Prudie is online weekly to chat live with readers. Here’s an edited transcript of this week’s chat, which was guest-helmed by Nicole Cliffe.
Q. Need a reality check: After 13 years of marriage, I’m in the process of divorce. I got out of a painful relationship where I was abused and cheated on for many years. My soon-to-be ex-husband is in jail for crimes he committed while we were already separated. During all these years, I developed a close relationship with one of my “political” nephews. We have a very strong bond. He’s 11 years younger than me, a man in his mid-20s. In the past three months, our relationship started escalating from a close, friendly relationship to a sexual relationship.
I don’t feel bad at all. The sex is great. I trust him completely and feel comfortable around him. For me, it has been more fulfilling than dating someone random and going through all the stages. I’m not in love with him or thinking about a real relationship at all, because we have a real friendshiplike relationship, all sex aside. I love him a lot, and while I know that if word got out it might be troublesome and scandalous, I don’t feel guilt or remorse. I am writing you to see if what I’m doing is totally crazy. I need a reality check.
A: Bail out now. No lasting good can come from this. He is your nephew. This is a reality check, as requested.
Q. My husband and I cannot agree on our baby name: Ever since I was a little boy, I have known that I want to have a child someday and that I want to name her “Katrina Nicole.” (I am not going to put her real name here, but it is something very similar.) I don’t know why I felt so strongly about that specific name; it was just something I have always known in my heart, almost like fate. In a way, it’s like “Katrina Nicole” has always been a part of my life.
Fast forward: I am now married to a great guy and we are planning to get a child soon. But there is a problem. He was very close with his grandmother “Charlene,” who recently passed on. And now he has decided that he would like to name our daughter “Charlene,” after Granny! I told him firmly that, no, I have always known I am going to name my daughter “Katrina Nicole.” That’s just how it is. I cannot imagine naming her something else—it’s like she would be walking around with everyone calling her the wrong thing for the rest of her life.
This has become a real point of contention between us. I can’t even bring up the name “Katrina Nicole” without him getting very upset. And honestly it is now making me resentful of his grandmother, even though I know all this is not her fault. We even have gotten in several big blowouts about it in front of our friends. It doesn’t help that those friends are dismissive and hurtful over the problem and keep making suggestions for silly “compromises” that I cannot deal with. One of them even thought it was funny to recommend that we name her “Charlrina Niclene.” I know he was joking but I could have slapped him right there.
Can you settle this for us once and for all? My husband says it should be his decision because “Charlene” is a family name and is more meaningful, but I say it should be mine since I feel much more strongly about it and made this decision years ago. Plus “Charlene” is not exactly fashionable. (It makes me think of the elderly woman from that old show The Facts of Life.) Who is right? We have agreed to follow your decision.
A: You have cared longer. Because you have agreed to follow my decision (thank you for placing that trust in me), it’s Katrina Nicole. If you have a second kid, your husband gets to pick their name. (You can retain veto power; use it wisely and sparingly.)
And I assure you I do not have a dog in this fight, as “Nicole” is not actually part of the proposed name.
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Q. Move in? My boyfriend was raised by his brother “Dan.” Dan took custody of his 10-year-old brother at 18 because Mom wanted to party with pedophiles. Dan wasn’t going to let his baby brother get abused like he was. They are co-dependent, no question. Dan wants to “protect” us both and has bad boundary issues, like doing a background check on me when he found out his brother was dating me. But he has a better heart than almost everyone I know. My boyfriend moved in with me to get some “space” and the two of them are miserable. My boyfriend is the sweetest, most loving guy I have ever dated. I love him and he is trying miserably to be independent and normal for me. He wants kids with me someday. Am I fooling myself to think that future is available, even with Dan? They are not abusive, they don’t sleep around, they don’t gamble, they both have good jobs, but for the longest time they had no one but each other. I want Dan to move in. I want us all to go to family therapy when we can afford it. I want my boyfriend to be happy again. Am I crazy to think this? My friends have told me so.
A: Dan should not move in. You and your boyfriend, minus Dan, should go to therapy when you can afford it. The relationship between these two guys is not healthy or productive in adult life, and even if the separation is resulting in temporary misery, I think you need to stay the course. Dan is clearly a good and kind soul, but he does not need to live with you. There are numerous ways to keep him in your life that do not involve cohabitation.
Q. Re: Need a reality check: I am assuming a “political” nephew and a “political” family means in-laws, as in, related by marriage, not blood. But I am also sort of hoping that you were giving advice to a Kennedy or a Bush.
A: That threw me too! Is he, like, really into Mayor Pete, or is this a weird way of saying “nephew-in-law”? I still think it’s a terrible idea.
Q. Not thankful for their PDA: My sisters and I are in our late 20s/early 30s. My younger sister has been dating her boyfriend for just about 10 months, and the bulk of their relationship had to remain fairly private for various reasons (his family, work), and then was long-distance for the last six months. They just moved in together a few weeks ago and can now be a couple publicly, and I am so happy for my sister. But there’s one annoying issue. Anytime I see her and her boyfriend (once every few months—we live in different states), they lay on the PDA, thick! Not just typical hand-holding; we’re talking constant nuzzling, lap-sitting, neck-smooching kind of PDA. They visited my husband and I two weekends ago, and this persisted everywhere—at our house while hanging out watching TV (her legs wrapped around his waist laying on the couch, nuzzling into his neck), in the car (driving is distracting having to listen to kisses in the back seat), at a festival we went to!
We grew up together and I’ve never had a problem with a little public affection, and she’s always had a tendency to do this with her partners, but it’s really excessive. I normally just shrug if off, but my husband was raised in a conservative Muslim environment with immigrant parents from India. He let me know after their visit that the PDA in our house was absolutely shocking to him and makes him very uncomfortable. We are all going to my parent’s house for Thanksgiving, and they are hosting 17 people, grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins included. This is the first big holiday in years that she’s had a partner to bring. My sister is sweet but a little oblivious, and I don’t think she would realize to tone it down for the holiday. Would you have a script to gently ask her to lay off such heavy PDA? My parents have enough on their plate with hosting, and I want to make sure that all my family members, my husband included, have a great holiday.
A: Well, first of all, there’s always the chance she feels comfortable licking her partner’s fingers or whatever in small gatherings but not around 17 people and has already planned to rein things in accordingly, despite your dubiousness on this point.
If you were hosting your husband’s family and not your own, I would absolutely ask her firmly not to dry-hump her partner during Thanksgiving.
As things stand, I think a quick word is best. “Linda, by the way, you’re gonna give Grandma a heart attack if you keep making out with Manny. Save it for when you’re alone in the kitchen, OK?”
This is only my answer if you truly think it’s going to make a huge messy deal. Otherwise, let the lady express herself via her unique form of performance art and joke about it later.
Q. Re: My husband and I cannot agree on our baby name: Please, please tell me that your mental image of this child doesn’t extend any further than the name. Because if you’ve also built up a lifetime’s worth of expectations for behavior, dress, aptitudes, interests, etc., then you are setting your entire family up for nothing but heartache.
A: Woof, yes. I think the letter writer should really process whether he’s overly plotted out Katrina Nicole’s life and hobbies. Hopefully this is just about the name. Babies come out exactly as they are. Get used to it, fast.
Q. My friend’s girlfriend said something racist: One of my closest friends, “P,” broke up with his long-term girlfriend last year. He recently got back into dating, and after four dates with a woman, he invited her to hang out with my boyfriend “K” and me for drinks and cards (a typical weekend get-together for us). I was happy to welcome her and get to know her. Things started off typically with awkward chitchat as we introduced ourselves, and she seemed lovely enough. Then, at one point, I was left alone at the table with her discussing how poor management led P’s apartment ceiling to collapse. The woman mentioned she had a former co-worker who lived in the area and that she negatively judged her former co-worker for dating black people. It was a completely unprovoked comment. It was unrelated to both that neighborhood and bad landlords, yet she felt incredibly comfortable saying it to a complete stranger. I was shocked. I’m sure there was a look of horror on my face. I know that in the moment, I should have asked her what was wrong with dating black people, but all I could do was form an excuse to wrap up our evening as quickly as possible and go home.
Later that evening, P asked what we thought of her. I said she said something incredibly racist and that I would not be hanging out with her again. My friend lost his mind. He said that just because she said something offensive to me didn’t mean I could be selfish and decide not to see her again. He seemed to think that because he had previously hung out with friends and men I dated that he didn’t like, I should hang out with his dates even if they are saying racist things. He called me a bad friend. I tried to explain calmly that the comparison was unfair, that expecting me to tacitly accept racism by hanging out with her was unreasonable, that I had every right to set this very reasonable boundary, and that trying to guilt and bully people into hanging out with racists were not actions of a good friend.
He is being very stubborn. I can’t make him understand. I blocked his text messages and calls for a few days because I just needed a break from feeling bullied to agree to sit through anything his dates say based on a misplaced sense of fairness. But Prudie, I miss my friend. We have been by each other’s side for years, and through many hardships. I feel unmoored without him. I don’t know what to do. This has caused me so much stress and heartache, I just want my friend back. How can I move past this?
A: Someone sufficiently racist and clueless enough to think other white people will have no problem with a majorly racist comment during your *first meeting* is unlikely to be a keeper, suggesting this will resolve itself in time.
What you have left, of course, is a friend who is chill about dating racist people and gets mega-incensed when it’s brought up by you. That’s not ideal, either. I would keep him blocked, and when you hear he and “Still Believes That Black and White People Shouldn’t Date” have broken up, you can say you’re ready to talk when he is.
You may reconcile at that point, or he may double down. That will be your answer. I am very sorry.
Q. Was I catfished? A few weeks ago I casually started chatting with a girl on Facebook, a model and actress. I told her I am a singer-songwriter, and she asked me to link her a video of a song of mine, which I did. She loved it, and from then on, the tone became a little more intimate, joking, teasing, heart emoji, those kinds of things. So I proposed that we make a music video together. She lives two hours away, so I told her I would pay for all the expenses. She accepted enthusiastically! She really liked my ideas about the concept and the story, shared her own ones, and even wrote me that she was considering buying a GoPro camera to make some cool stuff. I mean, it sounded really cool. She seemed nice and easygoing, and really into it; it was a great opportunity to get to know each other while doing something creative that we both enjoyed. Then, when we were about to schedule the weekend to do it … she disappeared and never wrote back. I mean, I guess she was just messing with me and wasn’t serious about it. Anyway, it hurts and I’d like to hear what you think.
A: I do not think you were catfished. I think that people are flaky, and the internet is the easiest way to be flaky. You can feel hurt until you no longer do, and then move on. Best of luck with your career!
Q. Re: My husband and I cannot agree on our baby name: Am I the only one who thinks that the guys who can’t settle on a name have no business being parents? Seriously, they both made unilateral decisions about the name of a child who isn’t even in the picture yet? If this is how they are going to parent a child, this is not going to go well.
A: I believe many of us have this concern. And, most importantly, there is no baby yet. Use that time to get better at arguing.
At least they successfully made a joint decision to ask me to name their child! I’m mad with power.
Nicole Cliffe: This has been so delightful! Thank you for letting me hang out with you last week and this week (you will have a shiny new column from my fingertips yet to come) and if you’ve enjoyed any of my work, check out Care and Feeding, where my column goes up on Mondays and Fridays.
From How to Do It
Q. My sister and her husband, both virgins, can’t figure out how to have sex: In high school, my younger sister “Eva” got very intensely into a conservative church, purity pledges and all. Three months ago, at 22, she married her similarly devout husband. This past weekend, my brother Josh informed me that our brother-in-law confessed to him (over too much to drink) that he and Eva hadn’t consummated the marriage despite multiple attempts together. He didn’t mention what kind of difficulties they were having, only that it was also his first time and he felt pretty lost. Josh was focused on getting him sober and getting him home, so the conversation didn’t continue.
I feel terrible for them! I’m trying to figure out if I can say something to Eva: Do I give her an adult version of The Talk? Read what Stoya had to say.