The “Detachment Guilt” Edition

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S2: Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow.

S3: Ow, ow, ow, ow.

S4: Just a reminder that the Dear Prudence podcast happens twice a week, Slate plus members get an additional mini episode every Friday. Sign up now to listen at Slate dotcom slash. Pretty bad.

S2: Ow, ow, ow, ow.

S1: Danny Laborie here and I have a special announcement for our listeners. Some of you know that I published my latest book back in February. It’s a memoir called Something That May Shock and Discredit You, and it’s about being shocked and discredited. It’s a little bit about Athena jumping fully formed out of the head of Zus. And it’s also a little bit about waiting for the rapture in the Midwest in the 1990s. But it’s a lot of fun. And today I want to let you know that for a limited time only you can get a really good deal on the audiobook, which I also read. Go to Slate Dotcom Slash Danny, that’s Slate dot com slash. Danny, nice and simple for you. There’s also a link in the show notes of this episode. The audiobook will cost you just twelve ninety nine and that’s five dollars off the list price. You will be hard pressed to find a better deal, at least when it comes to memoirs by transsexuals who work at Slate. After you complete your purchase, you’ll be able to listen to the audio book in your preferred podcast player. That’s right. The one you’re using right now. There’s no special app to download and no subscription fees. And there’s one more thing you should know. This audio book sale is brought to you by Slate. That means your purchase not only supports me, it also helps the important journalism that you depend on. So that’s a win win. You save money and sleep makes money. If you’ve ever thought about reading my book or listening to me read it to you, there’s never been a better time than now. This is a limited time promotion. So don’t just sit there, sit there and go to sleep. Dotcom Danny and buy my audio book today. I’m sorry I’m so tickled by just Slate Dotcom Danny. One more time, that’s Slocomb, Danny.

S5: Dear dear Prudence, Ghiberti, Prudence, dear, dear Prudence, here pretty, do you think that I should contact him again? Help, help I think. Thank you.

S4: Hello and welcome back to the show once again, as always, I am your host, Dear Prudence, also known as Daniel M. Lavery. And with me in the studio this week is Charlie Mark, writer and amateur Gossip Girl scholar and editor at the new inquiry, co-host of Art is Easy Modde, Prince at the Death Panel Discord and a PhD student at the CUNY Graduate Center. Charlie, welcome to the show. Thank you so much, Danny. There were so many words in your bio that I wasn’t 100 percent sure on how to pronounce that I ran them over with you beforehand. And the one that really threw me was Cuneyt because I didn’t know if you said it. See you. And why or if you said it cuney and I guessed, no, you did it right. You really you nailed it. Fantastic. Great job. Thank you. Thank you. That’s all that I needed to hear. I’m feeling great. I’m doing great. I’ve been up since six and I’m recording this episode in my closet. And life is just exactly where it needs to be. How come you got up at at 6:00 a.m. today because of a very small dog, Charlie, and so he can only go a couple of hours before he needs something from me. And he yells and yells to let me know that he needs things. He’s like Danny tells me exactly what he sounds like. Actually, it’s exactly the little voice in my head, which is just sort of like a allured Windemere type character. Does he call you Danny or Daddy Daniel? I want sweets, that kind of thing. Oh, OK. I got it. That’s the vibe that I get from him. A little bit creepy, a little bit otherworldly, a little bit charming, a little bit like am I listening with normal ears or has something happened to my ears? He’s like a sexy fairy. That’s also a ghost. He’s like Daniel. Well, you well, you drink some milk and then spit it into my mouth. I love you, Father. I love you. I’m going to think about that one while you read our first letter and I will decide what and how I want to have as a response to that. Adopt me, Danny, read the letter, Charlie.

S6: The subject is nonessential employment. Dear Prudence, a new store just opened on the same block as my apartment building. The store is currently recruiting for part time cashiers, and I am thinking about submitting an application. This would be a second job for me. My partner and I are both very fortunate to have kept our full time jobs and to be able to work from home for the foreseeable future. I am interested in applying as a cashier because I have almost 100k in student loan debt and this could help me pay it down. I can currently afford the monthly minimum, but no more. I am reasonably confident that I’m qualified for the position. I have lots of retail experience, but I know there’s no guarantee that I will get hired before I apply. Is it unethical for me to apply because I don’t in caps need the job the way many people in our society currently do?

S4: What a world we live in where somebody who’s already working full time has a hundred thousand dollars in student loan debt that they’re barely able to keep up with and is thinking about applying for a part time job, is worried about having too much privilege or is worried about being too well off.

S6: Yeah, exactly. It’s really scary and depressing and hard to feel like you’re barely treading water in one of the Seven Lakes of Hell.

S7: Right. And then feeling like, oh, man, I’m you know, I’m so lucky to have like half a flotation device that my partner and I are sharing. Shouldn’t I be tearing it up into thirds and passing it out to other people, which is not the same thing as saying, like, I think this person is overthinking it so much as. I don’t think that the rubric of.

S4: Ethics is is or rather like if you wanted to apply ethics to the situation, putting yourself as the person with the most sort of heavy set of responsibilities is not the way to look at it.

S6: I think also I mean, I feel like a letter writer. You have a really you’re you’re having like a pretty keen understanding of like how racial capitalism pits us against each other, whether we want to or not, and how unfair that is and how it would be so much better if if the world were set up so we could have opportunities to help each other and work together instead. But it’s not your fault that the world is like that. And just as that problem is structural and can’t be solved individually like you, deciding to take this job or not isn’t going to change the larger structure that is making you that is pitting you against potential other applicants or people who might have more student debt.

S4: Right. Or the fact that the company might be looking for somebody with more availability than someone with a full time job. So I just really don’t think you need to worry too much about whether in applying for this job, you are harming somebody else. You need this money, you are considering getting a second job to pay your debts that you should not you know, you should not owe a hundred thousand dollars in debt because you wanted to go to college.

S6: Yeah, abolish all student debt. It’s that’s so stupid and such a waste of your time when you could be doing so many other cool things with your life.

S4: Yeah. So, you know, apply for this second job if you think that that is the best way to try to handle your student debt. But maybe also look into, shall I say, burning something down, should I say, you know, looking for student debt relief activism? Should I say both?

S8: I trust you. I mean, you can say both if you want or also I let a writer. I just hope you get some time to chill in between all your work because it sounds like you’re having to do a lot right now.

S4: Yeah. Yeah. I just I think there may very well be other ways that you want to spend your time outside of work rather than trying to, like, throw an extra fifteen dollars an hour at this absolutely unsustainable massive debt. And they don’t say that in the sense of like, I think you should just give up on your goals for the future and set your neighborhood on fire. But I truly think that there might be better and less alienating uses of your spare time that that don’t feel like you’re just throwing a few extra coins at this absolutely massive and unending project. And I want you to be able to at least consider looking for more sustainable ways to try to tackle the fact that you’ve been put in an impossible situation because you wanted to go to college. But in some, I would say, apply for the job. If you want to consider some of your other options, maybe burn something down, but certainly do not blame yourself for not having three hundred thousand dollars in debt. Agree? I think that’s it. I think that’s all I got for this one. Just be way easier on yourself and way harder on your student loan company.

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S3: Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow.

S4: I will move on to our next letter, which I find very, very charming. I found this one charming on a number of fronts. So the subject is shit where you eat. Dear Prudence, I’m a gay man who just moved into a new apartment complex with my partner. We’d lived together before, but in a single family home we rented, not in an apartment complex. Our second night in our new place, I freaked out and used an app to meet another man for sex.

S7: I already feel a ton of guilt about this. I know it was driven out of misplaced anxiety about, quote, forever with someone I’m not 100 percent sure I’m in love with, not because there’s anything wrong with my partner. This other man lives in a different section of the complex.

S1: And there’s a number of communal areas, like a laundry room, a dog run, parking garage, etc.. I know it’s only a matter of time until I run into him again.

S4: We both agreed to keep things discreet, but I obviously don’t know the guy or how well I can trust him. I know I will need to come clean to my partner, but what should I do about this other man? Should I tell my partner, the man I cheated with lives in our complex or keep that part a secret? What if the other man says something when he sees my partner and I together, I feel sick with shame and worry. What should I do? Wow, you may be charming. Wasn’t the best word. No, I mean, what did you find charming? I think just the sort of sense of like, well, we moved in together and the second night I found a guy who lives three blocks down from us or like three doors down. And I had sex with him and I thought about it. And it’s because I don’t think I’m actually in love with my partner and I’m probably going to have to tell him that. But do I have to tell him that the guy lives in our complex? Like, is that is that the most salient issue?

S8: Yeah. Yeah, I wondered about that also.

S9: I also I feel like I wasn’t totally sure. Does it seem like they are in like a monogamous relationship and this is cheating or they maybe aren’t. And the thing is that like maybe he just didn’t tell his partner. I feel like I wasn’t totally sure what the what the setup was.

S4: Yeah. I mean, obviously, I don’t always want to make assumptions about people’s arrangements, but I feel like if they had had a non monogamous arrangement or understanding of some kind of letter writer would definitely have included that information here because that would have been hugely relevant. So my guess is it might not necessarily register the exact same way if this were like a heterosexual married couple in nineteen fifty. But yes, this is cheating. They both understand to be cheating the partner would be at the very least bummed out, upset, so on. So yeah, to me obviously the super crucial part is you’re not one hundred percent sure you’re in love with your partner, only you let a writer know just how much of your day that takes up like time and energy from and only you know, just how far you might be from, like I really love him, that I’m mostly happy. I’m just a little worried about this kind of like automated forever track we seem to have gotten ourselves on or like I actually, you know, he’s nice, but man, I don’t want to be living with him two years from now. Like, somewhere in between those two things is, is wherever you are and and depending on where you are within that spectrum would make a big difference to the kind of advice I would want to give this person.

S9: Yeah, exactly. It’s not clear if this is the like this is kind of bad, but I want to, like, stick it out for another year or so for like whatever like different material or emotional reasons or it’s like, oh, I don’t want to just do like the marriage thing or it’s like, oh, I actually really care about this person. And I actually I’m not sure whether I want to be with them or not. And that’s something that I really want to need to figure out for myself right now.

S7: Right. And the the whole like, I feel terrible, like I get all of that. But again, I don’t know if it’s like I feel terrible that we don’t seem to want the same things out of a relationship or I feel terrible because I do ultimately want a monogamous partnership, just not maybe with this guy or I feel terrible because this really drives home the fact that I do want to be able to hook up with other people once in a while.

S10: And I don’t want to say that to my partner because he really doesn’t want it like, oh yeah, that could totally be it also. Yeah.

S7: So I mean, obviously, like this guy knows he wants to tell his partner he already has some idea of how he wants to frame it, which is I want to tell you that I hooked up with somebody else. It happened pretty quickly after we moved in together. It has to do with the fact that I’m really anxious about the nature of our commitments. I feel worried about saying that to you because I know it will hurt you. And and so there’s no way to pretty up that part. But I think it’s just good to name and I think you should be honest, not again, not to open with like, OK, honey, I fucked another guy and I did it because I’m actually not super sure I’m in love with you. Like, there are still ways to be tactful about even very painful or difficult news.

S8: But and he may or may not live in our complex. I will or will not just. Close that to you.

S4: Yeah, so I guess I guess I would say before you make that decision, it’s just it’s probably time to figure out how much do you think you want to stay in this relationship and how much of that might come from the fact that you just signed a lease together versus I actually want to make it work because those are two very different questions.

S10: Like, you can always find somebody else to take your name on the lease, so if you’re really not into it, but you’re just like, oh, I should probably give it another year because we just signed something together. Like that’s probably a sign that you need to have a bigger talk.

S6: And like I get it moving sucks, especially during covid. And I’m sure you’re exhausted from doing all that. But, um, I don’t know.

S10: I feel Corney being like, but you can do it, but you can. Yeah. Yeah, and it’s just like now is really not the time to try to stick out a living situation that you don’t feel pretty good about if you have the resources to get out. You know what I mean? Like, a lot of people are stuck in situations that are, you know, pretty rough and they have to make the best of it. But, you know, this guy doesn’t mention like I’d have nowhere else to go. There’d be no one else I could get to take over the lease. My life would fall apart like, yeah, yeah. Whatever it is like, even if it was just like I got cold feet. But I do want to work this out or I got coffee and made me realize I don’t want to be with this guy. Whatever it is, as you say, tell him whether or not to share with him the fact that this guy lives near you. I think probably. Depends on how much you want to try to make this work, like if you guys have this conversation and then you break up and you’re planning to move out anyways. I think it would be information that would only hurt him and he could not do a lot with. But if you two wanted to talk this out and it was hard, but you decided to try to make it work. I think he might have some reason to want to know just so he can be more mad at you or something. Yeah, I agree with you, but yeah, I like this isn’t. What was that movie with Glenn Close? Why am I asking you? You never know what movies I’m talking about. Fatal Attraction. Sorry, I didn’t mean to nag you in the middle of this conversation, but this isn’t like Fatal Attraction. This guy is not looking to, like, make your life diabolically complicated. Like, I don’t think he’s going to come up to you guys in the laundry and be like, hey, how are you?

S11: You look like me. Maybe you just had a fight. Is it because you and I hooked up here last month?

S8: Like, yeah, he’s like, baby, remember when I open the washing machine and I put you in it and then I turn the water on and it was like a cool little Jacuzzi moment for us.

S10: Yeah, that’s absolutely what extra relational sex usually ends up looking like. Don’t they do that in Fatal Attraction with Glenn Close? I think she boils the rabbit. That’s the closest I remember to anybody like turning on a washing machine and getting involved. But yeah, I mean, just. I think the most important thing that you need to tell your partner is that you cheated on him and that you’re not 100 percent sure about this relationship, not like you can. You can worry about the details later once you figure out whether or not you two are breaking up, because if you’re breaking up, like, all you have to say is like it was some guy we met on the apps. I don’t know much about him. You know, don’t don’t give someone a terrible parting gift that’s just like feel bad living here.

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S2: O o o o o o.

S3: O o. O o.

S11: Speaking of feeling bad, I’m hoping that we can help our next letter writer figure out when it’s important to feel bad and when it’s not important to feel bad and what you should do with the fact that you feel bad. And I hope there’s a lot we can do for this person because there’s a lot going on here. Would you read it?

S6: Sure. The subject is worried about enabling internalized racism. Dear Prudence, I am a 24 year old white woman. In September, Lewis, in quotes, asked me out. He’s a black man. I had a great time. And we’ve kept in touch through text. Since then, though, due to various scheduling issues and the pandemic, we haven’t been able to go on a second date yet. I haven’t dated anyone since I was 16, but I really, really like him and I think the feeling is mutual. We have a lot of the same interests, including some nice ones. However, the recent protests have inspired me to do a lot of research on race issues and have thus seen a lot of anecdotes about black men preferring white or light skinned women over dark skinned women and how that contributes to colorism and internalized racism. While I recognize that dating me would be Lewis’s choice, I worry that I’m enabling prejudice against black women from within their own community. I haven’t felt this way about anyone in a long time, but I’m worried that at best I’ll cause him to be judged poorly by his own community and at worst I’ll be enabling internalized racism. I’m autistic, so I fear that if I did cause him problems, I wouldn’t notice until it was too late. Should I ask him to be friends, even though that’s not really what I want? Am I just worrying over nothing? Please help. Exclamation point.

S10: So. I want to try to take this through point by point, if nothing else, I want the letter writer to be able to feel like this is not an urgent decision that has to be made. Again, I don’t want to make too many assumptions, but like, this is a guy you’ve been out with once in a year and it was a year ago. So I wonder if a second date is even on the horizon. Do you think that that’s a little bit unfair, like they are clearly talking a lot, but I just I feel like even with coronavirus, if between September and March they didn’t find a time to go on a second date, this may have already fizzled out into a friendship long ago.

S8: Yeah, I mean, at the very least, we don’t know for sure how Lewis feels. It’s not like he said, yes, I like you. It’s just that we know that the letter writer thinks that the feeling is mutual.

S10: Yeah. Yeah. So I think in terms of your individual relationship with Lewis, the fact that it’s been a year now that you haven’t been able to go on a second date and it sounds like you haven’t actually had a follow up conversation about. Ever going on a second date, I think that’s much more relevant here and again, I don’t say that to be like rude or like to to be harsh with you. I just think it’s it’s pretty unusual at this point to have let a year go by after a first date without having a single conversation about a second date and then to just have a second date. I think you may already be in just friends territory.

S8: I mean, unless unless Lewis is like being like I’m really not wanting to hook up with people right now because of covid. It just not something I feel comfortable with. Like if he had said that to you explicitly, then maybe I’d be like, oh, maybe he’s just waiting to date until covid ends. But that doesn’t seem to be something he’s told you, at least from this note.

S11: Right. And again, it like that’s certainly not to say like because it’s been a year, there’s no chance that he wants to go out with you again. And you should just assume your only friends and not even ask.

S4: I just mean, like, it’s been a year you’ve been giving this a lot of thought. You’ve been doing a lot of research and coming to a variety of conclusions, some of which I think are not. Necessary or apparent, but you haven’t it sounds like actually said to Lewis, I had a really great time on that date, I would really love for us to go on a second date. Do you want to go on a second date? If so, are you comfortable with such a date being in person? And if not, you know, like have a have a defined the relationship conversation. You’ve known this guy at least a year. Yeah, it’s not too soon. Do we want it now that we’ve kind of addressed that part? Do we want to get to the assumptions that the letter writer has kind of arrived at or the conclusions that she has arrived at based on her? I don’t know what sort of research she has been doing about colorism, but to have any thoughts there?

S8: Yeah, I mean, I guess I would say that if you did get in touch with Lewis and it did seem like he was like, oh, my God. Like, it’s so sad that we waited a year to go out on a second date because I really enjoyed the first one with you. Yeah. Let’s totally go on a second date, Yurok. I think like as you say in your in your letter dating, you would be Lewis’s choice. And like Lewis has been dealing with, you know, anti blackness his whole life and for sure has been dealing with it like longer than you have. So I feel like you would if he did express interest. I feel like you’d have to kind of just like trust trust him and trust that probably like he has a better understanding of the way, you know, colorism is operating and also like he’s an adult and like can consent to things and make his own decisions. Yeah, that was my kind of vibe. Although also I like I get feeling like I’m autistic. I don’t know what the social cues in this situation are like. I want to know what I wish. There were like a script that would just tell me what to do. And I get that that’s like really hard also. What was your vibe, Danny?

S4: Yeah, I think I had a couple of thoughts there, one of which was I’m glad that you are thinking a lot about race and racism. I’m glad that you’re doing some research. I hope that you also couple that research with having conversations with people who are actually in your life. So it’s not all just like you with a book, are you with the Internet? And there, of course, with the caveat that like people, you already have some sort of rapport, some sort of relationship with. You’re not just grabbing somebody you met once and had a nice conversation with and saying, like, explain colorism to me, please. So, you know, obviously proceeding there with context and caution, I would just say to that there are a lot of ways to think about and to talk about colorism that don’t necessarily go to this particular guy. Lewis is like a resource to be stewarded through the network of colorism, and either I will take him for myself, thereby taking him away from any dark skinned women or any non-white women or I give him back to the group. And yeah, as you say, Charlie, that removes a couple of layers of Lewis from the equation. And I think it also, I wouldn’t quite say misses the point because obviously like dynamics in dating and in personal relationships is an important part of racism, of colorism, of lots of different isms. But it’s not simply about heterosexual dating dynamics. It also has to do with like criminal justice issues and statistics, arrest rates. It has to do with payment. It has to do with, you know, getting bank loans. It has to do with property ownership. So it’s not just beginning and ending with heterosexual dating. And I would also just add to that. I think it would be one thing if you felt like Lewis had said or done something that expressed that he did not value the black women in his life, the darker skinned women in his life. But you don’t say anything like that. You just say, I’ve now heard of colorism and I worry that that’s what this is. And so that to me is very different. Basically, a lot of this these are all conversations it’s possible to have with someone on a third and a fourth and fifth date.

S11: It’s certainly not something that I think you need to decide for. Lewis. Yeah, no, that’s certainly not something that you need to decide for Lewis before you’ve had your second date. So none of this to me seems like. Yep, don’t go out with him again. But some of what you have described makes me wonder if a second date’s even on the horizon. I agree.

S4: Yeah. I mean, yeah, as as two non black people, I think we can probably wrap this one up. I don’t think either of us needs to add a ton more to it. But right back, let us know if you two do go out again, what this conversation might look like, how you’re doing in general. I would love to hear from you in the future. Oh, gosh, OK, so this next one is mine, and it’s long, and that’s fine, I can we can split it up if you want.

S10: No, no, that’s fine. There’s definitely a lot going on here, as they say. And I will read it subject.

S11: I constantly think about abandoning my disabled spouse. Dear Prudence, I married my partner six years ago, shortly after he was diagnosed with a painful autoimmune disease with a 10 to 20 year prognosis. I couldn’t imagine life without him. We’d already been in love almost my whole life. And how hard could it be for a badass like me to add in some caregiving superpowers? But now that he’s actually dependent on me, I fantasize about running away all the time. I’m not attracted to him anymore, but he badly needs me to be. And feigning sexual desire turns out to be incredibly depressing. Blackout drinking helps. I feel panic and anxiety that I’ve never experienced before, not because I’m afraid he’ll die, which used to terrify me, but because I’m now afraid I’ll die first and never get to be alone again. Everyone says when you know you’ll lose someone, you cherish them more, but I think the opposite is true. Without planning to you detach, sometimes I feel almost indifferent to what happens to him. Yet I don’t want them to suffer or be alone. And when I see him in pain, I’m overcome with pity and guilt. I spring into action. But as soon as I am insulated from his pain again, I’m so exhausted and I just want it to be over. I am particularly ashamed because I don’t have a terrible life. Were well off. I can still work a job that I like. My husband is an incredibly kind, blameless person and I have so much less to complain about than many caregivers. At times, I’m sure my failure to stay in love proves what I feared my whole life, that I’m too selfish to form real attachments at other times I think anyone would be miserable in this situation. Of course, both could be true. I’ve learned that a caregiving relationship shares most of the elements of an abusive relationship the isolation, the gaslighting, the tunnel vision and co-dependency. But instead of being bad, it’s somehow good. I know that when he finally dies, I’ll supposedly be so grateful I stayed and people insist I won’t regret a minute. But what if I do regret it? What if I really regret it? People enjoy situations like this all the time. Also, I feel like I will die if I don’t get out. Which is it? Are family and kindness everything, or are we supposed to leave situations that make us miserable? And if it’s the latter, then how could I navigate the shame of abandoning the love of my life right when they needed me the most? So as I said at the top of this letter, there’s a lot going on here, and part of the reason that I didn’t want to edit it down was because I think it speaks to a very important frame of mind that the letter writer is in that I really want to speak to, because I think it often justifies the abuse of people with disabilities, the abuse by a caregiving partner of a partner in need of caregiving and ways of trying to, let’s say, pretend something is love when it’s work in a way that sort of designed to develop, I think, a martyr complex or just make things more difficult than it needs to be. All of which is to say, like I I get that this letter writer has written this letter in such a way that it’s designed to make a reader feel very sympathetic to them. I’m overcome with shame. I feel horrible about my feelings, but I can’t help my feelings. And I’m just grimly enduring this. But I feel like I want to die. Please feel bad for me. And I just can’t do that, in part because I’m really disturbed by this attempt to compare an unhealthy caregiving dynamic to abuse, especially when people with disabilities are so, so, so much likelier to be abused by their caregivers. I find it really, I think, horrifying that this letter writer is describing a relationship where her partner is disabled and needs caregiving and the two of them have not had enough conversations about what kind of professional help they can get.

S4: But then her approach, which is to like not be honest about her sexual desires to fake sexual desire, to develop a drinking problem and to have this partner that she describes as kind and blameless and then is sort of casting it as like even though he’s so great, it’s just like an abusive relationship. And I’m the victim of abuse here when instead I read this and I see someone who’s very likely to neglect or harm their disabled partner very soon.

S8: Yeah, I agree with that, Danny. I feel like yeah. You’re kind of playing into a lot of really dangerous tropes that people use to perpetuate ableism, such as that. Like disabled people are inherently both inherently a burden and but also that they’re like innocent children who can do no do no wrong. And like, it’s not their fault. And that in in death panel, we’ve been doing a reading group of this book called Diecast Rating Disability by Leot Benmosche, which talks about sort of like some of the links between disability justice and the prison industrial complex. And one of the things that she talks about is sort of how this figure of the disabled person as a sort of innocent child, how like the flip side of that is the criminal who’s like and, you know, inherently evil and can be blamed for anything versus the innocent child. You can be blamed for nothing. And also she talks about how like that trope sort of like enables a lot of abuse by parents to their children. Even after the kids grow up, they’re still treated as children. So, yeah, I feel like coming from that context, I’m sort of really wary of the way that your partner is being treated like a child. And I wonder how how he feels about this dynamic that you two have together.

S4: Right? Right. And I think I’m especially troubled by the like. He needs me to be sexually attracted to him. And the clear implication here is like because he has an autoimmune disorder and because his prognosis is not long, I have to lie to him. He he is de facto asking me to lie to him by virtue of wanting something and having a disability. And so I have to lie. That lie feels unbearable. The only way I can deal with that lie is by drinking until I blackout. This is the way things have to be. Again, that like is attempting to normalize an incredibly dangerous situation where your husband is with his caregiver and his caregiver is blackout drunk. And that puts him at real danger and at real risk. And you need to not do that. So part of what I think needs to happen right away is you two need to start talking to his medical team. You say you have resources, you say still work. All of that is great. You need to be looking for home health aides. You need to be looking for like consumer directed personal assistance programs that can send somebody out to the house. You need to be getting people whose job it is to provide care instead of framing it as this thing I do 24/7 because I love my husband until I want to die.

S8: Yeah, exactly. I mean, obviously, you shouldn’t be in a situation where you are being made to feel like you bear the full burden for his care. I mean, obviously, we should. Have health care provided as for everyone, and his care should be fully communal, not on you and I agree, like I don’t in any way blame the letter writer for the fact that, like, what sounds like close to 24/7 care is draining.

S4: To provide on top of a job like that is not something I’m holding you responsible for. Letter writer. That part makes a great deal of sense to me. The fact that you feel unable to continue doing this work makes sense to me. Like that is not something that I want you to feel guilty about. The other stuff. I want you to be aware of how it plays into common ableist tropes that result in the abuse and often premature death of disabled people. But again, you didn’t invent that. You were not solely responsible for it. There are ways that you can get the help that you need so that you can also look after yourself and spend some part of your day that it’s not just caregiving for your partner are going to work. You need those things, too. It’s good for you and it’s good for your partner.

S8: Yeah. I mean, I feel like when someone is with you and you can tell that they don’t want to be, it makes you feel so bad. I mean, it’s like you think your partner can’t doesn’t notice that before you guys bone, you have to get wasted. I’m sure your partner, your partner sees and it makes them feel really sad and maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t. I don’t I don’t want to get. Oh yeah. I don’t want to. I shouldn’t assume. I shouldn’t assume.

S4: I don’t want to get like caught up in like it’s bad because he notices and it makes him feel bad like yeah of course feigning sexual desire turns out to be incredibly depressing. Of course it does. It is incredibly depressing. And I want you to stop doing it. And that’s a place where I don’t want to be as harsh with you. You need to be able to be honest with your partner. And again, that doesn’t mean coming in at maximum brutality because you’re so tired, but it does mean saying, like, we need to have a really serious conversation about reformatting your caregiving schedule. And also, I just cannot have sex right now. I am exhausted. I am not into it. I’ve been trying to force myself to get into it. And that has been devastating for me personally. And it’s been affecting my own health. And I need to stop. And maybe your husband will be very sad when he hears that. And I’m very sorry, but you know what the alternative is, which is blackout drinking and feeling miserable, and that’s worse. This is pain that adults can handle, even though it’s difficult and sometimes agonizing. He can handle this. And if he needs support in handling it, he needs to be turning to other people. You know, I just I don’t want to be too hard on either of you because I also want technology in difficult situation. But like, if you went to this saying, like, we’re just in love, he has this new prognosis, I’ll just become a full time caregiver. No worries. We don’t need further advice. We don’t need a community of people who have disabilities who have lived with this disease before. We don’t need you to talk about end of life care or at what point we might not be able to live together and independently like these are conversations you have to have. You have to have them. Love is not a substitute for these conversations. Love is not a substitution for paying someone for work. Love doesn’t mean that you are good at suddenly being on the clock 24 hours a day. Of course you feel all these things right now. There’s a lot that can be done about it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you two are going to stay married. And sorry, I say like, of course you feel frustrated and burned out. Not of course. You also, like, have set up a number of ideas and beliefs about disability.

S10: That part I don’t want to say is like unquestionable, but like the fact that the situation is not working is not a surprise and should not be a surprise. Please don’t compare it to an abusive relationship again, especially because your husband is not abusing you. I, I it’s really to me, it sounds like this person is not in contact with a lot of people who actually either work or live with a disability. You know, like people are always saying, like, I won’t work a single minute. Who the fuck are these people like? Who are these people who are telling this to you and how involved are they in the day to day of your life? I don’t think that they know your situation. I don’t really care about what regrets you may or may not end up happening. I’m not interested in setting up a regret free life for you. I’m interested in finding a way for you and your partner to figure out if you can continue to be in a relationship together where both of you gets your needs met. And if you can’t, you know, how do you separate amicably and if not amicably, at least in such a way that he can get the care he needs from other people?

S11: Yeah, I agree with that, because otherwise, like, if you don’t if you if you continue to proceed, like your only two options are take care of my husband, do everything that he needs, give him everything that I think that he wants without mentioning any of my own needs, because to do otherwise would be a great shame or run away in the middle of the night. It’s not going to work out. Neither of those are going to feel good. You’re not going to do well. Your husband’s not going to do well, like. You need to start talking to people who can give your husband the medical help and attention that he needs, and you also need to find support groups both for your husband and for yourself, for people who are actually living with this disability and who do not necessarily frame it. As you know, he’s just becoming a bigger and bigger burden for me. I do feel sympathy for you, but I also feel great fear of the direction that your self-pity will go in and what it will do to your husband’s humanity as a disabled person also.

S8: Yeah, I mean, I feel like during this conversation I’ve been getting freaked out like, oh my God. Like, what if something happened and like, you know, like something the result could be scary. So I hope you guys are able to communicate honestly about it soon. Yeah.

S10: Like you can stop having sex with your husband right now. You are allowed to stop having sex.

S11: And I don’t know if that’ll be for a year or forever or either one, but just like, oh, my God, you have a right to say that I’ve been miserable having sex under these conditions. I don’t know what’s going to need to change for that to look different. So right now, I just need to say I can’t have sex with you right now. And that’s going to be the rule going forward. You can do that today. You don’t. You know, I also want you to be sharing this with other people. I also want you to be looking for support. I also want you to be talking to the medical staff. I also want you to be like looking up readings that have to do with, like. Disability, justice and disabled history, and to that extent, like I just off the top of my head, there’s rooted in rights at work. And then there’s also something else that I recently clicked out of.

S8: You can feel free to edit this out if it comes off as a plug, which is not what I intend at all. But, uh, the death panel is a podcast. It is a lot about health justice through a disability framework. So I would recommend them as a resource on disability justice if that’s something that you would be listening interested in listening to in a podcast format.

S10: Yeah. Yeah. Anything that puts, I think.

S11: People with disabilities, first, let’s not say like caregivers, partners, friends, relatives are unimportant or meaningless, but that do not center them as either like, you know, long-suffering saints or victims of somebody else’s disability. I think that’s the thing you really, really need to steer clear of right now. A martyr complex always hurts, hurts both people involved. Danny, I would say, yeah, it does. And I you know. I get that that’s what you wanted. You wanted us to feel really bad for you and say like, no, gosh, of course you’re suffering so much, your suffering has finally trumped your husband’s suffering. And everyone knows that in a marriage, whoever suffering the most just gets what they want and the other person has to do it. And it’s just like, look at where that idea has gotten you let go of that idea. It’s a bad idea. It’s not serving you well. It’s not serving your husband well.

S4: I don’t think you would recommend it to friends, unlearn it, do what you need to do.

S8: I’m just imagining everyone and all these all these people and they’re in this like go cart race or something. And it’s called like the suffering race. And it’s like who can who can go do the most suffering, like on your marks, get set, go and all the go carts, like speed off.

S4: Yeah. I mean it really is like this is part of how like a system gets set up in which like disabled people are more often like murdered and neglected and abused, which is some version of caretaking work is something that just one person who loves you should do all the time and they should just do it cheerfully forever. And then when that idea doesn’t work out, which of course it doesn’t.

S7: And there’s no job that we say like one person should only ever do all of the time with no assistance, with no help. And then when that falls apart, it’s like, wow, well, this, you know, even love couldn’t overcome how awful this thing is when it’s like it’s not this thing. It’s the fact that you assigned one person the job of ten and you said, I’ll pay you in love.

S4: That’s like that’s the system that’s not working. Not that the love was falling apart. Not that your partner is actually a burden. It’s just that people like as a society, we are not sending enough resources and and caregivers to help people live with disabilities.

S8: Yeah, I mean, the state has been trying to offload health care onto individuals, families, couples, children, especially since the beginning of the Reagan era. And that is not your fault letter writer. And it’s pretty clear how making all of this your job is helping them, you know, make their budget cuts. And that is really shitty.

S4: Yeah. Oh, OK, well, I think we’ve been able to kind of spend enough time both taking the letter writer to task for the things I think they need to be, and then also for saying, here’s the part that’s just society. So let’s move on and wish this letter writer the best, genuinely the best, as well as her husband idear. Idea, Charlie, thank you so much for coming on the show, this was a beautiful experience for me.

S8: Thank you, Danny, and thank you, producer Phil.

S12: Thanks for listening to Dear Prudence, our producer is Phil Cercas. Our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. Don’t miss an episode of the show had to slate dotcom. Dear Prudence, to subscribe and remember, you can always hear more prudence by joining Slate. Plus go to Slate Dotcom. Pretty hard to sign up. If you want me to answer your question, call me and leave a message for zero one three seven one, dear. That’s three three to seven. And you might hear your answer on an episode of the show. You don’t have to use your real name or location, and at your request we can even alter the sound of your voice. Keep it short, 30 seconds a minute, tops. Thanks for listening.

S4: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday.

S13: Basically, for seven years, this woman is monolog at you and you’ve never said anything, and you’re now realizing that that might not be what you want. And so the question is sort of like, what am I allowed to do? It’s like anything, literally anything. You’re allowed to either go see her and then say, I can’t handle another monologue, let’s not talk about this and then just deal with it. Or you can go and say, like, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. You sound totally unhinged. This is ridiculous. And then fight with your hairstylist, which is fine and will not kill you. I promise you, anyone who is like fortified emotionally enough to go around telling people at work about five conspiracies, like she can handle a little robust disagreement. She is not going to fall over.

S11: To listen to the rest of that conversation, join Slate. Plus now at Slate dot com forward slash Prudy pod.