Dear Prudence

Help! My Sister Pulled a Nightmarish Prank at My Fiancée’s Bachelorette Party.

She’s uninvited to the wedding as far as I’m concerned, but everyone says I should give her another chance.

A skeleton wearing a tank top that reads "sister of the bride"
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by ledwell/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here.

Dear Prudence,

How can you tell when you’re being justifiably stubborn and when you’re just making things worse?

My 20-year-old sister has been uninvited to my wedding after she went to my fiancée’s bachelorette party, announced she had a special surprise guest, and then wheeled in a skeleton dressed up in a “sister of the bride” T-shirt. My fiancée’s younger sister died when she was 16.

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I am also not talking to my sister right now. I don’t know what you could even say. She has never liked my fiancée, but I still can’t believe she did something so theatrically cruel. My family all want me to back down. “She overstepped, but it was just a joke. You know she likes to be edgy. She’s devastated. C’mon, she’s a dumb kid and it didn’t mean anything. She’s very sorry and just wants to get back to normal.” The only person I haven’t heard from is my sister, other than her telling me to “get over it, it wasn’t like it was ‘dead sister’s’ ACTUAL skeleton.”

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I have stood firm. Probably for the first time in my life. This was such an indescribably cruel thing to do (to anyone! whether I loved them or not) that I can’t just sweep it under the rug. So now my side of the family (parents, brother, aunts, and cousins) aren’t coming to the wedding. Which is fine. They can get a bunch of skeletons and hold their own. I don’t care. The thing is that at this point, even my fiancée wants me to just give in to keep the peace. She says that it’s not worth causing so much disruption over a stupid prank that went wrong. Except it wasn’t a prank! No one would consider that funny and genuinely expect people to laugh.

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I’m just not sure what to do. My fiancée was the one injured by this, and she wants me to stop (although her parents know what happened and were furious, so I don’t know how they’d react if my sister—a bridesmaid—smirked her way down the aisle the day of). I feel like I’m right, but no one else seems to agree. And no one is even trying to make my sister apologize! I feel that it’s so clear she’s the one in the wrong, but at this point all the blame is on me. I have started to wonder if I’m really the one in the wrong here by not letting it go?

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—How Can You Tell When You’re the Bad Guy

Dear How Can You Tell,

I don’t think you’re the bad guy! She hasn’t even apologized! You should be in charge of who from your side of your family is invited to your wedding, and your fiancée can do the same for her side. It’s generous of her to forgive your sister, but that doesn’t mean you want to look out at the audience while you’re standing at the altar and see someone you are mad at and think is awful. Even though the skeleton incident wasn’t directed at you, it makes sense that it would change the way you feel about her. Feel free to stand firm on this!

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Dear Prudence,

I’ve had misophonia my whole life. As a child, I felt like I was a horrible person for the feelings certain sounds evoked in me—my mother chewing, my sister coughing. When I learned that it was a real condition several years ago, I felt such relief! I wasn’t terrible or crazy, and other people had this issue too. It still causes me issues in my life, but I’ve mostly learned to work around it. I have a loving and considerate partner who works with me and understands that it is not something I control.

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My problem is my boss. I work in a nonprofit with a small administrative office. I share a space with my director, a middle-aged woman who eats at her desk, chews with her mouth open, makes random smacking sounds, and hums and talks to herself. I’ve done almost everything I can to mask the sounds. I listen to white or brown noise on my earbuds on top of my podcasts and music, I’ve purchased noise-canceling earplugs, I leave the office for a few minutes at a time when I can. I’ve also spoken to our HR director and our CFO, who have said they will try to accommodate me by putting cubes into our office. However, it’s been a couple of months with no movement in this area. I’ve even moved to working from home one day a week that doesn’t overlap with her work-from-home day. But there are still three days a week when I’m crawling out of my skin.

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I don’t know what else to do. I don’t feel like I can talk to her about it, given her reactions to other types of criticism. But it’s getting to the point where I feel like I might have to quit my job. How can someone be so oblivious to the sounds she is making? Please, help me!

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—At the End of My Rope

Dear End of My Rope,

I think I suffer from this issue too, so I really feel for you! You might really need to look for a job that allows you to work from home all the time, because every office has a loud (from the perspective of people like you and me) chewer. It’s just part of the deal when it comes to working around other humans who are inevitably going to eat lunch and snack. This is the perfect time to look for a remote job, so be prepared to start a job search, but before you do, it’s worth having a conversation with her. Just make sure you emphasize that this is your issue, not hers, and that you’re extraordinarily sensitive, so she doesn’t feel too attacked.

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How to Get Advice From Prudie

Submit your questions anonymously here. (Questions may be edited for publication.) Join the live chat every Monday at noon (and submit your comments) here.

Dear Prudence,

I really love my fiancé, but my parents won’t stop talking about how I deserve better.

My fiancé and I have been together for 10 years, and though they have dreams to move and thrive in a particular industry (think showbiz), they haven’t shown a lot of initiative or growth towards that goal. I support them, but the lack of progress worries me a lot. We both have anxiety and depression, but I feel like I always have to be the one to push my fiancé into making progress. I love them dearly, but it’s tiring.

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Meanwhile, my parents say I’m settling to be with my fiancé, and that moving to another part of the country would be throwing away the good things I have now. My parents have always been very involved in my life, and I have my own issues with them. They aren’t WRONG, but they seem certain the best choice is to break up with my fiancé. I’ve had the same conversation with them about my relationship day after day, and I always end up in tears. Every attempt I make to fix my problems is “burying my head in the sand.”

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—So, So Tired

Dear So, So Tired,

It seems to me that your parents’ position bothers you in part because you agree with it and don’t want to act on it. Your fiancé’s lack of progress worries you, you have to push them, and you are already tired (before even getting married and moving to another part of the country). Almost anyone would agree that this is not a great way to go into a marriage. Talk to people other than your parents to get some additional perspective. And even if you don’t break up, at least don’t tie the knot until you feel confident that this is someone who makes your life better and less stressful.

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Dear Prudence,

I have a wonderful family life, and I have a brilliant and loving fiancé who I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with. My problem is work-related: I went to law school, passed the bar, and I’ve been a lawyer for two years. Prudie, I hate being a lawyer. I tried Big Law, a job at a corporation, and nonprofit work, each one with the idea “maybe I’m just in the wrong type of law/environment.” I’m done experimenting with law. I want out. It’s making me miserable, and it’s making everyone around me miserable (via me being a weeping sad sack). It gives me terrible anxiety, and I feel like I can’t do the work. I have people telling me that I can do it, but I just need someone to accept that I can’t, without a pep talk about how I just need to do X, Y, and Z and I’ll be able to do it just fine. I liked law school, but I just don’t like the practical application of law, I guess.

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I have looked at all those “escape the law” websites, but they all advise going into fields that I have no experience with. One just said “be a CEO” as if that was simply achievable. If it were feasible, I would just get a job like I used to have (I was a waitress, although I’m not sure if I actually miss being a waitress or if I just miss being 22), but I have student loans that would make this impractical and would put a lot of financial responsibility for the household on my fiancé. It doesn’t seem fair to expect him to support me when I could, feasibly, suck it up and keep doing this job (albeit poorly and miserably).

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I talk about this with my therapist, which helps. She tells me that if I’m that miserable in my job, I need to find something else that I can tolerate. But I’m so afraid that no matter what I do, I’ll have the same experience. I’ll hate it. I’ll dread waking up in the morning. I’m at a loss. Do you have any advice on how to figure out how to move forward?

—Beat Down in Buffalo

Dear Beat Down,

I chose this question because I’ve had the exact same experience as a lawyer—right down to dreaming of going back to my high school and college waitress and hostess jobs. I really get it, and I love to talk about it. So brace yourself, this will be long!

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When I was at a firm (I lasted a little under four years), I remember thinking, Maybe I just want to work somewhere with a mission I care about, and then I realized that, like you, I seriously just did not enjoy the practical application of law and would not find it rewarding in any context. I wouldn’t enjoy looking up and analyzing case law for an amazing nonprofit any more than I would enjoy doing it for the trash company (seriously) that was my biggest client. That’s an important revelation to have, so congrats.

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The rest of my advice is premised on the fact that you said you could “feasibly suck it up” and keep working (for a time!) if you had to. I’ll take you at your word, but please take your levels of depression/anxiety and “misery” around this seriously. If you (or your therapist) feel that you’re at a real breaking point, your mental health comes first. It is OK to quit now if that’s what’s necessary.

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But assuming you can handle lawyering a bit longer, my first tip is the one that’s going to make the next steps possible: Save money! Lots of money! All the money you can! You should not be living like the people at your firm who plan to make partner. You should be living like your friends who are two years into teaching or nonprofit work. Have a roommate. Skip the stupid expensive suits and bags that won’t make you happy (because nothing can make you happy right now). You aren’t used to this income yet, so don’t get used to it. And I really think you should press pause on getting married until you know that your fiancé supports you in doing something that doesn’t make you miserable and may bring in significantly less money than you’re making now. It’s only fair to both of you to agree on what you can expect from each other before your affairs and accounts are officially tied up together.

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My hope is that knowing that you’re putting money away to support yourself during a transition will make the next year or two (yes, that’s how long I think you should hang in there to save a good amount of money) much, much easier. I know that once I mentally had a foot out the door, I was far less stressed and miserable, because my sense of self-worth was no longer tied to my billable hours and assignments and reviews. I still tried to do my best work, but it didn’t feel so all-consuming, and I had some perspective. I believe that if you promise yourself you’ll be gone in the foreseeable future, the anxiety won’t consume you the way it is now. You might even find that the work is easier when you’re not in a panic about it.

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Finally, you have to start thinking not just about what you can do or who will hire you, but what you want to do. Focusing only on the practical side of having a career, rather than how you would actually feel every day sitting down at your desk, is what got you into this situation. Don’t do that again! Without giving a lot of consideration to your résumé, really do some reflection on what activities are enjoyable to you, what talents you have, and what brings you joy. I definitely didn’t know that I’d end up being an advice columnist, but I knew that I would be happy if I could wake up every day and work with words in some way. Alternatively, you could look for a job that you feel “meh” about, but that involves the kind of work-life balance that lets you leave at 5 p.m. every day and enjoy other things. Figuring all this out could involve conversations with your therapist or a career coach or your friends and family. Maybe you need to do informational interviews with people in different jobs that seem appealing to you, so you can get a better idea of what they look like day to day. But you need to plan a transition to something rather than away from something—after all, the last thing you want is to be stuck in a second career that feels just as meaningless and tedious and demanding to you but pays a lot less.

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I’m not saying you can show up at the hospital and get a job as a surgeon, but there really are a lot of fields in which your experience with law will attract interest. Even if your résumé doesn’t directly line up with the requirements listed for a particular position, hiring managers will be interested in the kind of analytical skills that people associate with lawyers. Lean into that. Still, accept that you will likely have to start at the bottom. Maybe that means volunteer work while you’re still at the firm, or maybe it means taking a very junior role. That’s fine. This is when you supplement your salary with some of the money you’ve saved. And there’s always room for advancement for people who take their jobs seriously and do them with enthusiasm. I predict you’ll find that the work ethic you’ve had to develop to survive at the firm will make you an asset wherever you end up and help you get promoted quickly. The great news is that once you find a job that means something to you, even though you’ll of course have bad and stressful days and awful bosses along the way, you’ll never lose the sense of gratitude that comes with knowing how much worse it could be. I know I haven’t.

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Dear Prudence Uncensored

“Someone who terrorized your fiancée with a skeleton is not sending the two of you good vibes!”

Jenée Desmond-Harris and friends discuss a letter in this week’s Dear Prudence Uncensored—only for Slate Plus members.

Dear Prudence,

I am an unattractive person who is also possibly the most unphotogenic person you have ever met. I am fine with that, but I don’t like being in pictures or seeing pictures of myself. I come from a family with a mean sense of humor. They react angrily to my polite requests to not be in photos, often taking candids and texting them to me, like it’s a joke. I don’t know what to do other than not see them, but they get mad about that too. There is a long history of them mocking or being insensitive to things that are important to me. Do I just give up and stay away forever?

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—No Photos, Please

Dear No Photos,

Your family members are intentionally upsetting you, and it’s part of a pattern. I think there are steps before giving up and staying away forever, although that can certainly be an option. I’ll suggest, as I always do, that you make sure your relatives understand in no uncertain terms exactly what behaviors upset you and what the consequences will be if they continue. Maybe that means telling them that if they mock you or are insensitive to you about particular topics (and you should give some examples of what this looks like), you’ll be pulling back communication. Maybe it means announcing that the next person to send you candid photos of yourself, joking or not, gets blocked. And then follow through with your threats.

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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.

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Dear Prudence,

The other biological parent of my child is a criminal, the kind who’s seriously harmed the most vulnerable in society (vulnerable women and children, the mentally ill, etc.). It won’t be long before my kid inevitably asks about their other parent, and I have no idea what I’ll say. How does one break to a child that their other parent is an absolute abomination? All the guidance on talking to kids about their other parent assumes that they’re a normal person and tells you to be nice about them. I don’t want to traumatize my kid, but I also don’t want to lie or be too nice about their other parent and risk them idolizing and potentially one day getting in contact with a person who would definitely abuse them.

—Stay Away

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Dear Prudence,

My mother-in-law recently passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. My family has been devastated by her death. I strongly feel that her death was preventable, and she is not with us today because of medical negligence.

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I am very afraid to bring this up with my spouse or my in-laws. I don’t know if it is my place to bring it up, and it is something we have never discussed. They seem to have fully accepted the doctor’s explanation of “there is nothing we could do,” and they are focused on moving forward in their grief. I respect this, and honestly, it’s possible they have thought about it and decided that the additional pain of a legal battle isn’t worth it. But what if they haven’t even realized all the routine medical protocols that were not followed, and genuinely have no idea?

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Do you think it is something I should mention to my spouse, or do you think it is best to just accept the hand we have been dealt, and let everyone grieve as best they are able?

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—Grief and Justice

Dear Grief and Justice,

If you had overheard a doctor saying “wow, I really dropped the ball on that one” or truly have other strong evidence of malpractice, I would absolutely tell you to raise your concerns and take the risk that this would disturb your spouse’s and in-laws’ grieving. But since the people who were closer to her than you were have access to all the same information you do and have decided not to act on it, you should follow their lead when it comes to how to process this and move forward.

Classic Prudie

My cousin recently set me up on a date with a really great guy that she knew from work. At first, I was hesitant to go on a date with him as he is 43 and I am 27, however I decided to give him a chance and I was really glad I did. He’s smart, funny, and easy to hang out with. I am also very attracted to him physically. The only bad thing, so far, is that during a text conversation, he alluded to believing that 9/11 was an inside job. At first I thought he was joking, but further questions revealed that he was not. We discussed it in person the next time we met up, and he was joking about it with me but didn’t change his stance. Is this a deal breaker?

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