Dear Prudence

My Friend Asked Me to Spread His Ashes 20 Years Ago. I Still Have Them.

Prudie’s column for July 13.

An urn.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Prudence,

Years ago, during the AIDS epidemic, I became a “support manager” for a man with AIDS. He had been disinherited from his family long before, and I was honored to be allowed to be given his health care power of attorney. I was also honored to become his friend. Because there was no one else, I had to make the decision to have his body cremated, and I have carried his ashes with me for more than 20 years. His wish was for his remains to be sprinkled over a Japanese garden in a public garden that does not permit the spreading of ashes. His second choice was to be spread in a place where young boys frequented, because that was his preference. Part of our support manager training was to be nonjudgmental, but I can honestly say that this bit was challenging. I want to honor my friend but need advice on where might be an appropriate and fitting place to set his ashes free.

—Spreading Ashes

The point you must clarify here is whether he wanted his ashes to be spread somewhere that boys play because that location was his preference, or whether he said to you, “I’m attracted to young boys and want my ashes scattered near a playground in honor of that.” If it’s the former—if he wanted his remains somewhere full of energy and excitement and hope for the future—then by all means do so, assuming you can find a discreet patch of earth nearby. And given the ugly history of conflating gay men with child predators, it’s also worth asking yourself whether you made a reflexively homophobic assumption about the nature of his request. If it’s the latter, “don’t be judgmental of pedophilia” has never been a plank of either AIDS activism or palliative care. You could find a garden or a similar environment that does allow for the scattering of remains and do so there, thereby carrying out his wishes to the best of your ability. Or, since it’s been 20 years and you’re still struggling with what to do next, you might find a local AIDS activism organization near your current location and ask for help in dealing with his last wishes.

Dear Prudence,

My partner and I have been together for more than six years. They are in the arts, in a competitive and not especially lucrative field. I make 75 percent or more of the money in the relationship and am mostly fine with that. I recently was let go from a job because of performance issues directly relating to my support of my partner. Sometimes they leave for weeks at a time, leaving me to care for our two dogs. When something goes wrong at the apartment, I need to be the one to be available. All of this added up for me, and I was unable to give the job the attention and overtime that it required. While I’m not upset about not working for this company any more (it was not a good fit in general), we are now moving across the country for their doctorate, and I don’t want this to happen again. I’ve directly asked them, and they deny any responsibility. How do I make it more clear?

—Supporting Roles

I’m not sure the person in need of clarity right now is your partner. Does your partner leave for weeks at a time with notice and a clear sense of when they’ll be back—say, for a touring production or a lecture circuit? Or do they decide on a whim to hit the road and promise to call you at some point? If it’s the former, and you knew you’d be looking after the dogs for a few weeks, then you might have taken the time to call in a dog sitter so you didn’t have to risk your job in order to run home to check on them. But if it’s the latter, and your partner thinks what they did was fine and that the dogs aren’t really their responsibility, then they’ve made themselves pretty clear—and you get to ask yourself whether you’re happy with the division of responsibilities and financial obligations in this relationship.

It’s not entirely clear what these emergencies requiring your immediate attention were or whether they were dog-related at all. If they were dog-related, it’s worth weighing the needs of your dogs against your need to reliably make a living for yourself. Was your presence at home absolutely required every time you left work early? How are you going to make sure this doesn’t happen again in the future with a job you really want (or need) to keep, assuming your partner becomes no more and no less responsible for your pets than they are now? If they weren’t necessarily dog-related, it’s worth investigating whether you could have let some of these issues wait until after work, how likely they are to happen again, and how you might be able to plan alternate responses, so that this doesn’t result in losing a job you actually care about in the future.

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

More Advice From How to Do It My boyfriend is, uh, huge. Long and thick as my wrist. We go slow and use lots of lube, but my vagina has a tendency to get really tight when I’m close to coming (and I’ll be close for like 10 minutes before it happens) and it leaves us both quite sore—though because of endorphins, I tend not to feel the pain until the next day. And we’re currently in that new-relationship period where we just want to screw nonstop as often as possible. I see sex tips about how to make a vagina feel tighter, but what can I do to loosen things up a bit? And what can I do to soothe my junk after a long weekend bang-a-thon?