Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: The Mom With a Crush

This week, Grace Lavery and Daniel Mallory Ortberg discuss a Prudie letter: the mom with a crush. Nicole Cliffe will return next week.

Grace: So, quite a lot going on here!

Danny : yes! QUITE

Grace: I think worth separating the mother’s crush from the daughter’s (can I say that?) feeling about possibly being over reliant

Danny: this definitely reads to me like a mother/daughter dynamic but it’s possibly something else

Grace: That’s how I felt too

So leaving open the possibility that that is not correct, I’m going to continue I think referring to the letter writer as a daughter

the mom’s crush: do we get the impression that this is something she is trying to talk to her partner about?

Danny: oh definitely not

I get the sense that this is like: “Here is a fun secret for you to keep from your dad!!!”

Grace: Yes that’s sort of my feeling too, and I think the crush itself is probably quite safe but the boundary-violations are not great

And probably worth assessing

I didn’t read this and think “your parents’ marriage is sure on the rocks!!”

Danny: right

but “am I overreacting?” followed by “she’s very sensitive and would take it badly” feels like the crux of the letter here

you don’t actually think you’re overreacting, I don’t think—you kind of want to let this one slide because you don’t want to have to manage your mom’s meltdown if you actually tell her to stop and hold her to it

which I get! your mom sounds like someone who needs to be managed a lot, and I understand why you want to sort of conserve your energy

and save it for The Big Things

but also, you can definitely let go of your guilt that if you tell your mom to stop mentioning her crush to you, you’re somehow forbidden from mentioning your own dating life to her in the future?

like

parenting is not a two-way street in that sense!

Grace:  Completely!! And it makes me wonder, Daniel, whether you have asked me to address this letter For A Reason

But I shall say no more on that front

Danny: ahahaha

Nicole is just still traveling today! THIS IS NOT POINTED

Grace: It’s okay

I know Nicole is very very good at this

Anyway

I do want to say that I think sometimes, when parents are confronted with the fact that their kids are now adults, there’s a sense that emerges that’s like “now i get to be the kid!!!”

Danny: ooh yes

Grace: I don’t think it’s exactly retributive, though I have seen it deployed punitively

And I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing either. But when I think of like, how people really love /Absolutely Fabulous/ (which, for reasons you can probably intuit at this point, I never did) there’s sometimes something attractive about the idea of scandalizing one’s adult kids

Danny: it is great for grown kids to understand their parents as, you know, flawed adults and not just authority figures

but there’s also just a limit to how much you can swap roles with your kids, no matter how old they get

so! trust your instincts, letter-writer, and don’t let the fact that you haven’t dated a lot and don’t have a ton of close friends make you doubt yourself

Grace: I think that’s right. I’m sort of pessimistic that the figural part of “authority figure” can ever really go away. You might be able to become another kind of mother-figure, but always a figure I would guess

You are my lover-figure

I agree

Danny: “go figure”

Grace: I really hope that this one gets a title with the word “figure” in

Danny: So just ramp up the firmness a bit (namely, give yourself permission to start cutting those calls short and saying “Mom, you need to talk to someone else about this”)

I think you’re right in not thinking this is a huge sign she’s about to cheat, I don’t think you have to worry about, say, telling your dad

Grace: Countersign on both sides there

Danny: and if and when you ever start dating

don’t ask your mom for advice

or, okay,

if you do, be sure to ask one or two other people

just to double-check

Grace: Yes. I mean, if the kind of dating that you want to do is the kind that reproduces the relationship your parents have, maybe ask them about that? But specifics, no—you’ll need a deeper bench

Danny: also there’s like a slim but real, maybe 5% chance your mom either has an affair with this guy or blows up her own marriage as a result of her one-sided feelings for him

so just be advised!!

not that there would be anything you could do about that

Grace: Really was pretty stunned to see the word “blows” in that message

Danny: blows UP!!!

always looking for double meanings

Grace: You’re not responsible for that!

Danny: that’s what all that psychoanalysis did to you

Grace: I AM A LITERATURE PROFESSOR DANIEL

Danny: SO AM I

Grace: huh

decent comeback tbh

Danny: i get very nervous when i argue so i just start saying things

i love you!! you just spilled a glass of water so i’m going to go help you clean it up