S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership. Lucky you.
S2: Your freedom, your 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. Lavery. With me in the studio this week is a returning guest, Crystal Farmer, who works in publishing and lives in Oakland. And sometimes we watch movies together, usually now from very, very long distances. Crystal, hello. Welcome back to the show.
S3: Hi, Danny. Thanks so much for having me back. That sounds super fancy, but, you know, just in my apartment.
S4: Yeah. It’s like, oh, thanks for having me back. And it’s just like we’re just I’m sitting on my bed right now. I don’t know about you.
S3: On my desk. About, you know, still as cash.
S1: We’re doing fantastic. I’m excited about our first letter. It’s some I hope that this person has lots and lots of options available to them. And I want to try to find ways to counsel them that don’t necessarily go as far as some of the advice they’ve received previously. We’ll see. Oh, I’ll take it first. I’ll read the first one. So the subject is I like my living arrangement, but should it continue? Dear Prudence, I’m a 24 year old straight woman. I moved from my small town to a large city to go to college, and I loved it so much that I stayed. After graduation while still a student, I worked for a campus department with a male boss in his mid 40s. He was a very nice mentor who helped me land my first off campus job after graduation. In March, I was furloughed from that job at the same time my lease was running out of my apartment. I was lamenting about this on Facebook and my former boss read this and invited me to stay in his house with him. He’s not married and has no children. I took him up on his offer. He’d work at home. I’d help out by making dinner, which I love to do. But otherwise I’d just sit by his pool or go for walks around the neighborhood. He asked for nothing in return, saying he didn’t need the money. Soon afterwards, our relationship turned sexual, which has been very nice as well. I’m being called back to work in July. He said I can stay with him for as long as I want. We had a long talk and both agree that our relationship, while very nice for both of us, is temporary. But I see no reason why I should move right now. And I would be happy with continuing our relationship for the time being. Again, he’s not asking for money. I didn’t think this would be a problem, but a friend of mine has insinuated that I was basically being a prostitute and that this was bound for a bad ending. Well, I scoff at the comparison. It has caused me to wonder if I should cut this off right now and find a place on my own. What do you think? I will start with, you know, the preferred term is sex worker, not prostitute.
S3: That was exactly my fault.
S1: I just think anything that’s kind of rooted in you’re not a sex worker. So if you do anything that could potentially be done by a sex worker, it’s doomed for like despair and loss and awfulness.
S3: Is bad, wearing any leg? Negative judgment for sure, but also, too, like it’s not actually the same thing. Right. Because if you’re a sex worker, you know that it’s a transaction, right? You go into it. You provide a service. The client pays you. And that’s it. Right. Done deal. Whereas it seems like this person did not expect that going into this situation. She expected that there was not going to be anything expected of her in return, which, you know, definitely separates her from, I think from sex workers. Just art.
S1: I mean, if anything, I think a sex worker would have, like, gotten the terms in writing beforehand and would have a more clear deal managed here, like, I think in many ways. So the first time I had read it, I had thought that the job that she had been furloughed from was still the job where he was the boss. So the question was like, I’m gonna go back and he’s going to be my boss in July, but I want to keep working. And I was very anxious. And then I reread it and I realized he simply recommended her for the job. I know. I don’t love that this guy was your boss in college and then was like, hey, come on and move in with me with. It sounds like not signing any sort of subletting agreement would see Daisy. It just turned sexual.
S3: That’s a part I would like some more information on to like. What does that mean? That it turned sexual? Yeah, it was. Was that something that existed prior to this living arrangement? Like, was there an attraction there from either one of you? Was it mutual? Had it been there for a while or did it sort of develop over time? And who was sort of the instigator of that? I think that really sort of does affect her. Exactly how this potentially could go down. You know, depending on whether or not they continue and how long they continue this level orange roll and then sort of, you know, sexual relationship. Yeah.
S4: On the one hand, I really I want to take the letter writer at her word. She’s 24 years old. She’s no longer in college. He’s not her professor. He’s not her boss. If she wants to date him, she is entitled to do that. And I don’t want to say, like, no, no, no. You have to think of him as a bad actor. I’m a little bit curious about what some of his motives have been. But again, like just taking at face value, they are both adults. He does not have the ability to hire or fire her or to influence her college graduation. So, you know, we can set that to the side. I think really the real issue here is like, are you allowed to live with an older guy and have sex with him and enjoy yourself? Yes. Definitely you are. But what I would encourage this letter writer to do is think about like, what if tomorrow we stop sleeping together? What if I told him I wasn’t into it anymore and he got really mad at me? What legal protections would I have as his tenant? Where would I go? Is there anything in writing that would protect me from his whims?
S1: And I don’t know that that’s the case.
S3: Yeah. Especially clear that there they had this conversation. And I agree that it’s not something that’s going to last about it. That’s not going to last that it is temporary. So, like, that doesn’t need to be. I think her major concern is like if it’s her who makes the decision to either move out or start seeing someone else. You know, what exactly are going to be the repercussions from that? Because it seems like maybe nothing but could also be a lot of something. And it really is. I don’t know, I guess. You want to. Like you were saying, don’t want to believe that he’s a bad actor and that, you know, he is going to turn into them like a horrible monster, but you can’t know exactly what the effects of, you know, the change in their relationship will be like until it has happened. And I think it way it’s to sort of get something concrete under her so she knows what her choices are or what her options are. If you know, this thing kind of like, you know, all blows up.
S4: Right. Like, I’m less concerned about his intentions here and more concerned about just the facts, which are he currently has a job and a steady paycheck. You don’t he either owns this home or, you know, is on the lease. You don’t and you aren’t. So, again, without saying, like, you know, tomorrow he’s gonna turn this around on you and try to hold it over your head. He has protections in place that you don’t. And so it’s not even like, oh, he’s bad and he’s gonna use this against me so much as just like he is protected in a way that you aren’t. It will be good since, you know, this relationship is not going to last indefinitely. To think about where can I start looking for a place where I will be on the lease will be understood what my rights are in that home. That’s not just dependant on like this guy continuing to be generous or, you know, quote unquote, generous.
S3: Right. And it’s interesting, when I first read this letter, like the fact that he was much older and, you know, had all of this these resources and she didn’t and was much younger. That was a recent thing that struck me initially. But reading it again, like you were saying, the thing I was more concerned about was like, this is like a housing issue more than anything else. Like the other things are, you know, they can have whatever relationship they want to have. That’s up to them, like you’re saying. But, yeah, I just am concerned that if things change in that relationship, like, what is she going to do? Where is she going to be? I think she really does need to talk to someone that’s, you know, maybe a third party. That’s not so. You know, someone she went to college with or worked for while she was at college. That can sort of help her with this situation and figure out, you know, what what are her options if she if if things sort of take a turn for the worse watch. What can she do? Yeah.
S4: Basically, you don’t need to put down sex workers in order to think carefully about your own choices in life. If you and this guy have already been able to have like a pretty amicable conversation about how this isn’t permanent. I think you can also have a pretty amicable conversation about like, you know, I’d love to keep living here through the end of the summer. And then once I’ve got my job back, I’m going to start looking for a place of my own. I’ll let you know when I’ve done that. It doesn’t sound like that would be a problem, but I think it will be good in the short to medium term to find a place where you can live, where you’re not dependent upon the owner of the home. Just saying, like, yeah, you can keep staying here for free and that that will be good. And if you want to keep seeing him after you’ve moved out, you can. And if you want to just go back to being casual friends, you can I would imagine that it would be helpful to to look for other mentors as time goes on just because it’s good, I think to have a mentor whose relationship to you is only professional. But you’d have to repudiate this choice. You’d have to repudiate this relationship. You are an adult and you’re allowed to choose the terms upon which you, like, accept offers. But I do agree that this is not something that’s going to last indefinitely. So you should start making plans. Doesn’t mean dump him today, but it does mean you start putting out feelers for people who are looking for roommates. So, yeah, the first two letters are both about like age gap relationships and the kind of unique problems that can arise as a result of that. So I think this next one is you. Would you mind reading it for us?
S5: Sure. The subject is my baby’s father is super young. Dear Prudence, over Christmas, I went home and had a fling with a man I used to babysit. I’m recently divorced. It was bad. And hooking up with 23 year old Jason was just what I needed to get my groove back in February. Jason’s work brought him into the city where I live and we hooked up again. Now I’m pregnant and I’m 31 and financially and emotionally able to raise this baby. The wild card is Jason. To my surprise, he wants to be a part of our baby’s life. I thought he’d run for the hills when I told him. But he wants to transfer to my city, which is feasible for him, and figure out how local parent he’s even told me he’d like to try dating. And he was completely OK when I said, I don’t think that’s a good idea right now. Jason seems too good to be true. I’m scared to trust that he wants to be in the baby’s life. But when I reflect upon those fears, it’s all because he’s so young. Am I being unfair to him? Huh? So this is interesting. Do you watch insecure at all?
S4: I do. I haven’t. I haven’t seen the latest season.
S3: OK, well then I will not go into it.
S4: No, no, no, it’s OK. I don’t mind spoilers, although listeners should be aware we’re about to give spoilers.
S3: I don’t want to be super spoiler free, but there’s like similar things potentially happening on this season of insecure. If you see it. If you have it, then. I didn’t do anything. Just pretend that never happened. Yeah. This was kind of an interesting one because it also reminded me a little bit of catastrophe. If you see natural gas and Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, where they have this fling and she ends up pregnant and he ends up staying with her and they sort of build the life around this child that a, you know, kind of had accidentally. And in that situation, though, they’re both, you know, similar age, late 30s, early 40s, you know, just living their lives. But there’s a very dear friends in that, you know, she seems like she’s already sort of stable in her career. And he is, you know, not maybe he’s stable. I mean, it seems like he has a job that, you know, is flexible for him and he can sort of work it in a way that makes his life easiest. But I’m not really sure what their concern here is, where the letter writer. I mean, she want a baby and is able to have one and take care of it in the ways that would be best for her and the child potential father. The father is not potentially is the father. He wants to be in the child’s life. So I really don’t understand necessarily that concern. I think there is a little bit of unfairness because of his age. But if he is willing to say, you know, I want to co parent with you and I want to do that together, even going to a virus like move to the city where she lives so that that’s easier for them, I think that’s kind of the best case scenario in a situation like this. I don’t know if you disagree, though, Danny. No, I do.
S4: I mean, I think the worry or the concern about unfairness has something to do with both. One, the fact that he’s 23 and to the fact that at some point in the distant past, the letter writer used to babysit him. A little writer doesn’t say like I babysat him and we stayed really close and I watched him grow up. It’s like I had a babysitting relationship with him and he’s a kid and I was a teenager. And then like a decade later, as adults, we met and hooked up. Right. I get that that doesn’t necessarily feel like, oh, that’s exactly how I imagined I would have my first child. But like, he’s an adult. He is out of college. He is grown. He’s not a child. You did not take advantage of him. You didn’t exploit him. You didn’t take advantage of like a familial parental like relationship.
S1: You didn’t you. You are an adult who had sex with another adult. And as a result, the two of you had a child or are going to have a child. So you know that I don’t think you need to worry that somehow you manipulated or pressured him or did something unfair. He had sex with you just as much as you had sex with him and you got pregnant. So the fact that he wants to be involved is not something that you need to hold against him. It’s not like you can say like, well, he was old enough to decide he wanted to have sex, but he’s not old enough to decide whether or not he wants to be a parent. Like, that’s that’s unfair, I think. So, you know, if you need to kind of like work through your own discomfort or fear of the judgment of others, because the guy you’re having a kid with is eight years younger than you, you know, I want you to be able to do that. But again, there was you were not harming him. And it’s not like he was old enough to understand how to have sex, but not old enough to understand that sex sometimes produces children and that people sometimes decide to kill parent children together.
S3: Right. And AutoReader was old enough. You know, she thought he was old enough to understand all of those things when she sumai when she had sex with them. Right. So it’s not really fair to sort of go back on and say, like, no, actually, I’m having second thoughts about, like, how responsible I think you are. You know, I think that’s kind of like the tacit agreement you kind of go into when you have sex with someone is like a lot of things can happen as a result of this. And you both have to understand that that’s the case. And he clearly. So she spoke as well.
S4: So, yeah, I totally understand the fears of, like, you know, I worry that he’s over committing or like over promising and he will under deliver and that like when the reality of the baby and like, you know, getting up in the middle of the night and 3:00 a.m. feedings and all of that comes into play, that he will change his mind. I get that that may happen. I hope that it doesn’t. I hope that you two are able to find a way to amicably co parent. But that makes a lot of sense that you’re anxious right now. And I would say to that, you know, talk to him about the possibility of like collaborating on a custody agreement, not taking one another to court and getting a judge to mandate one, but trying to figure out what’s the schedule we can both live with. Maybe talk to a lawyer, maybe talk to a professional mediator, maybe look for like counseling services for people who are not romantically involved, but are co parenting together. Figure out ways that the two of you can talk about your desires, your goals, your fears, your your shared values and how often you would want to co parent together, how often you might want to trade off, how often you might want to be parenting independently of one another. Like all of those are good things that you can talk about. He’s demonstrated a lot of willingness, interest and goodwill. That bodes well if at some point down the road things change. You know, you may have to get a lawyer, you, too, may have to go to court. I hope that that doesn’t happen. I hope you’re able to prevent that. But I don’t think that you should turn his offer down now out of hand, out of fear that he might change his mind later.
S3: Right. And too, especially because he’s, you know, younger than he is by I mean, it seems like a significant amount when you’re, you know, thirty one and twenty three. But that’s not a huge age gap from where I’m sitting. Like, I’m thirty six. You know, someone twenty eight is not that much younger to me in my mind.
S1: But I mean people parents in their early 20s.
S3: Right, exactly. It’s not super uncommon, but I’ll include two. I think what you’re saying about the sort of having the important discussions now while their child is, you know, gestating before it’s actually here, it’s also really important because it is age. You know, it seems like he’s young and he’s probably early in his career. You don’t know what things are going to happen, you know, especially because they’re not together, like, romantically. And, you know, he’s working and he can move to his city or not. Motorcity, like those are really important decisions that he may have to change at some point in his life. And they haven’t had a conversation about, you know, what’s going to happen when you have another partner or, you know, your job takes you here, or you want to do this thing like they need to get on the same page about that before there was, you know, situations like present themselves. So, yeah, I think it’s really good to have the talk, but it’s also sort of I think it’s unfair generally to sort of hold the age against him now when he is sort of saying all the right things that, you know, you would want someone to say in this situation, even though, like you’re saying, probably not ideal that this is how she’s going to have her first child. You know, the situation you’re in. And I think ultimately it could be so much more problematic than it is. So, you know, just roll that in and sort of be open with each other and talk through what it is you both actually want out of it so that you can give your kid the best, you know, raise them in the best education possible.
S4: Yeah, yeah. I think that’s it. Take him at his word. He’s an adult. He’s he’s an adult with a job who’s like work makes him travel and means he can transfer cities like he’s not. He sounds fairly independent. Treat him like an adult. You are not doing this to him. The two of you got pregnant because you both participated in sex. You were not being unfair. He wants to be a part of his own child’s life. That’s nothing you did to him. That’s something you two are doing together. I think that’s my kind of last thought there. And yeah, that’s it.
S6: I wish you both the best of luck and I hope you have a great baby the next one.
S1: OK, this one’s my turn. I think subject is wanted unwanted clothes. Dear Prudence, I’m a fat woman and it is very hard for me to find clothes that fit. My father’s girlfriend has a daughter named Pam who lost a significant amount of weight earlier this year and gave her mother all of her old clothes to give away. Most of them were very high end and I asked if I could go through them before they were donated. I took a lot. It’s wonderful to finally have flattering clothes. Now Pam has gained all the way back. She recently recognized some of her old clothes on my social media posts and deemed me asking me to give them back. I felt bad, so I offered her a few of the pieces I don’t wear often, but Pam wants all of them. I told her no. And now she’s involved, her parents. Her mother called and asked me to give the clothes back because, quote, Pam needs to look nice for work and is very depressed about her weight gain. My dad told me to be the bigger person. I don’t think he meant it as an insult. But this entire situation is insulting. I really don’t know, Pam. I don’t really want to know her after this. But I also don’t want to cause a fight since my relationship with my dad has been rocky in the past. His new girlfriend is good for him. What should I do? I agree that everything about this is like painful, insulting and basically caused by the fact that, like, the fashion industry makes it as difficult as possible for anyone above a size 12 to find like nice looking, well tailored clothes. And so part of the problem here is just like you have to, like, fight for clothes on a scale that you shouldn’t have to.
S3: Yeah, I mean, that is true for sure. It is not super. It’s not super easy. And it’s not always super fun to find clues like to go shopping, especially because a lot of times, particularly like brands that either cater specifically to fat women or, you know, existing brands that sort of have ranges that that go really high, a lot of time you’ll find that like they don’t carry those sizes in store or, you know, these brands, you know, they will be online only. And you have to sort of guess at what will set you habits into your house. Try it. If it doesn’t fit, they have to go through the whole rigmarole of, like, sending things back, exchanging, getting different sizes. It’s just, you know, not super is not a super easy process. And it’s really like easy to get demoralises and sort of just, you know, go the simplest thing. So I totally understand the, you know, being relieved to finally have something that, like, looks super nice on you and that you actually like and, you know, a well-made. I completely understand like relief that you might feel to have that. What I don’t understand is Ham’s response. Right. I just don’t think that it’s. I don’t know what’s the word. I don’t think it’s fair to expect someone to give back something that you gave away. You didn’t want them. You made this choice. You gave them back. And now that you sort of are in a different place, you want someone to return them. That doesn’t seem very it seems super nonsensical to me, especially because had Pam given these clothes away to say, you know, Salvation Army or Goodwill or something, there would be no way to get them back. Right. So I think. It’s very it’s kind of unfair to expect the letter writer to sort of return these things if they were given to her. That said, it’s a little bit. It’s kind of murky because it’s not as if Pam gave these things directly to the letter writer. She gave them to her mother, who then gave them to the letter writers. So it unfortunately has involved, like many more people necessarily would have been involved had it been like a one to one transaction. Right. It’s it’s really tricky. Anytime you get sort of a your you know, your parents and their spouses, if they’re not, you know, your your if you have like your parents aren’t together, it can be really difficult to sort of. Build those relationships and have them be like comfortable and, you know, actually successful relationships. And so you want to do everything you can to keep them working well. But it’s really difficult when there’s like one. Event or one person, you know, who else, who’s in the family, who is making that very hard for you? So, yeah, I don’t really know. My ultimate gut would tell me that. If she’s really concerned with sort of salvaging her relationship with her father and making sure that, you know, it stays fairly healthy, I think it would be good to talk to him about why she feels like this is unfair. That said, it’s not clear exactly how much of that would be. He’d be receptive to considering that his girlfriend is seems much more upset about the situation and may have his ear more than his daughter does considering their rocky past. Yeah, I don’t know. I would ultimately say talk to your father, tell them tell him that you would like to keep these clothes because they were given to you. But if they if he’s more upset about it, I don’t think there’s anything really you can do unless you want to. Incredibly, work really hard to salvage your relationship. Then you should give them back. I think it really ultimately is about what do you value more here, the clothes or your relationship with your father. And I do think that ultimately that should not be you know, they shouldn’t be on an even scale like one of those is obviously more important in my mind. So I think, you know, give them back if you want to save your brother’s relation and your relationship with your father. But ultimately, I don’t think that your relationship with your father should come down to that. And it should really be. I just didn’t think that it should be that big a deal to keep them and he should sort of be more willing to have that conversation with his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s daughter. I mean, that’s generally how I feel. But I may just be very selfish about clothes and or no knowing.
S4: I mean, I get it. I think this is hard. I can I can see good reasons for wanting to do both. And the good reasons, quote unquote, for giving them back would not be because I think it’s like the best thing to do, but because it would be like a strategy designed to pick and choose your battles. So, yeah, on the one hand, like it is. It’s straight up insulting that your father said be the bigger person. I think we can just safely say whether or not he had malicious intention. That’s a pretty fucked up thing to say in this context. You have a right to these clothes. They were, don’t they? Were they were being given away. You took them. The other person didn’t want them. The fact that they later went through something difficult and we’re like experiencing distress around their own weight gain is sad and hard, but it’s not a justification for them, like demanding on your social media posts. Give me my clothes back and then enlisting their mom to make that same demand of you. Like, I think that’s really fucked up. That said, it also sounds like it’s three against one. And you don’t necessarily think of your father as somebody who will listen to you or be a resource to you. So if you decided, like, I’m going to keep him a little bit more at a distance, I’m going to definitely keep Pam at a distance. But I will for the sake of not being, like, endlessly given grief over this. Give the clothes back and then just kind of like turn some of my emotional investment away from this group and into other people who I can trust more. I would understand that, too. I really, really would. So I would say you have every right to say like, no. The clothes are mine. I’m sorry you’re going through a hard time, but this is not the solution. I’m not going to take any more calls or e-mails about this. That’s an option if that feels like I don’t have the kind of bandwidth to cope with all three of them yelling at me about this, and I would just rather chalk this one up to letting them behave badly and moving on with my life. I think that that would make sense, too. And if I were in your position, I think that’s what I would do. I don’t know that I’d feel great about it, but I would at least feel like this is worth it for peace of mind. And I would I would not want to wear, like, these clothes with that kind of, like, association.
S3: Right. Yeah. That’s part of it, too. Like, every time you go to put on some jeans or whatever, you have to think about how, you know, your dad and his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s daughter are all mad at you about this thing. Yeah, it can really spoil your enjoyment of something that you you’re very happy to have received. So, yeah, I definitely think that just, you know, felt like you were saying for peace of mind, probably just words back.
S5: And one of the great things about. Well, not great because fast fashion is the whole thing. But, you know, one of the good things about clothes is, you know, you can just get new recruits. And then like you’re saying, if you’re going to turn your energy away from, you know, these three, maybe you could invest some of that energy into, you know, finding some clue that you like what you feel then and have purchased for yourself. Right.
S4: And like. Yeah. I mean, that speaks to the fundamental underlying problem here has to do with, you know, the thing that both you and Pam are dealing with, which is like some version of like you have to lose weight. Once you lose weight, you have to get rid of anything that reminds you of the version of yourself that wasn’t thin hands. You know, you should be ashamed that you lost weight. You should lash out if you I’m you should be ashamed that you gained weight. Like, you know, you don’t deserve to have the clothes that thin people can find access to relatively easily. Like all of that sucks. And I feel for both you and Pam. I think Pam is behaving badly, but I also feel for her in this. And a lot of that is just a bigger issue them than anything you can do about right now. But I want better options for both you and for Pam.
S1: And I’m sorry that you were put in this situation, at least now, you know, never to, like, ask for or accept any sort of like gifts or hand me downs from that side of your family and without. I think we should close this one down. Yeah. Would you read our next letter?
S5: Sure. Subject is formally racist. Girlfriend. Dear Prudence, I’m black. My girlfriend is multiracial but looks white and mostly identifies as Hispanic, although sometimes on forums she’ll list her race as black. It’s been a bad few weeks for me. Lately I’ve been afraid to drag my car because I’m so worried about the police and armed guards in my neighborhood. Recently, I was on my girlfriend’s Facebook parentheses, something we’ve established as OK between us. I don’t have one of my own and she knows I sometimes scrolled through her feed to keep up with mutual friend and saw that she’d left messages with her ex open. She showed these messages to me before, so I scrolled mindlessly until I saw messages from when we first met. He written. Don’t fall in love with your new roommate me and ruin a good setup. She’d responded, I won’t. Don’t get me wrong. I love black people. But she’s black. That’s not really my type. It cut me to the bone. I never really thought of it. I never really thought of us as in an interracial relationship before. Before now. Which immediate, admittedly sounds dumb. Well, when I confronted her, she apologized, but mostly talked about how overwhelmed she was over being called racist and how she only said it because her ex was raped by a black person and she didn’t want to trigger them. She also asked me what was wrong with having a preference. I asked, how could you have a preference about an entire race of people when there are so many different kinds of black people? I said I’ve been scared for my life lately, and she told me to take some deep breaths and that I was making her anxious. I was crushed. I thought she’d apologize right away. A coworker of hers and my cousin have helped her see it differently. But I’m angry and took all of that. I love her, but I don’t want to help her heal over being racist. We’ve been together for six years, so that message is old. She was twenty five when she wrote it. And I know people change, but her response in the president hurt more. She’s usually such an amazing, loving person. What should I do?
S3: Oh, man. There’s a lot going on here. Like so much going on here. I mean, there’s the racial issues, the fact that she was looking through at someone else’s messages and. Yeah, I just there’s there’s there’s so much where we start here.
S4: I mean, I think it’s helpful to leave aside the messages question because it doesn’t sound like the girlfriend objected to it. It sounds like it’s something that they do established as like basically, OK, and the girlfriend’s not like you scrolled back too far. So in the interest of time, I think we can leave that one to the side.
S3: Yeah, I mean, the whole thing about having a preference, like maybe that’s where we should start there. I mean, first of all, everyone knows that, you know, black people are not a monolith, just like any other group of people. But this idea that having a preference is something that is specific to you as one person and just your particular choice. That’s never true. Regardless of what people convince themselves of everyone’s interests and who they’re interested in is shaped by society, by the culture you’re raised in, by the media you consume. But the news you consume, like all of your sort of culture in which you sort of exist and sort of are like wafting through at all times, it shapes your preferences. And so when you say that you have a preference about an entire race of people, that really tells me that the kind of spaces that you’ve been moving through have sort of presented black people as not an option for you, as a potential know, romantic partners for whatever reason. And that’s something that people need to interrogate more when they talk about what preferences mean and why they have them, that nothing ever happens in a vacuum. Right.
S4: It’s a bullshit statement, as you say, like on its face, but particularly in this context, I find it really damning. Like this letter writers girlfriend said, what’s wrong with having a preference for not wanting to date black people? And it’s like you’re telling that to your black girlfriend. Right. I mean, it’s like this isn’t even you can’t even pretend that it’s like in an abstract argument, it’s like, well, if you have a preference for not dating black people and yet you’ve been dating me for the last six years, you know, how can I not take that personally? How can I not find that, like, harmful and racist in the context of our relationship?
S3: Right. And not to mention in the context of everything that’s literally going on in that culture, I mean, better in society. You know, that letter writer literally starts by saying, like, it’s been a bad few weeks like it has. And I’m sure, like, you know, the rest of her life hasn’t been super smooth sailing either, considering what black people, you know, encounter on a regular basis. So the idea that. That the girlfriend would sort of have the gall to say that just generally, like you were saying, in the context of their relationship. But in the context of everything that’s going on in society, like to be like, yeah, no, I just don’t have a preference for black people. Like, it’s it’s so insulting. It’s so incredibly insulting and just completely like how can you be so unaware of how that will go over generally, especially to not only your black girlfriend but your black girlfriend. But in a relationship for six years with like it just could never have gone over well. I don’t I don’t understand the potential. I don’t understand the girlfriends. The letter writers girlfriend responds, like, why would she sort of take that statement and sort of make it about her and how, you know, how is you know, she is being made anxious to have to think deeply about her racist beliefs. It’s really not a time to sort of be centering yourself. It really is sort of a time to be thinking about, like, why did I have those preferences? Why did I think it was OK to be super open with them, with my black girlfriend that I’ve been with for six years and I’ve been with her for six years. So what does that say about me? And actually what I do want and what I do believe in now and why couldn’t I have valued her feelings about what I said instead of having to be talked to by, you know, coworker? And because that really helped me realize, like, oh, yeah, what I said was actually kind of bad. You know, I really it have been a conversation between the two of you where you you the letter writers girlfriend, you know, was able to see exactly why what she said and how she had been behaving was so hurtful.
S4: Yeah, I found that particular detail devastating. I don’t know if there’s like issues of like racism or color ism, like if the cousin and coworker are white or light skinned and like such like the girlfriend was more receptive to hearing what they had to say than the girlfriend. But like the idea that to other people who weren’t. You had to convince her of like the importance of you and your humanity is devastating. And so I think the two things that I was the most struck by here was the letter writer said I’d been scared for my life. I told her I’ve been scared for my life. And her response was, you’re making me anxious. That’s so dehumanizing, that so dismissive. That’s so cruel. That’s so anti black. Like everything about that scares me. Sets off alarm bells. Tells me that she does not value your safety. The other thing was that one of the ways that she attempted to justify it and again, as the letter writer says, I know people can change. But like one thing, you know, letter writer is that she has not changed on this issue, like she has maintained this last week. The same anti black sentiments that she expressed six years ago. So it’s not like how do I deal with my partners, like past racism that she now, like, deeply regrets and has attempted to make amends for? This is like how do I deal with her ongoing racism that leads her to dismiss my real concerns for my safety in my life? The other is, like she said, I said it because my ex was raped by a black person. And if I were to admit I was attracted to a different black person, that would trigger them, which is like one of the most.
S1: Violent, vile, awful responses.
S4: I can imagine. Like the idea of, like you, my girlfriend, are responsible for the fact that my partner was once raped by someone else. Your mere existence. The fact of my desire for you is a reminder of rape is just it’s monstrous that she would say that it’s monstrous.
S3: It’s horrific that that a that she could have those thoughts and B, that she could so easily express them to her black partner and and expect black to, like, understand where she’s coming from.
S4: Right. Like, oh, gosh. Of course, if somebody else raped her, obviously, like, my black life is responsible for that.
S3: It’s so rough. I mean, one of the hardest things about like I don’t want to be like this current moment. But you know what I mean. What are the hardest thing about this current moment is people are really re-evaluating their relationships, like not just, you know, romantic ones, but, you know, their relationships all over as they exist, you know, friendships, you know, colleagues, their neighbors, like just really re-evaluating the kinds of relationships that they have with people. And I genuinely don’t know that this relationship will survive there like this moment, not just this current, like, social moment, but this moment of this particular thing that happened in the relationship. I don’t know that it’s. Salvageable. I mean, that sort of end where she says, you know, she’s usually such an amazing, loving person. It’s like Ishi, though, because if she had these thoughts six years ago and I still having them now, who is she loving towards and who you know, who is she being amazing to? Because clearly, you know, it’s not you potentially or potentially people who look like you. So what what does that mean exactly for, you know, the six years you’ve been together? What does that mean for your future?
S4: And I think it is also telling that the letter writer says, like, lately, I’ve been afraid to drive my car. I’ve been so worried. And she doesn’t see anything of like, here’s how my girlfriend has been supporting me through this. So it’s like in addition to this, like, awful, awful conversation, there’s also the fact that it doesn’t sound like she’s showing up for you on a daily basis.
S3: So don’t even sound like they are discussing these things. Like it seems like these are feelings that the letter writer is keeping inside because she doesn’t feel like she can share them with her partner.
S4: Yeah. I don’t want to say to this letter writer who’s currently going through so much like you have to dump your girlfriend right now. But I do want to say I don’t think you can trust her. I don’t think you’re safe with her. I, I don’t think she like respects or affirms or cherishes your blackness. I think she is pretty still committed to a number of really racist beliefs. And I want you to feel enormous freedom to reach out to other people in your life, to share what’s going on and to ask for their support as you figure out what you want to do next. Like, you need to look out for yourself and your wellbeing right now because you cannot trust that she will be it in any way helpful towards that process. And I do think you should dump her. I think you are better off without her. I think you deserve someone who doesn’t treat you like this.
S3: Yeah. And I do think I mean, I would hope that this situation would be something that the letter writers girlfriend would recognize, as, you know, a moment for self reflection, hopefully potentially, you know, change. But I don’t think that the letter writer owes it to this to this partner to sort of be there and help her through it necessarily. Like she says in the letter, like, I don’t want to help her heal over being racist. Like you’re not required to you.
S4: This is like I also hope that in her own life, she is able to realize the enormity of what she’s done and change. But like, you don’t need to be a teachable moment for her. You don’t need to, like, walk her through after six years of being partners together. Like the importance of your safety and your humanity. That’s not something that you need to stick around for.
S1: And with that, I think we can call it a day. I think you and I can can pull down the blinds and say we’re done. I do. How you feel. Do you think we. Do you think you got people down, too? We definitely did not do a questions, by the way, because we got really in the weeds with a few of them. But we did enough.
S3: We didn’t pull any. I think it was I think it was very good. I think, like you’re saying, it was a good mix of, like Sieber, like light and not too late. I think I think it is good.
S4: Yeah. I mean, I agree. I also think that we have good opinions and have the right ideas about various problems. I’m so grateful that you came back on the show. I hope you enjoy the rest of your day. And I’m really excited to see what movie we end up picking for our remote viewing party this weekend.
S3: I hope it’s equally as good, if not better, than school ties.
S4: So home then? That was a night to remember. We’ll see what we can do. Crystal, thank you so, so much. Have a fabulous dress today and I’ll talk to you soon. All right. Thanks, Danny.
S7: Thanks for listening to Dear Prudence. Our producer producers, 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.
S4: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. Yes, it’s true that, like the self-deprecating terms that she uses are about her own disability specifically, but it’s also I don’t thing exactly true that she’s making fun of her own disability. I think part of what she’s doing is expressing the new ways in which like. Hiring managers and bosses and dates treat her badly now and turn her away now. Like that’s not her disability. That’s like the discrimination that she faces from society. To listen to the rest of that conversation, join Slate plus now at Slate dot com forward slash Prudy pod.