Dear Prudence

I Need to Know Every Lurid Detail of My Co-Worker’s Arrest

Prudie’s column for July 20.

Office cube closed off with warning tape.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Prudence,

Last year, one of my co-workers suddenly stopped showing up for work. A while later we got an officewide email telling us to contact the police if we saw him. Then we learned he was part of a national sting. I did a bit of sleuthing and learned he’s been charged with luring, and attempting to sexually assault, a child. He’s in jail and will be arraigned in a few weeks. I’m pretty sure we won’t be working together again, although it’s possible he is innocent and could conceivably return to work. I want to go to his arraignment, hear what he’s charged with, and see his reaction to it. I’m not sure why I’m so keen to do this. Is this a terrible idea?

—Attend the Arraignment?

I have an idea why you’re so keen to do this! It’s an understandable impulse that’s not unconnected with rubbernecking. You want to see his response to the charges because they’re extremely shocking, and part of you is having a hard time connecting the co-worker you know with the kind of person who tries to sexually assault children. That doesn’t mean you’re shallow or prurient—I completely relate to your wanting to know more—but I think it’s worth asking yourself, “Is there some greater purpose my presence in court would serve, or could I learn everything I want to know by following the trial in the news or reading the case against him?” The arraignment will likely take place during the day, and I don’t think you’ll do yourself or him any favors if you take time off of work just to look at his face while the charges against him are read out. There’s a belief in here somewhere that if you could see his face with your own eyes in that moment, you’d know for certain whether he’s guilty—a belief that may very well be connected to the fact that you worked with him every day and apparently never got a bad feeling about him. But I doubt it will provide much resolution for you, and if you’re curious about the evidence against him, there are simpler ways of deciding for yourself whether you think the case is a strong one than taking the day off to go look at somebody you used to work with.

Dear Prudence,

I am a 23-year-old master’s student originally from a conservative state. I grew up in Europe and plan to be here for the foreseeable future. Most of my family still lives back home, and I’d like to have a closer relationship with them. I start a career in September and will finally have the means to visit. I am also a lesbian and have been out to most of my family for a little over two years—except for my mom’s family, and especially not my grandparents, who are deeply religious and I know would not accept it. My grandmother and I were always close, and not being able to be honest is causing me to pull away. I used to call frequently, but after I had to describe my sadness over a very recent breakup as a “falling out with a friend,” I’ve really pulled back. I even censor my social media. It’s very stressful. My grandparents are in good health but well into their 80s, set in their ways, and probably would rather not know. My mom thinks coming out is a terrible idea and that I’m not equipped to deal with their reaction. My therapist thinks I should do it. If I don’t say anything, can I find a way to stay close to them anyway? Should I ask a family member to clue them in, or let my social media do it for me? (I recently posted a photo of my girlfriend and when my grandma asked, I again said she was a friend.) Or just do it and accept that it may mean the end of an important relationship?

—Closet Problems

The good news is that your grandma seems to pretty clearly know what she doesn’t know. She’s asked about your “friend,” and my read, at least from this letter, is that she has a good idea that you two are in a relationship. That doesn’t mean she’s going to be affirming if you decide to make the unstated something you talk about, but it does seem significant that she’s signaling her willingness to be polite and respectful as long as she can maintain a certain level of plausible deniability. You say your mother doesn’t think you’re equipped to deal with her family’s reaction. Do you have a sense of what you’d need if you came out to them and it didn’t go well? If you’ve got a supportive girlfriend, a great job, and plenty of physical distance, that kind of sounds like a close-to-ideal setup to weathering a difficult coming-out experience with extended family.

I think the deciding factor here should be that you’ve already found your relationship with your grandmother deteriorating. You haven’t been able to keep up with your regular phone calls because of the pain of closeting yourself. I went through the same thing with one of my grandmothers before I came out. We’d always been very close, but I was so anxious at the prospect of discussing my transition with her that I kept putting it off and cutting our conversations off sooner and sooner. I never was able to find a way to maintain our old cheerful, frequent contact while also remaining closeted to her. Coming out to her ended up taking something of a weight off, not because I’d been excited about discussing it with her, but because it was already so obvious that our old closeness was being impeded by something that she was relieved to hear wasn’t something she’d done.

I like the idea of asking a relative (probably not your mother) to lay some groundwork for you. If there’s anyone back home you think would acquit themselves admirably, you might ask them to start scoping a few weeks or months in advance of your next visit. That way you can decide whether you want to have a follow-up conversation with her yourself or move ahead with a “we all know, but we don’t have to talk about what we know, so that we can enjoy this visit” policy. When it comes to your social media accounts, I think you should post like you don’t have a grandmother, since it’s making you feel so restricted to keep her first in mind every time you want to share a picture of your girlfriend. You might even create a safe-for-grandmothers account and encourage her to follow that one instead. The best way to look at this, I think, is not “Should I come out to my grandparents?” but “How would I conduct my life if staying hypercloseted to my grandparents weren’t my first priority?”

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

More Advice From Care and Feeding

I’ve been with my husband for over 10 years, and I’ve known him for over 15 (since high school!). When we got together, we were both adamantly secular. A few years ago, my husband started indicating that he was interested in finding a local church to attend while never taking any action to do so. We’ve had two children, and he has struggled with the isolation of being a stay-at-home parent with no daily social outlet other than his immediate family. I believe this isolation is what pushed him to finally seek out religion.

My husband just went to a Catholic Mass for the first time, and he took our oldest daughter. I very much believe that every person should seek out what makes them happy in life, so I don’t begrudge him seeking out something I don’t personally want for myself. I was raised Catholic and was forced to attend Mass and catechism weekly even though I told my parents and religious leaders that I didn’t believe. It was absolute torture for me, and I left the church as soon as I was able to make that choice. It baffles me why he’d choose this outlet of all the available choices, but it is his choice to make.

My concern lies in the future of our relationship and how to handle our divergent belief systems with our children. I let him take our 3-year-old because I think it’s great for children to be exposed to different worldviews, but I also don’t want to force them to attend (as I was forced). After the Mass, my husband started talking about the kids being baptized, and he thinks I should come back to the church. My husband has known for the duration of our relationship that I am 100 percent happy never setting foot in church again, funerals and weddings excepted, and I’m hurt that he is trying to force the issue with me. How do I let him do what makes him happy while also making it clear that I want nothing to do with it? How do I talk to my kids about this once they’re a little older and start having questions as to why Mommy stays at home while Daddy goes to church? How do I navigate respecting his desire to baptize our kids when I don’t want them baptized before they can make that decision for themselves?