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We live in a state where the vaccine rollout has been a challenge. Recently, we found out that our friend group (three other couples) all lied about having medical conditions to get the vaccine. They bragged about it and told us to do the same. I had to search and search for appointments for my parents and still haven’t gotten one for my dad! Am I justified in cutting these people out of my life, or am I overreacting?
You say “we” when referring to your friend group and “I” when asking about cutting those friends off. Since you refer to them as “other couples,” I wonder what your partner’s reaction has been. You are entitled to your own reaction, regardless of what your partner thinks, but it may prove tricky if you want to cut ties and your partner wants to ignore it, so you might want to talk things over as a couple first—if only so you can coordinate your next moves. If they’re friends of long standing, I’d encourage you to have at least one conversation with them before deciding to end your relationships, if only for your own peace of mind. But by all means, tell them you object to their decision to lie, that you will not be following their example, and that it’s highlighted your fears for your own father, who may be at high risk and is still waiting on his appointment.
As you say, the problems with vaccine availability are widespread and institutional, and your friends are not solely responsible for your parents’ situation. It may help to separate out your frustrations with how the state and federal governments have handled the pandemic before addressing your personal frustrations with your friends. But speak honestly about your reaction. If the conversations go well but you still feel uneasy about their choices, it’s perfectly fine to keep them at arm’s length for a while. But if you find their reactions dismissive or otherwise insufficient, and if those follow-up conversations change how you view those friendships, you may very well decide you can’t continue them.
Help! My Parents Won’t Eat at My House Because of My Cats.
Danny M. Lavery is joined by Uma Kondabolu on this week’s episode of the Dear Prudence podcast.
My partner and I are both nearly 70. We both lost our spouses about eight years ago, and we’ve been together for seven years. He has three grown children. I have two. When we first got together, his children were worried I was a gold digger. We have both done well for ourselves, but I have my own income and don’t need his money. We both have our own homes and spend weekends together. Our biggest extravagance before the pandemic was travel.
His eldest daughter and her husband lost their jobs five years ago. They moved into a guest cottage on his property, where they lived and worked rent-free for three years then moved out. Last year, I mentioned on Facebook that I was redoing my veranda and would be getting climbing roses, more plants, lights, and furniture. My partner has a dozen big terra-cotta pots he offered to me, so I mentioned I was adding them to the design. This triggered a flurry of mean texts from his daughter, who told me I needed to bring back any pots from the guest cottage because they were “HERS.” She said she “knew” I had a problem with ownership, that if I took something that wasn’t mine I’d be a thief, and that I needed to be watched so I didn’t take her family’s nice things. She said a lot of other ugly things. I think she had been drinking, but I don’t doubt she had been thinking this way for a while. I couldn’t get her to slow down, and after about 45 minutes, I ended the conversation. She has not apologized. In fact, she’s recounted the incident often and says that when she called me a thief and a gold digger, she “didn’t mean it that way.” She wants an apology from me for making her cry because she mistakenly thought I had stolen her pots.
My partner was embarrassed when it was happening, and the constant rehashing embarrasses him all over again. He told her once that her behavior toward me was unacceptable and he wasn’t going to let it repeat itself. If it would make my partner happy, I’d tamp down my feelings and out-nice her, but I have no desire to rekindle our old relationship. So am I the one who should apologize? I haven’t had any conversations longer than five minutes with her since this happened. Am I hanging on to this unfairly? I am capable of never speaking to someone who crosses the line with me. I haven’t spoken to my sister in 40 years, since I caught her in bed with my first husband. Haven’t spoken to him, either.
—Wary of Reconciliation
You do not have to apologize to someone who has behaved unreasonably toward you simply because it is unlikely she will ever apologize for behaving unreasonably. Your partner is not asking you to tamp down your feelings; in fact, he’s told his daughter that he’ll intervene if she flies off the handle again, which he should. He’s right to be embarrassed by her conduct. Her conduct has been embarrassing! But apologies aren’t transferable, and you can’t smooth over someone else’s bad behavior by pretending to be sorry for an imaginary sin of your own. You have, I think, been fairly gracious toward her already, both in how you handled the original outburst and in your behavior ever since. You ended the conversation when it became clear she wasn’t going to stop ranting. You have not revisited the subject, and you haven’t taken the bait when she’s tried to bring it back up herself. You can either carry on as you have been, or you can tell your husband that you’d like him to deliver on his promise to intervene. If she’s still bringing this grudge up after a full year, it’s definitely time for her to stop repeating herself. She needs to knock it off.
My best friend, “Meg,” and I have been close since preschool. Our paths have diverged over the years, but we now live in the same city, and we have been seeing more of each other during the pandemic. It’s been hard for me (as it has been for everyone). I am a full-time graduate student, and I work another part-time job to pay for rent. As everything has moved online, I am more sedentary than ever before, yet I am usually exhausted at the end of every day. I am depressed and have also begun to gain weight.
Meg, on the other hand, seems to be thriving. She has a new boyfriend and has recently lost a significant amount of weight. How do I put aside my own insecurities and be happy for Meg? We have both struggled a lot with our weight over the years, and my extra weight just seem to drive home my sense of stagnation. I am, frankly, jealous that she has the time and energy to exercise, and I’m frustrated with myself and my body. I know that this is my own problem, and I am absolutely determined not to take out my own insecurities on her, but it is difficult sometimes to be happy for her. How do I fix my attitude?
—Come on, Get Happy
Not taking out your own insecurities on your friend is an admirable goal, and I encourage you to pursue it to the best of your abilities. Trying to make yourself feel happy about someone else’s weight loss is not a worthwhile endeavor, and I encourage you to abandon it. Meg may very well be happy about her weight loss—you don’t say one way or the other how she feels about it, whether it’s intentional or incidental, or how sane or sustainable her weight-loss strategies may have been—but it’s simply not your responsibility to feel either happy or unhappy about it.
Since you’ve been close for a long time, you might consider sharing with Meg a briefer version of what you’ve said in your letter. I don’t mean you should announce, “Hey, your weight loss has highlighted my own exhaustion and self-recrimination, I’ve been taking your appearance personally and we need to talk about it all the time.” But it might help you achieve your goal of not taking any insecurities out on her if you share that goal with her, something along the lines of: “I’m having a hard time on a lot of fronts these days. Being cooped up and exhausted so much of the time feels kind of paradoxical, but I’m often tired, I’ve gained weight, and I feel self-conscious about it. We don’t need to go into a lot of detail, and I don’t need anything more from you than your general love and support, but I wanted you to know I’m going through it—partly because it makes me feel a little less isolated, but also so I could tell you I’m working to make sure I don’t take out my insecurities on other people. Thanks for bearing with me.”
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 son, a high school freshman, is a very laid-back and relaxed 15-year-old. This was great when he was younger—rarely was there a tantrum or strong resistance—but as a teenager it makes me so worried. We cannot get him motivated about school, or to find his passions. He puts in little effort and does fine. But he is very bright, and with even a modest effort he could do quite well. He doesn’t get in trouble at school, has many friends, and hasn’t pushed our boundaries beyond what is appropriate at his age. Perhaps this is our own hang-up about how he should be successful. We want him to attend college and find meaningful work. Do we just let him find his way?
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