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My new wife, “Brenda,” and I are supposed to be on our honeymoon but instead, she is sharing her bed with someone else. I know it sounds ridiculous, but should I be worried? She is extremely close to her best friend, “Sadie”—they were young women together in the city. Their friendship involves sleepovers, and sometimes Brenda would spend the night with Sadie instead of me. Some of my friends, including females, said they think Brenda and Sadie are lesbians. I asked Brenda once if they did anything sexual during these sleepovers and Brenda laughed it off and told me they just watched movies and drank wine. Sadie had a long-distance boyfriend who she was very much in love with (and who I suspected was married man). The day after our wedding Sadie’s boyfriend died. Instead of leaving for Hawaii with me, Brenda ran to Sadie’s side. I’m not sure how long she intends to stay. Do women really do this? Should I be glad that my new wife is so loyal to her best friend, or should I be thinking about contacting a divorce lawyer?
—Alone in the Marriage Bed
There you were, about to board the plane, expecting in a few hours you would be draped with leis and heading to the hotel to get laid. Now it sounds as if you should be watching The Descendants and comforting yourself that George Clooney’s character is having a worse time being in Hawaii than you are not being there. The issue is not whether “women” don’t go on their honeymoons because a friend has an emergency, but that Brenda didn’t go on hers with you. You say your friends have suggested Brenda and Sadie are lovers. Maybe your pals collectively have salacious minds, or perhaps they just have good gaydar. After all, you had enough unease about Brenda and Sadie’s sleeping arrangements to put the question directly to your beloved. You got an answer, but it sounds as if you weren’t entirely convinced. It’s also odd that either you didn’t feel comfortable enough to bring up your suspicions about Sadie’s relationship, or that Brenda didn’t trust you enough to confirm that Sadie’s boyfriend was mostly absent because it’s hard to slip away from one’s wife. But now that you’ve found out how easy it was for your wife to slip away from you, you appear to have lost all ability to have a conversation with her. It’s not unreasonable that Brenda postponed her honeymoon because of Sadie’s loss. Before your bride crawled into the bed of her friend, obviously you two should have discussed delaying your departure for, say, a week, then agreed to check in with each other daily about how things were looking. (It would also make sense for Sadie to get a fold-out couch.) You are indicating that you and Brenda are so incommunicado that it’s made you ready to hum Aloha ‘Oe while on hold with the divorce lawyer. But before blowing up your marriage like Kīlauea, it would be a good idea to take care of the basics first. In your case that would mean seeing if your new wife will return your call and tell you what’s up.
Dear Prudence: Worst Grandparent Visit Ever!
At my office job, clients recently came in for a big meeting that included my boss. A higher-up, who is not my boss, told me I was going to have to go pick up the lunch for the meeting participants at noon and that she’d give me the money. This is not in my job description, and I was not excited to play errand girl, but I am at the bottom of the totem pole. Noon came and went and no one came out of the meeting. Finally around 1 p.m. I went to the break room to eat my lunch with friends. Shortly afterward the higher-up found me, stood in the doorway, and waved money at me indicating it was time to go. I thought she was rude and I waved my sandwich at her, indicating I was on my break. She stormed out and picked up the lunch herself. Later she furiously insisted to my boss that I be fired. My boss doesn’t think I should be, but he told me to try not to piss off this woman anymore. As the new young staffer is it my job to just suck it up? Or did I merely set boundaries with a disrespectful colleague who sorely needs them?
Since you already feel you are the equal of the top executives of the company, imagine that one day you actually accomplish enough in your life to be behind the closed door running the meeting. You’re under immense pressure and are responsible for a million details, yet you have to be calm and commanding for the clients. You ask a young assistant to perform a task that’s surely part of her job description—“assisting”—so that all of you can work through lunch. This little pissant makes a face, and when the time comes for her to get the food, you have to run around looking for her, and when you locate her, she dismissively waves her sandwich at you. “Wondering,” if you are able to get out of your entitled head you will agree that this supervisor did not walk away saying, “Now that’s the kind of boundary-setting young person I want to see rise in this company!” You just made the transition from school to work. You’re used to being told what will be on the test and when your papers are due, so the open-ended nature of a job can be disorienting. But let me assure you that if you think picking up lunch is beneath you, there are plenty of young people who bring back the tuna salad with a smile, thrilled to be starting their climb up the totem pole. You’re lucky your boss didn’t fire you, which might have resulted in your finding a new job that consists entirely of bringing food to people. Now try to show that the lesson you learned is to step up for your superiors, not flip them off.
I have been married for eight years to a man who adores me, is handsome, funny, smart, and has a terrific job. When he was a teenager he had a cancerous tumor that required the amputation of a leg at the hip. Because the amputation was so high, he cannot wear a prosthetic and uses crutches. His disability does not limit him in any way. My question is how to handle other people’s reactions. His biggest pet peeve is when strangers approach, and without even introducing themselves, ask what happened. He tries to be gracious. Even more often, people ask me what happened. When my husband went to use the rest room in a restaurant, a customer at the next table leaned over to ask me. He and I both had appointments at the dentist recently, and within earshot of my husband, my hygienist asked me what happened to his leg. I need a witty reply that lets them know it was rude to ask and dodges the question.
My friend, law professor and disability advocate Paul Miller, who had a great, accomplished life and died much too young, once wrote about the calculation he sometimes made about whether to run errands. Miller, who had achondroplasia—dwarfism—wrote how exhausting it could be on occasion to deal with the stares, the remarks, and the questions that inevitably came in the course of going about his business. I wish there were some way to universally get the word out that people with disabilities, or unusual features, or who are parents whose race doesn’t match their children’s, etc. are not on duty as permanent spokespeople. But as your husband has experienced for much of his life, and you have since you’ve been with him, there is always going to be a minority of people who think they are entitled to make inquiries. Forget formulating a witty response; you need a terse conversation-ender. Readers in situations similar to your husband have told me that with strangers an effective way to do this is to say, “Excuse me, but I don’t know you,” and move on. However, it’s impossible to extinguish human curiosity, and with people you’ll be dealing with on a regular basis—or the occasional stranger if the mood strikes—it may be easier just to give them the minimum necessary: “He had bone cancer as a boy, and fortunately he’s fine now.”
I’m a happily married female professional who frequently travels alone for business. It’s not unusual for me to sit at the hotel bar for a drink or dinner and people watch. I welcome conversation as these trips can be lonely and tedious. Men frequently talk to me, which is fine in theory. The problem is these guys think speaking with them means I want to sleep with them. I wear my wedding ring and make frequent references to my husband, but this doesn’t deter the blatant sexual advances. When I turn them down they get angry and accuse me of “false advertising.” The men are typically married themselves! I don’t want to lock myself in my room all the time, but is going to a bar alone “false advertising”?
—Just Likes To Chat
Apparently every stud on the road selling widgets adopts the unofficial Secret Service motto: Wheels Up, Rings Off. We’ve recently learned how an alcohol-fueled conversation between attractive strangers can lead to misunderstandings, at least at the Hotel Caribe in Colombia. But just because guys at the bar are hoping to get lucky, does not mean you should be forced into purdah. To bring this back to George Clooney’s oeuvre, it could also be that your suitors have seen Up in the Air too many times and assume friendly female road warriors just want to have a certain kind of fun. There is no implied contract in your shooting the breeze with a fellow traveler. But after a drink or two, you may want to get your dinner at a table, and people watch from behind a book.
More Dear Prudence Columns
“A View to a Thrill: Neighbor boys peep at my scantily clad daughters. Should I have them cover up?” Posted June 30, 2011.
“Loving Thy Neighbor: I have sex with the couple next door. Should I tell my kids about it?” Posted June 23, 2011.
“Fatherly Advice: Dear Prudence advises a dad whose wife fears he’ll abandon the family in favor of his long-lost daughter—and other Father’s Day advice seekers.” Posted June 16, 2011.
“Businessman on the Road to Ruin: My wife doesn’t know I visit strip bars and porn theaters while away on business. But that’s not cheating, right?” Posted June 9, 2011.
More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
“All Dogs Go to Heaven: Dear Prudence advises a dying husband on whether to confess his infidelity—during a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.” Posted June 27, 2011.
“Sloppy Stay-at-Home Mom: Prudie advises a man whose wife is great at everything except keeping the house neat—in a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.” Posted June 13, 2011.
“The 40-Year-Old Mean Girl: Prudie advises a former bully whose kids are being mistreated by her victim’s children—in a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.” Posted June 6, 2011.
“The Accused: A young neighbor’s unfounded claims put my family in danger. Should we allow the girl back into our lives?” Posted June 2, 2011.