Dear Prudence

Help! My Mom Tried to Stash Illegal Drugs in My Car on the Day of My Wedding.

I tried to limit the potential for chaos.

Car driving away with a just married sign on it.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images Plus.

Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)

Dear Prudence, 

I’ve always had a very chaotic relationship with my mom. It’s taken me years to acknowledge that she was verbally and emotionally abusive to us as children. I recently got remarried. My mom always pitches a fit right before any special event in my life. We opted instead for a small destination wedding and a short engagement to limit the potential for chaos. Right on cue, my mom, who hadn’t asked a single question about the wedding since we announced our engagement, threw a fit the day before we left for the wedding destination, screaming at me over the phone, saying she didn’t want to be a part of our lives and I was hurtful not to involve her. I said I was sorry she was hurt and we could discuss it, but she couldn’t scream and cuss at me. I followed up with an email saying I loved her and wanted her to enjoy herself at the wedding but this behavior could not continue.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

She came to the wedding but was cold and rude to me and my wife. It was very obvious she was angry, including making faces at our wedding ceremony. She didn’t say goodbye to us and as a capper tried to hide pot gummies in our car for us to drive back, which is illegal in our state. After the wedding, she forwarded me a random promotional email and said something benign. I said I didn’t want contact with her until she apologized for her behavior. I am wracked by guilt. But also have peace for the first time in years. My dad enables this behavior from her and wants us to reconcile even though he acknowledges she was very hurtful. It has been a month and I’ve heard nothing from her. What do I do if she never apologizes, as I suspect will be the case?

Advertisement
Advertisement

—Tired Daughter

Dear Tired Daughter,

Give yourself permission to just do nothing. You don’t have to reach out to her. You don’t have to reconcile and forgive her. You can just enjoy the peace you’re feeling and know that you have the option to contact your mother when, and if, you want to. If that time comes, you’ll know because what you feel isn’t guilt, but rather a small ache inside you that says “As unreasonable and narcissistic as she is, I want to talk to my mom.” And then you can ask yourself, “Under what circumstances?” You have the right to reach out and discuss a minor piece of gossip, news about your garden, or the weather. You can also choose to tell her how disappointed you are that she didn’t apologize but that you miss her nonetheless. You can let her know you’re still mad at her—and tell her exactly why!—but you love her and wanted to check in on her. Just remember that there aren’t any rules and you are allowed to change your mind, but the relationship you decide to have with her should be one you go into with a clear-eyed view of who she is and what she can offer. And you should have it (if you choose to) because of your own wants and needs, not your dad’s guilt trip.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

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, 

My husband and I have always had a plan for how our lives would go. We planned to get married in 2021, then move houses by 2022, and then begin applying for adoption so we can raise children together. The problem is that I’m now throwing wrench after wrench into those plans. We are spending a lot more on fixing up our current house than we anticipated, so moving has to wait until at least 2023. Then, I recently started laser hair removal treatments to deal with some gender dysphoria, which is another large expense. Finally, my doctor has offered to refer me to a surgeon for a consultation and potential gender affirmation surgery AND I’ve found a surgeon who will do breast augmentation for a much more reasonable price than I had first assumed was possible.

Advertisement
Advertisement

This is all great for my transition, obviously, but the stress of spending (or potentially spending) large amounts of money on these things has put a strain on my mental health. I previously hadn’t considered surgery much, but have lately felt like I need to undergo it. My thought process has been a mess but mostly the thoughts “Would anyone even love me if I didn’t get it” and “I’ll finally be a real woman” have been winning out. I’m torn, though, between spending an insane amount of money to finally inch closer to being worthy of love (both mine and others) and saving that money to carry out the plans we’ve already made. My husband told me this morning that, if I wanted, we could push our plans back and pursue surgeries for my transition, but I feel like asking that of him is selfish.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

—Neo Vagina

Dear Neo Vagina,

I hate that you don’t feel worthy of love, and that the thought of spending money to get the treatment you’ll need to feel comfortable in your body is so stressful. And I want to remind you that people do love you, pre-surgery, right now. One example: your husband. I’m so happy that he is so patient and understanding and that you do actually have the money to spend and stress over. This could be a lot worse. No, it’s not exactly what you planned, but you have the option to focus on your transition right now. That’s great! So, I really encourage you to give yourself the time to get yourself, as close as possible to a place where your mind and body feel at peace before you bring a child into your home. That’s not to say you have to be fully self-actualized before you have a kid! Not at all. It’s just that once you adopt, you’ll have so much less time and energy to dedicate to this journey and you’ll be much more able to be present as a parent if you aren’t in turmoil over what you should or shouldn’t do.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Take your husband up on his offer to push your plans back. But not indefinitely. Together, identify the last possible date by which you two really like for your adoption to be complete. Work backward from there (as much as you can, understanding that the adoption timeline will be very unpredictable) to figure out when you need to begin applying for that to happen. And then any time before you begin the process—and probably, to be honest, some time after as I’m sure it will take a while — is yours to gather all the information you can, discuss with a therapist what surgeries will be best for you, put them on the calendar, and heal and recover.

Advertisement

Don’t feel selfish for doing this. The best thing you can do for your husband and future child will be to be a happy, healthy, and confident-feeling spouse and parent.

Advertisement

Dear Prudence, 

My ex died three months ago. We have twin 5-year-olds. He cheated on me when they were 2. “Mary” was a mutual friend. She got pregnant and they got together after I kicked him out. It was devastating but I tried to be civil and take the high road for the sake of my twins. I moved in with my parents after the funeral. They live about six hours from the city where we used to live. Mary still lives there with her toddler. I telecommute and have a very flexible schedule.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recently, Mary reached out to me and asked if I would be so “kind” as to take care of her toddler for at least one weekend a month. Her work requires her to work overnight at least three nights a month. With the death, Mary can’t manage it anymore and has no one reliable. Her own family isn’t great. Everyone else is nowhere close to being local. I told Mary no. I wasn’t driving 12 hours round trip to babysit. Mary offered to meet me halfway and tried to frame it as sibling bonding. I told Mary the kids could “bond” during the times they had with their paternal grandparents. Mary called me cruel. I told her to leave me alone. After everything that she put me through, she has the utter gall to ask anything of me. She cried. I hung up.

Advertisement

I feel angry. I feel guilty. I also feel like I have done nothing wrong. I feel I might have messed up my twins’ future relationships with their sibling. My parents and sisters have told me Mary was wildly out of line and delusional to even ask this of me. I still have nightmares about her crying. We were once very close.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

—End of Rope

Dear End of Rope,

It would be wonderful for your twins to be close to their sibling but that’s not going to happen via forced totally inconvenient babysitting, much of which will take place in a car! You know what? I actually don’t want the kids to get close right now because I guarantee you the minute something changes in Mary’s life—say she gets remarried or finds a local babysitter—she will not dedicate an ounce of energy to keeping up the connection, and that will be more hurtful than not having a connection at all. That’s just the kind of person she is. Protect yourself and your children from her. Say no.

Advertisement

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.

Dear Prudence,

I’m a live-in caregiver for an old woman who has (relatively mild) dementia. Here’s my problem: She’s racist, and I don’t know what I should do to address it. We are both white, and I feel like I should be calling her out, but I also don’t know if I’m actually doing any good when I do so. My responses so far have been uncomfortable silence, a quick explanation of why something she’s said is factually incorrect, or just stating that I disagree, but…I don’t know. Is there a more effective way to address this?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

—Dementia Doesn’t Excuse Racism

Dear Prudence, 

I’m in my 60s and have significant health issues. Recently, I was hospitalized for two weeks (plus at-home aftercare) for something quite serious. Not one of my siblings or their children called, emailed, texted, or contacted my daughters. Not one. Very late last night, one of my siblings called needing a shoulder in the midst of a relationship problem. Nobody even told her I’d been hospitalized. And when I told her I’d just been discharged earlier in the day, she asked whether I’m home and if she could talk with me about her relationship. I don’t expect anyone to clutch their pearls every time I’m seriously ill or have surgery. But a two-week-long hospitalization is not for nothing.

Advertisement
Advertisement

I’m always there for them and for my nieces and nephews whenever there’s a tough spot. Always. I spent thousands at the drop of a hat a few months ago to give one sister a safe break away from an abusive relationship so she could find peace and security while she moved forward. I helped get another sibling’s son into hospice care when he was passing from cancer last year and FaceTimed with him many times every day because I absolutely loved that guy and my sibling was so utterly brokenhearted that she had trouble letting him go. I GoFundMe’d the heck out of his medical expenses, which were far beyond anything one family could ever handle. I have been there every step of the way because I love them and care about them with all my heart. They’re my family!

Advertisement
Advertisement

I’m just so sad. It feels like I’ve become irrelevant to my family of origin, as if my cancer and other health troubles make it seem that I’m already practically dead and they see no need in keeping in touch with me. How can I adjust my expectations and be at peace with “it is what it is?”

—Auntie Irrelevance

Dear Auntie,

This is so hard. I really do think families can fall into patterns where some relatives are the “People Who Have it Together” and the “People Who Do Things for Family Members” while other relatives are “People Who Get Checked On” and “People Who Get Help.” It can be really, really hard to change those roles. That doesn’t mean the way you’re being treated is OK. Not at all. I just think your siblings, nieces, and nephews might need a wake-up call. You know those memes that say “Check on your strong friends.” Send one to the family chat and say “Check on your strong sister/aunt, too” and be really transparent about the fact that you’re going through a lot and would like to hear from all of them more.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Dear Prudence Uncensored

“For a lot of people, the family you’re born into just doesn’t deliver.”

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

Dear Prudence, 

My adult son is in a relationship with an alcoholic (his word, not mine).  They work different shifts. He has come home from work and found her drunk in the bathtub and then they both wind up yelling. That is just one of many, many situations. I love him very much and have told him that I will always be here for him. He realized two years ago that alcohol was keeping him from truly being “present” in life and, as far as I know, has maintained his sobriety. As much as I want to tell him what to do, I understand I can’t.  This is his relationship, not mine. Therefore it’s really none of my business.

Advertisement

However, the holidays are creeping up on us. My family has plans for everyone to gather at the beach for Thanksgiving. These plans have been in place for a year and it will be the first time in several years we have all been together since we live all across the country. Is there a polite way to tell him that there will be no alcohol or do I need to accept that she will drink and may cause a scene (or two)?

Advertisement

—Not the Girlfriend’s Keeper

Dear Girlfriend’s Keeper,

I hate to say it, but if this woman is an alcoholic she is going to be drinking regardless of whatever rules you make around alcohol. But that doesn’t mean your holiday weekend has to be filled with screaming fights. It sounds like your son plays a role in their conflicts, too. If the scene you’re worried about is one that involves the two of them yelling at each other, remind him of all the stories he’s told you about their relationship and ask him to avoid arguing with her (at least, not above a certain volume) for the sake of a peaceful weekend. And if there is a scene, well, congrats—your family is normal and you’ve had an average Thanksgiving. And you might actually want a drink.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Dear Prudence, 

My wife and I can’t have kids. Her sisters do, but don’t lift a finger to help out their mother unless they can get something out of it. Usually money.

My mother-in-law can’t legally drive anymore and refuses to use Uber (all the drivers are “illegals” to her) so all of her appointments fall on my wife and me. We run our own business so we have a flexible schedule. My mother-in-law refuses to have any conversations that aren’t either a complaint or fawning over her “grandbabies.” She shows zero interest in our lives.

Advertisement
Advertisement

It is very painful for my wife and she has explained this to her mother. It makes her feel like she isn’t “enough” for her mother when she is the one here helping to take care of her. My mother-in-law called my wife ridiculous. I understand grandmothers are supposed to dote on their grandchildren but not to such a degree that it physically causes your daughter distress! My wife tells me to let it go but after a drive with her mother, she will come home in tears sometimes. I don’t know what to do here.

Advertisement

—Hurt Wife

Dear Hurt Wife,

Your MIL has a compassion deficiency that is as evident in her disdain for “illegals” (aka human beings who came to this country for a better life) as it is in her cluelessness about how raving about kids might be hurtful to a woman who can’t have them. She’s also extraordinarily ungrateful for the help your wife is providing to her.

If your wife were the one writing in I would have so much advice for her. But you’re on the outside of a relationship that predates your role in your wife’s life and is more emotionally complex than you could ever realize. I think instead of working to fix her mother, you should be everything she’s not: sensitive, caring and appreciative of who your wife is as a person. It sounds like you’re already there.

Classic Prudie

My husband and I both are status holders on an airline and have flown first class many times on upgrades. An issue arises, however, when we fly together. It started last year when, based on check-in time, he was offered an upgrade to first class and took it, leaving me sitting in coach without even a thought. I had a pounding migraine and was very ill. I did not want the upgrade; I wanted him to sit with me…

Advertisement