Click here to read a transcript of Prudie’s live weekly chat with readers at Washingtonpost.com.
My partner and I are adopting twins! We plan to raise them without diapers. There’s a method for this, and most of the world goes without diapers. We will also use only organic clothes and linens, and only natural wooden toys. I’m wondering how we can politely express this to the people attending our baby shower. It would seem a bit brash to simply tack a list of what we don’t want to the bottom of the invitation. I’m afraid that giving no indication about our organic preferences would lead to us throwing out or giving away almost all of the gifts we receive, and that doesn’t seem right, either.
—Two Dads, Two Kids, One Problem
Dear Two Dads,
Yes, you have a problem, and it’s not that people might sully your pristine nursery with a plastic teething ring. It’s true that there are swaths of the world—largely in rural Africa and Asia—where children go undiapered. However, in those places it’s accepted that elimination means squat-and-go. (And I have the feeling that the villagers, given the choice, would take three years’ worth of Pampers over a lifetime of carbon credits.) It’s also true that there is an infinitesimal number of people in the West who are involved in a (bowel?) movement to have babies go diaper-free called “elimination communication.” Here’s something else that’s true: The first time you take your undiapered duo to Whole Foods and they let fly on the organic arugula, the produce manager will communicate about eliminating you as a customer. I’m also trying to imagine the condition the twins will be in as you attempt to transport them from crib to car to grocery cart. As the mother of one, I’m here to tell you parenthood is hard enough without committing yourself to having your twins (twins!) defecate on your hemp clothing every time you pick them up. As for the baby shower, go ahead and register at Holier Than Thou Baby and have the host put out the word about your gift preferences. And if you get things that don’t meet your standards, give them away to a charity for people who are just trying to do their best.
My mother died earlier this year. As an only child, I had to pay for her surgery and her funeral expenses. I have since learned that numerous friends and family members donated money to her sister to help with my mom’s expenses. My aunt kept the money and did not say anything about it to me. What should I do?
Your relationship with your aunt is already ruined, so you might as well speak up. Tell her that naturally you took on the financial burden of seeing that your mother got proper care and a loving send-off, but you have since discovered that many friends and family members gave money to her that was intended to help defray these expenditures. Say that unless your aunt paid for medical care and funeral expenses of which you are unaware—and you would be happy to find out what those were—it would be a great relief to have these funds, because the cost of looking out for your mother’s welfare was substantial.
I have been good friends with “Jason” for several years. He and his wife have two young children, and until recently, I thought they were happily married. But a few months ago, I noticed that whenever we were hanging out, Jason would spend the entire time texting with someone. He said it was an “an old friend.” Then, he recently called and told me he needed an alibi for a short trip that he “had to take,” so he wanted me to pretend that he and I were going on an overnight golf trip. I declined to lie to his wife. He said he had already told her I was going, so I didn’t really have a choice. I had to tell my wife about this situation, just in case she ran into Jason’s wife. I later found out that his “old friend” is actually an ex-girlfriend he reconnected with on Facebook. I have continually advised him to either end the affair or tell his wife, but he refuses. My wife and I will see Jason’s wife at an event next month, and I’m afraid of what will happen if she asks us about that “golf trip.” What should we do?
—A Loyal Friend?
Golf, texting, cheating, alibis, a wife, and two little kids. Does Jason shave with Gillette razors, drink Gatorade, and have Nike logos on everything he wears? I assume, in light of recent events, Jason is realizing he’s lucky that his wife hasn’t taken a golf club to the car window yet. Or maybe Jason is just a hard-core jerk (and probably a lousy golfer), and thinks he’s different and is going to get away with it. I hope you and your wife didn’t actually help Jason out last time. If you did, don’t do it again, and alert him that you will not take part in his deceit. If his wife mentions the golf trip, tell her, “Elin, I’m sorry, but Jason and I didn’t go golfing. However, he did call and ask me to lie to you about it.” If she asks for more details, you can bow out and say, “I think you should hear the real story from Jason.” Then give him a wide berth if he starts careening away in his Escalade.
I’m in my early 20s and dating a wonderful guy, whom I plan to marry in a few years. My Christian parents like him, but they have one major problem with our relationship: He is an atheist. I’m a Christian, though I consider myself more liberal than my family. “Tom” and I are planning to spend Christmas Eve with my parents. They go to church on Christmas Eve, and I know they’re expecting Tom and me to attend the service with them—my father is a musician who plays during the service. Tom doesn’t want to go to church; he says he’d be bored and uncomfortable. If I told Tom that it’s really important to me, I’m sure he would go. But I don’t think it’s my place to force him. Tom suggested that he stay at my family’s home while we go to church, but I think that would be awkward. If he doesn’t go to church with us, my parents will be frustrated that their daughter is dating a guy they don’t approve of. What should I do?
While religious people should let their nonreligious friends live in peace (and pray quietly for their salvation if they wish), the nonbelievers should understand that observing social niceties does not mean their First Amendment rights are being violated. Especially since your father is performing at the church, Tom should attend the services. Too bad he might be bored. He might be bored at Christmas dinner when Aunt Edna starts telling him about her hip replacement, too, but he can’t then declare that all medical discussions by elderly relatives offend his sensibilities. Presumably, Tom is not such a tender atheist that he refuses to attend marriage ceremonies or funerals if they require he sit in a pew. If he wants to be part of your family eventually, on a sacred day he should just go along for the sake of making the effort. But that doesn’t mean you can or should force him. If, after you explain that having him there at services with you would mean a lot, he still won’t go, let him stay home. Then, while you’re in church, ponder his refusal as you imagine a life together.