The “Unconscionable Ex” Edition

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership. Lucky you.

S2: You’re prudent here, prudent if you’re prudent here. Do you think that I should contact him again? No help. Thank thank. Thank you.

S1: Hello and welcome back to The Dear Prudence Show once again, and as always, I am your host, Daniel M. LaVere, also known as Dear Prudence. With me in the studio this week is Mattie Court, a writer and Zen maker who holds an M.A. in gender and women’s studies and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her first book, The Ex-girlfriend of My Ex-girlfriend, is my girlfriend and Almanac of Relationship Advice for Queer Women with Art and Comics by Kelsey wrote in his forthcoming from Chronicle books. Maddie, welcome to the show.

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S3: Thank you so much for having me.

S1: Thank you so much for being here. I’m so, so excited for this book. I unfortunately did not have a lot of like my exes have gotten together related questions this week. What I was able to come up with a lot of difficult moms. Yeah. At least there’s enough overlap there that it’s like I bet some of the same people would experience both of these problems at the same time. But my goodness, these moms

S3: these questions are definitely a level above anything in the book. This was a very stressful, stressful email to get.

S1: Oh, shoot. Well, I’m so, so sorry to have caused you unnecessary stress. I hope we can at least reduce the stress levels of some of these poor letter writers who are dealing with a lot. And if nothing else, I hope that they all get to have a fun meet cute soon with their ex-girlfriends ex-girlfriend and get to start a really weird and exciting new relationship.

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S3: We should all have an encounter with an ex during this like sexy post pandemic, post pandemic and big crowds, but at least vaccinated summer.

S1: We do at least have somebody who’s ex and mom had a run in that is causing them trouble, which while it’s not a lesbian question in this context, it certainly would not have gone amiss on, say, an episode of the L word.

S3: Oh, absolutely not. That question is pretty wild.

S1: I’m excited to get to that one. So to that end, we should get started so we can get to the one that I find the most intriguing. Would you read our first letter?

S3: Absolutely. Subject. Am I allowing my teenage daughter to be sexually harassed? Dear Prudence, my 17 year old daughter just landed her first job at a restaurant. I am proud of her and glad she was able to find something in our small town. The issue is her boss, who’s also the owner. He is old enough to be her grandfather and she sees him patting the rear ends of other waitresses. She has one of the woman, if he doesn’t everyone, and was told that he does, he doesn’t. If he is comfortable with you, neither of us want him to be comfortable with that. And she wants to quit to avoid that possibility. Otherwise, the job works for her with location and the schedule. She is unlikely to find anything else nearby. And we only have one car, so driving to another town could be problematic. I have told her that what he does to the other woman is wrong and that she in no way has to put up with that if it happens. He did recently put his hand on her shoulder and I showed her how to pivot away and firmly say, I am not comfortable with that. And I told her to call me immediately to be picked up if she feels unsafe or pressured. However, we do not have much money and she will have to work during college to help support herself. She will encounter plenty of dirty old men and pushy young men in her life. And even though that is completely unfair, I feel she needs to learn to set her boundaries and not just quit. My daughter feels I am not being supportive. I feel she will lose out on opportunities if she won’t be near men behaving badly. I want to be a realistic mom, but am I being a bad mom?

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S1: Well, some of them very comfortable, perhaps even too comfortable telling letter writers whether or not I think they are good or bad parents. So I’m going to avoid that question for the time being. I will say one thing that really struck me about this letter was the letter writers. I’m not quite sure if naïveté is the word I want here, but this idea that, like, OK, you’re 17, this is the only job in town. This guy is not only your boss, he’s the owner. You’ve seen him grab the ass of other waitresses. But hey, kid, if he grabs you, just pivot away and firmly say, I’m not comfortable with that. Like that, to me. Felt a little bit like. Do you really think that she is going to do that? Do you really think that that’s just a question of like. Treat yourself as you want to be treated if you just like. To me, it did feel a little bit like, kid, I love you, but this is just how it’s going to be. And the best thing I can do is your parent is like. Maybe not quite throw you to the wolves, but certainly like toss you in the deep end of the pool and be like, good fucking luck. You’re going to meet a lot of guys like this. And what’s more important, if you turn to the other women in your life for support, they’re going to say, sorry, good luck.

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S3: Absolutely. I think that there’s no winning with this kind of man. Like, this is not a guy who is going to be like, oh, I’m sorry, or rethink his actions in any way. When I initially read this question, I was like, well, I had jobs in college that were service work, but I wasn’t sexually harassed. I am, you know, a woman of Bristo experience. But then I showed my girlfriend, who has a lot of experience being a cook, working in restaurants, and she was like, no, like it’s a toxic, terrible industry. And this is like normalised behavior. At the same time, this is not an industry professional who has decided that she loves, you know, fine dining and wants to work in that field. This is a 17 year old and. I think we have to. Always empower women to walk away from situations where they feel uncomfortable, but especially a teenage girl.

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S1: Yeah, I mean, like she is 17. This is her first job. I get that you are thinking further down the line in terms of her ability to navigate the workplace when she’s going to have to. But I do think sometimes people in that positions will think, OK, the best thing I can do if I know my kid’s life is going to be hard is kind of make it hard, harder than it needs to be, sooner than it needs to be, because that’s going to teach them to toughen up. And I think sometimes that actually just means that your kid thinks, OK, I can’t really rely on other people or I can’t really rely on my parent. And I see all that not wanting letter writer to say, like, you’re a monster or you’re responsible for this whole system or you’re completely indifferent. I just think that. If I were in your position, I think the first thing I would do is go back to your daughter and say, I’m sorry about how this conversation went. I think I did let you down. I think you were looking for more support for me. And I’ve been really torn about how best to support you. And I think I aired too much on the side of saying, like, just handle it yourself. And then I think I would encourage you to ask, like, does the idea of saying I’m not comfortable to that out loud in front of your boss, who does this to everyone seem possible to you and ask that is openly and nonjudgmental as you can, and then give your kid a few minutes to answer. And if your kid says, you know, I don’t know, I can kind of imagine it, but I feel nervous and like if he gets mad at me for saying that, then I don’t know what I’ll do. You know, you can kind of talk about that. And if you if you if she says, honestly, no, like, this guy would pay my salary and he does it to everybody. And if I said no, I would be kind of like ridiculed for making a big deal out of it. And so I’m just not going to say that. And then you need to kind of reassess from there. But, yeah, get a sense of whether or not your kid thinks this advice is actually likely to fly in the environment that she’s had to go into work with. I think that’s a good place to start is to ask her because she’s the one there, you know, she’s the one who sees how everyone else reacts

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S3: and not everyone can stand up for themselves in the moment. Some people do have freeze responses or anxiety or social things, like there’s just so many variables, but I’m so resistant to this idea that’s like things just have to suck.

S1: Right? Especially when, again, she’s 17, she’s her boss. Like, that’s I understand that part of what you are hoping for is to raise a daughter who has a real strong sense of like resilience and like presence of mind and who like right away it’s just like, don’t touch me there. I understand that. But I also think that if you make that your soul expectation, then that may be counterproductive because your daughter will feel like will, because I’m not like, you know, a heroine from a movie from the 90s who like Roundhouse kicks a guy for ogling her, then I’m on my own or like, I don’t deserve help. And like, again, she’s 17. Like, don’t start. You know, if you think the world is going to be really hard on her, don’t make your home your place with her. The first place that gets hard, I think, is is a general piece of advice. Like and so there’s something in between either just, you know, you know, stand in a power pose and say, no employer, don’t touch me or quit your job. Like, I think talk about your other options, help her research other possible opportunities that she might have. Like, is this the only restaurant in town? Is there any remote work that she could pick up? Is there any other, like, gig work she could do around town, like in the meantime, like babysitting or mowing people’s lawns or walking their dogs? Because, again, this is just a summer job like this is not going to be her career. If there’s a way you can get her away from this guy, I think you should look into ways to help her. That’s kind of my last thought there, I guess. Yeah, I totally agree. Yeah. I’m I’m just in some ways, this kind of reminds me a little bit of my own mother, who I think often had that sort of like preference for her, this image of like a girl with gusto, you know, like a girl who brooks no nonsense. And it’s just like anyone who fell short of that was a little bit like, well, have you tried being a gutsy girl with no nonsense who doesn’t put up with disrespect? And it’s just like, no, I’m seventeen and I’m afraid. And he writes my checks.

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S3: Yeah. And having to go to a work situation every day and feel that nervousness to feel uncomfortable that someone’s going to grab you. That’s that’s so much more than like what a service. You know, there’s not enough money in the world, although of course, I understand that finances are a real issue. I would also say in times that, like my ass has been grabbed, I have not been able to react. I’ve just frozen or like tried to get away from the situation. And I am someone who, like, went to a woman’s college. And I’ve sat through so many kind of empowerment type seminars where they tell you to say things like this. And I just have never been able to do it in the moment.

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S1: Yeah, I think that’s part of why I was thinking about it in terms of, like, naivete, because it’s like it’s one thing to tell someone, oh, just do that. But if she’s working in an environment where, like, the owner does this all the time, everyone sees that happening. Nobody says anything about it. If she says that and he responds like, whoa, where’d you get that idea? That’s so nuts. I was just trying to be helpful and then start singling her out for, like, look at this nut. Can you believe she had, like, dirty thoughts about my, like, attempt to show her where the salad dressing is? Like she will possibly be worse off than she was before. So I think one of the things that’s also important about this kind of advice is like it needs to function in the way that things. Actually work and again, like there are workplace protections against things like sexual harassment, but it’s one thing to know that and it’s another thing to say like do I have the time and the money to hire a lawyer and, like, make a thing out of this summer before college? So I’m saying that makes me feel a little bit like the mom in question. I just feel like try to work with your daughter, try to ask her questions about what barriers might be in the way of her saying something like that or calling for you to come get her. Because, again, like if she calls you to come get her, what are you going to say? Look, I need to leave work early because you touched my ass, but I’ll be back tomorrow like it. Is that advice that you gave her practical. Is that actually going to make her job possible or. I just imagine a 17 year old saying that and they’re both saying, like, if you’re going to leave work early today, you’re fired.

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S3: Absolutely.

S1: So I don’t think you’re a bad mom letter writer. I do think that part of what you want in this moment is to not think too hard about how much work it would take to make the world safe for 17 year old service workers. Yeah, because that’s exhausting and big. And you would kind of rather just make your daughter, like, walk it off, toughen up. I don’t think that’s the best move you have available to you. I think what’s more likely to happen if you press on that is that your daughter will blame herself for any sexual harassment. She does experience at work. Feel like she can’t tell you because you will have unrealistic expectations of her ability to kick ass and take names and keep things to herself. And I don’t think you really want that for her.

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S3: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

S1: Your kids ally, when you can, there’s going to be so many opportunities for life to be really hard for her and for her to have to make compromising decisions. If you don’t have to make this one, don’t put that day off. And I’m just like, I’m sorry, I’m I waited tables for a long time throughout high school and college and some of it was really fun and some of it was really unpleasant. And, yeah, there was pretty much nothing like it was just pretty much understood that, like, for a lot of the 17 and 18 year olds, workers like if customers or managers want to say something to you or touch you in a way that they want to consider playful, at most it is your job to, like, carefully sidle out of it without upsetting them. And if you can’t do that, then your job is to put up with it. And I don’t think that should be what it takes for people to get coffee or a sandwich.

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S3: Absolutely not. And I do think that one thing that makes me hopeful is there have been so many conversations, especially with the pandemic, about what service work can look like, how it can be different and how it can, you know, financially sustain workers, but also really honor honor them as as human beings. And nobody deserves to feel harassed or creeped out and have their eyes

S1: grabbed by their boss, like.

S3: Absolutely.

S1: Such a low bar, such a very, very low bar.

S3: In some ways, this advice that she’s giving, it reminds me of like when, you know, someone is on Twitter and a troll comes on their account and they respond with like a really a really sassy come back, which is cool if you want to do that. But that doesn’t actually, like, stop the troll. It doesn’t make anyone it doesn’t make that person like, think twice because that person probably sucks. Right.

S1: It will end like more in this case. Like that troll at the very least. Usually you’re not dependent on for your paycheck, you know. Yeah, absolutely. It would be like if if like you wanted to block that troll and someone was like, if you block that troll, you won’t get paid Friday. Let’s move on to our next maternal problem, this one. This one is interesting. This one’s a little more abstract than or like hypothetical than some of the other problems we deal with. So I’m excited about it. The subject is mother of all regrets. Dear Prudence. I recently moved back home after living on my own for college. The distance made me realize a lot of things about my family, one of which is that my mother almost exclusively talks about the past in terms of her regrets, whether it’s something from a week ago or a decade ago, she can only talk about the things that she thinks she did wrong or the choices she should have made. Instead, I didn’t realize how much this had affected me until recently. I ended up crying to my college boyfriend about how I felt like I was just waiting for her to say she regretted having me. Now that I’m around her more, I’m wondering if I should bring this up or negativity can be grating, but it might also just be gelling badly with my own anxiety issues, which I’m currently seeking treatment for. I’m also wary of shaming my mother for having negative emotions. Toxic positivity has become something of a buzzword, and I’m pretty sure she’s been dealing with persistent mental health issues of her own for most of her life. Should I bring that up and ask her to lighten up a little or let it go and work on my own feelings?

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S3: Oof! Well, first of all, I would say that there’s a big difference between toxic positivity, which I often take to mean like not letting other people have negative emotions, always trying to tell someone to find the silver lining in situations that are just bad and being used as a therapist by a family member. And I think the situation is so relatable. So many parents need to go to therapy and so few, so few do. But I would say that the way that you’re you know, it’s normal to feel stressed out being around somebody who’s just like, pervasively unhappy, who’s constantly trying to unload feelings on you, but at the same time isn’t willing to, you know, isn’t willing to make a change in their life to just they just want to dwell and talk. That can be really, really difficult, especially when that is the place where you live.

S1: Yeah, I really agree. We are a long way from toxic positivity here, and especially because. You’re not shaming your mother for having negative emotions, you are contemplating asking your mother to limit the number of regrets she shares with you on a daily basis. She is entitled to feel whatever she wants. You are not saying things to her like it’s not so bad or look on the bright side or your life is perfect. You are asking her to edit how much of her regrets she shares with you. So that, I think, is a very clear reminder. If you start to worry that you are asking her to feel good all the time, you can say, like, am I actually actually asking her to feel differently or am I asking her something else? And it’s fairly clear that that’s something else. Yeah. In terms of the odds that you were going to change a habit of a lifetime overnight, I think is fairly limited. But you’ve also never talked about this before. You’ve never brought this up. You’ve never asked her to reconsider it. So even a slight improvement would, I think, feel pretty good. And I do think there are ways to do this without saying, you know, Mom. You’re just the worst. It’s like being with E.R. all the time, you’re like a little grey rain cloud and I bet this means that you don’t really love me like you can start small. By the way, on the other hand, I don’t say that to be, like, dismissive of you letter writer. I absolutely get why you had that moment of, like, all I ever hear my mother say are things she wishes she had done differently. I get where that fear comes from. I really do.

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S3: Yeah, absolutely. And I know that your mother loves you so much and doesn’t doesn’t regret having you. But that could be that could be a segue into this conversation with your mom. You could say something like, I’m a very anxious person. I’m seeking treatment for anxiety. And sometimes the way that this makes me feel is that you don’t love me because it’s often just a litany of everything wrong in your life. And I’m in your life and I’m in you’re in this house, too, I wonder.

S1: I mean. I hope that that is the case, I don’t want to promise this, but I think it’s harsh as this sounds. I don’t want to promise this letter writer that their mother loves them and doesn’t regret having them. I don’t know. And I do sometimes hear from people whose parents have said those things to them. And so not that I think that’s likely the case. I also really want to stress that, like, I’m sure your mother loves you, but I also know that. If the worst came to pass and this letter writers mother did say, actually, I do regret having you, I would want to be able to try to think of something I could offer the letter writer that would be useful even in the most amazingly painful moment. So while stressing, I hope that that’s not the case and that someone’s negativity does not necessarily mean that they’re like disturbed frame of mind means that they don’t care about their children. You know, mostly I think what’s clear here, letter writer, is that you want to express some combination of setting a limit and expressing concern, which is like, I love you. You kind of sound really unhappy. I don’t want to tell you how you’re feeling, but I wonder if you’ve ever noticed this. I wonder if anyone else has ever pointed this out to you. Yeah. I wonder if you’ve ever thought about talking to someone else about this. And that’s a tricky line to walk some of the time, especially with a parent and especially with a parent that you’ve just moved back in with. So, you know, maybe you can start small and just ask for the limit first. And then depending on how receptive she is, you can consider bringing it up and like a bigger picture way in terms of mental health. But, you know, really the simple thing is just to say. I love you so much, I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but almost every time that you talk about the past, it’s in the context of something you regret or wish you’d done differently. I don’t want to, you know, set a moratorium on that. But I would love for you to be a little bit more conscious of how often you do that. And if you find yourself wanting to share multiple times a day about past regrets, sometimes that’s hard for me to listen to. And so I might occasionally ask if we can change the subject. I wanted you to know in advance so it didn’t feel abrupt or punitive. I do want to be able to hear you talk about things that you wish had gone differently, sometimes just not quite so often.

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S3: Yeah, but that seems realistic to me. I think I am always like. Maybe too positive with these kinds of questions.

S1: Yeah, I mean, I realize I like brought the real downer energy of like sometimes moms don’t love their children or don’t love them. Well, and I want to find ways for that to not be like the unspeakable or to talk about like that is an incredibly painful reality for some of us. And life is also very, very worth living on the other side of that, like there’s there’s ways of redress for that kind of sadness or pain. So just one I hope that’s not the case here. But if it is, it will still be worth finding your own treatment. It will still be worth finding your own therapist. You can work on your own feelings without necessarily like letting this go. It can still hurt. You can still not like it. You can still occasionally object to it. So I would I would encourage the letter writer to think of it in terms of focusing on what you can change the most easily rather than either I engage with her on this subject or I simply let it go and I only focus on me. Whereas I think it’s slightly more of a question of, you know, what’s the number one slot? What’s the number two slot?

S3: I also hope this person is able to find their own apartment soon. And sometimes when you move home after college and you have this strong reaction to your parents, that’s actually just a sign of growth and that you are exposed to healthy relationships and healthy ways of relating away from your biological family. So even though it can be so painful, it’s a sign that your life in many ways will be easier.

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S1: Mm hmm. Yeah, but I get that, of course, you know, if all you hear from your mother about her entire life up until this very moment is how bad it’s all been, of course, part of you worries that this means she includes you. And I hope after you’ve had a couple of conversations that have gone reasonably well on the subject, that you’re able to find a way to bring up this fear in a way that’s not a gotcha or like promise me right now, you’ve never had regrets about that. So much is like one of the things that I need from you or that I would like from you is an affirmation or a reaffirmation of your love for me. And I hope that you will be able to get that. And if not, I hope you can see a lot of healing and help from other sources.

S3: Yeah. Yeah. As oftentimes, like what borders are is just a really convenient person who has to listen and maybe understands the context for your mother’s life, but that’s also just it’s so deeply not your job to be there in that way.

S1: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. All right. We’re getting to the the juiciest letter O and it’s it’s your turn to get to read it. Lucky you.

S3: Oh, OK. I have shivers subject. My ex-husband slept with my mom. Dear Prudence. I recently divorced my husband of over 30 years. He was abusive for most of our marriage. I always suspected he was cheating. He was very inappropriate with several people. He was quote unquote just friends with throughout the years. But most concerning was his relationship with my mother. He recently admitted to sleeping with my mom both before marriage and during my mom has since passed. And of course, I can’t confront her about this. And going through some of her things, I have found pictures and gifts he gave her that I didn’t even know about. We have children and my dad is still living, so I am forced to keep all this anger to myself since this is just not just my kid’s father, but their grandmother, too. I don’t know how to get past the anger without hurting everyone else. Should I just go up and up my feelings at him at whatever cost, or is it my responsibility to protect it all? But congratulations on getting divorced. Sounds like the right decision.

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S1: Yeah, I am really glad you don’t have to be married to this guy ever again. That is cause for celebration. Wow.

S3: This is truly such a wild situation and this is so beyond the realm of normal that when the way that you phrase it, which is just like should I blow up and yell at this guy or is it my responsibility to protect it all? I feel like neither of those are adequate. Yeah. Responses. And I often feel I feel so clueless and naive sometimes when I tell people to go to therapy because it’s obvious and therapy is so inaccessible for most people and it’s so hard to find think there’s just so many barriers. But I do think that this is kind of a level of betrayal and weirdness that a therapist is needed, especially if it’s something that you want to disclose to to your children and your father.

S1: Yeah, the stuff about the kids, the question there to me is really how old are your kids? Not that if they’re all over the age of the age of 18, you should just call and be like, guess what your dad did. But if they are, for example, still under 18 and living at home. I would put a real pin in that conversation, but frankly, whatever the age of the kids, they should be very low on your list of people you talk to about this. It may be that at some point, simply for the purposes of logistics, like why you don’t ever want to be in a room with him again. You do have to have like a brief talking point about it. You will want to wait until you have first let out a lot of these like big feelings with other adults who are not in the position of being like, oh, fuck, that’s my dad. So they are going to be, you know, least qualified of all the people on Earth to support you in this. So if if they need to know at some point, then you may need to decide how to share them in the way that minimizes the fallout, because there just will be fallout. That’s not just going to be a conversation that they’re like, oh, thanks for letting me know. Weird. But, you know, in the meantime, certainly talk to your friends. Certainly consider seeing a therapist. I would even recommend, in addition to a therapist seeking out like support groups for people who have to force their partners over like painful infidelity or like big like big ticket items, because you’re going to want to be around people who I think anyone you tell this to is going to be pretty shocked. But you’re hopefully going to find some people who have some context rather than people are just like, wow, that’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard. I can’t imagine anything that bad because it’s sometimes that makes you feel like, oh, great, I just have, like, the one problem no one else has ever had. I’m alone. Yeah, certainly. If you decide to talk to your own father about this. You know, again, like put him in the middle of the list, pick like five other people to talk to about it first. You absolutely can. You do not have to keep this a secret for the rest of your life. It will also be a decision that if you do decide to disclose, will make life more complicated in some ways for you. And so I don’t say that to either encourage or discourage you. Letter writer, just as a reminder that like. That’s going to be a complicated day, and if you need to wait until you feel like I have a pretty good support structure in place and I know who I’m going to be able to turn to afterwards, you know, wait until then, but. Yes, start sharing something now in limited doses with people with some appropriate distance so that you do not think like a volcano’s building up, I’m going to blow any day now and then like one, you know, family dinner. When you’re all together for a holiday, you suddenly say, hey, guess who had sex with my dead mom?

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S3: Yeah.

S1: That’s that’s the thing you want to avoid. That’s the only thing you want to avoid here. You’re allowed to be so mad. You’re allowed to be so furious. There’s so much you are allowed to do. The only thing I want you not to do is like wait until Christmas dinner to say, like, guess who had sex.

S3: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I don’t know that I have anything else to add. This question was pretty like something to me.

S1: It was especially the part where like her mom is dead, but like left behind pictures of the two of them together, which is just like you had to know somebody from the family was going to be going through your effects, couldn’t keep that one up, couldn’t put that in a lockbox, given like a a far away friend. The key burned it.

S3: Yeah, it’s very like flowers in the attic, this question, and I’m like, I want to know, like, what kind of gifts was he giving it? Because it seems like they had a relationship.

S1: Right? That’s I mean, that’s part of it’s awful. It wasn’t not that it would’ve been great if they had just hooked up a few times, but like. Yeah, dating your mother, that’s bad. He’s a bad guy.

S3: Everything about the situation is hurtful. And I think it is such an extreme situation where, like, there’s not necessarily a right or a wrong way to act. But I totally agree with with Danny about not not asking the kids or not telling the kids. Sometimes I think when infidelity of any kind happens, there’s this like sense, especially in straight culture, that, like, everyone has to know about it, like the truth has to come out. But what I admire about this letter writer is that she’s very aware of that. As much pain as she’s feeling, this will cause pain to other people. And it’s not as simple as as just dropping dropping knowledge on everyone.

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S1: That is interesting. I think I tend to associate whatever straight culture might be in this context with something a little bit more like one must keep secrets for the good of the family honor. And I think both of those things can sometimes be a play in slightly conflicting or even contradictory way. So it’s not as if one dynamic exists at the exclusion of the other. But yeah, I think to bear in mind the way in which your kids would be in a pretty difficult position, but not to feel like I have to take this to my grave, because if my father ever found out he had to, this was not your mess. You did not seek this information out to the best of your ability. I want you to be able to talk about this and not the like first heat of God. I just found out about this and I’m losing my mind, but. If you think, like, I’m not going to be able to have a relationship with my father and keep this to myself for the rest of my life, that would make sense. You will probably need to find a way to tell your father. He will probably be hurt and upset. That might feel terrible, but that’s not on you to avoid. You didn’t do that. You’re not the one who left behind presents and pictures of an affair with your son in law. So to whatever extent you can try to absolve yourself of responsibility on that front, you simply hold the bad news. You didn’t make it. You didn’t create it. And if that means that, among other things, your father says like, well, I never care to see that guy again, no more family Christmases or what have you, fine. That seems like an appropriate reaction.

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S3: He can come with you to the infidelity abuse support group.

S1: Yeah, maybe you need to go, like, sit down at your mother’s grave and yell for a while. Do it. You’ve got my permission. Get mad at her. You can be mad at a dead person that’s allowed.

S3: Yeah. Yeah. They’re not exempt.

S1: Yeah. I really feel for you, letter writer. Whatever you’re doing today, I hope it’s incredibly relaxing and I’m just going to move on because I have nothing else to say beyond just damn that sucks.

S3: Yeah, it’s awful. It’s a terrible, terrible situation to be in.

S1: Yeah. I’m just really glad you have to be married ever again. And then this last one I get to read. So the subject is just husband and I don’t agree about our aggressive dog, Dear Prudence, over the last year, my dog has become increasingly aggressive. He has bitten us and our cat several times. He once bit our friend’s child. We’ve tried medication and training, but to no avail. And we have not been able to find a suitable place to Riham him. I think we have tried our best, but it’s just too dangerous to keep him. I hate it, but I think it’s time to euthanize him. My husband disagrees. Going around him and doing it anyways would wreak havoc on our relationship. But I’m stressed out and I’m afraid of my dog. What do I

S3: do? So this is a just a bad situation, especially for me, because I like dogs more than I like most people. But you absolutely cannot put a dog to sleep without your husband’s permission. I would say you can approach your husband and say we do need to have a conversation that’s definitive. You could even put a time moratorium where you could say, listen, by like Friday at noon or the end of this month, like we need to do a decision about the dog because I’m worried that we’re going to get sued. I don’t always feel safe around this dog. And I feel like we have exhausted our options. But you can’t you can’t go behind someone’s back and put a dog down.

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S1: I think that’s I think that’s right. I think the line to draw would be if it really felt like you were completely at odds, there was no way you could get your husband to try to see things. From your point of view. I would say that sort of like biggest last ditch option that I would say is it’s me or the dog. Meaning if you don’t choose to do that, I will move out, which would still be painful and sad and probably mean the end of your relationship. But I do think that it would be better just in terms of your own peace of mind. You would feel better about that decision than waiting for him to leave the house and euthanizing that dog, knowing that he would be devastated. And I say all that letter writer, without wanting to minimize your very, very real concerns, that is really scary that your dog has been biting both of you and your cat. It sounds like increasingly over the last year and especially since he’s been a child. And I’m glad that you brought up legal liability because that also seems like a real consideration here. So. I do think the next move is scheduled, an appointment with your vet. Even if it’s just over the phone and lay out your concerns to your vet, as you have here to me, here’s what’s happened. Here’s what we’ve tried. Here’s what hasn’t worked. My husband doesn’t want to consider euthanize euthanized when I do, but we’re we’re close to the end of our rope. What do you advise in a situation like this? Because it may be that your vet is able to say, you know, here’s the following, like no kill shelters, that you can talk to her. Like, I know somebody who specializes in, like, really serious cases like this one, or here’s what to look out for in terms of how do we decide when euthanasia is our only option. But at least then you’ll have like a record of a conversation the two of you have together with somebody who is both, you know, an expert of some kind in animals and is also presumably interested in trying to keep, you know, your dog alive and happy and healthy, if that’s at all possible. And the fact that your husband does seem willing to home your dog does give me some hope that that conversation might end up proving productive. Sometimes they’re even like rescue organizations that specialize in dogs with, like aggressive behavior and can at least promise, like a home where there’s no cats or children.

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S3: Yeah, and my dog has a close friend who wears a muzzle full time. And I’m by no means an expert on dog behavior. But something I’ve heard from the owner was that once the dog had the muzzle, he was really able to relax.

S1: Yeah. And that might also be worth bringing up with your that in terms of your also, because presumably part of your concern here is also your dog’s quality of life. Right. Like a dog that’s aggressive all the time is not happy. Dogs don’t do that just for kicks and giggles. They do it because they feel like threatened or frightened whether that fear or threat is real or imagined. So your vet may have some questions about, like, just this aggression seem.

S3: Like medical or something like it’s from a health problem, yeah.

S1: Is it like defensive? Does it have to do with, like guarding food? Does it have to do with certain possessions? Does it have to do with, like a certain member of the family that they think of as sort of like theirs to protect? Does it seem totally unpredictable? Does it seem related to like. They’re looking to hunt, and I’m sure these are questions that you have to some extent already asked others, but, you know, just to. Try to get any sort of sense of like, is there anything that connects all these different attacks? Was there anything that those moments had in common just before and then? Yeah, as you say, in the meantime, to get your dog a muzzle, even if all that does is kind of highlight. Where the biggest cause of the issue is coming from, or like if your dog is really unhappy wearing a muzzle, then that might that might move your husband into a different category. But, you know, I’m just really sorry. It’s clear that that was not your first option either. It’s clear that you’re not like just like, well, whatever. Let’s just put the dog down. Like, you’re clearly scared and sad both for your dog and for everyone that he’s bitten or might bit.

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S3: Yeah, yeah, it’s it’s a bad situation and is not necessarily going to be an easy an easy answer, and I’m sure this letter writer is exhausted. But yeah, you can’t you can’t you shouldn’t put the dog to sleep without your husband’s permission.

S1: But if that conversation with the vet doesn’t get you any new options, if you call a bunch of local shelters and say, look, we are at the absolute end of our rope, is there anything that you guys can do for a dog that’s like in a high, high,

S3: high for, I don’t know, like

S1: a high, complex place, like high probably like in the sense of like we’re at the end of our rope. The dog has bitten multiple people and animals. There are not a lot of good options here. This is not the kind of dog that you easily like home and somebody like fantastic. I’d love to take him. You know, they they can at least. Give you a sense of what other who else might be able to take over for you, but yeah, I think fundamentally then if you cannot get anywhere with your husband and you say, like, I believe that it is better for this dog and for everyone who comes into contact with this dog. If we give him like a humane end of life, I can’t I won’t do that without your permission, but I also can’t keep living with this dog. And so if it comes to it, I’ll move out. And I would hate to do that. And I hope it doesn’t like I think that would be better even for the possibility of a future reconciliation than if you said, look, I did what you weren’t willing to do while you were out this afternoon that I don’t think you could come back from.

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S3: Yeah, this is you know, it’s terrible.

S1: And again, like, I think maybe another thing you can really stress to your husband is like, if we cannot find better options for him, if a muscle doesn’t seem to make him happier, if, you know, talking to the vet and, like, seeking out other alternatives doesn’t help, this is not just about like our dog causes too much trouble and is an inconvenience. And so I want him to die. This is like is our dog constantly feeling traumatized, threatened, unsafe and also harming other people and animals? Because I don’t want that kind of a life for him. You know, maybe he will be able to hear that as opposed to feeling defensive and protective of the dog who again, like it’s clear that you both really care about.

S3: Oh, I’m sorry. It’s always a rough decision, and I do think that if the dog has to be put down sometimes that that is what it means to be a pet owner. Right. Is that. Like Danny said, this dog was not happy, didn’t like living in a home, but yeah, this is definitely not a case where a dog is like shedding too much and you’re going to get rid of it.

S1: Yeah. I also think sometimes people can get weirdly precious about roaming dogs, which is not to say that, like, you should just like move away and like taekwondo onto your dog’s collar and be like whoever wants him take him. But like, I also think there can be a weird degree of harshness towards people who, like, have a kid who develops an allergy or like just realize this, like, we cannot take care of this dog and we found somebody who will love him and give him a good home. I think people can get really judgmental about that. And for the most part, I think what’s important is the quality of life for the dog.

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S3: And I will say so this time last year, I used to have two pit bulls and one of my pit bulls started doing just like weird things like standing in corners and walking in circles. So I set up a Zouma appointment with a trainer, just like a dog trainer that a friend had recommended. And within like two minutes, she was like, your dog has a brain tumor, you know? So. Yeah, and that that ended up being what happened. And he did I did have to put him down, which was terrible. But there are some really incredible dog professionals out there. And I know that sometimes things are just not financially possible. But it’s always worth talking to an expert because they love dogs, too, right. That’s why they’re there working in that field. And maybe you you find someone who can make headway with your dog.

S1: Yeah. Yeah. I’m so sorry, by the way, that’s so sad. And I know the letter writer mentions that they’ve tried training, so I don’t want to assume that they haven’t attempted to contact a professional or two. But again, I would encourage you to like look up somebody who specializes in working with dogs who get aggressive and have bitten because there are such experts. And that might be better than I don’t know if you just got out of sort of like garden variety, obedience trainer and you need to, like, level up first. But that may be one more last ditch option. And again, if just in the meantime, you’re like, I’m not safe in this house, this dog, I’m going to go stay with a friend. That would make sense. That is. That is a choice you can and have the right to make and I’m sorry, again, I’ll stop just apologizing. We’ll just end on a slightly down note.

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S3: We’re dog people.

S1: How’s your other dog? Let’s let’s think about one nice thing before before we wrap up.

S3: He’s amazing. And he’s having the time of his life as a matter of right or residency right now. So he’s been running around the world for two months. He just is so happy every day.

S1: OK, that’s what I love to hear. I’m so glad. I hope he, like, I don’t know, finds something incredible.

S3: Yeah, I bought him a tent, but he loves to hang out,

S1: get a literal pup tent.

S3: Yeah, exactly.

S1: Amazing pictures, please. 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 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 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. Oh. And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. Yelling and anger are not the same thing. They’re just not so his whole you know, I feel like I’m not allowed to be angry. Thing is like. OK, that you feel that way, that’s not actually what’s happening. Anger and yelling are not synonyms. Yelling is one form through which people sometimes express anger. That is not the full suite of that emotion

S3: and can sometimes be cultural. Sometimes people have a communication style that is just more yelling and in your face and other people are going to react to that in a way that feels negative. And that’s just being a person.

S1: To listen to the rest of that conversation, join Slate plus now at Slate dot com forward slash Prudy part.