Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. This week, Shannon Palus is filling in as Prudie.
I adopted a cat, Zayn, four years ago. He is a great cat, and I love him to death. I recently allowed him to be an indoor/outdoor cat. Normally he’d stay out for a few hours then come home, but now he doesn’t come home till 10 p.m. It turns out Zayn has been paying visits to my next-door neighbor. It started with him just hanging out in her backyard, but now he is allowed in her home. He even cuddles and takes naps with her. She has asked my parents several times if she could adopt him, as she found out that we are moving. My neighbor’s husband just died, and she has become really attached to Zayn. My mom said I should give up Zayn so he can keep my neighbor company, but when I rejected the idea, my mom got angry.
My boyfriend and I are getting our own apartment, and we can’t let Zayn run around in the complex. I know he’s going to constantly try to escape, as he loves the outdoors. My mom guilts me by showing pictures of Zayn and my neighbor together and makes remarks about how Zayn is going to suffer. It hurts me that my own mother believes that me caring for him isn’t good enough. I feel manipulated by both my mom and my neighbor. Is it wrong that they are putting me in this heartbreaking position?
—My Dear Cat
If I have to guess, I would say that your mom is not really concerned about Zayn at all here. You are her child, and you are moving out of her place into an apartment with a boyfriend, and I bet she’s a little worried about what that’s going to be like for the humans involved here, emotionally. And it’s much easier to project her concerns onto this cat than to sit in the upheaval of having a child leave. Or maybe something else is going on here. But my point is: Based on the information you have provided, it sounds like Zayn will be fine. It also sounds like a positive that you (and Zayn) are striking out on your own.
When your mom brings it up again, just say you love Zayn, he’s your cat, and that’s the final word, and then ask if she’s seen any good movies lately. It’s sad that this lady’s husband just died, but you can’t fix that by giving up your pet. (Also, for the record, it’s really rude of your neighbor to usurp you here by asking your mother if she can adopt your cat!) You deserve to have your own cat continue to be your own cat.
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I’m part of a group of friends that started as a small group of co-workers. A few months ago, “John” started dating “Brit.” It’s been rough, trying to integrate Brit into the group. I know that we can seem very clique-y, but we really are easy-going. Brit, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to get along with anyone, not just our friend group. She’s one of those women who goes around declaring “I just get along better with men. Women are so tough.” She ruffled lots of feathers at work for getting drunk at a work event and being inappropriately flirty with two colleagues’ husbands. She throws people under the bus left and right. Recently, at a gathering, another friend in the group adopted a senior cat and told us about a “bucket list” she made for him. Brit jumps in and says that item No. 1 should be to put him down, causing the friend to get pretty upset. Frankly, I have no idea what John sees in her.
The problem is that John complains to us that Brit complains to him that she feels very excluded from our group. We really had tried to welcome her, for John’s sake, but we’ve stopped inviting them out as much, and I’ll admit, when they are around, we probably do seem cold toward her. John is getting increasingly upset with us. We don’t want him to have to choose between us or Brit, but Brit’s attitude is the force driving that. Any suggestions for a peaceable balance?
—So About Brit …
Dear About Brit,
A woman who slings around the phrase “I just get along better with men” is coping with some internalized misogyny. Having once been that woman, I feel for her, and know that it is possible that she will come to see the issues with that statement and generally be able to lead a happier life and not take out her frustrations on random cats. But there’s no reason you need to be BFFs with her in the meantime. It in fact makes sense that you might be being a little cold to her, given that she is maligning one half of the population here, plus your friend’s cat.
Tell John that you just don’t like hanging out with Brit, because she is not very nice to you. You don’t have to go so far as to say you don’t want Brit to show up at group drinks ever (though, if you do not want Brit to show up at group drinks ever, you are certainly allowed to say this). You’ve made an admirable effort to incorporate Brit, and at this point, being upfront to John about how things are going is much kinder than withholding some invitations and being chilly when they do go out with you. You will not be asking him to choose between you and Brit, writ large. If the friend group and Brit are both meaningful to John, I am sure he is capable of figuring out how to make time for both. Separately.
I’m in an open relationship with my wife, who lives with me, and my boyfriend, who lives abroad. Both relationships have their own dynamics, and I do my best to be communicative between them. However, my two partners seldom talk to each other, to my growing frustration. I have told them both this is something important to me for over a year, and they have made attempts in an online group chat, but eventually they’ll return to not talking. It’s not for any dislike of each other—I’m pretty sure they just don’t share many common interests and probably have difficulty making what seems like forced small talk. It’s not that I want to force them to be close, and I will frustrate them back if I try to keep hammering them on the issue. Personally, I think communication is super important, and I think they would have different insight into me that they could share with each other because of our different relationships. Is there a healthy strategy to encourage them to talk more? Should I drop this issue once and for all?
—Between a Talk and a Hard Place
If your marquee issue is that you wish they would talk more—specifically, talk to each other about you more—it sounds like things are going pretty well in your relationships. Given that you’ve voiced your wishes, and they’ve made some attempts to chat, I think that it is indeed not going to be a fruitful strategy to keep pushing them to communicate and will just frustrate you further. Because unless there’s a specific relationship-related issue you wish they would address with each other directly rather than using you as a middle-person, having them communicate more with each other “just because” isn’t really up to you.
That said, it makes sense that you’d want two people you care for to be friendly with each other. I think you could do a little more to actively get the friendship ball rolling here yourself. Text the both of them videos of cute animals or whatever low-stakes things you think would make them both smile, suggest group dinner when you’re all in town. But don’t force it. It’s entirely possible that while they are happy enough to have you in common, they don’t particularly want to be close to each other.
More Advice From Care and Feeding
How do teachers really feel about kids missing school for a vacation? My kids range in age from upper elementary school to middle school. For years, I’ve watched families visit Disney World in the dead of winter to beat the long lines, or take advantage of lower airfare during nonpeak travel periods to head off somewhere warm. I’m envious. I’m a rule-follower and feel like school is school. But I also feel like I may be missing out on quality time with my family. We don’t have a lot of discretionary income and taking a vacation when prices are lower would help us take a vacation we wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. Is it a big deal for my kid to miss five days of school for a vacation?
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