Dear Prudence

Help! My Son Won’t Vaccinate His Baby. Should I Do It Behind His Back?

I am thinking I will just take him to the doctor myself and get him immunized.

A woman looks back in frustration with the silhouette of a baby and syringe behind her.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Jovanmandic/iStock/Getty Images Plus and Povozniuk/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Our advice columnists have heard it all over the years. Each Sunday, we will dive into the Dear Prudie archives and share a selection of classic letters.

Dear Prudence, 

My son and daughter-in-law are well-educated, responsible people. But once they had their first child (my now-18-month-old darling grandson), they did their own “research” and decided not to vaccinate him for fear of “pumping poison into his body” and “risking autism.” My DIL has particularly strong views about this, and we’ve had many vocal arguments over the issue. Finally she decided she didn’t want to fight me anymore, and the last time I brought this up she refused to bring my grandson to see me for several weeks. I know that due to herd immunity the chances of his catching a serious illness is not high, but I am still appalled he’s exposed to risks unnecessarily. I am about to look after him for five days while his parents go on a trip and I am thinking I will just take him to the doctor myself and get him immunized.

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It is deeply disturbing that people who should be able to weigh discredited so-called studies instead believe garbage, and so are willing to endanger their children and others. I sincerely hope this madness burns itself out before a lot more people get hurt. You’re right that herd immunity should protect your grandson, but that is fading as large numbers of people refuse to vaccinate. The only solution seems to be for government to toughen the vaccination laws and close the loopholes that allow people to opt out for philosophical and so-called religious reasons. The laws need to make clear: no shot, no school. In the meantime, however, you cannot take your grandson to be vaccinated. For one thing, you don’t have the standing to do this. For another, if it came out that you did, that would likely effectively end your relationship with your grandson. It’s just not worth it. Let’s hope this little boy does not get whooping cough, or measles or any of the other awful childhood diseases that medical science effectively wiped out, and misinformed parents are bringing back. —Emily Yoffe

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From: Help! Should I Secretly Vaccinate My Grandson? (March 10, 2015)

Dear Prudence,

My wife and I have failed to conceive for years. After the emotional roller coaster we’ve been through, we finally settled on having my (gay) brother be a sperm donor. This is something both of our families support and we are very excited about going through with. However, as the appointment for fertilization nears, my wife and brother have gone from close to almost inseparable, talking about “their” future child. I feel shut out of my own marriage. This baby is all we’ve ever wanted, and now I want to tell her that we shouldn’t. I’m jealous and anxious and I don’t know what to do.

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—Three’s a Crowd

Oh my God, pull up. Before you even consider using a known sperm donor—especially a family member—you need to consult with a family law attorney. This is a decision that could have long-lasting legal consequences for all of you, including any children that would be born from your brother’s donation. Many states have different laws about the establishment of paternity, and if you’re already feeling at odds with your brother and your wife, I’m deeply concerned for your future. What if you and your wife separate? Would your brother seek visitation? Would your wife ask him for child support? What if your brother sees himself as your child’s real father and insists on becoming a permanent third member of your marriage? It doesn’t sound as though the three of you have discussed any of these questions, and “hoping for the best” is a pretty risky way to embark upon artificial insemination, especially involving a sibling. Your concerns about the role you want a sperm donor to play in your family’s life are deeply important, and you absolutely should not proceed with any appointments until you know that you and your wife are on the same page. —Danny M. Lavery

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From: Help! I’ve Made a Huge Mistake Asking My Brother To Be Our Sperm Donor.  (July 21, 2016)

Dear Prudence,

I am a single woman in my mid-30s and have worked for a private company for almost a decade. A few months ago, I took on a new role, working for a partner, “Tom,” who is a few years older than I am. He is notoriously volatile but has always been very nice and professional toward me. A few months ago, Tom and I were working late on a project, and he kissed me. I was shocked. Our interactions had always been strictly professional. We are both single, but I never considered him a dating option because he’s brought a series of different glamorous girlfriends to social events. Tom confessed that he’s liked me for years. We have been seeing each other secretly since then. In private, he is gentle, soft-spoken, calm, and fun—a 180 from his rough and short-tempered work personality. He is also extremely wealthy, which brings with it all the benefits you would expect—travel, luxury gifts, fancy restaurants, etc. Tom recently broached the subject of reporting our relationship to work. We think the other partners would want me to switch out of his group if we report, and that would be a bad move for my career. (I would need to switch companies to keep doing the same type of work.) He told that me it’s up to me but that he’d love not to have to see each other in secret anymore. He’s a partial owner so his career won’t be negatively affected. I like Tom. A lot. But all of my friends think something is fishy—they don’t think it’s normal that he has such vastly different work and private personalities, and they also think it’s unprofessional and sketchy that he pursued someone who reports to him. I guess I have similar reservations, but I am having so much fun with this fairy tale relationship that I am afraid to address them. What do you think?

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—Confused … but Having Fun

I think that he has nothing to lose, and you have everything. He’s a partial owner, so even if your relationship is seen as bad judgment on his part by his fellow poobahs, you will be the one forced to switch out of your group or even leave the company. (Sure, you can engage an employment attorney if you want to make the case you suffered as a result of sex discrimination. But getting involved in a lawsuit will likely not enhance your life.) Tom clearly likes you a lot. Maybe he’s enjoying spending time with someone who understands his work and is his intellectual equal. But whether this dalliance comes to light or fizzles out is consequential for you in a way it is not for him. You don’t say anything about Tom that makes me think that he’s reporting your relationship because he’s so serious about you; it sounds as if it would just be more convenient for him. My reaction would be different if he had declared his love and said he was done with the revolving cast of arm candy. But I agree with your friends that everything about this is sketchy, and perilous for you: the Jekyll and Hyde personalities, the unbidden kiss while working together, the secrecy, and the consequences of a revelation. I think you need to tell Tom that as much as you’d like to go public, it would be a bad move for you. I also think you should tell him that you two should return to a professional status. Given all the contingencies here, for your own protection, you should think about updating your résumé. —EY

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From: Help! My Boss Wants To Tell Work We’re Dating, But I’d Have To Quit.  (Oct. 8, 2015)

Dear Prudence,

I have been with my husband for 10 years, but we have always been mismatched sexually. We have a good life together, I love him, and want to stay together both for his sake and our child’s. However, I need more than half-hearted sex once a year, after begging and prancing around in expensive lingerie for months. I have talked about this with my husband probably every year since we got together; I’ve cried, asked for counseling, tried to do what he wants, but I get nothing. There’s very little physical affection in our relationship, and I have to believe that this is all he’s capable of. This past summer, it became clear that a good friend and I have serious chemistry. He is in a similar situation at home, and we have discussed the idea of a mutually beneficial, strictly sexual relationship. It would allow us both some relief. I considered discussing this with my husband, but I think he would react badly. I have no desire to remain celibate for the rest of my life, which seems to be what my husband wants. This seems like a reasonable solution. It gives me hope. I realize there’s a possibility of harming those I love, but I believe it is minimal. Am I crazy?

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—Sanity-Restoring Affair

If you believe the possibility of fallout is minimal here, it is only because you are delirious from years of involuntary celibacy. You want to have sex with a good friend, who is also married, and whom you’ll presumably have to see socially while also maintaining the fiction that you two aren’t having an affair. You believe your husband would react badly if you tried to find sexual satisfaction outside of your marriage, yet he’s not only refusing to have sex with you, it sounds as though he can barely bring himself to hug you. I’m sympathetic to your position, but I think the solution you’re contemplating is probably going to end quite dramatically. Your husband has watched you cry, beg, and put yourself on display for a little physical affection, and he’s not willing to give it to you himself or you believe he’d “react badly” if you tried to seek it elsewhere. It’s one thing to be honest about disparate sex drives; it’s quite another to see your partner in anguish and desperation and to respond with indifference. I don’t see how he can be a good husband, and I doubt sexlessness is your only problem. If you are determined to stay married, then you should openly propose alternative sexual arrangements, and not convince yourself that an affair would be “reasonable” when it’s likely to blow up in your face. But ultimately, I don’t think you do have a good life together, and I think you’d be better off leaving your husband, working on maintaining a cooperative co-parenting relationship, and having sex with whomever you please. —DL

From: My Husband Won’t Sleep With Me. Can I Have An Affair? (Dec. 29, 2016)

Dear Prudence,

I’m a 31-year-old male and consider myself to be a borderline sociopath. I view this as a neural development disorder where many people fall along a spectrum, not something to be “treated” or changed. I have a strong “logical morality” and do not wish harm to anyone, but I do come first and don’t commonly feel guilt or remorse. This seems to work in most areas of my life, but dating is a problem. By all recognizable accounts I am easygoing, successful, charming, and normal. However, I do not feel love the way I imagine many people do. My love for someone peaks around the two-month mark in the relationship and I can feel that way for nearly anyone who meets my dating criteria. But I have been the “love of their life” for many women, who form incredibly deep bonds and end up devastated after they realize our relationship will not progress and it ends for seemingly no reason. In some of these relationships I have even been entirely up front that I simply don’t “feel” the way most people do and they have not been deterred. So, what am I to do? I don’t enjoy hurting others, but I do enjoy when others care for me. Do I just continue this pattern throughout life, enjoying each relationship for what it is and knowing that if the woman gets her heart broken she will eventually get over it and go on to better relationships? Or is that callous and morally demanding of a better approach?

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—Not a “Feeler”

Thank you for a peek inside the brain of “that guy.” The guy who discards women like they’re stained clothing, yet always has someone new to try. The guy who makes no explicit promises, who even sometimes admits he’s not like other people, but who behaves as if the deepening feelings are mutual. The guy who when told by the woman he is seeing that she loves him, realizes it’s time to move on—and when questioned about the breakup asserts it’s simply not his fault if she misunderstood his attentions. Let’s take your borderline sociopath diagnosis at face value, and accept that you don’t want treatment, and frankly for major personality disorders there isn’t that much to offer. Because you don’t want to hurt others, you indeed are on the benign end of this spectrum, a kind of Mr. Spock. (At the malignant end are those who revel in causing pain, personified by serial killer Ted Bundy.) It even makes a certain evolutionary sense that a small number of people like you serve a useful societal function. You are the hyper-rational creature who can make decisions without the clouding lens of human feeling. It also makes sense that you have your pick of partners. Sailing through life with confidence and élan is attractive.

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You do acknowledge that you have your own emotional needs, and that they are not about having reciprocal feeling but about the gratification of being adored. So having applied your ample analytic skills to your situation, your question is what you should do about it. You’re right that you could go through life as a perpetual bachelor, breaking hearts and eventually making your friends queasy about fixing you up, but morality requires that you don’t knowingly continue this hurtful pattern. So stop making vague declarations about your lack of feelings. Be explicit at the beginning that you have never been in—and don’t care to start now—a relationship that lasted more than a few months. State that marriage is not for you. Say you offer a good time in the short term. Some women will take this as a challenge, but they do so at their own risk. But surely, there are also some female Spocks out there, and if you get tired of the endless chase, look for a woman who is as cool and unromantic as you. You two would likely make a formidable if unsettling team, moving forward together like a pair of beautiful sharks. —EY

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From: Help! Should I Warn the Women I Date That I’m a Sociopath? (May 29, 2014)

More Dear Prudence

I’m a college student who’s a little chubby and doesn’t have perfect skin, but I’m able to look in the mirror and smile. Unfortunately, my mother doesn’t feel the same way about me. When I became a teenager she started telling me about the benefits of plastic surgery. I simply don’t want to do it. I have tried explaining this, from polite statements, to tantrums, to cold indifference, with no effect. Once, when I was in high school, she told me she wanted me to come with her to visit my grandmother, but she pulled up to a plastic surgeon’s office, where it turned out she had set up an appointment. It took my tears to convince the doctor that we were there without my consent. After we left, she refused to talk to me for a month. Now she constantly insists that men will not be interested in me because of my nose or other things. I’m going to a therapist, and it helps emotionally, but the therapist also doesn’t see a way out. My father doesn’t get involved in family issues and usually ends up saying if my mom wants something for me, it’s for my benefit. I’m going back home this summer. Next term, my face might not look how it does now! What can I do?

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