S1: Dear Prudence Dear Prudence Gifford here prudence dear put into your prudence here.
S2: Is things that I should contact him again. Oh how thank you.
S3: Thank you.
S4: Hello and welcome back to the Dear Prudence show once again and as always I am your host Dear Prudence also known as Mallory Aubrey with me not in the studio this week I am recording from a bed in the guest bedroom of my good friend Nicole Cliff’s house there is a very nice stranger here who is holding a microphone up to my face but with me in spirit is Roxane Gay who I am just so excited to have on the show she is a writer a professor and commentator. Her new book titled hunger A Memoir of My Body came out in June and my love for her came out many years ago. Hi Roxana I’m so sorry I said that last part.
S5: Hi Valerie. Don’t apologize. I enjoy being showered with adoration.
S4: I am just like you. I’m so happy that you’re here. I’m so smiley. My stupid Chicago accent is going to come back when I get really happy. So does my accent. But I’m just thrilled that you are here. And how are you. How’s every little thing.
S5: I’m good. I just got off book tour so I am finally not getting on an airplane everyday.
S6: Which is it does wonders for your spirit when you don’t have to do that.
S7: I I could not agree with you more and I’m so excited that the day you got back I was like Please come on my show don’t rest at all.
S8: I appreciate that too like getting right back into it.
S9: I hope you’re reclining on a divan or something.
S10: No I should be though. That would be lovely. I don’t have a divan. I am but I haven’t. I have a nice couch. So I’m sitting on a nice couch. All right.
S11: Well now I know where to get you for Christmas. It’s a divan.
S8: Yeah you do. Absolutely.
S4: It’ll fit right. I don’t know if you got the questions that I sent over last night.
S7: Either way if you’re coming at them fresh or you’ve had like 12 hours to think in awe and fear about all the different ways that we’re going to tell people how to live their lives but care to do the honors and read the first letter for us I will.
S9: I don’t think you’ll be able to relate to it at all. No.
S8: What I have to do with anything about being a professor in a shitty town.
S12: OK so dating as a new professor Dear Prudence this year I will be starting as an assistant professor in a small town in Tennessee. I’m a pansexual polyamorous woman of color in my early thirties currently single but would love to find great people to date. I’m apprehensive about the move to a more conservative state and the change in status that comes with the new job. Previously I’ve relied on online dating to find other poly queer people but I’m apprehensive of using Tinder and the like in a college town where many people on dating apps are likely to be students. Some of them potentially mine eek I’m out about being pansexual but not about being polyamorous and I don’t necessarily want my brand new co-workers finding out about this aspect of my identity. Do you have any suggestions for where I might look for people to date. If online dating isn’t going to be an attractive option in my position I’m going to be relatively close to Nashville if that helps.
S11: So I don’t know if this does help but if any of my listeners are in Nashville and heard this letter and thought This sounds like the lady for me you know please feel free to write it which is probably not.
S13: Oh absolutely. But you know. Yeah. That was an interesting letter.
S14: I’ve been in small towns for the past 12 13 years now and dating can be really challenging when you don’t want to muddy up the waters with your students. But she’s overthinking it. In general she can do online dating. I mean you don’t have to put the poly thing out there you just. That’s something I think you can disclose on a one on one basis once you actually meet someone. I think she’s putting a lot of cart before the horse and I would say try a couple different methods online dating and then look for online communities of poly folk poly folk are absolutely everywhere including small town Tennessee. And oftentimes they have meet ups and that kind of thing where you can at least start to mingle with other like minded people and hopefully start to make some really good connections that way.
S7: I do wish to for her I know that in Iceland there is a dating app that supposedly allows you to figure out whether or not you are related to the person you are trying to hit on because Iceland is you know a relatively small country where a lot of people are related and there needs to be something like that for people who work with students where there’s just like a firewall that goes up somehow it can just read like. Have you ever taught this person. Might they be signed up for your class next semester and it just sets both of your profiles on fire and you just are unable to see the Internet for the next 24 hours.
S15: Well you know the thing is she’s in her early thirties so the chances of her and a student swiping each other to the right direction.
S9: I’m too old to know which direction you swipe 110 but I also don’t know I’ve never tired.
S13: Yeah I a I got caught before Tinder before the tender age but yeah I it’s just I I used to have this fear too but the reality of the rally the reality is that students are not going to be in her circle online and you’re a teacher not a nun.
S14: And so so what if your students know that you’re out looking for dates. That’s totally normal behavior. There’s no shame in it and you don’t have to disclose everything about your romantic proclivities in a dating profile. You have to give enough information.
S7: Yeah I think that that part that you’re seeing is key. It’s just like you do not need to put in writing the first thing somebody would read about you that you are polyamorous especially if you’re concerned about the possibility of it getting back to some of your co-workers because like understandably sometimes people are really uncomfortable talking about that or might judge you in the workplace so feel free to just throw that out there on a first day. It’s definitely not like oh no you should have told me you monster. It’s totally fine to like say that in person.
S14: Exactly. It’s not a great deception to hold onto that until a first date. It really isn’t.
S11: No. I mean worst case scenario someone’s like Well thank you I enjoyed this date very much. I’m not especially into that. Thank you for the salad or whenever I say that because the last time I went on like a date from an online dating thing I think I bought someone a salad and then we looked at shoes. It was very wholesome.
S16: I was going to say it felt like the greatest day in the world.
S11: We are not still together. If that is if that is what you are trying to figure out. No it did not. Things did not get caught on fire. But yeah. Ok so I feel like we’ve handled that one. Good luck to you. Please write back let us know. I hope you find five amazing girlfriends in the next week and they are all great.
S17: I hope so too.
S11: Oh this next one is such a classic. It’s about someone’s boss who keeps telling her to smile.
S18: It ironically it made me smile. Yeah it made me smile. I had to laugh when I read this question.
S19: Course you did. Dear Prudence I am a woman in her mid twenties who works in civil engineering. Most of my co-workers are older males including my boss. For some reason my boss has taken it upon himself to walk by my cubicle and tell me to smile a couple of times a day. It’s really getting under my skin. I’m just at my desk working. There’s no one to smile at. He doesn’t do this to anyone else in the office either including the two other women in the office who are also around my age. Please tell me what I can say to him to get him to stop.
S20: I need to be firm but still polite I just love that like so much it’s like working at their computer and someone walking by and saying You’re not smiling enough. The computer thinks you don’t like it.
S6: You know men are always trying to police women’s faces and make them smile make us smile just because they want to see something.
S9: Are you suggesting this is a gendered phenomenon Roxana. I am suggesting that Mallory. I really really am hard to say. I used to know science just isn’t there yet.
S21: Who’s to know other than millions of women complaining about this all the time.
S16: I just I can’t imagine what. I don’t know what it will take for us to prove this. Mm hmm.
S22: Yeah I think it’s totally fair for the letter writer to want to say something about this. It is. It’s not like your boss is saying hey when we meet with clients you are scowling and mean mugging at them and they run away crying. This is not related to your ability to perform at work. This is a total overstep. And so I think you absolutely do get to say something. Roxanna do you have a sense of like what she should or shouldn’t say or like how to be. Do you think being diplomatic is super important here.
S16: Well I think that she thinks being diplomatic is super important here. So you definitely have to respect that. I know my gut tells me to say this is my face which is what I always say when people try to get me to smile I mean this is my face is how it falls am. But she can just respectfully say I know every it’s all respectful. Get out of my fucking face. That’s what she should say. But because that’s probably not possible because he’s her boss. She can just say this is how my face falls.
S5: And I appreciate your interest in my well-being but I’m fine.
S1: That’s lovely.
S22: That is completely civil. Yeah. Anything along those lines. Yeah. Like I’ve noticed you tell me to smile repeatedly throughout the day. I. I’m doing fine when I’m focused on my work and I’m staring at my computer. There’s no one to smile at. I appreciate your concern but I’m fine. Anything along those lines. Anything where you say I notice that you do this a lot. And I’d like you to stop. I imagine that might feel like an overstep because it sounds like you’re really concerned about saying anything to your boss that might be construed as rude but it’s actually really OK. Even if someone is your boss to say please stop telling me to smile. Absolutely. As simple as that.
S19: Yeah. And I’m so sorry. Like it sucks especially that your boss seems to forget that like he’s already done it repeatedly. This is like a goldfish situation. He swims once around a tank and then he’s like oh there she is she’s not smiling. She must have forgotten. This is not part of your job requirement. You are not working at Disneyland. You’re not like one of the Princesses talking to the little children. You can just look at your computer with a neutral look on your face and that’s totally fine. And hopefully if you say it he will be a little flustered and embarrassed and knock it off but you can also feel free like if he occasionally forgets and does it again to just say something like No I’m OK.
S13: Like you don’t have to just kind of awkwardly sit there and say thank you for fixing my face which is just the audacity of expecting someone to smile while at their desk not engaging with another human.
S23: It’s just that’s so wild.
S5: Oh my God I work alone most of the time and I am so glad for it.
S19: And I’m like Look man I am pro smiling. My goodness like I am not a. smiling and absolutely smiling is neat. I think it’s great to keep a friendly and upbeat beaner at work. But the idea of telling someone who is like doing data entry or e-mailing clients that they need to smile while staring at a screen just in case someone walks by and has to see their face for two seconds is pretty it’s it’s overstepping a line.
S9: It’s really he’s he’s really making some more work for himself and he needs to and she’s in a cubicle like smile about what exactly. Calm down civil engineering the delay likes civil engineering Roxanne. It is just so together. She said she said it is her duty as a woman. We know this this buddy. I mean then listed in the job duties and pay extra for it pay an extra. I don’t know 20 bucks an hour smiling hurts if you’re doing it all day. It does. I would love a smiling bonus.
S24: All right. This next letter is completely on a different track. I actually got it during the live chat yesterday and I looked at it and I was like No way am I going to be able to answer this in 45 seconds.
S9: And yeah this letter is bananas. It’s got a law would you would you read it.
S25: Oh I would help my ex supported the sex trade and maybe human trafficking should I report it before I even answer the question I mean. OK. Dear Prudence.
S5: My ex and I divorced in 2010 when I discovered he had been spending tens of thousands of dollars on visits to sex workers both in our town and while traveling for business. The divorce and ensuing custody battle were long ugly humiliating and expensive. I have primary custody of our children and have since remarried and rebuilt my finances in the past year. My ex-husband and I have managed to establish a functional even friendly co parenting relationship. Miraculous. Now my children are happy and thriving. My question is what responsibility do I have. In your opinion to report the establishments that he frequented. Some of these places were stereotypical massage parlors. In other words places that often surface in the news as cover businesses for women who have been illegally trafficked and forced into sex work. My ex told me at the time that many though not all of the women were from other countries. He refused to say how old they were in the chaos of my divorce these women weren’t my primary concern. But even after all this time I’m haunted by the thought that many of them could have been victims themselves. Whenever I hear news reports or see a show that features human trafficking or think about the dangers that my daughter faces I feel incredibly guilty. While I don’t know all of the places he frequented or which if any of the women were there in voluntarily I do know of at least two places locally that are still in business. How should I handle this. When so many years have passed and the dust is finally settled and in a way that I won’t be dismissed as a vindictive ex-wife trying to reopen old wounds I don’t want to bring attention to my ex husband’s involvement even though he’s the source of my ample evidence. But it seems morally wrong and even negligent to keep quiet when I know that something pretty sinister could be happening in our own backyard.
S15: Man there’s a lot here Earl. I mean I have some empathy for the question but I think she’s.
S26: Again like I think people overthink things right.
S27: I think sex trafficking is a very real problem but there is a campaign across the country to eradicate safe sex trafficking. That’s really a campaign designed to eradicate sex work. And oftentimes the people that are targeted by these campaigns are not trafficked women but instead people who are making their living as sex workers and they use the shroud of moral panic and safety to really affect women’s income and.
S8: I think that she has remarried.
S27: I mean it’s been seven years like right. That’s like something’s going on here that weirds me out that it took seven years for you to worry about the other women and seven years for them to be trafficked. And now you’re like oh let’s call someone. Mm hmm.
S28: So I don’t normally get really therapeutic in my approach but I do feel like it is connected to the fact that this letter writer writes that she has now been the last year established a functional and friendly co parenting relationship with her ex.
S29: And that’s not to say that she’s not also motivated by a genuine concern. I did not feel like this was a letter that felt really concern trolling. I mean my answer by the way is no I don’t think you should report these places and that’s it for me it’s really simple because women and men who and non binary people who do sex work do not have legal protections.
S24: So if you reported any of these places there would be people who would be getting arrested for trying to make a living.
S7: And I believe that that’s wrong and I think that decriminalization of sex work is probably the number one thing we can all work for if we’re interested in helping people who have been or are being trafficked. So you know short answer no. Don’t report it. Unfortunately that would be like trying to help someone by like hammering bringing down a hammer. Right. Like if this place gets raided if people are arrested and imprisoned it’s going to make it even more difficult for them to work in the future. Going to jail is not good for anyone. No but yes. So I think that that line about it’s miraculous. But my ex and I are finally friendly co parents and I think in part because she’s probably had to swallow down a lot of anger and rage and hurt and betrayal in order to get to that friendly co parenting relationship that Energy wants to go somewhere else and it’s not like she’s trying to harm.
S28: It’s not like she’s intentionally wanting to harm these women are seeing them as the problem which you know I think is commendable.
S24: I think that’s really good. Sometimes people can get really they’ll misdirect their anger that should’ve gone to a partner towards other people.
S29: But yeah. So I think that’s why this concern is coming up now is the sense of I’m no longer allowed to hate my ex. I’m no longer allowed to be angry with him. I have to keep up a good face for the sake of our kids.
S19: But part of me wants to blow this up. Part of me wants to make sure that there are consequences part of me wants to indirectly humiliate him. And I think I could do that through this sort of circuitous side route. Does that sound totally off base.
S15: Not totally off base. I think the like I can really jive with the last part. I mean I think that she wants there to be some sort of.
S14: I think it’s closure that she’s looking for and justice of some kind for her but also for these women.
S8: I don’t know.
S6: I I felt I was baffled by this letter. This was the letter that really made me think the most and just try to understand like why would you still be thinking about this. If you’re happily remarried and you’ve rebuilt your finances like and your children are thriving it sounds like she’s the one person who’s not thriving in this situation if she’s still fixated on what happened seven years ago.
S8: Well in more than seven years ago they divorced in 2010. I don’t know. I really don’t know.
S6: But I also don’t think she’s being malicious in any way. I do want to make that clear. I just keep thinking girl Why. Move on but I don’t think she’s being malicious. I think her. I think she really does worry that there are some women that are being held.
S27: Just the reality is that the turnover in these places is so high that none of the women that may have been there when her husband was frequenting these establishments are still there so I can certainly understand the concern in the sense of this specially that line about he refused to say how old they were.
S30: That’s genuinely genuinely upsetting to think the person I was married to was at the very least unconcerned with the possibility that some of the sex workers that he visited may have been underage. And I can certainly understand feeling kind of haunted by that and this sense of man is this a person who cares much about consent. Is this a person who cares about exploitation. Is this a person who cares about justice. And that would be really upsetting. But again I don’t think the answer to that is to those feelings is to report these places. I think I would encourage you to go to therapy if you’re not already in it. It’s always great to go back to therapy work out these issues. If you can find organizations that like help support you know low income women or women who need help getting like health insurance or like their medical needs met during sex work that doesn’t necessarily have to do with breaking down a massage parlor and like arresting women who are trying to get by. Absolutely throw the energy in there but no don’t report this. That will not help any of these women. None of these women need to go to jail. That’s not going to be useful to them and it’s not going to help you work through your feelings about your husband.
S13: Yeah and I would also say that I think the reason he probably didn’t want to mention their ages is not necessarily because they’re under age but because they were probably young like 18 19 20 and he didn’t want to look like even more of a heel because.
S24: Yeah I mean I think we can all agree he’s a heel.
S15: Oh he’s absolutely a heel.
S13: But he’s a heel who has issues and you know marriage is hard.
S6: People are complicated and people make mistakes and he he’s a heel and she she left him and I suspect that he was just being this was his one act of decency to not be like Yeah I was with a bunch of 18 year olds after you stuck with me for many years and gave me x number of children. Maybe that was his one moment of grace.
S30: Yeah. Yep. I think go to therapy hit a pillow. Think about what a jerk he was and how glad you are that you’re not married him anymore. Figure out other ways to channel those energies or a concern for women that I genuinely do think like. It sounds real It sounds motivated by compassion and I would urge you to look for other avenues to find ways to be helpful to women who might be exploited. I think you will be able to do that. I think that will feel a lot better than reporting a massage parlor and seeing a bunch of women getting arrested like I think it will be better for you. The subject line of the next one is also about sex. This one is sexless in Seattle which I love by the way that like twenty five years on we’re still doing puns on sleepless in Seattle. That makes me happy. That feels like just we’ve all got something in common. Like Johnny Carson is still alive. We’ve all got shared cultural artifacts. So this one just starts with Dear Prudence and the 50 year old gay man who started his first serious relationship a year ago. I love this man and he loves me but we don’t have sex. We both come from very different social and sexual backgrounds. He’s 45 grew up in a repressed environment and had just left a monogamous 18 year relationship prior to our meeting. While I spent many years sowing my wild oats and very wild ways he is not sexually experienced kisses poorly and is reticent to try anything tastier than vanilla. I on the other hand love a panoply of deviants which he is incapable and actually afraid I think of addressing let alone try to act on everything else that we share. We don’t live together is great and emotionally I want to commit to him for the rest of my life. But the thought of repressing my sexual expression gives me significant pause. I don’t know how to proceed so I’m asking for your perspective.
S18: Oh man.
S31: I mean yeah I can understand why you have a moment of pausing here because it sounds like not only do you two not sexually connect it sounds like you have a little bit of contempt for him sexually. Just do you think he kisses poorly but you haven’t said anything to him about it in over a year.
S32: You know you can you can tell people how you like to be kissed certainly if the way that they’re doing it isn’t working for you I would think after a year of being together it would be good for you to be able to speak up about that.
S31: So part of me wonders just how much you guys have talked about this.
S15: Yeah it seems like there are some communication issues here.
S25: I I first of all I think that if this man is not interested in sex then what you have is a friendship a very good friendship and perhaps even a passionate friendship.
S33: But I don’t know how sustainable the relationship can be and how strong your commitment can be if you guys can even have a conversation about a need unmet needs and what you need. Because it’s clear that you know what he means or thinks he needs. And so I guess I have more questions like what kinds of conversations have you guys had about how you can consummate the relationship in a way that works for both of you. And if that doesn’t work can you have an open relationship where you might be emotionally committed to one another but you’re free to have your physical needs met elsewhere. I’m not sure but I do think that there are solutions to this situation but those solutions are all going to require open and honest communication and perhaps a little tenderness because if this man is so repressed that repression comes from somewhere.
S31: Right. And I think to something that fills key that I almost glossed over at first is that the letter starts out with I’m 50 years old and this is my first serious relationship. So which is not to say like oh there must be something wrong with you just that this is the first time you’ve done this. So having that conversation telling somebody how to kiss you saying this isn’t working for me you haven’t had it yet before because your relationships previous to this have not been serious. So I think that actually might have a lot more to do with it than I thought at first. Like I said I was I think it can feel hard especially if you’re like a year into a relationship with somebody it feels like oh man if I say like I like to be kissed this way you’re not doing a good job it’ll feel like oh well they think I’ve been lying to them this whole time will they think I’m criticizing them like it’s not a conversation that has to be approached with like Hey bad news you’re an awful kisser and I hate it when our mouths touch and everything’s the worst you know you can approach it in a spirit of like love and affection and can I show you what I like. And I think that you should do that and maybe there’s a sense on your end of I don’t know how to do it I haven’t had to do it before. I wish you would just intuit it but I would really encourage you to you know have the kissing conversation first. And if you can articulate what you want. If he can change if you guys can meet one another in the middle then that bodes really well for future conversations about like hey you know and maybe don’t start him with the like wackiest thing on your list right. Your panoply of deviance that you’ve got hidden in your you know crazy chest of covers of sex nonsense.
S34: I’m an adult you know like start with something low key for you and like talk about what that might look like if you guys were to try that together ask him what he would need to feel safe and comfortable and it may be that he’s like I just hate anything that’s not vanilla sex doesn’t do it for me if you would want that I would want you to go seek it elsewhere and then you guys could have a conversation about the possibility of a sexually open relationship but it also may be that he is up for giving it a shot he just doesn’t know how to do it and had a really different long term relationship before where that was never on the table. So I think you need to ask him a lot of questions about like Are you open to anything. Can there be anything that I can do or say that can help you feel comfortable and safe enough to want to explore this with me. Is there anything that interests you but you haven’t really thought about trying to get his temperature Mallory.
S16: Do you have a sex cupboard that is.
S11: I am not going to answer a very personal question like that. I give advice I don’t tell people what’s going on.
S35: How dare you come out of love the rational.
S21: I just love that phrase I had to do it.
S36: That phrase is fantastic and I’m going to deploy it every time I start to think of like you know like vampire movies where like vampires are always standards for like decadent European aristocracy and they’re always like Oh we’re sex weirdos to show that we’re bad people. They always have like a big like trio of maladaptive sex toys and it’s always very upsetting and it’s like oh no I feel worse than when I started looking so clearly as evidenced by how great this conversation is going letter writer you should be able to have this conversation with your partner. But you know like habit don’t have it in bed.
S31: Like when you guys have just had I guess you’re not having sex so maybe it doesn’t matter if you haven’t but you have it somewhere a little bit neutral like make sure that you’re like I don’t know you just had half a sandwich so you’re not like hungry and stressed out and just like bring it up kindly gently lovingly and see what he’s game for and I’m sorry that I said anything about cupboards ever.
S18: All right.
S35: Now something that comes in a trunk you never know one of those like old fashioned like a grand mother trunk that said at the foot of a bed and you know there’s like a lot of scarves in them. Oh yeah I don’t know what sex is. Let’s move on to the night blender wings. Let’s. Would you please read it.
S17: I will. This one was a tough one. Ex lied to me about my baby six years ago.
S37: A one night stand told me she was pregnant and that I was the father. I did not deal with it well. I was in school and barely knew how to parent myself. I argued with her fight with her and asked her how she knew I was the father. I told her I didn’t want the baby and she asked for money for an abortion. I gave her everything I had and never heard from her again. I graduated got married and made a life for myself. Then this year CPS contacted me telling me they had my son and he needed me. His mother lied to me and continued her pregnancy and continued her drug use.
S38: The only reason my son didn’t starve to death was because of a nosy neighbor who decided to wonder why no adult had shown up for a week. The DNA reports says that this is my son. My wife has been a champ and doing her best to adjust to suddenly being a stepmother dealing with this has not been easy but I have never loved anyone like the way I love my son. I don’t know how to deal with his mother. She is working through her parole and parenting classes. We have spoken but only briefly about the facts of our son and through a mediator.
S37: I feel like I am choking on my rage every time her name comes up. She lied to me denied my son and abused him to do drugs. I don’t know if I should fight to keep my son from her or what he’s going to have problems for his entire life because of her choices and I hate her for it. Help.
S11: Oh man. So the fact that I am about to reference something from Arrested Development in no way means that I don’t think this is a very sad and painful letter because it is and I feel a lot for what this guy is going through. But dude I don’t know if you watched that show now in the first season in the first season.
S22: There’s this character Tobias who is just like very goofy and always sort of like missing the point is in prison and he’s talking with a character named white power bill and white power bill is a very angry man.
S36: He’s always threatening to hurt everybody and he keeps listing out things he hates. It’s like I hate the government. And Tobias says you hate white power bill. And then he says I hate the warden. He says you hate white power bill and you know keeps going keeps going to tell white power bill finally says I hate white power bill and throws himself off the roof of the prison. This show is a comedy. I feel like I’ve described it very badly but this is a letter that screams to me I hate white power a bill like not that what this woman has done is not awful but this whole sense that she’s ruined my son’s life.
S20: I’m so angry with her I can hardly stand it.
S36: I think a lot of that’s got to come from a sense that you know she was only able to do those things because when you found out you were going to be a parent six years ago you told her you didn’t think you could be the father you gave her money for an abortion. You fought with her and argued with her. And part of you is feeling a real sense of guilt and loss over that. And it sounds like you maybe kind of can’t acknowledge that right now.
S16: Yeah I definitely think there’s some guilt there.
S39: And I think the rage is not it’s not misplaced but I think you have to find something to do with that rage and I think therapy will help because the reality is for the rest of your lives you and this woman are going to have to co parent this child and you’re the person who’s in the best position to know whether or not she should be in his life. I think you have to see how well she does with her parenting classes and her rehabilitation. If she takes through rehabilitation then you probably want to try and keep her in his life. But if she’s more harm than good to him then that’s when you have to intervene and make a decision that’s best for the child. That is part of being a parent. So you have two separate things going on here your rage at your child’s mother and perhaps your rage at yourself for the decisions that you made when you found out she was pregnant and then being a good parent and you want to make sure that your rage doesn’t shape how you parent. Right. Because in that way it’s not going to serve your son. Right.
S32: Parenting from a place serves the best of you parenting from a place of rage does not work out well for anybody.
S39: No it really doesn’t. But it sounds like you’re taking to fatherhood really well and yet it seems like social services is really on top of things here with a mediator and that the mother is taking the classes. It sounds like at least your son is being well looked after in this situation. And so I would say who’s looking after you and how are you taking care of yourself to manage your feelings throughout this process. Right.
S30: And I think you know to bear in mind that CPS is not going to go from removing her removing your son from her home to immediately like trying to award her primary custody once again like the fact that you have primary custody right now is a really good sign.
S32: And I think absolutely you know if you feel like primary custody with you is the best thing for your son. Absolutely you can and should fight for that and you don’t need to be coming from a place of rage and fury for that to be your choice like it sounds like that would very much be best for your son. You know you don’t kick a drug habit that serious that you would endanger your own child like that overnight. So she’s not going to be ready to do more than maybe have like periodic supervised visitation in the future for quite a long time. So it’s certainly in that sense you can absolutely advocate for primary custody and for supervised visitation or even to continue to delay visitation until she’s able to demonstrate her continued sobriety. That’s absolutely absolutely. OK.
S40: And it’s not vindictive or hostile. But as for the rest of it you know I think you know my answer is going to be you’ve got to get to counseling my man you know. And I think to one thing to bear in mind like it’s absolutely possible that she lied to you. It’s also very possible that she changed her mind. Like you know she may very well have wanted to get an abortion at the time. In no small part because the father of the child in question said I’m sure it’s not mine. Get out of here. I don’t care. I don’t want to be a part of this. And then later decided that she wanted to have a child anyway so it is possible that she did not lie to you. And again that doesn’t mean that everything else that she did subsequently was good or even like morally acceptable it wasn’t. But I think there’s this real sense of I was lied to as if you like had you known she was going to have a baby you would have stepped up six years ago and it sounds like that wasn’t you weren’t going to make that choice whether she had the abortion or not. And I think one of the things you’re going to have to let go is the sense of I created the situation. She must have lied to me because if I’d known how bad it was going to get I would have been ready to be a good dad at the time. And like you were no ready you were no more ready to be a parent six years ago than she was. So you’re gonna have to work through that with a therapist on your own and kind of fully and squarely look your part in the face and then figure out what’s going to be best for your son going forward. That doesn’t come from a desire to either punish yourself or to punish your ex. And that’s going to be your way through.
S8: I agree.
S40: Yeah and I’m glad he’s with you. I’m glad he’s with you. I’m glad that your ex is you know working through her parole and getting parenting classes. I’m glad there’s a mediator who’s dealing between the two of you. I think it’s great that you’ve only spoken briefly. I do not think it would be a good idea for you guys to have like a big jaw session about the past like that’s not something that either of you is ready for right now and I’m really glad you’re there for your son now. That’s wonderful and I’m glad to hear it. So good luck.
S20: Keep us posted. Absolutely.
S41: Sadly one of his last letters just move home. Dear Prudence I am a single working mother of four my oldest two children are grown. Going to school and working full time. I’m very proud of them but not of their taste in friends. Every other month I get a call or a text from my kids begging me to loan them an extra hundred dollars here or there because they are short on rent due to their roommates or girlfriend. My daughter can’t and my son tries to but I tell them both to save their money. It may not seem like a lot but it is the difference between eating rice and beans for another week or two for me. I want them both to move home and save their money. They don’t want to. I am particularly tired of my son’s girlfriend Victoria. She is a spoiled little brat.
S28: Her parents pay for everything but her rent and she can’t even pull that up half the time. She knows my son over a thousand dollars. I finally asked her if she planned on ever being an actual adult and paying him back. She got offended and I asked her if I needed to contact her parents. My son told me I was out of line. I apologized but I am tired of this all. I don’t want to push my kids away but I am tired of being their piggy bank.
S24: How do I get them home. Got that last bit is amazing because the last question is not how do I stop being their piggy bank. It’s how do I get them to move home so I can be even more of their piggy bank.
S18: Like what. Yeah. I mean there are three different things going on here take me with them. There’s a mother who is we have a helicopter parent and we have a mother who hates her son’s girlfriend and then we have a mother who legitimately cannot afford to support her children. Now that they’ve left the home.
S27: You know I think that the financial aspect is the easiest.
S42: Stop eating rice and beans just so you can send your children extra money let them eat rice and beans. Exactly. If they want to be adult enough to sign a lease for an apartment of their own and they can’t make the rent there are consequences to that period and those consequences are not your responsibility. You are raising four children as a single mother. This is simply not feasible for you and quite frankly they should know better than to ask you for money. They do know better have and you should not sacrifice yourself. That’s the thing is they know she’s going to have to hold the line.
S11: Yeah because they know right now if they ask you for that hundred body no and they don’t care.
S42: Yeah well I think they know in the way that children. I think they know in the way that children often like fake know things like they.
S27: You know I think children always assume that there’s some sort of magical piggy bank that parents go to to support them. And I think that she needs to make clear to the children that there is no magical piggy bank in terms of wanting them to move home.
S14: I don’t think you want them to move home for your financial interests I think you just want to move them home so you can make more decisions about who they spend time where it gets a square and that’s a personal issue. Yeah I think that’s you have to really ask yourself why you’re still so invested in what your adult children are doing such that you would want them to move back home. Yep. If therapy is something within your means I would really recommend some counselling here to talk through whatever is going on. You need to have your children to fill that gap. But in terms of the money you have to draw the hard line.
S6: And in terms of your son’s girlfriend my goodness yes you crossed the line.
S14: It’s none of your business. If she owes him a thousand dollars it’s his problem not yours. And don’t let it become your problem. Again you have to hold the line if he wants that money back. He’ll ask for it but it doesn’t seem like he does.
S28: Yeah well and it’s another case I think that sort of theme this week is.
S7: I’m not allowing myself to be mad at the person I’m really mad at. So I have to be mad at some third party.
S28: Like you’re not asking your son back for all the money he owes you because you don’t want to be mad at your son. You say I’m proud of my kids but not their tastes and friends like my friend. Who do you think chose your kids friends your kids. That is a choice that they have made to spend time around those people you don’t approve of. It doesn’t make your kids monsters it doesn’t make them bad people. But like I think you need to allow yourself to say sometimes I disagree with my kids choices. Sometimes they make decisions. I would not have made and I don’t like it and I wish I could change it and I can’t. And it sounds like you know if you’re in like rice and beans territory you’re not necessarily gonna be able to be able to afford like a one on one therapist tomorrow. But if you can even find online support groups for like empty nesters for people whose kids are growing up and leaving home and are having trouble like figuring out how to parent from a distance from a remove as an adult to another adult I would really encourage you to seek that out because like I mean just reword a couple of your sentences for you.
S30: You’re not proud of some of the choices your kids have made when it comes to their friends.
S40: You know you tell your son to save his money and he doesn’t. Your son chooses to date someone who doesn’t pay her share of the rent and then instead of either you know holding that line or looking for another roommate he asks you for money. Does your son ever plan on being an actual adult and paying you back like there’s so much that you want to blame on Victoria. It’s actually coming from your son. And yeah you were way out of line demanding that she would pay your son back. He’s not like 4 years old getting pushed around a little playground. He has to fight his own battles and if he chooses not to fight a battle that you would fight you don’t get to come charging in and say Don’t worry I’ll fight it for you. You’re not going to get any points for that. No one’s ever going to thank you for it. It’s not going to work. So you say you don’t want to push your kids away but they should be continuing to grow up and away from you.
S28: That doesn’t mean they should turn into total strangers but it should mean that they should not be coming to you every other month for cash.
S24: So if you’re tired of being your kid’s piggy bank next time your kids come to you asking for money. You get to lovingly say no.
S28: And if they complain you’re mad because you used to do it. You just get to say I love you.
S30: Encourage you to find flick other ways of making your rent. Best of luck. That’s not cruel. That’s not being a bad parent. That’s like what happens when you when you are an adult and if they choose not to move back home which I think they probably won’t. I think they will find another way to get that extra hundred bucks. Then you get to say that’s good.
S28: I did a good thing it’s good that my kids are becoming more resourceful and figuring out how to solve their own problems. And if your kids date people you don’t like. You know you get to privately think your own personal higher power every evening that you don’t have to date that person and then be friendly to them when you see them at dinner periodically.
S15: Absolutely and maybe also I don’t know I always find that if you’re empty nesting and you find yourself still overly involved in your children’s lives it might be a good opportunity to get a life of your own.
S39: And I don’t mean that in a mean way. I mean maybe find a new circle of friends or a new group of people that you can do an activity with or even dating.
S14: Just something to occupy yourself emotionally so that you don’t have to preoccupy yourself with your adult children.
S30: Right. Yep and just bear in mind that right now you are not asking the right question. You say you’re tired of being their piggy bank and you want to know how to get your kids home. Wrong question. Don’t try to get them home. That is the wrong impulse. That’s a desire to continue making their choices for them and to control them. You gotta let that one go.
S28: The question you should be asking is how do I live my life in such a way that I don’t feel an overwhelming need to be my children’s piggy bank and to fix their problems for them. What do I need to do in my own life. What support do I need to enlist to make sure that I can say no and stick to my no.
S24: When I say it and you can have so much faith in you. I bet you’ve been a fantastic parent.
S29: And it’s just hard for you to turn off the part of your brain that sees your kids as five years old. So I think it’s just going to require like a constant re imagining of how old and responsible your kids actually are. And to remember that they are not going to starve to death on the streets if you don’t bail them out every other month. I promise you they have options including moving in with you if it comes to that right. Like you know that you would offer them a place to stay if they genuinely got kicked out tomorrow and none of their friends would let them crash or move in with them like they’re going to be OK. They are not in any danger.
S17: No they’re not. They know that if they wanted to move home they would they know that’s available to them. They do. So trust in that as well. Yeah.
S29: Dang it Roxanna I was going to fight with you about this one but then I couldn’t bring myself to.
S17: We can fight about something else.
S43: Mallory anytime anytime in the day and the topic and I will do my best. Roxanna thank you so much for coming on the show.
S15: Thank you so much for having me Valerie. This was delightful.
S28: I’m going to start sending you pictures of demands that I’m thinking of buying you. And you can let me know if you like the upholstery.
S17: OK good good because I am very picky. So also look into some other demands.
S43: You got it. And Eddie you name it and I’ll make it happen.
S11: Thank you so much for coming on the show especially the day after your book tour is over. Please go have someone feed you grapes. Oh I will.
S29: Readers I realize I was so flustered and overjoyed at the prospect of having Roxanna on the show that I forgot to actually mention the letter update that I was planning to at the top of the episode. But as some of you know I often bemoan the fact that we don’t get very many updates from letter writers here at the show. Moyes wondering what happened. What did they do. Did it work out. Are they like floating off into space. Now what happened. And we finally got one a couple of months ago I got a question from a person whose brother and sister in law were really really insistent that their 5 year old son whenever they went on family vacation swim in the ocean even though he was not a strong swimmer and he was afraid of the ocean and they would kind of like bully him like demand that he do it and be like toughen up and this little kid would cry and be really stressed out and anxious at the prospect of taking other trip. In this letter writer was wondering like what can I do. As you might imagine this worries me greatly and I came down pretty strongly on team don’t force five year olds to go in the ocean when they don’t want to. You know like drownings a pretty serious thing especially for young children who aren’t strong swimmers don’t make someone go in the sea. I think is a good. It’s just a good practice to hold in your life like don’t force people to go in the sea you’re not aqua man but that person finally wrote back and they said that they just took that family trip and the brother and sister in law finally let up their little kid had said I’m going to play in the sand. I’m happy to swim in the pool but I don’t want to go in the ocean. Don’t make me go in the ocean which a wild Slate breaks my heart that at five years old he was having to say that. But it worked. They let it go. It sounds like the vacation went really well. And I was just like suffused with an overwhelming sense of relief and well-being. So thank you so much for putting all of our minds at ease. I feel so much better knowing that this little guy doesn’t have to like fight his parents to not be thrown into the sea which is a vast and powerful force and let that be a reminder to all of us to don’t force anyone into the sea who doesn’t want to go there. That’s like King Haggard. Does that in the last unicorn. And that’s not a person that I want any of you to emulate. And so with that I bid you all farewell until next week.
S44: Thanks for listening. Dear Prudence. Our producer is Audrey darling. Our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. If you’re looking for more great shows from Slate. Check out the double X gab fest. It’s a podcast that covers feminism gender sexuality health politics beyond say and other issues relevant to women and feminism. It’s hosted by Hannah Rosen from invisibility. New York Magazine’s Maureen Malone and Slate’s own June Thomas. Find a double X gabfest at Slate dot com slash x x.
S45: Or wherever you get your podcasts.
S7: Good. I’m so glad I managed to work in a Peter S. Beagle reference. This week I was really worried I wasn’t to be able to do that.