Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: The Smart One

Every week, Danny Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe discuss a Prudie letter. This week: The smart sister versus the pretty sister.

Nicole: Oh, Lord, my grandmother had a great divide and conquer strategy with “the smart one” (me) and “the pretty one” (my cousin.)

It’s so deeply unhealthy!

Also you are adults now, and this is on her.

I would severely limit any time spent with her, calmly set the record straight if presented with misinformation, and just try to get through holiday dinners with civility.

The worst part is definitely that she’s falsely claiming you are innumerate to your clients.

To whatever extent you can build a wall between her and your client base, that’s the most important step.

Daniel: I wonder if that’s really much of a threat!

like—it’s not clear to me if the sister has been saying, “By the way, my sister the accountant cannot read numbers”

or if the LW is extrapolating that from comments like “She couldn’t tell time until she was 14 years old”

Nicole: It definitely sounds like she has been insulting her to clients

Daniel: oh, I certainly agree that she can and should tell the sister to knock it off

I just don’t think it’s likely that clients are taking her seriously, or that she’s been losing business over it

Nicole: The way business is lost, you never even hear about it. It’s word of mouth and just hiring someone else. I think it’s a serious issue or can become one

Danny: fair enough! I think the only example (“couldn’t tell time until she was 14”) presented here sounds irritating but not like the kind of thing other people outside of the family would take seriously

so I’m inclined to think this matters to the LW and she has every right to say, as a sibling, that it bothers her and she wants her sister to knock it off

but that her reputation likely speaks for itself and that unless her sister is saying WAY WORSE STUFF to clients than “she couldn’t tell time until she was fourteen! She was always late for high school” etc

that it’s probably not as big a deal professionally as she might fear it is

Nicole: Oh, I do not think this is just intrafamily sibling ribbing, this is malevolent.

I think it’s really fucked up, and I absolutely would worry about my reputation in the community.

Daniel: okay, so from my perspective, talk about it with your sister and don’t worry unless she’s making false claims about your ability to get work done

Nicole: It’s also an ongoing issue, like, this keeps happening

Danny: what would you suggest instead? have a stern talk with sister and also talk to clients, or … ?

Nicole: No, I wouldn’t talk to clients. And I think the false claims are already being made. I would cut back to extremely low contact with my sister and do my best to make sure that going forward she doesn’t even know who your clients are, if that’s possible

Danny: I am excited that we disagree so strenuously (“strenuously”) for once

Nicole: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being, like, “Sisters!” if a client asked me about it, but it’s not “Sisters!”

ME TOO

TOTALLY

Danny: YOU’VE NEVER HAD A SISTER, YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE

(I was biting that one back THE WHOLE TIME)

Nicole: You lost your sister’s wedding dress

Danny: SHE LOVES ME

AND I DO NOT CONCEDE THAT I “LOST” IT

ALSO IT WAS AFTER THE WEDDING

Nicole: a normal human woman would never have forgiven you

Danny: I DO NOT CONCEDE THIS

Nicole: I am now picturing you just calling up various outlets and saying, “My sister? Oh yeah she’s just a pretty airhead, lousy writer” and them being like “…Uhhh…”

Danny: OH

WOW

SO YOU JUST STRAIGHT WENT TO THE ASSUMPTION THAT LAURA WAS THE PRETTY ONE

JUST WENT STRAIGHT IMMEDIATELY THERE

Nicole: You were the one DOWNPLAYING the ribbing!

Danny: HOW ON EARTH AM I NOT THE PRETTY ONE

Nicole: YOU ARE A MAN

Danny: A BEAUTIFUL MAN, NICOLE