Dear Prudence

Let It Pee?

My brother-in-law urinates all over my bathroom floor.

Mallory Ortberg
Mallory Ortberg.

Photo by Sam Breach

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I’d like to start with some responses I’ve gotten after counseling a concerned dog-lover who’d repeatedly found the neighbor’s unfixed, flea-ridden dog wandering the streets and wanted to know if it was kosher to give it away to a good home. A lot of you have pointed out that there are a few steps the letter writer should take to protect himself or herself legally, which is all to the good. I don’t want any of you going to court for dognapping, no matter how noble your intentions. A sampling:

  • I must tell you that in the state I am in, pets are considered property. I am an administrator for a local pet advocacy group. There can be serious repercussions to just taking someone’s dog, even if it’s being mistreated. But our county animal control does animal welfare checks, and if they find an unlicensed, intact, wandering dog, they will intervene.

  • While his or her (and your) intentions are laudable, your advice to the letter writer could land him in court if he actually steals this poor animal in order to place it in a better environment. What he needs to do is contact the ASPCA in his community. It has the legal authority to deal with this unfortunate situation. The dog is saved, and the letter writer’s hands are clean.

  • I would advise him or her to take the dog to animal control and let him do his three days there, and adopt him out—that would make it all legal. As the other owner hasn’t gone looking for him, he isn’t likely to pay the pull fee. While as an owner of two rescues, I applaud his or her desire to provide the dog with a good home, your advice does leave him or her vulnerable to a charge of theft or at least harassment by the old owner.

The Dear Prudence column: No longer advocating stealing dogs in 2016.

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Dear Prudence,
My brother-in-law is a great guy, and I’m happy to have him visit. Unfortunately, he always leaves puddles of pee on the floor when he uses the bathroom. This has happened many times, and I make my husband bleach the floor when he leaves. I can’t stand seeing puddles of pee on the floor in our shared bathroom for days on end! Should my husband say something to him before he visits? How does he even start that conversation?

–Pissed Off

Yes, your husband should talk to him. When someone pisses on your floor, it is perfectly appropriate to say, “Don’t piss on my floor” and ask him to clean it up. The time for coyness ends when you slip on a puddle of someone else’s urine in your own home. You’re not doing him—or the other bathrooms in the world—any favors by letting this slide.

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Dear Prudence,
I’ve been dating a wonderful man, “Paul,” for more than a year. His parents are gone, but he has included me and my young daughter in all his family get-togethers, and his relatives have embraced us warmly. I recently introduced Paul to my sweet, kind father, and they have a great rapport already. But it’s time he met my whole family. Unlike me and my father, my mother and sister are adversarial, negative harpies. They frequently throw loud tantrums at holidays and social occasions. I only see them when I absolutely have to. I have avoided situations where Paul might meet them, but now introducing him to them is overdue. I love this man deeply and want to marry him, but I don’t want my relatives to scare him off. I am terrified that they’ll make a scene and that he might, understandably, run away.
–Held Hostage by Harpies

This is probably the closest we’re going to get to a real-life Pride and Prejudice scenario here at the Dear Prudence offices. You’re embarrassed by your mother and sister’s constant bad behavior, and as a result you limit your time with them. Surely Paul won’t judge you for being related to some deeply unpleasant people. Tell him what you’ve told me: that you’re not close with either of them and don’t expect him to be either, that they will likely try to cause a scene while meeting him, and that you will cut the interaction short if they do.

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Dear Prudence,
I have a terrific husband, and our marriage is a happy and fulfilling one. But there’s one thing that over the years has continued to drive me nuts. When I’ve finished dinner and I call my husband to the table, he stalls. Sometimes it takes him 15 minutes to finally come to the table. I put a lot of effort into making tasty meals, and it irritates me that he tells me he’s hungry before I cook, but when it’s ready, he takes his good old time getting to the table. I’ve expressed my frustration several times in past, but ultimately he doesn’t adjust his behavior. I know this is a fairly minor annoyance and he’s the one who suffers the cold dinner, but I also think it’s an easy thing to change. Should I just accept that he’s always going to be slow to the table? (For the record, he does like my cooking, so he’s not dragging feet out of dread.)
–Annoyed Chef

It is possible that your husband is more than unusually absent-minded and truly doesn’t realize how much this bothers you. If that’s the case, telling him how his behavior makes you feel—not just frustrated, but as if he doesn’t care about the time you spend cooking for him—might be helpful. “I put so much effort into making dinner for us, and I value the time we spend together sharing a meal, and it makes me feel devalued and disrespected when you drag your feet every night to have dinner with me” might help jolt him into awareness.

You could also simply stop making him dinner. Putting “a lot of effort” into a daily ritual that brings you unending frustration has got to be awfully tiring. Why can’t he cook for himself? Why, for that matter, can’t he cook for the two of you? I have no doubt that you would show him the courtesy of being on time to the table.

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Dear Prudence,
I was badly injured in a car accident 18 months ago, and I am still in pain, unemployed, in foreclosure, and in danger of having my car repossessed, all while attempting to take care of my dying father. I now live in a trailer with no heat and am having trouble getting on food stamps. My friend, “Shelly,” is a stay-at-home wife whose husband earns a six-figure income. She is a really nice person, but she calls me every day to complain about being “broke” because she has to wait until her husband’s next paycheck to go shopping. She knows my financial situation, but she still shows off the expensive presents he buys her every time I visit. She gives me coupons to stores I can’t even afford to shop in. Talking to her drops me into a deep depression. She’s the only person who actually calls to check on me, but at the same time, she’s so insensitive about my situation that my heart rate shoots up when I see her number on my phone. What would you suggest that I do or say to stop this vicious cycle of being treated like a charity case?
–No More Coupons

Shelly is not a nice person, and Shelly is not your friend. Shelly knows exactly what she is doing when she hands you Bloomingdale’s coupons or shows you her latest expensive plaything. I’m so sorry that in the middle of all this trauma the only person who regularly calls you is getting a sick thrill out of reminding you just how well-off she is in comparison. She is not your friend. She is the kind of person who will slowly squeeze you until you can’t breathe and call it a friendly hug. Make Shelly one less burden you have to bear and block her number.

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Dear Prudence,
I have an elderly mother who is very sick and spends weeks at a time in the hospital. I have one sister who is too far away to help and one who is unwilling to help, so I have become my mother’s sole caregiver. I’ve recently been offered the chance to move abroad to a city I love for work. I feel awful for even thinking about leaving my mom, especially in the middle of the chemotherapy. On the other hand, it seems unwise to pass up a life-changing opportunity. I’m afraid if I stay here, I’ll be at the mercy of my city’s struggling economy and my unimpressive liberal arts degree. My mom tells me to move but also says that she doesn’t know what she’ll do without me. I know I should probably leave, but how can I do so without guilt? Am I going to regret not helping my mom in her twilight years?
–Should I Stay or Should I Go

What a painful choice. I don’t know if you will be able to make a decision without guilt, as a certain degree of regret is built in to both of your options. It’s possible that if you stay, your career may suffer; it’s equally possible that if you go, you may regret not being with your mother longer. To start with, I think you have to enlist your sisters, even the unwilling one, into a conversation about Mom’s failing health. The job of caring for her should not fall solely on you.

In the meantime, there are, I think, options in between leaving the country and resigning yourself to career stagnation for the rest of your mother’s life. Is it possible to parlay this offer into a promotion at your current job? Can you explain your extenuating circumstances to your would-be employer and ask for additional time to make arrangements for your mother’s care?

There are numerous elements at play here that I can’t speak to, but I think the most important thing to ask yourself is: What choices can you bear to live with? I don’t know how close your mother is to the end of her life, but she will only die once. There may be other dream jobs in the future, or there may not, but once your mother is gone, she’s gone for good.

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Dear Prudence,
I work for a small nonprofit. Our office doesn’t have a kitchen, so we have an informal series of coffee runs throughout the day. Anyone stepping out will often ask around if anybody else would like a coffee. My boss often says yes but never offers to give money for his cup of coffee. Over time, those few bucks here and there add up. How can I ask for him to pony up for his next cup? Is an offer to pick up a coffee also an offer to pay for it? Or should I just stop offering to pick up a coffee for everyone altogether and risk looking selfish?

“If anyone wants coffee, I’m happy to pick it up while I’m out. Just give me your order and a few bucks.” If your boss has simply been absent-minded until now, he’ll open his wallet. If he’s been intentionally squeezing his employees for free coffee, he’ll make excuses about not having cash on him at the moment, coupled with a vague promise to pay you back in the future (he will not pay you back). If it’s the former, your problem is solved. If it’s the latter, you can stop offering to pick up coffee for the rest of the office with a clear conscience.

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Dear Prudence,
My wife and I recently invited our extended family for an open house cocktail hour. We received a call from my uncle informing us that they would be bringing their pets (four dogs, including a puppy), but not to worry because they are all “house-broken.” Our family has no pets, and my 4-year-old son is nervous around dogs. I reminded my cousin that the invitation did not include animals, but if they had to bring their dogs along, we were happy to have the dogs stay in our fenced backyard. This did not go over well, and my uncle told me not to expect any guests that day from the family. Was I wrong? I feel terrible and actually love dogs (just not inside my house when I am hosting dozens of people).
–Really Dog-Friendly

I have an old dog named Murphy I would gladly bring with me everywhere if I could, but I understand the entire world does not have the same enthusiasm for elderly spaniels at all times. Dogs are great, but they don’t have to be everywhere. You offered your uncle a reasonable compromise (assuming your backyard isn’t a desolate, windswept moor), and he declined to take it. Your hands are clean.

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