S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership. Lucky you.
S2: You’re pretty you’re prudent, given here, prudence, dear, dear Prudence here pretty. Do you think that I should contact him again? Help! Help! Think. Thank you.
S1: Hello and welcome back to The Dear Prudence Show once again, and as always, I am your host, Dear Prudence, also known as Daniel M. Lavery. With me in the studio this week is Emily Vander Werf, the critic at large for Vox. She’s also the co creator of the fiction podcast Ardern and the co-author of the book Monsters of the Week, the complete critical companion to The X Files. Emily, welcome to the show.
S3: Hey, it’s so great to be here, Danny. I’m just so thrilled to be here. Do you have a sense of was the X Files the first show to do a Monster of the Week thing? One of the first?
S4: Well, it was one of the first. The first was probably this show in the 70s called Kolchak the Night Stalker, but that only made it one season. X Files really took it and made it such a big popular way to do a show. It’s it’s it’s really great that we’re talking about this right now because Supernatural, the show that took that idea and ran with it for 15 seasons, just completed production for all time and and finally wrapped up after 15 years. So that’s not teething.
S1: I have never watched that show. I’ve seen, like, bits and pieces of it here and there. But I’ve just always thought of it as like, yeah, one of the guys on it, like, started it when he was Dean on the Gilmore Girls. And that was a thousand years ago.
S4: Yeah. It’s you know, it’s really good comfort food. It’s one of those if you just want to have something on while you’re making dinner, it’s it’s a good show for that.
S1: I always want to have something on while I’m making dinner. I always want to have on some sort of show that I don’t have to watch too closely playing at all times, preferably taped inside of my brain.
S4: Yeah. I mean, this is just like cute boys hunting monsters and occasionally having, like, male angst. It’s perfect for that.
S3: I would imagine at this point they’re all old men. But I take your point. Yes, exactly. Well, speaking of male angst, that’s a great segue into our first letter. Would you please read it?
S4: Oh, for absolutely. The subject is he can’t have my kidney. Dear Prudence, I’m a 28 year old guy and I’m proud to have made a good, happy life for myself after an abusive upbringing. My mom abandoned me when I was young and my dad was a violent alcoholic. He put me in the hospital a few times and I often had to stay with his parents or an aunt, his sister, for my safety. I cut him off when I moved out and haven’t been in a room with him for about a decade. My extended family all know why, as his abuse was an open secret. So they haven’t tried to pressure me to get back in touch and they alternate which of us they invite to events as they know. I wish to be separate. It’s not ideal, but it’s been very workable and I was glad to have some family of my own at my wedding last year. My wife’s family is large and loving and I’m both grateful to have them and slightly jealous. Not the issue, though. Recently my dad called me for the first time in years to ask me for a kidney transplant because he is on dialysis. I said no, this man beat me with a baseball bat. I am not giving him my kidney. I’m terrified of hospitals and medical procedures anyway, thanks to him. So I would only consider something like this for a person I dearly loved, like my wife or a future child. I do not love my dad and do not have the compassion in me to do this. My wife supports me wholeheartedly. However, my dad has told our entire family that I have condemned him to death. And now I’m facing multiple calls a day from grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts are begging me to do the Christian thing and save my dad. I got a letter from my youngest cousin, clearly dictated to her from a parent asking me why, why I was, quote, murdering Uncle Rick, unquote. I’m losing it. How do I stop them doing this to me? I’ve told them repeatedly that while I don’t actively want my dad to die, I’m not undertaking a medical procedure to prevent that. I understand they, unlike me, love my dad and are obviously desperate for me to help him, but I just can’t bring myself to do so. My wife wants to block every means my family has of contacting us and tear up any future mail from them. Some days I lean towards that, but on others I’m afraid of losing the remaining family I have. I’m on a waiting list to get back into therapy for what it’s worth.
S1: And that’s the end. I mean, I’m really glad to hear that he’s on a waiting list to start seeing a therapist soon, and I hope he gets bumped up to the top of the list as quickly as possible. I think this might prove cold comfort, but it’s my understanding that when it comes to living donations, hospital staff will not simply screen for medical compatibility and to make sure that the donor would be not risking their health if they made the donation. But they also do some screening for just general. How is your relationship to one another trying to investigate to make sure there’s not undue pressure or harassment or coercion? So I realize the relatives in this situation may simply not be capable of listening to reason. But my guess is, even if for some reason they were able to pressure you enough to get you to do it, I think the hospital, if they heard even half of what you’ve described in this letter, they would say you’re not a good candidate.
S5: Yeah, yeah, I, I don’t know. I feel like the letter writer is very much in the right here, and I think he’s right to stick to his guns.
S4: I think this is not a situation where prolonging this man’s life is going to give him any, you know, even the slightest feeling of, oh, I did a good thing. It’s just going to sort of reopen all of those old wounds that it seems like he’s spent a lot of time trying to trying to stitch up and trying to to move past. And I don’t think it’s worth it.
S1: Right. And it’s also just like you do not have to accept the premise that apparently you’re the only person in this family with a kidney. To me, it actually feels very telling that your father went to you. It sounds like first like that that part feels really targeted and really like this is his way of trying to use his illness to coerce you into forgiving him or saying he’s a good person or being in some sort of relationship with him. You know, granting him some sort of sense of know things between us are good. Now, I’ve got his kidney. I imagine any one of your relatives could have instead of coaching their six year old kid into writing you like a manipulative letter, they could have gone down to the hospital themselves and had themselves tested for compatibility or, you know, canvassed their friends and said, hey, anyone feeling great lately and interested in donating a kidney? Like it’s just so. You are not the only person in the world with the kidney, you are not specifically killing Uncle Rick. Uncle Rick is sick. And one of the reasons that they have careful screenings and sort of stringent background checks before people do living organ donations is to screen for things exactly like this, which is like, you know, abusive dynamics that get leaned back upon in order to try to manipulate or pressure someone into doing something that is not without risk. Even though kidney donation can be very safe, it’s not nothing, you know, in order to force them to do it. So this is exactly exactly why there are screenings in place and this is monstrous. So anyways, all of which is just to say, yes, Emily, I also agree that this guy, I think, is very much in the right. This is not something you are doing to punish him. You didn’t make him ill. You didn’t promise him your kidney and then yank it away at the last second, like Lucy and the football. I think it’s a really appropriate line to say, like, I cannot give my kidney to the man who put me in the hospital multiple times as a child. That’s just not something that’s going to happen. So the question then is like and I wouldn’t even say like I don’t have the compassion in me to do this. This is not a non compassionate act. You’re simply refusing to allow your family once again to pressure you into saying the abuse isn’t that bad. So I really don’t even think compassion is the word here. So the question then is like, I don’t want to lose my family and that is painful and real. Do you see a way through that? That’s not just either like let them say awful stuff to you and just take it or tell them that they can’t talk to you anymore. Like, do you see do you see a middle path through this?
S4: Unfortunately, the middle path usually is setting those firm boundaries and saying, you can’t talk to me anymore, and then sort of usually in a situation like this, they’re going to know why they can’t talk to you anymore. And, you know, they may try to make amends right away. The longer they wait to make amends, the more they have to try to make amends. And that’s but that’s sort of ultimately on them. Like to a real degree. This is not a thing that our letter writer has control over. It’s a thing that his family has control over. And the family is going to have to take steps to rectify what’s happened here. They’re they’re trying to create a situation where they feel like everybody has been forgiven and everybody has moved past this foundational trauma and they are not wrong for keeping this man who abused his son in their life. And you know that it just doesn’t work that way. They have to acknowledge the fact that this son is his own person and the onus is on them. It’s not on our letter writer, as painful as it is to acknowledge that. And I think the more that he’s able to accept that, the more. The more, you know, peace he will have with this decision and the more likely it will be that at some point they will try to make amends in a way that he perhaps finds amenable.
S1: Yeah, I mean, I think part of what’s hard is like. Your family members, your extended family took you in when your father hospitalized you and they haven’t pressured you to get back in touch and they alternate which of you they invite to events. And you refer to this as not ideal, but workable, that you’ve been glad to have family of your own at your wedding. And I also understand that it’s not always easy to simply say I’m done with these people and that you want to look for ways to find something salvageable. So I want to say this purchase really gently. If you know that a child is being put in a hospital multiple times by their parent, and your response to that is they can stay with me and then go back to him. And later, if I’m going to have him over to dinner, I won’t invite the kid and then I’ll switch out. That is a wicked and an evil response. And that is what enabled his abuse to continue. And it’s not. It’s it’s it was evil in itself and it was deeply wrong, and that’s not how you should respond when you learn that a child has been put in the hospital because their father came at them with a baseball bat. You know, it’s just I think maybe part of what’s hard right now is that you’re coming to terms with the fact that the rest of your extended family is also incredibly abusive, even though sometimes they’re abuse looked or felt like relief or refuge that they are, in fact, simply employing slightly different tactics from your father. I think you can and should call this abuse. It’s not that they’re asking you to do something, Christian. It’s that we, you know, occasionally dabbed your forehead as a child while you were getting beaten nearly to death. But now, if you don’t donate your kidney to the man who tried to kill you repeatedly, you’re a murderer. And that kind of attempt to make the victim of abuse. The bad guy, the the person who’s causing violence, causing trouble is is unfortunately really common in abusive family dynamics and it’s deeply wrong. And so I think. If you can kind of reframe it, that that might be that might make it easier to say, look, I’m not going to take this call.
S4: Yeah, especially if especially if your wife’s family is as open and welcoming as as they seem to be like that. That can be a really helpful way to find a way to move past this a little bit. I think a lot about how in various religious structures, in every religion, but in the U.S., we primarily know it through Christianity. Self-sacrifice is held up as this great thing. But it’s always the people who are being asked to sacrifice are always the people who have less power than there being the people they’re being asked to sacrifice to. And I think this is a situation like that, right?
S1: Yeah, I’m with you there. And I think, too, to the to the end of the wife’s family, if you would like to for a little while, have your wife run interference for you. This might be a great opportunity to give yourself a break because it’s very painful, even if, you know on some level that they’re wrong to get a call from, like your actual aunt saying, like, why are you killing Rick? And if you just want to say to your wife, like, if I get a call or if I get an email, I want you to screen it for me. And that doesn’t mean she has to answer them all. But, you know, if you just need help hanging up or if you need help deleting the email or if you need her to say, like, you either need to stop calling or you can only call and talk about something else, like let her be the buffer, let her be the bad guy. And if any of them suggest, you know, again, that you would be a murderer if you didn’t give a kidney to the man who tried to kill you, I would simply encourage you to remind them of Luke, 17, to which is that those offenses may come. Woe to the one through who they come. It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea than that he should harm one of the little ones.
S3: So, you know, like maybe the Christian thing to do here is to throw a millstone around his neck and toss them in the ocean. Just a thought. Always good advice. It’s a it’s a useful verse.
S1: All right, so we’ll move on to the next one, and it’s my turn subject is I want to quit social media, but my partner won’t let me. Dear Prudence, I’ve noticed that my social media use has a negative impact on my mental health and overall satisfaction, probably from some combination of comparing myself to others, feeling jealous, getting anxious over a relentless stream of bad news and the fact that it takes away from the time I spend on hobbies I actually enjoy. I decided to delete all my social media accounts. However, my partner was horrified by this. They said, I have a responsibility to use my voice, slash privilege to speak up. And by not doing so, I am just as bad as folks that I’m sorry. I just the word folks I’m already mad who are willfully ignorant about racial and social justice issues. They also said it’s a privilege to be able to, quote, unplug and go back to normal life rather than living these issues every day. Prudy, what in the world? Well, I haven’t been involved in in-person activism during the pandemic. I have done so in the past and hope to again. I guess that means social media is my only tie to activism right now, but is that a reason to continue doing something that actively makes me feel worse? What can I say to my partner to get them off my back about this? Is this a normal reaction? I don’t know, Emily, what your thoughts are here, but I feel like. The whatever ideas this person’s partner has about privilege must be so mangled through, I don’t know, something to do with Twitter, like the idea that. Being off of social media is a privilege and that a person who is privileged is obligated to have a Twitter account and to look at bad news all day is just like, what is your idea of justice and society and privilege and. Reality and life and just what what do you think anything is, you know?
S5: Yeah, I. I’m really having trouble trying to see this through the partner’s point of view, like. Yeah, it’s been really hard to do in person stuff while we’re all in quarantine, and I certainly feel that myself, as someone who, you know, would be taking part in that sort of thing. But for the pandemic. But like there are other ways to support social justice movements. You can give money. You can, you know, take part in online fundraising campaigns or, you know, making phone calls for certain bills or certain politicians that you believe would help with that. Like, there are so many ways to benefit the cause that aren’t sitting on Twitter and reading bad news and retweeting articles or occasionally like making tweets that state your support for social justice causes, especially if it’s actively causing you like mental distress. Right. Right. I don’t know that this to me, I feel like the letter writers in the right.
S1: Yeah, I very much got that vibe from this letter, which was that the letter writers partner has some idea that, like posting is the highest form of activism. You have to look at every news article about something bad that’s happening every day. And if you don’t, it means that you’re burying your head in the sand. And just like everything is like just plugged into the posting machine and it’s like, is it posting? Because then if so, you’re you’re aware you’re involved. You’re your boots on the ground. You’re part of the movement, you’re part of the community. And if you’re not on social media and you’re not posting, then you’re just, you know, on vacation on a private island. And it’s just like that is just you have confused posting with doing stuff and, you know, maybe write down a note where posting and doing stuff are two separate little circles and it’s a van diagram with no overlap in the middle. Yeah, yeah.
S5: I really I, I think a lot about how we did not evolve to take in as much news as social media throws at us. And I include like, like good news in that, like when there’s a good news event, like just Twitter is this endless stream of things and you become overwhelmed by it all the same, like it is a it is a situation where you have to decouple from that to some degree, unless you’re me and your brain is eternally poisoned, you need to, like, step away and find space. And I really salute the letter writer for doing that.
S1: Yeah. Yeah. And I just like it feels like to me, like your partner watched that scene in A Clockwork Orange where they like, prop open his eyes and make him watch like a news reel of awful stuff and was like, yeah, that guy is keeping it real. That guy’s not turning away. This is how we should live. And I would just really encourage them to rethink everything, go outside, read a book, all the classic condescending stuff that I hate when people say to me when I’m being too online, but that I now feel very free to say to your partner, yeah, your partner’s being ridiculous. Please feel free to be politely dismissive towards their claim that posting is the only form of justice, like maybe gently remind them that sometimes progress happened even before there was Twitter through other things. And yeah, you know, if there’s like a particular organization whose work that you value, if there’s a mutual aid operating in your neighborhood and there’s something that you want to do to help out if there’s, you know, any kind of organizing around, like your city budget that you want to get involved in, about, you know, defunding the police, defunding prisons, getting involved in prison pen pal programs like, you know, pick one or two things that you think would be a meaningful use of your time and energy that you could dedicate some time and energy to without, you know, saying like, this is my penance for getting off of Twitter and I have to do X amount of community service hours every week to justify the fact that I no longer have a Facebook account or whatever. But good gracious like that. Simply if you feel, you know, at odds or don’t know what to do with yourself and you want to do something kind of useful, that’s merely a suggestion. If you just want to not have Twitter and go back to your regular life, you can do that, too.
S5: Yeah, there’s so many useful, other useful ways, more useful ways to get involved in posting on Twitter or Facebook or whatever. It’s very strange.
S1: It’s just such a poisoned outlook to have on the world, which is just like the more online you are, the better you’re doing, the more progressive you are. And the more that you say things online that you believe, the more true it is and the more change you’re making in the world. And visibility is the most important. It’s just it’s not a good worldview. And then you end up saying things like folks. And, you know, from there it’s just a.
S5: A short walk into chaos, I have to admit, as a Midwesterner, I do like the word folks, but I’ve been seeing it my whole life.
S1: So I yeah, I there are absolutely context in which I have no issue with the word folks. But I think just the idea of somebody saying if you get off Twitter, you’re just as bad as the folks who ignore social justice just like this is. You have strayed too far from the late we got to whatever’s happening here, we got to stop it. So, yeah, they just the question of like, is this a normal reaction? No, this is the reaction of somebody who feels like being upset on Twitter is the same thing as doing activism. And anyone who doesn’t want to do it is walking away from amylase. And I hate that short story and your partner as well.
S5: Let’s move on. Would you read the next letter? Yes, I’d love to. The subject is not my kid, Dear Prudence. Four years ago, my wife cheated on me and got pregnant. The paternity test ruled me out as the father. Her lover left her. I filed for divorce and we split custody of our two girls evenly. My ex-wife struggles to work and raise her son, especially with the lockdown. She has gone through nine babysitters since the spring. I have a flexible schedule and can work from home. It is very easy for me to get up early and finish my projects before focusing on my girls. My ex has asked me to take on her son when I take our girls. I told her no. If she was having problems, I would take the girls full time. But her son wasn’t my concern. She called me a heartless bastard and I snapped back that she only had herself to blame for this. She started to cry and I left before the girls could see. I am struggling. My girls adore their brother and I can’t blame that little boy for his existence. But finding out he wasn’t my son was the worst moment of my life. I was clinically depressed during my divorce and even had thoughts of suicide. I got medical help, but I don’t know how to handle seeing this little boy every day. What do I do?
S1: This one is hard. This one is absolutely hard. Yeah. I have thought a couple of different times about various things that I want the letter writer to bear in mind, and this is just a tough one, and it’s true, as he says, you know, it’s not this little boy’s fault, but. He is also very aware that when he’s around this kid, he’s not really able to just have a sort of like neutral or a sort of like friendly second uncle once removed or something type of vibe with him.
S5: Yeah, like, I don’t I don’t know how much this little boy knows. Probably nothing. He’s got to be, what, three?
S6: But yeah, I kids that age can pick up on.
S5: Indifference can pick up on awkwardness, can pick up on on social cues that indicate that not everybody is happy and they can also pick up on fake happiness when someone sort of pretends to be happy to have them around, like honestly taking that child on when there’s this much mental distress around that child’s existence is only going to. Continue to further push that child to a place where he feels neglected or ignored or something like that, and I you know, I don’t I don’t know I don’t see a really clear path forward here. But I do think that drawing this boundary is not wrong on the letter writers part.
S1: Yeah, I think the best next move is maybe to look for a mediator who works with exes who are struggling to find a workable custody agreement, not because you two are currently exactly fighting over custody of your daughters so much as trying to figure out how to balance the custody of the kids that you do share and then the one that you don’t. I think ideally, you know, I do think your offer to take the girls for a while is is a good one. It’s not ideal. I get it. You know, and that’s what’s hard to is like he is not your son, but he is their brother. So he is going to have a lifelong relationship to your girls. So while he is not your son and I think you have every every right to refuse to take on a paternal role or a quasi paternal role with him, you do need to do some work to figure out how do I make peace with an experience, at least like friendly neutrality with this boy who is a part of my family, even though he is not my son, which is not to say, oh my gosh, you should take him every time you take the girls. You should just be a sort of de facto second parent and just be cheerful about that. I don’t mean that at all. But I do want you to eventually get to a place where if on a Sunday afternoon, you know, his child care falls through and you need to hang out with him and your daughter’s for a couple of hours, you’re able to do so in a way that’s not awful. Freezing, chilling, distressing.
S5: Right, right, it’s it’s I’m sure this situation is exacerbated by quarantine, I mean, the letter writers refers to it, but yeah, it is this it is a situation where, you know, in normal times this kid could go to daycare or something like that. And then seeing him every few weekends or so when there’s like a situation where he needs to hang out with his sisters. Sure. Like, that’s probably more manageable. It’s it’s this idea of, oh, this is just going to be continually ongoing. And what I what I think is is also tricky here is it’s clear that our letter writer is responsible in a way that perhaps the the ex who’s the father of the son was not you know, it feels like there are a lot of things being left unsaid by the ex-wife here that we don’t. We you and I are not privy to that information, but it feels like there are gaps where this child should be cared for and he just isn’t being. And the onus of that is being placed on the person who is the responsible one. And that’s that’s never fair to someone who’s responsible in that way.
S1: Yeah. And the thing about the nine babysitters is really. Yeah, I just have a lot of questions there. I mean, she is a little hard to imagine that that was just a logistical thing. But we don’t have more information there. And, you know, she didn’t write to us, so I think I just need to leave. That went to the side. But I do think that the limit that you set with her was a reasonable one, even as I hope that you will eventually be able to get to a point where you are able to spend some time around him again, not like you take split custody of him. I think it’s very important that you established the ways in which you are not his father. But also I think I hope you can do so in ways that are not like unnecessarily cold or distant towards him, that are just like friendly. Nice to see you. Your brother to my kids, you know. Yeah. So, yeah, look for a mediator. Look for a therapist, talk to your friends, ask for help and support. Reiterate your willingness to take the girls if your wife just needs a start. Your ex-wife very much your ex-wife just needs a little time to settle. But I don’t think you should undo what you said. I don’t think you should apologize for that. I think it’s both really awful that she is struggling right now and I’m really sad for her, her son. But I don’t think the solution to that is for you to say, like, you know what? This is just too hard for you both. Tell you what, I will I will take joint custody with him and I will just raise him along with our two kids. And that’s how we’re going to get through this. You know, like I don’t think that that’s going to work either.
S5: Yeah, I you know, I think that returning to your point about finding a way to be OK with having this kid around, I do think that to some degree, aging will will take care of that because this kid’s going to grow up into his own individual and that it’s going to be easier to separate him from the circumstances of his conception. But when he is this young and when it’s a pandemic and when there’s all this other external stuff, it’s not on you to be there to care for him in a way that he needs to be cared for. It just isn’t.
S1: Yeah, I think the last thing that I’ll add is that, you know, I don’t know how to handle seeing this little boy every day, that makes a lot of sense. But I do want you to be able to get to a place where even if you don’t see him every day, the idea of him being a regular presence in your life, even if it’s a slightly distant one, does not feel unbearable. I think that should be a goal for you. I think you should be pursuing that goal in your therapy. I think you should be talking about your feelings and processing them with your friends. You should be journaling, doing whatever it is that helps you work through the really painful stuff so that you don’t feel like I have to keep him really, really far away from me at all times in order to feel OK about the way that my marriage ended and the fact that my wife cheated on me. Because even if you don’t see him every day, he’s going to be your kid’s brother forever. And good luck, I’d love to hear back in a couple of months and see how you all are doing. Yeah, OK, let’s end with a fun sofa problem.
S6: The subject here is tainted sofa, my favorite subject, My Dear Prudence. I broke up with my ex a year ago after a seven year relationship. My new girlfriend, Amanda, wants to move into my condo since her new workplace is close to me and her roommate left a month ago. She’s balking because my ex chose the majority of my furniture and feels it will, quote, taint our future. I have offered to get the place repainted and get new pictures, but I am not getting rid of my furniture. Most of it is high end and expensive. Amanda’s stuff is either from IKEA or college leftovers. Amanda has also been panicked over her finances since her roommate left. She has a lot of loans. I don’t understand why she is stuck on this point when I am ready and able to give her free room and board. I love her and we agree on everything 90 percent of the time. This is out of character for her. What do I do?
S3: I want to see a picture of the sofa before I decide honestly, like, I mean, you got to have a sofa. Exorcism is all you got to do. That’s what it is under the sofa. Yeah. I’m just like, what if it’s ugly? Like, what if I’m helping someone defend ugly furniture?
S1: Like, OK, fine, her stuff is college leftovers or IKEA, but like not IKEA still leaves a lot of opportunities for ugly furniture. So please send in a picture so I can decide how hard to fight for your furniture before I give you an answer.
S3: Good point. Good point. We can’t know without seeing it.
S1: Yeah, do you have a sense are you familiar with. The number of people who move in with a partner because like their roommate left or like, oh, you’re closer to work, and whether or not that seems to produce different outcomes than people who move in together, because it’s like we’ve talked about it for a long time, we really want to live together. We think it’s going to be great for us. We’re moving in together because we want to live together.
S6: I mean. The latter is always better than the former, I certainly know people who have succeeded with the former, I certainly know people who moved in because it was just going to be more convenient to combine rent or something. But usually they have some sense of the ladder here. It just kind of sounds like, you know, our letter writer got out of a long term relationship, ended up in another relationship. And it’s just, you know, they’re just kind of coasting through the motions of what a relationship should look like. And, you know, the fact that Amanda is this worked up about the furniture, which, again, maybe it’s terrible furniture. So we should we should grant her that possibility. You know, that that feels to me like a sign of, oh, maybe she hasn’t thought this through as much as she maybe could have.
S1: Yeah. Or like, you know, that’s not to say that, like, anybody who moves in with a partner for some. Sense of convenience or some sense of like financial constraints being lifted like that, nothing that’s not like, oh, no, you’re doomed to failure. I don’t want to knock that down too much. But I do think if it’s just like, you know, you broke up with your ex a year ago after a seven year relationship, which means like at the maximum, you’ve been dating Amanda for 11 months, which is, you know, it’s fast to move in after 11 months. You’re you know, you’re allowed to it’s not illegal, but it’s fast. And the way that, like, it’s framed of like, well, Amanda wants to move into my condo because her work is nearby and her roommate left. So it’s already a little bit of like, well, she’s in kind of a bind, so she might move in with me. But there’s nothing about like I really love spending time with her. And the idea of, like, building a domestic routine together thrills me. And then I don’t get why she’s stuck on this when I’m ready to give her free room and board. And it’s just like, oh, so you’re like a generous landlord in a medieval video game. And she’s like a windswept traveler who has like one heavy coin, you know. Yeah. Like it’s very like I’m being very generous. Amanda, I don’t understand why you’re making such a snit about this. Just feels like I don’t know that you two should move in together. And that doesn’t mean you should break up or never move in together. It just seems like you’re thinking of this as like she’s in a bind and I’m being generous. And she thinks of this as like I’m in a bind and I want to start making a home together. And I just I yeah, I guess that’s what my my problem is. I feel like when people talk about moving in together, but they seem to have no interest in building a home together, it’s very much just like you’re the roommate I’m going to have sex with the most. Yeah. That often to me spells trouble.
S6: I mean, not to not to make it about me, but my wife and I, when we got together, had a very perent parent child relationship because we were so young. And like there is that element of any time you’re opening a space up to like be the primary caregiver and the other person is going to be like, oh, I don’t you know, is is going to be in a space where they’re always being taken care of. You have to be very clear about like having those conversations about which lines are drawn, where, again, that can work, that can be a relationship that works. But I know from personal experience how hard it is to navigate and how hard it is to make it nontoxic when it starts out in that toxic place.
S1: Yeah, I think that’s a really good way to ground this conversation. I think the thing that needs to happen now is that this letter writer needs to say, here’s how I’ve been envisioning our moving in together. It’s primarily to do with the fact that you’re in a bind and it’s my place and you will be living with me. Does that line up with what you’ve been expecting and then listen to what she has to say and if what she has to say is like no, I mean, obviously, like the shorter commute and the better rent would be great. But like, I envision this as our place and I’ll be on the lease with you and we will make joint decisions together and we will make decorating decisions together. And if that’s what she wants and it’s not what you want, do not move in together. She should find another roommate, just keep dating. And then you have bigger conversations about when or if you might want to live together someday down the road. And if so, what’s some furniture you both like. Like? You know, it’s it’s fine to have different interior decorating tastes and it’s fine to either decide to compromise or just to have separate places. But, you know, you don’t have to move in with someone at 11 months just because you live closer to their work. So if you two don’t want the same thing, don’t move in together.
S6: And if Amanda is listening and wants to send a photo of this couch just to be like, please look at this couch, like, I am so ready to be there for her and that specific argument.
S1: Oh, yeah. And, you know, like we agree on everything 90 percent of the time. This is out of character for her. Will AVL, you haven’t known her that long. You know what I mean? Like, if you’ve only known someone. Eleven months, you know, you’re still getting to know their character, and so the fact that you seem to think of this is like I’m taking in a street urchin and she’s like, my boyfriend wants me to live with him, but to keep my mouth shut about how the house looks. And that frustrates me like. I get where she’s coming from on that, and you need to you need to figure out if she’s actually into this Daddy Warbucks Little Orphan Annie scenario where she just slides around the banisters and is so grateful and it’s just like, oh, my gosh, your house is so big. You’re amazing. You must have a helicopter. And. And she’s thinking of it as like. I don’t know, once another musical where some people move in together, the Odd Couple, and you’re Felix and she wants to tidy.
S6: Yeah, I just want to watch a a Neil Simon film, I think, I mean, Barefoot in the Park feels like a great, great film for this situation.
S3: You know, I’ve never seen Barefoot in the Park. It’s it’s fine. It’s pretty it’s pretty good. It’s very, very of it’s time, but it’s pretty good. Most of those Neil Simon plays are is that the one where Robert De Niro is a heroin addict?
S6: Oh, God, I don’t like I just primarily remember it for the very free spirited relation woman. It’s sort of a Proteau, Dharma and Greg, um, but I think it might be. Let me let me check here, OK?
S3: I’m thinking of the panic in Needle Park. There you go. Which was written by Joan Didion and John Donne and adapted from the James Mills’ novel about heroin addicts who hang out in Needle Park and. Yeah. This Al Pacino in Kitty Win.
S6: This is just Jane Fonda and Robert Redford having a very lovely marriage.
S1: And I was like, I don’t think there’s a heroin addict in there, but I think I think I would remember and looking at Corey wants Paul to become more easygoing, for example, to run, quote, barefoot in the park. Yeah, those are two different movies about parks from the 1970s and or late 60s. And that makes sense. I was like, boy, Neil Simon. I just don’t know that he has the range to write a whole movie about the ins and outs of drug addiction.
S6: And I mean, Barefoot and Barefoot in Needle Park is a very different movie.
S1: Sure. I’m sure someone’s mashed up those two somewhere and I look forward to finding it afterwards and sending you a link. Emily, thank you so, so much for coming on the show. This was fantastic.
S6: I was so happy to do this and I’m so happy to hear from so many thoughtful letter writers.
S1: Yeah. What, um, what kind of furniture do you and your wife have now?
S6: I am currently sitting on a very nice couch that’s l shaped. I can never remember what those are called estranges. Yeah. It’s very nice to sit and recline like a like a Roman empress when I’m at the end of a workday, just kick my feet up and sit on the divine at the end. And I’m also looking at an office chair right now, which is very nice.
S3: It’s a good office chair. Yeah. Congratulations. Thank you. I have no office chairs. I should get one. I only have chairs that are actually kind of broken. Yeah, I do need better chairs, ideas.
S1: I truly need better chairs. My chairs are not good and if I was moving in with Alison I would be in trouble. Well, first of all, her name’s Amanda. I got that wrong. And second of all, she probably be very helpful in helping me find a new chair. So, yeah. Emily, thank you.
S6: Thank you so much for having me.
S7: 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 Prudy Pod 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. Thirty seconds a minute, tops. Thanks for listening.
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S8: Maybe they do sometimes go through each other’s phone, but like, I would bet a hundred dollars that she just told him. And then, you know, when she got caught out, it was just like, oh, you know, what happened is we just periodically read each other’s phones. And I bet what happened was he saw the text message where you said this is very private, please don’t share it with other people. And then thought that means I should make a joke about it the next time we play board games together over Zoom. Like, I don’t believe it. I don’t think you should believe it. And even if it were true, it’s definitely not just like bog standard to say like, oh, I’m married. So my partner reads all my text messages and then if they make jokes about it in group dynamics, that’s fun to listen to.
S7: The rest of that conversation joins Slate plus now at Slate dot com forward slash pretty pod.