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I moved across the country a few years ago on my own and made a wonderful new friend. She lives a few hours away, and we message each other almost daily. Before the pandemic, we would meet up about once a month and always had a wonderful time. She’s very talented at making clothes and jewelry and maintains a small online store. I’ve supported her, bought items she’s made, even modeled a few of them, and used my own small social media platform to spotlight her work. However, recently I noticed that she’s added the descriptor “Latina-owned small business” on her website and related accounts. She’s not Latina. Neither is anyone in her immediate family, her extended family, nor ancestrally. She’s a white woman. I am Latina, and my culture is very important to me.
I’m so horrible at confrontation. After gathering my courage, I asked her why she’d added that descriptor, giving her an out by assuming it was a mixup. She said her husband, who is Latino, told her to add it because “We are a mix of everything anyway.” But that seems so disingenuous. Her customers believe they are supporting a Latina-owned business. I know times are tough for everyone, but I don’t think she has to lie like this. The things she makes aren’t even aimed at the Latinx market, so I don’t understand why she would do this. Every time she messages me it says [Her Name – Latina Business Owner], and it feels like a slap in the face. Should I even try to explain how awful this feels, or should I just back away without explanation?
—Flabbergasted by False Friend
Given how directly this subterfuge affects you and that you’ve already given her the opportunity to apologize and come to her senses, you’d certainly be justified in walking away now. She’s demonstrated a blithe unconcern in listening to you, or in considering any perspective that doesn’t shore up her desire to “profit” from calling herself Latina. I realize you don’t like confrontation, but I wonder if it would feel meaningful to send her something in writing explaining how badly this hurts you, how sad you are to lose a friendship that’s brought you so much joy, and how it felt to have your concerns dismissed with “My husband gave me permission, and besides, there’s nothing unique about being Latina that I can’t lay claim to by virtue of ‘we’re all human beings.’ ” You wouldn’t have to invite a response or follow-up conversation, and you wouldn’t necessarily go into it hoping to change her mind, but you might feel a sense of relief over naming this deception explicitly as the reason you’re ending the friendship. But if you’d simply rather back away from her and mourn your loss in private, I don’t think you’ll have missed an important opportunity by blocking her number.
Help! I Keep Looking for Excuses Not to Hang Out With My Husband.
Danny M. Lavery is joined by Avery Trufelman on this week’s episode of the Dear Prudence podcast.
I love my wife, “Vivienne,” so much. She’s compassionate, kind, and hilarious. This year has been really difficult, because after several years of unsuccessful attempts to get pregnant, I asked that we stop trying for the foreseeable future. We had several conversations, and I said I didn’t know when I might want to start again, if ever. Vivienne agreed, but she’s been heartbroken, and we’re both trying to deal with grief. I also have two children from my first marriage. There have been times when I haven’t been able to comfort Vivienne during a rough day because one of my kids had an emergency. A few days ago, Vivienne admitted that she feels desperately alone, that she needs more support than I can give.
She wants to drive to her sister’s home three hours away and quarantine there. My kids have been struggling with depression, and they have taken a lot of my focus. I didn’t realize I’d been neglecting Vivienne until she brought this up. The more we talked, the more I realized Vivienne was so unhappy that she was considering a separation. In my terror over losing her I said I’d be happy to start trying for a baby again, which made her burst into tears, because that’s obviously not the case. Vivienne decided not to go to her sister’s, but I think it’s only because I freaked out. She is still heartbroken, and I’m worried she might be for as long as she’s with me and doesn’t have a baby. I don’t know what to do. I love this woman so much, and she’s suffering, and I can’t fix it.
—Can’t Help Everyone
It’s true that you can’t fix Vivienne’s suffering—or your own, or your kids’—but you can offer her meaningful support, an open mind, and a heartfelt apology for saying you’d be willing to try to conceive again in a panicked attempt to stop her from leaving. Say you want to revisit that conversation, that you’re terribly sorry for offering an insincere promise that obviously caused her pain, and tell her what you told me: “I think you might have decided not to go to your sister’s only because I freaked out. I want to be with you, but I also know you’ve been feeling alone and need more support than I can give you right now.” I know your time is scarce right now, but see if you can find a few minutes—in the morning, at lunch, whenever you have a window—to reflect on how you could better support her amid your difficult schedule, that strikes me as time well spent. If you truly don’t believe you can offer her any more time and support than you do now, even if it breaks your heart to admit it, it’s best to be honest with her. If you’re prepared to seriously overhaul how you balance your commitments to your children and your relationship, start by asking Vivienne what she thinks needs to change.
You know, I think, that if Vivienne really wants to leave for a while (or forever) that you can’t actually stop her, so don’t let fear of what might happen keep you from asking if she still wants to go. You’ll simply learn more about her state of mind. If she feels freedom from you to take time and space to grieve, to contemplate her options, to reflect on what changes she might want in your marriage, I think that will improve the odds that you two could reconcile. But you can’t keep her in this marriage by avoiding the subject and hoping it just never comes up again.
I work in a small office of four people, including myself. Last year, our boss gave us very generous, personalized Christmas gifts. I was not uncomfortable receiving a gift, but felt awkward about what might be an appropriate gift to give her. (Our office ended up pitching in for a personalized home décor piece as a group gift.)
The chain of command is throwing me off a bit. She is a director, but I am a manager, so I feel there’s a bit more of a social expectation that I give a gift, more so than if I were a regular employee. But I have also heard that it’s inappropriate for employees to give gifts to supervisors. What’s the right way to approach this?
—Overwhelmed by Office Gifts
I wouldn’t be surprised if your boss had a discretionary fund for employee Christmas gifts (which may have been generous but probably still a lot cheaper than holiday bonuses!), so you needn’t assume that she went all-out to buy you something with her personal credit card. Alison Green of Ask a Manager has covered this one pretty extensively, so I’ll quote her here: “Gifts in a workplace should flow downward, not upward. In other words, it’s fine for your boss to give you a gift but you shouldn’t give gifts to your managers. That rule exists to prevent employees from feeling pressure to purchase gifts for the people who sign their paychecks, and because it’s unseemly for managers to benefit from employer/employee power dynamics that way.”
That means you really don’t have to get your boss a gift—not even a group gift, and ideally she would have made that clear to everyone else in the office last year. If you’re really anxious at the possibility of breaking tradition or sticking out in such a small office, try to head things off at the pass early and suggest something relatively inexpensive, like some baked goods or a potted plant. Personalized home decor is way too complicated and expensive for an employee gift!
Now available in your podcast player: the audiobook edition of Danny M. Lavery’s latest book, Something That May Shock and Discredit You. Get it from Slate.
More Advice From Care and Feeding
My stepdaughter, who is almost 5, likes to rub herself on her car seat every time we are in the car. How do we get her to stop? According to my husband, she has done this for a while and it most likely started around age 2. He said that he and his ex-wife just ignored it. I remember masturbating as young as 4 and getting caught and being told what I was doing was “bad.” I don’t know how to gracefully tell her that it’s OK to do but not in the car or in front of other people. I don’t want her to be shamed for it (like I was) but I don’t want it to keep happening. And for the record, I don’t think it’s a sign of something deeper like sexual abuse. I wasn’t abused, and still did it. Little kids masturbate and touch themselves! How can I have an age-appropriate conversation with her about it?