Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: Out of the Loop

This week, Danny M. Lavery and Slate associate editor Seth Maxon discuss a Prudie letter: out of the loop.

Seth Maxon: Wow, a lot going on here.

The first thing I would want to tell OOTL is that it’s very reasonable to feel upset that they had to learn about their immediate family members’ life-threatening and life-altering health problems secondhand, and belatedly. Even if they don’t feel especially close to their family and are living far away, and “couldn’t do anything,” they have a right to know. I would be hurt too, if my family thought I wouldn’t want to know these things. Distance and inability to “help” in some practical way seem like insufficient rationales for the silence from their family, to me.

Danny M. Lavery: I felt much the same way about this! I’m mostly just quite sorry that the LW is in this position, because it seems really bewildering, coordinated, and unnecessary.

I think the upside is that they don’t necessarily have to convince everyone to change this policy – really they just need to get one relative to change their mind

Seth Maxon: That’s true, and a good point. If they can have somebody who understands and can keep them in the loop, it could go a long way. Maybe there is one person who has been more open, or more understanding, that could be that way in.

Danny M. Lavery: probably not their mom, given her last reply

Seth Maxon: Right, oof.

Danny M. Lavery: And for what it’s worth, I don’t think the LW has failed to signal their interest!

I know they said they want to appear less emotionally distance but it seems like they’ve said, at least once, that they do want to know about this kind of thing

so I would encourage the LW just to make the clear as a policy instead of feeling like they have to completely overhaul their affect just to “seem” less distant

which, in this context, feels to me a bit like “seem” less autistic, like that’s part of the dynamic here

the LW doesn’t say that anyone has made explicit reference, but the dynamic does seem like it follows a recognizable pattern of families making decisions “for someone else’s own good” on the basis of their autism, even if it directly contradicts their stated wishes

Seth Maxon: Right! I think it sounds like they have communicated that they care with consistency, and a more emotional affect is probably not something that the LW should focus on. Apart from being ungenerous to themselves, and bending to an unfair dynamic, it also just might not be the most direct path to better communication from their family members. I think it might help to have a conversation that’s very direct about this.

Danny M. Lavery: I think so too – and I think having the conversation with each individual relative the LW is hoping to persuade might be more effective than trying to have the conversation with the family as a group

If it’s a group dynamic, it might be easier to get someone to “break ranks” if you talk to them one-on-one

and, you know, what you are asking for, LW, is very reasonable, and requires minimal effort/energy from your relatives

it’s just “hey someone text me if anyone goes to the hospital”

it’s not demanding or weird

I hope someone does start looping you in!

Seth Maxon: Totally. It’s base-level family stuff! The LW’s family members should understand, and I agree that one-on-one conversations are the way to explain. Like, if they proactively say, hey, can you just please make sure I know when major changes or health problems come up? I care about everyone, and it means a lot to me. That might leave a lasting impact. I hope so!

Danny M. Lavery: my last thought – and I really don’t want to get pre-emptively defensive on the LW’s behalf, but I think it’s worth preparing for – is that if their family does push back and tries to say something like “Because of your autism/living far away, you can’t handle hearing bad news,” that you have the right to contest that assertion

*they have the right, sorry to switch back and forth between second and third person

Seth Maxon: (no worries! sorry if i have been using third too much and should be using second)

Danny M. Lavery: no rules, baby

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