Around the time of my wedding last year, my brother’s fiancée blocked me on Facebook. I had no idea why until last weekend, when she told me that she blocked me because she was not in my wedding and she didn’t want to see pictures of my brother, who was, processing down the aisle next to another woman. She is offended that I paired him with a woman she didn’t know (who happens to be my best friend) while they were engaged. My brother doesn’t seem to think her outrage is odd, and they are apparently expecting an apology. (They are now married.) I think it is bizarre that they think this is legitimate. How do I handle this?
—Processing the Procession
It will not surprise you to learn that I am in your camp and think your sister-in-law’s ire is misplaced. (I also don’t think blocking someone on Facebook and not saying a word about why you’re upset is a good strategy.) But if your relationship with her is otherwise friendly, I think this isn’t worth fighting over, and you have the option of a half-apology that acknowledges her hurt feelings without confessing to having done something objectively wrong: “I’m sorry that was hard for you. It wasn’t my intention to make you feel slighted, and if I had known you felt so strongly about it, I would have made other arrangements for the procession. I hope we can move past this.” If she’s still inclined to drag an admission of wrongdoing out of you, I don’t think you have to be any more conciliatory than that, but I hope this will put the matter to bed. It’s been a year, and your brother doesn’t seem to have fallen deeply in love with your best friend as a result of walking down the aisle with her—here’s hoping your sister-in-law can let this go.
I have a question about RSVPs. This comes up more and more often: We invite friends to something that can only accommodate a finite number (a ticketed event, a weekend at our beach house, a dinner party at a restaurant), invitees say they want to go and will check to see if they can … and then they don’t make up their minds. The date gets closer and we don’t know if they are coming or not, and it’s getting to be too late to invite others. Is it ever OK to rescind an invitation and invite someone else? How do we politely say, “I need to know now, not a day before the event?” This happens especially often with our beach house: People say they are coming, then change their plans at the last minute or come for only one night of a holiday weekend, for example, when we could have invited others who would be thrilled to come.
—No, Seriously, RSVP
It’s fine to give a deadline, but there’s no need to frame it as if you are rescinding an invitation for bad behavior. Just say something like “The event is the 18th; let us know whether or not you can make it by the 7th or we’ll assume you can’t come.” The problem of wishy-washy invitees is an eternal one, and requiring people to take active steps to ensure their seat at the table/spot at the beach house will go a long way toward reducing passive absenteeism. That doesn’t mean you should start planning events with a two-tiered approach to invitations—if anyone found out they were part of a second wave of invites because the first string fell through, you’d have a much thornier etiquette problem on your hands—but it will at least reduce that last-minute scramble to figure out just how many place settings to lay out. That might not apply to the beach house—most people are pretty understanding when it comes to a free weekend by the water, and you could certainly say to a good friend, “Our guests had to back out at the last minute. Any interest in spending the next few days at our beach house?”
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Two decades ago I dated A. for more than five years. We remained close friends for several years afterward. This changed when he began dating his present wife, B., whom I have never met. B. refused to plan double dates or group activities, and she always found a reason to miss my parties. After their wedding, A. pretty much stopped seeing me.
I recently learned that one of A.’s daughters died last year. She was 3 years old. My first instinct is to write and offer my condolences, but I am fearful that this is the wrong thing to do. For whatever reason, B. obviously prefers that A. stay away from me. My husband thinks I should reach out to A., but I keep procrastinating. I don’t want to do anything to upset A. and B.; at the same time, I worry that A. would be hurt if he ever discovered that I knew about this tragedy and didn’t even bother to send a card. It seems monstrous to ignore the child’s passing, but this is a case where I’ve been cut off, and contacting A. would only bring pain and frustration, correct?
—Don’t Want to Intrude
I think the kindest thing to do here is to send your condolences. The nature of your estrangement (mostly passive and without an actual falling out) is not one where expressing your sorrow over his child’s death would bring more pain than comfort. You’re not trying to set up a phone call or a catch-up session, so there’s a limit to how much B. could possibly object to the contact (and I don’t think she would necessarily object to your condolences in the way she might have, in the past, objected to her husband’s friendship with an ex). Even if you don’t hear from him again, I think you’ll feel as if you’ve done the right thing by reaching out and letting him know that you grieve with him and his family.
This summer, I will be doing an eight-week internship in a large city that’s a popular vacation destination (international airport, great hiking, excellent food scene). I purposefully rented an Airbnb with an extra bedroom so that if any friends came to visit, they’d have a comfortable place to stay. Now, despite dropping hints to five or six close friends, no one is taking me up on the offer! I’ve offered to split airfare (to which everyone has responded, “Don’t even think of paying for it!”) and even suggested weekends and still, nothing. I’m pretty bummed. I was excited to show off my new city and looking forward to a taste of home amid so many new people. Am I overreacting? Was this an unreasonable request?
“Feeling bummed” is not an overreaction to disappointment, nor is it unreasonable to suggest to friends that you’d love to host them if they wanted to visit. That doesn’t mean that your friends have done anything wrong, or that they don’t care about you—not everyone can afford a trip even with partially subsidized airfare, and plenty of them may have already made summer plans of their own. Go ahead and feel bummed, and also start planning weekend excursions on your own so that you can get the most out of your summer sojourn.
Dear Prudence Uncensored
“DO NOT APOLOGIZE TO YOUR SISTER IN LAW!”
Daniel Mallory Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe discuss a letter in this week’s Dear Prudence Uncensored—only for Slate Plus members.
I am a 47-year-old man. I have a 12-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. When I was dating my now-wife, I was clear that I do not want any other children, and she reassured me she wasn’t interested in children of her own. Now she is 38 and tells me she has to have a baby or she will “die.”
We have been married six years and seen two different counselors, and it always boils down to my wife repeating, “I want a baby, I need a baby, why won’t you give me a baby?” We are sleeping in separate rooms and the tension in my marriage is affecting my kids. My daughter recently asked not to be left alone with my wife anymore, saying, “I am not her real daughter, so why bother playing pretend?” They used to be very close.
My wife blames me for this rift and says I am poisoning the kids against her. I tell her they have ears and she has not been circumspect about deciding they were not enough for her anymore. I love my wife, but I am not changing diapers again at my age. I am not the one upending our marriage! I want to save my marriage, but I don’t know how.
You can’t save this marriage. It’s sad, of course, when two people who love each other have to separate, but your wife’s response to not getting what she wants has been to punish your children as if they were proxies for you, and that’s profoundly damaging to them. What you can and should do is prioritize your children’s well-being and sense of security. Your daughter has already asked not to be left alone with your wife because your wife is incapable of interacting with a 14-year-old girl she’s cared about for years without making her feel responsible for the fact that your wife doesn’t have a baby. Your primary obligation at this point, after throwing a considerable amount of time and effort into trying to repair your relationship with your wife, is to your children. They should not have to bear the brunt of your wife’s frustration and bitterness. If she’s this determined to have a child, and you’re this determined not to, then there’s nothing to do but divorce. The fact that she’s emotionally punishing your daughter does not speak well of her character, and you need to defend your daughter, who’s too young to be able to effectively defend herself. It’s time to accept that there is no marriage-saving compromise available to you that will satisfy both you and your wife as well as make your children feel safe and comfortable in their own home. Your daughter has already lost her stepmother—let her know that her father is still looking out for her, and don’t force her to continue living with a woman who makes it clear every day that she’s “not her real daughter” anymore just because she doesn’t have a baby, too.
I have been working at my current job as a part-time legal assistant for four months with the expectation that I would be hired on as a full-time associate attorney and given a promotion after I graduated law school. (In my state, you do not need to take the bar.) I recently graduated and spoke to my boss, who indicated that I was “not ready yet” and offered to let me stay on as an assistant full time for the summer with the promise to “re-evaluate” the situation in the fall. The job I am doing is essentially the work of an attorney: I do everything my counterpart (who got the associate position) does except make court appearances, and I do it for much less money. I feel betrayed and hurt—this has been a blow to my confidence and my bank account. Everyone has encouraged me to pursue other options, but they are limited at this point, and the firm would be taking a huge hit if I left because a full-time associate is leaving soon, too. I would feel guilty for leaving my counterpart with the extra workload, but I am also concerned I wouldn’t find another job anyway. I’m afraid that continuing to work as a legal assistant when I can legally practice law as an attorney will look bad on my résumé to future employers.
—Qualified and Underpaid
What happens to the firm if you take another job is not your problem; your career is your problem. Your boss’s deferral was vague, and you should push for more clarity. Revisit that conversation and say, “I want to make sure that when we re-evaluate my position in the fall I’ve done all I can to make sure I’m ready for the promotion. Can you tell me specifically what areas I need to work on?” If the offer was genuine, you should be able to develop a timeline together and have a clear sense of what you can do in the meantime to qualify for the promotion. If it was merely a misdirect, you’ll know that you don’t have a long-term future at this company. Either way, in the meantime, you should absolutely be searching for positions elsewhere. If your options are limited, that’s all the more reason to start early.
“I’m a senior at a local university, commuting from home, and my younger sister is leaving soon for a distant school. It’s just me, my sister, and our mother in the house, and I’m worried that I’ll be smothered now that Baby Sis is going away. Mom’s a single parent and does everything she can to keep us close so that she’s not lonely (this includes asking us to sleep in her bed for weeks at a time, and it’s been this way for years). How can I get out of the house and be a little more independent while making sure Mom’s not too lonely?”
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