This special edition is part of our Guest Prudie series, where we ask smart, thoughtful people to step in as Prudie for the day and give you advice.
Today’s columnist is comedian and actor Marc Maron, whose new HBO comedy special From Bleak to Dark is out now. He also hosts a hit interview podcast, WTF with Marc Maron. Marc can be seen regularly at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles.
We asked Maron to weigh in on snow wars, insistent exes, and birthday gift etiquette:
I’m tired of having the same winter fight with my husband. He doesn’t believe I need to remove the snow accumulation on my SUV’s roof. He believes that’s just for “high visibility vehicles,” aka semis. (I want to know how he thinks a snow brush gets up there, but I digress.) Besides safety and courtesy for cars behind me, I also don’t like taking the risk of having to stop and it all slides down to my windshield. If he offers to help remove snow from my car, he will do the front and back windshield and that’s it. Not the mirrors, or passenger windows. Then I spend another 15 minutes actually doing it. Even if I do it all, he nags me before, during, and after for wasting my time. It is a continuous contention any time it snows, which can be a couple of times a week for us in the winter. I’ve asked him directly to stop the weird nagging. But also I’m right, right? Is there another way to get through to him?
—Let It Go
Dear Let It Go,
You are right! It is dangerous. Maybe say, “Do you want me to get in an accident? If not, shut the fuck up. I’m sick of it. Now help me do this.” That should do it.
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It was my birthday recently. I invited a bunch of friends to a bar where we could order food, which I paid for. They bought me drinks and a few people bought me presents. I thought one of my good friends might bring a cake or treats at least since for her last birthday (a big one), I contributed to an expensive group gift and also took her out to dinner with the group. I’ve bought her a cake or a gift in previous years for her birthday, so I am feeling a little overlooked. We’re also going on a vacation with another friend to celebrate their milestone birthdays (which I want to do, to be fair).
My boyfriend says I shouldn’t keep accounts like this, but I’m more hurt that she didn’t make some sort of special gesture, other than buying me a drink. Should I talk to her about it or just not get her anything next year? I don’t want to be petty but I also hate feeling resentful.
—Am I Being Too Sensitive?
Dear Too Sensitive,
If it were me, I would let the resentment build up and I’d obsess about it as my birthday approached. Eventually, I would send a snarky pointed text meant to hurt her feelings by bringing attention to the issue. Then, feeling bad, I would buy her a better present than I’ve ever received as an apology.
If the friendship isn’t ruined by this approach you should definitely receive better presents in the future. If it is ruined, you will get nothing at all but the shallow satisfaction that you made your point, which inevitably will turn into sadness over time.
So, that’s an example of what you shouldn’t do. Just tell her the truth. But frame it by starting off with, “Maybe I’m being petty…” Then explain to her how it hurts your feelings and see how she responds. If she feels bad, well, tell her she owes you some presents.
My ex-husband has a habit of bringing over books or DVDs that he says I “must” read or enjoy. When we were married I accepted this because I wanted to please him. Now, 15 years later, he is remarried and I am single. I have a newfound sense of boundaries and would like to tell him to stop doing this, and even that pressure like this makes me not want to read the book even more. He is happy in his new marriage but he and I still share some interests in the arts that his new wife doesn’t. I’m trying to think of tactful ways to steer him away from this habit. Do you have any suggestions for me?
Dear No Pressure,
I used to email my ex-wife once a year on a particular day for a particular reason. She would never respond. Eventually, she emailed back, “If I want to hear from you, I’ll let you know.” It was succinct and understood. I was the annoying guy. Granted, she hates me, but that’s not the point.
Your ex probably has no idea that he’s crossing a line. I think it’s totally correct for you to tell him that it makes you uncomfortable and you think it’s inappropriate. If he gets hurt, fine—makes it easier. You have to move on. It’s been long enough. It’s unfair for him to try to hold on to you like he is—which is exactly what he’s doing.
My husband and I have a daughter (10); he has no social media accounts and I have Facebook and Instagram. I log into Facebook about three times a year and lurk on Instagram, but rarely post. We agreed about seven years ago not to post pictures of our child unless they were professional photos (think yearly family pictures) or her face was covered by an emoji. All the pictures posted of her prior to this decision were set to private. We ask friends and family to please not post pictures of her and they all abide by our request. Our daughter knows about this and supports it. She gets to choose the family picture(s) I post and the ones on our occasional Christmas card.
My husband’s family has always lived on the opposite U.S. coast from us, so we rarely saw them in person. They moved during the height of the pandemic and are now closer, but still several hours from us by car. While this isn’t exactly relevant, my brother-in-law and his family (wife, five kids ages 11 to 20) have very different values and beliefs from our family. During 2020, this began to drive a wedge between the siblings as discussions about masks and vaccinations came up. We agreed (reluctantly) to meet them for an outdoor event in spring 2022. Our niece (14) was taking photos and we asked that no pictures of our daughter be posted on social media. This caused an all-out war, it seems. We were called “crazy” and accused of “ruining” the day, all over photos. We initially tried to explain that we aren’t judging their decisions to post things, just please do not post our child’s face. Our daughter even asked. My husband got his brother to agree, finally, and the day went on.
A month later, I got an email from an acquaintance with screenshots from a private Facebook group she’s in. My husband’s sister-in-law had made a post making fun of her “crazy family” and posted pictures of my kid’s face. Fortunately, the acquaintance was able to ask moderators to remove it and the sister-in-law was apparently removed from the group. I was livid, and my husband, while also upset, decided that we should let it go this time. Well, they’re begging to meet us for a beach trip. I don’t trust these people! I know if my daughter knew she’d be very upset, and rightfully so. My husband isn’t sold on it either, but he’s stuck on how to decline when the reason is based on information we aren’t supposed to have. They’ve literally said, “You pick any of these eight weekends and we can go to the beach!”
—Not So Beachy Keen
Dear Not So Beachy Keen,
It doesn’t matter where the information came from—you should tell them that you are uncomfortable spending time with them and why. They’ll frame you as “crazy” because bullies are bullies. They can’t see past their own worldview or feelings to engage in any empathy or understanding in relation to your request for respect and privacy. If they really care, they’ll own it and adjust. If they don’t, why bother?
My husband (cis male) and I (cis female) seem to have a marriage where the traditional stereotypes are reversed. This is particularly true with cleaning: I can overlook a mess and some clutter (not dirty dishes piling up or rotting food anywhere) and he’s much tidier. The fact that I can look these things aside grates him to no end. I recognize that him always having to clean isn’t right, and I try and step it up but I always slide back to my old ways. I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy cleaning (growing up, whenever I cleaned it was “wrong” somehow, so I feel I never learned how to do it properly anyway?), but is there a way that works to make me more consistent?
—Messy Wife, Messy Life
Dear Messy Life,
Felix and Oscar made it work. It may be just the nature of the relationship. If it really grates on him, maybe there are some “chores” you could be responsible for on a regular basis that you both agree on. The structure of that will ease some of the tension.
When Melanie Lynskey Was Guest Prudie
My wife has developed a fear of driving. So much so that she actually sold her car and we only have/use my vehicle now. The thing is that I have to take her everywhere now. If she wants to go to the mall, I am expected to cancel whatever I am doing or would like to do in order to accommodate her.