Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. This week, Torie Bosch is filling in as Prudie. Jenée Desmond-Harris takes over on June 3.
My friend has always been delighted that she had a “rom-com” relationship. After being a bit of a wallflower in school and not very successful dating as an adult, she ran into an old schoolmate at our reunion and had a whirlwind courtship, marriage, and stepkids. I was recently told by someone that her husband had been burned by his (beautiful/popular/outgoing) ex and had told them at the reunion that he was going to “settle” for my friend when he saw her. The rationale, apparently, was she would be grateful, he would be comfortable, and the kids would be taken care of when with them. I didn’t want to know any of this, but now it is all I can think about when I am with my friend and she talks about her wonderful husband, his awful ex, and her bratty stepkids. I don’t think there is anything to be gained by telling her (for a start, it might not be true! Or it started out true and her husband did fall madly for her), but how do I stop thinking about it all the time? It is hard to avoid the topic, and I admit that after a few years of “Oh, you should have a meet cute like mine,” I was already a bit sour on the topic.
Dear Secret Keeper,
The real problem is that years after her happily ever after, your friend keeps invoking it, giving you the oh-so-helpful advice of “You should have a meet cute like mine.” If she tends to say that after you’re, say, complaining about a bad date, I think you should respond a little sharply: “You say that all the time, but it’s really unhelpful. That’s not something I can exactly sign up for.” Maybe she’ll think you’re just jealous—but that’s OK, even if it’s a tiny injustice! If you can get her to chill out on referencing her classic rom-com meet cute, you’ll be able to stop thinking about the gritty reboot version, too.
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I am a woman in my mid-20s. Four years ago I pawned my golden birthday present from my father (some pieces of Tiffany jewelry) for a couple hundred bucks. I never liked the jewelry, never wore them, and wanted the money to buy some clothes for a trip I was going on. Being young and foolish, I thought that it wasn’t a big deal and that I would eventually go back for the jewelry, but life happened, I got busy, and I went back for the pieces too late. Now I cannot even look at any piece of jewelry without feeling guilty about how I had so little care for such a meaningful gift. No one knows I did this but my mother. I know that I will never tell my father, because it would absolutely break his heart. How do I get over the guilt and move forward? I am trying to obtain replicas of the jewelry, but that is proving to be more difficult than anticipated.
—A Daughter Wracked With Guilt
Dear Wracked With Guilt,
Oh, I’m the right person for this letter. I have a similar nauseating guilt about a lost necklace that my now-deceased mother gave me when I was in my early 20s. The thing is that sometimes we feel pain because we should feel it. You and I were both a bit ungrateful, for the present and for the parent who gave it to us. That doesn’t mean we didn’t love them, but it does mean we didn’t appreciate them, and the gift, enough. I think the only thing you can do is accept that you made a mistake, as we all do. As penance, you must schedule one day soon (whether in person or via Zoom) when you do something together that he loves and you hate. I hope you and your father have many more years together so you can accumulate a huge stock of presents that you don’t particularly like but that you cherish because of who gave them to you. In time, you’ll be able to look at jewelry again without self-flagellating.
I have an aunt, uncle, and two cousins who live rather far away from me and who I saw sporadically throughout my childhood. I mostly interact with my aunt and uncle through hearing about them from my grandmother or seeing them on FaceTime when visiting my grandparents.
I recently found out via social media that one of my two cousins, “B” (female, late 20s), has married a woman. Her parents don’t appear featured in any of the wedding photos. My grandmother recently made some comments about my aunt and how Mother’s Day would be difficult for her, and made references to my other cousin calling her, but not B. My family is pretty religious, and it wouldn’t surprise me (although it definitely saddens me!) if B marrying a woman caused a rift between them.
I haven’t talked to B in a few years, so I’m not sure if it’s weird to reach out and offer some support. On one hand, I don’t know very much about this situation except what I can infer from the sidelines. On the other, receiving some support from family right now might be really helpful to B at a time when she may have faced family rejection. Is there a way I can offer support in this situation without it being weird or without making too many assumptions?
—Allied but Estranged Cousin
Dear Allied but Estranged,
Her new marriage offers a great excuse to reach out, nothing weird or presumptuous about it. Mail her a small gift with a heartfelt card that says you’re so happy for her and would love to get to know her better and to meet her new wife—no need to reference her potential family rejection at all. If you can’t afford a gift right now, just do the card! Give her your phone number and see if she texts or calls. I hope this is the start to a beautiful new phase of your cousin-ship.
More Advice From Care and Feeding
My 6-year-old daughter is extremely imaginative, loves pretend play, draws constantly, and loves to make up stories. It’s sweet, and being a person who has never felt very creative, I admire her immensely. But one extension of this seems problematic to me, and I’m not quite sure what to do about it. She regularly lies, sometimes really obviously, and sometimes I can’t tell if what she’s saying really happened or not. And if I ask her whether she’s telling the truth, she sometimes changes her story entirely or just makes it more elaborate and seemingly further from the truth. Six seems old for this kind of thing. Is it something I need to be concerned about? And how do I respond to these situations? I honestly feel like it’s a barrier in connecting emotionally with my daughter, and I worry about that and how it will develop over time.
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