The “All or Nothing” Edition

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S1: Your freedom, your prudent ghiberti, prudent, dear, dear prudence here, pretty, do you think that I should contact him again? No help I think. Thank you.

S2: Hello and welcome to another mini episode of Dear Prudence, I’m your host, Danny M. Lavery, and this show is for you are plus subscribers. Our guest this week is Alicia Harris, a self-described public health nerd based in Oakland, California. She works as a foundation program officer directing resources to reproductive health, rights and justice organizations. And now here’s our first letter. This next one, I really felt this one. And I feel like I’m leaning towards just what are some practical answers I can give this person rather than like, here’s how to change the world, but I’ll just read it. The subject is dealing with bias. Dear Prudence, I’m a middle aged woman who works precariously in a health related field. I’ve always taken meticulous care of my health, a rigorous diet, regular exercise and a variety of holistic practices. But I face a lot of bias due to my size, my skin, extensive scabs and scarring and other stigmatized physical features. I’ve always wanted to do the sort of work I’m doing, but there’s bigotry against higher weight and physically different people in my field, and it’s pervasive. I don’t know if I can continue to do this low income work indefinitely, but I also can’t get hired for other better jobs because of the way I look. I’ve tried. I’m just so tired. I’ve watched two generations of smart, educated women in my family encounter similar bias and barely eke out a living. I’ve already got the highest credentials in my field. Legislation here offers no protection. I just don’t know what to do.

S3: Yeah, I I also sort of waffling between going immediately to the practical and sort of addressing prejudice based on like body size and appearance, which is very real and can definitely be a factor in finding jobs being treated respectfully at a job. And I just want to pause and validate that for a minute just because it’s real. And I think something that jumped out to me is the letter writer is. Talking about their situation, but also like prefacing it by saying that they’ve always taken meticulous care of their health, you know, diet, exercise, et cetera, and that’s not something that they owe to the other people around them.

S2: It felt very much like a sort of preface of like. Don’t worry, I already know I’m supposed to be like running through the checklist of fixing my body, right.

S3: And I can only imagine actually, like I don’t have to imagine, like, a I work in the broader health field. I’ve definitely been around a lot of, like, fat phobia and just like prejudice based on appearance generally and sort of like it being used as an indicator of an indicator of health. And, you know, I’m sure the letter writers had to or felt like they had to give similar explanations. But, you know, no one else is entitled to that information. They’re just expressing that they feel like they have to explain that, like I’m doing all the things that you want me to do, because ultimately, like it’s not even working.

S2: Not that it would be good if it were working because it would still take that internal toll. But it’s like she’s already doing this and she’s still not getting the better jobs and she’s still not getting taken seriously.

S3: Right. Because ultimately and, you know, this is the case with fat phobia. It’s like it’s not about their actual it’s not about a person’s actual health status. Like people have signed a moral value to particular appearances, which definitely isn’t new. You know, we’ve seen this like with like racial characteristics. People have like a certain like physical characteristics to people. They think there are sex workers. Like there’s a long, long history of this. And it’s unfortunate. And, you know, I totally believe that this person has had trouble finding jobs and that it is like, unfortunate. Think that they have to deal with in the course of speaking with other people or interacting with other people in the workplace and just thinking about like the practical things that this person can do while validating that they’re just like so fucking tired of having to deal with this and navigate other people’s prejudice. You know, I think that this shelter in place situation has I mean, I’m not sure what corner of, like the health care world they work in or the health world, but depending on their situation, it may be possible to work partly from home or work with others in a way where, like, their appearance is not available to other people. Right. That’s that feels bad because like I tell this person, like there’s nothing wrong with your appearance.

S2: But that was my first thought, was like, meh, covid work for you. Yeah. Like the fact that so many people are working and applying for jobs from home. And again, nothing about this is like, oh, good news. Like for almost no one has the pandemic been like good employment information. But as much as I want both for this person to be able to like let go of some of the internal need to like just if I don’t worry, I’m doing my best thing that I can to minimize my body. I want her to be able to let go of that. I also read a lot of this is like. It didn’t seem to me like her problem was mostly about confidence. She seems fairly like clear eyed of like, nope, I like I get it. My own feelings about myself are what they are. But I’ve seen this play out on my own family. I know how the system works and has been working on my life. I don’t need to be reminded that I’m like great or beautiful or whatever. I just need to figure out, like how to deal with the reality of this, like discrimination against me for my looks. And so, yeah, to that I would say look for other and better jobs as much as you can where almost all, if not all of the interview process is going to be over email and over the phone wherever you can. Zoom has that great feature that’s like smear my face and Vaseline. You know, the option that I’m talking about. I think so. I think so. I’m thinking specifically, like Betty Davis is supposedly like writer, that she would only be filmed in close up with Vaseline smeared over the lens. I do it, by the way. There’s like whatever view Zoom offers, whether, like, you want us to clear that up for you, you want us to make you just look at Instagram filtered. I’m always like, absolutely. I do click that every time, whenever you can push for a phone interview instead of a zoom in or if you like, as much as you can do, just in the sense of like, I’m not going to give people an opportunity to discriminate against me for the way that I look do that, whether that’s going to be in health or not. I it seems like the other thing is to start thinking about I’ve got the highest credentials in my field. Legislation offers no protection. Obviously, all of the stuff is so plausibly deniable that even if it did offer protection, you know who’s going to admit you’re right? Like, so often they’re just going to say like, oh, there was just one other better candidate. You kind of never know. But you also, you know, based on your own experience and seeing two generations of your family like, I totally agree.

S3: And I think the other thing that occurred to me that might be helpful, like a practical thing, is I don’t know if the letter writer is connected with like any other people in the health field who can just sort of like. Talk about their workplace, especially if they’re like other people of size or other people that, like, have this person mentioned having extensive scabs and scarring. I know that it’s not the easiest to figure out. What a workplace will be like, like candy, you can’t know for sure until you get there, but I’m wondering if there are ways to kind of vet places with people they know or I know during the interview process, you look for red flags, but I’m talking about like green flags, like, are there things that can let you know that this might be a better work environment for me, even if it’s not perfect in other ways? But, you know, can this person get some indication that a certain workplace might be just a better a better fit?

S2: Yeah, yeah. And I think that that’s a really great point, too, because I think, again, a lot of the health industry is just really in love with you could tell how healthy somebody is by looking at them for four seconds. And if they don’t look the way that you want them to, they are bad and they don’t deserve health. And they are probably a number of other bad things that we can all think of. And the most important quality of health is looking like you’re about to do yoga by an infinity pool. And that sucks and is counterproductive to actual health.

S3: It is. I don’t know. I don’t know why people think that, you know, stigma and dealing with hatred is the route to a healthy life. It’s it’s not it’s not.

S2: You get to read the next letter. And if you’re wondering why there’s no subject line, it’s because I forgot to write one and they also forgot to write one. So I guess you can just say the Dear Prudence part and get started and everyone will deal with it.

S3: Indeed they will, Dear Prudence, my wife left me after a late in life lesbian awakening within three months, she moved in with her best friend, Georgia. Georgia never warmed up to me despite my many attempts. You tried counseling, but Georgia didn’t think it would work. So I stuck to keeping the peace for eight year old daughter. We both get her half the time, and our custody agreement prevents either of us from moving outside the city. Georgia has a 12 year old daughter who I’m friendly with, and I’ve picked both girls up from school for years. Since the lockdown down, both girls have gone to virtual school at my house since I freelanced and their mothers have nine to five jobs. My ex lost and got another job during the pandemic, but Georgia hasn’t. They are not legally married due to Georgia, depending on her survivor benefits from her first marriage. Georgia’s also very sick. Their savings are dwindling and her options are moving out of state to live with her parents or moving out of the city and letting my ex support her. I have told my ex that I’d be OK taking full custody of our daughter so she could support Georgia. I wouldn’t even seek child support. Her reply was to demand I take on Georgia’s daughter full time or let her take our daughter out of state. In her head, I should be used to having both girls around and I make enough money so it wouldn’t be a problem. I told her now my ex exploded, called me a rat bastard, and accused me of homophobia because I blamed Georgia for my own failure in our marriage, saying that if it hadn’t been Georgia, it would have been someone else. I told her we should communicate through our lawyers now, but if she wanted honesty, if Georgia had been George, she would have gotten a hell of a lot less sympathy from people and not even think to ask what she’s asking of me. She could abide by the custody agreement or we could go to court. We haven’t spoken since, but both girls are on edge. My daughter asks if she has to move. And George’s daughter has apologized to me for being a bother since I don’t want her around. I told them both it was grown up talk and not to worry, we’re still on school lockdown. So I’m getting them both every day. But they just come and go from the car. I don’t want to be the bad guy. I’m keeping the clear boundaries here. We agreed to what is happening to Georgia is unfortunate, but it isn’t in my control or my concern. My daughter is the only thing I care about. Lots going on, lots going on. I have to say, my first thought when I read Late in life, Lesbian Awakening is also an excellent genre for film. Yes. One of the very best, not so much for this guy, but which I’m totally fine with after reading this, to be honest, OK, I’m going to put some of his language aside temporarily and just say that his wife and or ex-wife, excuse me, ex wife and current partner are in a terrible situation, both because Georgia is in danger of losing survivorship benefits if they marry, if that’s something they even wanted, that Georgia is not doing well and her savings are dwindling. And it seems like moving out of state or moving elsewhere would be something that would be helpful. So I understand that the letter writer has also kindly offered to take full custody of his daughter. Know, it sounds like his daughter and Georgia’s daughter basically been living as siblings for some time. And, you know, it sounds like they’ve at the very least internalized just the sense that the letter writer isn’t willing to take them both in so much so that it’s been a concern, which is worrying.

S2: But I don’t know. I mean, I’m I’m fully on team letter writer here. And I like the idea that Georgia, as difficult as her position seems to be, feels like my ex my partner’s ex, who I don’t like, should take full time custody of my daughter. Like, what the hell is she thinking? Like, if she doesn’t like him, why does she want him to be full time raising her own kid? That send the kid to your own parents, contact your own ex, that you’re, you know, presumably at least getting some child support from, if not amicably, co parenting with like canvas for your friends for help. But like, I fail to understand why she thinks this guy is awful but is good enough to, like, raise her kid. That’s so bizarre to me.

S3: Is very strange. I wasn’t sure if that was something that they were suggesting, you know, just because clearly the better alternative would be to go out of state. Or maybe they’re suggesting it because they’re really concerned about, like, keeping the two girls together. But I mean, no matter what, it’s clear that George’s daughter feels like she’s not wanted around and the daughter is fearful of having to move. And I think that, like, I don’t know, it’s clear to me that no matter what the adults in the situation ultimately decide, like they need to figure out how they can communicate in a better way to each other and to the kids so that it’s not like this. I feel not great.

S2: No, of course, I feel really bad for both of the kids. But again, it’s not like she’s saying this to her father. Like, I feel like you don’t want me around. She’s saying to this to the guy that who normally picks her up from school. Like, that’s a shame. But it’s also not like, oh, man, you know how everyone feels terrible when the guy who picks you up from school also doesn’t want to raise you. That’s not like a thing. That’s she’s in a difficult situation, but it’s not going to traumatize her if this guy doesn’t volunteer to become her new parent, whatever difficulty she’s going through. I think it is incredibly reasonable to say I’m willing to do a lot to help you to out around the edges. I recognize you’re in a difficult situation. I can’t take full custody of somebody else’s kid and you can’t ask me that again, very reasonable line to draw. And if your wife keeps coming back or sorry, your ex-wife keeps coming back to that. Well, you know, at that point, I would encourage you to like maybe revisit the custody agreement with your lawyer, maybe talk to a mediator, but to just really make it clear like this is not up for discussion. This is not going to help solve your problem legally. I don’t even know how he would go about doing that, just like it’s not going to work. It’s very reasonable to say it’s not going to work. You can reassure your own kid that you guys are doing everything you can to make sure things work out. And you can also reassure this other girl that you are really happy to spend time with her and help her attend school. And you’re sorry that her mom is going through such a tough time right now. And that’s it. You don’t have to worry about that. Be on that. She needs to be going to her own parents with these questions. And I’m sorry that they’re failing her, but that doesn’t mean that, like, you know, the nice crossing guard basically needs to be her new dad.

S3: So there’s something confusing to me about this letter. So the letter writer saying. These are the options that Georgia has, like moving out of state to live with her parents and it sounds like in that scenario, his ex may also be moving out of state, we’re not sure or moving out of the city and letting the x ray.

S2: I was thinking, like just on the suburbs, on the outskirts so that they can still commute to see one another. But she’s in, like, apparently a cheaper place or something.

S3: Right. And so in that case, why, of course, I don’t know, like how far away that is. But it sounds like if that were the case, there might be a way to preserve the existing custody agreement.

S2: Yeah. You know, if it’s only a difference of, like, it’s an extra 20 minutes tacked onto the commute, but that would enable them to stay together and for your custody agreement to stay in place, that would seem to me like a great opportunity to compromise a little.

S3: Right. And maybe like there’s some changes needed, like, you know, pickup dates are different or like instead of maybe alternating more frequently, like each parent has their kid for a longer period of time and then then brings them over to their other parent’s house. But, you know, the suggested solutions here don’t seem to fit the scenario being presented. Right. I understand that, you know, maybe in one parent’s mind, going out of state is like the preferable solution. But I think it sounds like from what the letter writer wrote, that it would be possible to come up with a solution that doesn’t require either that he cares for both of these children or he doesn’t get to see his his child very often. And I do think, like a mediator is not a bad idea because, I mean, it seems like at this point they’re both bringing various resentments from their now ended marriage into this conversation, which I get it.

S2: But it’s also like you’re not going to get anywhere with your ex-wife. If you’re like, well, if you’d left me for a man, things would be different. Sure, that’s true. She didn’t leave you for a man. Things are not different. Things are the way that they are. And you were gonna have a really hard time convincing an ex that they should see the breakup from your point of view, just because that’s what an ex is it someone who fundamentally could not reconcile their point of view with yours. And so I don’t see that in terms of like you either are or aren’t homophobic. I think we could probably agree that it’s like homophobia flavored seltzer. Maybe like there’s a tinge there. It’s maybe not all the way an ingredient, but it’s like you sprinkle a little on top of it. I just you know, it’s just don’t get drawn into it. It’s a red herring. Whether or not you do or don’t blame Georgia for anything really doesn’t matter. The point is you need to figure out how can she afford to live somewhere and what do you need to do to your own custody agreements? Super sensible to say I’m not going to take full custody for someone else’s kids that’s off the table. And if your wife says that, that makes you a rat bastard at that point, you can just say, call me when you’re able to talk about this politely. Otherwise call my lawyer. That’s kind of it. That’s kind of all I’ve got for that one.

S3: I think that consulting with the lawyer is not a bad idea either way, just keep your options open.

S2: It will it will tilt you towards a more confrontational option. But, you know, you might need that at this point. If you’re at the point where you’re calling each other, you know, you’re a homophobe, you’re a rat bastard. Well, if Georgia were George, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Like you might have reached the limits of of what civility can get you. So you might have to.

S4: That’s unfortunate. That’s our mini episode of Dear Prudence. For this week, our producers felt circus. Our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. As always, if you want me to answer your question, call me and leave a message at four zero one three seven one, dear. That’s three four to seven. And you might hear your answer on that 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.

S2: Keep it short. Thirty seconds a minute, tops.

S5: Thanks for listening for.