Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up here to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Q. Card Confusion: For background, I have Asperger syndrome, or mild autism as they call it now. While I still have some difficulties in social interactions, with constant practice and some therapy I have gotten to the point where I can generally pass without more than an occasional raised eyebrow. This experience, however, has me second guessing myself. I am a large, rather imposing fellow with professional experience in security. About three months or so ago, I received a card (a legitimate snail-mail card) from a very nice young lady who I know through work, stating that she had had a dream about me, in which she and some female friends were being harassed and I showed up and drove the harassers away. I let her know that I had received it through a Facebook message, because I really didn’t and don’t know what to say. Having stumbled across the card again while cleaning my apartment, I am once again asking myself a) if there was a better way to have responded to it and b) if it was considered normal to send that type of card in the first place. A little clarification would be most appreciated.
A: It is considered normal to send such a card if the person sending it is perhaps a little shy and socially awkward herself and is trying to think of a safe way to initiate a romantic feeler without the danger of getting all flustered in a face to face conversation. That, at least, is my reading of this. Your response was perfectly appropriate, but also sent the signal that you didn’t want to pick up on her signal of possible romantic interest. So now the question is: Do you want to? If you are interested in getting to know this very nice young lady better, it is not too late to find out the meaning behind the note. I suggest you send her an email or private Facebook message, saying that you recently came across her card and it made you feel good to think she feels you would protect in a dangerous situation. You can suggest that the two of you get together for a very safe lunch or coffee and offer a couple of dates. And if this works out, you better let us know!
Dear Prudence: No Kissing on the Mouth
Q. How to Forgive/Get Over It?: Two weeks ago today, my mom was hit by a car speeding up to beat a red light. The driver was a 19-year-old kid who stopped at the scene and gave his statement. My mom was a pedestrian and the kid may have been driving over the 45 mph speed limit. THANK THE LORD my mom is expected to make a full recovery, but she broke most of the bones on her left side, her pelvis, her tailbone, just to name a few. She was recently moved from the hospital to an acute in-patient rehab facility. According to the police officer at the scene, the driver was not ticketed and the case is considered closed. I don’t believe in revenge and thoroughly believe in forgiveness, but I find myself feeling angry that the driver got to walk away while my mom’s life, my dad’s life, my life, my kid’s lives are dramatically changed by this event. Some days I want to contact the kid (his info is on the police report); other days I pray that I can learn to forgive him. My mom is expected to make a full recovery (although pain may be an ongoing issue), but she won’t walk for six-to-eight weeks and will have to go through therapy for longer than that. How do I let go of this anger? The accident could have been a lot worse, so I am thankful that my mom is just suffering from broken bones.
A: I do not understand how almost killing a pedestrian while speeding doesn’t even merit a ticket! Your family needs to hire a lawyer. The lawyer can look into what happened and potentially get this case reopened. Yes, we can be grateful the driver stopped, but a reckless young man needs to be held to account for causing massive injuries. A lawyer can also tell you whether you have grounds for a civil suit. You are not seeking revenge, but justice.
Q. Guests: My boyfriend and I live in a fairly large home by ourselves (it’s his parents’) whereas our circle of friends still live with their parents. We are all in our early 20s so this is quite normal. Because of our situation, my boyfriend and I often host parties or dinner at our house where we sometimes provide food and/or alcohol and clean beds for our inebriated guests to sleep on. (We are never EVER invited to other people’s homes as they are not as free as we are to have guests over.) However I have started resenting these nights as many times one or more of our friends does not bring a gift to be shared with friends on the night. This means that many times I have prepared dinners for a number of people who do not bring so much as a bottle of wine to the meal! Moreover, the morning after I have to get up and clean the entire house, change sheets or make beds together with just my boyfriend (and sometimes even completely alone) because all of our dear friends get up and leave without lending a helping hand. This weekend has been the pinnacle of this behavior. Four of his friends dined and stayed with us overnight, went home then came back for a second dinner and once again slept in our home. Not once did they help clean the house, leaving their beds messy. They also offered just one gift over the weekend whereas they enjoyed two dinners. Am I too sensitive or is this acceptable behavior? I love their company but the nonstop cleaning at the weekend is driving me insane!
A: Your friends have hit the jackpot—free food, free booze, free beds, free detox! Maybe you need to get a neon sign for your home declaring it the Leech Motel. I’m surprised your “friends” haven’t balked at your only offering the modified American plan and started screaming, “Where’s lunch?” It’s one thing that you’re the only people in your circle with a place where you can entertain, but if you had parents in residence, you have to ask yourself if these people would still socialize with you. If you don’t mind doing some entertaining, you need to make some new rules starting this weekend. First of all, decide how often you want people over. If it’s once a month, say so and explain that other get-togethers will have to be off the premises. Then say from now on parties are going to be potluck, and assign dishes to people. Say you’re moving to BYOB, and since you’re sick of all these Goldilocks sleeping in your beds, tell people they are going to need to cut themselves off before they are unable to drive. Yes, this may drive some of your friends away, but it’s time they started getting lessons in reciprocity and self-control.
Q. Re: Pedestrian Accident: The writer says the driver “MAY have been going over the speed limit.” (S/he wasn’t there, so how are we to know?) The mother may have stepped right in front of the car; it’s not specified. The police investigated this, and found the driver not to be at fault (no ticket). That’s why they’re called accidents. It’s unfortunate, but the kid may very well be not-at-fault, and the mother, despite her injuries may have been.
A: Several people are raising this point. Yes, the daughter wasn’t there and we only have her word that the driver was speeding to beat a red light. Maybe Mom was stepping into the crosswalk while looking on her cellphone. The other day I was driving downtown and a middle-aged woman stepped in front of me—not even at a crosswalk!—doing just that. Fortunately, I was going slowly and saw her coming. This inattention on both sides is really scary. But if there was excessive speed and inattention to a pedestrian on the part of the driver, I do think it’s worth it for the family to check this out legally and make sure that fault—or not—was properly assessed.
Q. To Work or Not to Work: I have a question that I am sure some moms out there can relate to. I am married to a wonderful, smart man who also is a surgeon who recently finished his residency. I also work full time and have been working the entire time he was in medical school and during his residency which is how we were able to avoid the massive student loans most medical students have. We have two children; one is in first grade and our daughter is 2 so she goes to daycare. My biggest problem is anytime we meet with his work friends who are doctors (they’re all married, their wives all stay at home) I hear comments like, “Well you should finally stay at home, you all can afford it now,” or, “Do you really want other people raising your daughter? I just love that I am here experiencing every moment of my child growing up.” I find these comments so rude. I actually enjoy working and also like making my own money. I also grew up in a country where we didn’t have a lot and I always felt like we should work so we can save because nothing is guaranteed in this world. The biggest reason however is the fact that if I stayed at home I would be pretty much 100 percent responsible for taking care of everything, right now we both work so we split all the housework 50/50. My question is how to deal with some of these comments without feeling like a bad mom anytime I come home from these get-togethers.
A: Someone needs to send a memo to these mothers that this mommy war threatens to run longer than the War of the Roses. I think this is not so much a matter of what you say to these friends, but getting new friends. Surely, about half your husband’s classmates were women, so if you start socializing with some female doctors you’re going to get a different perspective on being a working mother. I also hope that if you regularly see these women, you’ve listened politely and said what works for them is great, and you’re doing what works for you. If that’s not acceptable to them, if they won’t then let it go, you need to tell your husband that you have to drastically cut back on socializing with this particular group because it’s unpleasant to be lectured about your choices.
Q. For Asperger’s: Oh, please read The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. A lovely novella about a young man with Asperger’s learning to adapt to a romantic prospect. (In fact, everyone should read it, the original poster and everyone else!)
A: I don’t know the book, but thanks for the recommendation.
Q. Re: Forgive/Get Over It—Update: You’re right, I wasn’t there. The driver didn’t get a ticket because the police couldn’t prove how fast he was going or whether he did run the light. The witness I spoke with said that the driver sped up to beat the red light and my mother had already started crossing. The driver said he was “unable to stop in time.” It’s not part of police protocol in our city to ask if the driver was using his cellphone. My question was about how I can to work through this anger I feel toward the driver because he got to walk away and my mom has to learn to walk again. I actually work for an attorney who could advise me in this case, but my dad is against pursuing a lawsuit and my mom is on the fence. Because my mom is expected to make a full recovery, damages are limited and in my state, you can’t sue for just pain and suffering.
A: You could work to change the protocol in your city about cellphones. How can this be irrelevant information? Whether or not the young driver was on the phone, we know that tons of carnage is caused by inattentive drivers, and if you want to channel your distress into action, work on changing this. For your own peace of mind, if you can have a conversation with your employer about your legal options and what pursing them would entail, you can understand better what it would mean to make the case to your parents to pursue this. But listen to your father, who has decided to focus not on what happened, but on what to do now. And now you have to be grateful that as bad as this is, you didn’t lose your mother. She will eventually be OK. Maybe this terrible situation was because both pedestrian and driver made a mistake at a fateful moment. You can’t undo that. You can only help your mother—all of you—move forward.
Q. Try a Little Tenderness: My boyfriend and I have been together for two years. He is kind, generous, and supportive and overall we have a good relationship. However, deep down I have nagging thoughts that I could be loved more by someone else. He is not as affectionate as me, and is very independent. I am always the one who wants to be physically and/or emotionally closer. For example, in the middle of the night if I get close and put my arm around him, he immediately bristles and says he needs sleep and to give him space. I know I am not being overly clingy, but a little more voluntary affection and tenderness would be nice. He says he loves me and I am the one, but why do I always feel like he puts me at a distance? Is this just a compatibility issue?
A: It could be you couldn’t be loved more than he loves you, but that you could be with someone who’s much more comfortable showing affection. You’ve made a good case that there is a fundamental incompatibility in your romance. You need physical intimacy and reassurance, but he is not a touchy-feely guy. You might be able to move the needle a little bit with him, but he will never be the casual hugger you wish he was. On the other hand, there are plenty of physically affectionate guys who are missing in action when it comes to kindness, generosity, and support. I have not read it, but everyone else has, so you might want to look at The Five Love Languages, which explores different styles of expressing love and how couples can meet each other’s needs. It’s totally fair that you two try to figure out how you can get more of what you need, while accepting his natural limits. I can assure you, however, that the middle-of-the-night hug is not a good strategy. Lots of people who actually are physically affectionate want to feel they are hibernating alone while asleep. But maybe when you’re watching TV together, he’d been willing to give you a foot massage. It sounds as if you’ve got a good guy, so start talking about how to make what you have better.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. And stay warm this week—big chill coming.
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