Dear Prudence

Just Say Augh!

I’m pregnant, and my doctor father-in-law is being inappropriate and icky.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
I am a woman expecting my first child with my husband of three years. My husband’s father is a family doctor but used to deliver babies many years ago. I have always found the openness between my husband and his father concerning any and all medical issues strange, but just chalked it up to not ever having a doctor in the family. However, we just told him that we are expecting, and he went straight into doctor-mode with me, making me very uncomfortable. He asked many questions about my uterus, told me many gruesome details about pregnancy and childbirth, and even went in to feel my stomach to see if my uterus was expanding! While nothing he does is outside the scope of what would go on in a doctor’s office, I still get such a creepy vibe from it. I freaked out a little and shut the conversation down when I can. My husband thinks I am incredibly rude and that he is just a doctor relating to me the only way he knows. To me he is simply “father-in-law.” I know he has good intentions, but I’m still uncomfortable and hate that my husband doesn’t see things from my point of view. How do I manage the rest of this pregnancy in a way that we can all keep the peace?

—No Touchy

Dear Touchy,
There’s a reason doctors are not supposed to treat family members. In your case the reason can be summed up as, “Blech!” I’ll give you a circumstance under which your father-in-law can be excused for mucking around in your uterus. Let’s say you’re in a family caravan on the way to grandmother’s house for Easter dinner, you start crowning in the back seat, and father-in-law steps in and delivers his grandchild. Otherwise, he needs to butt out and keep his hands off. He’s your father-in-law first and a doctor second. Of course he shouldn’t “examine” you while socializing. But since you say you find the relationship between your husband and his father regarding medical issues to be bizarre, this does sound like the norm for how the family takes advantage of free medical services. What you want to get across to your husband is that you have a totally different comfort level that must be respected, not that dad is a creep and everyone in the family is sick. Tell him you’ve never had a doctor in the family, and you are made profoundly uncomfortable at the thought of your relationship with your father-in-law turning into a medical one. Tell your husband you would appreciate if he would tell his father that you are squeamish about graphic medical talk and also don’t want your father-in-law monitoring your pregnancy progress. Let’s hope your husband quickly comes around to your view. But whether or not he has that conversation with his father, when dad crosses the line, stop the conversation, step away, and assure him you are already getting excellent medical care.


Dear Prudie, 
I have a brother two years my senior, and we’re in our late 20s. We don’t really have a relationship. I have recently learned a lot about Asperger’s syndrome, and after hours of research, I’m positive my brother is on the spectrum. He doesn’t really listen to what other people say and interrupts conversations; he lives in a world of habits and changing his routine makes him sick; he can’t understand other people’s feelings while having extreme feelings of his own; he has difficulty making friends; he has odd, repetitive behaviors, the list goes on.
He’s never been diagnosed, and my parents never investigated his awkward behavior, and he was bullied when he was young. He is a very smart person, now with a master’s degree in engineering, and I am happy to know that he has a good job, a few close friends, and an active social life. I never understood his behavior was a syndrome, and not just him being rude, mean, or unpleasant. Now thinking about my brother makes me feel terribly sad, and also very guilty. I want to get along better with him. The question is, Do I tell him I think he has Asperger’s? He’s very sensitive and can get terribly upset when conversations turn too personal. What’s the best thing to do to become a better sister to my undiagnosed Aspie brother!

—Bad Sister 

Dear Sister,
Your brother is an engineer, so even though he has a hard time dealing with people, maybe if he thinks of himself as an engineering issue, he can understand himself—and even others—better. I suggest you start by giving him a copy of the superb Michael Lewis book (soon to be a motion picture), The Big Short. True, this book is about the economic meltdown, not Asperger’s, but one of the heroes of the book, Michael Burry, who saw the collapse coming, said of himself, “Only someone who has Asperger’s would read a subprime-mortgage-bond prospectus.” He realized he must be on the spectrum when his young son was diagnosed with Asperger’s. I think this could be a way to open this conversation with your brother, and bring him a similar insight about himself. I have heard from other adults who got this diagnosis later in life (sometimes a self-diagnosis), and they say it suddenly made everything that came before make sense. If your brother indeed has Asperger’s, it’s certainly not too late for him to get help, not to obliterate his differences, but to understand better what makes him tick and others tock.


Dear Prudie,
I grew up in a wealthy family and my father has always been obsessed with money. It is everything to him; it’s how he defines himself and his relationships. Unfortunately, our family lost everything due to the financial crisis and my parents’ divorce. My father spiraled into depression and addiction and lost his companies. Now he’s been sober for a year and is trying to regain his fortune and reputation. This wouldn’t really affect or bother me except I just got engaged and now the wedding has become a part of my father’s quest to reclaim the life he once led. All his peers’ daughters’ weddings have been in the $100,000 range, and he thinks that’s what I need too—I don’t. He constantly talks about how little he has and how much he will have. But now that I am planning the wedding, I do need some financial help and it would be nice to have an idea of how much he can offer. I’ve broached this lightly but he just keeps saying, “Don’t worry, I’ll be rich next year!” which isn’t helpful. How do I get an honest and practical answer out of him without offending him?

—Bills Coming Due

Dear Due,
I can give you the answer: Your father can’t offer you anything financially. He is not going to be rich next year; he likely will never be rich again. A middle-aged man who lost everything, including his reputation, is going to have a hard slog starting over. It’s not that it can’t be done, but your father’s unrealistic claims make me worried that he’s not fully recovered from the tumult of the recent past. If your father does manage to scrape any money together, he should not put it toward your wedding. If you and your fiancé can’t afford outright to put on the bash you would like, then you should scale things back until you can pay for your event without grimacing. If that means a tiny guest list, or a cocktail reception instead of dinner, so be it. You and your father are both starting new phases of life. Yours is filled with promise, his less so. You need to consider you will likely have a father who continues to be in dire financial straits. You don’t want to look back one day and think, “I wish he had put the money he spent on my wedding into a savings account.”


Dear Prudence,
I live in a rural area, and a woman I know from our children’s school, though not well, has a degree in massage therapy. I’m 50, and my body is getting to the point where a massage would be nice and I think this woman would do a fine job, but both my wife and I think it might be strange getting one from someone we know. I have no interest in the massage therapist outside of her job and working alongside her at school events. Am I being too sensitive?

—Rub Down

Dear Rub,
Here’s a case—unlike the first letter—where you want someone you know socially to put her hands all over you. There is nothing untoward about your getting a massage from a therapist you know personally. She’s a professional, so you will be draped, and she will see no more of you than she would if you ran into each other at the pool. You are being too sensitive if you think it would be embarrassing for either of you—surely a massage therapist in a rural area depends on having clients she runs into at work, at her kids’ school, at the grocery store, etc. The only thing you should feel sensitive about is if she applies too much pressure on your aching body parts.


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