This week, Jenée Desmond-Harris and Mary Harris discuss a Prudie letter: “Bride to Be”
Jenée Desmond-Harris: Hi Mary, and thank you for agreeing to unpack Dear Prudence’s 10,506th wedding dilemma! (But somehow they’re ALL interesting to me)
Mary Harris: Ha! Happy to do it!
Jenée: Am I delusional here, in thinking that you don’t actually have to do anything special for a parent just because they give you money? I understand the pressure. But … just take the money and do what you want! Is that unrealistic?
Mary: I think your answer was spot on (unless there WAS some contract attached with the check that the writer didn’t tell us about). And I have to say, I was interested in this letter mainly because … it gave me some hope? Like, am I delusional in thinking that the parents, who went through a real knock-down drag out rupture, seem to be both attempting to … be better?
Jenée: Wow, I hadn’t picked up on that, but it really is nice, isn’t it?
Mary: Yeah. Everyone here seems to be interested in communicating with each other (including communicating boundaries). I’m a big believer in: people are going to fail you ALL the time. The real test is how they respond when they do that. Now, that doesn’t excuse what happened here, and it took five years (oy), but—you could tell that the reader saw a little path out from the darkness here, and I think it was very real.
Jenée: First of all, “People are going to fail you ALL the time” should be the tagline for this advice column.
Mary: Literal lol.
Jenée: So much pain could be avoided (or more easily healed) if we all accepted that.
Mary: I love how you told the reader to “separate out” the issues here—like, think about the money separately from the wedding stuff. It’s really wise. It’s really easy to collapse conflict on top of conflict and then it’s hard to see a path forward.
Jenée: Yeah, I mean, your family has been torn apart. Don’t go into debt for your wedding on top of that. You deserve things that will make your life easier!
Mary: You know what I wondered about though? The reader’s relationship with her brothers. Like: Is that going to be SUPER weird now that she has all this cash from dad?
Jenée: I wonder about the brothers, too—like will they also get checks before their weddings? Will they turn down those checks because they’re “bribes”? And I think the real test of how sincere and remorseful the dad is will be whether he’s willing to leave his new wife at home. If you have a lot of money it’s easy to write a check, but will he inconvenience and humble himself to show remorse and make his daughter happy?
Mary: Completely. OK, I’m going to really show my insanely optimistic side here. I think weddings (and all family gatherings to some extent) can become places where adult children basically go back into adolescence when dealing with their parents. You just really go back into those grooves, you know? But part of what’s interesting about this reader’s situation is that the whole family dynamic has blown up, and she has a chance to really have this wedding be what it should be: an expression of her as an adult, saying what she needs, and giving her parents a chance to respond to that. I dunno. There’s something there.
Jenée: I love that! And I think it’s true. (It also reminds me that weddings end up being emotionally about so many things —family relationships, quality time with best friends, etc.—and nobody thinks about their actual spouse much.)
Mary: SO true. Also, side note, worst part of a wedding is that when you are the one getting married you miss out on so much drama. You’re too busy being the star, and only learn the fun stuff years later
Jenée: Oh totally, you hear about it all later because people don’t want to bother you. Tell me the drama! I thrive on drama!
Mary: Forget a place setting! BRING ME DRAMA.
Jenée: Anyway, this (excluding dad’s new wife) shouldn’t be too hard. I mean WHY would she want to be there??? It would be SO awkward. And weddings are not all that. This isn’t Magic Johnson’s annual yacht trip with couple friends. It’s a ceremony and some mediocre food and a little dancing.
Mary: Right. (A) you won’t miss that much and (B) you will wreck the vibes. Maybe she loves the drama too. (I mean, obvi she does.) But, I agree. If she has grown up a bit in the last 5 years, she should know this is the weekend to plan a getaway.
Jenée: Now dad might want her there just because … but like you said, he’s trying to evolve.
Mary: The only way she wants to go is if she is someone who lives to wreck vibes. That’s a whole other mess.
Jenée: Right and she might be that person? I’m going off mom’s ability to forgive her ex while calling the new wife “that bitch.”
Mary: I mean, to understand you can’t go, you have to understand the enormity of what you did.
There’s no indication she does. But I agree it’s a hard line—she should not come. It requires reckoning with yourself as someone else’s villain. It’s tough! But … go to therapy, maybe?
Jenée: Everyone involved should be in therapy. She should go and also one of the wedding vendors should be a therapist. Just available for 15 minute sessions by the cake table
Mary: AMAZING. Here is our photo booth … AND our therapist! Just for a quick refresh/ Endorse this idea—maybe dad can pay for it?
Jenée: Yes! What’s one more check?