The “Moving for Mom” Edition

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

S2: Good for your prudent, prudent be here. Do you think that I should contact him again? No help. Thank thank. Thank you.

S1: Hello and welcome back to The Dear Prudence Show once again, and as always, I am your host, Dear Prudence, also known as Daniel M. Lavery. And with me in the studio this week is child to a writer, podcast producer and the editor of Slate. Plus, that’s all of Slate.

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S3: Plus you name it. She edits the child. Welcome so much to the show. Hi, Danny.

S4: Thank you so much for having me on. I’m super honored to be on the podcast.

S1: I’m a longtime listener, so I’m very excited to see you in in a capacity that’s not like a little box reassuring me on Mondays at noon when I show up exactly at noon and I’m like, OK, I’m stressed out. Yes. Yeah.

S4: This is when Danny does the live chat on our site, which hopefully everybody has also participated in.

S1: I can’t tell you the first three years or so that I did this column, I lived on the West Coast. So that meant that Monday mornings at nine a.m. was when I started the live chat and I was so anxious that I would oversleep, even though I regularly am up before 9:00. It was just like now that I had to be and it was the one thing in the week I could not move. It was like I became just terrified. And so for I think about the first six months, every Monday I would deputize the different friend to call me. I was like, I’ve already set three alarms, but just in case, please call me at eight forty.

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S4: Well, I commend you for your commitment. I mean, this is what Prudy fans want. And you also have to be like on at 9:00 or noon. Right.

S1: Which is my friends, it was really nice. I tried to make East Coast friends so that they could call me at eleven forty instead of a forty. But I definitely leaned on them hard and I’m afraid of it right now. It’s a Wednesday afternoon and I’m a little bit afraid that it’s actually Monday morning and I’ve slept in two.

S4: I’m sorry it’s become traumatic for you at this point.

S1: I’m sorry to sleep. I don’t know. I don’t know why it’s such an ocean of terror, and yet it is. But enough about my troubles.

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S4: I felt like I should bring up our talk about Slate plus a little bit because I am the Slate plus editor. So I feel like I should do a little spiel just in case our listeners haven’t heard enough about Slate. Plus, tell people if you are a fan of this podcast and Athenee, which of course you are, then you should consider joining Slate plus if you can, we actually have a new promotion where you can try out Slate plus for just a dollar for the first month so you can test out all the benefits, which include getting a bonus episode of this podcast every Friday. You also get bonus segments on other shows like Selborne and Hit Parade and the at best.

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S3: And again, if you read Danny’s advice on Slate Dotcom, you’ll get bonus columns there and you’ll never hit a paywall. So why not try it out a dollar for the first month?

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S1: I mean, I’m convinced.

S4: And if you’re a slate plus member already, sorry for you having to listen to that spiel, but thank you very much. We appreciate your membership.

S1: Beautiful, succinct, compassionate, kind child. Thank you so much. If you could please take that energy into the reading of our very first letter. I have a feeling we’re going to need all of those qualities.

S3: OK, I was right. Here we go. Subject line is husband wants to move abroad. I don’t. Dear Prudence, my husband is an only child from another country. Before we got married two years ago, he’d been living in the US for a decade. Now that his mom is in her 70s, he’d like us to move to his home nation to take care of her. My parents are also immigrants, so I share the culture and speak the language. But I don’t want to go. We have jobs and a home here, which I’m grateful for during a time of global instability. But the economy, infrastructure and health care there are abysmal. Our only reason to go would be to take care of her. And while it’s important it doesn’t seem like enough for two people to uproot their lives, my husband and I have reached a major impasse. Anything can happen anywhere, but I don’t want to reset our life in a much riskier place. At the same time, I don’t want to rob him of the last years with his mom. What is a compromise here, if any?

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S1: I mean, this one is definitely a challenge, I think as the letter writer is aware, this is not the sort of thing where there’s a lot of possible compromises in between. There’s sort of either do we move or do we not move? Mm hmm. But with that in mind, I do think there are a couple of possible halfway measures that may be possible here. But before we get into that, I guess I want to start with, did you have a sense reading this letter, did you feel more strongly like the letter writer ought to be reconsidering her husband’s position? Did you feel like it was more important for her to kind of stick to her principles? What’s your read?

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S4: Yeah, I feel like I mean, it’s a it’s a difficult situation. I’m someone that lives far away from her parents. So I kind of understand, like, how difficult this can be. I’d like to see your parents get older and not be sure, you know, how much longer you can see them and how many more chances you got to be with them. So for me, I felt like maybe the letter writer that she should consider opportunities for compromise or be a little bit more open for it. But, yeah, I mean, it’s a difficult situation all around, I think is a thing of like either or like it’s hard to you know, even if you do only move for, let’s say, a couple of years, that is uprooting your life no matter what.

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S1: I think the one thing that they have going for them is it does seem like so far at least, everyone’s behaving fairly reasonably. It sounds like, you know, he’s brought up I would like to do it. She has said, I get where you’re coming from. Here are some pretty serious considerations. It’s it’s not as if his mother is calling, you know, ten times a day. So far, everyone’s behaving pretty well, which is not always the case. So that’s a really good place to start. And I think really the conversation does have to begin with. You know, you husbands make a good point. You know, you only have one mother. People generally only age and die once. So this is, you know, weighed against the serious considerations like health care, you know, and job and general infrastructure is the fact that my mother will only die once. And I would like to be there with her as she gets old and dies. That makes sense. You know, that’s the I get that. So I guess the thing that I would encourage the letter writer to do is, is to say first to her husband, when you consider moving to be with your mother, do you also worry about the health care, about your job, about infrastructure? And, you know, to say, like, I’m not asking you that to convince you to not want it or to convince you that this was a bad idea. But I want to know what you think about those things. And he may say, yeah, I have thought about that and I don’t know, it’s really rough. Or he may say, yeah, I’ve thought about it and I’ve got a couple of ideas, but, you know, get a sense of what he thinks of them and maybe then say, are there any other options in between moving their full time that obviously would not be as much as what you want, but that would look like visiting for three months out of every year, something that would be substantial and that would require real change and flexibility from your employers and in your own lives. But that would not be quite as big as we’re selling our house. We’re moving right far away.

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S4: Yeah, I was also wondering if, you know, she says that her husband is an only child, but maybe there are other family members or friends or other sorts of resources, people that could be caretakers that maybe they could reach out to.

S3: Maybe there’s something there that they could look into so that even if the husband and this letter writer can’t be there full time, that, you know, there’s something there that can ease the sort of worries about the mom and her health and everything.

S1: Yeah, I think that’s useful. And it’s possible that some of those other relatives might put additional pressure if there was an expectation that as her only child, it was supposed to be him. And if he were to say, can you help me, they would push back with, no, this is your job. So that’s not necessarily I don’t want to assume that that would go great. But it’s also possible that if you two approached them in that spirit of we want to do as much as we can to help mom. And we also want to know if we can get your help coordinating some of this since we can’t be there all the time. That might be really good. But beyond that, you know, letter writer, if you talk about this a lot, if you take a lot of time to think about it and you don’t try to come to a decision together in the next three days, I can also absolutely see a version of this where you both speak reasonably and lovingly to one another, where you both consider the other’s perspective and you both still just end up on opposite sides of this question. Yeah. And that would be really hard, but it would also make a lot of sense to me if you said, you know, this is not something that you and I kind of talk about when we first got married, this was not something that we planned ahead for. And I’m not willing to do that. I’m willing either to move your mom here or if she won’t do that, to pay for someone to look after her and visit when we can. But that’s as far as I can go. I think that’s a reasonable position to have, even if it’s a painful one.

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S3: Yeah, it’s complicated, I think.

S1: Yeah, it is. And, you know, as you say, letter writer, you know, you don’t want to stand in the way. I mean, I don’t think you would be robbing your husband of his last of the last years with his mom. I think there’s a lot of room in between, never seeing her again and moving in with her. But I also don’t think that you would be robbing him if you said, I’m not prepared to move across the globe and change my entire life. And, you know, potentially if you two weren’t able to work remotely and you both lost your jobs, you might not be in a position to help her at all.

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S3: Right. Yeah, I was thinking that the pandemic because really, I think changed a lot of people’s perspectives about family and being with them and changing up where they live and all that. So I’m sure that’s kind of added to this sort of situation. And a lot of other people are going through similar sorts of conflicts.

S4: But yeah, I think it’s just thinking about the scope of everything. I think it’s good that the mother seems to be considering different options and just talking to the husband and hopefully they talk everything through and maybe they can find somewhere to settle on.

S1: Yeah, I think my last thought is just you say letter writer that now that his mom’s in her 70s, he’d like us to move back. So it doesn’t seem like right now she’s I mean, obviously she’s she’s elderly. I don’t want to suggest that she’s necessarily out there running marathons every week. But you don’t see that there’s like an immediate health crisis that necessitates daily care. So some of this hopefully you can release some of the time pressure and get some some women lived to be, you know, well into their 80s and 90s. Again, I don’t know what her her life looks like, but helping Thieriot health, I mean, I hope she is in good health, but it’s also possible that, like, if you two moved out there, that she if she lived into her 90s, you could potentially be living with this woman for 20 years. So I think it really, really makes sense for you to say. You know, what’s the time frame that you’re thinking about and if his answer is just like I hope she lives another twenty five years, that would be frankly ideal. I’d love to move in with her and live together and raise our kids in her house. And if you hear that and you just think, hell no. As painful as that would be, you better have that fight now and here two years into your marriage before you have moved rather than you moved there thinking it’ll be a year and a half tops. And then she becomes, you know, one of those 110 year old people who get their pictures in the paper. And sorry, I make it sound like I’m like, oh, no, she’s going to live a long and healthy life. That would be awful. I don’t mean that. I really hope that she does. I just mean get specific whenever you can. And that’s it. That’s my last thought on the subject. Good luck. Let us know how these conversations go, if you can. I will read our next letter, which is of a type that. I generally don’t like and this one is additionally complicated by a couple of factors that are always present in letters of this kind, but I’ll just read the letter. The subject is suspicious of wheelchair.

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S5: Dear Prudence, my two sisters and I all have the same genetic condition, I ended up with a more severe variant and there’s this mild to moderate, it will likely cause disability later in life, but even people with a severe variant are able to live normal lives. My sister, who is in her mid 20s, has recently bought a wheelchair and takes it with her every time she leaves the house, even when she goes to get gas or run a quick errand. She had her office make all sorts of accommodations for the wheelchair. This sounds horrible, but I really genuinely do not believe she needs it. Like I said, I have a much more serious form of the condition and definitely do not need a wheelchair. Our mom, who has the same condition and is 58, doesn’t use a wheelchair. My sister has always been extremely histrionic and I think this is just another ploy to get attention. She does photo shoots in her wheelchair, makes posts about being a disability activist, and beams with pride whenever a stranger tells her what an inspiration she is. There’s nothing wrong with any of that if you’re actually disabled and actually need a wheelchair. Meanwhile, I’ve heard her tell doctors she’s pain free and lucky to not be suffering any ill effects from the condition. I’ve seen her medical chart and imaging, both of which show that there’s nothing currently wrong with her. Am I a huge jerk? If I tell her I won’t be seen in public with her if she has her, quote, chair?

S1: Well, yeah, I want to start by saying that I find myself skeptical of the letter writers skepticism. So that’s where I am coming from. I, I where do I want to start? I think I want to start with I thought about editing the sentence. I decided to leave it in because I felt like it spoke to frame of mind in a way that was meaningful. But but just even a sentence like even people with the severe variant are able to live normal lives. Mm hmm. I wonder what that means. I wonder if that means are able to live lives where people don’t treat them like they’re disabled or they don’t require like. Again, like, what do you mean by normal and usually I think what that means is, like, you don’t need anything. You know, people treat you like you have no disability, and that’s good. So, you know, again, I don’t know. I don’t know how much time you spent with her medical chart. I don’t know what imaging you looked at. I don’t know if you you saw, like, an official stamped form that says there’s nothing wrong with you yesterday or when you last heard her tell a doctor that she’s not in any pain, even assuming that all of this is like your sister regularly brings you to all of her doctor appointments and you’re like listed as her her, you know, emergency contact and you’re being given, like regular dossier’s. I would like to leave open the room for possibility that if she has previously said to one doctor that she was not in pain, that that does not necessarily mean that she would never again be in pain in the future. And that not everyone requires the use of a chair because they are in pain. There are other reasons that somebody might need that particular, you know, mobility aid. So to me, the whole playing detective, you know, because of how my mom experiences this condition and because how I experience this condition means we don’t need this. There’s no way on earth she could possibly need this. There’s no way it could be beneficial to her. It’s all a ploy for attention. I’m just skeptical of that as a position.

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S3: Yeah, I think I’m with you. I think I’m also a little skeptical just because of those lines that you’ve mentioned of, just like I’ve heard her tell her doctors that she’s pain free and I’ve seen her medical chart and I feel like that sort of investigation is a little bit overboard. And in some ways, I was the letter writer with just maybe talk to her sister more.

S4: Maybe there’s an idea of just like asking your sister about why she’s using the wheelchair. If you’re so skeptical about it, if you question whether or not your sister needs it, that you should maybe talk to your sister and, you know, discuss about the wheelchair, discuss about why you would why she would want to use a wheelchair. And I mean, I would be curious to hear what the sister would say in, you know, if she’s doing this all for attention, like if she has excuses, like I so I feel like that’s maybe where the letter writer should start in terms of just talking to her sister about it and not in an accusatory way, but maybe in like a question, in a curious way of just, you know, like you can just put it on your own experience. Like, I don’t you know, I seem to do fine without a wheelchair. Mom seems to do fine with the wheelchair.

S1: Yeah. I think one thing that maybe not everyone knows is that many, many people who use a wheelchair do not use it one hundred percent of the time. It’s not necessarily an indicator that the person using the chair is never able to stand or walk unassisted or without the use of a chair with a different mobility device. And that’s something that actually often leads to real harassment of disabled people, because there is that widespread assumption that if somebody uses a wheelchair, it has to be because it’s not possible for them to stand or walk ever, even for 30 seconds. And that if somebody can do that, they’re therefore malingering, making it up, taking something away from like a quote unquote, real disabled person. And that often leads to real disabled people being harassed, detained, threatened. And so, yeah, if somebody uses a chair some of the time and it makes their life easier and better, that’s a good thing, right?

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S4: I mean, in general, it’s not easy to navigate most of our world in a wheelchair. Like, unfortunately, those accommodations are not always there. And I feel like if one were to use a wheelchair, they’ve not always preferred.

S1: Yeah, and so you don’t you know that your sister shares a condition that you have, it makes sense to me that you two do not have identical experiences. Part of, again, what I was reading between the lines here was maybe a sense of my sister is maybe not as curious or sympathetic about my experience as I wish that she was. If that’s part of what’s going on here and you’re feeling a little bit like, you know, she’s, you know, vocal about getting help. And I mostly keep it to myself and I’m really proud of being self-reliant. And I don’t like the way that she kind of cheerfully gets help when she needs it. I guess the question there would be, does that mean that you want her to know something about you so that she can know you better? Or does that mean that you want to reconsider your kind of approach to maximum self-sufficiency at all times like that, I think is a good opportunity to do some exploring within yourself. You know, again, like if she takes pictures of herself with her chair, if she posts about, like, disability activism, I just like, OK, is that bad? You know, she smiles when people tell her that she’s inspiring. That’s that sounds a little hokey, frankly. But like, again, like, what would your goal there be? Would it be don’t smile. Would it be hate it would it be feel differently about what these strangers say to you about your life? Like how would you go about suggesting she feel differently? Like that’s one of those things. I’m just like, what do you want here? Because it sounds like what you want is for your sister not to like something that she likes. And I just don’t really know how you could even begin to try to tell her to change that.

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S4: Yeah, I mean, I think there there is something that you’re similar to what you’re saying about reading, like in between the lines about the letter writer, where I feel like maybe the letter writer, you know, typically shies away from attention and wants to handle everything on their own, which, like, I can understand and I can relate to that. But there’s a resentment towards the sister for, like, being able to ask for help or wanting just putting, you know, putting herself in a wheelchair and presenting herself as someone who may need help at some points. And so I think maybe there’s something there that the letter writer should really think about, about like also about what you know, what you think that a wheelchair protects on your own disability, I guess, or your own relationship to this condition? Like, I feel like there’s something about thinking that, oh, because we have the same condition. But she is in a wheelchair. Like, I don’t want to present myself in that way. And so I feel like you have to be a little more sensitive into how and how your sister may be dealing with the condition and how different people deal with the condition. Like, yes, your mom, it may be more similar to you, but your sister also has a condition. So I feel like you have to be a little bit more sensitive, a little more open minded about, you know, how people feel about stuff and want to ask for help or maybe.

S1: Yeah, yeah, I think so, too. And, you know, again, I don’t say all of this, by the way, to imply, you know, I bet your sister is perfect and you’re just full of sour grapes and resentment. And, you know, she’s always right and you’re always wrong. It may very well be that she’s a highly dramatic person. It may very well be that sometimes her response to pain that you would feel comfortable dealing with on your own is one of, you know, wanting help or sympathy or attention. I don’t think that necessarily has to mean that one approach is right and one is wrong. I think different people have different reactions to pain or distress or a sense of physical being pushed beyond your limits. I don’t think we have to pathologies that. But it also just may be true that your sister’s really dramatic and she kind of drives you nuts. That’s allowed, you know, that’s really allowed. You’re allowed to find your sister kind of annoying. I don’t think that you should tell her to stop smiling when strangers say dumb stuff to her about her chair. But that’s just because I think you can’t really ask somebody to not like something others. You know, that doesn’t that doesn’t have to affect you. And unless you let it if you think you could ask her some of those questions about what drove her decision to get the chair, and you think you could do so without seeming like incredibly obvious that you think it’s dumb and she doesn’t really need it and you’re trying to get her to admit it, go for it. If you don’t think you can ask those questions without that coming through, you know, go with if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Beyond that, I think it would be much better as a general policy if. Rather than, like aggressively interrogate people who use chairs about whether or not they like quote unquote really need it, it would be much better to say maybe occasionally somebody who doesn’t like really need it gets one. It’s just, you know. Yeah. You know, I it feels to me like making an error on the one is much, much worse than making an error in the other direction.

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S5: You get to read this next one.

S3: OK, subject line returning to the world. Dear Prudence, I have PTSD and a long history of social isolation. I think people talking to me like I was a weird pet and not a human being during middle school, in high school, until eventually I gave up on speaking to anyone. After a few tumultuous months of living with my parents, I moved out to start a new graduate program. During the pandemic. I was looking forward to being able to talk about Bucho without being judged and to making new friends who might share eclectic interests. However, everyone in my program belongs to conservative religions. I’m queer. I’m afraid to go out at all because I still sometimes see my parents who have health issues pretty after this long alone time with only my memories. I found that I’ve totally regressed my juvenile state. I’m terrified of going to public places alone. I want to find other people to enjoy my life with.

S4: I think I’m best suited to one on one interactions, but when I try to coax myself to getting onto something like, OK, Cupid or Grindr, I want to vomit.

S3: What can I do to start being in the world again while the pandemic continues?

S1: I mean, that’s already a really big question without adding this intense history on top of that, I mostly just want to start by saying I’m so sorry and I feel you. It’s really, really hard to think about being around people again. And one of the things that’s struck me as I think about the possibility of someday, again, being in a crowded room with other people without a mask on is like I have spent a very long time longing desperately for such a day. And I also sometimes now catch myself having this sort of like panicked response of totally, oh, no. And I’m like, no, I don’t want to be afraid of that. That’s the thing I want. And yet I also have this you know, there’s part of me that now reacts in a way that I did not used to, which is terror. So I really relate to that. And that sucks.

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S3: Yeah, this is a really tough question to read and leather to read just because I do. I mean, I feel loneliness is always difficult and it can be difficult in so many ways. And is the pandemic on top of it is just not helping.

S4: Just if there’s any, you know, kind of usual resort of trying to put yourself out there, there’s it’s it’s gone now with the pandemic. And so I really feel for the letter writer here.

S1: Did you get a sense? I assumed without opening I have PTSD. My read there was that this letter writer had at some point maybe received that as a as a diagnosis from either a doctor or a therapist. But I wasn’t sure from this letter whether or not they were currently in treatment. Did you get a sense of that either way?

S3: Yeah, I couldn’t tell either. I also had a sense that this has been kind of addressed before.

S4: I feel like this writer has some kind of come to terms that this is like their life has been like and like why they feel certain ways.

S3: But it does not seem or. Yeah, I wasn’t sure about treatment right now. Yeah.

S1: And, you know, this person’s a grad student who just moved out from their parents. I don’t want to assume you’ve got great health insurance or a ton of money. So I don’t want to just sort of lightly say like, hey, go back into treatment. But if, you know you’re not receiving any mental health services for PTSD and trying to get on something like Grindr or OK, Cupid, even to just, like, flirt with people via text makes you feel sick, that would suggest to me that maybe the first order of business is finding either a therapist if you can afford it, or find somebody on a sliding scale or if not, maybe a support group for people also dealing with PTSD and a history of social isolation so that, you know, there’s this kind of set aside, targeted time that you will be dealing with this specifically rather than like this open ended thing of like here I am on Grindr. Hope nobody’s weird to me.

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S4: Am I also reading the part about the Kyouko and eclectic interests? I mean, it can be hard sometimes to tell people to go online and find friends, but I. I feel like this other writer does have specific interests that might be able that they might be able to. Find certain communities that they could lock into, so not resorting to finding like a love interest on OK, Cupid or Grindr, but maybe finding like a book club of like Butko and other sorts of similar sorts of authors like literary authors or, you know, those online communities do still exist somewhere out there. And I feel like that could be a way, you know, as the pandemic continues.

S1: Yeah. And I think if part of the pressure of being on, OK, Cupid and or Grindr is I have to decide pretty quickly whether or not I’m attracted to someone or interested in it, like potentially like sexually intimate, even if it’s only virtual interaction that that feels like part of what’s causing the stress, refocusing your social energies towards trying to find people who want to talk about books or other interests of yours, stuff that has some more sort of built in like intimacy. Shields might feel less fraught and again, pay attention to the vomit and acts like if you think about possibly trying to look for a group like that or a support group and you’re like, oh, that sounds kind of exhausting, but I can picture myself doing it versus I need to throw up right now, you know, pursue the one that doesn’t make you want to fill out.

S4: Yeah. And I find sometimes with like book clubs, like they’re not only book clubs, like the ones I’m aware of online now, you know, they’re not always super. They don’t have to be super interactive. Like I mean, you can just participate in reading the book and then, like, listening to people talk about it. And it does it you know, it doesn’t put the onus on you to be like, I have to make this discussion group or anything like that. So that could be a way to start kind of ease yourself into this as opposed to like jumping in and having to, like, perform for a group or something, you know?

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S1: Right. I also got the sense reading this, that this person did not necessarily have old friends. They could fall back on both because like, you know, as recently as high school, no one spoke to them and they didn’t speak to anyone. And also, they’re hoping to find new friends now. So I don’t want to assume, like, hey, call that like rich network of old close friends who you can really trust and see how they’re doing. I also just you know, you see the everyone in your program belongs to a conservative religion. And I don’t know if that’s a function of where in the country you live. I don’t know if that’s a function of the program itself. I don’t know if you are studying something that is connected to religious studies. So I don’t want to go too far in the direction of if it’s the grad program itself that’s causing this mismatch, you should think about transferring because again, that’s expensive and very difficult sometimes, and it’s nothing you can just do tomorrow. Like, you have to wait for the academic year to begin. But, you know, again, if if everyone in your program belongs to a conservative religion and like a conservative expression of that religion, and they all hold to like specifically homophobic beliefs. And you’re just starting this program now might be a good time to switch, yeah, and I’ll just throw that out there. That might not be the solution. But I wonder, like, if you were signing up for, like, I am at a seminary in Texas and I’m going to graduate with, like a youth ministry degree or something, now might be a good idea. Why would you be studying fuko if you were at, like Texas Bible College?

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S4: Yeah, there’s a little disconnect there, I guess. Yeah. I also wonder with graduate programs like. I’m hoping there’s some resources there, maybe also for finding other maybe not specifically in your program, but maybe there’s like other graduate students. That’s a really good point. I mean, again, everyone’s on online.

S1: You know, they got this they might have like some sort of campus services for LGBT students. And if so, that would be a good place to maybe try to make friends who are not necessarily studying your. I don’t know, Fuyuko, for conservative evangelicals. I trying to imagine. I don’t I don’t mean to laugh like, oh, that could happen. Of course it could happen. I just think that might be and that would be easier again than just like how you just transfer. So maybe looking on campus, but outside of your immediate program. Beyond that, I would just say.

S5: This is hard, it makes sense that it’s hard. I encourage you to trust your gut. You know, if you feel like you’re going to throw up, that probably means that something is too much for you right now. And it’s a good idea to back off, take some time, regroup. If you get a really strong feeling from somebody that they are conservatively religious in a way that is going to be homophobic, you know, protect yourself, keep things surface, level back off when you can. If you feel really overwhelmed, try something smaller than whatever it was that you were doing and take it a small step at a time. You know, be really, really easy on yourself. Don’t this is not a situation where, like, I feel nauseated and it’s bringing up years of trauma. That’s not a good time to say, just like just just power through it, you know, just keep running on that broken ankle.

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S3: Yeah, I agree. Like, I was going to say that to like, I think you should be easy on yourself. This is a tough time in general, but I think there’s a self awareness for this little brother that, like, they know kind of like their limits.

S4: And so, yeah, just trust that hopefully will be getting out of this soon. But again, like, it’s fine to take small steps to try to figure things out, see what you feel comfortable with, maybe seek out some places that, yeah, if they don’t feel comfortable for you right away and some of those venues, some of those communities, and you don’t have to jump into them anyway.

S1: Right. And so go from like, how do I start being in the world again to like, you know, what’s one thing I’m going to try this week? So maybe this week it’s like on my regular walk, I’m going to pick up some takeout and like talk for a few minutes to the cashier, if that’s a big new thing for you, or I’m going to try to befriend somebody in my program or on campus or the LGBT center. And if I just really flip out, I’m going to call it a day and go home and read Proost, which is great if you are feeling wildly isolated and inside your own head. So small steps rather than I need to become a social butterfly tomorrow.

S6: Yeah, because I think we all have to take small steps eventually to get out of this pandemic.

S1: So and whatever you have been through sounds hugely traumatizing. Man or man, if everyone in your life was talking to you like you were a pet and not a human being, and it was so overwhelming and distressing that you eventually just stopped talking to people, that is that is a massive and wide scale sense of social betrayal. Like, that’s huge. That’s big. I’m sorry. Yeah. Kanuk, yeah. All right. So we’ve got one last, like, complicated sibling relationship to untangle today and then we can stop, which thank goodness they’re hard. So this last one is Sister Separation.

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S5: Dear Prudence, I’ve been estranged from my abusive sister for six months now because she will not respect any boundaries. I said she has a history of calling me and screaming to vent her frustrations at others. Give me backhanded compliments, takes me down a peg whenever I see even a modest amount of success and is generally bad for my mental health. A therapist has been supportive. My parents are also understanding and they’ve told me the only reason they speak with my sister is because of their grandchildren, which I’m fine with. I don’t have children of my own, but I love my two nephews very much. When I told my sister that I no longer wanted a relationship with her, I had still planned on continuing having relationships with both nephews. My mother wanted all of us to go on vacation together and it’s footing the bill. But my sister can’t go at the same time because her ex has custody of the boys that week. I’m relieved, but also sad that I won’t see my nephews who are seventeen and thirteen. Would it be appropriate for me to reach out to each nephew and let them know that while their mom and I don’t get on, I’m here? If they want a relationship, how should I approach that conversation? I really want a relationship with them because I have family heirlooms in my possession and their parents are both emotionally abusive.

S1: I have no idea how to approach this conversation with them at all. It seems like a lot. Do we even want to, like, talk about whether or not it would be safe for you all to take a vacation together in the near future, like sometimes I feel like I just need to answer questions as if covid doesn’t exist, because sometimes people write letters as if it doesn’t exist. And I’m like, I don’t know, maybe maybe you’re just in a part of the world, like maybe you live in New Zealand, you know, and they just it’s it’s fine there. And you’re going to the South Island and that’s what it is in the future.

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S6: World, maybe world.

S1: Yeah, I don’t know. Let’s we’ll put that to the side. We don’t live in New Zealand. Maybe reconsider the vacation, maybe put that off. Sorry.

S6: Yeah. You have some time to think about that if anything. And I consider it I think the first question was like, oh, would it be appropriate for me to reach out to each nephew and let them know that I want a relationship? And I think, yes, I think you should talk to your nephews and I think you shouldn’t hide it from your sister or anything like that. I think you should openly talk to your nephews, maybe through your sister and just be like, yeah, I’m here and I want to keep in touch with you guys. I think that is a great thing for an aunt to, you know, present.

S1: Yeah, I think especially with the 17 year old, you know, a year from now, he’s going to be of legal age. Even if he is still living at home, he will have much more freedom to pursue whatever family relationships he wants to. So it was both of them. Absolutely. You have a right to want to continue those relationships. If your sister wants to punish you by forbidding her 13 year old from texting you, she might be able to do that. And that would be really sad and painful. But there’s not a ton you can do to prevent that. So I think if I were in your position, it would maybe just stick to right now talking to the 17 year old and keep it relatively brief, just like I’m really sorry that things have gotten bad between me and your mom lately. I know that puts you in a tricky position. And I just want you to know I’m not ever going to try to, you know, run interference through you or make you take sides. But I just want you to know, like, I love you. I’m here for you. I want to keep talking. And I hope you know that you can call me any time. And the same goes for your brother. And then that way you’re providing your sister with less of an opportunity. You say that they’re both emotionally abusive. So I don’t want to leave out the possibility that she’s like going through their text messages regularly and getting chewing them out if they talk to somebody who is not on the approved list. So I also don’t want you to put either of them in a position where they could potentially be getting punished by their mother for doing something.

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S6: Does that make sense? Yeah. Yeah, no, definitely. I can see it. Yeah, I was bringing up they’re like, oh, you obviously don’t wanna hide it from the sister because obviously the sister will get pissed. But I can also see that the sister would not be welcome to it. And so yes, that is something to think about. And I think that’s why the simple message, if you can get it through, is just like I’m here. Like, I don’t think that you want to present it as like I I’m going to be the opposite of your mom or anything like that or, you know, like or I’m going to you know, I’m side I’m in the other side of your mom. Like, don’t worry. Like I’m always on your side or both. Like you don’t want to make it seem like you’re against your sister either and, you know, kind of push off your sister in that way. And you do seem the letter writer seems kind of concerned about, like burdens and like that’s what that’s why I think it’s like you got to keep the message simple. Yeah. You are just there to listen and you’re not there to change anyone’s minds or whatever, like not there to change family dynamics. You’re not there to get involved in any family fights and even. Yeah. Like, you know, the heirlooms. You can just keep that to yourself right now.

S1: Yeah. A thirteen year old and a seventeen year old I just don’t think are going to be super worried about family heirlooms. That’s not Time-Sensitive. That’s a conversation ten, fifteen years down the road. I’m sure that they might be mildly interested. It’s just it’s not a pressing concern. The thing that I do just want to flag is you say both their parents are emotionally abusive. You know, if your sister is calling and screaming at you and other adults and you know that she and her husband are both emotionally abusive. I they recently kids, you know, I also. Do you know how she treats them? Have the kids ever reported anything to you that make you think that this is more than just like while your mom’s really difficult and volatile? But like, I want to encourage the kids to talk to a guidance counselor at school and or possibly, you know, contact CPS? Like, I don’t say that lightly. Obviously, it just seems like something you should at least be thinking about as opposed to just I want to make sure I stay in touch with them, but I think their safety is something of an open question here.

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S6: Yeah, it sounds like the parents are not together. Right.

S4: So that might also be something just, you know, teen teenagers are so young, it might just be difficult for them to be in this, like, divided household, you know, between the mom and dad who are both apparently emotionally abusive.

S1: You’re getting shuttled back and forth between both of them. Yeah, I would really say you’re your priority should be on not making the kid’s life any more difficult. So if you know that their mom or dad goes to their phone, don’t spend a lot of texts, try to be upfront that you’re just available, but not try to put more on the kids than that. Also, keep, you know, keep your antenna up and ask your parents to to keep their antenna up, too. Like, are the kids eating enough? Are the kids sleeping enough? Do they have clean clothes? Like, what’s it like at home, you know?

S3: Yeah, I agree. Is the thing of like maybe this is why the vacation was something that they were going to value because they would get a sense of like how the kids were.

S4: So I can understand being really kind of sad about that. And yeah, I agree. It’s like something you should keep an eye on in that way, like, know, sending the signal that you’re like available. Hopefully the nephews, if they’re comfortable and again, like they’re teenagers. So like maybe they won’t feel comfortable talking to you. Like, I think two teenage boys not always like very emotionally open all the time. We’re mostly aware enough to want to be open all the time. So, yeah, that’s why you got to keep your own signals up a little bit, I guess.

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S1: Yeah. And I don’t want to imply that. I think the letter writer does not care about the kids while being I mean, she clearly does love them. She clearly cares about them a lot. There was not a line in here that that sort of implied. I, I also worry about their well-being and it seems to me like they’re in a pretty worrying situation. And so, you know, to you know, when you say, how should I approach this conversation, you know, you don’t want to call them up and say, like, by the way, I think your mom and dad are abusive and you should pass that along to me, but definitely make it clear, you know, just I’m available. You can talk to me about anything. If you need anything, you can call me that. That should be the priority. And it’s really hard. One of the I think the most painful things about necessary estrangements and it sound like your estrangement is necessary is that there is often collateral damage in the form of kids. Hmm. You know, I know what that feels like. I also, as a result of my own family estrangement there, there are kids that I don’t get to see and won’t get to, I think. And that’s pretty painful. And it’s really hard, it’s just really hard. And so I really feel for you, a letter writer, I’m really sorry.

S3: Yeah, good luck. I think you’re a good girl. Yeah.

S1: You’re doing your best. Oh, my gosh. But just don’t go don’t go to resort, right? Please. Unless you’re like. We’re going to go to Auckland.

S6: Yeah.

S1: Then the top rated napkins go wild, have a have a blast chow. Thank you so, so much. You were Danny. Thank you. On a Wednesday as you are on a Monday.

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S4: I feel very honored to be on the podcast, as I said before. But also I’m happy to talk with you any time during the week other than Mondays and any time, any other time.

S1: Not even have to be Monday. Thank you so, so much. And to everyone who we just advised, good luck never talking to anyone you’re related to get or some of the people that you’re related to or some of the people that your partner is not that your partner is married to. Scratch that reverse that some of the people that your spouses related to talk to people or don’t talk to people, whichever, sounds better.

S7: Thanks for listening to Dear Prudence, our producer is Phil Cercas. Our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. Don’t miss an episode of the show had to slate dotcom. Dear Prudence, to subscribe and remember, you can always hear more prudence by joining Slate. Plus go to Slate dotcom slash pretty partit 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. Thirty seconds a minute, tops. Thanks for listening.

S1: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. It sounds like your recollection of your childhood interactions is mostly accurate. Mostly you just didn’t run into each other. Mostly he he didn’t really affect you. He did something that was wrong and that he feels terrible about. And that also didn’t really affect you. It doesn’t mean that that’s going to make him feel good or even that he should feel great about it. It just means he did not happen to deliver lasting harm to you. And you may change. You know, you may change your mind about that. You may feel weird or like six months from now that would be OK. You’re allowed to feel differently as time goes on. Sometimes you have a delayed reaction to this kind of thing, feel whatever you need to feel. Don’t be shocked if that changes. Don’t be shocked if it doesn’t change. If you just kind of always feel like that was weird and I wish you hadn’t told me. That’s fine.

S4: To listen to the rest of that conversation, join Slate plus now at Slate dot com forward slash pretty pod.