Dear Prudence is online weekly to chat live with readers. Here’s an edited transcript of this week’s chat.
Q. Still Confused: My boyfriend was in a wedding recently for his good friend as a groomsman. When we first got the invite (we live together and have for 3 years) we discovered I wasn’t invited and he did not have a plus one. We’ve met this couple before and they knew we had been dating for close to four years by that point. I was a little hurt when all the pre-wedding festivities started and still, no one said anything about him getting a plus one for me despite other members of the bridal party having a plus one. I was especially hurt when he was telling me about how he was expected to dance with the bridesmaids. The bridesmaids even got together to do his hair and gushed about it because they thought he was single. I trusted my boyfriend implicitly but he was just as uncomfortable and wished I was there so he would have someone to dance with and talk to at the reception (he only knew two other groomsmen but no one else at the wedding). Are we being entitled?
A. A huge part of young adulthood is feeling deeply wronged by other people’s wedding-related decisions, most of which are not really personal but rather attempts to manage the enormous costs associated with these events. It is not “entitled” to have negative feelings about something that leads to you feeling excluded or sets you up to have a bad day. But it is a waste of time to dwell on it a lot. My best advice for anyone involved in a wedding is to make a choice: Either go, put on a happy face, and decide to have the best possible attitude and best possible time given the circumstances or RSVP no. So that’s what I would tell your boyfriend. And you should reassure yourself that there was likely some formula that decided who got a plus one. Maybe only married couples were invited. Maybe only people the couple had known for 10 years. Maybe they prioritized those who they’ve been closer to in the past six months, or people who would make the dance floor lively. Whatever it was, it was probably a tough decision and doesn’t mean they dislike or don’t care about you.
Now, as far as your boyfriend and the bridesmaids: The fact that they thought he was single and he allowed them to gather around and style his hair—not really a traditional part of most weddings!—is on him. And whether a forced dance with them brings up jealousy or feelings about infidelity is fodder for a conversation about your relationship, not about wedding etiquette.
Q. Hmm? My nephew’s daughter has been anxious to visit me. I live in a city where many like to vacation. She’s one month away from turning 21. I told my nephew that she’s very quiet and hasn’t wanted to engage with me. He assured me that once we are one-on-one, she’d be Very talkative. When she visited she was mostly quiet and in her own head a lot. Sometimes it made me uncomfortable. I brought this to her attention, letting her know she’d be safe with me if she wanted to share what was on her mind. Her quietness continued. On the morning of her last day, she came out of the bathroom and immediately was anxiously packing when we had hours before leaving for the airport. I thought nothing of this.
Later in the day, when I came home from taking her to the airport, I found that my full package of moist towelettes was 97% empty. She sneakily took them. I initially found this cute and had no issue with her taking them. But the following day her actions made me feel uncomfortable. If she asked me, I would, with pleasure, give her the entire package, and she should have known this. I was very generous to her during her visit. Her plan to sneakily take them leaves me uncomfortable. Your thoughts, please.
A. Are you talking about the moist towelettes that replace toilet paper or the ones for makeup removal? Either way, your great niece might have just needed a lot of them! Maybe she had some kind of a spill or an accident. Or maybe she meant to grab two sheets and 25 came out. It happens! Honestly, it sounds like she is likely struggling with sadness or anxiety which is much more concerning than this “sneaky” incident. I’m guessing, based on the fact that you mentioned how quiet she was, that you agree. (Unless you are implying that she acted weird the entire visit because she was obsessed with getting $3.99 worth of your personal products on her way out??)
You did the right thing by encouraging her to open up to you, and it’s too bad that she didn’t. But that doesn’t mean the gesture wasn’t meaningful to her. It’s OK to be disappointed that she was standoffish as a guest but you don’t need to manufacture a crime to justify your feeling that the visit didn’t go super well and that her personality wasn’t what your nephew promised it would be. If you’d like to continue to be a safe, supportive person in her life—whatever she may or may not be going through—I’d let the moist towelette disappearance go…
Q. Conscientious RSVPer: I live with my spouse and our one and three-year-old kids on the east coast. A relative is having a wedding on the west coast next summer. The last time I saw the relative and her fiancé, I told them how excited we were to celebrate their wedding with them and make it the centerpiece of a “family trip” with our little kids. The couple had since announced that there is a strict “NO KIDS” policy and, less relevantly, they have moved back to the east coast, making this a destination wedding for virtually all. The cost and childcare commitment are now approaching that of a trip to Europe for my spouse and me (with it without kids). I should mention that the couple did travel by air for our wedding a few years ago.
My question is whether and to what extent can I tell the truth that the kids policy is the reason for our declining the invite. I do not want to be rude or spiteful; it’s their day and their prerogative to not pay to have children running around. But it dramatically changes the calculation for us. We have the kind of family where an explanation would be expected at some point, and I feel I owe one based on the previous conversation with the couple. I prefer not to lie, and I do not want to sound like I’m throwing the “NO KIDS” thing in their faces. Any tips?
A. “We are so sorry to have to change our RSVP to no. I know I told you how excited I was to celebrate but when we realized the wedding would be on the West coast and looked into travel and childcare we realized it would be out of our budget. We hate to miss it, especially because you made sure to be there for ours. I know you’ll be an absolutely beautiful bride! Let us know the next time you’ll be in town so we can take you to dinner to celebrate.”
I think this explains the reasons for your decision, which is important because you want her to know that you’re not just blowing her off. But it’s apologetic and upbeat to adhere to the old “Never Harass a Bride About Her Wedding Plans Even if They Are Unreasonable” rule. After this conversation, send a gift that is more generous than the one you would have given if you’d attended.
Q. Honest Hair Puller: I am a professional in the legal world and I have a hair-pulling tic. It absolutely affected my life and career and I never sought any treatment, but I have found a path. It’s also gotten better over time—more of a general touch than pulling—but it’s still quite prominent. I have felt much less judgment over time, I think because people know more about neurodivergence, but I do know it’s noticeable. Should I say something to people I work with? Most people are polite and do not comment, but would it make MY life easier if I just acknowledged it?
A. No, I don’t think it would make your life easier to tell people. It would remove the proverbial elephant from the room, but then replace it with a bunch of unsolicited advice about how someone’s aunt cured her similar tic with magnesium, yoga, or the power of prayer… Which may be true but you don’t need to hear it because you’ve found what works for you. Also, while people might be noticing your issue, you and your colleagues are all busy professionals. I doubt people are spending any more time thinking about your hair than you’re spending thinking about their weight fluctuations or acne or social tics. Enjoy the freedom that comes with your condition improving and protect yourself from the annoyance that would come from broadcasting it to acquaintances.
Q. Fired Up: Recently at a family bbq my daughter was playing tug of war with her cousins. My nephew joined in and when the girls let go of the toy he fell and bumped his head. My brother in law instantly started yelling at the girls and then further ranted that girls are the worst, listing his 2 girls and my daughter by name, then continued his rant about how everyone should be male. I took my children and left immediately without saying anything. My husband’s entire family is on my brother-in-law’s side. Everyone says things like “that’s just how he is” or “yeah, he has a temper but he’s a good person otherwise”. I can’t move past this and don’t trust any of these people around my kids now, as they think this is acceptable. Am I being unreasonable as they all seem to think?
A. No you’re not.
Q. Re: Still Confused: Did your boyfriend at any point say, “Hey, I’ve been dating so-and-so for a couple years now. Any chance they could come to the wedding?” Your boyfriend should have said something for himself rather than standing around like a potted begonia with great hair.
Jenée Desmond-Harris: That’s all for today. I guess it’s no surprise that while I was out, dog and wedding issues continued to tear people’s lives apart. Hope this advice helps a bit, and I’ll talk to you next week!
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More Advice From Slate
My husband and I have a 2-year-old and a 5-month-old. We have a wedding coming up (my cousin, whom I like but am not especially close to) and I’m torn about whether or not we should make the six-hour drive with our kids. As it’s a kid-free wedding, we’d need to find a local sitter, plus I’m breastfeeding (and struggling to figure out the logistics of keeping the baby fed while we’re gone as well as pumping during the wedding). The trip would also be expensive.