S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership. Lucky you.
S2: Your prudence, prudence here, prudence here, put into your proof here. Do you think that I should contact him again? Help! Help! Thank you. Thank you.
S1: Hello and welcome back to The Dear Prudence Show once again. And as always, I am your host. Dear Prudence, also known as Daniel M. Laverick. With me in the studio this week is Peter Losa, an incoming postdoctoral fellow at the University of Southern California, where he just defended his dissertation when a handshake meant something. Lawyers, dealmaking and the emergence of new Hollywood. Peter, welcome to the show. Hi, Daddy. I’m really excited to be here. I’m thrilled. And I love, by the way, the title, just like I’m picturing Fred MacMurray saying that like it was when a handshake meant something.
S3: It’s a very just like a big book, corporate boardroom of people meeting in big piles of paper and everything. And that’s that’s when I decided to spend six and a half years of my life trying to trying to figure out.
S1: I’m thrilled that you did. Thank you. I’m also excited that we double checked with each other before the show that we were both recording, because finally last week, I did the thing I’ve been living in fear of, which is that I appeared as a guest on somebody else’s podcast. And at the end of it, they had said to me, hey, whenever you get the chance, send over your recording. Well, we had discussed prior to doing the show and I said, oh, no, I didn’t record it at all.
S3: I, I have been on a couple podcasts before where I’ve been the person who is the solo recorder and I just forgot to hit record and then having to apologize my guess and be. Can we please repeat. Forty five minutes of content.
S1: Yeah. I mean obviously on the grand scale of problems you can have, it’s not the biggest. But certainly in terms of just like, oh, I just wasted somebody else’s hour and a half. It’s not a great feeling. Not not good at all. But we’re already doing better than that. And I’m gonna get a chance to redo it all. She was very, very accommodating and understanding. So given that we are already doing better than I was doing last week, I feel confident that today is gonna go great.
S4: I think we’re going to help a lot of good people here. We’ve got what I am calling the era of difficult phone calls, it seems.
S1: It is, yeah. We’re all having to like relearned phone etiquette and phone problems, I think. So this is timely. Would you read our first letter?
S4: Of course. I would be happy to subject line. How do I jump off the grid for a week? Dear Prudence, I’m the only person in my family that gets along with everybody as a result. I am the first person anyone contacts when they want to talk. I’m also a teacher under quarantine. It’s been two of the toughest months of my entire career and I’m rung out. I want to take a week off the grid this summer. Work stuff is easy. I can setup an out of office email reply, but I’m not sure how to tell my family, particularly my elderly relatives, that I need a week to recharge. If I use the word unreachable, I’ll be met with a course of what if questions. And the reality of Koven 19 is that I do feel the need to be reachable in case of an emergency. So part of what I’m grappling with is the guilt I’m feeling for even asking for time on my own. Do you think there’s a way I could set up a week away or partially away? So I’m honoring my family’s fears and worries while also allowing myself some time to reset.
S1: I could feel this person’s stress radiating off of this letter.
S3: It’s it’s always really tough to be like the super reliable one. And like a group of friends or family. And I really empathize with the person who everyone kind of expects to always be there. And then you need your moment to just, like, take off. And it’s like. But you feel you could never do that, right?
S1: I do think, by the way, just to set this up. I think this is totally reasonable. I do think it’s achievable. And I want to encourage the letter writer to move away from already like they’re already trying to kind of undercut themselves, like maybe I could do a week away or partially away, like they’ve already kind of bargains themselves down from their original desire.
S3: There’s not like a lot of emotional content that needs to be sort of like taken in this question. I feel like this is just kind of setting these clear boundaries of sort of logistics more than anything. And it’s just kind of because it seems like the issue is kind of like Uncle Jerry really, really wants to talk for an hour and really likes to talk for an hour more than it’s an issue of like someone’s gonna be really emotionally hurt if they’re told, hey, I need to, you know, limit our phone call time for just this week.
S1: Right. So there’s the kind of issue of how do I let my family know I need a vacation from them, too, without hurting their feelings? And then also, how do I set up an actual way of getting in touch with me? Should an emergency arise, which might happen?
S3: I feel like, though, the problem that might come up with this is it seems to be that this person is the person, the family who gets along with everybody. And I feel like there’s a problem of conflicts because my first thought was like, oh, maybe who’s the second in command? Who is the person that can rely? But then it kind of becomes like a series of like, you know, this person calls this person and this person calls that person. I feel like that can maybe get a little complicated. And maybe that’s why the letter writer is having this trouble thinking through the whole process.
S1: Yeah, yeah. I think my suggestion there would be you don’t need to solve that whole problem. You just need your week. So in terms of figuring out what are they going to do for that week, I think there’s some stuff that the letter writer can kind of let go of. So I think the thing to do is just to to frame it like this. I need a vacation. It’s challenging to take a vacation when I can’t leave the house. So I’m setting up a slightly, you know, artificial system whereby I’m gonna be totally unplugged. I really need this. I’m really looking forward to it. I hope it’s gonna be really good. So I just wanted you all to know in advance there’s going to be a week this summer where I won’t be available to chat and catch up. I’ll look forward to catching up with you guys the week after. If there’s an emergency, please contact and then think about the person you would want to kind of act in your stead. Again, this is just for like if there is a matter of life and death. This is the person to get in touch with. They will contact me, will have arranged beforehand like a signal for you need to come out of your hibernation. But that’s it. And so then you don’t have to worry about like, how do I tell them? Here’s who I think you can talk to instead of me during this week. Like you can let them solve that problem. You just need to come with them with a really clear sense of here’s the vacation I’m taking. Here’s the way in which I’ll be taking it. Can’t wait to talk to you afterwards. Here’s the thing you’ll do in an emergency and that will hopefully anticipate all the possible objections that they would have. Does that strike you as reasonable?
S3: Yeah, I think that’s along the lines of what I was thinking for the letter writer. I think the fact that the letter writer is willing to kind of be available in some way is actually a plus in trying to sort of solve the situation, even if, like, they should actually be more delineating on boundaries. But I think, yeah, just inform relatives like who they should contact. You know, that one person hopefully is not also someone who likes to talk on the phone a lot, but understand. But the person that the letter writer trusts to kind of keep the distance from everybody, I think would really, really kind of just get everything in order. And I think this person is just trying to be very, very attentive to all the needs of their family. And it’s kind of understanding, oh, I kind of need to be attentive to myself for just a bit. And I think I think maybe even just putting a little more trust in the family might solve everything. And then the letter writer will have this great week.
S4: Everything will be fine. Nobody will get sick. They’ll feel totally ready to take as many phone calls from family members afterwards.
S1: Yeah. And I think maybe the best thing to do in terms of passing this information along is I would recommend emailing everybody. And again, if you don’t want to. Long email thread where everyone’s replying or being like, I can’t believe you put me on a thread with Andorra. You know, you can either be O.S.S. everybody or like have a template where everyone gets the same information, even slightly personalize it, but do it in such a way that I think you’re giving them this information in writing so that they can refer to it. And also because it would be, I think, kind of counterproductive to do like nine kind of tiring phone calls just to let everyone know you’re taking the vacation. I think it might be actually a little easier for you, since it sounds like. Maybe there’s sometimes a tendency to cave in person or over the phone. Might be easier for you to say this is what I’m doing. If you have it written down. And again, if you just frame it as like, I’m so excited about this, this is going to be such a good way for me to, like, really dive into solitude, reflection, contemplating the year to come. You know, people will tend to, I think, take that lead from you. If you frame it as like this is a very exciting, positive thing that I am doing that centers solitude rather than this is a thing I’m doing to get away from you all because I’m exhausted.
S3: Yeah, I think that’s a really great way. It’s just kind of kind of almost punting and saying, hey, I really need your help with this thing that I’m trying to do. Can you help me in this way? I think, you know, kind of getting everyone to feel like they’re participating strangely in a way and doing something that’s helpful for the letter writer. We’ll be much more well-received than sort of trying to be like, I need you to back away from me.
S1: Right. Right. And I’m definitely an advocate. I think sometimes in situations like this of doing that like slightly like putting a little spin on something in order to make people feel like, oh, this is something I should be excited about, which is maybe not always the route you want to take. If this were a different situation, it was like, I need to let some of my relatives know I can’t take all of these calls. I would maybe have different advice. But in this situation, when it’s kind of a one off opportunity and you’re not looking to redirect all of them all the time, I think a little spin is fine. Definitely. So this next one, by the way, I have just been sitting with because I still actually right now, I’m not 100 percent sure what my advice is going to be. So this is exciting. It’s my turn to read. And I don’t know what I want to say. All right. The subject is money and trust. Dear Prudence, I was left in charge of the educational trust our mother left for her grandchildren. She believed wholeheartedly in education and left instructions that the money only be used for that purpose. My brother’s two children went to college. My sister’s kids wasted everything. The oldest bounced from major to major until the money ran out. Never graduated. The second one went to three different trade schools and ended up managing a gas station, and the youngest failed high school. All the kids are now in their 20s. There’s a large amount of money left in the trust. My youngest nephews share. He’s now expecting a child and my sister wants me to cash out the trust so he can get a car and have money for the baby. My brother’s oldest daughter is going for her master’s. I know our late mother’s wishes would be to help my niece over her cousin. She and my sister spent the last years of her life fighting over what our mother called her entitlement. My sister would demand money for her debts and my mother would deny her requests. I’m honestly tired of dealing with my sister and her kids. They have no shame and no appreciation for the sacrifices that their grandparents had to make. My wife thinks we should hold the money for the baby’s college. What should I do? My first thought here is to consult a lawyer or a legal expert of some kind, because my guess is if there’s like if this trust was genuinely earmarked for education, it may be illegal to take out money for other purposes.
S3: Yeah, that was my first thought. So let’s check in with a lawyer. Not to say that they’re going to solve everything for this person, but they’re going to solve at least like, I think, certain issues of like. I literally cannot give this to you in X or Y form because of the rules written into the trust. And that could at least start to alleviate some of the situation. Yeah, absolutely. The other thing that I to say before it kind of diving into, I think the pathways that the Letteri should take is there. I do think this the Letteri needs a small reality check when they say that the kids wasted everything, the sister’s kids, because like, you know, sometimes exploring education is not necessarily the same thing as squandering. Like a lot of people bounce from major to major. Some people go to a trade school and it doesn’t work out. I don’t think that they necessarily wasted it. I think the grandmother may, you know, have wanted them to finish their education and their college, but not, you know, college is not necessarily for everyone. And I don’t think that’s necessarily the same thing as wasting as kind of implied here.
S1: Right. I felt the same way. I think especially like, you know, the second one went to a couple of trade schools and now manages a gas station like he has a job. He’s a manager, you know, like he’s he’s he’s working. He’s he’s taking care of himself, failing high school. I don’t know what went on there, but high school is really challenging. I think most people who fail high school are like struggling young people rather than just somebody who’s like, I loved failing out of high school. I had a great time. I really enjoyed it. Like, I got all the help I needed and just didn’t give a shit. Like, I feel like without saying you have to sign off on, although the choices that they’ve made, I agree that there’s room there to. Let go of your investment or judgment in how these kids may struggle with college or with trade school or what kind of jobs they do or don’t have. I think the pattern that I saw of like the pattern that the letter writers mother had with the sister is one that I think the letter writer would be I think would be good for you to not get caught in that same cycle, right?
S3: Yeah. I think the question, though, is like, how does the money go? And this is kind of gets to like the question of like, what is an education? Because I think one of the worries I have for this letter writer is that, you know, we can earmark this money for the, I guess, the nephew’s child to go to college 18, 19 years from now. I’m partially worried about that because it may be that, you know, because, you know, it takes so much money to raise a child these days and is kind of crazy is like that’s a lot of waiting for an investment that, you know, you know, maybe the child ends up failing out of high school. So, you know, the money is still just kind of sitting there and you’re still kind of wrapped with guilt. So, I mean, I don’t know if this would work and everything, but my first thought was like, can this go? Maybe not, you know, directly into the bank accounts or anything. But like early education programs. Right. Like preschools. Really, really important. Really, really expensive. Like, is there some way that the letter writer could even just like be like, I can’t give you this money except for education. However, like, education can be thought of as a really, really broad set of choices.
S1: Yeah. I think my my only shift there would be I would say first, I think the literates should find out legally what they can and can’t do. But really, I think the thing the letter writer needs in this situation is you need to not be in charge of this educational trust anymore. Like, it sounds like what you want is to not be involved in these squabbles or disagreements over who deserves the money, who doesn’t what what kind of education is worth paying for, like a masters now for someone else versus college for a baby in 18 years. It really just sounds like mostly what this person wants is to not have to make these calls or get involved in these kinds of arguments. So I think the second thing I would encourage you to ask that lawyer is like, how do you resign from from being the steward of the executor of a trust? Because presumably you’re allowed to write like you don’t have to be the executor of something if you’ve decided it’s too much.
S3: No, I don’t think you I think there’s some way to. So quote unquote, change. Transfer. I mean, yeah, you can sign over your executor. Whoever you want, I guess is like really the question at the end of the day. So I think that’s definitely an approach. I think yeah. I think this person is just very, very tired of dealing with their sister, dealing with like having to make these difficult decisions that, you know, I doubt their mother even anticipated having to make. And I don’t think I think right now this person’s kind of struggling because they want to just kind of change their sister’s behavior. And that’s something you can’t do. You can’t really change, but you can at least change the circumstances in which you have the control over having to make these decisions.
S1: Yeah. And I think yeah, I think it’s hard when it’s like I feel like I’m in the position of I have to, as long as there’s money in this account, continually act as my mother’s proxy. And it just if this were me and I were feeling like I’ve been doing this for years, it’s mostly been exhausting. It mostly causes fights. I would find out like legally what can I and can’t I use this money for? So that I had a really clear picture of what I couldn’t get and do. And then just look into I’ve been the executor here for years. It’s exhausting. I’m done. And even if your siblings get upset with you for that, that feels like a fight you’d be maybe more prepared to have. Just like this has been a lot of extra work for me and I’m done with it. And, you know, I’m willing to take your input into who should take over. Maybe you are. Maybe you weren’t. So don’t say that if you’re not wealthy, but then you can just kind of stand by your decision and say, like, I get that you don’t like it, but I was the executor. It was my prerogative to step down. This person is now committed to carrying out the initial, like interests of the trust. I’m no longer in charge. You’re gonna have to take it up with someone else. I just think that’s probably gonna be your best way out here.
S3: Yeah, that that sounds about right. Like, let let the law, as we conceive of it in this broad circumstance of, you know, nebulous rules and loopholes. Do do the work for you.
S1: Yeah. Yeah. It’s just this sounds like a job that you don’t enjoy or get a lot out of. I think you should quit. Walk away. All right. Let’s move on to a totally different topic. And this time I’m pretty sure it’s your turn to read it.
S4: You are correct in that one. All right. Subject line. My dear friend, the weapons maker, Dear Prudence, a dear friend of mine and I both. Recently graduated college. She told me she was going to be a radio engineer. She always wanted to work in aerospace. So I was proud. She claimed her new company is, quote, unlikely to be creating tech for the military, although they are a big defense contractor. And if anything, she would help with planes. She seems well intentioned, if a bit questionable. But recently, her dad made a Facebook post on her birthday saying how proud he is that his daughter is going to be a radio. And weapons engineer. I am so ashamed that she would help make weapons. And I’m angry because she lied to me. What really gets me is that she is also anti military. She knows what she’s doing. I understand that she’s getting into debt from getting her degree, but she’s choosing to contribute to imperialism and needless war to get out of debt. She’s going to help create the weapons that kill people. I’m disgusted. How do I even begin to approach this with her?
S1: This one feels it’s as painful as it is. Pretty straightforward. You tell your friend, I’m angry that you’re gonna be making weapons and I’m angry that you lied to me about it. My values are such that I don’t think it’s right to make weapons like that. That’s it. Right. That’s the fight you have.
S3: Basically, I feel it’s escalated without communication between these two. It seems like that seems to be the problem here. And a little way is that the you know, the the letter writer read the Post that the dad put up and then it was like up. This is this is what’s going on. And I feel like this is just a simple conversation. I think it’s one that, again, we’re kind of putting the people together like, quote, like, I know we’re both anti military and we’ve discussed this. And so I just need some clarification about what you’re doing at your job.
S1: Yeah. And I mean, I think it may be a fight. It may not go well. You may not convince her not to do it, but you also might or you might plant a seed for her to reconsider later. I think, you know, given the information that she’s working for a defense contractor and making planes, you know, planes carry weapons. So it’s not like, um, it’s not like it would have been fine or not a contradiction of your values if she was just making planes for the military.
S3: I don’t know if you’ve seen the Studio Ghibli film The Wind Rises about the guy who designed the kamikaze planes and then what were to for Japan. And like his whole idea is like, oh, I’m making these great artistic objects that are just these beautiful planes that, of course, we’re like super destructive.
S1: I haven’t seen that one. I’ve seen Perko Rossie, which I really enjoy. And I know I think that Miyazaki has a lot of like thoughtful meditations about like pacifism and war in a lot of his movies.
S3: But I think this friend is in denial. And I think partially because, like, the way that these companies are set up in the way the capital is set up to, quote, you know, alienate us from the products of our labor, I feel like this person that’s maybe working at this company doesn’t see that their work and is doesn’t see the line of the chain of command of where their work fits into this whole project of the company. And I think just almost that way, this conversation might just be the pride for the the friend to kind of realize what they’re doing.
S1: But yeah, yeah, yeah. I would ultimately say, you know, if if your values, which I think I would share in your situation, are I don’t want to be distracted by whether and I don’t want to get into a sort of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin argument about like, well, I’m not exactly making the bomb and making the plane that would carry the bomb. You know, you don’t have to try to split hairs about that. You can state your objections. Tell her that you’re confused and, you know, ask her what she thinks. What is she doing? How does this line up with her values? And then you can you can have a fight about it. This is a good thing to fight about with somebody you care about. It’s important. It speaks to your core values. And it’s not something that you can just paper over and say, like, no biggie. So have this fight. Be honest. Speak both calmly where you can and don’t go to kind of you the last resort of like you’re evil and I hate you, but speak clearly about why you think that this is wrong and then give her the opportunity to respond. And then depending on what her response is, you can see if there’s a future to this friendship or there there isn’t. But I think that’s kind of it. I think you just there’s no way through this but to have conflict.
S3: It feels like the friend and this person have had this conversation about their feelings about the military before. So it’s not even like this is we don’t know each other’s values unless maybe that’s what this conversation reveals, as though, oh, maybe our values are just genuinely different. And that’s the point where then you’re going to have to make, I guess, really the tough decision. It’s like, well, is this enough that I really do need to end this friendship? And I feel like the letter writer is heading toward that point, if that’s the case, that there’s just no way to sort of square these two, this friendship with. This ideology.
S1: Yeah, yeah. So, you know, the only way out of this one is through it. And I wish you the best. I hope your friend listens to you. I hope she finds other work.
S4: It’s a it’s a tough job market, but I feel like she’s got transferable skills.
S1: Yeah, there are a lot of other things you can build. Let’s move on to a nice. Easy. Great.
S3: I love this question because this is just like I have one line on my notes here. So it’s just like you’re just a good person and they’re great.
S1: Yeah. OK. OK. So the subject line of this one is dinner for new parents, Dear Prudence. A colleague of mine and his wife had a baby just before our state’s stay at home order went to affect their families, live outside the country. And so they’ve had no help and seen no one during quarantine. I had a baby myself last fall, and I know just how hard those first few months can be, especially without help. I’ve arranged with them to deliver meals a few times. I just left food on the porch and texted to let them know it was there and I’d really like to keep doing it. But I don’t want to impose through a low pressure way of offering to do this weekly. They’ve had deliveries from one or two other colleagues, meal train style, but I’m pretty sure those were one offs. I can only imagine the additional stress and fatigue of isolation combined with a newborn. I’d love to do what I can to make things just a little easier. Am I overthinking this? So that’s a totally thoughtful things we want to consider. I think what you want to do is great. And I also really understand that you don’t want to impose. But I think all you have to do is just ask them what you asked us. It was easy for me to do. I’d love to keep doing it regularly. Does that work for you?
S4: Yeah. And I think, like, if anything, once you have this phone call, maybe it’s just like checking in, like is their preferred protocol. But it seems like they already have something set up. Do you want any paper or plastic? If that’s necessary. But it seems like, you know, this person is being an absolute superstar and helping out. I’m sure this couple. I, I was trying to I was working on these questions to my girlfriend. We were trying to figure out, like, is there a way that we could see that the couple in the that had the baby might say no and might feel like it’s a little too imposing. And like, I guess it’s possible. But I also feel like then you asked you can feel like you were more than open to doing and you can always say, well, I’ll leave the door open if you know you want to youdecide elsewise. But I think you should totally just get on the phone, tell them what you told us. And yeah. And I’m sure they’ll be happy to accept the offer.
S1: Yeah, I think so too. And if they say no, you know, take them at their word, assume that they really are holding up OK and have whatever food arrangements are working for them. And then you can either say, well, let me know if there’s anything else you ever need. I’m always available to run the occasional errand. And then if you still kind of feel like I wish I could be helpful to somebody, maybe reach out to your local food bank or organizations like the mutual aid organizations that might be popping up in your city to see if there’s other households that are in need that you might be able to help out with. I’m not suggesting that, like, if they say no, go become like a full time volunteer and make meals for 100 people every week. But that’s just one option. If this particular avenue, you know, if they turn out to not need as much help and you’re like, oh, I wanna help somebody, there’s opportunities to do that elsewhere. But this is great. It’s not an offensive question. If they want to say no, they’ll just say no.
S3: And I know there’s a lot of restaurants right now that have sort of options where you can, you know, add extra donation or I know a couple of the restaurants here in Oakland are doing where you buy a meal for a health worker, for homeless to help out in any way. So, you know, you can almost like there’s so many different ways to help out. If you’re if this couple decides that they they’re good, they’re OK, they’ll be fine. You know, help someone else and we’ll be we’ll take care of it just fine.
S1: But it’s not like an intrusive offer. It’s not I didn’t read this and think like, oh, that would be a weird thing to do for a colleague. No, you’re totally within reasonable limits here. So good luck. Yeah. Yeah, that was lovely. I’m so glad. I hope I always have a question like that every week. That’s just nice and easy. Will you take our next letter?
S4: All right. This one’s a little tougher subject line. Need to mourn alone. Dear Prudence, I lost my dog last weekend after a very brief illness. I had him for over 13 years and it was fairly sudden. My mom also really loved the dog, referring to him as her, quote, grand dog and watched him a lot while I was away from work because of Cauvin, 19. She wasn’t able to say goodbye to him. Now she calls multiple times a day to ask me to recount the final moments of his life over and over. She also asked repeatedly for me to send all the pictures of him I can find. I know she just wants to feel like she was there, but it’s painful and it’s too much to keep reliving this. How can I ask her to back off without dismissing her grief? She’s pretty easily offended and I tend to be a little too blunt. I want to be gentle with her, but I need some space to let my own grief settle in. I’m not sure how to communicate that without hurting her feelings.
S1: So this does not strike me as a too blunt request.
S4: I’m really sorry this person lost her dog. It sounds like they probably had a really, really good dog.
S3: And I think it’s just I feel like part of the issue here is that the letter writer has problems in the past communicating with their mother in slightly blunt terms.
S4: And I I know this from my own personal experience that I can be a little blunt with my mom more than I necessarily mean to just because that’s sometimes how these relationships go. And I think it’s just going to be communicating openly and honestly here.
S1: Yeah, I think pretty much the same thing. I think in terms of like sending her the pictures, what you can do there say like. When I’m able to sit down and look through them without falling apart, I will send them to you. I will let you know when I’m ready to do that. In the meantime, please respect that. I need time so that, you know, that’s something where you can say, look, you will get those pictures. I want to send them to you. I need a little time to do it. And then the other thing, which is just I’m not able to walk you through his last day again today. That is a lot to do. It may hurt her feelings. And I get that that will feel hard. But there’s again, that’s the only way through this, as you just have to say, like, mom, I can’t keep having this conversation with you day after day. I understand that you’re hurting. I’m hurting, too. I want you to be able to talk about this with other people in your life. I’m not trying to tell you how to feel. I’m just letting you know. I can’t do this day after day. I need to call them, you know, hit a moratorium button. Sorry. You don’t need to use that word. But I couldn’t think of a synonym quickly enough. I can’t keep doing that. So if you want to call and just talk about other things, I’m available. But I need a break.
S3: And I’m not sure if this has been part of the issue, but I wonder if the letter writer can acknowledge the mother’s grief to her like something along the lines of like, quote, like, I know how much it hurts you that you couldn’t be there. Right. Just to sort of to sort of set the terms of the conversation that, like the letter writer, you know, maybe hasn’t acknowledged the mother’s grief at all and maybe just acknowledging her grief will help her be able to realize that she needs maybe step back for a second. And so because once the letter writer acknowledges the mother’s grief, then the letter writer can maybe acknowledge their own grief in the way that they need to process. And that might, again, kind of like the first question, helped bring the mother into the process by backing away a little.
S1: Mm hmm. Did you hear that? I do think my read is if the letter writers been taking calls from their mother multiple times a day and talking about what that last day of the dog’s life was, might, might read there was that they had already done that. So I agree that the conversation should definitely start with an acknowledgement of how hard it is for the mom. But it does seem to me like the letter writer has already been doing that. So advice there would be the same. I just I think the letter writer has already been doing that. And so then I just think that’s what you need to tell your mom you need. And if her response to that is no, I’m so upset that you have to talk to me four times a day about the death of your dog, you can lovingly say, no, I think that’s hard. It can sometimes feel like I know how to be blunt and say no to my mom or I know how to offer space for her feelings and give her whatever she wants. And I don’t really know how to combine the two because it is difficult. It can feel difficult to say no lovingly. It feels like we’ll know isn’t loving. But it is it is it’s it’s an okay, an appropriate and a kind thing to do. It’s not cruel. It’s not withholding, it’s not dismissive, it’s not indifferent. You’ve given her a lot of room to grieve very messily on you. And now you need to say I love you. I know this is so hard. I know you wanted to be with him. It’s not that we can never talk about the dog again, but I can’t keep taking these calls where we relive his last hours. So those need to stop. And I will let you know in a little while when I’m ready to send you the pictures. Absolute. That’s loving, I think.
S4: Yeah. I mean, is like the first thing I ever learned in therapy is you can’t control other people’s feelings and emotions. You can only control your own. And I feel like the letter writer honestly to here.
S1: I’m still holding out hope that I can.
S4: It’s the I’m sure the pharmaceutical companies are working on it, but I think this is just going to be it’s gonna be a sucky conversation and you’re going to have it. And maybe the mom will change or, you know, stance a little bit. Maybe she won’t. But you’ll feel better once you’ve had the conversation.
S1: Yeah. Yeah. And if she were to keep pushing those boundaries, you know, if she called and started doing it again, you would then just be able to say, Mom, we’ve talked about this. I love you, but I’m going to have to hang up the phone. And again, the sampling, that’s not mean. OK. All right. This last question, I will admit, fuels certain stereotypes. I have had about people who work in the tech community.
S4: I’m pretty sure this is a problem from, like, the logic puzzles they put on the outset. I’m like ninety five percent sure it’s from there.
S1: I mean. Yeah. All it needs is like a fox, a chicken and a bag of rain. Yeah. And we’re ready to go. So the subject is who should stop cooking? Dear Prudence. I live in a house with three roommates. There’s one medium sized kitchen. All four of us work in tech and used to eat most of our meals at the work cafeteria. Now that we’re working from home indefinitely, we’re all vying for cooking space and time. Three meals per day for three different people was adding up to a lot of conflict over space and smells that hadn’t been an issue before. We agreed we’d rotate kitchen hours and allocate based on greatest need, but now we’re stuck. Surprisingly, none of us ranked ourselves as highest need. But there’s still a three way tie. Roommate A has a very low paying job in tech and can’t afford to eat out frequently in our expensive city. Roommate B makes more money but has food allergies that make takeout potentially dangerous. Roommate C is also social distancing with his girlfriend, a nurse who’s likely been exposed and no one wants him bringing the hospital germs into the kitchen. I’m Roommate D, so I’m the tiebreaker. Who should they pick as the winner of more cooking hours? Are we missing a better solution? I know this may sound ridiculous, but the issue is really affecting quality of life in an already cramped household. So I think the first question that I had was what is this social distancing practice of roommates sees? It doesn’t I’m unclear on what’s happening there. Is she living with you all? But just staying in his room?
S4: Is she going to get milk or anything?
S1: Or is he going over to her place? Like I. I know I don’t want to go too far down that rabbit hole. I’m just I’m I’m a little confused. Were you confused there as well?
S4: Yeah. I mean, it just seems like there is an agreement between the four roommates that this roommate C should not be cooking as much and should be more relying on takeout or something. But I feel like trying to pick this winner between this group is kind of like insane making. And I feel like there’s the good and the bad here. I think the good is like it seems that there’s some communication between these four roommates and they seem to be amicable based on the fact that, like, none of them ranked themselves as like a higher need.
S3: So, like, there’s some sense that, like we’re, you know, trying to adjust for each other. But the same point, this question that, like Roommate D, the letter writer needs to decide for everyone, and that’s going to be the law of the land. It’s not like I feel the best approach to this situation.
S1: Right. I mean, like one of the thoughts that I was struck with was like, why not approach this from a slightly more collaborative yes spirit and try to occasionally make meals together?
S4: Yeah, I had this great idea. I’d like let’s everyone needs to share meals. If, you know, like Roommate A is worried about the money, like, why don’t you just like, you know, just like the costs for everyone. But like, you know, this is the thing where like pasta salads roasting a chicken, like, you know, double check it means there’s an end all be allergies. Like this is the thing. We’re like if everyone meal plans together, like, I feel like this is very, very solvable.
S1: Yeah. And again, I realize that, like, you’re all in a new situation, you haven’t been cooking for yourselves independently for a very long time. So joining together is also bringing up a lot of new issues. And I’m not suggesting you all have to eat the same meal morning, noon and night every day of the week. But man, wouldn’t it be easier if like three nights a week you all agreed to, like, take turns making dinner for the house? Yeah. And like, you know, everybody could kind of rotate there. And, you know, I imagine it wouldn’t be too difficult to incorporate Roommate B’s food allergies just as a kind of given. Like you don’t say they’re allergic to like 20 different things that would make food impossible for the rest of you. So it might be possible for you to all treat the kitchen as like an allergy free space to whatever extent that’s possible, or at least minimally allergen presence. But but, yeah, that strikes me as one obvious solution is to go in together on at least some of your meals each week so that everyone’s rotating like cooking for the house, doing the dishes. So it’s not just like four separate people going in and making four separate dinners every night.
S4: I mean, there’s gonna be less to clean. They’re gonna save money. I feel like this is like a great moment for these four tech people who are all in industries that are all individualistic to try forming a commune. And then I feel it’s a chance for the tech industry to just try communism and it all work out in the end.
S1: Yeah, yeah. And I realize you’re not going to, as a household, introduce communism overnight and no one has to. You know, you don’t all have to march in lockstep over this, but there’s definitely you can move a little bit closer towards the COMMUN approach. I think, yeah, that that strikes me as one way that it would really cut down on the time you only to spend in the kitchen. So I would float that as an idea. See how your roommates feel about it. Start with like what if two nights a week we all make dinner together, see how that goes. And if those nights work better than the other nights, maybe we can ramp it up. And again, you’re all used to eating in cafeterias or doing takeout more often and having other people handle the cooking and prep and clean up. So it will be a learning curve. But I promise you, you are all capable of figuring this out. Even if the meals aren’t all gourmet, you’ll be able to find ways to make like good, relatively inexpensive meals. There’s lots and lots of Web sites and tutorials available for someone who’s learning to cook for a group. There are ways that you can lean on one another to make this less difficult like it is as you as you’ve noticed, it’s harder for you all to act like four separate individuals who just happen to live together, that it would be for you to think of yourselves as a group.
S3: I feel like and this is not like a product advertising at all. I just being like I feel is a place where an instant pot is going to be very, very helpful for everyone to, like, just getting a meal ready and then like even something that could just sit in a pot and people can take as they need like great. That that’s going to take care of a lot of issues.
S1: Yeah. Or even like Googling like sheet pan recipes and you know, any recipes where the focus is like it’s relatively inexpensive and you don’t use every dish in the house. There’s tons of websites and video channels that that do that sort of cooking. So you are that the good news here is this is a problem lots of people have had. And so there’s lots of solutions available to you. Beyond that, I would say, rather than looking at the winner of the most cooking hours, is for you all to kind of get together and say, like, what do I need? Are there ways in which our needs are in alignment that we can help one another out? Doesn’t mean you ought to be best friends or commit to live together for the rest of your lives. But instead of looking for one single winner, look for ways that you can all as a household, meet your meat needs together. That, I think is going to be your way out. Absolutely. And good luck. This is tricky. It’s hard when you have different budgets. It’s hard to cook around allergies for the first time. But it’s also, you know, it’s possible. Right. Like accommodating other people’s life threatening allergies is actually really important. And people can do it. And you can do it in ways that don’t obliterate your own ability to, you know, sometimes have other meals that are separate. Yeah, absolutely.
S3: I mean, actually, I had some friends over. This was like a little bit last year when before Cauvin Times where you had people and I guess they’re they’re partially Orthodox, some sort of Orthodox Jewish. And I’d be like, oh, so I can’t combine dairy and meat before. And that was like a learning experience, but it was like totally easy. I was able to, like, really rethink my dinner plan very, very quickly. I mean, I spend a lot of time cooking. I’m like the cook in my apartment here. So, like, that’s kind of all I prefer to be doing. But but I’m sure these people can figure it out. And it’s like, again, like, yeah, the recipe web said kind of like keep everything simple and easy. And I think because that’s I think the big worry that maybe these people are here are like if four people are trying to make four different types of mac and cheese at once, like back, it’s really, really complicated and messy quickly. And I think but if you make one big pot of mac and cheese, like everyone wins.
S1: Right. And you can kind of all like lists like here’s some of my favorite foods here, foods. I don’t like them much. Here’s some foods I know I’m pretty good at cooking here, foods that I like to learn more about cooking. And there will be some overlap. Like it’s not like you have one roomie who’s like, I only eat ortolan. There will definitely be overlap in something that like it fits in the middle of the Venn diagram between like relatively inexpensive, a non allergy and something lots of people enjoy. Everyone likes potatoes, you know. Oh, you like beans. Pasta is a great option. Greens are a great option like you have. You have stuff available to you and good luck. This is like part of the problem of living with other people. And it’s not always super straightforward. Sometimes it’s a little messy, but it’s definitely work or rather it’s definitely work that’s worth doing.
S3: And I think the roommates will be happy to kind of have that moment of realization. Oh, I don’t necessarily need to cook tonight because someone’s going to be doing it for me. And I just have to cook a little extra on Wednesday or what have you.
S1: Right. Right. Yeah, there’s a there’s a better way of looking at this than trying to pick one winner and three, like, runners up. So good luck, Peter. We did it. We solved everyone’s problems today.
S4: I’m very, very glad. I really hope these people all solve their problems and have these difficult phone calls. And I think they’ll all feel better by the end.
S1: I truly, truly hope so. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for hitting record on your end. That was really helpful to us. Well, thank you for hitting record. Yeah, yeah. I have a fabulous rest of the day and enjoy thinking about historical handshakes or never thinking about historical handshake’s. Maybe you’re done. Forever.
S3: And unfortunately, it never ends as as I’m sure you know that, but when you finish a dissertation, then you have to start a book.
S1: I have heard that. Yes. Yeah. Well, thank you again so, so much.
S4: And I hope we get to have you on the show again sometime soon. Thank you, Danny.
S5: Thanks for listening to Dear Prudence.
S6: Our producer is Phil Circus. Our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. Don’t miss an episode of the show. Head to Slate dot com slash. Dear Prudence to subscribe. And remember, you can always hear more prudence by joining Slate. Plus go to Slate dot com slash pretty pod to sign up if you want me to answer your question. Call me and leave a message for zero one three seven one, dear. That’s three three two seven. And you might hear your answer on an episode of the show. You don’t have to use your real name or location. And at your request, we can even alter the sound of your voice. Keep it short, 30 seconds a minute, tops. Thanks for listening.
S1: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. If somebody is dealing with in and kind of internalized by or homophobia, internalized shame, that may have come from the way that they were raised or an earlier part in their lives. It can be difficult if you’re like, well, I’m not ashamed of it and I’m OK with it. And if you could just tell me, we could talk about it. But if the shame isn’t coming from you, if it’s theirs, like you can be as open as you want about it. And if they’re still like. But I’m not OK with it, you know. All of your openness can’t do that. Work for them to listen to the rest of that conversation. Joint Slate plus now at Slate dot com forward slash Prudy Pod.