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S2: Daniel Avari here and I have a special announcement for our listeners, some of you know that I published my third book in February. It’s called Something That May Shock or Discredit You. And it’s a series of essays about memoir, transition, religion, pop culture and Anne of Green Gables. Today, I wanted to let you know that for a limited time only you can get a really good deal on the audio book, which is read by me. Go to sleep dot com slash Danny. That’s Slate dot com slash Danny. There’s also a link in the show notes of this episode. The audio book will cost you just twelve ninety nine. That’s five dollars off the list price and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better deal in memoirs written by me. After you complete your purchase, you’ll be able to listen to the audio book and your preferred podcast player, even the one that 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 was brought to you by Slate. That means your purchase not only supports me, it also helps to support the important journalism that you depend on. It’s like, so it’s a win win. You save money and it makes money. If you’ve ever thought about checking out my book, there’s never been a better time. This is a limited time promotion. So don’t just sit there, sit there and go to sleep. Dotcom slash Danny and buy my audiobook today one more time. That’s Slate dotcom slash Danny.
S3: Dear Prudence, your prudent ghiberti, prudent, 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 Dear Prudence Show once again, and as always, I am your host, Daniel and Claverie. And with me in the studio this week is Amanda McLauchlan, a podcast and business lady who runs Multitude, a podcast, collective and production studio located in Brooklyn, Chicago Spirits, a boozy dive into mythology and folklore and joined the Party, a collaborative storytelling podcast powered by the rules of Dungeons and Dragons. Amanda, welcome to the show.
S5: Thank you so much. I would like to congratulate you on the recent addition to your family. Adorable little puppy. Thank you. And your technical innovation of assigning the letters. I was like, it’s a character development arc as a longtime listener of the show. And I was like, fist pumping. It’s great.
S4: It’s very exciting. And he very much reminds me of the little fairy dog from the Hilaire Belloc translation of Tristan and Isolde. So he he squares just like right away into folklore, you know, the little one with the magic little fairy bell that Tristan wins from, like the King of Wales or something. And then you never remember that you have a problem.
S5: I don’t. But I will look it up.
S1: Oh, it’s terrific. I mean, the Belloc translations, my favorite, obviously, it’s fantastic. They’re always calling each other friend and being very courtly, which is very much something that I’m a real sucker for.
S4: And there’s just a great little interlude in the middle of all of that about how there’s this very small talk that everyone likes a lot and then they go back to killing each other.
S5: I’m really enjoying the new translation of Beowulf, which often uses the word bro as a translation for a middle English like, you know, own friend, whatever the actual word is.
S4: I have seen it and I have some stuff. And now is not the time to get into them because we have to solve other people’s problems. But I’ll simply say stonily, bro, it’s your turn to read the first letter.
S5: All right. Our first letter is titled Worried Wallflower. Dear Prudence, I think I have a brick wall to break through when it comes to dating. Yet every time I try, I just give up. I don’t know if it’s because my standards are unrealistically high or because I have had a hard time trusting people or because everyone I know seems to be unhappy in love. I’m a 26 year old gay man and the longest relationship I’ve been in lasted three months. I’ve tried all the apps and go to bars, which I hate. I don’t drink, which sometimes makes it hard to meet people. I’ve stayed home since March because my sister is in a high risk group. But on social media I often see guys like me seemingly not following any regulations and it really upsets me. Occasionally guys will ask me out, but then they’ll get into it about social distancing and tell me I have to live my life seeing someone I might like, post pictures of himself. Going to parties makes me lose all interest, I’m afraid, because I feel like my ridiculously high standards or trust issues are preventing me from ever dating again. I always put my career in education before everything, but it gets lonely. I have a really hard time making friends, but the friends I do have, I’ve had for years. I’m afraid my anxiety might be preventing me from even trying to find someone. I’ve always been independent. Maybe that’s preventing me from letting someone in. What do I do? Am I deemed to be alone?
S1: I I wish I knew more about what this guy’s, quote unquote, impossibly high standards are, ridiculously high standards are, because I don’t know if they’re ridiculously high, because I don’t know what they are observing.
S5: Social distancing. It doesn’t seem like a very high standard to me. Yeah, and that’s the only one he mentions. Yeah. And my I mean, my primary reaction here is like there’s nothing wrong with you, letter writer. I feel your anxiety and I’m so sorry that you’re you’re dealing with that.
S1: Yeah. I mean, there’s definitely something wrong in as much as you feel bad. So so we can definitely address that. But, you know, I can’t make a ruling on what your standards are unless I know what they are. The only one that you describe is pretty reasonable. If you have a really big gap about how you handle social distancing, you’re probably not going to have a great date. I don’t share the same fear of like I’m twenty six. My longest relationship has been three months that that happens. That’s not well outside of the realm of quote unquote normal. But again, the problem is that it upsets him, not necessarily that it’s wildly unusual, I think here. You know, it’s always difficult when the question like, am I doomed to be alone forever because that’s a big fear and that kind of makes the whole world like this walled garden that you can’t get in versus like what what is it specifically that you wish you were doing that you don’t feel that you can access right now? So if the question is like, should I lower my standards so I can date guys, they don’t really like that much just so I can say I was dating, I don’t think you really want that. But the question of like, I actually have a really hard time making friends. My anxiety often gets in the way of my ability to forge new possible friendly or romantic relationships. Is there something I can do about that? And oh my gosh, yes, very much, I think. Did that strike you as more the root of the problem as well?
S5: Yeah, I think that is a great reason for some introspection, for therapy, for finding support for ways in which your anxiety is impacting other areas of your life. And I also felt a little bit of like anxiety about the fact that you’re not dating when other people expect you to date. And I hope that the letter writer feels like they want to pursue it because that’s something that they want and not necessarily because other people expect it, because you are not required to date. If you don’t want to, though, it sounds like that’s something you want to get more into.
S6: Yeah. And without in any way trying to diminish the seriousness of your distress right now, I’ll just say that feeling like social anxiety and generalized anxiety is one of the most commonly treated mental health issues. So if you speak about it with your doctor, if you look for a therapist in your area who takes your insurance, odds are great that they will say, you know, I have experience in treating patients with anxiety. And if you go to them and you say, I’m specifically interested in figuring out how to deal with social anxiety when it comes to making new friends and looking for guys to date, there’s a lot out there, therapists who specialize in it, workbooks and self-help books on the subject, sometimes support groups for people who are trying to step outside of their comfort zones.
S4: Although I imagine, you know, if you throw covid into the mix, a lot of those groups will and should be online. But that, I think, is the bigger issue. And then, you know, I’m not going to advise you to go to bars because you hate because if you go to something that you hate to meet someone, you’re going to be in a bad mood. You’re not going to be excited to meet anyone. If you meet someone who likes bars, you will be setting yourself up for a relation where you’re bummed out every time you go out. Like, I don’t think you need to change the fact that you don’t like going to bars.
S5: Agreed. And I, I think you should be proud of the fact that you’re independent. I don’t think that’s a necessarily a trait that prevents you from making relationships romantic, friendship wise or otherwise. So I hope that’s something you can kind of unpack with a therapist or with workbook or in a support group, because I get how that could feel like a liability, but I really don’t think it is.
S4: Yeah, and then beyond that, I think, again, I just I don’t know what your standards are. If it’s just that you’re serious about social distancing and you’re concerned about your family, your relatives health, I would not advise you to tone any of that down.
S7: But I would encourage you to to at least consider trying, leading with those standards as something exciting and not this like really awful.
S4: Gauntlett You have to make people run through so much, just like I’m looking for something specific. I want that a lot. I want a guy who is relaxed about the fact that I’m sometimes anxious, a guy who takes social distancing seriously, a guy who shares some of my interests, values preferences for for how I socialize, who’s not wild about going to bars. That’s the kind of guy I’m looking for. I’m going to ask around. I’m going to be looking for him on other apps. I’m going to be going to not bars to find him. Think of it. As you know, I’m on a very specific quest, which is not to say that that’s going to mean you’ll find him tomorrow, just that if you approach dating with the sense of like, oh, shucks, bad news, everybody. I have ridiculously high standards. And that’s awful because I know you won’t meet it. I think you will get what you expect, which is disappointment. Definitely. I’m trying to think back to when I was twenty six and like my longest relationship at that point had probably all told, lasted three or four years in multiple, three month spurts because we were always breaking up. And it’s just like I don’t think it was a lot better off than if I had only been in three month relationships.
S5: Yeah, this really resonated with me. I was definitely in a similar position at 25, 26, not having had any long relationships. And it it made me anxious at the time, but I sort of decided to do a project of like being more myself in other areas of my life and trying to compartmentalize less between, you know, different friend groups, my family and my work and all that. And it was in that project that I met my partner because I felt like I was, you know, this is me. I’m not going to turn back weird, anxious, you know, really into specific things, quere, et cetera. And that ended up being a great thing for me to start, not just a romantic relationship, but new friendships, new hobbies and to do less. Of what I hate it and do more of what I liked, which I think is a really good goal.
S6: Yeah, I mean, I think you want to be looking for guys who also don’t drink or who drink very moderately like those should be guys that you were looking for. It would not, I think, make you feel a lot happier if you went on a bunch of first, second and third dates with a lot of guys that bothered you were heavy drinkers, big partiers, totally at odds with your lifestyle.
S4: Like I mean, maybe then you would feel like, well, at least I’ve had some boyfriends. But, you know, if your goal is just have boyfriends and nothing else, I think, you know, you’ll end up like the people you all know who seem to be unhappy in love, which I would think at least, although I’m sorry that all of your friends are miserable in love, at least that provides you with an example of how much worse it can sometimes be to be in an awful relationship than to be single, even if you’re not happily single man or man. Is that a real improvement over, you know, living with someone who kind of hates you?
S5: Definitely. And like, virtual dates kind of take out that element of, you know, everybody expects to meet in a bar for a first date if you’re at a certain age and a certain size of city. So I hope that that gives you a lot of freedom and opportunity to, you know, get creative with your with your resume dates, face time, do surveys, watch movies, whatever people are doing. There’s tons of, like, articles and essays about how people have been navigating dating this year. And I hope that they give you some some sense of camaraderie and ideas and not a sense of like, oh, God, I should be doing all these things because that is your anxiety talking.
S7: And there’s often people who are interested in sober dating. You might also want to try looking for guys a couple of years older than you. I’m not saying you have to go date somebody like in his 60s, if that’s not what appeals to you, but if part of what you’re looking for is somebody who’s not going out a lot, statistically speaking, guys in their 30s and 40s might be a better bet not to paint everyone with the same brush, but older guys, sometimes they’re attractive, sometimes they’re fun. Check them out. Speaking of older guys who are not great, oh, now I’ll read this next letter. Yeah, that’s really the journey. This is the only that’s the only sound I have for this one. So the subject here is intentionally not parents.
S1: Dear Prudence, my husband and I have a wonderful life together, but we also have a deep secret. Shortly after we started dating eight years ago, he revealed to me that he might have a child two years before that, as he’d been preparing to move across the country, the woman he’d been seeing casually told him she was pregnant with his child. He was clear that he had no intention of raising a child with her or even being involved in its life and left the decision whether to continue the pregnancy up to her. He moved away. She had the Baby River and listed my husband on the birth certificate. When he revealed this to me, he insisted that they had always used protection, but that he also hadn’t fought her request for child support. I think he has genuine doubts as to whether this child is his, but he accepts that it very likely could be and would rather pay the money than try to fight it. I’m fine with this because the X and child certainly benefit from the money and we can easily afford it. My husband has never met River but has stayed in intermittent contact with the ex to discuss child support. The ex has been engaged to different men several times over the years and each time I told my husband that the fiancee was planning on adopting River so my husband felt justified in staying away. Now River is ten and the ex is still a single mother with multiple children. However, the other kids know who their fathers are, and Rivers reportedly been asking questions about his as well as suffering from unrelated questionmark anger issues. I have no idea what river’s been told. My fear is that River will show up at our door in eight years where we’ve been. How do we explain that? We just never wanted a child or a relationship with one? Or should we reach up now, even though we don’t have the desire, intention or means of forming a real relationship with a ten year old who is thousands of miles away? What would we even say? And would it simply be giving this child false hope? My husband will clearly prefer to keep pretending that river doesn’t exist, and frankly, so would I. Our life is happily childfree if this feels like a time bomb waiting to go off. I just can’t see any options at this point.
S5: Mean, who is we here, you know, Danny, sometimes on the podcast you’ll read a letter and then it falls into the genre of someone is doing a lot because their spouse won’t do enough of anything. And I think this definitely falls into the broad umbrella of do less, though there are things that I think the letter writer can do if this is eating away at them and not just that their husband, but yeah, there is that there’s a phantom we hear that is pointing to the others, the person not doing any emotional or actual labor.
S6: Yeah. And like I don’t say this to be cruel, but like, I very much doubt that whatever questions were may or may not have about his biological father, that he’s also thinking, boy, if my biological father later married some other woman, I sure wish I knew where she was. Why didn’t she come to you? You will not really, I think, factor into Rivers emotional connection to his father. So I get that the way is like I’m trying to make sure my husband seems like a good person because otherwise I’ll feel bad.
S1: But, you know, if River shows up at your door in eight years, he’s going to say, like, and where were you, ma’am? He’s going to be like, get out of the way. I want to talk to my dad like or I don’t think of this man as my father, but I think of him as an interesting part of the constellation of my family of origin. And I have some questions. Whatever the thing is, your involvement will be, I think, incidental.
S5: I agree. And it sounds like the urgency that the letter writer feels is kind of on their part and maybe guilt, maybe franticness, maybe misplacing some anger or disappointment in their husband. But River sounds OK like, you know, paying child support or even lives with his mom. You know, she and your husband can discuss the right way and time to disclose his biological father’s identity, if that’s something they want to do. The urgency feels like an internal thing for the letter writer, which is something that they have to deal with right now. But this is not like a drop. Everything like a kid is in danger type situation from the details we have.
S6: Yeah, just like, you know, if someday River shows up or places a phone call and your husband explains how he behaved 18 years ago. And if he gets mad, then what’s going to happen is that will be mad at him. You can’t prevent that. There’s no way you can spin this. That river is going to say, oh, great, thanks for letting me know. I’m happy now. He’ll just have his own feelings about it. And, you know, I just. Obviously, what’s done is done, but like a paternity test is like maybe two hundred dollars, so this whole like, well, I wasn’t really sure if it was my kid or not, but I figured it would just be easier to pay. Child support is like you can get paternity tests at Walgreen’s. Yeah, that would have been a very straightforward question to settle. And again, the fact that he chose not to do it and instead chose to just pay child support, I think one probably speaks to the fact that it’s probably his kid and also just generally has to do with like your husband’s response to this was just like takes you back, sees, you know, like the girl he’d been seeing said, I’m pregnant. He was just like, oh, I crossed my fingers. It doesn’t count. Like, which is fine. You’re allowed to. And he didn’t skip out on his, you know, financial obligation. But just the idea of, like, you can’t just say to someone like I have no intention of being involved in this child’s life. And then, you know, also I guarantee this kid won’t ever be mad or resentful someday, like he made his choice. He gets to have a child free life. He gets to sometimes send money to this woman and maybe someday the kid will be mad at him and maybe the kid won’t really think about him and he doesn’t get to control that.
S5: Yeah, there are a lot of justifications for the husband’s continued, you know, uninvolvement in his life. Right. And if that is bothering the letter writer, like if if the if they’re writing a letter now because they’re feeling, you know, guilty, bad, you know, worried, then I hope that you can talk to your husband. Because if you’re if you’re feeling badly about how he handled this, that’s an issue in your marriage that that ought to be aired and that you deserve to talk about. Yeah, I had some ideas for like how you know, ultimately, if your husband doesn’t want to change any of the things that he’s doing and the letter writer wants to, like, start a college savings plan or something else and Rivers name as like a, you know, small way to support his future without taking on a parental role that might help. But you you ought to talk to your husband about this.
S4: Yeah, I just yeah. I think that’s the only thing that needs to happen here is just like I think you feel on some level troubled about the ethics of the situation. Your husband doesn’t. And that worries you. And you want to find some way to make sure River likes you both and thinks you’re good people and you can’t do that. You know, that that line about he has genuine doubts as to whether the child is his, but accepts that it could be and would rather pay the money than try to fight it again. Two hundred dollars. He could have spent two hundred dollars, eight, you know, eight years ago, ten years ago, and like, settled the question pretty definitively. And so this whole like, well, it’s probably not mine, but like just to be on the safe side, I’ll pay child support for the next eight years. It’s not it’s not a reasonable, thoughtful decision. It’s the decision of somebody who. Got someone pregnant and then became close to a deadbeat dad and then wants to find ways to feel good about that decision, and so it was just like, well, might not even be my kid. There’s no way of knowing, obviously, because we live in the year thirteen hundred, you know, we’d rather pay the money than try to fight it again. It wouldn’t have even been a question of fighting if they’d gotten a paternity test. And he’d confirmed, yep, that’s my kid. Legally, I have to give that child money.
S7: And will we always use protection like, oh, well, then I guess she could like. Where are you arguing this? There’s a child here. And so just saying like, well, we always used protection is like, well. Then either get a damn test and figure out or, you know, admit to yourself that you clearly did not use it properly or an accident happened anyways because again, a human being is now alive called river. No one hallucinated him. He’s not made up.
S5: Yeah, that’s what a judgment of Rivers’ mom in this letter, I’m feeling a real tone of like multiple fiancees, like the other kids with different fathers, like it’s a real kind of.
S7: And she kept saying that they were going to adopt River. So, you know, what was my husband supposed to do in that situation? Be a father to his child? That’s ridiculous. And it’s just like, again, he made those choices. He wasn’t driven to those choices because he thought, oh, this other guy is going to become a dad now. So my hands are tied like he’s made choices. You got to live with them. Absolutely. Yeah. Don’t lie to a kid who hasn’t approached you.
S4: You know, that’s an easy answer. Don’t lie to a child who hasn’t asked you any questions. Don’t promise me that you don’t intend to maintain and don’t make trouble where trouble doesn’t yet exist. And if you’re troubled by some of the choices your husband’s made over the years, I think that’s pretty reasonable. He sounds kind of scummy. And I say that as somebody who’s like I think there are probably ways to be a non-custodial parent and to just say, like, fuck, we got pregnant, but I cannot parent a child. I want to find other ways to live up to my obligations, but I can’t do that. That are I mean, again, still nothing you can do that guarantee the child is later going to be like, you’re cool, but there are ways to do that without. Doing it like this, even even if you want to be a sort of deadbeat parent, I think there’s better ways to do it than this.
S5: Yeah, and identifying as like child free is a priority for us does not absolve you of responsibility to your biological children and also doesn’t preclude you or exempt you from making relationships with the children that are in your life that are not yours to take care of.
S4: Yeah, so that’s kind of it. I think you’re trying to do more because, you know, your husband is sort of fine being like, oh, I guess this kid has anger problems. Who knows, who cares? And that makes you feel a little bad because it’s a little shitty. Your husband’s being sort of shitty, sorry.
S5: Yeah, that’s good information for you to do, some communication, some introspection, and I hope that you can, you know, get it.
S8: Enjoy your husband.
S7: All right, Amanda, the next letter is all yours subject.
S5: My sister is hiding her relationship from our parents and is asking me to help Dear Prudence. My parents claim they’re progressive. Just a side note. Always a great way to start a letter. OK, my parents claim they’re progressive. Unless something affects them personally, then it’s different. Our relationship with them has been strained for a long time. They tend to be controlling will make you question yourself over anything and everything. My younger sister Emma is a college freshman and has been dating her boyfriend same age for six months. They were friends before that. He is black and my family is white. Emma tried telling our parents and they freaked out. They started screaming at her, telling her awful stories about people they claim to know who were in interracial marriages, where the black dad left. The white pregnant mom threatened to not let her go to prom or even to college to think about how hard it would be for their, quote, mixed children. Mind you, this was a teenage girl who I’m pretty sure hadn’t even kissed her boyfriend yet. She messaged me frightened and upset. I told Emma what I thought her options were, stand up to them with my support, because after how they behaved, I’m one bad day away from cutting them up permanently. Break up with him or tell him she broke up with him and ask her boyfriend if he’d be willing to slow things down until graduation, where she’d have more freedom away at college. She went for the last option. A few months ago, I picked them up separately for a double date with me and my boyfriend, her boyfriend is really friendly, funny and her now because of covid, she’s studying remotely at our parents house. She misses her boyfriend and wants to visit him by going first to my house and then his were all his friends have a game night. I’m pretty fed up with my parents at this point, though I understand the need for secrecy for Emma’s and her boyfriend’s safety, but at the same time, acting as a go between just feels wrong. I want to support my sister. I’d even take her in if our parents kicked her out. But this tiptoeing around is stressing me out. Should I just tell her I’m not comfortable or am I overreacting?
S1: So my read here is that the elements of this that you’re wrong are are one, the fact that the letter writer has their own independent relationship with the parents and is aware of the virulence of their racism and hasn’t, it sounds like, actually had that out with them?
S6: I think that’s the thing that’s weighing on you, letter writer. And then the other is that that question of like the secrecy for me in terms of not getting kicked out of her home is one thing. And then the question of how this secrecy might weigh upon Emma’s boyfriend and the toll that it might take him to be, you know, dating her in secret because her parents are so racist. I think those are the two things that would be tingeing the most. Does that feel like the right read for you?
S5: Yeah, my my definite first reaction was like, I think the letter writers primary discomfort either is subliminally or ought to be with your parents racism and the harm that they are actively perpetrating against your sister’s boyfriend. And, you know, maybe making that suggestion to Emma wasn’t the best idea. She was a teenager. Like, there’s a couple of complicating factors in here. But, you know, letter writer might feel a little bit guilty for encouraging the secrecy and having a role in, again, like this harm perpetrated against the boyfriend.
S6: Yeah, especially. I mean, the things that she said to say, the things that your parents and your sister were just nightmarishly about. And I think the one gift that you have is that, you know you know, that they their thing is making you question yourself. And you could just look at this letter and say, oh, that’s like vile and evil and unhinged. The things that they said. They are wildly bad, racist people. And so anything that they say or do in order to justify their racism is just nonsense. And I don’t have to, like, have a rational argument with them. I don’t convince them to see things. From my point of view, all I need to do is say, like, your racism is monstrous and huge and destructive and I can’t respect or love you like you might feel it does have consequences. Yeah. Yeah. So I got to say, I really think you have grounds here. You say, like, I’m so ready to cut them out of my life. It doesn’t sound like you’re dependent on them financially. You know already that their racism is grotesque. I say go for it.
S1: You know, just say to your mother and father, I just think you two are horrible and that your racism is grotesque. I don’t like you at all. I don’t respect you. I don’t think you’re good. I just couldn’t care less for you or put it in your own words.
S5: However you like to say, it might be good to write it out. I have some practice out loud in your apartment, but particularly because you are close enough to take him in if that is the consequence, like having a, you know, a person who is financially dependent on the parents with nowhere else to live. I think, you know, that may have may be a thing that weighed on your mind when deciding this. But to me, it’s not a decision at all, because if they kick him out, you can take her in. And regardless, you have the ability to say to your parents, exactly as Dani said, this is not going to end. This is horrible. I put up with it out of fear and that’s not going to stand anymore.
S7: Yeah, I mean, the tiptoeing around is stressing you out. Don’t tell your little sister you’re not comfortable. Tell your parents that they’re awful. That’s the thing that you want to do. It’s just the scarier thing.
S6: And Emma’s a lot less threatening and frightening than your parents. And they have a track record of making you doubt yourself. And I really get that. I hear that. I don’t want to downplay that at all. I understand the idea of saying any of those things to your parents might feel like actually impossible. And I really relate to that. But just because Emma’s less frightening does not mean that she’s the person who’s responsible for why you’re uncomfortable right now. So I think the thing for you to do here is tell your parents, hey, you recently threatened to not pay for your child’s college if she dated someone black. That’s disgusting and evil. I’m horrified by you. Spend the rest of your lives trying to make this up. But in terms of our relationship right now, I just I can’t speak to you. That repulses me because that’s how bad it is. Look, it’s not a little unprogressive or a little mixed up. It’s nightmarish. And then, you know, again, without. Being overbearing or or trying to get in the middle of Emma’s relationship with her boyfriend, I would maybe if you haven’t said anything to him, like if all that happens is he knows your parents were disgustingly racist and then you had dinner with him one time, if you’ve never just said to him, like, I’m really sorry about our parents nightmarish racism, if there’s anything that I can do to be helpful to you.
S4: Please let me know. I’m so sorry. I’m really glad that I got to know you. And I’ve told them that their race like do that after you’ve told your parents off. I don’t think you should attempt to have that conversation with him when it’s like. But I’m still trying to keep them happy or like I don’t want to fight with them because they’re so mean.
S5: Yeah. This is definitely, in my mind, a gross under reaction and not an overreaction to the situation.
S4: Yeah. And so if you can, you know, do whatever you need to do to get ready for that conversation, whether that be talking it over with friends, writing it down, going to the therapist, all of the above. Bear in mind it’s going to go badly. So prepare yourself. And to that end, like it doesn’t have to be in person. It doesn’t have to be over the phone. It can be in a letter. It can be an email. You do not have to do this perfectly. You just have to say it to them in a way that you know, that they will either see or hear, even if they don’t listen or pay attention in the way that you want them to. But don’t wait for that bad day. You don’t need a bad day. Look at your letter. It happened. You know, your sister said. I’m dating a friend of mine and he’s black, and your parents started screaming bizarre urban legends about a bunch of like abandoned pregnant white women and then said, we won’t let you go to college. That’s a bad day, that’s the bad day you were looking for.
S5: Take it the fuck off, your parents suck, and I’m so sorry, you are not going to convince them that you’re right and you have the agency to decide for yourself that you prioritize cutting out your racist family over kind of aiding and abetting this horrible situation for your sister and her boyfriend.
S6: Yeah, and I got to say, I think part of you is going to be stunned by how nice it is to let go of the illusion that one day either you were going to please them or that they were going to come around and you realize how much emotional energy you were spending on trying to please and placate these unbelievably evil and irrational people.
S4: And you’re like, oh, I have so much free time. This is fantastic.
S5: And they’re choosing to prioritize their racism over, you know, nothing else, morally good or neutral person and also their children. So I think some consequences are going to be ultimately the most kind of loving act that you can make toward them if that helps you to kind of gather up the gumption to do it.
S4: Yeah, this is not the kind of thing that people usually change about themselves overnight. But often if change does happen, it’s because of things like, wow, I experienced a really serious consequence. I didn’t talk to my kids for years. Fuck this, this has weight now. And that’s again, it would still be the right thing to do even if they never changed. I just wanted to throw that out there, as you do not have to keep them within arm’s reach in the hopes that someday that’s going to be what changes them because it’s just not OK. We got two more questions to do there. A little bit shorter, one of those easier than the other. But I’ll take our next one and hopefully we can adjudicate them both and just record time. So the subject here is frustrated. Mom, dear Prudence, I have a twenty one year old son who came out to me when he was twelve. I was shocked, to say the least, but very supportive. This weekend my husband picked an argument with him and asked him straight out if he was gay. As my husband suspected, my son told him he was bisexual and my husband did not take it well. My husband has been sulking about how disappointed he is. My son is a good kid. He’s trying to find his way in his industry. He’s also an activist, which takes a lot of training. He’s a careful, thoughtful, loving and hardworking young adults. My husband has a drinking problem and a macho quote. I’m the man type of mentality. He did not take this information. Well, he asked me if I knew and I said no, I don’t know what to do here. I know my husband will not kick him out, but the tension is thick. My son now tries to avoid him, but he will see him throughout the house. And the house is small. Please advise me as to how to handle the sticky situation. I really see this one out loud. You know, I had assumed on my first go through of the letter that the husband in question was the letter writers to the father of the child. But then I also realized the fact that she keeps saying, my husband, my husband, my son, my son, this this might not be his son. Did you ever read one way or the other? And if so, would that change your answer, do you think?
S5: It didn’t cross my mind. I don’t know if it would influence my answer, except that if the husband is not your son’s father, it feels like he is both in more danger, but also that it might be less urgent to try to establish some kind of savings fund plan for him. It just sounds like that’s something that you have to do kind of right away in both scenarios.
S4: Yeah, I yeah, I think that’s true too. I think I think either way my answer would be the same, whether he’s this guy’s biological father or not, but. I imagine that it is difficult to be married to a man with a drinking problem and a macho attitude and who handles conflict by picking fights with his child or stepchild and saying, hey, guess what? And then sulking, that that does not sound like fun. I also just want to say that. You’ve had time to prepare for this. For nine years. And it sounds like you haven’t planned for anything, and so when you say that you were very supportive. I believe that you said kind things to your son. I believe that you didn’t forcibly out him, and that’s good. But I think one way that you could have really supported him was to start thinking about. What are we going to do about his father that would have been a really meaningful form of support to offer your kid and you had nine years to do it and you came up with. I’ll think about it when that day comes. And then when that day came, your plan was, oh, I had no idea, which I think, you know, is not good. It’s not working for you. It’s not working for your son. The house is not a comfortable place to be right now. This is not a plan that worked out for you, in part because it was not a plan.
S5: Yeah, I I wonder if you’ve affirmed his identity in any other ways and if you feel unsafe being honest with your husband about that and saying yes, that, you know, I think that’s a really useful data point. And I I wonder if you picture the situation being the same five years from now, 10 years from now, if that feels good to you and it might make sense to start putting in plans for, you know, you and your son to establish new lives separately or together.
S6: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think the real question here is you see the tension stick. I mean, he didn’t take the information. Well, my husband’s been sulking and he has a drinking problem. You know, if you don’t feel physically safe or financially safe, saying to your husband, I think it’s great that our kid is gay. I actually sorry, I don’t mean to make a claim. It wasn’t clear to me if he had said he was bisexual as a sort of hope that that would defuse some of your husband’s homophobia or if he’s bisexual, that’s how he came out to you and your husband is having a homophobic response. So I assume the latter. Yeah, I won’t make assumptions there. I don’t know whatever it is. If you if you’re not safe having that conversation, I think it’s I don’t have that conversation. Don’t endanger yourself, but start thinking about what you might need to get out. And who could you turn to either in your family or friends. Does your city have a women’s shelter that you can call? Can you contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline? What are some resources that can help you set up some savings, as you said, Amanda, that would enable you to look for a place of your own and eventually filed for divorce and get away from this man?
S5: Yeah, it it feels like it was a sticky situation for for nine years and now it’s damaging and it could very quickly be unsafe. And I I really want you to take that seriously for your own safety and for your sons.
S6: Yeah. If it’s not at that level, if if he is like macho and an asshole and a jerk and has a drinking problem, but you have access to your own money, you’re not afraid for your physical safety. It’s it’s simply a question of, wow, the dynamic of our marriage has long been one where he is an asshole. And I try to work around that and it will be really challenging and difficult to break that pattern. My advice, I guess, would be pretty similar to the other advice, which is get ready to leave your husband and get support from other people. But with a side of one way, you could support your son again without necessarily saying I’ve known since he was 12 and like blowing up your son’s private information is just to say you’re sulking and visible disappointment are going to kill the love that your son has for you. And I find it, you know, childish and hateful, which is a hell of a combination. And you need to stop.
S5: Yeah, I hope your son knows, too, that you you think that your husband’s behavior is horrible and that your son has an ally in you, that you’re here to ask him how he feels when he wants to do. I wish him the best and hope that he has kind of all of the tools he needs. But I think you’re your kind of loyalty and focus needs to be on your child over your marriage.
S6: And again, I’m sure it’s been really hard to be married to this guy. But when your 12 year old son came out to you, one of the things that he was asking from you as his parent was, help me. And I think one of the things that maybe you were unable to do at the time because you were not safe or maybe it was something that you failed to do or maybe something in the middle. I don’t want to make it. Obviously, the real problem here is your husband. I don’t want to make this about, you know, just you did a bad job. You should feel bad. I understand that you’ve been operating under really different, difficult circumstances. But, you know, one of the things that he needed from you was how are we going to handle this with your other parents?
S4: And it does not look like you were able to provide your son with leadership or advice or counsel or or guidance there. And it doesn’t mean you can’t have a good relationship with your son now or that you don’t love him very much or that you weren’t, you know, doing the best that you could at the time under those circumstances. Simply that now is better than never. And now is a time where you can start looking for ways to support your son in more than just like waiting for his father to leave the room and say, I think you’re great.
S5: Yeah, it really like mere toleration is not affirming your your kid. And I hope that reading about, you know, supporting LGBT kids and I’m sure there is also literature out there on, you know, unsafe or difficult family dynamics on the parent’s perspective. So if you’ve never done any reading, you know, never Google flag or anything like that, I think it’ll be a good kind of project for you to not ask yourself. Only, you know, how do I not set off my husband right now? Which can I completely understand that that would be the kind of base survival question. But also, how do I start repairing, affirming, you know, strengthening my relationship with my son? Yeah, good luck.
S7: All right. This last one is great. We just need a verdict. Would you read our letter?
S5: It’s delicious. OK, subject left over policy. Dear Prudence, I need a verdict. How long is too long to leave leftovers in the fridge before your partner tosses them? My partner often brings home leftovers but never eats them. If after a few days I float a casual Hey, do you still want me to keep this third of a sandwich with black and avocado slash two ounces of curry, two pizza slices in the original large box? They invariably say, Oh, I can take care of that, but the leftovers remain. I know after ten years they will definitely not get eaten until they rot to slime. But my partner, despite ordering themselves delivery lunch five days a week, has a lot of internalized guilt about money more than food waste from their stingy but wealthy parents and prefers to maintain the fiction that they’ll eat them, quote, tomorrow. I hate food waste and always eat my own leftovers. I’d eat. There’s too if they weren’t always going to eat them, quote, tomorrow. Also, the leftovers accumulate over the week and leave no space for the fresh produce I buy and actually do cook and eat. What say you give us a rule we can stick to and follow and a script for proposing said rule.
S7: I love the optimism because the last line made it clear, like, give us a role we can stick. She was like, oh, they’re both talking about this and they’re both willing to abide by whatever verdict they get. And then a script for proposing said rules like, oh, you’re really hoping that if I say that your partner is going to agree and they might not. But that said, are you a left overs eater or are you a leftovers hoarder? Have you ever run into this in a relationship? What’s your what’s your thought?
S5: My partner’s favorite food is leftovers, and I have, over the course of our relationship, gotten more fond of them. But I know about myself that it’s not my first instinct. I’m not, like, stoked about it with rare occasions. So either I will order or cook less for myself, knowing that I’ll just want the one portion or I will cheerfully give them to him to enjoy. And I think that that would be a great policy for the letter writers partner to adopt or don’t don’t put them in the fridge unless you are committed to eating it.
S4: Yeah, I would say ideally, you know, you can have some conversations with your partner about their leftover optimism, but this is also one of those things. You don’t need to heal their whole relationship with food and money in order to have reasonable rules about the fridge. Like these can be two separate things. So I’m just going to go with two things. One is my years of restaurant work and also the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is three to four days.
S7: There you go, they can be stored in the fridge for three to four days or in the freezer for three months. That’s the rule. Go with three days. You know, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s not always as stringent as it could be. So let’s go with the stricter end of their ruling. It’s three days. Get a marker and write it on the side of the box the day that it went in there. And then when it’s been three days, you throw it away and you don’t ask for permission. I mean, you make it clear beforehand, like this is the new policy. I invite you to join me in the new policy. But even if you don’t, this is the policy of the fridge. This is how we live.
S4: You know, you don’t have to do it quite that dramatically. But if it were me and I were this frustrated by it, I would be slightly tempted to be like, here’s the rule. If you’re mad about it, take it up with the USDA. We live in a restaurant freezer now and.
S5: That’s it, yeah, I think another option was like get a like a clear plastic bin, like a shoebox sized bin for the fridge. You can see through his leftovers go there. And when it’s full, it’s full. You can’t add anything new without emptying it as a policy I have for myself. But sparkling water, because I’ll just buy them as I see them and the fridge gets full. And that could be helpful. But I mean, I hope you’ve told your partner that it makes you feel like neglected, ignored, like you’re taking care of a child when he does this.
S7: And I mean, the fridge is full of garbage and you can’t put good food in there that you’re going to actually eat, you know?
S5: Yeah. If if he just accepts about himself and he plans never to save leftovers, if he has never in 10 years of knowing him eaten them, that might be, you know, uncomfortable to address openly. But I think it’ll save you a lot of opening the fridge and sighing, which I’m imagining you’re doing several times a day.
S7: Yep. And it’s just, you know, it’s so great you have that three day rule and you just yell like food safety, it’s gone. And then, you know, if you want to keep having the fantasy that someday all the leftovers are going to come back and he’s going to get to eat them.
S4: Great. And if he’s like, wow, this really drives home how much food I’ve been wasting, I’m ready to change my life. Fantastic. You can have an Ebenezer Scrooge moment, but, you know, you could wait around forever hoping he’s going to figure out a different relationship to food other than like I ordered delivery five days a week and then I fill our home with garbage and feel weird, which is like there’s worse things you could do in the world. I don’t want to make it sound like he is single handedly responsible for climate change.
S5: But yeah, it’s a problem that is easily remedied with a policy and maybe more deeply remedied with a conversation.
S7: But it’s up to you, which when you go, yeah, I was going to use my go to bed three days, food safety, 180 degree picturing.
S5: I’m picturing a John Mytilini street smarts. It’s like food safety. Yeah. And it just goes in the trash.
S4: Yeah, absolutely. Sorry, not one hundred and eighty, one hundred and sixty five, you know what I mean. But yeah. Just you know that’s it. That’s your rule. That’s your verdict. It’s not a script, it’s just reality.
S5: What a conclusive note to end on.
S7: Yeah. I felt very conclusive today. I felt so confident today. I was just like your parents are terrible. You’re worried too much about your cats. It’s not a big deal.
S4: I very sound is fine. Yeah. It’s like, um, take a nap and see if I don’t develop an interesting different mood at the end of it. What are you up to?
S5: The rest of the day I am going to make breakfast burritos for dinner with some leftover potatoes. Look at that character growth. Fantastic. I learned to love them.
S4: It sounds like you’re doing great. Well, thank you so much for coming by and helping us to solve everyone’s problems. I’m going to go because it looks like someone’s trying to jump off the bed and I don’t want him to do that because he is three and a half pounds and he needs to be carried gently to the ground. Thanks for having me. Bye for now.
S9: 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 slash Dear Prudence to subscribe. And remember, you can always hear more prudence by joining Slate. Plus go to Slate dotcoms. 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 two 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. Thirty seconds a minute, tops. Thanks for listening.
S7: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. You know, if your wife occasionally wants to talk to you about what’s going on in the neighborhood, even if you don’t care, she cares. And she’s your wife and you all live near these people. And I think you should set aside a little bit of time to say like and how are the the neighbors across the street? What are they up to?
S5: Yeah, it’s very normal to talk about. You’re like ambient circumstances with the person you share them with. And these could be remarks at like, oh, the breeze feels nice. It’s so warm outside or like, oh, Margaret bought a new car. Like it is not a sort of woman detective like Agatha Christie, Miss Marple situation, you know, like using the curtains and and spying on the neighbors. It feels to me so much like his wife is is looking for opportunities to connect or looking for subject matter to talk about. And your ambient circumstances is sort of like the thing that comes to mind.
S2: To listen to the rest of that conversation joins Slate plus now at Slate, dot com forward slash pretty pod.