Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. An engagement broken in haste: Until recently I was engaged to a wonderful (or so I thought) man. We’d been together for five years, and I thought he was one of the best people I knew.
Recently a neighbor confided to me that they’d seen my former fiancé teasing my blind dog and causing the dog to run into things. They’d observed this several times and, after a lot of deliberation, decided I needed to know. I set up a spy camera and indeed caught him teasing my dog. I confronted him, and he admitted to doing it for years, although he pointed out my dog still liked him and was never seriously hurt.
I broke off the engagement immediately. Many people have expressed the opinion that I’m making a mistake and that I should at least give myself time to cool down or try to work through this. I did make this decision quickly, but I believe it’s the right one. There’s an ugly side to my former fiancé, and I don’t want to be married to him. My instincts on this are right, right?
A: Hell yes, they’re right. If the strongest thing your ex could say in his own defense was “I never seriously hurt your dog,” then he doesn’t have much of a defense.
Your neighbor saw this and felt strongly enough that they were compelled to tell you, and you yourself found the behavior cruel and disturbing. He’s admitted that he’s done it for years, and yet he never did it in front of you, which suggests a certain (and disturbing) deliberation and awareness. Clearly on some level your ex knew what he was doing was not simple horseplay. He knew that if you saw him do it, you would object and possibly even leave him, so he made sure to hide it from you. That’s not a sign of good character or compassion. You’re well rid of him.
Q. When do we tell our kid about Santa?: My very bright 10-year-old daughter still believes in Santa, the Easter Bunny, etc. She’s an only child, and we love that the magic of childhood is lasting (assuming she’s not humoring us). Sometimes, however, I worry that we’re going to be having the first period discussion before this is cleared up. Is it OK to ride the Santa sleigh as long as it lasts?
A: If you’re not resorting to elaborate fictions to maintain the façade, then there’s nothing wrong with it, although part of me wonders if you’re both humoring each other at this point. It’s also fine if you want to offer the standard-issue “Santa represents the dreams and ideals of what Christmas represents” speech before you start the puberty talk.