The “Gateway Mom” Edition

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

S2: Dear Prudence, your prudent or prudent decisions, your prudent here, pretty. Do you think that I should contact him again? Help. Help. Thanks. Thank you.

S1: Hello and welcome back to The Dear Prudence Show once again. And as always, I am your host, Daniel and Claverie, also known as Dear Prudence. And with me in the studio this week is Max Jacobs, a radio and podcast producer based in New York who once helped produce this show, which might be why you find his name eerily familiar, as if you heard it once before. You did. You heard it here. Max, welcome to the show, Danny. Thank you so much. It’s just fantastic to have you back to hear the soothing sounds of your familiar voice. I hope you’re doing great. The last time that I saw your face, it was in California and things were different.

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S3: I know. I know. And I’m doing well. Thank you. It’s been a long time since I sat across the glass from you and, you know, texted you bad puns while you were just attempting to do your job. And you, Max on bad. I think you can admit that that’s true. Yeah. Usually was met with some type of facial expression and you texting me back some type of expletive.

S1: So, Max, I’m known for my facial expressions. I’m always making faces. People say Danny’s face, it moves. Anyways, I’m thrilled that you’re here. I promise not to text you any expletives while we are answering questions. So please, please, I’ll see what I can do. Would you please read our first letter and we can try to figure out how to help these people?

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S3: Absolutely. Absolutely. So the subject smoking neighbors. Difference this August, my boyfriend and I moved into a new apartment on a different floor in the same building we’ve been living in already, a few months later, I noticed our bathroom occasionally smelled like cigarette smoke, which was odd because it’s an interior room with no windows. I called maintenance and they said someone below us is probably smoking near their bathroom vent and it’s coming in two hours. This is now happening multiple times a day. We’ve started a week sheet to note dates, times when it’s especially bad. Management is sympathetic, but apparently the building allows smoking inside the apartments. They said they’d look into it, but that was a week ago and nothing’s changed. The smell of smoke permeates our bathroom and now our closet. I really don’t want my clothes to smell like smoke. Alex says something about not letting odors disturb your neighbors, and I think this qualifies. It will be difficult to find the source. So I’m not sure who we could talk to. Do I just go talk to everyone on the floor below us, ask for free laundry or something for management, break our lease or asked to be moved into another apartment in the building. The smells are strongest in the morning and at night key times. We also use the bathroom. I can’t bear the idea of going to bed every night for a year with this smoke smell clinging to my hair.

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S1: Hmm, I was mostly really amazed that there are still smoking apartment buildings out there during the many, many years that I have been a smoker, I sure would have enjoyed living in one of those. And yet I could never find any, which is not helpful to this letter writer. I don’t want to get too lost in the weeds there.

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S3: Yeah, I mean, this is kind of rough. I mean, one of the things I kind of keyed into was management is sympathetic, which is really not a given depending on your apartment and. Oh yeah. Yeah.

S1: And it’s sort of like are they making sympathetic noises? But because, like, their policy is that they can’t do anything apparently. So it seems to me more like they are not being rude as opposed to actually doing something sympathetic. So we can start by just focusing on the questions that they asked, because I think if we can rule some of those options out, we might be able to get a better answer. You know, go talk to everyone on the floor below. Tricky for a couple of reasons. One of which is that would take a long time. Not everyone would be at home. Some people might be offended or annoyed. I don’t know that anyone would even know if it was them. Like, no one’s going to say like I bet it was my smoking like there it could be. The person whose smoke you’re smelling is not the person who says, oh, I smoke. So that’s tricky, too. And then there’s also the question of like, what would you say? Would you say, like, stop smoking indoors because it’s winter, you know, that that might very well not fly or like, will you please switch to a vape?

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S4: Like, what are the odds that someone’s going to hear that and say, like, yeah, you got it.

S3: And then they say our building allows it. So.

S4: Right. This isn’t this isn’t the kind of situation where, like, your upstairs neighbor is making a lot of noise, but they don’t know how much it carries through the floor.

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S1: And you go introduce yourself and ask if they can try to keep it down or get a bigger rug. Like this is the kind of thing where you have to think through what could I ask of this person and what are the odds that they would do it?

S3: Yeah, I do wonder if the management is sympathetic. I mean, it’s been a week and they haven’t done anything. Even for a sympathetic management that you think might do something for you. A week isn’t like a terribly long time. And so I do wonder if maybe they are open to something and I wonder if you could put some more pressure on them to say, like, look, if this is the reality of the situation and I don’t really have a lot of recourse here, I would appreciate perhaps a reduction in the rent. I’m not sure if that’s something they would consider, but like, you know, it’s not unreasonable to think about. You know, especially if this is the kind of couple that’s like going to the trouble of documenting cases and like if you’re starting to show like, look, we’re having to do laundry more, we’re having to do this, this and this, like actually saying like there’s actually like financial records here. And like if we have to keep living in the situation like, hey, maybe knock 50 bucks off the rent for the month because of the extra laundry we have to do, I think that’s probably one of the better options.

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S1: And again, it’s reasonable to say, like we are doing laundry a lot more often, we’d like a reduction there. I think it’s also worth checking in with your local tenants rights board, because even if the the building does allow smokers, there are often lots of state and federal protections for people from secondhand smoke. That’s not to say that you’ll be able to get exactly what you want right away, but it might help, you know, a little bit more about what you can either bargain for from management or ways in which you might be able to break your lease without a penalty citing something. So check in with them there and then. Yeah, I mean, consider to it’s not just that the smell is upsetting, which it definitely is, especially if you don’t smoke yourself, but there’s also real health risks. So it’s not just like, oh, there’s a bad smell. If it’s smelling that strongly. You’re also getting you know, I would talk to your doctor about it. I would mention it at your next checkup, which is just that, like, you know, obviously I don’t think I’m necessarily going to drop dead of this tomorrow. But like, if if I start experiencing any new respiratory problems or, you know, if any of my like. Katia, if I have any cardiac issues that are new, that this is something we should be on top of and that, I think is also something you might want to focus on. And again, kind of push that one with both the Tenants Rights Board and then also with your management. I don’t I don’t think you’re going to be able to persuade someone to, like, quit smoking or switch to vaping, unfortunately, but and I hate to say it, but even the.

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S3: Management that seems sympathetic, like they might not do very much, unfortunately, and the idea is a smoking building. Yeah. And the idea of moving into another apartment in the building, if you had another place that was fine earlier and you’re willing to consider moving back in there or unfortunately, thinking about moving to another spot entirely, I don’t know what your situation is. And obviously, moving there during a pandemic is not great, but it’s something that probably has to enter the equation.

S1: Yeah, the one good thing is that once this lease is up, you will be able to find a non-smoking building, I think fairly easily. Most cities have more nonsmoking buildings than otherwise. So I do think that in the medium term you will be able to do a lot. And in the short term, it’s just a question of would you be able and willing to bargain with management to move them back into your old apartment temporarily? As much as that would be annoying and frustrating. Is there someplace else that you can go occasionally to try to catch a break? I know, like I also don’t want to recommend stuff like open your windows a lot, use a lot of air filters, because it’s also like if that ameliorated the damages of secondhand smoke, people who lived with smokers would just do that and be fine. So I’m also aware that there’s a limit there. But those are, I think, my best options. And if nothing else, I’m going to use this opportunity to be really grateful that I have now gone three months without smoking or nicotine of any kind, which is the longest I’ve gone in a while. Hey, congratulations. I don’t want to make every letter about personal triumphs, but I’m really relieved, like, oh, I’m not creating this problem for other people anymore. I’m really glad smoking is very hard to quit. I don’t know if you knew that, Max.

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S3: I’ve heard very addictive. No, I think that’s great. Thank you.

S4: I promise not to use anyone else’s problems to boast about a milestone. So I will simply move on to our next letter.

S1: Let’s move on to a family question that I think actually, like we can sort of offer some helpful tips with the subject is passive aggressive punishment. Dear Prudence, my mom has a habit of punishing me and others through passive aggressive means when she determines we have done something wrong. She will not answer my calls. We talk almost every day, refers to me only by my first name when she usually refers to me by an affectionate nickname and becomes coldly polite while denying anything is wrong. I’ve tried asking her to please tell me what’s wrong so we can talk. But she asks me about growing up with this has given me a really awful physical reaction to this kind of behavior. I get dizzy and anxious and compulsively want to overcompensate by giving her gifts and reaching out until she’s happy. It’s horrible. What should I do? I’m almost 30 and I can’t do this anymore. Did you feel that feeling, too, like I read this letter and I felt like a sort of brief moment of like, oh, I feel that sex feeling you get when you’re like somebody who normally cares about me is acting very, very reserved and withdrawn and won’t tell me why.

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S3: Yeah, I mean, I can’t say that that I am familiar with this specific situation, but it just seems from reading this that like. You could probably the description of this, you could take this past passive aggressive, I don’t know, do you think I’m that description is too far in describing it, that it’s been passive aggressive in the past? No, that I mean, it’s I guess I think of passive aggressive being maybe gentler than this. And this feels worse than that.

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S1: I mean, I think oftentimes people use passive aggressive to mean indirect. All right. I do. And I think in that sense, this is this is fair. This is indirect. The thing I mean, this sounds awful. Full stop. This nightmarish it sounds like this letter writer grew up with this and that to me, moves out of nightmarish and into traumatizing, I guess, the sort of getting out. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. The idea like this, I think is just like leaving notes around saying, you know, don’t write. Right. Or being like a little flip, being a little like saying something with a little bit of an edge to it about the dishes or something. Yeah. I think passive aggressive certainly is accurate, but it’s not anywhere near. Complete, and if she did this to you as a child and it sounds like you were pretty young and it was pretty formative such that you still in your almost 30s, feel kind of terror when she transforms from, like the the cloth mother to the way your mother to go into, like, psychiatric history here. You go into this total panic mode of just like my attachments are no longer secure, I’m no longer loved, I am no longer worthy of love. I will do anything to get back back within like mother love. And that’s horrible. And I would go so far as to say that that your mother did that to you as a child is deeply disturbing. Yeah, I’m so, so, so sorry. That is so destabilizing and frightening for a little child to feel the sense of my parent no longer loves me and I don’t know why. And they keep saying that there’s nothing wrong, but obviously there’s something wrong. I feel like I’m losing my mind. Like that is really bad, I guess is what I just really want to stress to this letter writer. It’s not just like a bad habit that your mom needs to unlearn. This is a way that she’s seriously damaged your sense of safety, stability and lovable ness as a child. And that’s wrong. And so I would just I would encourage you to not think of this as just like a habit you need to talk her out of or set a couple limits with until she stops doing it. This is like go to a therapist and maybe stop talking to your mom every day for a while and really sit with the truth of, like, my mom harmed me deeply.

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S3: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, this this feels like this is where you have to start establishing boundaries about how you can be safe and how you can. I mean, I’m sorry. Again, I feel like that’s like the theme of a lot of these. And I agree that like therapy, if you’re not already doing that, I hope that’s something that you have access to and can get access to.

S1: Yeah, I mean, just like this description of like I get physically dizzy. I mean, this is huge. And I think this is one of those things that you’re just starting to get a sense of how huge it is, even though you know that it’s been going on for like this isn’t new information, but you’re starting to recognize something about it maybe that you didn’t before. And so that bit about like we talk almost every day. I think that’s part of it, frankly, I think. I mean, I don’t want to say like it’s weird if you talk to your parents every day, I’m sure that there are healthy ways to do it as an adult. But this is like part of the dynamic is that she keeps you very, very close and very, very desperate for her approval and constantly second guessing yourself when you think you’ve lost it and castigating yourself to try to get it back. So I think, again, you don’t have to, like, start ignoring your mother tomorrow just because I told you to. But I would really encourage you to think about what would it mean to not talk to her very much for a while because she does this and in that like, well, give her a taste of her own medicine. That would not work. But in the sense of, like, you need to be able to say, I don’t deserve this kind of treatment and I’m not going to again, there’s that inconsistency. It makes you think like I’m about to change it. I know if I just try something else, it’ll come right back. I know it’s going to get better and that can keep you trapped in that same cycle that’s doing so much damage. And yeah, I would just say lots of distance, lots of therapy. This is not within the realm of like kind of average parental flaws that you just sort of have to deal with. And this is really bad and you need a break.

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S3: Unfortunately, it’s like getting a sense of perspective and finding the language about kind of what this means and being able to potentially at some point tell her that is not necessarily going to improve the situation.

S1: I feel great because there’s a history of like, she won’t acknowledge what’s really happening. That’s right. That’s her whole strategy.

S3: Right. And not to say that there’s mean the relationship could never improve, but just that, like you getting some distance, which is probably going to be something that is really healthy, is also probably going to be really hard as well.

S1: Yeah, yeah. It’s going to feel like because as the letter writer was saying, like, I feel this need to send her gifts until she’s happy. Yeah. Like, of course, the idea of like actually don’t pick up when she calls and don’t talk to her right now is going to feel impossible. It’s gonna be like, yeah, I can’t do that, then I’m going to lose it forever. Then even the inconsistent motherly love is better than nothing and I will have lost it. So part of this will just feel so counterintuitive. And to that I would say, like get all the love and support you can from everyone else in your life so that that idea becomes less unbearable. But if giving her gifts and being dizzy and frantic to please her and begging her to tell you what worked and trying so hard to be lovable worked, it would work and it doesn’t work. And so I can’t promise you that this is going to result in a better relationship with your mother. But I can promise you that with time, it will reduce the amount of Dessy, anxious, terrified need to please stuff that’s plaguing you right now. And that would be a huge improvement. A huge improvement. Yeah. And I want that for you. Any last thoughts there? Do you want to say any parting, parting words for this letter writer?

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S3: I mean, I think there’s a lot of wisdom there and just that I think there probably are a lot of folks who have dealt with common situations to this, not to say they will know exactly what you’re dealing with, but I’m sure you may be able to find some folks who you will be able to talk to you about this, too. And maybe that is through therapy, but maybe it is through just good friends and or both even.

S1: You know, it’s I never want to offer therapy as an either or and then, like, don’t bother to talk to friends. Oh, yeah.

S3: Max, would you read our next letter? Absolutely. The subject is movie magic wearing off Dear Prudence. My partner and I are both in our mid 20s. We live in L.A. and he works in film. He’s from a wealthy white family and is in a great position at a production company. But he often feels frustrated and stifled. He’s unquestionably talented and creative. But a big part of the reason he has this position is because his family had a connection whenever he takes work. Cause I feel like I learned that someone else he works with only has a position because they knew someone or knew someone who knew someone there, the godchild of a big actor or the brother of a writer. I understand that this is a major part of how many industries work. I went to grad school because I needed connections for my field in order to get hired and didn’t have any. I spoke to him about this. The reason I am tens of thousands of dollars in debt is I did not know someone who knows someone. He’s aware and understanding of this. I understand that he still has a right to be frustrated with his job and peers. But when he speaks about his job, a little part of me thinks I know so many talented, creative people who would also do an incredible job and just didn’t have the connections. Or we should be lucky we’re in a stable position, even if they aren’t. Our dream jobs were only in our mid 20s. Is this a recipe for resentment and bitterness in our relationship? I don’t want my response him to always be well, you shouldn’t be upset about this because my peers and I didn’t have the resources. You did. How do I stay supportive of my partner about a subject that is sensitive for me?

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S1: This is a really interesting one, I thought so, too, I want a little bit back and forth on this one because part of me felt like that there were a couple of other underlying questions that I wish I knew more about. Like my I guess my main question here is, like, is your partner also supportive and curious about your experience or is your partner a little incurious, like. Is there reciprocity there? Did you get a sense either like I didn’t feel like I could make a call one way or another based on a letter? I guess so. Part of me is just wondering, what’s that dynamic like?

S3: Yeah, I was kind of also curious. I wanted a little more background about what their field is, what they’re doing, because I, I totally feel for them on the one hand and on the surface it does sound obnoxious, but I also understand this sort of real dilemma that they’re kind of dealing with about wanting to be a supportive partner.

S1: Right. And, you know, they say that he’s aware and understanding. So it’s not like I think he’s been super dismissive. I guess just like on the one hand, the solution to what’s troubling you is not that your partner, like, quit his job. Right. And it’s not that he try to single handedly change the industry. And I think that the letter writers are aware of that. So, yes, on the one hand, I think it’s good to find moments where you can say either is this something I can change? If so, what can I do? And if not, what are ways that I can learn to accept this or decide I don’t want to accept this and do something else with my life. So maybe the real question is just like, am I comfortable with my partner’s relationship to his wealthy white family? Is it one that I find admirable? Is it one that I find interesting? Is it one that I would like to share if if we built lives together in the long run? Do I think that he lives, generally speaking, a life where he looks to help other people who are not already well connected? Or do I think he’s a little bit of a star fucker, which would not be shocking, given that he’s in his mid 20s, lives in L.A., works in film and comes from a wealthy family like it would not be the most like he’s what he likes, connected. Right people. That’s how could that have happened. So, you know, again, this doesn’t have to be like seeking out that information to make a final judgment about him as a person. But maybe some of the underlying question here is like, generally speaking, how does he treat people? Yeah. Yeah, like if this speaks to a bigger issue, it might be really worth paying attention to. Like, he’s a nice guy. He’s not the worst guy in the world, but he’s a little shallow. And I think in the long run, I’d rather be with somebody else who has slightly different values. That would seem like a really good reason to break up with him. And again, would not mean that you would have to say, like he is the biggest jerk in the world. Or, you know, it may just be that, like, I don’t know how much he complains about his job, if he’s only complaining occasionally, but you just have no patience for it, that might be an opportunity to let something go. If he complains about his job all the time and then hops on the phone and he’s just like, hey, you son of a gun, it’s great to talk to you. You’re the best man as you coax more. Right. Because my understanding of L.A. guys is from like a terrible sketch comedy things in the eighties. Um, like if that’s part of what you’re noticing, you know, that seems like a big thing to to have an opinion about.

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S3: Right. Like a part of me wonders if there is a way to have a conversation, like a reasonable conversation that is like I hear about your job all the time. I’m not that interested in it, you know, that it bothers me like it sounds super privileged and like. Well, I have respect for you and what you do, like I’m trying to get a handle on some of my resentment, but is it possible for me to just hear less about the day to day struggles, you know, while still being supportive of your overall goals to, you know, yeah, maybe some of it’s that he’s just complaining about work too much.

S1: And that’s exacerbating a dynamic. Maybe you want to say, like, you can complain about work if you pay a thousand dollars of my student debt, which I don’t know would work but might be funny, and then. Yeah, like maybe his response to that is something like, yeah, you’re right, I can work on that. Maybe his response to that is like, this is not what I want from a relationship and you to have a big fight and you find out you’re kind of incompatible. But I think, you know, my goal here is not make sure you two stay together at all costs or make sure you two break up tomorrow. It’s more just find out where the weak points are in in this dynamic and figure out either do we agree on different ways we can both bolster those weak points, or is this a sign that our relationship has hit the end of the road?

S3: Right. Right. Like the question is, is a recipe for resentment and bitterness in our relationship. Maybe like, yeah, it depends, right? Yeah.

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S5: Yeah.

S1: Yeah, so I would just say, like it again, it doesn’t even have to be like a a final call on his worth as a person, if you just decide, you know, he is talented, but I just find that I can’t get over the degree to which he has the life he has because of nepotism. And I just I don’t want that in my life. That’s not something that I find hot and compelling and exciting in a partner that kind of fine. And it doesn’t mean he has to quit his job, but it might mean that you two are not going to be partners forever. And I would just I would encourage you to both look for ways to be supportive when you can and also pay real attention to moments where you think this might mean we have incompatible values. And so supportiveness for supportiveness sake is not always a good thing, although I do think you should look for it where you can, but basically if you can’t get over it. Don’t force yourself to get over it. And I don’t know, that’s kind of it I would, you know. Maybe try to see how much a year that you can get them to pay down. Yeah, you’re in your mid 20s, like it’s kind of fine if you break up with him, it’s always fine if you break up with somebody. But I think especially this like, no, this is my partner. I just like, yeah, maybe. Yeah, but mid 20s, you know, maybe not. Yeah. You’re going to be fine. It’s not like they’ve been married for 30 years and it’s like this has been a dynamic at play on the back burner for a long time. And again, even if you’ve been married for 30 years, you can still leave somebody. It’s just like, you know, you’ve only been together at most a couple of years. It is absolutely fine to realize, like, we actually have different priorities and it’s not working out. That’s fine. So speaking of different priorities, non-life threatening, different priorities, the subject of our next letter is smoked out. Dear Prudence, my wife smokes pot daily surreptitiously without our kids knowing it’s legal in our state. So no issue there. However, the smell lingers in the garage despite her spraying Osia, which I had to look up. It is an air freshener that I have never, ever heard of. I am. I am dreading the day that my kids, the oldest, is 12 to find out what she’s doing. I worry that this will psychologically, quote, give them permission and make them more likely to smoke pot underage while their brains are still developing. I’ve told her my concerns and suggested that she try other things like wax, tinctures, gummies, edibles, etc. But she says they’re not strong enough and that she prefers the joints. Am I wrong that this could lead to bad unintended consequences? Any info that might sway her? To me, this one definitely felt like, yeah, you two have a pretty big fundamental difference here in a value. Yes. Which isn’t like one has a good value and one has a bad value. But like you two have very, very different ideas about how much pot a person should smoke. And so I get the like trying to push her in the direction of something that’s not that doesn’t smell quite so familiar. But like, I think that the real argument you’re trying not to have is something like, do we just totally disagree on this? And I’m like scared to find out how far apart we are. Yeah, I think that’s probably the best read on it. You know, I mean, do you do you have the same concern about kids smoking weed a lot. I mean, do you think it’s possible that even if in a year or two or already the kids know she smokes weed, that they’re going to be able to smoke weed to such an extent that it develops it changes how their brains develop?

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S3: Honestly, my first thought was like they might already know. Yeah. So, like, I don’t want to just say I don’t believe like that might be totally true that they might not know, but like kids at 12, they might have been constants already. Like, I don’t know, you know, it’s just it’s not, it wouldn’t surprise me.

S1: It’s a little young. It’s not it’s not unheard of. I started smoking weed when I was 15 and I had some friends at that point who had been smoking weed for several years already, but not most of the kids. And, you know, I don’t want to either be like whatever kids are going to smoke weed, don’t worry about it, or like, oh, my gosh, weed is going to turn them into just like lifelong apathetic couch potatoes who never care about anything. So, you know, I do not have a strong sense on how much weed that you could smoke as an adolescent would affect your brain development. I don’t want to either say like everything about weed is good. And if somebody starts smoking weed at 12:00 every day until they’re thirty, it’s just going to be purely great. But I also don’t want to get too far into, like, the panic of like, oh, no, what if my kids smoke weed when they’re teenagers? Like, they almost certainly will. Yeah. Regardless of whether or not their mom smokes and you can kind of figure out how to do this sort of classic, like, parenting mode of like I don’t want to either oversell how bad weed is so that my kids are like, wow, they were wrong about everything. And I also want to be too permissive. So I would just I mean, to that and I would just say, like, start talking to your kids about weed now, like don’t treat it like this scary forbidden subject that they can’t hear about. Don’t try to either overplay the dangers and also don’t try to seem so chill about it that they just. Don’t care what you think, but start talking to them now, right?

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S3: Yeah, I mean, that also seemed like the most obvious thing was like and maybe they are to some extent, but there’s a way to have this conversation that it’s not just like the sort of obvious drugs are bad. Jokes about drugs are bad. Uh, OK. Maybe, you know, like there’s there’s a way to have a conversation and somewhat of a nuanced way. And like 12 is like maybe a time where that starts to be, you know, they’re not stupid. Yeah.

S1: And I think oftentimes, especially if a parent hasn’t necessarily had a lot of firsthand experience with something like teen drinking, teen sex, teen drug use, the time that parents start to think to talking about their kids, about those things. It’s like you are already like you could have done this three years ago, you know, like I think oftentimes parents hope that this conversation won’t have to come until 15, 16. And it’s like your kids are already going to have heard a lot about weed by then. And that’s not to say like your only job is to, like, bend them to your will at 8:00 so that you can make sure they never do anything that you don’t want them to do. But like 12 is definitely old to be talking to your kids about weed for the first time.

S3: Right. And I do think, like, this is a conversation that, like is just going to have to become more common as like it gets legalized in more and more states, which is not slowing down any time soon.

S1: Right. And you can do all of that without either, like reporting your wife’s weed use to the kids. Like, you don’t have to bring that up in order to have this conversation. The the thing there that might be tricky is I don’t know if she would see eye to eye with you on that. And so you might need to have a conversation with your kids both together and separately, where you’re able to stress like adults, reasonable adults disagree sometimes about marijuana. And, you know, I disagree with your mom. I don’t know. That’s obviously it’s tricky. You want to present a united front, but like maybe you and your wife can talk at least about like, what are things we do agree. We want to tell the kids, like, is there anything that we can agree on and start from there?

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S3: Yeah, I’m kind of curious about like what alcohol consumption is like in the house, too, and like what the conversations are like there, too. And is there a starting point or some kind of middle ground that like because that’s again a common conversation that happened and that like it’s been going on forever. And that is maybe more of a neutral point that there is some understanding of.

S1: Yeah, I think and it really is we’re actually not actually answering the question, which is like how do I change my wife’s mind? And it’s just like. On the one hand, yes, parental drug use can and often does influence the drug use of kids, that’s not nothing. On the other hand, it’s not a guarantee or like fate. You know, I was raised by very strongly anti-drug religious pastors and I started smoking weed as soon as I could get my hands on it. And you know what, quote unquote gave me permission was my sense of like, my parents do not understand pleasure or joy and they have no idea how much fun this stuff is. And they are dumb idiots who are missing out. So not to say like don’t bother trying with your kids, they’re going to do whatever they want. But like, don’t worry so much about what will or won’t give them permission to worry about what you can and do say to them and model for them and make it clear or some house rules. And then like, could this lead to bad unintended consequences? I mean, I don’t think it’s an unintended consequence. I think it sounds like you don’t really smoke weed and your wife is a daily user. And that’s a pretty big difference between the two of you. And you don’t think it’s very good and your wife does. And the question is like, what will that do to the kids? It’s like that is a good question. You and your wife have super different values on this subject.

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S3: Yeah. And any info that might sway her, I’m not sure that is what we are providing here today.

S1: Yeah, and it’s just like there’s so little information about like, is this something she does purely recreationally? Is this something that she does because of like chronic pain? Is this something that she does to help manage other conditions? Like what are her feelings about it? Do you do you find that her like maintenance level of weed use makes her physically impaired in terms of like memory or judgment? Or do you find that she, like, functions fairly, like in a way that you would find indistinguishable from an average non high person, all of which would be, I think, very relevant questions.

S3: I mean, the first time I read this, I read it very quickly and not to belabor the comparison with alcohol, but my first thought was like, well, what if it had been like, you know, my wife enjoys a gin and tonic every day, but I’m a little concerned about how strong they are. So I’m thinking, what if I recommended, you know, a glass of wine or champagne every night? Anything you could recommend to help, you know?

S1: Yeah, I mean, if not, like the kids notice that mom disappears to the garage every day and that it smells differently. I’m sure they already knew that when they were quite young. I’m sure they’ve known it for a long time. They may or may not all know consciously what it means, but they know what’s happening. Like give yourself the gift of no longer fooling yourself into thinking. You will be giving them new information. Just at most. You’ll be giving them some context. You know, maybe you could try to push a vague pen, but again, you can only suggest it and they’re still going to be some smell. So it’s really just a question of like, am I going to convince my wife, who’s been using weed daily for what sounds like years to stop? No, I don’t think so. I think you should probably give up on that one. Right. And try to figure out what else you want to do in light of the belief that this will not change and that I don’t you know, I can’t like daily. Yeah. As you were saying, that could be the equivalent of having a cocktail a day, which might be hard for some people, but I would not say rises to the level of like troubling behavior. Or it might be like she smokes weed all day, kind of every day. And again, that’s not necessarily a horrible outcome. It’s also understandable that that’s not something you like. But the question there is really just like you should be talking to your partner about that. Right.

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S3: It could be with more information, maybe it is, but given what we know, it sounds like everyone’s probably OK.

S1: Yeah, yeah. And I think just whatever might not be OK is just only saying that you two can talk about. But I think you should talk about with the understanding that you are not going to change her relationship to pot substantially and that either that’s OK or is hard but will be OK, or if that feels like unbearable to you, that it might be time for a bigger conversation of like. Hey, how much of our marriage has been based on my misguided belief that you were about to quit and it’s hard to because I like I feel part of me just wants to be like, look, man, it’s weed. It’s not a bad thing. But I also understand that it can change the way that somebody behaves. And without saying like it’s necessarily like a bad or damaging thing, I can certainly understand why somebody would want their partner to smoke all the time. So. I feel very wishy washy today, just another day in a pandemic, just another day. Yeah, yeah. I mean, maybe you can try to, like, sell the vape pen as like, you know, look out for your lungs because of covid thing. And, you know, that might help. But, you know, you just I think generally, like scare tactics do not help sway people out of a habit. Right. And. Really, the solution to your problem is just talking a lot to your kids and to your wife, even if those conversations don’t always result in perfect unanimity, at least they result in knowing a lot about what the others are thinking and not feeling like. There’s this big, awful taboo off limits topic of conversation, which I think is the thing you should really be worried about with your kids is the sense of like they all know Mom smokes all the time, but nobody ever talks about it. You know, try not to have things that nobody ever talks about in your family. That’s my best advice.

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S3: Can I ask you a question, please? You know, we didn’t get so much of this today, but I am curious, having gone back and listen to some old episodes in somewhat preparation for this. How much time do you spend thinking about the people who write in who seem sort of so? I don’t know if I want to say unprepared or like they don’t have a sense of who they’re writing to or a sense of maybe what they’re they haven’t really thought through who they’re like, what they’re trying to get out of there. Ask perhaps I.

S1: I do give a lot of thought to that because I would say some of the letters I do get does feel like, oh, you have only barely begun to scratch the surface of your problem or I’m a little surprised that you thought I might be receptive to the way that you’ve framed this. And with the first category, it’s much more often a sense of I find that very relatable. I often don’t realize what my problem is until I’m in the middle of it and it’s as bad as it can be. I have had a number of experiences to where I felt like when someone first brought to my attention like, no, no, no, I think I’m really right here. And then I reflect, I think more. And I’m like, Oh, I am not really right here. I just really thought that I was. And those moments are always really like. They’re hard, they’re they’re really hard and it’s easy to see in somebody else and often very hard to see in yourself. The ones where it feels like somebody is like, man, did you know that you were writing to me because I’ve made my opinions about this thing pretty clear, depending on what that is, I can either find it kind of charming or kind of like, oh, I can be really helpful here, or sometimes a sense of who are you thinking? Yeah, it really, really does depend. And yeah, I don’t know, I feel very in touch lately with my own, like the way in which I can be very much like a letter writer, like when I realized I in the middle of like self-righteous indignation like oh no, I’m very mistaken. Like I do it too. I always feel justified right up until the moment where I think, fuck, I think I’m wrong. So all of that is just to say being wrong sometimes feels a lot like being right. Yeah. And I wish that it didn’t. I wish there was a little objective wrongness button that would alert me over my head when I’m wrong. Let me. Nice. Yeah. Well we can only hope indeed. Well then that’s it. Max, thank you so much.

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S3: Yeah. Thank you for having me. It was good to be back in the booth in the you know. You know what I mean. The emotional, the emotional toll booth. I totally get you.

S6: 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, 30 seconds a minute, tops. Thanks for listening.

S4: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. What’s tricky here, I think, is there’s several issues going on at once, like if somebody were writing and were saying, I have a difficult time talking on the phone to my elderly relatives because they’re hard of hearing out of a very different answer about working to accommodate somebody is hard of hearing ness versus I have a hard time talking to my older relatives because they say racist things. So those are two really separate issues. And then, of course, when you’re talking to somebody on the phone and they are hard of hearing and you want to talk to them about something racist, they just said that is an additional logistical challenge to saying, like Aunt Ruth, that was really racist. I objected to it. It doesn’t make those things impossible, but it is difficult. And then there’s also that question of like I both don’t know how to address these things in the moment. And then I also want my siblings to get off my back. So there’s there’s like multiple sometimes competing interests in this letter. To listen to the rest of that conversation, join Slate plus now at Slate dot com forward slash Prudy part.