Dear Prudence

Like Father, Like Son?

My boyfriend defends his father when he calls me “bitch.’

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Dear Prudence,
My boyfriend and I have been dating for about three years and living together for the past six months. We get along great and things have been going very well. In the future we would like to marry. The problem I am writing to you about is his father. My boyfriend was pretty much raised by his father and they are very close. He has been a wonderful father to him, but I feel very uncomfortable around him. He is very outspoken and although I know he approves of our relationship, he has called me things like “bitch,” trying to be comical, and has made fun of the products I sell, saying that they are “stupid” even though I am very successful. I have told my boyfriend of my discomfort. He always defends his dad, telling me I am being too sensitive, that this is just his way of joking around with me, and I focus too much on the negative. It bothers me that my boyfriend doesn’t see my side of things, and I have tried to focus on his father’s good points, but these comments really make me question our future together. Is this significant enough to inhibit our future life together?


Dear Unc,
Being called a bitch and hearing that your chosen field is stupid cannot be construed as comical, nohow, no way. The ol’ man is not swift enough to realize that his barely disguised hostility to you, or maybe even to women, is discernable, and Prudie is not so sure he does approve of your relationship. Because you say your boyfriend’s dad was both father and mother to his son and they remain extremely close, it is entirely possible that you are viewed as competition. If your boyfriend at least saw your point, the relationship might have a shot, but it’s unlikely that things could work with both of them thinking the put-downs are fine. How one is spoken to is indeed significant and you are not being too sensitive. Bail now, and tell your boyfriend why. A Don Rickles father-in-law definitely would not work for you over the long haul.

—Prudie, regretfully

Dear Prudie,
I never thought I would need to write to you, but I am in quite a pickle and trust your advice. I just discovered that my husband of seven years had an affair. I caught him only a week into it, thank goodness. The affair made us realize that we had really stopped communicating and would need to rebuild our marriage. My problem is that he thinks it is OK to remain friends with his mistress, and to use her as his counselor for reconciling with me! He sees nothing wrong with this. I have explained that it is counterproductive for him to talk to her about these things. He disagrees and says she is his friend. Prudie, I accessed his e-mail and found out they just talk about “us” all day! I don’t know what to do. He says he wants to fix things with me but he won’t stop talking to her! Please help.

—Up to My Eyeballs

Dear Up,
This is awful. If he can’t see this woman has no place in your lives, then you need a professional to tell him. His lunatic approach to “rebuilding the marriage” is somewhere between dumb and insulting. To paraphrase Camille Paglia, what he is doing is like boarding the dog at the taxidermist’s. Such insanity suggests that he either would like both of you in his life, or he’s trying to force you to call it a day. In this situation, you must tell him, “It’s her or me,” and mean it. This guy really does take the cake for nervy jerk of the year, and you have Prudie’s sympathies.

—Prudie, sputteringly

Dear Prudie,
I have reached the point in life when loved ones pass away with greater frequency, and I have wondered if there are rules or guidelines about the sanctity of remains. My grandfather was embalmed and I could view his body and recognize that he was not alive. Now I have lost close friends who chose cremation, and their deaths are harder to accept, because I don’t have physical proof that the person I knew has now passed away. I only see an urn. Is it appropriate for close friends and family of the deceased to touch the body during a visitation or viewing? Are there guidelines about contact with cremation urns or ashes that will be scattered? I wish to respect the families of my friends, but I also miss the physical contact with my dead loved ones.

—Mourning in the Midwest

Dear Mourn,
Your views about death are interesting, because many people would rather ride a lawn mower to the supermarket than have physical contact with the deceased. Which is not to say that your view is unhealthy. As for your question about death etiquette, it is entirely appropriate to touch, or kiss a body in a casket at the viewing. Ashes are a different experience, certainly, in terms of touching, seeing, and “accepting” that the person is gone. But trust Prudie: Anyone who’s been cremated is gone. The cremains, a term of art in the funeral business, may certainly be felt if they are not sealed in a container; if they are, then feel free to touch the container. Perhaps if you focus on your memories of the departed, along with feeling the connection to everyone else at the funeral, the lack of physical contact will be easier on you.

—Prudie, attitudinally

Dear Prudence,
I have what I think is a relatively simple request. Can you please define, in your own words, what it is to be considered judgmental? One person in particular keeps accusing me of judging him, but I do not think that is the case. Any guidelines you could offer would be great.


Dear Don,
Funny you should bring this up. Prudie, too, has been told she is judgmental (and she heard this long before she was Prudie). People who are considered judgmental are thought to have an opinion about what is “right” and what is “wrong,” and perhaps to be vocal about it. Prudie, however, thinks that everyone has these kinds of opinions … those considered “judgmental” just articulate them. Also implied is that the so-called judgmental people are a bit rigid in what they find acceptable, whereas nonjudgmental people are considered more tolerant, more “live and let live,” if you will. has this definition:

  1. Inclined to make judgments, especially moral or personal ones: a marriage counselor who tries not to be judgmental.

Prudie thinks this is impossible. Even actual judges, meant to be disinterested parties, need to form an opinion and come to a conclusion. In your case, because your friend is charging you with what is generally thought to be a pejorative trait, lay off telling him what you think of whatever he’s telling you. Just listen. He might, after a while, find the nonresponses bland, or … he might find your “yes man” persona to his liking. In short, being considered judgmental is probably an issue somewhere between semantics, values, forbearance, and rigidity.

—Prudie, analytically