Dear Prudence

Maid of Dishonor

Should I skip a wedding because my girlfriend hooked up with three of the groomsmen?

Emily Yoffe.

Emily Yoffe

Photograph by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
My girlfriend and I are in law school together and have been dating for six months. Things are getting serious—she is the love of my life. Her best friend is getting married this spring, and my girlfriend is the maid of honor. I was excited to attend this wedding as her date. However, she recently confessed that she had previously made out with three of the groomsmen, including the best man who will walk her down the aisle. I was completely taken aback by this. She said who she made out with in the past isn’t really any of my business, but she wanted to tell me so I wasn’t in the dark at the wedding. I’m pretty upset. She said I should consider how she feels, having to participate in a wedding along with these guys. That makes sense, but those are the repercussions of her actions. Should I go to the wedding and be uncomfortable watching her walk down the aisle with someone she’s kissed before, who is still in love with her? Or should I just skip the whole thing and save myself some emotional trouble?

—In an Uncomfortable Position

Dear Uncomfortable,
As I peer back into the mists of time, I remember that as Michael Weinreb’s bar mitzvah was drawing to a close, all of us gathered in some dark room, played spin the bottle, and everyone made out with each other. Yet, when Monday arrived, we managed to face each other in the cafeteria despite our licentiousness. As I recall, make out sessions were a feature of those years, and this was junior high, not high school. You have an old-fashioned, even Victorian concern for everyone’s honor as you consider whether to attend this wedding. You see yourself silently suffering in a pew while the love of your life stands among a group of men with whom she’s had perhaps not carnal knowledge but definitely lingual knowledge. In order to avoid gazing on your beloved’s former make-out partners, you could stay home clutching a tussie-mussie. But if you decline to go, once she explains to her fellow bridesmaids what happened to you, they will take pity on her for dating such a stick in the mud and likely encourage her to have a lot of champagne, then renew lip-locking adventures with the groomsmen. As you know, one still tragically carries a torch. Alternatively, you could view her confession as good news. After she made oral acquaintance with these guys—which, she’s right, is none of your business—she settled on you. When you proudly accompany her, greet the previous suitors with a confident smile on your own lips because you got the girl.


Dear Prudence: Psycho Wedding Guest

Dear Prudence,
My husband’s parents divorced long ago and now are putting him through another emotional wringer. My husband’s father has squandered millions of dollars on womanizing and making bad investments. He is in failing health and the banks are closing in, but he refuses to face reality and live a modest life. We would take him in, but he is so greedy and selfish that we don’t think we can live with him. My husband’s mother recently left her horrible second husband and relocated to our area. Now she’s decided that my husband’s father has changed. She wants him to move in with her, and us to approve. They expect my husband to clean up after their endless mistakes. I’m afraid the stress is going to kill him. They’re in their 60s, and as they age, we will have no choice but to take care of them. How can we avoid succumbing to their drama and bad choices?

—Exhausted and Worried

Dear Exhausted,
The good news is that if your mother-in-law takes in your father-in-law, he won’t be homeless or living with you. Given their respective track records, this latest romantic twist will surely end in disaster. But your in-laws sound like a couple of human cyclones, and the best course is to lock yourselves in an emotional and financial safe room while the storm is raging. Your father-in-law made the choice to squander millions and face old age bereft. Your mother-in-law sounds as if she’s not happy unless someone is abusing her, so if she doesn’t hook up with her fool of an ex, she will find someone else’s. I disagree that you are responsible for this pair’s well-being. They may have horrendous judgment, but they are not mentally incompetent. If you take on the burden of caring for them, you and your husband will find your bank accounts and your psyches drained. Sit down with the in-laws and lay out some new ground rules. Explain that whatever financial resources they have left are going to have to last them the rest of their lives. Tell them they can’t move in with you, and you won’t be responsible if they refuse to make sensible financial decisions. Say you want to regularly see and speak to them, but you are not therapists on speed dial. If they continue to dump their messes on the two of you, cut the conversations short. If you are truly concerned that the demands of your husband’s parents will be the death of him, then however much you pity your in-laws, you have to help keep them from destroying your husband’s life.


Dear Prudence,
A couple of weeks ago, as a prank my husband put ketchup, mustard, and hot sauce in his co-worker “Frank’s” tea. When Frank drank the tea, he spat it out, saw my husband laughing with two other co-workers, and punched my husband in the face. My husband was knocked out cold. The cops were called. It turns out Frank is allergic to mustard; it constricts his airway. Frank had to be taken to the hospital. My husband was fired, and both he and Frank have hired lawyers. I’m disgusted and embarrassed. My husband has always been a prankster, but this is ridiculous! Since the incident, I don’t even want to be around him. I sided with Frank, and this has caused great friction between us. Am I wrong to make a big deal about this? What are some prudent steps to take concerning my marriage?

—No Joke

Dear No,
The first prudent step you should take is to get rid of all the condiments in the house. You made a vow to your husband that covered such things as fluctuations in each of your monetary and health status, but you surely didn’t make any stipulation about your obligations should you find out you’re married to the fourth stooge. It’s disturbing that after trying to make his co-worker sick, getting punched out, sending that colleague to the ER, and losing his job, your husband isn’t overcome with remorse. You mention nothing about his begging your forgiveness for putting your family’s financial future in jeopardy. Maybe your husband expected you to say, “Oh, you big, crazy galoot—there was no way you could know mustard could kill Frank. I think your toxic brew trick is one of your funniest!” Perhaps you didn’t need to explicitly align yourself with Frank—he did cold cock your husband. But it’s perfectly reasonable for you to say you’re appalled by your husband’s behavior. He should have responded that he’s appalled at himself and is forever done with practical jokes. In the absence of this, I don’t blame you for wondering about the advisability of growing old with a perpetual adolescent.


Dear Prudie,
I am in my late 20s and am finishing up a graduate degree in education. My last step is internships in the classrooms of veteran teachers. The fourth-grade teacher I’m currently working with is terrible. She yells at the students. She calls out students’ grades and mocks those who fail. She reads aloud wrong answers that children have given on tests and lets the other students titter. Recently, everyone who failed a quiz had to stand up in front of the class while she lectured about how bad their grades were. My internship finishes shortly, but I’m nervous about reporting her to the principal, because she would know I did it. I need her positive evaluation of me to ensure my license. Is there a good solution?

—Working With a Bad Teacher

Dear Working,
Sadly, there’s no easy way to get rid of an appalling teacher. And you are right to be concerned about protecting your career prospects. While the events are still fresh in your mind, write down the incidents and which students were involved. Since you’re in graduate school, you should discuss all this with your advisers. But whatever they suggest, I think you should first finish up your internship, get a good evaluation out of this incompetent brute, and find a job. Then I think you have a moral obligation to report to the principal what is happening in that classroom. This woman is using her power to humiliate the children in her care—we’ve all heard stories about how horrible teachers can have a crushing effect on children that lasts years. It could be that there have been other complaints against this teacher but because they have come from students who are doing poorly—abusers are canny that way—they may have been dismissed. Your testimony (even if you request anonymity) could be just what the principal needs. Let’s hope this isn’t a case where those in power prefer the status quo to the trouble of taking action.


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More Dear Prudence Columns

Un-Bridal Passion: I had sex with a friend who’s getting married. Should I bow out of his wedding party?” Posted May 19, 2011.
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The Mother Lode: Dear Prudence offers Mother’s Day advice regarding a swearing granny, a distant daughter, and a combative wife.” Posted May 5, 2011.
I’m Not a Child Bride: People think my husband is a pervert because I look like a kid. How can we explain?” Posted April 28, 2011.

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