Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here.
My friend “Emma” is not vaccinated against COVID. While I struggle with it, I try not to let it get to me, because she isn’t staunchly anti-vax, she just has reservations for herself about getting it (she doesn’t go on anti-vax rants, and she has no problem with other people having it). Her birthday is coming up soon, and she wants to come up to my town, because there’s more to do. She mentioned wanting to go to a particular brewery, and I told her that they require vaccinations. She then looked it up, and said proof was only required for the inside, you don’t have to show proof if you sit outside. I said that I’m not willing to sit outside, because where we live is already pretty cold, and in a few weeks, it’s more than likely going to be unbearable, even with some heat lamps and layers. She grumbled a bit, but ultimately agreed. She then asked me to look into some other places that would be fun, since she isn’t as familiar with my town. I sent her a list of suggestions, and also said, but be warned, some of these places might require proof of vaccination. She asked which ones, and I responded that I didn’t know, because I hadn’t been to them recently, and that she should call/look it up to find out if she was interested in going. She then suddenly got really annoyed with me, and said I was just passive-aggressively holding it against her for not being vaccinated, and that I always make sure to accommodate our friend who is vegan, or one who is just a picky eater. I responded that if I felt that way, I wouldn’t hang out with her at all, but also, it’s not my responsibility to make sure she gets into a place, that this is a choice she is making and it’s on her to deal with any consequences. If she just wanted to get dinner, that would be one thing, I could make the extra effort, but she basically wants to spend the afternoon/evening going from place to place, and we aren’t going to be able to do that unless we know ahead of time what places require proof.
I am now uninvited from her birthday plans. I feel sick that our friendship is potentially ruined over this, but I also don’t feel like I did anything wrong. I have no problem when it comes to making dinner plans that include people who have dietary restrictions, even if those restrictions are by choice, because it’s a choice that only affects them, and, those friends are usually super chill if it’s a spur of the moment kind of plan—they’ll come along to places they might not otherwise eat at and say they’ll figure it out, and not make it anyone else’s problem. But, not being vaccinated is a selfish choice, and I have made it clear that I feel that way.
So, am I wrong? Did I handle this poorly? What should I do now?
— Unvaxxed and Unfriended
No, you aren’t wrong, no you didn’t handle this poorly, and what you should do now is the same thing you have been doing: Protecting yourself while being as kind and accommodating as possible. You and Emma might both find friends who are more compatible with you, and that’s okay.
About nine months ago, I had an emotional affair with another man while married to my ex-husband. I had met this person online, and I just ended up falling head over heels for them. When my husband found out, he was absolutely devastated. He initially wanted to break up with me but then he decided that he wanted to figure out a way to make things work.
But eventually I decided I could no longer keep hurting my ex-husband and wanted to pursue something more meaningful with my affair, so I called it quits and I split up with my ex-husband. And after doing some self-reflection, I admitted to myself that I had also had other physical affairs with other men during the seven-year course of our marriage; meanwhile, he was nothing but loyal.
I never shared any of these other affairs with my husband, and now I am overcome with guilt. For my ex-husband, he feels like I broke up with him over just the emotional affair and the pain that caused him. But reality is, I did it because no matter how much I enjoyed being with him in our good moments, I could not live with myself knowing that I had been so unfaithful to him. I am not sure what I should do. I want to reach out to my ex-husband to let them know the full story regarding why I so callously ended the relationship, even though he wanted to give it a chance and go to couples therapy. I care about my ex-husband deeply, and I really want to check-in on him but he has blocked me on every platform. Should I find a way to reach back out to explain to him the full story, or will I be living with this guilt for being a terrible partner forever?
— Second Circle of Hell
Dear Second Circle,
Please leave this man alone. You’ve already hurt and betrayed him. He couldn’t be any clearer about the fact that he doesn’t want to be in touch with you. And I don’t understand why causing him more pain by telling him about your many affairs would do anything to alleviate your guilt. You should do what you can to be at peace with what you did, forgive yourself, and figure out how you can learn from the experience and hopefully do better in the future. But there’s no reason to drag him into this process. Now is a good time to resist your selfish impulses in a way you weren’t able to while you were married.
How to Get Advice From Prudie
A co-worker has recently announced they are a trans woman and their pronouns are she/her. The consensus in the office is that this is probably some sort of weird joke/provocation (co-worker in question is very conservative and enjoys arguing with people on “woke topics”.
What is the best way to deal with this?
Some people argue this person is trying to make a mockery of trans women. Also, some women in the office don’t want to share the bathroom with someone like this co-worker (who is a jerk and sometimes crude). I and a few others argue that it is better not to take the bait if there is any. There’s the off-chance the co-worker is genuine, in which case the right thing to do is respect their request, and if not, they haven’t gotten the rise they were after and are now stuck getting called the wrong pronouns until they admit they were being a jerk. Meanwhile, anyone who is actually trans will see the office at least trying to be respectful, and if this person is weird in the bathroom, then we can complain to HR about that.
However, I can see the other point of view, too. So I wanted to see what someone who isn’t already on edge around this co-worker might think?
(For background, we do not have any out trans employees in the company as far as I know. This coworker got into an argument with another employee about them having their pronouns listed on their social media and then … this started.)
— What Harm Is There?
Dear What Harm Is There,
I think you have the right idea. If you’re right about this person’s agenda, they are trying to get a reaction out of you in order to prove a transphobic point, and you and your colleagues shouldn’t give them the satisfaction of getting bent out of shape. If they are in any way threatening or inappropriate, in or out of the bathroom, document it and report it to HR, but beyond that, use she/her pronouns as long as they’re requested (which probably won’t be very long!) and otherwise don’t acknowledge that this is happening.
How do you work a fair division of labor in the kitchen when you have DRAMATICALLY different approaches to food? My fiancé cooks everything from scratch and makes fairly clean-up intensive meals every night. (Her job is more conducive to this than mine just timing wise, since she is home earlier, but it wouldn’t occur to me to do it anyhow.) I would eat sandwiches during the week if left to my own devices, and what food I can cook (pasta with jarred sauce, fried rice with leftover beef) isn’t up to scratch for her.
She refuses to compromise because she considers this an important part of her life. I have tried to suggest we batch-cook some chili/lasagna/pie and freeze it, instead of cooking two servings of it at a time. She says that if she wanted to eat readymade meals she’d get a microwave (which I would actually love).
After the initial fight about this, she ended up taking on all kitchen duties, and I dealt with most of the other chores—which are honestly less time-consuming than the mess in the kitchen, and sometimes she will jump in to get something done quicker if we are going somewhere). As the wedding gets closer, however, we have started to talk about marriage and children and getting a house … I wonder if this is sustainable?
She is an amazing cook. Her food is delicious. I just don’t care that much about the difference between delicious and edible after a long shift, and I care a lot about the difference between two pans and a kitchen covered in sauce and used bowls. Whereas for her, a good meal at the end of the day makes the day worthwhile.
— How Would This Work?
Dear Would This Work,
I’m interested in knowing how she’s felt about taking on all the kitchen duties. If she’s really and truly okay with cooking an elaborate meal and cleaning up every night and happy to have you take the lead on other chores, you have a good, sustainable arrangement. But if she’s becoming more resentful by the day and is in the kitchen mumbling “Why do I have to do everything around here?” to herself, you could have a real problem. Before the wedding is a great time to have an honest talk about this, and you’re right to want to explore how this division of labor might look when you have children (and a lot less time). Ask her questions like “How are you feeling about doing all the cooking and kitchen cleaning?” “Will you be okay with it if I never learn to make elaborate meals?” and “Do you think our division of labor is fair, and if not, what can I do to make it more even?” While you’re at it, talk about the issues you each take the lead on, beyond specific chores. Is the cooking thing part of a larger pattern? Is she the one who cares about making your life nice when it comes to things beyond food like home decor and vacation planning and socializing, while your “I’m fine with whatever” attitude means you have a lot less on your plate?
There are inevitably going to be times when you have to take over in the kitchen—like when she’s sick or extremely busy at work, or after she gives birth. I think it would be helpful if, in anticipation of those times, you could take on the challenge of learning to cook one of the more involved meals that she prefers, and she could approve of a couple of simpler, easy-to-clean up meals that she thinks she can live with. And you really should be allowed to get a microwave.
Dear Prudence Uncensored
“She’ll start to hate this thing that brings her joy one day if she doesn’t chill out.”
Jenée Desmond-Harris and friends discuss a letter in this week’s Dear Prudence Uncensored—only for Slate Plus members.
How can you tell if you’re falling in love or just really like being in a relationship? I’ve been dating a super sweet guy, but feel like there isn’t a ton of chemistry. It’s there, it’s just probably the lowest amount I’ve ever experienced in a relationship. We dated casually for a long while and then we transitioned into a relationship, although it’s still somewhat casual, at my request. He’s nice and sweet, but not as interesting or fun as I’d hope from any guy I’d like to marry. This is a long distance, and my career is very much up in the air, so I figured this would just be something to do until I got my life sorted. But the thing is, I’m going to see him this weekend and I’m really excited. This is the first time I’ll be going down there since we made the relationship official, and we’re basically going to be playing house all weekend. I can’t tell if I’m more excited to just hang out with someone all weekend (because I live alone and have been craving attention) or if I really want to be around him. He’s really not THE guy but he’s also really nice to be around. I feel like my emotions are a bit jumbled right now, how can I unjumble them and figure out exactly what I’m feeling?
— Jumbled Feelings
Dear Jumbled Feelings,
When it comes to love, “maybe” means “no.” If you’re wondering if you’re falling in love or just really like being in a relationship, you just really like being in a relationship. That doesn’t mean deeper feelings won’t develop. But if and when they do, you won’t have to ask for anyone’s input to label them.
Give Prudie a Hand in “We’re Prudence”
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 live with my longtime girlfriend, “April.” About a year ago, we started seeing someone together, who I’ll call “Jamie.” We had many wonderful months as a triad, until last summer when Jamie had to move back in with their family in another city due to financial matters. We have been long distance since then, with Jamie promising to move back to our town this summer.
A major problem right now is that Jamie is very jealous of seemingly everything April and I do together. They’re jealous if we get takeout, go on a hike, hang out with friends, or just spend the evening watching tv. While I fully understand their jealousy and would probably feel the same way if I were them, it really takes a toll on April and me to constantly hear about it. It feels like everything we tell Jamie upsets them, and if we don’t tell them what we’ve been up to, Jamie is still upset because we aren’t sharing about our day with them! It doesn’t leave much room for April and me to appreciate the time we spend with each other. We talk to Jamie about it and are very sympathetic. Of course, it hurts to know that the things we do together cause them pain! But since they’re not here with us, the reality is there’s not much we can do to make their jealousy go away. I think it’s okay for Jamie to feel their feelings, and I want them to feel like they can talk about their emotions with us, but is it reasonable to ask them to bring up their jealousy a little less? How should we approach this?
— Sympathetic but Worn Out
I have certain issues with the religion of Judaism. I want to be clear, I don’t have anything against Jewish people, but the religion itself is horrifying. It institutionalizes infant genital mutilation, animal abuse, has an extremely regressive set of social expectations, especially towards women. (Are you aware that the biblical Hebrew term for “husband” also means “master”, and that the term for a wife is simply a possessive “so and so’s woman”?) And don’t even get me started about how they can have the last openly apartheid state in the world and nobody seems to care all that much.
I want to speak out about these issues, and guide the religion, kicking and screaming if I have to, into the twenty-first century. But every time I level a criticism at these institutions, and try to speak truth to power, I pull in a chorus of the most disgusting people. Holocaust deniers, MAGA types, assorted scum from the right wing. Then I have to hide my online presence again or otherwise distance myself from the scene, because it inevitably turns into crazy conspiracies.
There are real problems. And I want to combat them. But I can’t seem to drum up any support except for human garbage. How can I do this better?
— Attracting the Wrong Crowd
Dear Attracting the Wrong Crowd,
The reason you can’t drum up any support except from human garbage is that you’re unfortunately thinking like human garbage. You’ve identified a list of issues that exist in many contexts and are associated with many religions (and non-religious groups) and instead of working to fix them individually, you’ve inexplicably pinned them all on Judaism. This is bad thinking, and it’s hateful, and, well, that’s why you are finding yourself in the company of others who are hateful and bad at thinking! It’s worth unpacking how you got here and working to untangle your passion for things like animal rights and women’s rights from your antisemitism. Until you do that, and until you realize that Judaism doesn’t need you of all people to drag it into the twenty-first century or anywhere else, please don’t “speak out” about this or anything else.
For most of my life, my sister “Crystal” and I have never had a good relationship. For as long as I can remember, she’s always been horrible to me, criticizing everything from my choice in movies and music to how I act in public. Her attitude is actually a joke between some friends and me. My family has acknowledged her behavior toward me, but their way to keep the peace is to tell me that since I’m the oldest, I need to be mature and ignore it. For the last several years, I’ve lived far enough away that going home during the holidays was a financial burden. However, I recently moved closer, and now the pressure is on to come home for the holidays. Prudie, I’m in my 30s and have discovered my best holidays have been spent with friends, food, beer, and bad horror movies. It’s not that I don’t want to go home; it’s just my desire not to deal with Crystal outweighs my desire to see my family. Last Christmas saw me emptying my brother’s liquor cabinet. What’s a nice way to tell my mom I’m not coming home for Christmas?