Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: The Almost In-Law

This week, Danny M. Lavery and John Thompson discuss a Prudie letter: the almost in-law.

John Thompson: Wow, yeah. That is an open and shut case of homophobia, 100%

Danny Lavery: yeah there’s no plausible deniability here

‪she just really hates that her kid is bisexual and wants to force him back in the closet

‪and she wants to leverage his self-doubt over his “ability” to read social cues to put additional pressure on him, no?

John Thompson: Absolutely. And from the letter I think he has some uncertainty about how he should project himself into the world

‪but it doesn’t sound like the MIL’s going to succeed, honestly

‪which is cause for some hope

‪I think it’s significant that he hasn’t, from the letter at least, really questioned his fundamental insight about himself

Danny Lavery: yeah, although I feel terrible that he’s been calling his relatives to *apologize* for coming out

‪I agree that he does seem to have a consistent sense of self-understanding despite his mother’s harassment, but I do worry about him right now and I want to encourage the LW to speak to him directly

‪and say that his mother is wrong, that he has nothing to apologize for, and to offer him support

John Thompson: I completely agree

Danny Lavery: I also worry about how much financial control his mother has over him

‪I’m not sure if she’s mostly just like, handling his bills for him or if she has direct access to his bank accounts and could potentially isolate/control/abuse him in that way

John Thompson: I hadn’t considered that angle, I’m glad you brought it up

‪I’m not sure what the circumstances there are, or what legal recourse is possible or necessary

‪it would be a definite escalation of abuse if that were to become a factor

‪I think that the LW should lead with their (evident!) love and acceptance, maybe with a little narrative about how concretely he has become a part of the LW’s family, and affirm an explicit commitment, on the LW’s part, to supporting them. That would be a start!

Danny Lavery: I think so too!

John Thompson: the financial / material support question is one thing, the personal support is another, and I think in the latter case the guy’s in as good a place as could be desired. Also coordinate with the sister / fiancé and anyone else in the family who feels the way the LW does. I’d say “throw a party for him” but that might be way intense!

Danny Lavery: do you think it would be going too far to say to Paul “I think your mom takes advantage of your self-doubt to convince you that your autism prevents you from ‘understanding’ what bisexuality is”?

John Thompson: yeah, it’s definitely understandable that he wants to trust his mom, but his mom is very wrong here

‪he’s already come to a point of self-reflection and he’s trusted it enough to speak to it outside her influence

‪reify that trust in himself, I think it’s there

‪and celebrate it, I think. Help him, as the LW can, to take pride in it

Danny Lavery: yeah and really push back against the idea that autism means it’s impossible for him to verify/trust social cues without his mother always acting as a gatekeeper

‪I feel alarm bells whenever someone says something like “because of your autism, *only* I can help you verify your sense of the world”

John Thompson: Absolutely, and it might be a difficult process to shake that established pattern

‪but I think a key is establishing an alternative lens, through the in-law family, that doesn’t shame him

Danny Lavery: right, the LW doesn’t have to pressure him to break with his mom or try to position themselves as an alternative – “Don’t listen to her, listen to me” – so much as affirm “I’m with you, your self-knowledge here is a good thing, your other relatives and I are happy you came out to us”

John Thompson: Fully agreed. Not just happy he came out, happy to have met, come to know, and to have them belong

Now available in your podcast player: the audiobook edition of Danny M. Lavery’s latest book, Something That May Shock and Discredit YouGet it from Slate