Dear Prudence

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I’m terrified my partner’s transphobic parents will out him at our wedding.

A married couple going through issues.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by fizkes/iStock; George Doyle/Stockbyte.

Dear Prudence,
I have recently gotten engaged, and my partner and I are absolutely over the moon about it. However, our parents can never be allowed to meet. My partner is transgender, his very Baptist parents haven’t been supportive, and we’re worried they’re going to out him to my parents—either “accidentally,” because they won’t use his correct name and pronouns, or on purpose, because they think my parents have a “right” to know. We’ve tried talking to them about it, but they’re ultimately very unreasonable about this issue. My parents aren’t overtly transphobic, but they’re very difficult people in their own right, and more importantly, my in-laws don’t have the right to out my partner against his will. What advice do you have for navigating this wedding-planning minefield?
—In-Laws Want to Out My Boyfriend to My Parents

If you’ve decided that your parents can never meet, then you’re going to have to decide which set of parents you’re going to invite to the wedding. If you and your partner have talked to his parents and they can’t commit to using the correct name and pronouns when referring to him and refraining from outing him to your relatives, then you two should discuss whether they should attend the wedding in the first place. I think it’s also wise to prepare for the worst and figure out how you would want to talk to your parents if his ever decided to out him.

Dear Prudence,
I got divorced amicably 15 years ago. My ex and I continue to see each other socially, even though we don’t want kids. Several months ago, a colleague of my ex’s accused him of sexual harassment. She said he repeatedly asked her about her dating life and made comments about her clothing. Although I would normally err on the side of believing her, I also have reason to believe she wants to get him fired as a result of a past dispute. I have now been contacted by both my ex and the woman in question. He has asked me to defend him during an HR quasi-judicial mediation; she has asked me to cut off contact with him. I refused my ex’s request for help, but I am torn about his colleague’s. As a feminist, I understand why my continuing to invite him to parties or to social events constitutes an implicit defense of him, but as his friend and ex-wife, it pains me to think about cutting him out of my life without knowing all the facts. Help?
—The Good Ex-Wife

You say that you have “reason to believe” she dislikes him due to a past dispute but don’t go into detail about the nature of the conflict. Do you believe it’s possible for them both to have disagreed over something professional and for your ex to be capable of sexually harassing someone at work? Do you believe this woman has manufactured instances of sexual harassment rather than dealing with the dispute itself, and if so, are you inclined to disbelieve other claims of sexual harassment if the parties in question have come into conflict before? Is the only reason you know about this “past dispute” between them because your ex-husband told you about it? Did he only tell you about it after she filed a harassment claim against him? Since she’s gotten in touch with you, have you asked her anything about the nature of the harassment she claims to have experienced? Are you applying to his story the same healthy skepticism you are applying to hers, given that you’ve known him for a long time and have a much stronger inclination toward wanting to believe him? Do you believe it’s possible for someone to behave kindly toward an ex-wife and inappropriately toward someone else?

I’m also concerned about your ex’s request that you defend him during an HR meditation. Why would he consider the testimony of his ex-wife relevant to the question of whether he harassed a fellow employee? As someone who was married to him more than a decade ago, your experience is highly irrelevant to his present professional conduct—you couldn’t possibly defend the bearing of his behavior toward her, because you’ve never worked with him.

You do not have to cut him out of your life, and you certainly don’t have to do so on the strength of unconvincing (to you) evidence, but I think you should pay attention to your own discomfort, ask more questions, and consider your future decisions thoughtfully and with care.

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Dear Prudence,
I’ve worked as a part-time employee for more than 15 years at the same place. I’ve been passed over for full-time positions four times, and the last time, all of my colleagues told me they felt guilty and terrible that I was not selected. Some co-workers said I was screwed over. Over the years, I’ve noticed my supervisor express a number of racial microaggressions, and he has never hired a nonwhite person in his 18 years as a manager. I am not white. If I went to his bosses, it would be obvious it was me, and I fear retaliation. But my employment options are severely limited in my field and city, and I’m not in a position to move. I’m at a loss.
—Should I Quit?

The pattern you’ve described—being passed over for four promotions, hearing little (though plausibly deniable) racist digs from your supervisor, an 18-year history of making exclusively white hires—is absolutely cause for concern. I understand your trepidation at escalating this issue because of the potentially negative effect it could have on your own career, so I think that whatever you decide to do next, it’s wise to proceed with caution and act in your own self-interest (since no one at work who’s in a position to do so seems willing to look out for you). I’m not entirely sure whether you should speak to your supervisor’s bosses—that conversation could go a number of ways, and it really depends on what management is like. If you have any sort of rapport with any of them and get a chance to express your concerns about advancement in your department, then that might be a risk worth taking. Given that employment options are limited in your field, I’d encourage you to simultaneously at least put out feelers for other positions you might be able to take, should you end up experiencing any retaliation from your boss. In the meantime, I think it’s important to document every racist sentiment your boss expresses in the workplace, then look up your local employment-law clinics or legal-aid organizations to talk through your options before deciding to escalate.

Dear Prudence,
I am a 24-year-old college student just a few months away from completing my bachelor’s. A year ago, I started dating one of my current partners. We both fell hard for each other, fast, and are deeply in love. They’re kind, considerate, an excellent communicator, and can make me laugh like no one else—but recently moved five hours (by train) away from me. We’d previously talked about moving in together, but now that would mean leaving the city I’ve lived in for the past seven years and all the friends I’ve made there. I’d be farther away from my other partner (who’s also long-distance). I’d have to find a new therapist and psychiatrist, learn to drive, and find a job, all while dealing with the change. That would be fine, but my partner is unsure about their own life plans right now. They’ve never had a job for more than nine months, have a pattern of picking up and moving every year or two, are miserably depressed in their current job (which they thought they would love), and generally have no idea where they’re going or what their plans are for the future. I’m ready to settle down, but they’re worried they’ll leave this new city within the year, and I’ll have turned my entire life upside down for nothing. I want to live with them so badly, and while they’re interested in continuing to date long-distance, being apart from them is so painful to me. But given their instability, I have no idea if I should start my postgrad life by moving in with them. This is eating me up inside. Please help.
—Should I Move?

Don’t move in together. Take a look at your own letter and what you’ve said about both options. On the one hand, if you move in with your partner, you’d upend your entire social life (not to mention your mental health support network) to move to a city your partner will almost certainly vacate within a year. You describe the worst-case scenario as “turn[ing] my entire life upside down for nothing,” which is a pretty negative way to describe something that sounds very likely to happen. On the other hand, you say “being apart from them is painful.” I don’t mean to underplay how much you miss your partner, but I think you’re likely to end up being apart from them whether you move or not, and I think you’d prefer to miss them among friends and familiar surroundings than six months into a brand-new lease and among strangers. Continue to date long-distance, visit as often as you can, and leave the cohabitation conversation off the table until your partner is in a more stable position.

Dear Prudence Uncensored

Nicole: I am honestly pretty sure that ceasing to proactively invite your ex to things is a good step into the rest of your life.

Daniel Mallory Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe discuss this letter in this week’s Dear Prudence Uncensored only for Slate Plus members.

Dear Prudence,
My husband’s family—a large, loud, tightly knit bunch—lives in New York. Our family lives in a smaller Southern city. We probably see them three or four times a year and almost always travel to them, since they don’t want to come here. My teens are obsessed with a popular Broadway show, so for Christmas last year, I maxed out my credit card and managed to secure tickets for the four of us. The kids were thrilled. The show is coming up in a few weeks, but there’s a problem with my brother-in-law. He’s complained to my husband several times that we should have also purchased tickets for their family and that we were selfish for not including them in our plans. For what it’s worth, I think he’s probably the only one who is disappointed that he’s not going. To add to that awkwardness, we usually stay at their house when we visit. What can we do to fix this?
—Neglecting Our Host

You can go to the show and enjoy yourselves. If your brother-in-law complains to your husband again, your husband can say, “It’s a Christmas present for the kids. I’m afraid we can’t afford to buy tickets for all of you too.” That’s about it—your brother-in-law’s expectation that you would buy him and his family expensive Broadway tickets just because you’re in town is not a reasonable one, so you’re not responsible for assuaging his disappointment.

Dear Prudence,
I’ve been at my job with a small, successful, family-owned business for more than five years. When I was originally hired as a temp, I was overqualified but in need of a steady job. The owner’s son recommended me, and I was hired immediately and quickly promoted to full time. Over the years, I have been eager to take on more responsibilities and continue my education. I have taken several industry-related online classes and gotten certificates. I have always paid for these myself. I am currently studying for some challenging industry exams that will hopefully improve my expertise. I mentioned this to my boss, just as I have in the past, only to be dismissed and ignored. He has referred to me as “kid” for years, even after I asked (and eventually told) him not to. I’m in my mid-30s.

A year ago, when a manager position opened, I submitted my résumé and asked if we could set up a meeting to discuss the opportunity. He blew me off, lost my résumé, ignored my next request to discuss the position, and hired a less qualified candidate, who then left the job only three months later. The position remains unfilled. I love what I do and have worked very hard in my career to gain experience and sharpen my skills. I feel undervalued and often disrespected. After the initial exams, I will need my boss to register me to continue to take further exams. I feel like my boss doesn’t take me seriously because we were introduced through his son, who is a few years younger than me. How can I get my boss to understand that I am a valuable asset to him and his company?
—Uninterested Boss

While I’m hopeful you can eventually find a way to talk to your boss about your career goals in such a way that will induce him to listen, I think the most important thing for you to do is start looking for a position elsewhere, if only to expand your range of options. It seems like he’s let the manner in which you were hired color his perspective of you for years now, and you might have an easier time with an employer who doesn’t think of you as a legacy hire from his or her son. If nothing else, applying elsewhere may boost your confidence as you realize there are other companies that will value your strengths as an employee—not to mention give you leverage in case your boss declines yet again to promote you. In the meantime, you can have another conversation with your boss about your future. You may have to spend some time tracking him down, but he may be more receptive to the conversation once it’s removed from a time-sensitive hiring process. Make it clear what your goals are within the company, and ask whether he thinks those are achievable and if there’s anything else he thinks you need to develop or change before he’d consider promoting you. It may be that, despite your certifications and hard work, he’s looking for a different set of skills or expertise you can only develop on the job. If he’s clear about what he’s looking for, it’s possible that you can work toward a promotion in the future. But if he continues to blow you off (or makes it clear that he thinks you should be happy where you are for the rest of your career), it’s awfully difficult to convince someone who won’t take your goals seriously of your worth as an employee. Your best bet, in the end, is to find someone who will.

Classic Prudie

From July 2012: “One night I heard the baby crying, and heard my MIL go to him. When I entered the room I saw her holding my son to her breast, letting him suckle. I was (and am) livid. I took my son back to my room and told her she had to leave first thing in the morning. I want to call the police, but my husband thinks that would be taking things too far. Should we call the police?

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