation is somewhat odd and it’s understandable that you do not relish being the ventriloquist’s dummy. Because the chances are slim that mentioning this annoyance to her would do any good (looking to you for corroboration is a habit, after all) your best bet is to try a new, somewhat more direct approach. The next time you have to deal with the “Right? Right?” business, answer either that you have no way of knowing, or you haven’t made up your mind yet. Prudie thinks a few of these nonvalidations will make your point … sort of your own little Pavlovian experiment.

—Prudie, experimentally

Dear Prudence,
I have been having the same problem for years. My sister is my best friend. Although I have five sibs, we are the closest. I do have many friends and do things with other family as well. I have always looked up to her and admired her. She is probably the most important person in my life. We are 10 years apart. She being older, she always knows what’s best for me in any and every situation … or so she thinks. Many times over the years she has hurt my feelings with snide remarks about my relationships or work-related issues. She says cruel things without realizing she is hurting my feelings. I get her opinion whether I want it or not. The older she gets the worse she is. Lately I have noticed that she is doing it to everyone, other sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, and friends and colleagues. She will tell someone how she is so shocked at the weight they have gained, or comment how their hair is too long. I really think she is becoming senile at 56, if that’s possible. I have tolerated her all my life because I love her dearly. I avoid her more and more these days. We had a family gathering on Sunday and she was very rude to my new friend, with totally uncalled-for remarks. It was the third time she’d met him and she’s insulted him each time. I am at my wit’s end. What can I do? She is family and I cannot let her know she is hurting my feelings. My daughter says I should not let her walk all over me this way and that I have put up with it way too long, but I don’t want any hard feelings.

—Please, No Name

Dear Plea,
Unfortunately, senility or even Alzheimer’s can begin earlier than 56. This kind of mental deterioration can amplify whatever leanings the person had before. If she was bossy earlier, that trait could become more pronounced with a neurological problem. It sounds as though your sister’s governors are off, and increasingly so. Prudie agrees with your daughter and wonders why it is you think you can’t let her know she is hurting your feelings? What you—or someone in the family—should do is get her to a gerontologist or a neurologist. If there’s nothing wrong with her wiring, then tell her she is apparently unaware of the effect of her words. Good luck.

—Prudie, diagnostically

Hello, Prudence!
I am an animal lover and animal-rights advocate. I will not in any way support factory farming. This means that any meat or dairy I eat must come from a free-range/all-natural market. Almost all my friends and family (including in-laws) shop at regular grocery stores and serve factory farmed meat (shudder) at their events. Everyone has been aware of my feelings on the matter for many years. So I’m wondering, is it acceptable or insulting to bring along my own main course, such as chicken breast, to a dinner?

—Free Range for Me, Please

Dear Free,
Go ahead. Your beliefs are as important to you as religious dietary rules are to others. You should, however, if any “outsiders” are present, explain your convictions so that no one gets the idea the hostess is a rotten cook. Years ago, in fact, when Carol Channing was following a macrobiotic diet, she would show up in the best restaurants and fanciest homes with a little brown bag with her meal therein. And clearly you have paid attention to the dictum of the late Gaylord Hauser: “You are what you eat.”

—Prudie, gastronomically