I am lucky enough to own my condo; it is in the heart of the city and within walking distance of my job and my boyfriend’s job. It is a converted loft with the bedroom above the kitchen and living room and not a lot of extra space. My boyfriend will stay over during the workweek and then spend the weekend at his parents’, two hours away in the suburbs. He has two large dogs there. Our schedules don’t match; he goes in early while I work late. We often eat separately and will only have an hour before he falls asleep. I can’t help but resent when my boyfriend abandons me to retreat every weekend to “take care of his dogs.” His parents are in good health and love the animals. Our social life is completely separated. I am tired of explaining why my boyfriend isn’t with me.
His solution is we bring his dogs into my loft (not feasible), or we sell the loft and buy another property. This would mean my getting a car, insurance, and taking on another mortgage. I balk at taking on additional debt over pets, especially weekend-only ones. I have offered to get a small dog to keep in the apartment and continue to pay for the upkeep of the pets at his parents’. It makes more financial sense to keep the paid-off condo over getting additional debt for some dogs. My boyfriend accuses me of being “heartless.” He pays for food and Netflix; I don’t ask him for rent, and neither do his parents. I am tired of getting described as “irrational” for making rational choices. My boyfriend raised these two dogs since they were puppies, but his parents have taken care of them for the past five years. Am I wrong not to consider them his dogs at this point? Neither of us want kids, so I am actually considering this condo as the long term for us, if there is an “us”? What should I do?
—Part-Time Dog Stepmom
You say you consider this condo as the “long term” for the two of you, but you also call it “my condo” where your boyfriend “stay[s] over” without paying rent. Since he has a job and his parents are apparently well-off enough that they don’t charge him for rent during his weekends over, I’m curious why he’s not contributing more. (I don’t know what your shared food budget is, but Netflix is about $10 a month.) Meanwhile, you say that you don’t want to take on “additional” debt over his dogs, which suggests that in addition to contributing most of the money in your shared household, you also have debts of your own to deal with. Your boyfriend seems physically and financially absent from your relationship. It’s also clear that the dogs are a real priority for him, and that’s unlikely to change. If you can’t see yourself joining him on the weekends at his parents’ house to play with the dogs together, and he’s not willing to change his plans to spend more than four or five hours a week with you, I think you should start considering your future and your condo without him.
We are a large family and, I like to think, an open-minded one. My oldest son recently came out as bisexual, which we had long expected. Today our 13-year-old daughter blindsided us by saying she’s a lesbian. This came up in the middle of a lighthearted conversation about whether any of the siblings wanted to have kids someday. We are totally fine with this, and my husband rolled with the whole “You can have kids in many ways” thing. My issue: We live in a very small southern Indiana town. I’m telling her she should be true to herself, but also have to warn her that not everyone will be cool with it—specifically, her grandparents, with whom she’s planning to have a sleepover in the next few days. Plus, I told her that whoever she is is fine with us, but we’re hesitant for her to put a label on herself without a little experience, one way or another. She has led a somewhat sheltered life, but I really respect her for who she is and feel she should live a little before labeling herself. She’s home-schooled and has very minimal experience as far as relationships go. Suggestion on how to proceed?
—Big Gay Family
What an exciting opportunity to get to test the limits of your own open-mindedness! You can reasonably assume that even though your 13-year-old has led a fairly sheltered life, she knows perfectly well that small-town Indiana isn’t always the most lesbian-friendly place to be. So I don’t think you have to hammer the “Well, we’re OK with it, but get ready for some serious homophobia” point home. You also say that you’re worried about her putting a label on herself without experience, but part of the point of growing up is trying on different labels to see what fits and developing one’s sense of individuality. If later, after she “lives a little,” she decides that she is not a lesbian, all she has to say is “Oh, I don’t think I’m a lesbian,” and that’s it. I know that your oldest son is, well, older than your daughter, and that might play a large part in how you received his coming out, but consider why you feel so much more comfortable with his sexuality than hers. You say you’d “long expected” it, whereas you hadn’t been able to anticipate your daughter’s. There’s also an unfortunate implication in your desire to urge your daughter to slow down or avoid labels, namely that it’s better not to identify as a lesbian as long as it may be avoidable: “Sure, if you absolutely have to be a lesbian, you can be one, but what’s the rush? Maybe you don’t have to. Wait and see. We’re fine with it, of course, but you don’t want to hurry to be a lesbian just in case it turns out you might be mistaken.”
In terms of what you can do for your daughter right now: Thank her for coming out to you, assure her that you won’t share this with anyone else without her express permission, and ask her if there’s anything she needs from you before spending the night at her grandparents’. Find out what LGBT resources and community the nearest not-so-small Indiana town has and offer to drive her over sometime. And don’t put a burden of proof on lesbianism that you wouldn’t put on a 13-year-old girl who expressed an interest in boys. (“Sure, boys might seem cute, but don’t rush into calling yourself anything until you’ve actually gone to a malt shop with one.”)
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I recently relocated to a conservative city for work. Most of my co-workers are older and also quite conservative, and while they’ve been nothing but polite to me, I haven’t made any work friends yet and generally eat lunch alone. A new employee my age recently joined the company and decorated her cubicle with some cool posters. One is an art print of the slippery elm plant, an abortifacient. I think this might be a secret pro-choice/progressive bat signal of sorts, but I’m not sure how to ask her about it. If she just liked the image and isn’t pro-choice, I’d hate to alienate her or make her angry. Are there ways I could delicately ask about her beliefs? Should I just invite her to lunch and see if we have any nonpolitical things in common? Making friends as an introverted adult is so hard!
—Is My Co-Worker Also a Secret Liberal?
Yes to asking her to lunch and asking lighthearted, getting-to-know-you questions. Absolutely no to saying, “Hey, is the picture of a plant in your cubicle a covert attempt to advocate for safe, legal, on-demand abortion?”
My roommate met someone in an online game about a month ago, and they began to date instantly. For the past two weeks, he has been at our apartment constantly, even when she’s gone for work, often leaving him here alone with me for 10 hours at a time. I think his visits should be two to three days a week max and that he shouldn’t be in the apartment without her. She claims this isn’t a problem, as he “leaves me alone.” While it is true he mostly stays in her room, I just don’t like having a stranger in our apartment so often. My former roommate’s boyfriend sexually assaulted me, and having my current roommate’s boyfriend here so often is giving me anxiety; however, I’m not comfortable sharing this information when my roommate pesters me to explain why I’m uncomfortable. I don’t feel as though I should have to justify myself. Our lease says guests are allowed for two weeks at a time. I brought this up, and she made a comment about how he could leave for a few days and come back for two weeks. Am I wrong for thinking guests shouldn’t be left unattended when you’re sharing your living space? Is there a way to enforce her boyfriend not being here unless she is?
—Roommates Only, Please
No landlord is going to say, “Oh, your boyfriend went home for two days? That’s definitely in keeping with the spirit of your lease agreement, and my hands are tied; you’ve figured out the one loophole that allows you to essentially move a third person in without updating the lease.” It’s not the airtight case she thinks it is. You’re right not to want to share vulnerable personal details with her, especially since she’s being wildly unreasonable already—most people wouldn’t want a near-stranger in their apartment every day, regardless of how much he keeps to her room, and it’s bizarre that she’s acting like you’re the one who needs to justify your actions. Asking for her brand-new boyfriend to confine his visits to a few times a week and only when she’s home is a boundary you have every right to uphold. If you find your roommate is totally incapable of listening to reason, you should go over her head and alert your landlord so they can give her a warning and explain what will happen if she continues to violate the lease.
Dear Prudence Uncensored
“Literally the worst-case scenario here is your daughter calls herself a lesbian for a while and then later decides she isn’t a lesbian.”
Daniel Mallory Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe discuss this letter in this week’s Dear Prudence Uncensored—only for Slate Plus members.
I have a friend who’s newly engaged, has no children, and lives a few hours away. (I’m married with two kids.) We’ve been friends for as long as we both can remember. We consider each other best friends, although lately it has been very one-sided—or maybe it always has been. I call or text regularly to check in, maybe send pictures of my kids, or share updates. She rarely calls and rarely texts me back, and when she finally does, it’s days later, maybe even weeks. She has a barrage of wealthy “friends” whom she travels with constantly. It may be jealousy on my part that I’m bothered by that. I feel as though our friendship has taken a back seat to her “single” life and I am the only one reaching out to keep in touch. Does a friendship require as much work as a marriage?
It depends on the marriage, I suppose, but while you’re certainly putting in a lot of work with her, it all seems to be of the ineffective kind. You keep offering her little updates on your own life or asking leading questions about how she’s doing and getting the same level of indifference in response, but you never ask her if she’s noticed this dynamic too, or tell her how it makes you feel, so the dynamic continues unacknowledged and unchallenged. You’re starting to question whether this is an actually new development or if things have always been this way between you, and the only person who can answer that is the woman you consider your best friend. Tell her that you’ve missed her lately and that you want to talk; make it clear that you feel vulnerable in even raising the issue and hope she can give you her full attention and be honest with you, even if she’s afraid of hurting your feelings. You know that what you’re trying now isn’t working, so it’s time to try something different. I don’t think you should mention that you think her friendship with wealthier people is grasping and insincere—that’s sure to put her back up—but you can absolutely say that you feel like she makes time for other people that she doesn’t make for you and you wish she’d reprioritize your relationship. If nothing else, this conversation will reveal how much work your friend is interested in putting in your relationship so you can scale up or down commensurately instead of trying to do it all yourself.
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About three years ago, I decided to lose significant weight. I bought myself an expensive designer coat in a small size as motivation. Now, I’ve lost a lot of weight but will realistically need to lose much more to fit into the coat. That’s probably three more years of having to stare at this coat in my closet. It makes me feel like a failure when I see it, and I’d like to give it to a friend who I know would really enjoy it. However, I’ve been very private about my weight loss, and I don’t really know how to explain why I have such a small coat. It’s also exceedingly more expensive than gifts we would ever give each other, so I feel like I’m going to need to provide some sort of explanation. Any advice on what I can tell my friend?
—Goal Clothing Giveaway
First of all, congratulations on deciding to get rid of something that makes you feel like a failure every time you look at it. That strikes me as a wise and compassionate decision. I’d encourage you to be even more compassionate toward yourself. You seem to feel like you ought to apologize to your friend for giving them something lovely to wear, as if their initial response is going to be hostile unless you give them the whole backstory: “What on Earth is this? Where did you get it? Why is it so small? It looks expensive—did you spend a lot of money on it? You need to answer these questions before I’ll take it off your hands.” You don’t need to say anything more complicated than “Hey, I have a coat that I think you’d like, and I can’t wear it—do you want it?” My guess is that your friend will be much more relaxed and kind about the coat than you’ve been in your own head as you imagine giving it.
“After several years together, my fiancé and I are finally getting married. My mother is disappointed that we are not making a big deal of finally saying ‘I do.’ Her most recent complaint is our lack of engagement pictures. What she doesn’t acknowledge is that my fiancé and I look terrible together. Separately, we are fine. However, while I love my fiancé with all my heart, our features just don’t complement each other. I am almost certain that I will despise any formal pictures of us. How do I tell my husband-to-be that pictures of us are just not for me?”
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