Dear Prudence

Regrets of a Bridezilla

I was crazy and awful to everyone at my wedding, and now I’m plagued by guilt.

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Dear Prudence,
I was a bridezilla, and I’m sorry about it. I laughed at those women who wanted the “perfect fairy tale wedding” that was all about them. And then I got engaged and became one of them. I spent hours poring over bridal magazines, dragging friends to bridal shops, and telling them they were ignorant or worse when they disagreed with me over silly things like the exact shade of ivory I needed for napkins. I told one of my bridesmaids to cover her tattoos. I told another to lose weight. I drove my maid of honor to tears with my constant demands and emails. I made my fiancé drop his brother as best man when I heard him tell my fiancé to end our relationship because I was crazy.

I was crazy. I was wrong. But I don’t know what to do. When I look at the perfect pictures of our wedding, I just feel ashamed of myself. Only one of my bridesmaids will speak to me. My husband’s relationship with his brother is strained because of my behavior. And our marriage is not the greatest. I own it all. I did this terrible stuff. But how do I fix it?

—Bridezilla No More

You’ve recognized your wrongdoing, which is the first step; you have a desire to make things right with the people you’ve harmed, which is all to the good. The last thing you want to do is hide and avoid the truth. You should instead openly acknowledge your past behavior and how it’s hurt the people you love. Start with your husband. Tell him that, as you think back at how you were leading up to the wedding, you’re deeply ashamed and sorry and that you want to make things right. Be specific about what you did to him that you think hurt him and ask honestly if there’s anything you’ve left out. He’s already stood by you when you were at your worst, so I think this conversation is likely to help your marriage rather than weaken it.

Do the same thing with the others, naming and apologizing for your acts of unkindness, listening with an open and nondefensive mind to their perspectives, and acknowledging that you will not be able to make up for everything you did at once but would like to continue to try to make things right with your amended future behavior. It’s possible some of these people will not be interested in hearing your apology. This will be painful, of course, but you must accept it; everyone has the right not to accept an apology, and you cannot force anyone to forgive you. What you can make right, make right; what you cannot fix, let serve as a reminder to you in the future to treat others better, and with more respect, than you have previously.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
My husband and I are having a baby and recently found out it is a girl. This came as a shock to us, as we really thought we were having a boy. My husband is devastated. We already have a girl, and my husband decided that this is God punishing him. His father passed away, and he feels he will not “carry on the family name” (though he has several male cousins with his last name). He said he “failed his father.” My husband is now moping around the house, not interested in my pregnancy or in announcing the gender on Facebook, something he was extremely excited about before. I feel alone and upset. I have broached this with him, delicately, as I realize that gender disappointment is a real thing, but come on! I think he needs to get over it. He says I am being judgmental. I think we are supposed to be in this together, and now I can’t even mention the baby. What am I supposed to do?

—Gender Disappointment

There’s another word for “gender disappointment,” and that’s misogyny. I don’t want to encourage a pregnant woman to leave her partner lightly, but everything you’ve told me suggests that your husband doesn’t just wish he had a son—which would be a perfectly understandable desire—but that he actively resents you and your unborn child, and he would prefer she didn’t exist rather than exist as a girl. You should make it clear that he has a limited amount of time in which to shape up for the family he has, not the family he wants, or else he’ll have no family at all.

He calls you “judgmental” for being upset that he considers your unborn child a failure? How is he going to treat your daughter when she arrives, if he’s only willing to acknowledge her existence now as a punishment? This is it not normal “I wish I had a son” behavior. Your husband isn’t Henry VIII. This is no time for delicacy or compromise. The fact that your husband has not apologized for his hysterical, histrionic, deeply cruel behavior suggests to me that he thinks throwing a hissy fit is a reasonable response to hearing “It’s a girl!” Your daughters are better off with no father than a father who would treat them like this.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
I’m a 33-year-old woman, and my 41-year-old boyfriend has been in the process of moving out of his house and into mine for the past three weeks (he has a renter moving out of his house at the end of the month). Things have not been going well lately, and I’m at a loss as to what to do. Since he moved in, it has become apparent that he drinks daily and is not interested in stopping. I feel he has become more hostile toward me for no apparent reason. I’m wondering if this is just a rough patch, or if I should have him move back into his house before it’s too late and his house is rented out.

—Moving Out

This is not a rough patch. This is who your boyfriend is. If this is how he acts while he’s moving in, allow yourself to imagine how he’ll behave once he really feels at home.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
One of my closest friends has never liked any boyfriend I’ve had. Recently she emailed me a link to a pornographic video of my boyfriend and another girl with the caption “Thought you should know” and a smiley face. I told her I already knew about it, that it was from before we met, and that I was tired of her hating my boyfriends. Only the last part is true. I didn’t know about the video, and when my boyfriend and I talked (yelled, really) about it, I found out it was filmed after we met but before we became exclusive. We broke up. I haven’t heard from my friend since that email. I miss her, but I hate her jealousy. She’s done stuff like this with every boyfriend I’ve had, trying to break us up. But I hate not having her in my life. If she tries to make amends, should I let her back into my life? Usually when this kind of thing happens, she waits a week or two and then emails or texts and we’re friends again. But I don’t know if she’ll ever change. Is it worth trying again, since she was right, and he wasn’t really a great guy?

—Two Breakups

What on earth makes you think your friend has any interest in changing her ways? Your friend was right this time, sure, in the same way that a machine gun will eventually hit the center of a target. She doesn’t get points for that, and she certainly doesn’t get points for telling you about your boyfriend in such a snide and gleeful fashion. Had she really cared about your well-being, she would have taken you aside in person to tell you the hurtful news and tried to break your fall. If you miss her that much, by all means forgive her, but bear in mind that your friend has a by-now well-established pattern that she shows no sign of stopping, and you’re likely signing up for more of the same.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
Recently my daughter canceled her birthday dinner without explanation. We found out later it was because she institutionalized for depression and suicidal ideation, which she has openly battled for the past year. I finally talked to my daughter, and she said she was raped and asked that I not ask any questions about what happened. We discussed therapy and treatment options for her trauma and existing depression. When I told my partner, her first question was, “Did you ask her why she told everyone else and not you?” This started a huge fight that I’m not sure will end well, but I know I’m not in the right frame of mind to think rationally. Am I wrong in thinking my partner was insensitive, or is my partner right in that she’s looking out for me: “Why were you the last to know … but the first to be asked to make it better?”

—Am I Angry With the Wrong Person?

It’s unclear whether your partner was implying your daughter told you last because you’ve previously demonstrated an inability to be helpful during hard times or because your partner wants you to take umbrage, as if you should be jostling for first place when it comes to receiving bad news. If it’s the former, you should ask your partner (not your daughter) for an honest assessment of your previous reactions to bad news from those close to you and your ability to be supportive. Have you panicked? Had meltdowns? Demanded others take care of you? Withheld affection and support from those who needed it most? If that’s the case, then consider pursuing therapy on your own so you can improve your response in times of crisis.

If it’s the latter, then no, you should not be angry with your daughter for taking a little time to tell you about her hospitalization. Her primary task at the time was survival. She was not withholding information intentionally in order to punish you or push you away; she was in the hospital with a life-threatening condition. It is entirely reasonable that your daughter would not yet feel prepared to discuss the details of her rape, and it sounds like the conversation the two of you had was supportive and helpful. Don’t let your partner introduce suspicion and status anxiety into a situation that calls for understanding and patience.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
I keep up with a fairly large group of people from college. I recently discovered the secret online activity of a member of the group. He has become increasingly unlikable over the years but lives close to another of our college friends, a woman who is married and has a very successful, demanding career. I discovered that he has posted many disturbing comments online about lusting after her, claiming that he’s slept with her, and attempting to go through her husband’s phone to look for private pictures she may have sent him. None of his comments directly suggested that he would try anything violent, but he’s clearly unstable and delusional.

I feel an obligation to tell her. But I’m also worried about how she will handle this. If she sees some of the things he’s said, she’s quite likely to have a full-blown panic attack. She has a history of debilitating anxiety and has had to take time off work to deal with it in the past. I don’t feel it’s my place to dictate what she can and can’t handle. I want to do right by my friend, but I don’t want to cause her undue stress and anxiety. (She’s very good friends with this creep’s wife.)

—Right to Know

You’re right that you have to tell her. You want to break the news as gently as possible, aware as you are of her general relationship with anxiety, but I think this would be disturbing for even the most emotionally even-keeled type of person. I disagree, by the way, that your erstwhile friend-turned-stalker would not try anything violent. I think if he’s willing to lie about having slept with her and publish the fact that he’s tried to look through her husband’s phone to obtain nude photos without her consent, he’s willing to do a great many things outside the bounds of decency and common sense. Tell her immediately so that she can make arrangements to protect herself as quickly as possible.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
I have lived in the U.S. since I was 10. I am a citizen and consider myself as red-blooded an American patriot as the next girl. I also give blood regularly. Every few months, there is a blood drive at my office building. The appointment system online includes a precheck to see if you’re eligible to donate, and one of the questions is: “Have you lived in Europe for more than five years?” My answer is “Yes,” so I am disqualified. I looked this up, and it has to do with the prevalence of mad cow disease there. Since I’ve lived in America for two-thirds of my life, my question is: Should I lie on the precheck and donate blood anyway?

—Non-American Blood

No, I do not encourage you to lie to medical professionals in order to donate blood. The question is not “Do you consider yourself an American based on your personal experience?”; the question is “Have you lived in Europe for more than five years?” While some of the criteria for blood donation have been specious (the recently lifted ban on men who have had sex with men from donating comes to mind), the answer is not to lie about one’s medical history but to agitate for change based on sound scientific evidence. If you continue to find yourself with a surfeit of civic responsibility, consider volunteering at a local hospital that does not have such a restriction.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
I’ve always had a small tradition with my children that we give a small gift to their teachers at the end of the year—nothing fancy, and we always give it at the end of the year so it won’t be looked on as a bribe (school policy). My daughter, who really loved her teacher this year, finally settled on a small statue. Today she got off the bus in tears. The teacher had given the gift back to her and told her it was unacceptable. I thought there had to be a misunderstanding, and I emailed the teacher. I got an email back from the teacher saying that she had “far too much junk already and didn’t need more.” She added that if we wanted to send her a gift card she’d accept that. (Gift certificates and cash are forbidden according to the school’s policy.) I’m beyond horrified. Do you think this is something I should escalate to the principal? Or should I let it go?

—Rude Teacher

What your daughter’s teacher did was rude, but I’m not sure I’d put it in the “beyond horrifying” category. The fact that she asked you for a gift card (in writing!) is more worrisome. You’d be well within your rights to speak to the principal and ask he or she review with the teacher your school’s policy on gift-giving, but I don’t think you should force an apology out of her for declining the statue. She was rude but not cruel, and if your daughter otherwise enjoyed her class, this could be a valuable lesson in dealing with occasional unkindness from an otherwise pleasant person.

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