Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here.
My daughter is getting married in six weeks. My husband and I are paying for everything. Since the happy couple are both professionals, they have many personal and work friends they want to invite. The venue holds 200 people, so my daughter, the groom’s mother, and I agreed six months ago upon the following division of guests: 50 each for the MIL and me, and 100 for the bride and groom.
When we recently started addressing invitations, MIL reported that she had sent out “save the date” cards to 120 people! I said we should leave the division as agreed—let MIL make explanatory phone calls. My daughter had a meltdown and reduced my number to 20, hers and the groom’s to 60, and insisted MIL “had” to send invitations to EVERYONE who received a save the date card! My family is local, so I hadn’t sent ANY of these cards.
Prudie, I come from a big Polish family. Even my allotted 50 guests was insufficient, but 20 will result in leaving out our immediate family! I am angry that MIL put us in such a horrifying position. She didn’t even apologize—she just stated that her husband’s business partners had watched her son grow up, and their feelings would be hurt if they weren’t invited, and she had a big family, too. How do we resolve this?
— MIL Over MOB
Dear MIL Over MOB,
This is an absolute nightmare, and I’m so mad on behalf of you and your daughter. The fair thing to do would be to tell MIL she needs either to reach out to the extra 70 people she invited and let them know that there was a huge misunderstanding or kick in some money to accommodate and feed the extra guests. Her choice. Let her know that if she doesn’t make a decision, the wedding planner will admit and have seating for the first 20 of the people on her list and the others will be turned away.
But it gets tricky because this is your daughter’s wedding, and you don’t want to create a conflict that will stress her out, even if you’re totally in the right (and paying the bill!)
So, I think the plan that will best accomplish the goals of 1) giving your daughter some peace, 2) getting a lot of points as the better, more reasonable in-law, and 3) making sure the wedding isn’t disaster, is this: Ask the bride what she wants to happen and tell her you’ll support her either way. If she wants to roll over and accept her MIL’s outrageous (and honestly, unforgivable) behaviors, let her. Remember that she and her husband will still get to celebrate with 60 of their closest friends, which is a lot (and probably more people than you can even greet or have a conversation with). Their happiness is most important, and the division of extra guests between your friends and MIL friends isn’t going to make a huge difference to them. If you can get over this massive injustice to keep the peace, I think it will pay off in the end when it comes to your relationship with your daughter and her ability to enjoy her big day.
A couple years ago, I moved back to my hometown for a great job offer. It was a promotion that would allow me to get my foot in the door and get a position at a better company a year or two later. The company didn’t do very well during the pandemic and had to close. I was lucky enough to find a similar position that could be remote because the new company was located in a city that was far too expensive for me to live in comfortably. I’m still living in my hometown, but I’m living a kind of half-life. My hometown is good for a short period of time, but after a while, I just have to get out. Because I knew I would only be here for a year or two, I really didn’t do a good job of putting down any roots and then the pandemic hit. I’m not sure if I would want to move at this point, I think the pandemic is getting bad again, but I would like to find a new job by this spring.
There’s a little wrinkle though: I just met a great guy. He’s so fun and enjoyable and I haven’t made a connection with anybody like this in such a long time. He’s been pursuing me pretty heavily for a few weeks now, but I keep brushing him off, telling him that I don’t want to stay here very much longer. He thinks that won’t be a big deal but he loves my hometown. I’ve resisted creating any meaningful relationships because I knew I’d probably be moving around a bit for about five years until I can find a more stable position. I’m realizing it makes it hard for me to build relationships. With this guy, it’s worse because I feel like I could get really close with him and the relationship could end up making me waffle on leaving this town. At the same time, it’s just so hard not to be close with anybody. So, I guess I have two questions: Is it worth it to start dating this guy, and how do I create meaningful relationships with people in general when I know I will probably be moving away in a year or two?
— Ending Before Starting
Well, sure, the relationship could make you waffle on leaving your hometown. Or the relationship could:
1) Make him waffle on staying in your hometown, and you two could move somewhere together and live happily ever after,
2) Survive long-distance for a couple of years if you make a move without him,
3) Be a nice way to spend the next few months to a year,
4) Teach you something about what you want and need in your net relationship,
5) Turn into a great friendship if you end up going your separate ways.
You really have no idea! It could be great, or it could end horribly. But all things being equal, I don’t think you should let a company that you don’t even work for yet and that doesn’t care about you and that could ultimately lay you off on a moment’s notice determine whether you enjoy life and give love a chance. Make a commitment to yourself that if a career is what makes you happy, you’ll do what it takes to have the one you want—and remind yourself that the right person for you will support you. It’s great to have goals and plans, but trust yourself to stick with them while still living and enjoying life. Start dating the guy.
How to Get Advice From Prudie
I live in an apartment with cluster mailboxes and have been receiving my neighbors junk mail. If it is just junk mail, do I have to give it back to them or can I just throw it out? I figure they’d probably toss it themselves but I feel weird doing it. At the same time, I don’t know them, and since the mailboxes have keys, I would have to go knock on their door at a time they were home to give it back. This is graduate student housing so we all have weird schedules which makes that more complicated. If it was important mail, of course I’d make the effort, but do I have to for junk mail? USPS might deliver through rain or snow or whatever, but I didn’t sign up for this!
— Not Deliberate Deliverer
Dear Not Deliberate,
Just leave it on top of the mailbox or in some visible spot in the mailroom, maybe with a sticky note flagging who it’s for.
I live in a townhouse across the street from a high school in a college town with a pretty strong town-and-gown atmosphere. Our street gets the usual bump in traffic at the start and end of the school day, but other than that it’s not even noticed. However, since this school year has started, we’ve had an issue with high school students parking and hanging out in our complex’s lot (the high school has its own large lot).
Hanging out isn’t an issue—I remember being a teenager and thinking standing around anywhere was fine as long as it wasn’t my house. But the parking is really causing a problem. The lot usually has plenty of spots for residents and then some, but now it’s almost completely full all day long. I’m on the college’s campus in the mornings and come home in the afternoons, and every day this semester I’ve had to park in the last available spot.
I could grit my teeth and deal with that, but there are also safety concerns. Our lot is one way, and they absolutely do not abide by that, driving both ways constantly once school lets out in the afternoon well into the evening, as well as speeding through the lot despite high pedestrian traffic.
Residents have parking passes in their car windows, and the lot is supposed to be monitored, so I figured that eventually one of the kids would get towed and they’d find a new spot, but it’s been several weeks now with no change. I’m absolutely not going to call the cops on these kids, almost all of whom are black, and I feel silly for getting annoyed over a parking lot, but I am worried that someone’s going to get hurt. I’m a 30-year-old uncool white lady, so I don’t feel confident that I could just talk to them and ask them to take their hang outs elsewhere. How can I restore parking peace?
— A Lot Happening in the Lot
Dear In the Lot,
It feels like maybe your anxiety about being a grouchy, uncool adult and being a white person policing what Black kids who aren’t really hurting anyone do is clouding this issue for you. In the grand scheme of things, those aren’t terrible feelings to have, and we’d probably be better off if more people shared them. But they could be making this more complicated than it needs to be.
This becomes your business at the point where you can’t park in your own parking lot because kids from the high school are using up the spots designated for residents. We’re not quite there yet—you say you’ve had to use the last available spot, not that you haven’t been able to park. If it comes to that, you have every right to be annoyed and want to fix it. Why don’t you speak to your building management about clearly labeling the reserved spaces “Parking for residents only?” Maybe you could even send a note to the school principal and ask them to remind kids who drive to make sure they’re parking legally. You could leave a few notes on windshields saying “Hi high school students. Please leave these spots for residents of the apartment building. Thanks!” I know teens can be intimidating, but they’re just people who haven’t been here as long. And 30 may as well by 65 to them —they don’t hold you to the same coolness standards to which they hold each other to or judge you for not behaving like you’re 17. So don’t even worry about being uncool—that’s a given. Plus, a smile and pleasantly dorky “Hi, how are you guys doing?” might go a long way to make you feel more comfortable talking to them if there ever is an urgent safety issue. By the way, I don’t think the way they drive in the parking lot reaches that level. They’re new drivers and they’re going to do that wherever they park, so you won’t be saving any lives if you become a self-appointed traffic cop.
This isn’t really related to your problem, but you sound like you genuinely want the best for these kids and would like to have a relationship with them that involves more than fretting about their rule-breaking. Since you work at the college, maybe you could contact the career services center or counseling office at the high school and offer your help with the admissions process, maybe by speaking on a panel about it, or lending a hand with tours or applications. I think you’ll feel better about bringing attention to things they’re doing wrong if you feel like a part of their community in ways that go beyond scolding them.
Dear Prudence Uncensored
“She is a completely unhinged person. I would put nothing past her.”
Jenée Desmond-Harris and friends discuss a letter in this week’s Dear Prudence Uncensored—only for Slate Plus members.
I moved out when I was 17 because of emotional and some physical abuse, and I have lived with my partner, “Damien,” in the two years since. I have maintained a relationship with my parents because my little sister lives with them, and I need to ensure her safety, because part of me still loves them, and because I am still on their health insurance. My mother hates my partner. Because of this, I’ve scaled back my involvement in family functions, and Damien only comes when my sister asks him to (she loves him like a brother). At a dinner with Damien present, my mother invited me, and only me, to a three-week long family cross-country RV trip. She says she will pay my way, and our rent for the month. I am conflicted. My instinct says this is intended as a snub to my partner, especially considering the rudeness of the invitation. But my extended family thinks I would be in the wrong to decline such a generous gift, my sister would be disappointed, and it’s also my understanding that family trips like this aren’t necessarily known to include partners if unmarried. Would it be unreasonable to decline a trip without my partner when my mother’s justification is that it’s not because she doesn’t like him, it’s because there’s no space in the RV? Damien, by the way, says it’s up to me, but prefers that I not attend.
— Confused About Vacation Etiquette
Your letter leaves a big, important question unanswered: Do you WANT to go on this trip? I know your mother wants you to go. I know your sister might enjoy your company. I know your extended family thinks it’s a great offer. I know your partner wants you to stay home.
But what do you want? Does it sound good to you to be stuck in a tiny box on wheels with people who abused you and who hate your partner and disrespect the two of you as a couple? Sorry, I didn’t ask that question in a neutral way because I don’t feel neutral about it. These people have been awful to you and continue to be awful to you, and I absolutely can’t imagine that spending three weeks in close quarters with them, separated from the person in your life who actually treats you well, will make you happy.
And by the way, it’s not as if this “generous gift” involves your own suite at an all-inclusive resort. You’ll be rolling around the country in a space the size of a living room with no escape except the occasional rest stop. I have a feeling you’re so used to being mistreated by them that it hasn’t occurred to you that your wants mattered—that’s why you are bringing up your partner’s desire for you to skip out. But you don’t have to make him your excuse. You can just pass.
Give Prudie a Hand
Sometimes even Prudence needs a little help. Every Thursday in this column, we’ll post a question that has her stumped. This week’s tricky situation is below. Join the conversation about it on Twitter with Jenée @jdesmondharris on Thursday, and then look back for the final answer here on Friday.
I have an amazing girlfriend. She’s intelligent, funny, successful, and incredibly caring. Plus, she has been phenomenal with my teenage daughter. My girlfriend is also a mother, and has an 8-year-old daughter. I don’t have the same level of emotional intelligence as my girlfriend, but I get along well with her daughter. We read, watch movies, and play board games together.
There is one recurrent issue that’s coming between my girlfriend and me: Although her daughter has her own bedroom, my girlfriend lets her sleep in bed with us frequently. My girlfriend also gets up early, leaving me in bed with an 8-year-old girl. I would never in a million years do anything, but I also don’t think that situation is remotely a good idea.
My girlfriend insists her daughter is just scared, and does not want to leave her alone at night. Their bedtime routine already involves soothing her daughter by putting her to bed in her own bedroom and falling asleep together, but her daughter will wake up in the night, open our bedroom door and climb into bed next to us. I offer to carry her back to her own bedroom, but get looked at like I’m being cruel.
I feel bad continuing to raise the issue, especially since my girlfriend takes it as an attack on her daughter. But it’s been five months since I expressed my concern and there’s been no real improvement. I know blending families with children can be difficult, but how do we resolve this?
— Uneasy Sleep
I work at a diverse and progressive non-profit, which overall is great. We often have meetings and discussions around various ways in which we can be more inclusive, open, and helpful to as many people as possible. As a straight, mostly-white, cis male, I’m generally much more a listener, adding things here and there as I see appropriate. Mainly, this is around Latino issues, as my dad is Latino. I do not stereotypically “look” it, nor do I have a stereotypically Latino last name, though, so I’m aware that I do not experience the racism that many Latinos do, and don’t claim to.
This was all going well until the topic shifted to “neurodiversity.” This has taken up a lot of discussion recently, with some of the team very passionately trying to enact changes based on their understanding of autism. The issue is that these changes are, in my opinion, misguided, misinformed, and somewhat patronizing, even though I know they’re well-meaning. I have voiced these concerns, and been either ignored, or (in one instance) accused of pushing too hard against the ideas of POCs/women from my position of privilege.
Prudie, I’m autistic! Diagnosed professionally, “high-functioning” or however people want to deem it, but still very much autistic (and ADHD). I’m not “out” to many people in my life, and to be honest the recent discussions haven’t made me all that willing to “come out” at work. But I’m worried that unless I do so, I’m not going to be taken seriously in these discussions. To my knowledge, no one else involved (including the most vocal people) is autistic, although obviously there could well be another person like me in there. Is there a way to navigate this without being forced to broadcast my diagnosis to anyone who questions me?
— Autistic but Not Out—Istic
Dear Autistic but Not Out,
Your organization should be making decisions based on research and the advice of people with actual expertise, not the whims and preferences of the people who happen to be in the room and their identities. Can you suggest bringing in a consultant? Or looking for guidance from reputable organizations representing neurodiverse people? I think it would be worth having a chat with management about this.
I really don’t think you should have to “come out” to be heard. But if your sense is that the organization isn’t going to change its approach, perhaps you could give some weight to your comments by explaining that someone very close to you is autistic and sharing their perspective. They don’t have to know that the person you’re close to is yourself!
My wife recently told me that after 11 years together, she is leaving. I was devastated, but we’re continuing living as normally as possible until our lease is up (two months left). Then I found out, as I was frantically trying to repair our relationship, that she was not only already seeing someone new but was trying to have a child with them. I am beyond crushed and I have no idea how to deal with this situation. I’m somehow still in love with her, despite my anger and sadness. She wants to remain my best friend, and I really want her to be happy despite everything. Now, we are living together and she’s still seeing this guy. How do I survive the next two months? Is it healthy to be friends with her after this?